Times QC 2366 by Mara : An Octanagram

My time, 14:31. Timeline: Execution of Joan of Arc, 1431.

Does anyone keep stats on the types of clues different setters prefer? Mara used eight anagrams today. in a Hi-octane, octanagram festival.

Unfortunately, knotted drunk spilled : Rocky working funny as Designed. These are your anagram indicators for today.

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Finally, newlyweds dancing — going down the aisle? (8)
SHOPPING – newlywed[S] + HOPPING (dancing)

Clever misdirection, the “aisle” here is in a supermarket. And “dancing” is not an anagram indicator.

5 Short stage performance, shortened (4)

My LOI. Tried to make PROM[PT] and TRIM work.

8 Musical direction, it being reversed by old king (5)
TUTTI – TUT (old king) + TI (“it” reversed)

An instruction for all voices or pieces to play after a solo, duet etc. Italian for All. I think “King Tut” is more common in the USA then here, where we are more respectful to Kings (apart from Charles I, obv.)

9 Funny stand-up handled domestic item (7)
DUSTPAN – Anagram (“funny”) of (STAND UP)*

A very neat anagram.

11 House in architect’s drawing, silver in principle (11)
PLANTAGENET – PLAN (architects drawing) + TENET (principle) containing AG (silver)

“House” can often mean sign of the Zodiac. Not today. My time of 14:31 is  in the PLANTAGENET period(1154- 1485)

13 Popular team locked up (6)
INSIDE – IN (popular) + SIDE (team)
14 Children, those working down the pit, we hear? (6)
MINORS – Homophone (“we hear”) for MINERS (those working down pit)
17 Obtain excellent start (3,8)
GET CRACKING – GET (Obtain) + CRACKING (excellent)
20 African country, one a republic (7)
NIGERIA – NIGER (African Country) + I(one)+ A

Niger and Nigeria are both African Republics, BTW.

21 Similar piece of metal I keep (5)
ALIKE – Hidden (“piece of”) inside metal I keep
22 First of lives finished off — dead (4)
LATE – L [ives] + ATE (finished off)

The OED says that it is used for “recently deceased” I’ve noticed crossword editors going from “queen” to “late queen” for “ER”. At what point will they have to change again?

23 Cage with label on — it’s five-sided (8)
PENTAGON – PEN (Cage) + TAG (label) + ON
1 Place where ties knotted (4)
SITE – Anagram (“knotted”) of (TIES)*
2 Animal has run from rocky outcrops (7)
OCTOPUS – Anagram (“rocky”) of (OUTC[R]OPS)*, the R[un] is missing
3 I help with errand, working for Casanova (11)
PHILANDERER – Anagram (“working”) of (I HELP + ERRAND)*

Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798) being the archetype PHILANDERER, along with Don Juan.

4 Birthday suit‘s state untidy, unfortunately (6)
NUDITY – Anagram (“unfortunately”) of (UNTIDY)*
6 Season when exercise in boxing arena curtailed (5)
RIPEN – RIN[g] (boxing arena, curtailed) containing PE (exrecise)

Season is a verb here.

7 Earn revenue from items one designed (8)
MONETISE – Anagram (“designed) of (ITEMS ONE)

Glad this anagram didn’t end up being Semitone, I don’t want to start another thread like Natural or Major Third.

10 Important to make your mark when I don’t have a pen? (11)
SIGNIFICANT – “Sign if I can’t”.

Here’s the situation. Either one of a married couple are needed to sign a form, the speaker is not sure if he has brought his own pen so he turns to his wife and says, you “sign if I can’t”.

12 One that’s inclined to see endless pain in face (8)
DIAGONAL – DIAL (face, as in clock) contains AGON[y] (endless pain)
15 Current, live and active (7)
ONGOING – ON (live, as an electrical appliance) + GOING (active, as in a machine)
16 Solvent spilled at once (6)
OCTANE – Anagram (“spilled”) of (AT ONCE)*

A liquid hydrocarbon known as one of the additives of petrol, and also metaphorically in “High Octane”.

18 Snug, wings of goldfinch tucked into bird (5)
TIGHT – TIT (bird, no laughing at the back.) containing G[oldfinc]H (“wings” indicating first and last letters).

The Private Eye crossword which is known to be a little more edgy with its clues than The Times would probably have clued TIT a bit differently.

19 Cut when drunk (4)
HEWN – Anagram (“drunk”) of (WHEN)*

68 comments on “Times QC 2366 by Mara : An Octanagram”

  1. 18:02. Very slow off the mark- had to get down to HEWN before I could solve one. Fortunately working back upwards I was able to gradually unlock everything. I couldn’t see season as RIPEN at first glance and I had always thought OCTANE was just an indicator of gasoline performance not an actual substance. I enjoyed the supermarket aisle for SHOPPING and also my COD GET CRACKING.

    1. Ah, octane is an ingredient in petrol. It has 8 (hence OCT-) carbons, and the formula C8H18 (2 Hs for the middle carbons, and three at each end). Octane rating compares the general bag of hydrocarbons you get in a gallon of Esso (say) against 100% octane. If you get the same anti-knock rating out of a cheap mix of hydrocarbons and other stuff (not tetra-ethyl lead anymore) from BP say as you would from octane they charge you more. In general the longer the hydrocarbon molecule is the more likely it is to knock. Knock=pink and is precombustion, where the compression has initiated the firing rather than the sparking of the plug. Knocking destroys the engine and loses power.
      FWIW diesel fuel in a petrol engine knocks at very low compression ratios, whereas real diesel engines have a very high compression ratio. This apparent miracle is performed by not introducing any fuel until the designer is ready to burn, usually a bit before TDC. The fuel is delivered at v high pressure directly into the combustion chamber over a longish period with the objective of keeping the pressure as high as the design of the engine can stand.
      Herr Diesel’s cycle concept kept the pressure constant and the fuel delivery all the way through the power stroke, not as efficient as today’s designs which could be called pressure limited otto cycle instead of diesel. Rant over.

      1. Like Blighter’s lecture further on,this “rant” has added appreciably to my store of knowledge- I can’t wait till one of my acquaintances gives me an opening by mentioning the word” octane”!

  2. Struggled mightily to separate the bits of ‘endless pain in face’, so even when I saw DIAGONAL would fit I couldn’t see what was going on. That was pretty typical for a puzzle where Mara always seemed to have the upper hand. Slow on SIGNIFICANT too and finally and inexplicably for LATE. Had a friend who lived on PLANTAGENET Chase in Yeovil, so that brought a smile and sent it quickly. All green in 15.

  3. 1ac needing checkers before coming to mind slowed me down a lot and I hopped around the grid looking for easier pickings which were also slow to come. Eventually I stopped the clock when the timer was up to 12 minutes but I had failed to note until reading the blog that the answer at 5ac was incomplete, so I have to count this one as a DNF.

  4. Doh! – yet again. This was a fast one for me (i.e. sub 20) but in my haste I failed to perform a final spellcheck which meant I didn’t spot OOGOING for 15d, so no official time awarded. Favourite clue was 11a PLANTAGENET. Nice puzzle though which, alongside a little win from premium bonds and the lovely sunshine, has set the day up nicely 🌞

  5. A bit like yesterday, I was slow to get going at the top but I made decent progress in the bottom half and when returning to the top things fell into place a lot more easily.
    Started with TUTTI and finished with the DRAM/RIPEN intersection in 8.03 with the standout clues for me being PLANTAGENT and SIGNIFICANT.
    Thanks to Merlin

  6. My paper was delivered late today, so instead of tackling the QC, I have been googling for 20 minutes how to navigate to the crossword online on my iPad. Google, youtube and Live Journal have several sites advising how to fill the grid and how to solve the clues, but I can find no guide of how to navigate to the grid itself. My subscription is up to date, and I have downloaded two Times apps.
    Is there somewhere an idiots’ guide of how to see the actual grid, having switched on the iPad?

      1. Thanks Andy,

        Found it after finding the menu – small, top left rather than top right. It’s in the same place on one of my twoTimes Apps, too.

  7. Was going really well until I was held up for ages at the end by the Ripen/Dram cross, as I struggled to see Ripen meaning Season (neither the meaning for fruit, which ripen on their own, or perhaps with a bit of heat in a greenhouse, but surely not with seasoning, nor the meaning for wood, where season means something completely different, came to mind) and was equally thrown by Dram = short; not a usage I’m familiar with, though I’m sure I will now be told that they are exact synonyms.

    That gave me a 13 minute completion in the end; a shame, as I was on wavelength for much of the puzzle which I thought had some excellent clues. And I have learnt at least one new fact too, as I did not know that Octane was a solvent – like curryowen I’ve only ever heard it used as an indicator of petrol quality.

    Many thanks to Merlin for the blog

    1. Dram=short as in “give me a dram of scotch please” where spirits are generally served in short measures such as 1/6 gill or 25 ml.

      1. Well yes, “give me a dram of scotch” is indeed a valid sentence. But has anyone ever actually said “give me a short of scotch”? A short measure seems to me to be one which is less than as advertised (say 23 ml for a single scotch), and the closest I got to understanding this was that, on the basis that whisky and soda (or gin and tonic) is a long drink, presumably whisky without soda can be called a short drink.

        Clearly I’m in the minority here in finding Dram suspect, and the general verdict seems to be that it was clever but fair. It is not a usage of the word short I have personally met, but as the TfTT community have often shown me, this usually says more about my ignorance than any possible setter error …

        1. Well I think that in the pub trade then excluding wine (which doesn’t count) drinks are either “shorts” (25 ml, whatever) or beer.
          Then I am an old fart. Maybe today no-one refers to “gin, rum, brandy and scotch” (the signs used to say that that list is served in multiples of 1/6 of a gill), a gill being a 1/4 pint, as “shorts. ”
          Sorry to be incoherent.

  8. A DNF in 9:32 with PLANTAGENET spelt incorrectly; in too much of a hurry at the end and didn’t bother to look at the wordplay for the clue which would have given the correct spelling. OCTANE in the sense of ‘Solvent’ was a new one for me.

    I really liked the ‘handled domestic item’ def for DUSTPAN and SIGNIFICANT which I’m surprised not to have come across before, though I probably said that the last time it appeared.

    Thanks to Mara and Merlin

  9. I thought Mara was in a very mischievous mood today, or perhaps the early start didn’t help. Either way I fell into nearly every elephant trap that was going. I hope I wasn’t alone in trying to think of a word for a rocky outcrop somewhat shorter than ‘escarpment’, and for that matter why 16d was a square short for Acetone. . . Plantagenate was an enjoyable, build up answer, but on the whole I went down far too many dead ends to ever feel comfortable. Finally staggered over the line at the 30min mark, bruised and battered. Invariant

    1. With you on those. Couldn’t believe we were so close to ACETONE anagram but so far. Octane is hardly ever specified as a solvent, but to be fair it is quite a good one.
      I was thinking TOR for the rocky outcrop.

  10. Yes, Mara was playing games with some of us today and he won convincingly in my case. I came back to the top after having problems with 3d and others because I entered INMATE for 13a (IN and anagram of team). The Casanova answer forced me to change that, allowing SHOPPING, OCTOPUS, and TUTTI to fall into place. My ultimate downfall was PROM for 5a. So, a dnf for me.
    Thanks to Mara (for a mix of nice clues and some teases) and Merlin. John M.
    Note. Octane is one of the constituents of distilled petroleum spirit (not an additive) [propane, butane, pentane, hexane, heptane, octane etc. etc.] It is one of the products of the ‘cracking’ process in oil refining that ‘splits’ larger and more complex hydrocarbons from crude oil into smaller molecules for fuels, solvents etc.. It has come up in previous blogs.
    An octane rating, or octane number, is a standard measure of a fuel’s ability to withstand compression in an internal combustion engine without detonating (‘knocking’). Iso-octane (a branched octane isomer) is simply used as the reference (rating of 100%) for anti-knock performance in combustion engines.
    OK. The lecture ends here….

    1. Just like you for PROM, the puzzle otherwise completed in 13 minutes for a DNF. I think PROM just about works, but DRAM is definitely a better answer for ‘short’.

  11. My paper arrived (see above!) and today’s lovely puzzle was one of my quickest solves ever, the top half easier than the bottom. FOI SITE, COD HEWN, LOI ONGOING. And, yes, the clever misdirection at 1a needed some thought. Thanks Mara and Merlin.

  12. King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut used to be a lively venue in Glasgow for up and coming bands. This somewhat obscure piece of trivia finally helped me crack TUTTI.

    I thought that was a terrific puzzle full of misdirection and with some top of the range clues. SHOPPING, DIAGONAL, HEWN, DUSTPAN and OCTOPUS all really clever. Bravo, Mara!

    Green in 08:47 for an estimated 1.5K and a Good Day.

    Many thanks Mara and Merlin. I liked the sentence of anagram indicators.


  13. I thought this was on the tough side, and was delighted to creep inside my 5 minute target. Some lovely misdirections, and the leaderboard seems to indicate that they tripped up a lot of the regulars (Kevin has two errors for example).

    COD SHOPPING (DRAM a close second)
    TIME 4:50

    1. Please instruct this newcomer: what is the “leaderboard”, and where is Kevin? Not part of this blog?

      1. If you solve through the Time Crossword Club site, your time is recorded and there’s a leaderboard for each puzzle.

        Kevin Gregg of this parish is a skilled and fast solver who is usually one of the first people to post on here (because of time zones – he works in Japan). Some of us (less skilled and slower solvers) use his time as a humorous benchmark, since it is usually on view by the time we post.

        1. Thanks for your reply (sorry I forgot to monitor this blog sooner) – I think I understand……

  14. Was congratulating myself on another finish (again, about half an hour) but annoyingly I too was kyboshed by PROM instead of DRAM. But PROM doesn’t really parse, so I concede defeat; whereas I agree with Merlin that in the UK “King Tut” deserves a MER. Otherwise, lovely: FOI PENTAGON (easy!), COD SIGNIFICANT (exquisite), LOI RIPEN (clever to use “season” as verb). Thanks to all.

    1. I think King Tut was used in all the hullabaloo involved when the Tutenkhamun treasures came to the RA in the 70’s or was it the 80’s. It is DEF used in the 15*15 very often, not sure about the quickie.

  15. Far too tricky for a quickie in my opinion. I think the quickie should stick to familiar or generally accepted definitions, rather than wandering into obscure usages which you are only likely to find in some dictionaries. Thanks though!

  16. A bit tricky than average for me, but I enjoyed it.

    SHOPPING, GET CRACKING and PLANTAGENET stood out for me. DRAM was my LOI, after a bit of an alphabet trawl – drama just wouldn’t come easily to mind.


  17. Tough one for a QC but all done in 1h 15m
    LOI was going to be 5a TRIM but remembering ‘if it doesn’t parse it’s probably wrong’ took some time and found DRAM. Phew
    Normally don’t like too many anagrams but these were so well disguised that they added to the puzzle. Thanks Mara.
    Though TUTTI was an ice cream but it parsed and I can now visualise the maestro shouting it out.

  18. 12:16 (1216, the death of King John, – the third of the 11a monarchs- shortly after losing the crown jewels in the Wash.)
    A slightly harder crossword after a run of easier ones. It took awhile to get started, with most of the across clues resisting on first pass.
    6d was hard to get, as I don’t equate seasoning with ripening.


  19. There were some easy clues today and lots of gettable anagrams. However it still took me 15 minutes to get to LOI DRAM. I had already had a couple of looks and TRIM was attractive but where was the stage performance? Finally cracked it after 18 minutes in total.
    Prior to that SHOPPING was nearly SWOOPING. And I too frowned at RIPEN =Season.
    Overall like other reports above.
    COD to DRAM which seems to have caused most of us problems but is perfectly fair.

  20. A tickle under 10 minutes at 9:58, so a little bit more head-scratchy than yesterday’s. I had much the same problems as previous commenters. DRAM was my first thought but I left it until I had the crossers, and nearly put DEADPAN for DUSTPAN which fitted the “stand-up comedian” gist of the clue until my brain woke up and saw the anagram – nice misdirection. COD PLANTAGENET.

  21. Quite pleased to finish this in 8.35 as I thought it was toughish. It would have been sub eight minutes DNF if I hadn’t persevered with 5ac where I initially put in TRIM but couldn’t of course parse it, thought also of PROM but again wasn’t happy, but eventually got DRAM to cross the line. The final ten seconds of my time was well spent checking the parsing of PLANTAGENET, where I had an I instead of an E.

  22. I got DRAM straight away, but nothing else came until I reached the bottom of the grid. The down clues proved more accessible though and I was able to work my way around, building on each new set of checkers. As the SCC was preparing to welcome me I had just two clues to solve, but it took me another 10 minutes before I finally staggered through the doors.

    HEWN required an alphabet trawl, because I didn’t spot the anagram indicator, but SIGNIFICANT (my LOI) held me up the most. Having earlier biffed DeadPAN for 9a, I spent an age trying in vain to fill A_G_I_I_A_T. Eventually, I found maGNIFICeNT which, even though it didn’t fit or parse made me realise that DeadPAN might be wrong. Total time in the end was 29 minutes, which at less than half an hour I am still quite pleased with.

    Mrs Random is away today, so she will probably do this crossword as a warm-up tomorrow.

    Many thanks to Mara and Merlin.

  23. I thought I had done really well to finish in 9 minutes (I use the kitchen clock to time myself) but I also had entered PROM at 5A although I couldn’t parse it. So a technical DNF although an enjoyable puzzle.

    And thanks to those of you who mentioned the premium bonds. I had completely forgotten about them and was delighted to find that both I and Mr Fatima have both had nice little wins.

    Finally, is an octopus an animal?

    1. Wikipedia gives, for Octopus
      Kingdom: Animalia
      Phylum: Mollusca
      Class: Cephalopoda
      (unranked): Neocoleoidea
      Clade: Vampyropoda
      Superorder: Octopodiformes
      Order: Octopoda

      So it looks Octopus is definitely and animal

  24. Totally and utterly Mara-ed. Like Invariant I fell into every trap and also missed every indicator as I crawled and hacked my way to a very 22A finish. Sort of appreciated the clever clueing as I licked my wounds and rubbed my bruises. SIGNIFICANT was very clever.

  25. 7:02

    Nice grid from Mara – nothing too difficult though I did question myself about how many Us are in OCTOPUS!

    Thanks for the blog Merlin

  26. I found this tough today. I think the non-covid lurgi I’m suffering from may have dulled my brain. I got NUDITY and SITE, but took forever to see SHOPPING. SIGNIFICANT was LOI. OCTOPUS was also a late arrival. 13:52. Thanks Mara and Merlin.

  27. Hewn, dram and LOI and COD significant – brilliant! Great crossword which caused lots of problems but was all fair play. 12 minutes.

  28. Like yesterday, slow to get going especially at the top but I then got into gear and polished off most of the rest in fairly short order. I was left with a couple of clues at the end which proved more tricky. Got there in the end in 16 minutes, all parsed. Never knew that octane is a solvent and spent some time trying to cram acetone into 16dn.

    FOI – 8ac TUTTI
    LOI – 19dn HEWN
    COD – 1ac SHOPPING. Also liked NUDITY and MONETISE

    Thanks to Mara for a fine puzzle and to Merlin for an informative blog

  29. FOI SITE and LOI TUTTI. I didn’t notice there were 8 anagrams and confess to not fully working through most of them. I think I only do that when my spelling could be an issue. Despite being an accountant I was thrown by MONETISE and needed the checkers to unravel. 8:41 for a good day.

  30. DNF disaster. Shd have spent even more time?
    Liked SIGNIFICANT tho had to use CCD. Ditto PHILANDERER. Managed PLANTAGENET and enjoyed TUTTI. Virginal did not seem right for 12d!
    Thanks vm, Merlin.

  31. 16.28 Slow throughout, falling into the same traps as everyone else. I spent time trying to remember my geography lessons before coming up with OCTOPUS; convincing myself that TRIM wasn’t right; and trying to fit ACETONE into six squares. An alphabet trawl failed to turn up LOI HEWN but, as is often the case, it was obvious once I realised what the clue was doing. A nice puzzle. Thanks both.

  32. 19 mins for a real toughie that I enjoyed a great deal.

    Held up by DIAGONAL, ALIKE, OCTANE & (LOI) HEWN while also thrown on SIGNIFICANT by a hurried biff of ‘deadpan’ for 9AC thinking at speed it related to stand up comedy.

    Thanks setter n blogger

  33. I forgot to mention this morning re the blog comment at 22ac that there is absolutely no reason for setters or crossword editors to make any adjustment re queen = ER following the death of HMQ Elizabeth II. The abbreviations ER (and others such as VR, GR, CR etc) are historical and are valid whether or not the monarch referred to is alive or dead.

  34. 7.46

    2 seconds slower than Hopkinb and identical comments. Yes a bit trickier but some very smooth surfaces and a couple of cracking clues – SHOPPING my favourite

    Nice one

    Thanks all

  35. Dnf…

    Came to this late after an aborted bike ride. I somehow managed to shear the cover off the right crank of my big chain ring (Shimano Ultegra 11 Speed 50-34 if anyone is interested). Don’t think it’s repairable, so looks like a new chainset, and no doubt none of the new components will fit all the other stuff. Sigh…

    Anyway, back to the crossword. I found this tricky and just couldn’t get to grips with the NW corner. Had most of the grid completed after 20 mins apart from 1ac, 2dn and 8ac. Totally got misdirected with 1ac “Shopping” and put in “Stepping” (as in “stepping down the aisle when you get married”). As a result, was flummoxed by 2dn “Octopus”.

    FOI – 6dn “Ripen”
    LOI – dnf
    COD – 12dn “Diagonal”

    Thanks as usual!

    1. Re aborted bike ride. My husband says it is a known fault (delamination). Take it to your dealer and Shimano will replace it regardless of the warranty period. Good luck!

      Hubby said he has had two replaced. Janet

      1. Thanks.

        I’ve had a quite a good innings out of it (well over 5 years), so it’s definitely beyond the warranty period.

        But, as you’ve said, this isn’t standard wear and tear – the whole outer cover just came apart. Thought my ankle had gone funny at one point 😀 – but I’ll definitely see if I can get something from Shimano as it felt more like a product failure.

  36. Very enjoyable puzzle. I needed an aid for DRAM: couldn’t get my mind to move past PROM or TRIM, neither of which quite worked. So a technical DNF in 16-something.

    COD to MINORS, for bringing the brilliant Alan Rickman line in Galaxy Quest to mind: “not minors, miners!” 😀

  37. Around 15 minutes with a couple of minor distractions. Another late, flying visit, but I just had to say how much I liked 10d – COD by a long chalk! SHOPPING and GET CRACKING were also fun.
    FOI Site LOI Hewn COD Significant
    Thanks Mara and Merlin

  38. Given the comments above, I’m relatively happy with a solve of around 25 mins. Got King Tut from the old Batman and Robin TV show with Adam West – he was an occasional villain (is that Ninja turtling?).

    Some tricky clues and well-disguised anagrams today. Missed some I really should have seen earlier.

    Hat tip to OCTOPUS and SIGNIFICANT.

    Over the hour already this week. But for last clue syndrome yesterday, would have been on track for sub 2 hours.

    Thanks as always for the blog Merlin.

  39. A massive DNF for me. About 7 left where I had no idea what was going on. Added a few more with aids but had to rely on my better half to guess the last 3 (2d, 11a, 10d) from the crossers. Oh well..

  40. As others have said, some unusual definitions, e.g. DRAM for short and OCTANE as a solvent. A steady hopping around the grid chipping away and admiring some clever clues which I could just about get with some crossers in place (like PHILANDERER and PLANTAGENET).

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