QC 1215 by Felix

Well here I am blogging at you, not, as predicted in my last blog two weeks ago, from New York after a cruise down from Canada, but instead from the majestic streets of Hammersmith as per usual. A family illness sadly caused us to abort our holiday, so instead of soaking up North American culture for a couple of weeks I find myself collating receipts and medical reports to support an insurance claim, which I calculate should occupy a similar amount of my time. (Sorry, that’s just me being grumpy. It’ll probably only take me a day.).

Partly as a result of that, and partly just because it’s been the way my crossword life has been going the last few weeks, I am writing this from a very limited viewpoint. If you have been reading my recent fortnightly blogs you will realise that I have been doing the 15 x 15 as regularly as ever, but that I have only been looking at the quickie on my appointed blog days (so I don’t know in the intervening time what the difficulty level has been like – sorry). All I know is that on my last two blogs I have encountered what you might call ‘quickie stiffies’ (stop sniggering there at the back). I have written the blogs on these days thinking that dementia is setting in and that my mental faculties are rapidly deteriorating, only to find from the comments that everybody else has found them difficult too, and that I am in fact providing a more useful service than normal, with several people being genuinely grateful that I have been able to shine some light into their darkness (for which, of course, I am in my own turn grateful).

So once again, this is the first quickie I have done since my last blog two weeks ago, and I would say it is a return to normal standards. Medium difficulty, with no fewer than six pretty straightforward anagrams that I can count on a quick read-through and at least two fairly obvious double definitions, with two or three slightly more difficult clues to push me up to the 10-minute mark. Overall I found the clues pleasant and witty and I am grateful to Felix for taking me on a nostalgic tour of some of my youthful enthusiasms (such as T S Eliot and topology). Great fun.

And before signing off perhaps I could just give my personal comment on the ‘stiffies’ mentioned above. There were a lot of comments on the blog complaining that they were too hard for quickies, but personally I disagree. I found them genuinely enjoyable. I am sorry if they put some people off, but equally well I am sure that there were some people who are working up to the 15 x 15 who found them a very valuable stepping stone. You can’t have a ‘standard difficulty’ every day for either the quickie or the 15 x 15, you can only have a range of difficulty with any single crossword falling either side of the mean. In terms of the 15 x 15, we tend to talk of ‘Monday’ and ‘Friday’ puzzles, and when we encounter a particularly elegant example we all stand back and applaud. I felt similarly with those last two quickie puzzles because they show how far you can go with that format (and to be honest I am sure that if the setters really tried they could go a lot further). There have been some people commenting on the blog asking if we can ‘flag up’ when there is an ‘easy’ 15 x 15 that the inexperienced population can have a go at. Such people could presumably also regard a ‘difficult’ 13 x 13 as a similar scale of challenge.

Inevitably, there will be easy and difficult 13 x 13s, and the same for 15 x 15s. Together they form a spectral ladder which the novice can aspire to climb until they reach a level at which they can look down and regard a successful daily 15 x 15 solve as a formality rather than an occasional cause for celebration.

It remains for me to say:

FOI 1A, as it should be. A nice welcoming anagram to kick off with.

LOI 14D (I think).

COD? I think I will go for 15A. An elegant mechanism that took me drifting gently down the Thames with my beloved Mr Eliot to finish up (as I see it) on Margate Sands. Even though this location is mentioned earlier in the poem and not specifically referred to in this final part it seems likely to me that this was his intended final destination.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can lay my mental mitts on.

1 Catamaran ordered to transport grand historic document (5,5)
MAGNA CARTA – anagram of CATAMARAN with G (grand) ‘transported’ (i.e. put inside).
8 Farm building containing old cut of beef (5)
BARON – BARN (farm building) ‘containing’ O (old) gives BARON (a double sirloin).
9 Girl’s tunic boy picked up by mistake (3,4)
GYM SLIP – GYM sounds like JIM, so if you heard someone saying GYM you might instead ‘pick up’ JIM. Put this ‘by’ SLIP (mistake) and there can be no mistake.
10 A French work put forward without being challenged (9)
UNOPPOSED – UN (French indefinite article) + OP (opus, work) + POSED (put forward).
12 Syrupy stuff, mostly wholesome (3)
GOO – GOO is ‘mostly’ GOOd (wholesome).
13 Small pieces of coal, loose (5)
SLACK – double definition.
15 The two letters often associated with Lowry’s estate (5)
LANDS – L(aurence) S(tephen) Lowry was the guy who painted the ‘matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs’, and is almost always referred to as ‘L S’ Lowry. Thus L AND S are the ‘two letters often associated with Lowry’. Put them closer together and you have LANDS, a mostly archaic term for a person’s estate, as in The Waste Land by T(homas) S(tearns) Eliot (coincidentally another guy who is most commonly referred to by his initials):

“I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?”
17 Rag and bone (3)
RIB – another double definition.
18 Remedy nun concocted in historic English meadow (9)
RUNNYMEDE – straight anagram of REMEDY NUN.
20 Kit out for short film recording (7)
PROVIDE – PRO (for) + VIDE (‘short’ VIDEo).
21 One hundred and fifty live in part of Ireland (5)
CLARE – CL (Roman 150) + ARE (if to be is to live, then in the second person YOU ARE can mean YOU LIVE). I suppose the meaning is most powerfully illustrated in the biblical quote where Yahweh proclaims his name by saying “Before Abraham was, I AM”.
22 Look after sea eagles, small, being kind (10)
TENDERNESS – TEND (look after) + ERNES (sea eagles) + S (small).
1 I miss pub: sort that’s put out special ribbons? (6,6)
MOBIUS STRIPS – straight anagram of I MISS PUB SORT gives these topological curiosities. A Mobius strip is a band which has only one surface. If you want some fun you can make one yourself by taking a strip of paper and putting a single twist into it before gluing it into a band. You can then draw a line from any starting point and follow all the way round the strip back to the starting point and realise that your line has passed through the whole surface of the strip thus demonstrating that the structure has only one surface. Then if you cut the strip down the middle, that is, along the line that you have just drawn, instead of ending up with two strips as you might expect, you get just one larger strip. Even more strangely (or maybe less strangely, depending on what sort of scale of strangeness you are using) if you then cut that resulting strip down the middle you do now end up with two strips, but they are linked together as in a paper decoration chain.
2 Actress filling sugar bowls and cigar boxes (5)
GARBO – hidden word: ciGAR BOxes. [jackkt has kindly pointed out that I omitted to mention the other hidden GARBO in suGAR BOwls, see comments below.]
3 Girl’s warning oddly ignored (3)
ANN – take wArNiNg and ignore the odd letters…
4 An uncannily grim, upsetting story, that’s initially impressive (6)
AUGUST – … and now take all the initial letters (initially): An Uncannily Grim Upsetting Story That’s.
5 Male deity unexpectedly requiring a pause in operation? (4-5)
TIME-DELAY – another straight anagram of MALE DEITY (‘unexpectedly’).
6 Keep signalling vessel (6)
FLAGON – if you keep signalling with a flag, you might be said to ‘FLAG ON’.
7 Luther’s prose adapted for stuffy artisans? (12)
UPHOLSTERERS – straight anagram of LUTHER’S PROSE (‘adapted’).
11 Metal rod, old penny and diamonds for gambling game (5,4)
POKER DICE – POKER (metal rod) + D (denarius: an old penny as in pounds, shillings and pence (l. s. d.) in the days before the decimal scourge washed ashore) + ICE (diamonds). (NB no BREXIT opinion is being expressed here, just a simple nostalgic fondness for the eccentric old British monetary system).
14 England”: book penned by a famous author (6)
ALBION – B (book) ‘penned by’ A LION (a famous author). A lion in the modern sense can be any sort of celebrity but was much more likely to refer to an author back in the days when literature was king. Albion is a romantic name for old England (when everybody used to reckon in pounds, shillings and pence, see above).
16 Nude DA, wandering around like a zombie? (6)
UNDEAD – straight anagram of NUDE DA.
19 Dodge publicity, going in the night before (5)
EVADE – AD (publicity) ‘going in’ EVE (the night before, as in Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve).
21 Vehicle that’s about right (3)
CAR – CA (circa, about) + R (right).

42 comments on “QC 1215 by Felix”

  1. 2dn hidden also in {su}GAR BO{wls}. I had no idea about the MOBIUS thing which has only come up once before in all the time I have been contributing here and that was in the wording of a 15×15 clue rather than as an answer.

    No fears on mentioning nostalgia for the old currency, Don (which I happen to share). Implementation of decimalisation in the UK took place in February 1971 and had been 12 years in the planning, so it was nothing to do with the Common Market/EEC/EU which we didn’t join until 1973.

    I enjoyed your comments about levels. There’d be little point in having puzzles every day that everybody from novice to expert could solve without ever experiencing difficulty.

    Edited at 2018-11-05 08:09 am (UTC)

    1. Forgot to say that at 17 minutes I found this harder than average, and that’s now three in a row have taken me over 15 minutes and into the red on my spreadsheet.
      1. Thanks for pointing out the omission of the first GARBO. I have edited it in.

        And thanks also for the historical comment about the currency. Although you point out that there is no link I must say that this whole BREXIT issue has made me start reading up on the history of the European thing and how we got into it in the first place. It is fascinating.

  2. I missed the second instance of GARBO too. I found the puzzle at the medium/tougher end of the spectrum, taking 11:51 to cross the line. MAGNA CARTA leapt off the starting blocks and UPHOLSTERERS brought up the rear after a detour via pen and paper. ALBION went straight in from definition and crossers, although I then wasted time trying to fit that well known author ANON into the parsing until I saw what was going on. An enjoyable puzzle. Thanks Felix and Don. Sorry to hear about your cancelled trip. Hope the family illness is on the mend and your insurance claim goes smoothly.
  3. I found this to be on the stiffish side and wondered whether I’d break down the SW but Möbius strips arrived, then rib (doh), Albion and finally, provide. 13 minutes. A tilt of the hat to the double include at 2dn (and also to our esteemed blogger and setter) but I agree with cod as 15ac.
  4. Also forgot to say with MAGNA CARTA and RUNNYMEDE I wondered if we were in for a NINA, but can’t see anything else of relevance on that theme. Nor dates of significance to have prompted it either.
      1. Right, so it seems there is! So if anyone can find a tie-up between MAGNA CARTA and MOBIUS STRIPS I might just forgive the setter that one!
  5. I have to disagree with Don over the difficulty…..I found this incredibly hard. Initially I thought with more than half of the solves done in less than five minutes I was on for a sub 10 min solve…..and then I came to a grinding halt. In particular I did not know 1d MOBIUS STRIPS which then caused me all sorts of problems with 13,17 and 20a so I had to resort to using crossword solver to get going again. My LOI was 7d UPHOLSTERERS for which I needed all the checkers to solve the anagram. 20:37 with aids.
  6. Like Des, I thought this was going to be a real quickie after 1A plus a few write-ins and easy anagrams. However, it toughened up a lot for me and I ended up at 18 mins (but this was under 2 Kevins for a change!). I had to resort to pen and paper for Upholsterers. Liked the double Garbo, Rib, and August. Mobius strips took longer to click than it should have. LOI Provide. Many thanks to Felix for a chewy but satisfying start to the week and to Don for an excellent blog. John M.

    Edited at 2018-11-05 09:38 am (UTC)

  7. Brilliant blog as ever astartedon! I too found this harder than most, putting in HANDS almost immediately for 15ac (no idea where H S Lowry came from, maybe I was conflating him with H L Mencken… somehow) and taking a very long time to see MOBIUS STRIPS despite the helpful crossers. But then again I do spell it MOEBIUS, myself.

    If you are Hammersmith-based you may (or may not) be interested to know that I am there most Tuesday evenings in the Stonemasons Arms this month, managing a Quiz League of London team. If you ever wanted to stop in beforehand for a meetup and a pint on me, the invitation is open!

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. Yes, I am more used to spelling it Moebius too, but then there is also a diacritic tied up in there somehow. Perhaps the spelling is either an ‘O’ with a diacritic or ‘OE’ without which then phonetically renders the effect of the diacritic? I don’t know enough about it to speak with authority though.

      I had noticed from your blogs that you were getting a bit bored with crosswords and were diving into the quizzing world. The Stonemason’s is just down the road from me and I’d love to drop in and say hello. You’d be the first ‘real’ person I’d met from here.

      All depends on what happens over the next few weeks but if I’m passing at about the right time on a Tuesday I will definitely stick my head round the door.

      1. Wonderful! Well I’ll certainly be there tomorrow, probably from about 7pm till 10ish, and the next two weeks also I think. Between 7 and 8 is the optimum time as after that we’re upstairs, and possibly concentrating on quiz questions! (It’s pretty relaxed after the first quiz, though.)
      2. It’s actually ‘Möbius’ but, in German, ‘oe’ can represent the letter ‘o’ with an umlaut, as I’m sure many already know ..

        “The Möbius strip … is a surface with only one side (when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space)” (Wikipedia)

        I’m glad of the clarification as I was wondering what would happen if we strayed outside three-dimensional Euclidean space…

      3. If you did decide you wanted to pop in tonight, Ann who came 13th in the second prelim at the Saturday champs should also be there (from 7.45ish) and I will be there propping up the bar from quite some time earlier, 6.30 or so I should think!
        1. That would have been great, but unfortunately I’m due to go and see Kurt Vile and The Violators with my son at the O2 Empire tonight. I will definitely try to drop in on one of the next 2 weeks though.
          1. Enjoy! I used to work for his record label so I’ve seen him a couple of times myself…
            1. Yes I thought you did. I seem to remember you mentioning on your blog seeing East India Youth and Savages (amongst others) at about the same time as I was seeing them a couple of years ago. I still have a photo of Ayse Hassan (from The Roundhouse gig I think) as my Mac wallpaper. Anyway, just off out now…
  8. Slow time for me but all down to not knowing MOBIUS STRIPS … I spotted the anagram but spent a very long time looking at M_B_U_ without getting anywhere, which was infuriating because it seemed as though there couldn’t be many words fitting that pattern. Eventually I decided to attempt the second word instead, had “strips” immediately, which fitted with “ribbons”, and then showed the remaining letters in wherever they seemed to fit and fired up Google to see whether a mobius strip existed and if so what it was! Hey ho, the evils of a one-sided education. 20 mins, with well over 5 spent wrestling with 1dn.

    I am just old enough to remember pre-decimal currency – a packet of crisps was 1d and those big old pennies left a wonderful copper taste on your fingers as a small child! The thruppenny bits were the best.

    Same FOI and LOI as Don, though unlike Don I couldn’t parse ALBION – thanks for enlightening me.


  9. One of my favourite puzzles that I can remember, there seemed to be so much to enjoy throughout, but the cherry top was UPHOLSTERERS for stuffy artisans which made me chuckle. I did find it tricky in places and it took me several minutes to see what was going on with LOI 15a.
    I also like that Felix linked the magna carta clues to the number of the puzzle. Completed in 21.35
    Thanks for the blog

    Edited at 2018-11-05 11:31 am (UTC)

  10. I also found this very much on the tricky side. I was held up at the end by SLACK, LANDS and ALBION. MOBIUS STRIPS was known to me but took a bit of unraveling before it emerged from the fodder. I spotted the Magna Carta Nina early but thank you to Fgbp for spotting Lacklands, King John’s unwelcome nickname.
    My thanks as always to setter and blogger.
    1. It is also worth noting that two of the Barons were Richard de CLARE and his heir Gilbert de CLARE. Furthermore, the book Magna Carta “Regarded by many as the classic work and primary source on Magna Carta this 1914 book from Professor William Sharp Mckechnie is a timely and essential introduction to the understanding of the historical background, origins and circumstances of “The Great Charter of the Liberties of England”. It includes an in-depth historical introduction alongside the original Latin text, his translation and scholarly commentary.” is published by Albion Press. Well done Felix! Are there any more links we have missed, I wonder?

      Incidentally, my default pic you see here is taken in the grounds of St Edmunds Abbey, where, local history tells us, several of the barons met clandestinely in 1214 and swore an oath to get King John to accept a ‘Charter of Liberties.’… which became the Magna Carta.

      As for the rest of the crossword, it seemed at the harder and of the scale. UPHOLSTERERS my LOI and COD. “Stuffy artisans” indeed! 7:52

      Edited at 2018-11-05 01:41 pm (UTC)

  11. I reached “mobius strips” in exactly the same way that Templar did. I’d never heard of them.Once I’d finished the 15 x 15, I was intrigued so I went onto YouTube and watched some extraordinary experiments done with these twisted bands of paper. Really weird and inexplicable – for me at least! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVsIAa2XNKc ).

    I took exactly 22 minutes today with my LOI bizarrely being one of the most straightforward clues in the whole puzzle – 6 down. Sometimes – so irritating!- I get fixated on a word formed from the available checkers and – even though the answer is patently wrong! – I can find it hard to move on. Today, (ludicrously) I couldn’t get “slogan” out of my head, literally until I did an alphabet check through what could possibly precede “L” and then the answer, thank goodness, was obvious.

    In addition, though I knew they were right, I couldn’t parse Albion and had never heard of a “baron” of beef. They were great clues – it was just me not seeing the entirety of how they’d been arrived at. In fact, I think that there were some super clues today with my favourites being 15 across, and 2 and 7 down – just so clever!

    I very much enjoyed the blog and agree entirely with what you say, Don. Of course, it’s a rare and lovely moment when the right answers seem to appear almost effortlessly in one’s head and it can certainly be mightily frustrating when they’re obstinately hidden from view – but personally, I’m keen on improving so it’s good that there’s an occasional QC that I just can’t do (I say, occasionally but I flatter myself here. If I’m truthful, it’s more like one or two DNFs per fortnight!).

    Thank you so much, Don, for this super blog. Sorry the holiday plans went awry and I do hope the insurance claim goes through smoothly. Thank you, too, Felix, for a very enjoyable puzzle.

    1. Thanks Louisa for your enthusiastic response. Glad you liked the Moebius strips (as verlaine has said above, that is the more usual spelling). And thank you for posting the link, which I watched, and as a result I now know more about these objects than I did at the start!

    2. Aside from the cut of meat ‘Baron of Beef’ is a famous student hostelry in Cambridge close to all the major colleges.
  12. Like others, I thought this was going to be straightforward but I was eventually grateful to cross the line after 32mins with loi 20ac, Provide, needing several alphabet trawls. Funny the way the mind (doesn’t) work. Completely missed the 1215 connection (no pun intended), but then I never seem to spot themes until they are pointed out. 7d, Upholsterers, was my favourite today. Invariant
  13. About my 30 minute average. Lots of clues to enjoy including 15ac, 4dn, 6dn and especially 7dn (that brought a chuckle). FOI 1ac (not many historical documents to choose from), LOI AUGUST (one of the longest initial letter clues I can remember), COD 7dn.
  14. Thanks for all the comments. I should have noticed the MAGNA CARTA/RUNNYMEDE/LACKLANDS connection but I am afraid I am just not experienced enough yet. I do the puzzle, write the blog, upload it and then move on. I need to train myself to stand back for a few moments after the solve and try and see if there are any other interesting elements to comment on. Thanks for pointing it out, and more thanks to Felix for his ingenuity and apologies for not giving that ingenuity due credit first time round. I am still learning (but then I guess who isn’t?).

  15. Enjoyable puzzle all round. A good mix of clues – enough to get you going but many to ponder. A very good blog – thank you but disagree when the QC is just too tough and thus off putting for many who don’t comment here. However todays’ was pitched very well.
  16. Super informative blog and most enjoyable. Last one in 1d which we did get right eventualy, otherwise we found this of medium difficulty. Many thanks to all. Elin & Ian.
  17. I really enjoyed this, twenty minutes at lunchtime and five over my tea (beans on toast if anyone’s interested) and I was done. Final few were PROVIDE, SLACK and LANDS (knew LS had something to do with it!). I knew 1D from The Crow Road by Iain Banks (Prentice has a Mobius scarf), otherwise I’d have been stumped. I particularly liked today’s editorial where godlike genius MR James was said to have timed his (soft-boiled!) eggs by the minutes (!) it took him to complete the 15×15…you’d end up with those Chinese preserved eggs if you used my timings.
    Great blog as ever, Astartedon, sorry to hear about your non-holiday. Thanks to you and Felix for a great start to the week.
  18. I too endorse the range of difficulties, provided the difficulty is in the subtlety of the word play, not in the obscurity or obsolesence of the answer. I Have a shorter oxford. Given an hour or so I could easily come up with a QC that would be so obscure that nobody would get any but what would be the point? The QC has a horribly narrow vocabulary into which it delves deeper and deeper – why not broaden it instead and try to appeal to those of us who are not locked into Oxford, military service and cricket.
  19. Magna Carta, Runneymede etc. Sealed in 1215. This puzzle number??

    Still a beginner. One day I will complete a puzzle. Any time will do.

  20. Just back from a visit to my mother by train. I solved this on the train down in about 16 minutes. LOI was Upholsterers which I needed all the checkers for.
    DNK Mobius Strips but found it easy enough to derive.
    Good puzzle. I liked 13a. David

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