QC 2416 by Oink: Piggy in the Middle

A well-balanced puzzle, with plenty to think about but nothing to complain about.

As I worked through the clues I thought about how setters can dial-up or down the difficulty of clues by making small changes. For example SPANKING seems a bit on the easy side, with “king” already in Smacking, I think a definition like “Punishment for His Majesty” would have been better.

And in “Descendant of Homer” (LISA) Oink chose “Descendant”, rather than the easier “Daughter of Homer”, or the harder “Homer’s issue”. Fine margins. It’s worth bearing in mind when we complain that a puzzle is too hard (or too easy).

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

4 Located in Budapest, a terraced property (6)
ESTATE – Hidden in Budapest, a terraced
7 Boat sure to be blown up—by me? (8)
SABOTEUR – Anagram (“blown up) of BOAT SURE.

A clue where some of the words do double duty, as in this case where “blown up” is the anagrind and part of the definition are called “semi &lit”, I believe.

8 Observation about suitable victim (6)
REMARK – RE (about) + MARK (suitable victim)

This is MARK fleeced by the guys who run Find the Lady card games on Westminster Bridge.

9 An old queen falls in Africa (8)
VICTORIA – Double Def. And the name of my daughter, who failed to get this clue when I WhatsApped it to her this morning.
10 Descendant of Homer is found in LA (4)
LISA – IS inside LA.

The Homer in this example being Homer Simpson. The original Homer has no biography, and the jury is out on whether he existed at all.

12 Smacking His Majesty on bridge (8)
SPANKING – SPAN (Bridge) + KING (His Majesty)
15 Guide regularly argues for cheapest class (8)
STEERAGE – STEER (guide) + A{r}G{U}Es

On sailing ships this was the place from which the ship was steered, later the wheel was placed on the open deck, so that the vessel was no longer steered from the ‘steerage’, which, however, retained its name. Even later STEERAGE became known as the cheapest class on Liners in the heyday of transatlantic crossings. And as for POSH? Never existed.

18 Oddly neglected house in New York making you curious (4)
NOSY – {h}O[{u}S{e} inside NY
20 Charm one’s way in? (8)
ENTRANCE – Double def

As is often in English, the noun and verb have different emphases, en-TRANCE (Charm), and EN-trance (way in)

22 Priest who’s not been celibate (6)
FATHER – Cryptic Def, a father by definition is not celibate
23 Maybe winter edition will be made more spicy? (8)
SEASONED – SEASON (maybe winter) + ED{ition}
24 Fancy shoving teacher into river? (6)
DESIRE – SIR (teacher) inside DEE (river)

My Top Ten Crossword Rivers: DEE, PO, USK, URE, OUSE, AIRE, EXE, OB, CAM, WYE

1 Painter a little like author Roald, some might say? (4)
DALI – Cryptic definition. Roald is Dahl, so a little like Dahl would be Dahl-y, sounding like Salvador Dali, the painter. And the new AI image generator is called Dall-E a reference to the film about the robot Wall-E.
2 European acrobat jumping about in University Challenge? (4,4)
BOAT RACE – Anagram (“jumping about”) of E+ACROBAT

Referring to the annual (rowing) Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Other Universities are available.

3 Society girl upset titled gent? Rubbish! (6)
DEBRIS – DEB (Society Girl) + SIR reversed (upset)

I thought we might be back on “GEL” for society girl, but this time short for Debutante. Just as old-fashioned.

4 In time, traitor will make mistakes (6)
ERRATA – RAT(traitor) inside ERA (time)
5 Briefly woo typist who won’t be there long? (4)
TEMP – TEMP{t} (Woo) with last letter omitted (“briefly”)
6 Word in America for end of bus line? (8)
TERMINUS – TERM(word) + IN + US(America)

COD. Very neat. Self-referential too.

11 I prepared mint tea for close friend (8)
INTIMATE – I + Anagram (prepared) of MINT TEA
13 Swine, the boxer, having change of heart (3)
PIG – PUG (boxer) with middle letter changed

And here is Oink’s Porky clue, a piggy in the Middle of the grid. I expect some Pink Squares for those who entered PUG, a mistake I often make. The actual definition will be at one end of the clue, not in the middle.

14 Angora OK to make a jumper? (8)
KANGAROO – Anagram (to make) of ANGORA OK

Yes, that kind of jumper.

16 Declares English to be hostile (6)
AVERSE – AVERS (Declares) + E{nglish}
17 Catch Parisian in revolutionary district (6)
ENTRAP – EN (“in” in French) + TRAP(PART=district, reversed)
19 Reportedly draw a woman from Bangkok? (4)
THAI – Homophone (“Reportedly”) for tie=draw (as in a football match). I think “woman” is here to make up the diversity numbers.
21 Sailors about to visit Cracow on vacation (4)
CREW – C{raco}W (on vacation means after vacating, just leave the end letters) contains RE (about)

85 comments on “QC 2416 by Oink: Piggy in the Middle”

  1. I am certainly not complaining! After yesterday’s mind bender (no time recorded), today ticked all the boxes for a ‘follow the rules’ solve and for me, I found it satisfying to complete in 16 minutes, which is positively meteoric. Jumping in to be first to comment is also a first, but I claim no prize. No particular COD but much to enjoy. Thanks Merlin and of course, Oink

  2. 10:41. SABOTEUR was tricky because I thought the “me” in the clue must be the setter. Thanks for detailed and entertaining blog!

  3. I toyed with GEL at first, but GELTOR was unconvincing and I thought of DEB. 6:08.

  4. 7 minutes. I wondered why we would be expected to know the name of one of the Greek poet’s relatives and thought it very unlikely she would be called Lisa, but the wordplay was clear so I went with it. I have never seen even a single moment of The Simpsons so that connection was completely lost on me.

    1. You are, honestly, missing some of the cleverest, witty and non-deferential (is that a word) writing that has appeared on television. Ignore the cartoon nature of the show and enjoy the commentary on society. It’s brilliant and well worth the time.

  5. I went for GELRIS, that didn’t work either. No particular problems en route to 7.21. LISA being a descendant of Homer was kind of cute but I’m sorry to discover that she has died and is thus eligible for inclusion. Poor Marge. On STEERAGE, I could look it up I suppose but my understanding is that it referred to that part in the bowels of a ship where the cables ran that joined the wheel on the deck to the rudder at the stern. It was cramped, noisy, dark, uncomfortable and cheap…

  6. Another day another pinkie. I was undone by SEASONED which afterwards seems so obvious, as they nearly always do. A far more straightforward QC than yesterday’s, however, so no complaints from me.
    I particularly enjoyed STEERAGE and DESIRE, and FATHER brought a smile to my lips. CREW was unparsable, although obvious, but why no ‘?’ (as crews aren’t exclusively staffed by sailors).
    All in all a nice puzzle to start another gloriously sunny morning for me. Thank you Oink and Merlin.
    ps did someone say Lisa Simpson is deceased? If so I’m shocked!

    1. Lindsay is applying the convention that living people are not referenced in Times crosswords.

  7. Discovered something today. If the very last letter you enter is wrong the square is still orange, so a new experience today: one error from no pink squares. Six on the first pass of acrosses followed by lots of downs ending up in a rare sub seven, ruined a bit by have SEASONEr. Annoying. Special mention to KANGAROO for just being a nice clue.

  8. A touch over 6 1/2 minutes. Gentler than yesterday with most going in without too much trouble. I was unsure about PART for ‘district’ at 17d so waited until I had the crossers, as I did for DEBRIS, my LOI. I liked The Simpsons reference and the Dahl-y wordplay for 1d.

    Thanks to Merlin and Oink

  9. 9’28” with DEBRIS, BOAT RACE and REMARK the last to fall. Very satisfied after a few DNFs. Please to see such a clear OINK porcine reference too.

    Thanks Oink and Merlin

  10. Very gentle. This should soothe those who found yesterday’s a bit tricky. I liked SABOTEUR and the blog title. Thanks Oink and Merlin. 3:28.

    1. It did John, thankyou!. All bar one wretched clue, that is. But that was my fault, not Oink’s.

  11. Much enjoyment from a more gentle one, and all done in 8 minutes. I entered Pig not Pug because it was an Oink puzzle – I thought we had been warned that the rule “definitions at the ends of the clue not in the middle” was fallible and not to be relied on. Only (very) slight MER was Part for District, but I’m in holiday mood so allowed it to pass.

    Many thanks to Merlin for a fine blog

    1. It’s not a rule, so not a fallible rule. But the odds are so great against a def in the middle that you could treat it as a rule. (Some would say –not me, but– that there is no past tense rule in English, but you would still predict, correctly, that the past tense of ‘zoop’ is ‘zooped’.)

  12. Top to bottom solve with my only hold up being self-inflicted. I’d typed the N and the G of KANGAROO in the wrong way round so I couldn’t make head or tail of LOI 18a (NOSY) until I spotted my error.
    Finished in 6.19 with my favourite being FATHER.
    Thanks to Merlin

  13. I took this gently and enjoyed it without time pressure. I finished a couple of minutes under target so that makes up for yesterday’s SCC excursion.
    A totally different puzzle with some very nice clues to accompany the easy ones. I enjoyed the PDMs with LISA and FATHER.
    I agree with many of the comments above so won’t repeat them except to add that I share Cedric’s doubt about part/district which I didn’t actually commit to until the end. When I did, my LOI SEASONED followed.
    Thanks to Oink and Merlin. John M.

  14. 4.54

    Always like Oink’s efforts and this was no different.

    I did Greek at school so it took me a while to get used to the “other” Homer in puzzles. Today the delay was a mere second, but it still always brings a smile, here thinking about Achilles chatting to someone called Lisa.

    Thanks Merlin and Oink

  15. Hurrah. A red letter day after yesterday’s disaster. FOI ESTATE and LOI BOAT RACE in sub six minutes. I didn’t know LISA but the wordplay was clear and I had a hesitation at PIG as I was unsure whether a pug = a boxer. It is, but not a dog so I employed a little ninja turtling on that one. 5:47

  16. Izetti stood firm on the orlop
    While solvers around him implored “Stop!
    Your frightful obscurities
    Cause us insecurities
    And some of us feel like we’re poor flops.”

    Anyway. 06:31 for this, briefly detained by REMARK, PIG (was trying to make “hog” work) and LOI SPANKING. Otherwise straight in. 1.1K and an Excellent Day.

    Many thanks Oink and Merlin.


  17. Ended up on the club site after messing up the concise by missing out a clue inadvertently, so I appear on the leaderboard today for a change – luckily no fat fingers.

    As others have said, a change in pace today. Nice pure signature from Oink. Slightly sparse on the acrosses, then most of the downs went in, and then it was a mopping up exercise. I liked LISA, ENTRAP was LOI.


  18. 12 minutes and no problems. In a rush as off to Southampton for a mystery walking tour. Thanks both.

  19. Did finish but not that quickly. Puzzled by THAI *woman*. Slow on LOI COD BOAT RACE.
    Have never watched the Simpsons so dim on that one.
    Thanks vm, Merlin.

  20. Pretty straightforward finishing in a comfortable 7.20. The only thing to make me hesitate was the parsing of MARK in REMARK, but after a little time spent trying to think of alternatives concluded that it had to be the answer.

  21. A straightforward 14min top to bottom solve, with just the part/district hesitation that others mention. Not quite the same degree of satisfaction as completing yesterday’s Izetti. . . 😉 Invariant

  22. Dnf…

    After 30 mins, just had 9ac to complete but it just wouldn’t come. I thought I’d gone through my repertoire of old queens, from the ancient Egyptians, to ancient British tribes through to medieval pretenders and beyond. I tried all kinds of wordplay, debated whether 1dn was “Dali or Dhal”and even did a bit of an alphabet trawl. I then conceded defeat, looked at the answer on the blog threw my paper across the room in disgust.

    After much chuntering, I’ve calmed down somewhat. However, it is definitely one of those days where I wonder if I’m losing it.

    FOI – 1dn “Dali”
    LOI – dnf
    COD – 12ac “Spanking” – childishly amusing.

    Thanks as usual!

      1. I was told by another member of the household to pull myself together and grow up 😀

        1. Dear Mr Ed46,
          Please don’t grow up. It’s comforting to know there’s someone else out there who also sometimes struggles to treat triumph and disaster as if they’re the same (or however Kipling’s poem goes).

  23. Didn’t we have the river Dee just yesterday in that tough Izetti? what a coincidence!
    Big chuckles today at Homer’s LISA, Roald’s DALI and especially the FATHER priest. Naughty and clever.

    I am stunned and disappointed to learn that POSH does not come from Port Out Starboard Home as I have believed since my grandfather (who was a merchant seaman) told me when I was about 10 years old. Perhaps I will take there being no evidence to prove it as not meaning it isn’t true …

    Thanks anyway Merlin, excellent blog as usual.

    1. General consensus is that it is Romany slang from about 1900. Generally, claims for neat acronyms before about 1960 are likely bogus (e.g. POM=prisoner of Her Majesty). These are called Backronyms.

    2. Hi Prof, I guess I missed something but your reference to POSH seemed to come out of nowhere. I was with your grandfather on this, what’s the alternative? Cheers

      1. See Merlin’s blog regarding STEERAGE. Also his reply to my comment above which adds some more colour. I also googled it – there is a good explanation in Merriam Webster

  24. Just to be pedantic the pronunciation of the artist’s name is DALLEE with the accent on the EE but the Uxbridge English Dictionary clue wouldn’t have worked.

    While on the subject of Salvador, if you like his work and you haven’t been, I can recommend the museum and other displays in Figueres near Gerona. Stunning!

  25. Funny you thought, Merlin, that SPANKING was an easy clue. I was all over the place with it. For a while I had CROSSING, taking “bridge” as the definition, built up from the king – CR – and smacking = kissing = osculating, shortened to ossing (slang? unheard of by me). Really, there’s no need for Oink to dial up the difficulty on my account

  26. Biffed BART for Homer’s descendant, thinking of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system on USA’s west coast. But of course it’s in San Francisco rather than LA, and I realised my mistake when I saw that 11d couldn’t be anything other than ‘intimate’. Apart from that, I thought it was a pretty clever answer!

  27. 4:00 on the nose/snout. A sizeable number of acrosses went in off the bat, and the downs were even faster. However, after several pink sausage-fingered squares over the last week or so, I was more than especially careful to check my entries for mishtakes.

    Agree with earlier comment on LISA – if you’ve never watched The Simpsons, you’ve missed out – not saying every episode is a classic, but there’s something for both kids and adults there…

    Thanks Oink and Merlin

  28. My first QC for some while after returning from Budapest yesterday afternoon. And the first clue I read was 4a where I found ESTATE. After 13 enjoyable minutes I finished with REMARK, needing the M from POI TEMP.
    I enjoyed LISA and DALI, but COD to FATHER.
    Good to be back in Crosswordland after landing at Heathrow in a very severe thunderstorm yesterday.

  29. Much gentler than QCs of late. I enjoyed it, but not nearly so much as yesterday’s. I realise I do prefer a challenge. I’ve occasionally had a go at the 15 x 15 but it has felt quite a stretch. Perhaps this might change if I had a go more often!
    Unsure about the parsing of REMARK. Liked SABOTEUR and DALI (interesting to hear Fatima’s comment about the correct pronunciation though). Thanks Merlin and Oink.

  30. GEL never crossed my mind. I’ve known DEB for years though. Someone please explain GEL?

      1. “And so I ended up in the rhododendrons with the Marquis of Bath’s youngest daughter…what a damnably fine young gel she is”

      2. Thanks, I missed that puzzle but I’m pretty sure I would’ve had a pink square too!

  31. Followed rules as religiously as yesterday, but with plenty of humour. Enjoyed and completed quickly. Another who is missing out on Simpsons, but Lisa easy to guess from wordplay. FOI ESTATE, LOI RNTRAP, COD SABOTEUR. Thanks Oink and Merlin.

  32. 10.00 The top half went straight in; 15ac was the first clue I left for later. The bottom half was bittier with AVERSE, STEERAGE and FATHER the last three in.

  33. A straightforward solve today. LISA raised a smile. Started with TEMP and finished with ENTRAP. 6:15. Thanks Oink and Merlin.

  34. As it’s lunchtime, I just went and did yesterday’s Quiptic (The Guardian’s online-only full-sized quick cryptic on a Monday). Coincidentally the setter was the same as yesterday’s Times QC. Also coincidentally (or not), the comments under the puzzle are as anguished as some of those for the QC yesterday.

  35. How can one relatively straightforward clue cause so much anguish? I reached my LOI just after 25 minutes had ticked by (fast for me), but a further quarter of an hour passed by before SEASONED finally went in. I saw ED for ‘edition’ straight away, but I then became fixated on ______ER for ‘more spicy’ and I could only come up with ShAdOw for ‘Maybe winter’. Even I know that winter is a SEASON, so why the mental block? A ridiculously lengthy alphabet trawl ensued before I crossed the line in 40 minutes.

    Prior to my attack of LOI-itis I made fast headway in the NE corner and steady progress elsewhere, with only DESIRE and ENTRAP putting up any significant resistance. Nice to see a non-Greek reference to Homer.

    Many thanks to Oink and Merlin.

    1. I know that feeling of anguish only too well Mr R. At least you finished. 😊

  36. Lovely QC, really enjoyed this and feel much encouraged after yesterday’s horror.

  37. Completed but did need a little help.

    Have to say I thought 1d was an awful clue. Almost as if Oink couldn’t think of anything better and so thought “to hell with it!”

    I liked Merlin’s offering for a better 12a than Oink’s.

    Struggled with Society Girl being “Deb”. Even with Merlin’s explanation I thought it another poor clue.

    Perhaps it’s the hot weather affecting Oink, but I was disappointed in this QC. Overall I thought it was quite poor in places.

    However, better than Izetti’s abysmal QC yesterday.

    1. It’s funny how different we all are; I loved the clue for DALI – made me smile 😃

    2. I found DEB RIS a good clue. Have you not heard of Debs? They are perhaps more common in high society abroad than in UK these days.

    3. Have to say I can’t see anything in the clue at 1ac that justifies the epithet ‘awful’. It seems perfectly serviceable to me. TBH I’m getting a little tired of reading almost daily criticism of individual setters.

      1. Seconded.

        Awful, abysmal, poor. All unnecessary, and, quite frankly, if posters were to start using such terms about other poster’s efforts to solve these puzzles, they would, I hope, be censured. So, why should solvers be allowed to post such inflammatory guff about a setter’s work?

  38. Dead on 45 minutes, about a hundred million years of which was failing to get BOAT RACE and SABOTEUR. Thank you Merlin for the blog!

  39. Nice puzzle which did not stretch our brains too much. Enjoyed 22a father and 23 a seasoned, loi.

  40. A more gentle effort today from Oink which I managed to complete (all parsed) in 13 mins. Started off well with the across clues in the top half but not so good in the bottom. A lot of blanks filled in as I started on the downs, leaving just a few to be revisited at the end.

    FOI – 4ac ESTATE
    LOI – 3dn DEBRIS
    COD – many candidates today. Liked LISA, FATHER, SEASONED, and BOAT RACE

    Thanks to Oink and Merlin

  41. 13 minutes and 3 of those on LOI Seasoned.
    COD to22a
    Very good fun
    Thanks all

  42. Oink has repaired my mood after yesterday – this little piggy to got oh-so-close to inhaling the rarefied air outside the SCC for the first time since he started this QCC malarkey. Thank you Oink and Merlin. I got all the answers but needed this blog to parse a couple.

  43. Finished in 17 mins which was just the tonic I needed after yesterday. My confidence was at a low ebb after Izetti’s killer QC, but it perked up thanks to Oink. Some lovely clues, with the laurels going to LISA.

    Thanks for the great blog. I’ve dutifully made a note of the rivers!

    Apologies to Kitty for failing to thank her for the blog yesterday. I was so frustrated and fed up that I forgot my manners.

  44. I truly admire the engaging way you present information on your blog. It feels like I’m engaging in a captivating conversation with a friend, making even complex topics feel approachable and enjoyable to explore.

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