QC 2663 by Joker


17:23, some tricky parsings today, but a fair offering, on the hard end of the spectrum in my opinion. I need held with the parsing of 19A.

One clue that appeared yesterday re-appeared in the same place in the grid today. And another clue has a  British Spelling to throw off our International readers.

I’ve been thinking about how setters could use tools to help with clue construction. The hidden clue with the alternate letters of “of yucca hospital” is impressive work by the setter — it’s extremely hard to come up with these long ones. I spent some time trying to train ChatGPT4 on how to create them, it wasn’t able to even understand the problem. Setters are still well ahead.

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

1 He-cat, eh? Possibly (7)
CHEETAH – (HE CAT EH)*, an &lit clue, where the whole clue is the definition, Cheetah=cat.
5 Type of book work embraced by young boxer? (3-2)
POP-UP – PUP (young boxer) contains OP (work)

Boxer being a type of dog, although I imagine a grizzled old pugilist would refer to an up and comer as a “pup” as well.

8 Home game in Congo university takes cunning so as to stand out? (13)
INCONGRUOUSLY – IN (Home) + CONGO contains RU (game) + SLY (cunning)
9 Type of sugar in cola set to change (7)

C12H22O11  for those who understand chemical formulæ.

10 Brick for building half done in Lincoln? (5)
ADOBE – ABE (Lincoln) contains DO {ne}

I was sure that Lincoln would be “SEE”.

11 Red-faced state is never-ending (6)
13 Hate side losing openers before cricket match (6)
DETEST – {si}DE + TEST (cricket match)
15 What’s initially curtailing run after muscle pain? (5)
CRAMP – Initial letters of “curtailing run after muscle pain”
16 Praise article by Conservative right (7)
ACCLAIM – A + C{onservative} + CLAIM (right)
19 Team spilling the beans is hilarious (4-9)
SIDE-SPLITTING – SIDE (team) + SPLITTING (spill the beans)

At first I thought Beans are split ? Is that it? I tried to see if “spilling” could be an anagram indicator, but that doesn’t work either.

After spending time in the OED, I found definition II.13.a. (slang). To turn evidence or informer; to peach; to give information detrimental to others; to betray confidence. There’s a Dickens Reference, but nothing more recent. Maybe the kind of thing Billy Bunter might say.

Thanks curryowen for providing a hint on chasing this down.

20 Area yielded a variety of succulent (5)
AGAVE – A{rea} + GAVE (yielded)

And yes, this appeared in yesterday’s crossword (2662) it pretty much the same place in the grid. It was clued as A +GAVE as well:

Head of acquisitions donated tequila ingredient (5)

21 Other ranks trapped by river in spate (7)
TORRENT – TRENT (River) contains OR (Other Ranks)

Interestingly, according to the OED, SPATE is derived from the same root as Spit.

1 Unwell after cold hotel — could be this (5)
CHILL – C{old} + H{otel} + ILL

The “could be this” refers to “unwell”. This was clued in as C+HILL just last week.

2 Book making new use of cyclopean idea? (13)

Note the British spelling, at least it doesn’t use the old spelling with the Æ ligature. Although I think setters should experiment with ligatures, it could intersect with Æthelstan, for example.

3 Dance from part of east Angola (5)
TANGO – Hidden in east Angola
4 Queen perhaps ordered throne (6)

A Hornet wasp could be a queen.

5 Blasphemous university academic article on ecstasy (7)
PROFANE – PROF (University Academic) + AN (article) + E{cstasy}
6 After classical show musical mostly returns, just having left theatre (4-9)
POST-OPERATIVE – POST (after) + OPERA (classical show)  + EVIT{A} (musical) reversed.

Tricky, took me some time to dig out this parsing.

“Theatre”, being operating theatre this time,as it often is. (British English usage only, I believe).

7 Reward any temp might work for? (7)
PAYMENT – (ANY TEMP)* with “work” as anagram indicator.

Smooth surface renders the clue also as a literal.

11 Garden plant type of yucca hospital regularly wanted (7)
FUCHSIA – Alternate letters of “of yucca hospital”

See pre-amble on musings about how these types of clues can be constructed.

12 Deadlock that is broken by politician: fool! (7)
IMPASSE – IE (That is) contains MP (politician) + ASS (fool)
14 Whisky adulterated by the French? With this one may get hammered (6)
MALLET – MALT (whisky) contains LE (The French)
17 Provide food consumed in common room initially (5)
CATER – C{ommon} R{oom} contains ATE (consumed)
18 Power oared boat using mass for energy (5)
MIGHT – EIGHT (oared boat) with the M{ass} swapped for E{nergy}

Clever swapped-letter clue. But swapping a vowel/consonant made it tricky for me to see any words that might fit.

106 comments on “QC 2663 by Joker”

  1. 11:48. Enjoyed putting together all the parts of INCONGRUOUSLY. MIGHT and FUCHSIA were fun too. I found the required meaning of “spill the beans” for SPLIT in Merriam-Webster and it said it was British usage.

    1. Thanks, finally chased it down in the OED. Definition II.13.a. For split
      slang. To turn evidence or informer; to peach; to give information detrimental to others; to betray confidence.

      Blog updated

      1. We are clearly of a similar vintage – it was common parlance in my school in Manchester as well

  2. 14:02 only if you ignore the fact I looked up a list of UK rivers to get ‘TRENT’. Otherwise I would have dnf.

    I struggled to get the letters after INCONGRU… but the checkers helped.
    POST OPERATIVE was also hard, I biffed ‘Post modernist’ to start.

    I liked POP UP, and ENCYCLOPAEDIA was a write in.

    1. Cam, Exe, Isis, Ouse, Dee, Tamar, and many more, too numerous to mention. (Sc. I’ve forgotten.)

    2. Now I’ve been to Melbourne we should have clues like

      Australian river flowing backwards gives rows and columns (5)

      1. Lovely clue!

        Setter Alex totally could do that. I hear her name is Victoria and she could add a self reference in every crossword.

      2. The joke is (because of its colour) that it’s the only river that flows upside down. So if it was a down clue…

      3. You had me looking up Melbourne in google maps! Might probably have got Y-R-A, but never if it was -A-R-!!

  3. Oh, THAT kind of theatre! Again! I needed all the checkers to biff INCONGRUOUSLY and POST-OPERATIVE, and Merlin’s help to parse. I suggest they are pretty tough for a QC. Like vinyl I immediately saw SIDE-SPLITTING (it puzzled me too) and ENCYCLOPAEDIA, a word I learnt to spell from an early age by watching Jiminy Cricket on Disneyland. He left out the A but our dad insisted it had to go in. I found the across clues difficult at the start and was only able to get going when I switched to the downs, finishing in 9.25. Thanks Joker and Merlin.

  4. I biffed the four long ones, never bothered to parse them. I assumed that ‘split’ meant inform on. 4:40.

  5. 9:33. I didn’t even try to parse SIDE-SPLITTING, thinking it might be an anagram or something to do with SPLIT ‘beans’ as Merlin points out. POST-OPERATIVE was my LOI with checkers but I should have thought of EVIT(A) earlier. CHEETAH was a good way to start and I agree the alternate letters for FUCHSIA was v. clever.

    I liked Merlin’s ‘Australian river flowing backwards…’ clue; very apt as our dear old Yarra is hardly a raging torrent.

    Thanks to Merlin – great to meet you last week – and Joker

  6. 15 minutes is within my revised target but only just. I’m not sure what slowed me other than putting POST-OPERATION at 6dn originally because I didn’t pay close enough attention to the wordplay. TORRENT eventually put paid to that.

    One of the most popular UK encyclopaedias is the one-volume ‘Pear’s Cyclopaedia’ so having ‘cyclopean’ in the clue at 2dn was an immediate trigger to the required answer. I take US spellings in my stride usually but ‘e’ instead of ‘ae’ grates with me, especially as I understand the UK medical profession have now dropped ‘ae’ in favour of ‘e’ which affects the spelling of so many medical terms. Perhaps one of our resident health professionals can confirm.

    1. Struggling to think of an example for this and note no-one else yet replied.
      Could only think of oedema which over the water us edema.
      Up to my retirement 9 years ago British spellings still gripped tightly.

  7. Top was quicker than the bottom. Started with a solid seven across clues going in with ‘incongruous’ going in then coming out as it didn’t have enough letters – could have shaved a few seconds off my 12.09 if only I’d bothered to read the clue rather than have it jump out at me. Needed to go back to put the second C in ENCYCLOPAEDIA when that came up short. Quite a lot needed thought but the grid still filled nicely. Glad I looked up AGAVE yesterday otherwise I’d have known it was in tequila but not that it was a succulent. Lots of mistyping today but all caught, so all green in 12.

  8. What a great puzzle. We really enjoyed this finishing 12 seconds under our 25 minute target.

    So many clever devices to admire along the way. The surface of cramp is brilliant.

    It always surprises me to read the differences in knowledge across the bloggers and commentators -for us splitting on someone is very well known and often used, so side splitting was probably the easiest clue today, equally we are regularly stumped by other’s write ins. For Mrs RH, in spate = torrent was a NHO.

    Like Tina tried several versions of incongru.. and was tempted to look in the dictionary for incongruitious before the PdM

    LOI might, parsed after finishing

    Thanks VM Joker and Merlin for the blog and introducing me to what a ligature is in the literary sense. Seems like good fodder for a clue in the big one 😀

  9. I found this fairly straightforward and, like Roundabout Here, had no problem with ‘splitting’ as we used it at school – with the dreaded accusation of being a ‘splitter’.
    Completed the grid very symmetrically by doing the entirety of the LHS (including the first half of INCONGRUOUSLY) before moving onto the RHS.
    Started with CHEETAH and finished with PROFANE in 5.33.
    Thanks to Merlin for the blog and Joker for the entertaining puzzle.

  10. A slightly unusual grid, with fewer clues than usual, and in fact I cannot remember a QC with a smaller number than today’s total of just 24. The flip side is the preponderance of long words, and initially I thought they would be a struggle, but ENCYCLOPAEDIA was a write-in (once I had carefully counted the letters) and so almost as fast was SIDE-SPLITTING. Thereafter I made excellent progress to finish in 10 minutes.

    Many thanks Merlin for the blog, though I think your parsing of INCONGRUOUSLY needs another U, given by the word University in the wordplay. I parsed it as IN + CONG (RU) O + U + SLY. My main concern was not the construction but the definition – does it really mean “to stand out”? That would be Conspicuously in my book …

    1. My understanding is that both involve standing out but ‘incongruously’ implies negativity. Now that I look at the clue again, shouldn’t the definition be ‘so as to stand out’?

          1. Yes, I’m not aware of any discrepancies in the clue, but I was querying Merlin’s underline which omits ‘so as’.

  11. Having come away for a brief sojourn in Canterbury, and having forgotten to pack my iPad, I find myself completing today’s QC with paper and pen in Caffè Nero. I have to say that I find it easier on paper but just so much more convenient electronically.
    So between leisurely gulps of cappuccino, mouthfuls of apricot croissant and gazing out of the window at the city awakening I’ve no idea how long it took but I can say that I really enjoyed it and completed it with little trouble.
    Thank you Merlin and Joker.

  12. Particularly slow and steady as I untangled the puzzle, enjoying the exercise, but aware that the dog was needing hers. As per Plett11, splitting would never be approved at school. Couldn’t parse ADOBE for ages. Back from Turkey to feverish activity ahead.
    Thanks Joker and Merlin

  13. 9:23 (birth of Eadred)

    LOI FUSCHIA. I struggle with alternate letter clues, and had looked at the letters in search of one and still not spotted it until all the checkers were in place. COD to MALLET.

    Thanks Merlin and Joker

  14. Just made it inside 10 minutes with FLORIDA my LOI and needing an alphabet trawl (as did 1ac on the main crossword, in fact)

  15. Lincoln green … quick run through Robin Hood’s gang … Lincoln is a car … a see … umm … OH! One of many satisfying “thunks” of a penny dropping during this twisty beast. What fun.

    Splitting on someone was a great sin at school so that went straight in. INCONGRUOUSLY needed a lot of checkers, and it took a while to realise which theatre it was (when will I learn mutter mutter).

    Excellent puzzle and blog, many thanks Merlin and Joker. All done in spot-on 09:00 for 2K but a Good Day.


  16. 09:10 so about 4 mins under par which is good for a joker.
    Biffed quite a lot.
    LOI Florida.
    COD payment or cheetah. I do like an &lit.

        1. No, I’m sure you’re right. I’ve always had a blind spot on this subject which is why I usually avoid it in my blogs if I can get away with it.

        2. Does that make ‘What’s’ the definition then as to have ‘muscle pain’ as the definition is double duty?

          1. I think in this instance it does qualify as & lit, its just not as pure as cheetah. Because “what’s initially” is used rather than just initially which doesn’t work.
            E.g if the setter had used:
            Initially causes rip after muscle pain? the surface is not as good because contraction is better but begins with a c.

            Classic semi &lit would be:
            First to curtail run after muscle pain, from this?

  17. Big PDM after staring at 10A for ages, then massive head slap for missing what Lincoln was there for. Fens, see, green…?? And for wondering what we were meant to know about bricks, for heavens sake.
    Pleasantly challenged overall, IKEA-ing through a number of long clues successfully, eventually. Into the SCC but enjoyed the ride. Well done Joker, and thanks Merlin for a fun blog.

  18. No problems today although I needed the blog to fully parse INCONGRUOUSLY. Seem to have some sort of mental block remembering RU as a game which is ridiculous. Split was also slang at my school. Thanks Merlin and Joker.

  19. 7:13

    Pretty straightforward. Only had to return post-checkers to FLORID and LOI MALLET.

    Thanks Merlin and Joker

  20. 19:24 .. that was a bit rougher than last Thursday’s puzzle from Joker. I said then he rarely gives us words I’ve NHO but if we hadn’t had AGAVE yesterday, it would be on the list. I don’t even know what a “succulent” is. I didn’t really enjoy today’s QC as much as Thursday’s because the surfaces and the words in them were more involved but still decent.

    Really impressed by FUCHSIA and also liked IMPASSE and MALLET. LACTOSE went straight in having discussed it with my daughter on Saturday after I bought her chocolate milk after parkrun.

    Three attempts to spell ENCYCLOPAEDIA and then I checked them off on paper to avoid a DNF. Held up a little at the end by LOI POST-OPERATIVE because I’d bunged in INCONGRUOSity having had enough of trying to get it.

    1. Succulents are a kind of plant where the leaves or whatever are kind of thick and squishy and full of goo.

      Aloe Vera is one, cacti… Things like that

      1. Thanks Tina.

        To reciprocate the knowledge exchange – I’ve seen the River Test come up once before. And I live near the Stour, Avon and Frome which all look good for making other words!

        1. Look out for the Soar too! I’ve seen that a few times in Crosswordland, as well as down the road – and it’s a tributary of the Trent!

  21. I felt like I was in a spelling contest with 8a and 2d and I got close to throwing in the towel with my last two in. The culprits were FUSCHIA and FLORID. I spent far too long trying to introduce an anagram of yucca into the grid at 11d. 9:41 for a poor day

  22. Tried to be a bit more disciplined about leaving a clue if the answer wasn’t obvious, and was rewarded with a 16min solve, which is pretty good for me with Joker. Side Splitting went straight in, and helped with Fuchsia – I had been ignoring the initial ‘of’. 4d, Hornet, brought back memories of one flying round the bedroom in the middle of the night in France. Fortunately, a trusty slipper was to hand when it eventually landed. CoD to 11d, Fuchsia, for the pdm. Invariant

    1. Bizarrely, I had to use a shoe against a small scorpion that was nestled in the corner of the property we’d rented in the south of France. Didn’t even realise they had them there.

      1. Been there, done that, and consequently always tap my shoe out before inserting foot when anywhere near the Med. 😉

  23. An average solve for me, taking 17 minutes. Everything parsed except for POST-OPERATIVE where I had all the checkers so it had become obvious. I’m another one who had no trouble with SPLITTING meaning spilling the beans, remembering it from schooldays – and they were a very long time ago! I probably remember school slang better than any of the lessons.

    FOI – 5ac POP-UP
    LOI – 20ac AGAVE
    COD – 14dn MALLET, closely followed by 11dn FUCHSIA

    Thanks to Joker and Merlin

  24. Way too difficult for me. I gave up having answered only half a dozen clues.

    Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

  25. Finished yesterday’s – very friendly one – but can’t do more than half today’s.
    Please: what is the context for “other ranks” = OR – where is that ever found?

    1. It’s an army expression and covers those who are not officers. Commonly abbreviated to OR in crosswords.

      1. And often used to clue “men” (as opposed to officers, although that’s more prevalent in 15×15 puzzles.

        1. Not that it particularly matters but I’d always expanded OR to mean “ordinary ranks”. Am I wrong?

          1. Sadly yes, I think. I haven’t found anything but ‘other ranks’ in any of the usual sources. Maybe confusing it with OS = Ordinary Seaman?

            1. Thanks for taking the time to look Jackkt. All these military/naval abbreviations are the bane of my crosswording as they’re not areas, I or anyone in my family, have ever been involved with.

  26. 5:51. LOI ACCLAIM. A leisurely solve, rather than any particular hold-ups, as I was looking for clues that I might give to my new U3A Cryptic Crossword group for our second meeting next month as I went along. COD to PROFANE for the entertaining surface. Thanks Joker and Merlin.

    1. Bet you didn’t find many 😂 The NW plus PAYMENT, DETEST, CRAMP and FUCHSIA would be all I give to beginners. But Joker does provide some good examples of cluing styles/constructs across this one.

  27. Right up my street. I didn’t bother parsing FUCHSIA – it was a recent target in the Sunday Times Clue Writing Competition and was still lurking at a forward position in my brain. I deliberately left my LOI as such, as I wanted to be sure that I didn’t commit a typo.

    TIME 4:00

  28. An excellent puzzle (as usual) from the Joker, and I think I must have been on form to finish it in 8.00 precisely. I had no trouble with parsing the clue at 19ac, as splitting on someone was in common usage when we were kids, and if I had a pound for every time it was said to me as a child, I’d be a rich man. It’s an unusual expression in that it only seems to be popular with children, and I don’t remember hearing it used by adults. I know it’s still in use because I recently heard one of my six year old grandson’s friend say it to him. Like grandpa like grandson! 😇

  29. 5:03

    Every brain cell turned up for this one – some answers were tripping over each other to write themselves in. I enjoyed FUCHSIA – clever finding enough words to pick out every other letter. Slowed slightly to ensure that INCONGRUOUSLY was spelled correctly – as Cedric points out, Merlin you have missed the ‘U’ for university in your parsing. LOI was ENCYCLOPAEDIA which was a write-in with all of the checkers in place.

    Thanks Joker and Merlin for the entertaining commentary

  30. This took me longer to finish than of late, but was no less enjoyable. Last two in were FUCHSIA followed by FLORID. Carefully followed the alternate letters in the former, only to wonder where the F was (doh). No problems with split=inform. MIGHT foxed me for a while as I didn’t immediately think of a boat as an ‘eight’. A couple of years ago ‘oesophagus’ was used universally in my former medical department. Liked POST-OPERATIVE. Thanks Merlin and Joker.

  31. 6d PostOperative I was confused by finding Evita as the last 5 letters reversed, rather than Evit(a), so didn’t parse, shrugged and moved on. Thank you Merlin. I should read the clues….
    I don’t fancy ligatures in the Xword as a) I’m not good with them and b) there is little room in the square (paper solvers) and only complex inputs on a keyboard.
    11d Fuchsia – I can’t spell this word! Should hang it off Klaus Fuchs the spy. Today it was given, but I still muffed it up and had to use the rubber.

  32. Well for me that was about as easy as it gets, most clues entered on first looking at them and it still took 9 minutes 30s. How do people finish in under 5 minutes!

  33. A little late this morning due to an early meeting with advisors in the subcontinent, then pesky work getting in the way.

    A decent puzzle I thought.


  34. I was extremely dim but got there in the end with pennies dropping slow.
    Had to hop about a bit to get going at all, and at first missed the easy start with CHEETAH. FOI CHILL. Thought of Incongruity, but it wasn’t long enough, of course.
    Slow on eg ADOBE because I forgot Abe. LOI POST OPERATIVE (forgot that kind of Theatre).
    Thanks for much needed blog, Merlin.

  35. 20:42 although it felt easier, just won admission to the Club by needing an alphabet trawl for FLORID. Got hung up on “frolic” and couldn’t let go. An enjoyable puzzle, but when I saw the clue for 2D, I thought “really??????” – it could hardly be more of a write-in than that! Threw in the answer thinking it must be some extremely devious bit of misdirection, but no. Really enjoyed 6D, my COD.

    Thanks to Joker and Merlin!

  36. CHILL was FOI. I found this quite tricky but made it much harder for myself by biffing POST OPERATIC, then changing it to POST OPERATIVE with a letter missing, so I had A-C-R–at 16a, so took a while to see ACCLAIM. The typos were also in full flow in the T(or)RENY at 21a so MIGHT took for ever to get. Having finally sorted the SE, I cleared the IMPASSE in the SW and finished off with FLORID, then FUCHSIA. 10:46. Thanks Joker and Merlin.

  37. 7.52 Inexplicably quick today. Perhaps it’s the arrival of spring. I know “Splitters!” from Life of Brian. Last two INCONGRUOUSLY and LACTOSE required all the checkers. Thanks Merlin and Joker.

  38. Joker living up to his/her name today with lots of entertaining clues. Even those I couldn’t parse dropped in with a bit of thought.
    Don’t know my time as finished in paper as iPad acting up.
    COD PAYMENT for the clever anagram.
    Thanks Joker and Merlin. Very enjoyable blog.

  39. Hit slower recently revised target, I agree with ITT it’s easier on paper but more convenient on iPad especially if you’ve had a stroke and can’t hold paper flat.

  40. 20 mins…

    A bit of a repeat of yesterday, getting bogged down with 14dn, 21ac and 18dn. I’d initially put “Nailed” for 14dn, but wasn’t happy with the parsing, particularly around Whisky. Once I’d sorted that out, the others followed fairly quickly. 8ac “Incongruously” was a pretty good example of an IKEA type clue, and I literally penned its constituent parts until I saw the full word. As for Merlin, I was unsure of “Splitting” for “spilling the beans”, but couldn’t see what else it could be.

    FOI – 1ac “Cheetah”
    LOI – 18dn “Might”
    COD – 8ac “Incongruously” – just for its instruction manual simplicity.

    Thanks as usual!

  41. Flying start with cheetah and pop up, which yielded 5 downs, and I thought I might achieve a PB. Alas, like Tina I went for post modernism and then got stuck with 13a and 16a and 21a… the perils of a biff. But all done in 20 minutes which for me is fast medium! Like many others, “you won’t split on me, will you” came back from my 1950s prep school days. LOI florid – I took ages to discard ‘fool’ as the first four letters. Red-faced over that, but I hope not (yet) florid!

  42. Doubt I’d have got AGAVE had it not cropped up so recently.

    Very enjoyable puzzle, and all correct in 27:05.

    COD I think jointly to PAYMENT and CHEETAH, both of which I enjoyed.

  43. We also had no problems with the require meaning of ‘splitting’. FUCHSIA seemed almost a write-in as we worked backwards from the end but we were still rather slow to verify it. INCONGRUOUSLY was our LOI and we had to piece it together from the wordplay despite having all the checkers at that stage. Nevertheless a slightly faster than average 12:01.

  44. 13:13 here, enjoyed this a lot. My last two were FLORID and ADOBE, both of which had great PDMs.

    Thanks to Joker and Merlin.

  45. Some days the answers just flow, on others they stay hidden, as was the case today. After two cups of coffee I left it alone, came back this afternoon and it was quickly finished. Hats off to those who completed this in under ten minutes!

  46. 30 min finish. Biffed a lot of the long ones, giving a lot of checkers. Slowed down by post operation until I finally parsed torrent to give operative. Also convinced the c from cater was ‘conservative’ so stumbled until Mallet gave me acclaim.
    LOI Florid
    Thanks all


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