Times Quick Cryptic No 2617 by Felix

A bit on the tricky side today.

I started off pretty well, only missing out on three clues after a first pass of the acrosses (7, 12, 23), but things slowed up considerably come the downs. It can often become a bit of a merry biff fest with that with that number of checkers, not so here.

At the end I was slow with 1d, and slower still with that pair of particularly well-disguised hiddens at 12 ac and 13d. Great stuff, both of them. I came in at 9.14, a good bit slower than yesterday.

Being a Felix puzzle, we can often expect a hidden theme, or Nina – I was as usual rather slow to spot it…

The poem is The Owl and the Pussycat, there in the second row. We also have a PEA GREEN BOAT, GUITAR, sPIGot, BONG TREE, RING, SAND, TURKEY, HILL, and quite possibly more I’m missing. Good fun and very nice!


Lovely puzzle – many thanks to Felix!

7 Arch at entrance to large amphitheatre? (4)
BOWL – BOW (arch) at L (“entrance” to Large)
8 Kitty taken from cup stays out (8)
PUSSYCAT – anagram (out) of CUP STAYS
9 Grub in tea urn, oddly, and a musical instrument! (6)
GUITAR – take the “odd” letters of G r UIT e A  u R n
10 Small swine turned to tap on barrel (6)
SPIGOT – S(mall) PIG (swine) OT (“turned” TO)
11 Unhappy, coming across last of uneaten stuff on beach (4)
SAND – SAD (unhappy) about N (“last” of uneateN)
12 Tonsil, ear, sinus, back: that’s too much for certain people! (8)
ISRAELIS – a reverse hidden, indicated by “back” and “that’s too much” (as in not all required) of tonSIL EAR SInus
15 Agree pen needs to change colour (3,5)
PEA GREEN – anagram (to change) of AGREE PEN
17 Sailing vessel, round, found in sports club (4)
BOAT – O (defined in the dictionaries as anything “round”)  found in BAT (sports club – aah, that type of club!)
18 Sailor’s English books missing (6)
ABSENT – AB’S (able seaman’s = sailor’s) E(nglish) NT (New Testament = books)
21 Dull routine reflected essential Christmas tradition (6)
TURKEY – RUT = dull routine, reflected = reversed, KEY = essential
22 Corn seen waving, displayed by monitor (8)
ONSCREEN – anagram (waving) of CORN SEEN
23 Mound close to church one’s going to (4)
HILL – H (the close (or end) to churcH), and I’LL = I WILL = I AM GOING TO = ONE’S GOING TO, all exactly the same
1 Inhabitants in location work with university (8)
POPULACE – in[side] PLACE (location) goes OP (work) with U(niversity)
2 Ecstatic journalist coming round at the last minute? (6)
ELATED – ED (journalist) coming round LATE (at the last minute)
3 Software to take up and assess (8)
APPRAISE – APP (software) to RAISE (take up)
4 When descending on Kansas makes requests (4)
ASKS -AS (when) on/descending on KS (Kansas)
5 Nothing turned up in extra subtitle? (6)
BYLINE – NIL (nothing) turned up/reversed in BYE (an extra, in yep, you’ve guessed it, cricket)
6 Maybe start race, we hear, to provide pudding ingredient (4)
SAGO – we hear the same as SAY (maybe/for example) GO (start race)
13 Some appearing to need air when called? (8)
RINGTONE – hidden in “some” of appeaRING TO NEed. AIR as a song makes a lovely definition.
14 Ale Basil ordered for girl (8)
ISABELLA – anagram (ordered) of ALE BASIL
16 State oil’s coming from mouth? (6)
GREECE – is spoken from the mouth the same as GREASE (oil)
17 Accommodation on ship, we hear, for these new arrivals (6)
BIRTHS – we hear the same as BERTHS (accommodation on ship)
19 Reverberation upset grand toff (4)
BONG – unset/reverse G(rand) and NOB (toff)
20 Peg must catch right plane, for example (4)
TREE – TEE (peg in golf) must catch R(ight). The plane tree crops up a bit, as does DEAL for wood.

96 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2617 by Felix”

  1. 18:15. Many clues were hard for me but all the more enjoyable once solved. The two hiddens, ISRAELIS and RINGTONE, were my last ones in. I especially liked TURKEY, BONG, BYLINE, and SAGO.

  2. I found a lot of this to be very tough, even though (for once) I spotted part of the theme. Let’s face it, PEA GREEN and BOAT on the one line is quite a hint. In the end I was told I had an error and took ages to discover I had ISABELLE not ISABELLA, or was it the other way round? So with an interruption or two it was about 17 minutes, an enjoyable challenge that Felix won. Thanks to Roly.

  3. 14 minutes, so only 1 within my target revised upwards from 10 a few months ago. I don’t know what delayed me though as on reflection it all seems straightforward. Perhaps I was looking too hard for a theme and that affected my concentration, and in any case I didn’t spot it until after I had completed the grid.

    I agree this was a lovely puzzle.

    [Later edit: I just remembered that the two hidden words held me up and were my last two in].

  4. Absolutely loved this with a special mention to ISRAELIS for being extraordinary. Looked to be on for a very fast time but then needed hard graft followed by a massive PDM for each of RINGTONE, PUSSYCAT (‘cup stays’ was astoundingly hard) and especially TREE. Ended up a DNF though with a deserved pink square for misnaming ISABELLA- should have checked those E numbers. Not all green in 12.

  5. Well we’re rubbish at spotting Nina’s but as soon as pea green went I turned to Mrs HR and recited the first line, saying it was the only use of that colour I knew. We then spent a happy minute reciting the rest that we could remember. Enjoyed the rest of the puzzle without ever spotting we had already said half of the answers out loud!!

    All done in satisfying 22 ish only to get 3 pinks. Also didn’t check IsabellA and our LOI we had put TIER, tie = peg and plane is a tier? Took another minute to come up with the right answer.

    Thanks Felix, must remember to look for your Ninas, and Rolytoly for the blog, especially for parsing our POI turkey
    Nice morning for a run here

  6. 13 minutes. Very enjoyable with the theme an added bonus, as was just missing the ISABELLE trap. The excellent ISRAELIS reverse hidden was my favourite.

    Thanks to Felix and roly

  7. I had the same acrosses missing as roly after first pass, plus one extra (HILL), and likewise then had more of a struggle with the downs than anticipated! A really enjoyable puzzle, though because you still (🙄) can’t see the setter on a phone I didn’t know it was Felix and so wasn’t looking for a Nina.

    The HILL/BIRTHS/BOAT trio were LOIs in that order, finishing in 11:55 – I thought that that would be slow 11 but it turned out to put me in my usual slot about halfway up the leaderboard. I’m going to call this a Reasonable Day.

    Many thanks roly and Felix.


  8. A steady solve and once PEA GREEN went in I even spotted part of the theme (I don’t know the poem well enough to recognise all the details).
    Thought there were some top quality clues today including SAGO, BIRTHS and COD RINGTONE.
    Started with PUSSYCAT and finished with BONG in 7.21.
    Thanks to Roly

  9. ‘A bit on the tricky side today.’ 🤣🤣🤣🤣
    I gave up after 30 minutes having been defeated by BYLINE, ISRAELIS, TURKEY and BOWL so recorded a rare DNF today. Still, at least it’s sunny so I can entertain Mrs ITTT with regular solar-panel output updates throughout the day. I’m convinced there’s little she enjoys more, although she’d never let on of course.
    Thanks to Felix and Roly.

  10. I found this one really hard today and was pushed very close to my 30 minute cut off point. Looking back though I am not really sure why. I am just going to conclude I was having one of those days where I wasn’t in the right headspace.

    Great puzzle.

  11. 12:48. A similar experience to others- I took a while to get going with the across clues.
    I didn’t spot the theme until after solving, but can recite the poem.

    Thanks Felix and Roly

  12. 6.21, so a bit outside my target time. Enjoy this, but for some reason I needed to spend a whole minute on the last one in, guitar, even though I knew what I was supposed to be looking for.

    I can’t explain that!

  13. DNF, never think of 1a BOWL=amphitheatre, and the only relevant bowl that comes to mind is the “Superb Owl” in USA. Doh! Wiktionary has:
    def 7 “(sports, theater) An elliptical-shaped stadium or amphitheater resembling a bowl.” so it is legit then.
    Never saw the Nina tho’ I have the first verse on the bathroom wall.
    Discovered “onscreen” was absent from cheating machine, so added.

    1. Bowl games are common in American college football – Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Iron Bowl, Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl. Traditionally played around the New Year as a season climax with the best teams invited to play against each other in a game at the stadia of the name.

      The Super Bowl was coined as a play on this – being the championship game of the professional leagues it was considered to be a better standard. It was actually inspired by a “Super Ball” – one of those high density rubber balls children play with that bounce 20ft in the air.

  14. To echo today’s 15×15 blog, I found this mostly harmless apart from the NW corner: Bowl, Elated (wrong end of clue 🙄) and Populace took what seemed an age to tame. The upshot was that a comfortable sub-20 turned into yet another narrow squeak. Joint CoDs to the intersecting Byline and Spigot for their delightful parsing. Invariant

    PS Have we dropped some setters ? Felix seems to be working overtime at the moment.

  15. Dnf…

    Didn’t find this too bad and had the majority completed after 22 mins, but just couldn’t get 13dn “Ringtone” nor 21ac “Turkey”, so gave up a short while after my cut off.

    As it was Felix, I had a lookout for a Nina and for once actually spotted it.

    FOI – 9ac “Guitar”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 6dn “Sago” – ghastly stuff

    Thanks as usual!

  16. DNF

    Another DNF in just over 10 mins.

    Struggled with quite a few but much of it was getting used to Felix’s style. Ended up in the NW and it was over hastily bunging in the final letter of my final word that did for me – POPULATE

    Thanks RT and Felix

  17. I also found this on the chewy side, probably around 16-17 minutes but no accurate time as I was interrupted no less than three times during the solve. A most enjoyable puzzle and proof that a challenging puzzle can still be a delight. My only comment, as one who is congenitally early for everything and always waiting for others, is that Late does not equal “at the last minute” but after the last minute.

    COD to Israelis – a most impressive hidden.

    Many thanks Roly for the blog

        1. I am one of four children, who are respectively always early for everything (me), always on time (he is an army officer), always a little late and hopeless. When our parents were inviting us to a family lunch at say 1.00 pm, they would say “lunch at 1.15” to me, “lunch at 1300 hours” to the officer brother, “lunch at 12.45” to the always a little late one and “do come to breakfast” to the fourth!

    1. I used to be always super-punctual but since retiring a few years back I find myself now usually 3 to 4 minutes late for appointments, meetings etc. When. I try to make a jocular excuse oh well I’m within the five-minute grace period I allow myself, I’m met with silence and the stony stare of those inconvenienced.

      1. I’m always in the 5-10mins early camp. Depending on the location – I believe 5mins grace period is fine if you have to travel.

        I had to pick my daughter up from Gatwick start of last year. Her flight was due in at 8:10am. It’s about a 100mile drive and included needing to go round the M25 during early morning rush on a Monday. I left at about 5:40am. The ticket entering the carpark was printed at 8:10:25am. And then her plane literally went over my head as I got out of the car! I then spent over half an hour waiting for her in the Arrivals Lounge 🙄

        1. Nice coincidence! But that’s about par for the course; they always say you should reckon on appearing in the Arrival Hall (“lounge”?!) 40 minutes after landing.

          1. Indeed. And even though I knew it would be over 30mins before the Arrivals Lounge and could therefore have left later. I couldn’t bring myself to take advantage of that and risk being late.

            Talking of coincides – as you were here and below. Last night, I attempted an old cryptic from another paper dating back to May 2021. Halfway through I encountered a clue “Officers rushed to local store (7,5)” which was the same answer as we had in yesterday’s QC !!

  18. A slow DNF. Had to solve on line today while waiting for workmen, two hours late, not yet turned up.
    Failed on TURKEY and accidentally revealed POPULACE, having guessed wrongly. Also failed on TREE, despite countrywoman credentials.
    Very tricky, I thought. Liked PUSSYCAT. I wish I had spotted the theme as I know the poem off by heart – doh!
    Thanks vm, Roly.

  19. 19:59

    No time as I was interrupted by work and plumbers, but I’ve guessed just outside the 20 min zone!
    God help newbies and we haven’t heard from GaryA for a while, this type of puzzle doesn’t help.

    No problems until: ringtone, births, israelis, isabella, elated, guitar, populace, and LOI bowl, phew..
    If I didn’t spot this theme its unlikely I will ever spot one.
    However, lots of nice clues: bong, pussycat, elated, spigot, ringtone, guitar and COD sago.

  20. 17:54 – very surprised to see everybody saying this was tough* as for much of it I was thinking “this is the easiest Felix ever”.

    A setter whose clues I usually struggle with. And there are certainly some nasties in there today – BOWL, TREE=plane, HILL, the GREECE homophone indicator, the ISRAELIS hidden indicator among them.

    Looked for the theme postsolve and found it.

    * I’m usually in a minority of one when I find Felix tough, everybody else has no complaints.

    1. Hey, now I understand your Yes from above-congratulations! Although I still have a healthy lead in QC’s I think you’re up 1-0 in 15×15’s. I’ll have to pull up my socks there and finally solve one of them this year.

      1. I can’t get over it being a corrected DNF on the 15×15. Maybe that can be a tiebreaker.

        QC score currently at 51-up with 256 to play. I missed an opportunity last week when you DNFed but so did I. Possibly Breadman’s IMMANUEL-KANT.

  21. Too difficult for me. Some of these clues made no sense to me whatsoever.

    I only answered about half of the clues before losing interest.

    I did get PUSSYCAT though. Pumpa would have been most indignant if I had not.

    My verdict: Too difficult, lost interest.
    Pumpa’s verdict: Growl (on seeing PUSSYCAT. He’s a bit of an alpha male).

  22. I like others found this to be trickier than average, and I stopped the clock with my LOI GUITAR at 13.05. I liked the hidden ISRAELIS at 12ac, even if it did take me a long time to discover it. The same applied to RINGTONE, and in spite of holding me up so much I give it my COD.

  23. Defeated by APPRAISE and the (as you say) extraordinarily clever ISRAELIS, otherwise all ok. There almost had to be another Nina with both Greece and Turkey, and the Israelis, but a risky one maybe.
    If you’re looking for a famous BOWL, it’s surely Hollywood.
    ONSCREEN (which just “had to be”) isn’t in my dictionary; has it become a word in the last 20 years? And on that subject (dubious words), may I put in a belated plea for yesterday’s “miniscule” being a solecism?
    Hadn’t seen my friend ISABELLA for two years or more, bumped into her yesterday while she was walking her two dogs (or rather, they were walking her) – such coincidences must happen all the time, but it’s funny how they provide an uncanny little flush of warmth.

    1. Isabella is not the most common variant of the name; I know an Isobel and two Isabels, but I have only encountered the spelling Isabella via the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park.

      1. Both my daughter and her cousin have the middle name of Isabella, handed down by their grandmother.

    2. RE: the Isabella coincidence

      That’s a lovely story. I suppose it must be broadly related to the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, where you keep on noticing a word, etc. shortly after you first encounter it, but it certainly resonates dramatically more when the coincidence is with a friend rather than my most recent one, which involved some obscure species of goat in two crosswords and then chanced upon in an old magazine article!

  24. My brain was clearly on a different wavelength today. Enjoyed the ones I got, groaned when I read the blog for some that I missed.

    When I got to spigot, I wondered if Oink was the setter but despite peagreen, I missed the Nina. I’m not so sure I like a QC puzzle with a Nina. It sometimes feels like by having to shoehorn particular words into the grid that we end up with much more obscure clues than we might otherwise. Probably just frustration as I suspect if I’d realised, more words would have suggested themselves.

    1. “Shoehorn particular words”, i.e. in preference to those you would actually have preferred to use. Yes; exactly the flaw I’ve always found in all poetry. (Sacrilege?)

  25. 9:25 but…

    …somehow read the clue wrong and entered BERTHS rather than BIRTHS, so a pinky for me. There seem to be at least 46 others who may have fallen into the same trap? Even so, felt much quicker in the top half than in the bottom half, needing to crack ONSCREEN and RINGTONE to progress to completion. And yes, PEA GREEN was a very obvious nina flag.

    Thanks Felix and Roly

  26. DNF after 25 mins. Just could not see BOWL, ELATED or POPULACE. Managed the rest in good time though.

    Happy Thursday to you all. Pi

  27. Very tricky QC but for me one of the most enjoyable I can remember. Didn’t have any luck until FOI ASKS then slowly began to fill the grid. Last few in were SPIGOT, SAGO, BONG, GREECE, then finally RINGTONE (why do I never spot a hidden?). Favourites were my last three in, because I had to really work at unravelling them. Also liked BYLINE because I recognised and understood a cricket reference!
    Many thanks all.

  28. Same experience as a number of other: started off well, getting quite a few of the across clues on first reading. However I slowed appreciably after that and the last few became a rather slow grind. Didn’t spot the nina (might well have done had I looked for it). Eventually came in at 26 minutes for a rather slow day. I couldn’t parse RINGTONE having missed the hidden or TURKEY.

    FOI – 8ac PUSSYCAT
    LOI – 7ac BOWL
    COD – lots to like. My favorites were ISRAELIS (very clever), HILL and BIRTHS

    Thanks to Felix and Rolytoly

    1. Wikipedia says “The byline on a newspaper or magazine article gives the name of the writer of the article. Bylines are commonly placed between the headline and the text of the article”

      1. Yes, I got that the answer was sub/under the title, but , for a start, Wikipedia is kinda unreliable. I fear journos and writers would be deeply triggered if their author name/byline was termed a mere subtitle.
        Major eyebrow raise.😥

        1. I was happy to stick the answer in unquestioningly, being a bit vague on what either word could mean – but you’re right, the dictionaries don’t seem to equate the two much at all.

  29. 17:01, which is good for me, despite the accursed portcullis. For some reason 17d took ages despite thinking “BERTH” immediately. I’ve no idea why it took me so long to consider the possibility of adding an S.

  30. A clear case of brain-freeze on my LOI. I solved my penultimate clue (TREE) just as I was being ushered into the SCC, but my LOI (the very simple BOWL) took a further 10+ minutes to reveal itself. Total time = 31 minutes.

    I parsed the clue correctly at the first attempt, but simply could not think of BOW for arch. An alphabet trawl produced 25 possible answers (BOiL, cOaL, cOoL, …., tOlL, tOoL, yOwL), but BOWL was missing from my list. I have lost count of the number of occasions that a thorough and careful alphabet trawl has omitted the one word I need – far too often for it to be a random occurrence. It’s as if my brain is being deliberately obstructive and screens out only the correct solution. Exasperating!

    Many thanks to Felix and Rolytoly.

    1. Same, I did a trawl, later solved the clue, looked back at the trawl and there was no W for 3rd letter.

  31. I had to break off after 12 minutes and needed another 10 to finish; of course the clues rattle around in your brain so it’s not a fair time. I struggled.
    LOI was BOWL- and I thought of Hollywood.
    Other delays: ELATED and the cleverly hidden RINGTONE (initially I wrote down the word in the margin but couldn’t parse it!)
    High quality testing puzzle and tough grid.

  32. For once I spotted the theme, which allowed me to get LOI, BOWL, but sadly I forgot to revisit a carelessly biffed SEA GREEN and also had a typo at BING instead of BONG. Hey Ho! 12:44, but! Thanks Felix and Roly.

  33. A proper tussle to get across the line today. I made it although at several stages, including early on as I ran unsuccessfully through most of the Across clues, I doubted I would.
    Safely in the SCC’s recovery area and looking at the previous comments I have nothing to add, other than tip my hat to Felix for the very clever hiddens and the rest of the clues that oft left me, as Mr Owl and Ms Pussycat, somewhat at sea.

  34. For once, I saw the theme pretty quickly – not so difficult, tbh, as the poem is the only one I can recite in full and is my all-time favourite. I wonder how one would clue Runcible though 😅
    9:04, so I’ve managed to keep under 10 minutes so far this week. However, WOE – I didn’t check the anagrist at 14d, so biffed ISABELLE 🙄 Clearly I’m not the only one. At least I managed to avoid the berth / BIRTH confusion. TURKEY made me smile – it really is quite dull, however carefully you cook it, and I usually avoid it if at all possible!
    FOI Pussycat LOI Tree COD Bowl WOD Spigot POD The Owl and the Pussycat
    Thanks Felix and Roly

  35. 17.19 Hard today. The anagrams were OK but the hiddens were tough. Prompted by the blog I went back and spotted the theme, which I don’t usually manage. 6d made me think of The Beano nearly fifty years ago. Having never heard of SAGO, “How do you start a pudding race?” didn’t make any sense to me. BOWL and TURKEY were the last two. Thanks rolytoly and Felix.

    1. I had the same trouble as a child with that joke. I did understand how to start a jelly race, though: “Get set!” 🤣

  36. Someone may have said this and I missed it in the reading, but there is also bOWL to go with Pussycat and the rest.

    1. Roly wrote “The poem is The Owl and the Pussycat, there in the second row.” under his Show More button 👍

      1. Yes, then he identified a number of words such as sPIGot and PUSSYCAT, but I don’t think he identified (b)OWL

            1. Looks as if I’m 0 for 2 in comments today (I didn’t know some schoolboy French on the 15×15). Here I mistakenly thought he’d spelled one out but not the other. Thx, team

  37. 22:00 here, and I fell headlong into the ISABELLE trap. Really should learn to check the letters on an anagram, ho hum. Enjoyed the puzzle a lot, too many candidates for COD to mention, but ISRAELIS just gets the nod.

    Thanks to Felix and rolytoly.

  38. My favourites were ISRAELIS, RINGTONE and SAGO. When I was at school SAGO pudding was always called ‘frogspawn pudding’.
    Thanks Felix and rolytoly.

  39. A very enjoyable test. Please, more like this. Was happy with 17d Berths so a DNF (feels a real shame after so much fun). Missed the Nina, but it might have helped speed things up.
    FOI 9a Guitar
    LOI 5d Byline
    COD 8a Pussycat.

  40. DNF

    All submitted in 20 minutes only to realise I’d not done the 2 little answers in the SW, BONG and TREE. So 4 pink squares. Very careless!

  41. I was not on Felix’s admirable wavelength today, solving about 3/4 of the clues before resorting to Roly’s crisp blog. Thanks all

  42. Am I the only one who thinks this particular cluing of ISRAELIS is not appropriate at the current time?

  43. Don’t blame me if you read this…..

    40 minute DNF

    Put BONK for BONG. 40 mins is bad enough but that was a kick in the teeth I could well have done without.

    I haven’t read any other comments because I feel low enough without knowing how well most of you have done or how simple you found it. I can’t stand the comparison.

    I am horribly depressed at my complete inability to do this. I made so many stupid mistakes today. Looking at the blog, this really wasn’t that hard, it’s just me lacking basic competence. I haven’t got the mental power to make a decent fist of this. Want to know how bad I am? I was looking for a three letter grub to go inside TAR for 9ac and I missed two hiddens for ages. That’s beginners stuff that I am frankly embarrassed to admit. What is about cryptic crosswords that makes me so – literally – clueless?

    I had hoped for 5 solves under 2 hours this week after 59 mins for the first three days. Fat chance! Another weekend of misery and self-loathing awaits. Back for another kicking tomorrow no doubt. Let’s see how much worse it can get.

    Thanks for the blog.

    1. Oh dear. You seem like you’ve got too close to the coalface with the QC these days. A blinkered focus on your time and performance stopping you from finding any appreciation or even enjoyment for the clues, surfaces or what went straight in or gave you a PDM. I just mention it because there’s been some lovely stuff this week.

      1. Thanks New Driver. You are, of course, quite right. Unfortunately that’s just the way I am. I do appreciate the ingenuity of the setters, but my Achilles heel is to compare myself (unfavourably) with others and to be dissatisfied with anything other than excellence. It’s not particularly healthy and I wish I was more relaxed about my limitations.

        I appreciate you taking the time to let me have your thoughts.

    2. Take encouragement from the fact that I have been solving cryptic puzzles for the past 60 years and blogging them here for 17, but the two hidden answers were my last ones in because they were very well hidden.

  44. Thanks jackkt. They were quite brilliantly hidden and all credit to the setter for achieving this.


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