QC 2536 by Orpheus


A few tricky ones meant I visited the SCC again on this one.

A couple of old Scots words held me up today.

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

6 Genial head of government in West African state (6)
BENIGN – BENIN (West African State) contains G{overnment}
7 Turn up with a soft fruit (6)
APPEAR – A +P (Soft) + PEAR (fruit)

Lift and separate, “soft” does not go with the fruit. A soft pear is not a good pear.

9 Help offered by bachelor in a sci-fi film (4)
ABET – A + ET (Sci-fi film) contains B{achelor}

Adding “sci-fi” is a bit superfluous, as ET is often clued by just “film”. And pedants can discuss if it is really a sci-fi film or not.

10 Break during part of Edinburgh Festival (8)
INFRINGE – IN (during) + FRINGE (part of Edinburgh Festival)
11 Meddles with telly regularly, like the vicar perhaps (8)
PRIESTLY – PRIES(meddles with) + T{e}L{l}Y
13 Risqué account penned by Republican youth leader (4)
RACY – R{epublican} + Y{outh} contains [penned by] AC (Account)
15 Pudding originally standard in the past (4)
SAGO – S{tandard} + AGO (past)

Not eaten Sago pudding since primary school, along with semolina and tapioca.

16 Syrupy substance produced by Missouri girls (8)
MOLASSES – MO (Missouri) + LASSES (girls)

Those eight states which start with M can be tricky to sort out. The battleship USS Missouri, where the Japanese surrender was signed, was called The Mighty MO.

18 Accumulating space for public notices (8)
HOARDING – Double def

Hoard is an old word for a fence or barrier, bills and posters were stuck to them, and so advertising HOARDING.

20 Aggressively promote  device for plumber or electrician (4)
PLUG – Double def

This usage of PLUG, to aggressively promote, is surprisingly old, from 1909.

21 Farm animals Tom possibly let out (6)
CATTLE – CAT (Tom possibly) + (LET)* [out]

Very short anagram and indicator, makes it hard to spot.

22 Protest in court unsettled jury ultimately (6)
OUTCRY – (COURT)* [unsettled] + {jur}Y
1 A woman’s song about British dried plant collections (8)
HERBARIA – HER ARIA (A woman’s song) contains B{ritish}

I’d not heard of this word until a recent news article about Kew Gardens HERBARIA moving to (gasp!) Reading.

2 Touring Tirol, tried to digest extremely tearful novel (6,6)
3 Recruit in French literature embracing son (6)
ENLIST – EN (in French) + LIT containing [embracing] S{on}
4 Insect that might possibly take to the wing (6)
MAYFLY – Double def
5 Go to the Scots for a team of workmen (4)
GANG – Double Def

GANG is Scots slang for to go, often in the participle “gannin’ “. OED suppliers usual quotes from Beowulf and Burns. Don’t hear it much in Guildford.

8 Prudish women initially having a life of pleasure (8,4)
PRIMROSE PATH – PRIM (Prudish) + ROSE PAT (women) + H{aving}

Not a very common expression, and ROSE & PAT are just random women’s names. It comes from Hamlet, when Ophelia responds to Laertes

Like a puff’ d and reckless libertine,
Himself the PRIMROSE PATH of dalliance treads,
And reaks not his own rede.

12 Sign used in battle occasionally (3)
LEO – Hidden in “battle occasionally

“Sign” can often be a Zodiac sign, as can “house”, one to look out for.

14 Report of people looking over PM’s country retreat (8)
CHEQUERS – Homophone [Report of] CHECKERS (people looking over)

Chequers is a grand country house in Bucks given to The Nation in 1917, because a new generation of Prime Ministers were not aristocrats and might not have a country estate for entertaining.

16 Girl’s assistance accepted by adult males (6)
MAIDEN – MEN (adult males) contains AID (assistance)
17 Habitual criminal given oxygen on water in atoll (6)
LAGOON – LAG (Habitual Criminal) + O{xygen} + ON
19 Old king always in satisfactory state (4)
OKAY – O{ld} + K{ing} + AY (Scots for always)

94 comments on “QC 2536 by Orpheus”

  1. I’ll be the first pedant out of the gate and say ET is a sci-fi film in the same way that Three Amigos is a western. PRIMROSE PATH was my biggest problem today, taking me from 7-something to 10.45. It was no doubt easy for those familiar with the expression, but for anyone else I would suggest that two random female names is pushing it for a QC. But otherwise this was a fun offering, I always like it when the required novel is by Dickens because that’s often where I start. Thanks to Merlin and Orpheus.

  2. It took me a while to (discard BARFLY and GADFLY and) come up with MAYFLY. Scots slang? 7:07.

      1. I knew it was Scottish, didn’t think it was slang. Nor, evidently, do ODE and Collins.

  3. Lots I didn’t know today, so DNF, but soft pears are superior and I’ll fight you on that

    Edit: it was a very Scottish puzzle wasn’t it

    1. I’m with you on that – there’s a brief window when they are just right – after that they go mushy and brown and increasingly ‘off’!

  4. 13 minutes, delayed along the way by PRIMROSE PATH and APPEAR which required return visits, and LITTLE DORRIT where I decided that spending a little extra time unravelling the anagrist early in the proceedings would be useful for the checkers it supplied towards other answers.

    I think the second part of the clue at 4dn is a cryptic hint rather than a second definition as the answer it leads to is two words.

  5. PRIMROSE PATH – Primrose way in Macbeth too – leading ‘to the everlasting bonfire’!

  6. Club wouldn’t work, then my brain wouldn’t work. So I’ve abandoned with six in after eight minutes and shall return…

    1. Returned, still couldn’t do it. Now two early starts in a row so I’ll see you Friday!

      I’ve only seen ‘gang’ in the wild once, at Stracathro services where massive letters tell you “Ye May Gang Faur and Fare Waur”.

      1. What about:

        “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
        Gang aft a-gley.”

        “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns.

  7. 0/2 so far, so I’ll surely be sent to stand in the corner after assembly this morning, having actually given up after 30 minutes and about a quarter of the grid to go. This was very tricky for a QC in my opinion. Having never abandoned a QC in the five years or so I’ve been doing them I’ve had to do it twice in a row this week. This worries me on more than one level!

    1. Probably small consolation, but the toughest QC I’ve come across since having the confidence to join the blog (and yesterday’s may have been the second toughest).

  8. After the first pass of the across clues I had just two answers and I knew this was going to be a long haul. More slowly came but it was like getting blood out of a stone and a hard slog through an awkward and unhelpful grid (very few initial letters as checkers) and some odd GK and vocabulary, culminating in my LOI Primrose path – what a devilish clue with two random names leading to a pretty obscure phrase.

    In the circumstances I was surprised to see the clock stop at as little as 13 minutes. Not enjoyed much I’m afraid.

    Many thanks Merlin for the blog

  9. 19’+ and nearly threw in the towel on LOIs BENIGN, OKAY, PRIMROSE PATH, LITTLE DORRIT & HOARDING. This felt like a proper test – clearly different wavelengths today but thanks Orpheus and the wizard.

  10. Started with BENIGN, ENLIST and LITTLE DORRIT and thought that Orpheus was going to be in a generous mood but there was some tricky stuff later on.
    Needed all the checkers for the NHO PRIMROSE PATH and also struggled with INFRINGE, OKAY, GANG and LOI HOARDING.
    Relieved to finish under target in 9.33.
    Thanks to Merlin

  11. 4:12. PRIMROSE PATH my LOI went it eventually surfaced from the depths of my memory. Personally I prefer my pears hard. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin.

      1. I like Bartletts when they’re yellow, sweet and soft. I eat a pear every day. Very good for fiber.

      2. I usually pick and eat fruit before it’s ripe to ensure getting in before the birds(and bugs).

  12. Bloody hell, that was a slog. NHO LITTLE DORRIT or PRIMROSE PATH, but guessed from the remaining letters through elimination. Got a red square on LEO, so can’t claim any kind of victory even after my 39 minute marathon. 😞

    Edit: Meant to say, I typically associate PAT with Patrick, ie a man’s name. Not that it would have helped me with the clue, though.

      1. I’ll keep a look out for that, thanks. Mine really was red though, as I put LOO instead of LEO. I didn’t spot the hidden star sign, and thought battle referred to Waterloo somehow. I’m still new at this…

        1. Ah, then that’s pink (as in the DPS, Dreaded Pink Square). I’ve seen enough of them to know the difference in shade! Bad luck.

            1. That’s the lot. There’s green; there’s an orangey/red one which appears just because that’s the last letter you completed (goodness knows why, as Z says it always makes you jump); and there’s the DPS, which ruins your day. Nothing else.

  13. Shocked – shocked I tell you – to find that anyone could possibly think that pears are better eaten hard than soft. O tempora, o mores.

    I plodded steadily through the acrosses and then the downs. When LITTLE DORRIT went in I assumed this was going to be a Felix and started hunting for references to the Marshalsea, Amy, Tite Barnacle and the Circumlocution Office. Alas no.

    Biggest hold ups were the PRIMROSE PATH to damnation (which I had thought was from the KJV, so I am educated by the blog as always), and the crossing OKAY/HOARDING. All done in a rather sedate 10:45 for 1.5K and a Poor Day.

    Very much enjoyed both puzzle and blog, thanks Orpheus and Merlin.


    1. It’s interesting that LITTLE DORRIT is one of the very few Dickens titles that has not been the subject of one of Felix’s themed puzzles. Unless we all missed it, of course.

    2. 9:18 – so coming in between Kevin and Templar must count as a Much Better Than For Quite Some Time Day. Little Dorrit went in much quicker than expected with ‘little’ beating the ‘dorrit’ part – which seemed to open the puzzle up. Loi hoarding – cod to infringe.

  14. 21 mins, so a little disappointed initially not to have a morning out of the SCC, but from the above comments it was a decent time for me.
    Some quite UK centric clues with GANG, CHEQUERS and FRINGE not likely to be obvious to less experienced solvers not of this parish? Overall a good workout and an enjoyable tussle with a less friendly grid. LOI was PRIMROSE PATH which I nearly didn’t know, but which floated up from somewhere when I was glaring at P*T*, having missed prim for prudish.

  15. Bit worried about MAYFLY, as there are several others that fit, even if requiring more Listener style wrangling to justify. 11.00, pushed up with that and the PATH. Took an effort of will not to put in the Battle of WaterLOO.

  16. 17:27 (Premiere of Bach’s St Matthew Passion)

    I struggled with my LOI ABET, trying to make EBAT (BA as the bachelor, inside ET), deciding that was not a word, then doubting LITTLE DORRIT and laboriously counting the letters to check I had not got that wrong.

    Conference pears are at their best when just starting to go soft.

    Thanks Merlin and Orpheus

  17. Another day when having all the required GK made a potentially tricky puzzle actually very straightforward. After all the Down clues fell on the first pass, there were just 4 Across clues left to mop up.

    TIME 3:41

  18. 12 minutes. Solved bit by bit and I never felt that I really got on top of this. I had no idea about PRIMROSE PATH – thanks for the quotation – which only went in from wordplay and crossers as my LOI. I liked OKAY which I was convinced had to be “Cole” on first reading.

    A couple of hard ones to start the week after yesterday’s which I found even more difficult.

    Thanks to Orpheus and Merlin

  19. Not at the races again. Going through a dip in QC form, though I seem better able to complete the 15×15 in a reasonable time.

    Nothing overly difficult, just not seeing the required bits of wordplay e.g. Benin to get BENIGN, Pries to get PRIESTLY, NHO PRIMROSE PATH, had to write out the anagrist for LITTLE DORRIT. Thought I was going to give up with about 5 or 6 to go, but persevered.


  20. Needed help on this one. However, I did manage to biff PRIMROSE PATH, well-known as far as I am concerned, but unparsed, and LITTLE DORRIT.
    Just couldn’t get HOARDING. Lazily biffed Gadfly. Liked ABET, INFRINGE, PRIESTLY.
    Yesterday’s I found relatively easy. Today DNF+.
    Thanks vm, Merlin.

  21. Some tricky stuff and a difficult grid today.
    I was pleased to finish in 12 minutes. LOI BENIGN after HERBARIA ( I relied on the cryptic for that).
    PRIMROSE PATH I also worked out and it seemed plausible. I don’t remember it from Shakespeare.
    I did guess LITTLE DORRIT quickly, a book I still haven’t read.
    I quite enjoyed this but difficult for a QC.

  22. 6.20

    Quite tricky but I knew PRIMROSE PATH from these things or at least sufficiently well to spot it from all the checkers.

    Thanks all

  23. I found this easier than yesterday’s but still finished with the same time – 17 minutes. Didn’t know HERBARIA but it seemed reasonable. PRIMROSE PATH seemed to surface eventually from somewhere in the depths of the subconscious. I enjoyed this offering from Orpheus.

    Note: I have no comment to make regarding the ripeness of pears!

    FOI – 6ac BENIGN
    COD – 4dn MAYFLY

    Thanks to Orpheus and Merlin

  24. Another DNF for me. Some of these clues were just too tricky for me. Never heard of Little Dorit (a so-called “classic” I guess).

    For 18a I couldn’t decide between HOARDING or BOARDING. But neither seem right to me. Obviously I was wrong.

    Neither have I heard of Primrose Path.

    So a disappointing effort on my part, but you’ll hear none of the usual excuses such as “wrong type of grid” or “wasn’t on the wavelength” from me. No, this was down to my just simply finding this QC too difficult.

    However, it was enjoyable as none of the clues were gibberish to me. I knew I’d probably get them eventually. Perhaps. 🤣

      1. He dashed in just as I was leaving for work tonight. He’s a boy so often stays out all night and much of the day. Sometimes he treats my house like an AirBnB.

        He’s in the Highway Patrol so he works odd hours 🤣

  25. Shocker of a day today with a resounding DNF. The clue that did for me was 18ac where I simply couldn’t solve HOARDING. I was just about on target at ten minutes when I ground to a halt on this final clue. I gave it as much as seven minutes and finally threw in the towel at 17.20. Of course now I see the answer I wonder just how I failed to think of it, but there we are. On further checking the answers I see I had one wrong anyway when I decided GADFLY was just about passable cryptically. Oh well, on to the big one with my tail between my legs.

  26. DNF. Very tricky and hit reveal for my LOI, the only dimly-heard of PRIMROSE PATH. Others that took a while included PRIESTLY, HERBARIA (tried names e.g. ‘Di’s’ before thinking of ‘her’)and INFRINGE (doh). Liked MOLASSES and working out LITTLE DORRIT. Thanks Merlin.

  27. DNF…

    Just as I thought I’d got over one tricky start to the week, along comes another. Whilst I had the Primrose element to 8dn, I just couldn’t see the last part and wasn’t in the mood to alphabet trawl an expression I’d never heard of. I also struggled with 6ac “Benign” and 2dn “Little Dorrit”, the latter for which I have no real excuse.

    FOI – 7ac “Appear”
    LOI – dnf
    COD – 11ac “Priestly”

    Thanks as usual!

  28. FYI I believe your underlining on the definitions for HOARDING is incorrect. I think it should be:



    space for public notices

  29. Spent five hours in A&E yesterday, so I didn’t expect to be on top form today, but goodness that was hard. The coach had long gone by the time I reached the stop, with Lti the nhos Herbaria and Primrose Path the main culprits, abetted (😉) by Infringe, Priestly and Hoarding. CoD to 17d Lagoon for the parsing. Invariant

      1. Thanks – stabbing pain in the middle of the chest turned out to be pleurisy, which is a million miles better than a few of the alternatives.

  30. That was fearsome, but I somehow still managed to cross the line successfully in 38 minutes.
    My FOsI were RACY, PLUG, CATTLE and OUTCRY, so I had to work back up from the bottom of the grid.
    The most difficult clues for me were PRIMROSE PATH (NHO), HOARDING, HERBARIA (NHO), PRIESTLY and OKAY, which was my LOI.

    A question: Why is ‘always’ sometimes abbreviated to AY? It traps me every time.

    Many thanks to Orpheus and Merlin (and respect to anyone who knocked this one off in a fast time).

    1. Ay(e) isn’t an abbreviation, it’s dialect, especially in Scotland and Oop North more generally.

  31. Really stuggled at first, and an unhelpful grid to boot, but gradually solved a few, biffed a couple and then had enough letters in to get the rest with a little help. Knew PRIMROSE PATH from the distant past and GANG from Burns. BENIGN was LOI.

  32. 11:34. “Turn up with a soft…” clearly signalled to me reverse W, A, and P. Hence the fruit must be pawpaw(or maybe even somehow papaya )? It APPEARs not!

  33. 7:47

    PRIMROSE PATH (P_T_ – PATS? POTS? PITS? PETS? H for having?) and HOARDING were my hold-ups today, otherwise fairly comfortable.

    Thanks Merlin and Orpheus

  34. FOI ENLIST. POI LITTLE DORRIT followed by LOI, SAGO. PRIMROSE PATH appeared suddenly through the mist. 9:05. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin.

  35. I agree with “Is That The Time? Too hard for a QC? Certainly too hard for me. I jumped ship with less than half completed and totally stuck.

  36. 46:26
    The closest I’ve come to calling time on a QC since joining the blog. With only two across and two down clues completed on the first pass I sensed the trouble that was lying ahead.
    NHO PRIMROSE PATH, LITTLE DORRIT or HERBARIA. Worked out PRIMROSE, LITTLE and __BARIA from the clues and the crossers but needed a word trawl and Google to complete them.
    (My Glaswegian roots helped me stick with it and not ‘shoot the crow an ay, gang fur a wee goldie!’)
    FOI: 7ac APPEAR
    COD: 10ac INFRINGE
    Thanks Merlin and a grudging thanks to Orpheus

  37. 15:00 but no exact time as work intervened.

    Held up by primrose path (NHO) and LOI hoarding.
    COD outcry.

  38. Like many others here I found this quite tricky. An answer would come to me just as I thought it was time to move on. The exception was MOLASSES where I didn’t bother to read all of the clue. Needless to say the grid didn’t help. GANG was a guess. LITTLE DORRIT requred most of the checkers and my LOI was the vaguely heard of PRIMROSE PATH. 9:46

  39. I was completely off the wavelength today. This seemed much harder than yesterday’s 15×15. It took nearly half an hour to do all but PRIMROSE PATH, and I gave up with that unsolved. Thanks Merlin and Orpheus.

  40. 14′. First pass of acrosses didn’t deliver much, and the downs only a little more. Then worked from bottom. up. Nice to have some Scots dialect to help me for a change rather than English homophones to work out! Enjoyed CATTLE for some reason.. Thanks Merlin and setter.

  41. Had to do this at work as I’m on a 14-hour day.

    I finished but that’s about the best that can be said for my performance.

    I ignore the time when I have to solve the QC in a busy office, but I would have been well into the SCC under the best of circumstances.

    My lack of brain power was exposed in a quite ruthless manner today. Pretty lousy (me, not the QC).

    On the plus side, I’m so downbeat about my abilities that I have no confidence left to dent.

    Thanks for the blog.

    PS Solved the Quintagram at a canter again. Why can I do that but not the QC? Infuriating.

      1. Only noticed after my posting. Perhaps I was a little hard on myself given how tough others found it.

        1. If you’re going to compare yourself to everyone else all the time, compare while you’re on top too 😀

          Are you doing a little dance right now, Gary, I hope you are, a little victory wiggle 😊

  42. After a day of delivering parcels I had a long hard look and then backed away slowly claiming to the SCC ticket seller that I was at the wrong address…
    Thanks for the eye opening blog.

  43. I’d hoped for another finish today but ‘the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley’
    Ah well there’s always tomorrow
    Thanks Merlin and Orpheus.

  44. LOI O(ld) MAN(chess king) = state at 19d, but couldn’t see why ‘satisfactory’ Was glad to complete and submitted without more ado.

  45. DNF

    Worked my way through this only to be stumped by LOI O_A_. Not being familiar with AY for always thought OK might contain always but couldn’t find anything to fit.

  46. Virgin blogger. Taught myself the QC during lockdown. Pride myself on completion (albeit slow). But wish to register a complaint about Primrose Path

  47. I’m with Sam Vimes, PRIMROSE PATH is NHO and requires TWO random women’s names. Really for a QC?? And generally a long slog into the far reached of the SCC

  48. 23:55, so well into the SCC.

    Like others, held up by having COLE for the happy old king, no doubt exactly as intended.

    Lots to like, despite being hard. SNITCH is currently surprisingly low at 106, which I think shows that the fast solvers used for the calculation had fewer problems than us lesser mortals.

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