Quick Cryptic 1274 by Mara

Posted on Categories Quick Cryptic
I seem to have tackled this one without serious obstruction, despite my ignorance of equine anatomy. 11ac seems to be some sort of error, but a pleasant solve overall.

1 Before disaster, switch footwear (4-4)
FLIP-FLOP – switch is FLIP, disaster is FLOP
5 Highly excited in the past, disappointing ultimately (4)
AGOG – AGO is in the past + G (last letter of disappointing)
9 Find small amount (5)
TRACE – Double definition
10 New butler admitting old problem (7)
TROUBLE – anagram (‘new’) of BUTLER, with O for old inside
11 Whale in horror, caught (3)
ORC –  now, I think this is an error unless I’m missing something. The clue as written would work if the answer was ORCA (hidden word: horrOR CAught). It’s still a hidden word, but I can’t find any reference to ORC being a whale.
12 A race isn’t terribly bigoted (9)
SECTARIAN –  anagram (‘terribly’) of A RACE ISN’T
13 Snatch forty winks beside youth (6)
KIDNAP – KID (youth) + NAP (forty winks)
15 Sense change so near (6)
REASON – anagram (‘change’) of  SO NEAR
17 Rush, healthy plant (9)
SPEEDWELL – SPEED (rush) + WELL (healthy)
19 Gold initially like hydrogen, say? (3)
GAS – G (gold, initially) + AS (like)
20 Airmen bombed a country (7)
ARMENIA – anagram (‘bombed’) of AIRMEN,  with an additional A
21 Aircraft ugly, did you say? (5)
PLANE – sounds like PLAIN (ugly)
22 Unusual way to serve steak (4)
RARE – double definition
23 Southern mountain most steep (8)

1 Sheep eating last bits of the wiriest horse’s hair (7)
FETLOCK – FLOCK (sheep) ‘eating’ ET (last letters of ‘the’ and ‘wiriest’). I was about to call foul on this too, thinking that FETLOCK meant only the joint in a horse’s leg, but apparently it also means the tuft of hair over that region.
2 Biblical character in short, Abraham’s able child, originally (5)
ISAAC – first letters of In Short Abraham’s Able Child
3 Liberated status unsupported (12)
FREESTANDING – FREE (liberated) + STANDING (status)
4 Choose one colour, primarily, for drinks dispenser (5)
OPTIC – OPT (choose) + I + C (first letter of ‘colour’)
6 Bacterium having arisen, discards scraps (7)
GUBBINS – bacterium is BUG, ‘having arisen’ makes it GUB, + BINS (discards)
7 Sportingly where one would be putting colour (5)
GREEN – double definition, the first a golfy one.
8 Extraordinary pearl is close, phenomenal sight (5,7)
SOLAR ECLIPSE –  anagram (‘extraordinary’) of PEARL IS CLOSE
14 Fantasist in daughter, back to embrace me (7)
DREAMER –  D (daughter) + REAR (back) with ME inside
16 Unpredictable seat won with ease (2,5)
NO SWEAT – anagram (‘unpredictable’) of SEAT WON
17 Look hard, did you say, for step? (5)
STAIR – Sounds like STARE
18 Remove some platter, as empty (5)
ERASE – hidden word: plattER AS Empty
19 Serious accent (5)
GRAVE – double definition, the second one being that which helps the French distingush their où from their ou.

51 comments on “Quick Cryptic 1274 by Mara”

  1. I found this quite tricky and needed all of 13 minutes to complete it. GUBBINS, SOLAR ECLIPSE, FREESTANDING and the over-used and much-hated-by-me NO SWEAT, all required a bit of extra working out. In my book 3dn should be FREE-STANDING and Chambers agrees with me. It’s also in the ODO as the English version too but with FREESTANDING as the American alternative. Collins, not for the first time, has decided to follow the Americans and abandon the hyphen altogether.

    On 11ac, of the usual sources only COED (ODO in its on-line version) doesn’t mention ‘whale’ under ORC although ‘whale’ is only an example of the wider definition, ‘ferocious sea monster’.

  2. 28 mins

    Had giblits for 6d but returned to it because I couldn’t parse it, and was pretty sure it was giblets anyway.

    Liked gas and green.

    1. I did the same and it was my LOI so glad I had a bit of patience to work it out rather than just hope for the best
  3. Slowed down, a lot, by the 1s: I_F_O_ didn’t suggest anything whatever to me, and with 1d I spent a lot of time trying to think of sheep words: ewe, tup, teg, ram, none of them of course relevant. (Isn’t sheep a DBE here? Not that I mind.) And it didn’t help that, like Curarist, I never thought that FETLOCK could be hair. DNK GUBBINS. Never noticed the ORC problem. For what it’s worth, I was surprised by the absence of a hyphen at 3d. 7:59.
    1. You raise an interesting point, Kevin, and I’m sure it must have been discussed here before and I’ve forgotten what was said, but doesn’t DBE only apply if it refers to the actual answer to the clue, not to part of the wordplay (as here)?
    2. Isnt it sheep plural = flock so not a DBE? I didnt think of this while solving though
      1. It has to be plural here–although the syntax of the clue permits a singular reading as well–to clue FLOCK; but that’s not the point. Sheep are an example of a flock (a flock of geese, for example).
  4. Finished in about 13 minutes and my last two were 1d and 1a; so very much a back-to -front solve. I too thought ORC was wrong; it’s a mythical bird I think.
    However, just as yesterday, the computer did not like my entry. Solving online I did not write down the letters for the anagram at 8d and biffed TOTAL ECLIPSE. Slapped wrist and lesson learnt. David
      1. Thanks. You’re right.
        Can I be the first to say that ORC is the opposite in East London to a dove.
  5. 7.12 for me and possibly first time faster than Kevin. Only GUBBINS held me up at the end. Thanks for the blog
  6. I’m the last person to ask, Jack; for what very little it’s worth, I had thought the putative ban on DBE applied to any definition. But I really don’t know.

    Edited at 2019-01-25 08:22 am (UTC)

    1. Okay, but thanks for responding. I seem to have a mental block on the subject this morning so perhaps another seasoned solver will confirm, but it strikes me that it would be rather limiting for a setter to avoid them in wordplay.
    2. I wasn’t aware of any issue with DBEs. Personally I don’t have a problem with them as long as they are fairly indicated when appropriate. Notwithstanding, FETLOCK was my LOI because I wasn’t aware of the hair connection.

      I’ve come across ORC before in this context so was quite happy with it.

      My thanks as always to setter and blogger.

    3. What does DBE refer to? I’m not familiar with the acronym and can’t work out what it could be.
      1. I refer you to invariant’s comment, 5 comments from the bottom of the page(unless someone comments after sonofjim in the meanwhile)
  7. No problem for me with ORC for whale, which we had in this puzzle last April. Like others, it would seem, I was held up mostly by the NW corner with FETLOCK, TRACE and FLIP-FLOP my last 3 in. COD to GUBBINS as a lovely word. 6:34.
  8. Caused my own delay at 16dn missing the 2,5 and spent time toying with nascent. Like others, the 1’s were my final hold up – I had to get ‘futtock’ out of my head (from sailing) before it caused to much embarrassment. 10 minutes.
  9. I was weĺl over my target, held up by some difficult clues and by putting in EDGY for 4A. I have no idea why, it must have seemed a good idea at the time. I checked ORC in my Chambers app, one of the definitions is ‘a killer whale or Orca’. It also has a hyphen in 3D.


    Edited at 2019-01-25 09:49 am (UTC)

  10. ….almost PLANE sailing, but had I been solving online I would have been a DNF. Carelessly entered TOTAL ECLIPSE, but while going back over the finished product to select my COD, I spotted the error.

    TIME 3:09 originally, still sub 5 minutes after amendment.

  11. I did this for the first time via the Crossword Club! Very exciting. Unlike my time of 14:38. In my defence, however, I should point out that the software totally threw me, because it turn out that unlike when you solve online not via the Club, it skips over any letters you have already entered. As a head-down typist it took me ages to realise this and so the grid was covered in errors; I had to go back over it all and even then I missed one (SOOAR eclipse). So 14:38 but; sub 2 Kevins so I guess a Good Day but frustrated by the software!

    Otherwise same story as others – held up only in the NW, which is a shame because that’s where I always start, taking ages to get FLIP-FLOP and FETLOCK. DNK that ORC could be a whale but had to be the answer. Very enjoyable puzzle and blog, thanks Mara (Gaelic for the sea, no wonder there’s an old-school word for whale) and curarist.


    1. You can turn off the feature that skips over letters by clicking the gear wheel icon and playing with the options
    2. I’m just about getting to grips with the way that the online version works – I’ve been using it for the competition puzzles after solving on paper, but not using the leaderboard for fear of being a neutrino !

      I may try using it for the QC from Monday just to see how it affects my times – if I stay sub-five minutes, I may persevere. The 15×15 is a bigger leap of faith, although I can see advantages.

  12. About 7 minutes for this one. Nothing much to comment on, a lovely puzzle. Thanks to Mara and Curarist.


  13. A nice puzzle to end the week – and under 2 Kevins so my best recent effort. I flip-flopped around the grid, ending up in the NW corner (apart from my LOI GRAVE). I didn’t like ORC, thinking of orca instead and then moving on to Tolkien but it had to be correct (and, yes, I looked it up and learned something). FLIP-FLOP, GUBBINS, and FETLOCK were pleasing. Thanks to Mara and Curarist. John M.
  14. I thought I was going to exceed my 10 minute target, but a late rush of answers brought me back from the brink as the SW filled and I spotted FREESTANDING and LOI, FLIP FLOP, even leaving me time for a quick typo check, before I submitted at 9:50. I was also surprised by FETLOCK being hair as well as a joint. I always thought a GUBBINS was a device rather than a scrap, but the wordplay was clear. I wasn’t troubled by ORC as it has cropped up in the not too distant past. A nice puzzle. Thanks Mara and Curarist.

    Edited at 2019-01-25 01:15 pm (UTC)

  15. Always associated ORC with Lord of the Rings as opposed to ORCA the whale. Didn’t know FETLOCK also referred to the hair, and never come across GUBBINS in the sense of scraps. Since all were clearly clued it didn’t cause me a problem. Average solve for me.
  16. Some nice clues here today, I think, especially 17 across and 17 and 19 down. However, I also found some of today’s clues rather irritating, even verging into my own personal GR territory. Examples include 11 across, 1 down and 6 down. According to Wikipedia, the fetlock is a”metacarpophalangeal JOINT” (what an amazing Scrabble entry that first word makes, though). I think, therefore, that, including the word “hair “makes this clue unnecessarily convoluted. As for 6 down, isn’t “scraps ” a rather weak synonym for “gubbins”? Hmmmm… Anyway, thanks so much for the super blog and thanks, too, to Mara – even though you did cause me a rather dyspeptic breakfast this morning.
    1. Every time I see your avatar, Louisajaney, I want to ask: what is that woman doing? It looks to me as if she’s about to fling a book at someone.
      1. Haha!Looking at it again, I see what you mean.Whoops!This photo was taken when my book club stayed at a fantastic country house one autumn. Each of us was photographed draped in a curtain and whilst holding an item from the house to indicate our profession – I’m a teacher. Despite much provocation over the years, I’ve never chucked a book at anyone. Who knows, though? The lifespan is not yet over…
        1. I could have coped with books being thrown back in the day – unfortunately our RE teacher was a dead shot with a blackboard duster !

          Edited at 2019-01-25 01:33 pm (UTC)

  17. I agree that there is much to enjoy here. My personal opinion is that obscure uses and spellings (fetlock and orc) have no place in the quickie. Maybe I’m alone
  18. After commenting 2 days ago on all the clues I couldn’t solve and Jeremy’s extensive response, i completed with just one doublecheck on the plant. Orc and Fetlock were odd but following the parsing rules I am learning was confident they were right.
  19. 12 minutes for me – I have seen both severest and grave very recently but that may have been in a QC book that I got for Xmas.

    Had never heard of Speedwell (apart from the canal in the cavern in the Peak District), this is the type of answer I would have previously checked before putting it in but I’m taking Jeremy’s counsel from the blog a few days ago and trying to forego any outside checks on the QC from now on.

    1. I await correction by a botanist, but isn’t SPEEDWELL another name for the plant veronica ?
    1. I’m dissenting. A couple of less obvious words encourage closer attention to parsing the clue. By this, we improve our performance in the long run.
  20. Sub 12 mins which given I was very, very slow to start with FOI 7d GREEN is an acceptable end to the week. My last two in were 5a AGOG and 6d GUBBINS after a long time staring at the final G in 5a. I did try to invent a word for Snatch at 13a KIDNAP with my first effort ‘nodlad’. I’m another one confused by 11a ORC.

    Thanks Mara and curarist.

  21. Highly excited (AGOG – no, doesn’t sound right) to have completed this one. The delight in getting a 12 letter word early on surpassed any concerns about a hyphen. However, despite trying to work backwards from some of your comments I just cannot work out what a DBE is. I have learnt that a sheep could be one so can someone help please. As ever many thanks to blogger and setter. QCs are now a great joy in my day. L&I
    1. Definition by Example. The clue Sheep, perhap (3) could then have the answer Ewe, Ram, Tup etc

      Edited at 2019-01-25 04:19 pm (UTC)

      1. Definition by example is when an example of a class (ewe, ram, tup, etc.) is given in the clue as the definition for the class (SHEEP); it is generally considered bad form. ‘sheep’ cluing eg. EWE is OK.
  22. 6dn GUBBINS my WOD – no one has mentioned Major Colin Gubbins the operational head of the SOE during WWII.
    I have always wondered if the word derived from him?

    FOI 19dn GRAVe

    LOI 5ac AGOG


  23. If memory serves me correctly, Speedwell was named after the idiot who introduced it to the UK in the 19c, and has been a bane for anyone trying to cultivate a half decent lawn ever since. Anyway, 17ac was a write-in for me, but the NW corner was a real struggle and needed a second sitting – not helped by thinking short Abraham must be Abe, and then searching for an obscure breed of sheep for 1d. Roll on Monday. Invariant

    Edited at 2019-01-25 07:52 pm (UTC)

  24. Another in thegiblets brigade which caused all sorts of problems with the anagram ar 12a. 1a and 1d also slowed us up, after a fairly quick solve up to that point. Thanks for the dbe explanation. Abt 30m which is average for us.
  25. From neutrino to SCC with a sluggish 18.22. North west corner held me up longest. We used to play cricket against a side who opened the batting with two aged brothers called Gubbins. They didn’t often hit the ball off the square but were impossible to get out. OPTIC is the only answer which I could find with any remote link to Burns Night.
  26. I really struggled with this one and had to have a break for a couple of hours after I’d done just over half the grid, mainly in the bottom half. The NW was genuinely difficult but for the rest my brain just seemed to be stuck in neutral.
    Things picked up in my second sitting and eventually completed in 28.15.
    Thanks for the blog
  27. From neutrino to SCC with a sluggish 18.22. North west corner held me up longest. We used to play cricket against a side who opened the batting with two aged brothers called Gubbins. They didn’t often hit the ball off the square but were impossible to get out. OPTIC is the only answer which I could find with any remote link to Burns Night.
  28. Saturday solve – too busy yesterday. Strange how we vary – my first word, instantly seen, was FLIP FLOP, with a little thinking to see exactly how it was parsed. But I’d never heard of OPTIC in relation to drinks, and I couldn’t see GUBBINS. My COD, and the reason I bother to comment, is GREEN – I just loved the mis-direction, spending a long time thinking about where sporting colours might be positioned.

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