QC 1205 by Joker

Still suffering from my QC withdrawal symptoms (if indeed they exist and are not simply dimwittedness symptoms – see last blog from me), although I do believe that the QCs are getting harder. Nevertheless, that is how I like them, so many thanks to Joker, who produced at least three clues here that stumped me for longer than usual and contributed to another 12-minute time for me. Great fun.

1A set the tone. It was my FOI, but not in the usual way. It did not come immediately to me, but with the above thoughts spinning round my head I spent several extra seconds thinking it through and rejecting the more obvious sorts of ‘tree’. What with my recent experience I was thinking “Surely a tree is just a tree – or is it? Ah yes, but how many different types of tree are there?”.

And so it went on. Yes, of course, there were plenty of the usual QC write-ins, but a good number of others that made me stop and think longer than usual. Whether justifiably or not I will discover when you all add your own comments. 12A held me up a long time, and my LOI was 17D, although looking back I can’t really see why it was that as it definitely seems easier in retrospect than some of the others. Difficult to choose a COD but I will go for 7D (even though this was one of the write-ins for me) because of the smooth surface and mechanism. 16A also deserves a mention for the same reasons although again I happened to be on the right wavelength for this.

The next time I do this I will be on holiday in Canada and the USA, so please expect nothing more from me than FOI, LOI, COD and a brief comment on ease or difficulty.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained as simply as I can just as I see it.

1 Old chestnut caught by a lot of another tree (6)
CLICHE – C (‘caught’, as in the abbreviation for being ‘out’ by that method in Cricket) + LICHEe (‘a lot of’ another tree, viz LICHEE, the chinese tree from which cometh the fruit of the same name). These used to be a fairly inevitable dessert accompaniment to a Chinese meal back in the early 70s when they were exotic and new. Children and adolescents (as I was then) used to love them for their ghoulish resemblance in colour and presumed texture to human eyeballs. Interesting to see a step up in the obscurity of the type of tree that grows in QC crossword land, where we are more used to seeing ASHes, ELMs, YEWs and other more obvious (to home-grown eyeballs anyway) varieties.
4 A quick look outside hotel for dustbin in New York (6)
ASHCAN – A + SCAN (quick look) ‘outside’ H (hotel in most of the phonetic alphabets generally in use).
8 Old wine they do fancy with very fixed views (4-2-3-4)
DYED-IN-THE-WOOL – straight anagram (‘fancy’) of OLD WINE THEY DO.
10 Insinuate plainly where son has gone (5)
IMPLY – SIMPLY minus the S (‘when son has gone’).
11 Silver mesh installed in second generator (7)
MAGNETO – AG (silver, from the Periodic Table symbol Ag for argentum, meaning silver in Latin) + NET (mesh) ‘in’ MO (a second, as in “wait a mo(ment)”).
12 Expensive retaining mine that’s very steep (11)
PRECIPITOUS – PRECIOUS ‘retaining’ PIT (mine).
16 Mean to assert seniority (7)
AVERAGE – AVER (assert) + AGE (seniority).
17 Certain about good rise (5)
SURGE – SURE (certain) ‘about’ G (good).
18 What’s immoral parking by local politician (4,9)
VICE PRESIDENT – VICE (something immoral) + P (parking) + RESIDENT (local).
19 Mounted equipment to limit noise (6)
RIDING – RIG (equipment) ‘limiting’ DIN (noise).
20 Cut sound made by detector (6)
CENSOR – homophone for SENSOR (detector).
1 Taxi driver has change of heart as driver’s assistant? (6)
CADDIE – CABBIE (taxi driver) with his ‘heart’ (two central letters) changed gives CADDIE, cryptically an assistant to a ‘driver’, as a golfer hits many different types of shots, of which some are ‘drives’ (the first shots on the longer holes). Perhaps at this point I could quickly mention in passing the comment made on the ALBATROSS that appeared in the 15 x 15 the other day. I saw that the blogger, quite rightly in my view, queried the definition as being a ‘shot’ (as I remember it) and suggested rather that it was a series of shots. Well yes, that is normally how it is, because it is actually a score of 3 under the par for a hole. So the usual way of doing that (I say usual, but it is in fact an extremely rare occurrence, rarer in fact than a hole in one) is to finish a hole that is a par 5 in 2 shots. But another way of doing it would be to hit a hole in one on a par 4. And in that case the albatross would in fact be just a single shot.

While I am at it, perhaps I could blow the trumpet for my son (as he certainly would not do it for himself) who became a ‘scratch’ (0 handicap) golfer recently, and who hit an albatross once while playing with a friend and his brother and me. On the 565-yard par 5 17th at his local course he hit his drive what must have been about 320 yards, then stepped up and holed his 245-yard 3-wood second. As I said, that is rarer than a hole in one, and I was very privileged to have been there at the time as even just to witness an albatross is probably rarer than a hole in one!

2 Precede nine with XI in mix-up, being new to the job (13)
INEXPERIENCED – straight anagram again (‘in mix-up’) of PRECEDE NINE + XI.
3 Uncovered fire in dry grass is rather alarming (5)
HAIRY – IR (‘uncovered’ fIRe) ‘in’ HAY (dry grass).
5 Cunning dexterity of small and large rowing team (7)
SLEIGHT – S (small) + L (large) + EIGHT (‘rowing team’).
6 Shut parts of town as restricted area (5,8)
CLOSE QUARTERS – CLOSE (shut) + QUARTERS (parts of town, probably heard more on the continent such as in French quartieres. Apologies for my French spelling as the blog keyboard doesn’t seem to know how to do a grave accent).
7 Hold one in high position in Westminster (6)
NELSON – cryptic definition. A NELSON (either HALF or FULL) is a ‘hold’ in wrestling. And of course there is a tall column somewhere in Westminster atop which stands a statue of Admiral Lord Horatio NELSON.
9 Hunter, perhaps still following herb, reportedly (9)
TIMEPIECE – double homophone (‘reportedly’) with PIECE (sounds like PEACE = STILL) ‘following’ TIME (sounds like THYME = HERB). Unusually in a QC I am finding myself feeling as though I ought to explain some defnitions as well. A hunter is a type of pocket watch. A ‘full’ hunter has a cover over the face, and a ‘half’ hunter has a hole in the cover so that you can see the time without having to open the cover, a distinct advantage when you are trying to HUNT on horseback, (hence the name) and would rather not have to distract your attention from the upcoming low tree branch in order to open the cover on your watch to find out when you should be home for your tea. [Definition underlining corrected – see comments.]
13 Climber’s aid is a disadvantage round slope (7)
CRAMPON – CON (diasadvantage, as in ‘pros and cons’) ’round’ RAMP (slope). Do I have to explain this definition as well? An attachment to a climbing boot to make climbing easier and less hazardous?
14 Be undecided about India’s suspension of rights (6)
WAIVER – WAVER (be undecided) ‘about’ I (India, again in phonetic alphabets, but also I think just as a straight abbreviation used for the country (similar to UK or USA)).
15 Delicious drink? About time in local (6)
NECTAR – C (about) + T (time) ‘in’ NEAR (local).
17 Sleep’s upset on English lace? (5)
SPIKE – KIP’S (sleep’s) ‘upset’ (upside down) ‘on’ E (English) in this down clue. Definition is LACE in the sense of to ‘SPIKE’ a drink, as in: “I later found out that she had spiked my tequila with Rohypnol, barbiturates and ayahuasca, which might have been why I felt a little unsteady on my feet”. Sorry, that was a completely gratuitous unscripted example of the use of the verb in question, but I just felt like signing off with a bang.

41 comments on “QC 1205 by Joker”

  1. I think this was a very tough QC for a Monday. I needed 21 mins to solve, so well over my target 10 mins. I biffed, late on, 1a CLICHE and needed the blog to explain as DNK the variant of Lychee. My penultimate solve was 7d NELSON which eluded me despite having all the checkers. 17d SPIKE also proved tricky as I was fixated on lace as a material.

    Thank you astartedon for the detailed blog and Joker for the workout.

    Edited at 2018-10-22 07:32 am (UTC)

  2. Tough, all right. I started off with CLICHE, couldn’t see how it worked, and moved on, the light dawning only later. Spent a longish time on CENSOR, trying to make sure which soundalike I should put in. LOI was SPIKE. 8:25.
  3. 12 minutes here too, so it’s now a full week since I last achieved my 10-minute QC target.

    One of my problems was of my own making as I cannot have been concentrating when I wrote DYED-IN-THE-WOOD at 8ac which presented me with difficulties when solving 7dn.

    I misparsed 1ac as C,LICHE{n} although wondered momentarily how ‘lichen’ could possibly be categorised as a tree.

  4. This is definitely on the tricky side… 16A my FOI. Like Jack I was puzzled by the tree at 1A I never thought of lichee, which I’ve always spelt “lychee”, so thanks for explaining that. COD to WAIVER. 8:42.

    Edited at 2018-10-22 08:18 am (UTC)

  5. Well, Joker certainly had the last laugh today as far as I am concerned. A frustrating mix of write-ins and some serious hurdles. I thought Nelson was clever and put in Cliche without identifying the tree (I thought lychee had a ‘y’. I finished in the SE where I should have found Censor easier and I groaned when I finally worked out Spike (my LOI – I was desperately looking for synonyms for lace in the material sense). I am not happy with my performance today. John M.

    Edited at 2018-10-22 09:21 am (UTC)

  6. 7:15, but I misdiagnosed 20 across as CUT SOUND for the wordplay and DETECTOR for the definition. I dithered over SENSOR or SENSER, but not the first letter. Blind sided totally. Bother! Remembered DYED IN THE WOOL from a recent 15×15. I also wonder how lICHEN could be a tree. Zoomed through it apart from that. Thanks Joker and Don.
  7. I got nowhere with this. Even once I’d read the blog – for which, huge thanks, as always! – I’m afraid I just felt rather cross at the obscurity of many of today’s clues. I can’t remember a QC as hard as this one in the ten months or so that I have been attempting to solve them. I got barely three quarters of these finished. In particular, I would like to offer a golden raspberry to 1 and 3 across and 7, 9 and 17 down. Sorry, Joker, thanks for setting it, but your puzzle today was way too hard for me. Massive thanks to today’s blogger for shining a torch into the darkness.
  8. I love the idea of a golden raspberry being awarded for clues that incur the solver’s displeasure! Fantastic idea, Louisa.

    What a relief to find that others struggled with this, my goodness that was hard work in places. I too am a lifelong “lychee” merchant so like Jack and others was wondering how on earth lichen had a tree form when eventually I got 1ac. 1ac was the penultimate one in and 1dn the LOI, which is always somewhat dispiriting. Other ones I found really tough were RIDING (which I needed the blog to parse, thanks Don), HAIRY and CENSOR. Heavy lifting today!

    Brilliantly readable blog though, thank you Don, and slightly grudging thanks to Joker for a serious wake up call this sunny Monday. Around 2.5 on the Kevometer.


  9. The definition–hence the underline–is ‘hunter, perhaps’, ‘perhaps’ because it’s a definition by example. I was fortunate in that hunter=watch appeared quite recently in a 15×15,and louisajaney (see below) I think has some justification in being irked with this clue. On edit: see above!

    Edited at 2018-10-22 10:31 am (UTC)

  10. Way to difficult for me. I think the blogger is right that the QC,s are getting much more difficult. As someone who has no interest in the 15×15 and simply want a crossword I can solve in a readonable time this is disappointing. Certainly starting the week with a puzzle this hard is hardly encouraging for starters. On the puzzle itself I have lived in the us fir 20 years and never heard of a rubbish bin being called an ashcan. Trashcan yes but not the former.

    Thanks to the blogger, but to the setters can we not get back to some QC,s that are just that.

    1. I lived in the US for the first 30+ years of my life, and must admit that I don’t think I ever heard ‘ashcan’ used. But then I lived on the West coast, where ashes wouldn’t have been in the garbage can (not ‘trashcan’ in my idiolect). But there was the Ashcan School of art in the early 20th century, and I certainly knew the word.
    2. Far too difficult for me too. Please don’t make the QC harder.
      Thanks for the blog- at least I knew about the Hunter watch -we’ve got one that my mother-in-law used when out hunting side saddle in the ‘50’s.
  11. Given I took nearly 73 minutes for this, and it was technically a DNF as, after some umming and ahhing I put the wrong sensor in (and, to my shame, spelt it with an E), I was pleased to find others found this difficult too. I too have always spelt lychee with a y, didn’t know New Yorkers had ashcans and hadn’t ever heard of a pocket watch called a hunter. In addition to these, however, I also didn’t know that aver meant assert (though I think that has come up before) or that a magneto was a generator. It never occurred to me that Nelson’s Column was in Westminster either and I only live 30 miles away, so how anybody not from the UK is meant to think of it, I don’t know. Hats off to those who did. On the point of the sounds like clue at 20a, can anybody give some advice on ways to decide which homophone to put in? I can usually come up with the right one, even if both fit the checkers, but in this case I came to the conclusion that the sound of censor made the detector.
    1. I didn’t know where the column is, but Westminster’s in London, and the column is in London, and anyway there’s the hold. In fact we furriners might have the advantage in not worrying about in or out of Westminster.
      On homophones: All I can say is, read carefully; there will (almost) always be one word that doesn’t fit the definition. Today’s example is really too dicey for the QC (and as I said, I dithered), but ‘cut sound’ made by SENSOR is a lot less likely than cut (CENSOR) being a sound made by ‘sensor’.
    2. For what it’s worth, anything in Central London that’s not in the City of London (EC in Crosswordland aka the Square Mile) is likely to be in the City of Westminster.

      Edited at 2018-10-22 12:57 pm (UTC)

  12. Very tough today and I just scraped in under the half hour mark. My main hold ups were 7, 15 and 17d and LOI 20a. I had no idea about the tree in 1a but the answer was clear enough. I also didn’t help myself by putting a random ‘C’ at the end of 2d. CoD to 7d.

    I don’t usually mind the tougher puzzles as they offer a good learning opportunity but I felt this was pushing the boundaries for a QC.
    Excellent blog

  13. Like everyone else, I found this hard for a Monday, taking over 20 minutes to complete. Count me in the ‘how can lichen be a tree?’ camp, having never knowingly come across the lichee variation of lychee. Thanks blogger for pointing us in the right direction.
  14. I admit I was rusty after a few days away, but this was definitely on the hard side. Just short of 50 mins, with my last pair (14d and 16ac) responsible for nearly ten of those. Some masterful misdirection had me looking at the wrong end of several clues – 18ac for a start – and Nelson was none too obvious either, but my CoD vote goes to another of Joker’s little teasers, 17d Spike. Lace indeed ! Invariant
  15. After a weekend attempting the 15×15 puzzles in the daily and Sunday Times, the Monday QC often seems like a pushover. This wasn’t.
    I am normally on Joker’s wavelength; he had just changed the frequency a bit. I made life very difficult for myself at first, putting Cabbie at 1d,a wrong write-in; and Scary at 3d, ditto.
    FOI was Crampon, about my only correct write-in. I made steady progress after that; the last three were 1a, 3d and 7d. I corrected Scary to Hairy and that gave me Cliche. It took me ages to think of Nelson, perhaps because I associate him with Trafalgar Square which is not Westminster in my brain, although it might be for the postman.
    Just over 30 minutes in total . A very good puzzle I thought but demanding for beginners. David

  16. Just thought I’d chip in and say thanks for all your comments and say that I had thought about commenting on ‘LICHEE’ but it went out of my mind. Ideally a blogger would think of all the possible problems solvers might have and make some sort of comment on them, and in this case I had fully intended to do this but circumstances conspired against me.

    Early this morning (very) I had prepared the blog so that all I had to do was hit ‘post’. I intended to come back and give it a read through AND to add in a comment about LICHEE before doing that, but then I got involved in some other tasks, during which I forgot that I had yet to finish the blog off. Then I realised I had forgotten about the blog altogether and that it was now quite late (about 8.20) so I went to try and post it… and realised I had accidentally closed my browser. So all I had time to do was to fire up the browser again and post the thing.

    Had I had but all the world and time that I had planned for myself I would have gone through the draft again and I HOPE that I would have noticed my definition underlining error at 9D (pointed out by Kevin for which many thanks). But what I definitely would have done would have been to make a comment on LICHEE, something along the lines of the following:

    From those days in the 70s I do remember noticing that LYCHEE was spelt with a ‘Y’, but one of the things I have learned from crosswords is that words of foreign origin often have at least one and sometimes several alternative spellings. After all, these words are usually made up by transliteration from the original foreign word, so that there is no ‘correct’ spelling and in the current example both of those are plausible spellings. The way the original transliterator would have spelled them depends much on how they sounded (was it L-EYE-CHEE or L-ITCH-EE?) when he or she heard them.

    We keep seeing examples of this when through our historical connections we have got the sound of place names wrong. Thus the Indians have had to come back to us and say “Excuse me, but it doesn’t really sound like ‘BOMBAY’ the way we say It, It’s more like ‘MUMBAI’.” And the Chinese have had to do a similar thing with PEKING and BEIJING.

    And I do remember a similar thing from my earliest encounter with crosswords. I must have been about 10 when our English teacher, as an end of term treat, let us off our proper lesson and told us all to have a go at compiling a crossword. Well, being a precocious brat at least in this department, I put a lot of effort into this and included my own crude form of misdirection in one clue deliberately to stump everyone: I included one clue to which the answer was PORAGE. Sure enough, nobody got it, and with glowing pride in my abstruse knowledge I revealed it to the class and the teacher. At which my pride turned to ear-burning embarrassment when he said “don’t be stupid, boy, that’s not how you spell PORRIDGE!”. I started trying to explain to him about my Scottish extraction (he was VERY English) and how I knew that this was an alternative spelling but to no avail. He would not listen. In the way of many teachers (certainly in those days) he knew he was ‘right’ and that was that.

    Happy memories. I had forgotten about that episode until now.

    Anyway, the lesson for all crossword solvers is that if ever you come across an answer that you are damned sure is right but it just doesn’t fit for some reason, then check if it is a word of foreign origin and it may well be the case that there is an alternative spelling lurking somewhere in the dictionary!

  17. I’m a 15 x 15 man, and don’t bother timing the Quick Cryptic which is usually a 5 minute breeze with my afternoon cuppa. However, this definitely took me longer to crack than today’s quite friendly bigger puzzle.

    If it’s not lychee it’s sometimes litchi, but I’ve never seen the hybrid of the two before, even though it’s perfectly acceptable. I just about stopped myself from entering DIED in the wool, the sort of typo that’s so very easy to make.

    There was a lot to like here (as a retired cabbie, I loved 1D), and 20A was a first rate clue.

    Those of you who struggled shouldn’t feel daunted, because this was the equivalent of Olympic standard for the event !

  18. Yes – a hard (chest)nut to crack – 16 minutes finishing with 7dn – I had dyed-in-the-wood for 8ac and took an age to untangle.
  19. I have a friend staying and on the way back from a lovely walk and lunch in Craster thought i would introduce him to the Times QC. Joker has a good reputation for the newer solvers. What a shame today – very hard and I’m afraid has not ignited the newbie flame at all. Please lets get back to solvable puzzles and attract new solvers in. This blog is excellent – thank you for the explanations but this puzzle is not suitable for a QC in my opinion.
  20. I managed to only get 4 clues. I am a newish cryptic solver and this was just plain awful and I would never have got many more answers even if I had stared at it for many more hours. I usually love the QC but not today.
  21. I was going to give up on this but odd answers slowly popped up and I eventually completed it. Probably took an hour or more over three visits. Magneto only crept in because Mo = second came to mind and I was very slow to spot others. I guess I was in the right mood to not give up for once. Enjoyed Caddie and Nelson especially.
    Thanks all
    John George
  22. I found that tough. DNF and couldn’t figure the hunter even though I biffed the answer. It was an enjoyable fail though.
  23. Could someone explain how close quarters is a restricted area. I have searched dictionary definitions and have not found this one. A stinker of a puzzle with in my opinion some very questionable answers. Ashcan for example. I agree with Graham not suitable for a QC


    1. Well the online dictionary (all I’ve got as I only have my phone with me at the moment) gives “a small, cramped place or position”, which I think covers it. But when I wrote the blog I was just thinking of ‘fighting at close quarters’ which to me means fighting in a limited space, albeit one that is confined more by the diligence of the fighters than by geography. Either way I think it’s OK.
      1. Sorry that’s me, astartedon, although as I say I just have my phone and I can’t be tagged to log in properly…
  24. I’m echoing others today who found this way too hard. I gave up with only half the answers completed and had a look at the 15×15 and managed to do most of it. Surely should be the other way round? I’d appreciate a gentler start to the week on the QC.
    Thanks as ever to the blogger for explaining the mysteries – magneto, Nelson and the lichee tree.
  25. I have been doing we since number 1, never had anything like as poor as this before. Can’t really see point of QC if a regular 15×15 solver finds that easier. Still don’t see how close quarters means restricted area, I did get it but rejected it as obviously wrong.

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