Quick Cryptic 1217 by Orpheus

I suspect this will be another puzzle rated too hard by many. I thought I’d got lucky with some half-remembered vocabulary, along with trusting the wordplay where my ignorance was exposed, but ended up with one wrong (20ac, see below). I wasn’t going to chalk up a PB today anyway – I spent at least 5 minutes trying to figure out and parse my last two in (10ac and 4dn).

Until recently, I’ve not really been interested in solving at speed nor improving (or even recording) my times, so I quite enjoy the frustration of struggling with a few educational clues – thanks Orpheus! I’m starting to get the itch, though, and have decided to try and get quicker. Maybe it’s all the recent chatter about the championships, and the stunning display from many of the TftT team! To this end, I’ve been reviewing some websites that I dimly remember reading in the past, and post the links here for any other beginner- or intermediate-ability solvers who might be interested. If you know of any other useful general resources, let me know in the comments.

The (highly binge-able) “Cracking the Cryptic” videos on YouTube.

Two interesting stream of consciousness blogs by Mark Goodliffe (à la Jeremy) from 2008 and 2012.

Some very useful tips from the legendary Peter B, especially this page on abbreviations.

Anyway, here’s the blog. Definitions underlined.


7 Radio-controlled aircraft, one used by medical practitioner (5)
DRONE – ONE by DR (medical practitioner).
8 European computer technology a couple of men follow (7)
ITALIAN – IT (computer technology) which AL and IAN (a couple of men) follow.
10 Genuine misprint (7)
LITERAL -double definition. I saw the answer from checkers, and had a vague sense it might fit the first definiton. I did not know the second definition.
11 Frogman in seedy bar by river (5)
DIVER – DIVE (seedy bar) and R (river).
12 Like bishops, work in special complex (9)
EPISCOPAL – OP (opus, work) in an angram of (complex) SPECIAL.
14 Note brick-carrier brought back (3)
DOH – reversal of (brought back) HOD (brick-carrier). I knew there was a word for the thing one stacks bricks into, but wouldn’t have recalled it had I not seen the instruction to check the notes (doh-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-doh) backwards.
15 Dismiss unknown person in Casualty (3)
AXE – X (unknown person) in A and E (casualty). I was going to ask about the superfluous ‘person’, as ‘unknown’ is sufficient to indicate X (or Y, or Z); perhaps it could refer to the X-mark of an unknown signatory?
16 Storyteller working near court (9)
RACONTEUR – anagram of (working) NEAR COURT. In my haste, I put ‘recounter’ in without checking the fodder, and had to wait to get 5dn before seeing my error.
18 Mature insect, one initially misidentified in the past (5)
IMAGO – I (one), first letter of (initially) Misidentified, and AGO in the past. Dim memories of an A-Level biology lesson, but I wouldn’t have been able to recall it without the wordplay.
20 Publication Buddhist priest rejected: dentists use it (7)
AMALGAM – MAG (publication) and LAMA (buddhist priest), all reversed (rejected). This was my error! I had ‘amalgum’ (reversal of the priest then ‘gum’ for something dentists use. I’d read an amalgum, but no such publication exists. Every definition up to this point has been at the beginning, so perhaps I was on autopilot!
22 Bringing in openwork fabric (7)
NETTING – double definition.
23 Business leader with responsibility for extra perk (5)
BONUS – first letter (leader) of Business, then ONUS (responsibility).
1 Debasement of drug in grown-up share (12)
ADULTERATION – E (ecstasy, drug) in ADULT (grown-up) and RATION (share).
2 Tories to reform: one’s slow to move! (8)
TORTOISE – anagram of (reform) TORIES TO.
3 Endure Paddington, for example (4)
BEAR – double definition.
4 Charge the least possible amount for boost (6)
FILLIP – FILL (charge, as in “charge your glasses”) and 1P (the least possible amount). Not a word I can remember ever having seen, and clued very sneakily.
5 Instrument chap at party left at home (8)
MANDOLIN – MAN (chap), DO (party), L (left), and IN (at home).
6 Capital that is sunk in key venture at first (4)
KIEV – IE (that is, inside (sunk into) the first letters of (at first) Key and Venture.
9 Monster thorn flourished nearest the Arctic (12)
NORTHERNMOST – anagram of (flourished) MONSTER THEN.
13 Throw up in vehicle, one principally carrying disinfectant (8)
CARBOLIC – LOB (throw) reversed (up) inside CAR (vehicle), I (one) and the first of (principally) Carrying.
14 Digging up road to the north, moving slowly (8)
DREDGING – RD (road) backwards (to the north) and EDGING (moving slowly).
17 Rocky extremities of crater ageing gradually (6)
CRAGGY – first and last letters (extremities) of CrateR AgeinG and GraduallY.
19 Affectedly cultured chap finally thrown out of do (4)
ARTY – last letter of (finally) chap removed from (thrown out of) pARTY (do).
21 Pulpit in Chesham Bois (4)
AMBO – hidden in (in) cheshAM BOis. I couldn’t think of another way to interpret the clue, and with a ‘b’ in third place, this went in with a shrug.

39 comments on “Quick Cryptic 1217 by Orpheus”

      1. You’ve just triggered an unhappy memory ! Back in 1992 I made it to the final of “Countdown”. We reached the final conundrum, and I was trailing by 9 points…..the board spun to reveal PEPSICOLA. Neither of us solved it. Mind you, I don’t know how I would have found room for all those volumes of the dictionary !
  1. No problems, although AMALGAM spent some time at the tip of my tongue, or fingers. I believe KIEV has changed its spelling. 3:52.
    1. There is an official letter about this reproduced here on a link from the Wiki page:

      Rather interestingly Wiki has not yet fully adopted the requested change, still keeping Kiev as the primary spelling with Kyiv only as an alternative. But anyway for crossword purposes I don’t think it’s necessary to try to rewrite history or modify clues to specify that the traditional English transliteration is required by adding the words ‘old’ or ‘former’.

  2. A slight delay in finding my first answer made me fear yet another difficult solve taking my run of 6 missed targets into its second week, however having given up on the first few Across clues I tried the Downs and spotted TORTOISE almost immediately. From then on it was reasonably plain sailing and I completed the grid in 9 minutes.

    Thanks for posting the link to Peter’s list, Will. If I have ever seen it before I had long ago forgotten about it, but I have now saved it to the Puzzles area of my home page for future reference.

    Edited at 2018-11-07 06:24 am (UTC)

  3. Looked a bit sparse after the first pass at the acrosses but soon filled up. After a few struggles in recent days this seemed much more accessible – but then I’m back to solving as porridge cooks rather than at lunchtime, so perhaps it’s my biorhythms to blame. Comparatively quick time for me spoiled by two literals (to misuse a new word).
  4. That was me above. I just forgot to sign in – but I hope people enjoyed a seemingly rare upbeat anonymous post.
  5. I hope I’m not being too smug if I say that I managed this in 5:42. Hopefully, a puzzle to boost confidence after recent tricky ones, with enough unusualish vocab to – possibly – please all comers.

    My tip for aspiring solvers is twofold: 1) Tim Moorey’s ‘How to Master the Times Crossword’; 2) this blog.

    1. Thanks Ulaca – I’ve read Manley’s “How to Solve” but not tried Moorey. One for the Christmas wish list!

      I’m tempted to suggest a new benchmark: 5 minutes and 42 seconds = 1 smug. That way, you would not be two smug today.

  6. I can see from the online leader board that seasoned solvers found this QC easier but I still needed 21 mins which seems to be the new norm for me. I think my problems started when I didn’t really understand 1d, I was struggling to come up with an alternative definition of debasement and wasn’t convinced my biff of 10a LITERAL was giving the correct checker. In the end I needed all the checkers to solve 1d. 13d CARBOLIC was another where I needed all the checkers and my LOI 4d FILLIP was a DNK and I had to resort to an aid to finish. So a GR to FILLIP!

    Thanks Orpheus and William for the blog.

  7. 18 mins but with 1 error fillup at 4d. Doh indeed.

    Continues a run of harder puzzles, but at least there seems to be less plants nowadays.

    Cod tortoise.

  8. Quicker than yesterday with lots of enjoyable clues. Sadly, at 20ac, working backwards from the front (if that makes sense), I had lama backwards then got dustracted by dentist and finished with gum instead of mag backwards. 10:30 but a dnf.
  9. A couple of less common words, which are more likely to appear in the 15×15, in this puzzle, but nothing I hadn’t met before, so a reasonably quick 7:17 for me. A smug and a bit:-) I was glad that AMBO was a hidden though. Thanks William and Orpheus.
  10. Another tough QC I thought, which took me 23:49 solving online.
    FOI was Doh and LOI Carbolic.
    There was some difficult stuff in here which is worth remembering: Imago I only vaguely knew from crosswords and Ambo (unknown perhaps) was a guess. Experienced solvers would probably rush through these. COD to 1d -not easy.
    The latest Cracking the Cryptic from Simon Anthony talks about the clue that brought down Mark Goodliffe. Very interesting but SPOILER ALERT if you want to solve the puzzles without help;he talks about another clue as well. It’s a series which I have found very helpful as an aspiring beginner. Thanks William for all the references. David
  11. I thought my 14 mins odd was going to be a reasonable score on the Kevometer, a hope reinforced by William’s opening comments, but then I saw 3:52!!! 😳 So 3 point something Kevins and a Bad Day; no smugness here.

    Main hold ups were ADULTERATION (needed most of the checkers), CARBOLIC (a complex clue for me), DREDGING (which isn’t digging in my book, no doubt dictionaries confound me, and so took a while to be dredged up) and LOI FILLIP, clever and sneaky as someone said above!

    An enjoyable puzzle, thanks Orpheus and William (especially for the links, William – look really interesting!).


  12. Got very excited to see Chesham Bois in the QC this morning, as I am typing from that very part of the world! Gave me an excuse to make my first ever comment, after years of lurking.

    Been reading the blog for some time, it’s really useful and I wanted to thank everyone involved – I usually check in after completing if there’s anything I haven’t fully understood, and there’s always the explanation here! I normally complete the QC in the 10-15 minute range, but have found these last few trickier, to say the least.

    Thanks again!

    1. Welcome, hugster, and many thanks for delurking!

      Chesham Bois was vaguely in my part of the world at one time many years ago but I can’t say I remember it in any detail now.

  13. I thought this was on the tough side. It was one of those where I guessed a few and then thankfully was able to justify them for example I ‘made up’ the word ambo and found it existed. Fillip was another obvious possibility but needed your explanation of 1p. Had to check that literal could mean misprint. Personally I like being challenged but I tend to feel a bit miffed when the answer is a word or term is too rare or obscure.
  14. This is usually the case for me but I enjoy persevering. This time i just got axe wrong putting in P for person and thinking the blog would elucidate – heartfelt thanks all bloggers (and setters). I rate myself on how bad the DNF is – yesterday’s was half a dozen or so that stumped me but I generally get stuck nowadays at around 2 – 4 unsolved. Occasionally, I complete a grid – a happy moment!


    1. I read it as BOL inside CARIC (vehicle, one, principally carrying) taken as a whole.

      I supposed it could equally well have been “Throw up *next to* vehicle”…etc., but the setter’s version makes the surface better.

  15. An enjoyable 30 mins solve, albeit with fingers crossed for the completely unknown Ambo – though I see from a very interesting Wiki article on pulpits that RC solvers shouldn’t have had the same amount of difficulty. I enjoy a good ‘build-up’ clue, so today’s QC was fertile ground with 13d Carbolic my favourite. My loi was 4d Fillip – I could see the 1p bit, but fill/charge took some thinking. Invariant
  16. I found this quite straightforward (the first time for a while). FOI 1dn and it flowed nicely from there although never heard of IMAGO or AMBO, but the clueing made them fairly obvious with a checker or two. LOI CARBOLIC (needed all the checkers for that). COD CRAGGY, very neat clue I thought.
  17. I looked up Mark’s hints for completing crosswords for 2008 and 2012 but you need the actual crossword in front of you to make use of his helpful comments. Where can I find the relevant crossword – no. 3 of the championships 2012??
  18. I found this much more enjoyable than yesterday’s – which I could not finish, even with various aids. Imago and also instar I remember from code words for projects I was involved in many years ago. Ambo rang a bell and why else have Chesham Bois, if it wasn’t a hidden?

    For one that regularly struggles, this wasn’t as tough as many.

  19. I am commenting for the first time as I got a pb on this one of 12.33. LOI carbolic which I was worried would take ages but suddenly saw it.
    Thanks for the blogs which I have been lurking on for a while
  20. An enjoyable outing – thanks to Orpheus and William. I started late but managed a 17 min solve. LOsI Adulteration and Netting. Craggy only dropped out when I got a couple of checkers and assumed the end of 22a was ‘ing’. Once again, I was so immersed that I thought I was quicker but I have achieved peace now that I no longer try to chase Kevin and the whizz kids. John M.

    Edited at 2018-11-07 08:29 pm (UTC)

  21. I was told this by a catholic priest. Ambo is Latin for both and RC churches used to have 2 pulpits; one for the priest and the other for the layperson doing the other readings etc.
    All but 2 clues in 20 mins so happy with that. 10 write ins and then the usual struggle. Doh as Homer would say carrying bricks backwards 🤣 John
  22. Another tricky one for me with the left hand side proving tough. I needed to take a break with several still left to solve. When I came back I finally got 1d which opened things up for me, but a few went in with fingers crossed i.e. LOIs 10a and 4d.
    Thanks for the blog
  23. A challenging but fun puzzle. I got stuck in the south east corner being sure that, as a superlative, 9 down had to end in “est”. Which it didn’t. That meant that “amalgam” was a step too far, as well. Eek. Great fun, though, with some lovely clues. I especially liked “mandolin ” and “Italian”. I’d never heard of “ambo” but it had to be the answer and I dredged “imago ” up from goodness knows where. Talking of “dredging “, I agree with a previous commentator that it’s not perhaps one’s first thought when trying to come up with a synonym for “digging up”. I got there in the end with this clue although I did spend a little while trying to think of an appropriate word which had “Mi” in it (M1 for road going north). Thanks so much, William, for a really informative blog with some great links in it. Thanks, too, to today’s setter.
  24. Wish I’d timed as surely less than 10 mins
    While ambo I was easy (with all due respect to the blogger thence, Chesham Bois could only be an inclusion clue) it was an unnecessary and irritating crossword-land only word

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