QC 2486 by Orpheus

Steady solve for me, took about 12 minutes, with this excellent puzzle from Orpheus.

If you haven’t seen the discussion about the new QC Snitch, make sure you look at this thread. And if you have read the thread consider donating the price of a coffee to starstruck, as he has to pay real money to hosting providers. You can do that here

Definitions underlined in bold, synonyms in (parentheses), (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, other wordplay in [square brackets] and deletions in {curly} brackets.

1 One may buy tea drunk by ship’s officer (9)
PURCHASER – CHA (tea) inside [drunk by] PURSER (ship’s officer)
6 Preserve article by Conservative leader (3)
CAN – C{onservative} + AN (article)

Both CAN and Preserve are verbs here.

8 Sweethearts heading off for cricketing periods (5)
OVERS – {l}OVERS (Sweethearts)
9 Weaponless, but suffering no hurt in East London? (7)
UNARMED – UN{H}ARMED (no hurt) [ in East London meaning drop the H].

This is a rare one where the H is dropped from the middle of the word. I had ARMLESS, which is a valid word according to the OED, and means “Without weapons”, I guess on reflection that Harmless doesn’t quite mean “suffering no hurt”, but putting this in caused much grief in this corner.

10 First night showing King Edward in break-up of Empire (8)
PREMIERE – ER (King Edward) in (EMPIRE)* [break-up of]
11 Overtake Dad’s Lotus at last! (4)
PASS – PA’S (Dad’s) + {lotu}S
13 Embark with celebrity — it’s a sailor’s right (9)
STARBOARD – STAR (celebrity) + BOARD (embark)

“With” can mean Right on Left in these constructions

16 Fellow hotelier initially wearing close-fitting headgear (4)
CHAP – CAP (close-fitting headgear) contains H{otelier}

Not sure that “close-fitting” is needed here. Australian “Baggy Green” cricket caps are not close-fitting.

17 To separate is odd after initiation of engagement (8)
ESTRANGE -STRANGE (odd) after E{ngagement}

I don’t think I have come across this as a verb: but the participle “estranged” is quite familiar. I thought it might be an unpaired word like “Disheveled” or “unscathed”, but no, it is valid.

20 Word in India for transport hubs (7)
TERMINI – TERM (word) + IN + I{ndia} [NATO alphabet]
21 Bones sailors originally identified (5)
TARSI – TARS (sailors) + I{dentified}

Odd word, you may have heard of Metatarsal, from the Tarsus, bones in the foot. This is its plural. And St Paul came from Tarsus in Turkey.

22 Churchyard feature the present solver talked of (3)
YEW – Homophone [talked of] for YOU (the present solver)

Apparently at least 500 churchyards contain yew trees older than the buildings themselves. No-one knows exactly why but maybe they  were planted on the graves of plague victims to protect and purify the dead, and also in churchyards to stop ‘commoners’ from grazing their cattle on church ground as yew is extremely poisonous to livestock. Other theories relate to druids and longbow provisioning.

23 Enthusiasm of sea eagles in various ages (9)
EAGERNESS – ERNES (Sea Eagles) in (AGES)* [various]

Yes, that Erne again, it’s not an Osprey though, as I learnt today.

1 Quick  reminder given to player (6)
PROMPT – Double Definition. The player here is the old word for an Actor
2 Magistrate once involved in macabre events (5)
REEVE – Hidden [involved] in macabre events

This is another word that you hear a lot in crosswords, as I am sure bloggers say each time, the world “sheriff” comes from “Shire-reeve”, and the Reeve writes one of the Canterbury Tales, along with The Manciple, The Summoner and The Pardoner whom I am sure are just the kind of words the 15×15 chaps come across.

3 Entertainer inspiring Greek character at a large infirmary (8)
HOSPITAL – HOST (entertainer) contains PI (Greek Character) + A + L{arge}
4 Viciously attacking old fogey? Soldiers often do it (6-7)
SQUARE-BASHING – SQUARE (old fogey) + BASHING (Viciously attacking)

Soldier slang for marching/drilling. Surprisingly recent, the OED can’t find any usage before 1943.

5 Sound made by European river horse, perhaps (4)
ROAN – Homophone for RHONE (European River)

Tricky one this, with E{uropean}, R{iver} and H{orse} all lurking in there. Amongst the horsey set you can refer to a horse just by its colour, such as a Grey or a Bay.

6 Something fishy about minute fellow’s decree (7)
COMMAND – COD (something fishy) contains M{inute} + MAN (fellow)
7 One barely recognisable on certain beaches (6)
NUDIST – This clue is barely cryptic
12 Storyteller climbing Scottish island peak (8)
NARRATOR – ARRAN (Scottish Island) reversed + TOR (peak)
13 Farm animal catching young salmon and singing bird (7)
SPARROW – SOW (Farm Animal) contains PARR (young salmon)

My heart sank when I saw “young salmon”, I thought of Milt, Roe, Fry, and Smolt, but apparently a PARR is “A young salmon between the stages of fry and smolt”.

14 Harebrained son of spiteful disposition (6)
SCATTY – S{on} + CATTY (of spiteful disposition)
15 Casual about motorway direction being repeated (6)
REMISS – RE (about)  + MI (Motorway, M1) + S{outh}x2

SS for “Direction repeated” seems a bit weak. Maybe “Casual about Motorway Nazis (6)” might have been a bit much.

18 Old railwaymen given points to look after (5)
NURSE – NUR (Old Railwayman) + S{outh} + E{ast} (points)

The National Union of Railwaymen ceased to exist from 1990. Setters cling onto their old abbreviations long after the Union has been merged, or renamed. You’ll also see NUT (renamed in 2017) for “teachers”.

19 Function popular in the Kent area (4)
SINE – SE (South East, hence Kent area) contains (IN) popular

52 comments on “QC 2486 by Orpheus”

  1. 13:36. Getting nowhere for about 9 minutes with very few solved but everything came together quickly after a few long ones led to valuable checkers and they led etc. etc. UNARMED and SQUARE-BASHING were favourites. I knew the latter from Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet (The Jewel in the Crown on television).

  2. 7.40, nice QC by Orpheus. I too fell into the ARMLESS trap, which made ROAN and COMMAND ungettable until it was all sorted. Is an OVER in cricket a period? I suppose so, it just doesn’t sound right. Agree about the 2xS in REMISS. Many thanks to Merlin, especially for the history lessons around REEVE and YEW and the declension of the ages of salmon.

    1. In The Hundred a period is called a “set” (5 balls), but some would say The Hundred isn’t even cricket…

  3. Another ARMLESS, bunged in unthinkingly and removed probably when I got NUDIST. Interesting stuff on the yew; ta, Merlin. 6:40.

  4. 31:47
    Very slow, as I was watching TV at the same time. I too fell into the ARMLESS trap.

    On the subject on “unpaired words”, I’ll submit “kempt” to the list. “Bond was looking particularly kempt and hevelled as he entered the Casino”, as Ian Fleming signally failed to write.

    Thanks to Orpheus for a good puzzle and Merlin for an excellent & informative blog.

  5. 9 minutes. As we’re so often being reminded in comments here, the Quick Cryptic is supposed to be easy (though I would only say ‘easier’ than the 15×15) so I’d suggest Orpheus was trying to be helpful by clueing CAP as ‘close-fitting headgear’ at 16ac instead of simply ‘headgear’ for which there must be hundreds of possibilities. I could take the same view about the clue to REMISS where a tougher-minded setter might have given us ‘Casual about motorway directions’.

    I see no problem with historical abbreviations provided they were around long enough to become widely known and used and to have made their way into one or more of the source dictionaries (NUR is in Collins, NUT is in Collins and Chambers). I’m not bothered whether they are qualified by ‘old’ or ‘former’ or some such as I don’t see it as necessary, but in the case of a Quick Cryptic I am happy that the setter chose to do so today.

    At my prep school one of our English books had a section listing animals alongside the names of their young and associated collective nouns. Few of the collective nouns remain in my brain after all this time but many of the young are still there, including PARR for salmon. I’ve heard of ‘fry’ and ‘smolt’ and they may well have been in the list but I don’t associate either with any particular type of fish.

  6. Yes, ARMLESS caught me out too, but when I twigged ROAN I had a rethink and then managed to finish the NE corner quite quickly. It slowed me down considerably, however, and I crept in an smidge under 30 minutes thereby reclaiming my seat in the SCC.
    STARBOARD I thought a really excellent clue and it made me smile. SQUARE BASHING took a while as did ESTRANGE, which was my LOI.
    Thanks for a great puzzle Orpheus, and for the blog Merlin.

    ps to add to Merlin’s exposition on the Yew, as choirboys our rector told us that it was planted in the graveyard of our parish church to deter rabbits burrowing into the graves, its roots being poisonous.

  7. 28m without aids. Quite tricky, and I had to guess a few without parsing. Like EAGERNESS, NURSE. NHO NUR, but the rest of the GK was fairly accessible. Thanks Merlin – I needed your blog today.

  8. No problems today and fortunately got ROAN before UNARMED so managed to avoid that potential pitfall.
    WRT YEW trees I’d always heard that they were something to do with keeping spirits out (or in), but I’ve no idea where that theory came from. I think I prefer the plague victim idea.
    Finished in 6.36
    Thanks to Merlin

  9. Educational. Thank you Merlin. Didn’t know graveyards have YEW trees or PARR is a young salmon, or ERNE but all biffable without too much trouble. Interested to learn origin of REEVE, a word I did know. Liked ROAN and STARBOARD especially. No time, but after yesterday’s sub 20 for me, I am back into my usual corner seat by the window in the club. Thanks Orpheus.

  10. I started well and thought I was on for an unusually quick finish. Fat chance!
    I have no idea where the time went but I ended up a couple of minutes over target.
    Some very good clues but I made the mistake of entering 5d as RUHR (roar) and was going to take Orpheus to task for a poor clue! I should have known better.
    I BIFD EAGERNESS and SPARROW (having failed to include ‘fry’ and despite not being sure about Parr for a young salmon). No problem with UNARMED because I already had the M and D crossers.
    NURSE took a moment or two (Merlin, your parsing has a typo – should be the plural railwaymEn for NUR).
    Well worth another look at Orpheus’s excellent clues via Merlin’s interesting blog. John M.

    1. I too was tempted by ROAR (Ruhr), but troubled enough by trying to make horse fit that I thought again and came up with the right answer.

  11. Just under seven minutes, a little longer than desired, but fair play to the setter.

    With regard to yew trees, I can confirm categorically that they were planted to stop cattle grazing, since Mr Griffis told us this in primary school. There is no higher source.

  12. 6.28

    Already had a checker so avoided the ARMLESS trap. Slightly delayed by the SE but everything else was within my ken. PARR rang a vague bell and seemed more likely than WALL and not sure a swallow is a songbird so Orpheus probably helping out there as well

    Nice puzzle

    Thanks Merlin and Orpheus

  13. 13 minutes, with the SE corner holding out the longest. Tarsi is one of those words that one constructs from the wordplay, stares at, assumes that it probably does exist, puts it in and shrugs one’s shoulders knowing one would never ever use it in real life. On a glass-half-full day words like this in a QC are “educational”, on a glass-half-empty day the adjective is barely printable …

    That apart, no real issues, though Remiss took a time (I was slow to connect it to Casual), and Sparrow was put in from checkers and definition and only parsed post entry – not sure I had heard of Parr, and certainly could not place it in the sequence from egg to fry to smolt to salmon.

    Many thanks to Merlin for the blog

  14. Started fast but too tricky to keep up. Didn’t like ESTRANGE or REMISS, and when SQUARE was first used for a person it was usually a young, rather than old fogey. Otherwise much enjoyed and completed in average time. FOI PUCHASER, LOI NURSE, COD STARBOARD. Thanks Opheus and Merlin. Interesting about yews, which I have associated with churches rather than graveyards; planting to deter livestock sounds likely. Were the graveyards there before the churhes, or were the churches rebuilt?

    1. Yew trees can live for thousands of years so the implication is that churches were often built on the sites of pre Christian worship.

  15. 14:26

    Thanks Merlin for the lesson on the young of salmon.

    We have many yews in our churchyard, and getting diocesan permission to remove even a relatively young one that is blocking access to part of the churchyard proved impossible.

  16. Another ARMLESS, though when I put it in, I didn’t think it quite made sense, so I was happy to delete it and try again when I couldn’t make any sense of the down clues.

    Otherwise, NURSE was LOI and I liked NUDIST.

    Nice little grouping of regular QC commenters on the leaderboard today – Dvynys, Plett, Kevin and me – positions 30-33 respectively (at time of posting).


  17. 12 minutes today, writing in LOI YEW without full confidence.
    I was an early adopter of ARMLESS like so many, and that caused significant delays.
    I thought ROAN tricky. No problem with TARSI which appear frequently in crosswords and used to appear regularly in the football pages as one of our star players suffered a fractured metatarsal.
    A nice puzzle.

  18. Could not do more than half of this. NHO TARSI, nor that YEWS were a feature of churchyards. NHO ERNES (but EAGERNESS was obvious enough), nor REEVE (but again, had to be). NHO SQUARE-BASHING, nor ROAN, nor PARR. Does a SPARROW sing? They’re in our garden as I write, but the singing is all from robins, blackbirds and tits. NHO NUR. I learnt the functions as cos, tan and sin – NHO SINE. I’m on the wrong planet today, I’m afraid! Special thanks to Merlin, therefore.
    Thought of CAP but was put off by “close-fitting”. On the other hand UNARMED was no problem (and rather nice, I thought).

    1. Sin, cos, tan being the abbreviations of sine, cosine, tangent, about the only maths functions I could still name ( but don’t ask me to use them now!)

  19. About 9 1/2 minutes. I was very interested in Merlin’s further information on several clues, particularly the subject of unpaired words and the link to the helpful Wikipedia page. I didn’t think REMISS and ‘casual’ were quite the same thing, but the usual sources give senses that are close enough.

    Thanks to Merlin – I’ll try to remember your piscatorial tutorial, but not much hope I’m afraid – and to Orpheus

  20. I didn’t fall into the ARMLESS trap as it never came to mind, UNARMED went straight in without further thought. The rest followed fairly easily with 1dn PROMPT being my LOI, and this held me up more than any other clue. I crossed the line in 8.17 for another good day.
    It seems a fairly common occurrence for my LOI to be either 1ac or 1dn, probably much more so than for any other part of the grid. I often wonder if the compiler in setting the grid subconsciously makes the first clues that much harder. Or is it just me?

  21. 14 minutes for one of Orpheus’ better crosswords IMHO – I usually find them a little bland, but thoroughly enjoyed this one. I also very much enjoyed Merlin’s blog. Thanks both.

  22. Feeling sorry for myself with a dose of Covid but did enjoy this. QSnitch at 101 in the “moderate” zone and it did feel a little stiffer than yesterday. All green in 09:11 for 1.5K and a Reasonable Day. Might go back to sleep now!

    Many thanks Orpheus and Merlin.


  23. A quick start, with 1d/ac going straight in along with most of the NW corner. What should then have been a steady solve and a comfortable enough sub-20 drifted into a seat next to the driver thanks to an unthinking Armless (🙄) and a long pause over Remiss (more careless than casual, but I accept they are related.) Estrange also took some time to see before being suddenly obvious. CoD to the neat 20ac, Termini. Invariant

  24. 8:55

    Snitch currently 99. Grinding halt with three left – 4d 9a 17a – it didn’t help that the letters of 6d COMMAND ended up in the wrong SQUAREs so for a while I had __A_O_D for 9a. However, I shifted the block with ESTRANGE which gave SQUARE-BASHING (had heard of the term before) and finally spotted the issue at 6d to enable me to finish with UNARMED.

    Thanks Orpheus and Merlin for the entertainment

  25. 16 mins…

    I didn’t put “Armless”, but I did struggle to see the parsing, thinking there was a strange London borough of “Uned” (I dropped the “h” from “harm” assuming “no hurt” just meant remove the letter).

    Overall though, very enjoyable. Only other issue was thinking 18dn might be “Norse” which didn’t make much sense.

    Thanks to Merlin for the interesting insight into the Yew tree and graveyards.

    FOI – 1dn “Prompt”
    LOI – 18dn “Nurse”
    COD – 22ac “Yew”

    Thanks as usual!

  26. Enjoyable. A steady solve, though strangely held up by LOI ESTRANGE.
    SQUARE-BASHING was a write-in. Biffed SPARROW as NHO PARR.
    I thought REMISS meant at fault rather than casual. Fortunately I was a horsey child so no problem with ROAN. Quite a lot of biffing before parsing today.
    ‘You’re so square…Baby, I don’t care.’. (Elvis)
    Thanks vm, Merlin.

  27. Another ARMLESS victim, until NUDIST caused a rethink. Struggled desperately with SW corner until a guess with TARSI (NHO) helped to get NURSE (the R in NUR – but isn’t this railwaymEn?) and the I in REMISS. LOI ESTRANGE, thanks to a dictionary trawl. Hard work today.

    PS Is a sparrow a singing bird?

    1. My gang of sparrows are “singing” loudly, and persistently, as I type. Admittedly it is singing more approximating to the sound of fans at Plymouth Argyle on a Saturday than the BBC Singers at the Albert Hall, but they seem to revel in it, as do I.

  28. Excellent blog, Merlin.
    I was going rather well until all my brain cells went for a coffee break at the SE corner and I feared a DNF. TARSI was clear enough but all the others were obscured by a thick fog, from which they each emerged painfully slowly.
    I do dislike redundant acronyms so NUR wasn’t appreciated although I will recognise it, I hope, if encountered again. Overall it was a good puzzle blighted by my loss of whatever in the later stages.
    Liked the NUDIST for a needed spot of light relief.

  29. Very enjoyable. Struggled in the NW so hopped about a fair bit. FOI CAN. Major PDM with LOI STARBOARD, made blindingly obvious after solving POI SQUARE BASHING. Fixated on ‘right’ meaning entitlement… I too tried to fit ‘fry’ into SPARROW, then belatedly remembered ‘parr’. Liked ROAN best (homophones and spoonerisms are my absolute favourites), although also appreciated STARBOARD, eventually. Interesting blog thanks. Thanks to Orpheus for an engaging QC.

  30. I warmed up for this by completing yesterday’s Trelawney in 20 minutes (Mrs R did 18), thereby ending up in the entrance hall of the SCC.

    As expected, I found Orpheus a little more challenging, but the only clue I really struggled with (knowing very little about horses) was ROAN. I even wondered at one point if the clue was referencing the hippopotamus in some way. I also had mEW (instead of YEW) for a while, which made _C_T_m difficult to solve.

    Time = 26 minutes. Comfortably within the SCC, but still a pleasing time for me.

    Many thanks to Orpheus and Merlin.

  31. DNF in 19.59. I chucked in ROAR to avoid the SCC, then took another minute to see it should have been ROAN. PARR was new to me. The NW went in quickly but nearly every other clue sent me in the wrong direction. A good puzzle. Thanks to Merlin and Orpheus.

  32. Yes. Another ARMLESS here. I was flying through this having missed only ESTRANGE of the acrosses and first three downs until I hit 4D, 5D, 6D and 7D which were impossible until I realised my error. Once that was fixed the rest was plain sailing, finishing in 4:56, so just within target… but I could have been a lot quicker. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin.

  33. I tackled this late after a visit to the dentist replace a huge filling that parted company with one of my teeth last night. My mouth might still be numb, but my brain obviously took its cue from the drill and penetrated this puzzle in one of my better times! From PURCHASER to REMISS in 5:21. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin.

    1. I once broke two fillings during the same meal. Quite embarrassing as we had guests round for dinner at the time. . .

  34. 6:54, so a speedy one for me today. Amazing really, considering I used to find Orpheus one of the hardest setters! I’m not sure if I knew PARR but perhaps Whitehouse and Mortimer might have mentioned it in Gone Fishing. What a lovely programme – I can’t believe it’s in its sixth series now.
    FOI Purchaser LOI Remiss COD Prompt
    Thanks Orpheus and Merlin – as ever, thoroughly enjoyable, informative and amusing!

  35. 27:11 mins
    Ouch, back down to earth today with a bump after my first under 10min time yesterday.
    I too put in ARMLESS which did cost me some time, but I found this QC to be difficult.
    It took me forever to see SQUARE BASHING which held me up on ESTRANGE and NURSE, my last 2 in.
    FOI: 6ac CAN
    LOI: 18dn NURSE
    A Great blog Merlin – Thanks! And thanks for the challenge Orpheus.

  36. I made a very strong start, writing in eleven across clues in the first pass, and I thought this would be a pushover… but I slowed right down when I got to the end. Sine, Nurse, Roan and Remiss were particularly difficult. I couldn’t parse Nurse. Thank you Orpheus and Merlin.

  37. Managed to finish this after a rather good curry which may have stimulated the brain cells.
    All parsed except EAGERNESS. Despite being a bird watcher I’ve never heard of Erne for a sea eagle but it had to be the answer.
    Nice puzzle and an informative blog. I learn something new every day.

  38. Very late to this. Took an age over ROAN (knew it from Spaniels rather than horses), NURSE (just DNK the union) and EAGERNESS. Made it in a shade over 18.

  39. A fairly quick one for me, though bunging in SWALLOW instead of SPARROW cost me a few seconds. Ended up with 15:13 with LOI PROMPT. COD to UNARMED. Thanks Merlin and Orpheus.

  40. 40 mins for DNF as I put ROAR. NHO ROAN.

    Not sure I can stand much more of this regular humiliation. So many clues made no sense for ages, and I am embarrassed when I look at some other times.

    Why am I so utterly inept and incapable of improvement? After 3 years I have got absolutely nowhere if today is anything to go by.

    Another week blown. Not sure where to go from here as I feel like I did when I started. Maybe it’s time to accept that I’m just not that good at cryptic crosswords.

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