Quick Cryptic 2234 by Alfie

Nothing to frighten the horses in this neat offering by Alfie. There are a couple of little gems, such as 23ac. I was slowed down by biffing DUNGHEAP for 8 dn, but came in just under par at 5 and a bit minutes.

UPDATE: as usual I missed the hidden theme, so well spotted those who saw it. It’s a pangram (i.e uses all the letters), alphabetically arranged in little groups in the across clues, and flagged by 21dn. Nice!

1 Dick Bach’s unusual bird (8)
DABCHICK – anagram (‘unusual’) of DICK BACH
5 Nimble artist federation’s holding back (4)
DEFT – reversed hidden word: artisT FEDeration
8 Spooner’s suspended herb in filthy place (8)
DUNGHILL – Spooner would say HUNG DILL
9 In French, I must grasp fine gag (4)
JOKE – JE with OK inside
11 Twelve months is long, endless (4)
YEAR – Short for YEARN
12 Being collected from class, men misbehaving (8)
CALMNESS – anagram (‘misbehaving’) of CLASS MEN
13 Musical works being aspiration of Cockney artist’s (6)
OPERAS – cockneys drop their h’s so aspiration is ‘OPE. Add RA’S (Royal Academician’s) for artist.
15 Heard of one using tongue for strong drink? (6)
LIQUOR – sounds like ‘licker’
18 Ogreish thug reels, regularly making signs (8)
GESTURES – alternate letters of oGrEiSh ThUg ReElS
20 Animal doctor holding son’s garment (4)
VEST – VET with S inside
22 Which are in the conceited, for example, outsize? (4)
EGOS – EG + OS. I wondered if it was trying to be an &lit too, but I don’t think it quite works
23 Knocked off witty number (5-3)
FIFTY-TWO – anagram (‘knocked’) of OFF WITTY. Absolutely TOP anagramming, sir.
24 Alluring, singular, old partner seen with Yankee (4)
SEXY – S + EX + Y
25 Feeling of regret after taking in variable Cornish resort (8)
PENZANCE – PENANCE with the mathematical variable Z inside
1 Fly with parent, having extended parts of journey? (5-8)
DADDY-LONGLEGS – self-explanatory
2 Musicians taking a long time dressing (7)
3 Boundary hidden at first: I’ve found it! (2-2)
HA-HA – H for hidden + AHA!
4 Sound of shopkeeper in basement (6)
CELLAR -Sounds like ‘seller’
6 I hesitate to say some poetic lines are wearing (5)
7 Outrageously overrates true valuable find (8-5)
TREASURE-TROVE – anagram (‘outrageously’) of  OVERRATES TRUE
10 Bantu warriors: two grabbing member of parliament (4)
IMPI – MP inside II. The Impi can be seen being mown down in their thousands by rifle fire in the film Zulu (1964)
14 Touch on an objection? (4)
ABUT – A ‘but….’
16 Acceptable to tidy, as food left? (7)
UNEATEN – U (= acceptable, according to Nancy Mitford ) + NEATEN
17 Cat made of iron cable (6)
19 Our brief to be welcomed by half a dozen native Americans (5)
SIOUX – OU[r] inside SIX
21 Guide visiting Australia (1,2,1)

67 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2234 by Alfie”

  1. This took me 32 minutes and having finished I’m not sure why.
    I started fast enough with FOI: DABCHICK the Little Grebe then DADDY LONGLEGS and the connecting clues but just relaxed and enjoyed the rest at a slower pace.
    LOI: FIFTY-TWO as I also had SIXTY TWO written to one side until I spotted it was an anagram. Also a pangram which runs down the grid.

  2. 12 minutes. The parsing at 21dn gives a hint of what’s going on in this puzzle by Alfie who specialises in letter games.

  3. I always get nervous when I see a clue like 25ac, since I never know what county an English town is in; except for PENZANCE, thanks to the pirates thereof. LOI the lovely FIFTY-TWO. 5:53.

  4. 10.00

    I wasn’t sure about this offering from Alfie when solving it but I like it more now I’ve finished it.

    FIFTY-TWO was good. DEFT loi and took a while even when I realised I was hunting for a hidden

    Thanks all

  5. DNF, with some missing in NE:

    Tried JAPE, maybe AP= fine somehow? Then IAMBS for poetic lines, then perhaps EN for “in French”. “Artist”, and “back” provided misdirection. Round in circles with nothing working.

  6. A curious mixture of some very simple clues and some real head scratchers for me today. I’d never heard of DABCHICK so needed all the checkers for that one, was looking at the wrong end of the clue for BANDAGE and almost went cross-eyed trying to pick out the alternate letters for LOI GESTURES.
    Started with DEFT and TREASURE TROVE and then worked my way from east to west, finishing after a very hurried proofread in 9.59.
    Thanks to Curarist

  7. I glanced at the 1s and then looked at the setter’s name. Then I just relaxed into it because I knew I wasn’t going to solve within target. BANDAGE and HAHA were my FOsI as I needed checkers before committing to the NHO DABCHICK. I didn’t solve DADDY-LONGLEGS until much later. My LOI was the last across clue PENZANCE but I was limping around the grid before I reached it. 14:33 for a poor day.

  8. Having entered the NHO DABCHICK and IMPI I was susceptible to an odd word and went for dunghole, a slightly cleaned up version of something similar – and it sounded feasible if I used an Australian accent. Plus, and I’m speaking as a geography graduate here (!), I’m not sure a DUNGHILL is a place. I got the ‘hung’ bit of the spoonerism but was too quick to accept ‘dole’ as a herb. Two pink, one error.

  9. Another DUNGHOLE so a DNF for me in just over 6 minutes. I enjoyed the sequential 21D in the across answers. Thank-you Curarist and Alfie. Nice one!

    1. I also had dunghole John, the only difference between us being about 45 minutes for me to get there!

  10. For a puzzle with such a clever concept it didn’t feel over contrived, so hats off to Alfie. It seemed likely to be a pangram from fairly early on, but the ordering of it only dawned on me very late on, and the ATOZ was a very neat inclusion. Good fun for a Friday.

  11. For a reason I can’t explain, I found someof the wordplay strange, but enjoyed the puzzle so many thanks to Alfie and to Curarist for confirming my guesses were correct. DNK IMPI or DABCHICK, biffed with crossers, and hesitated with 52, DEFT, ERODE and HAHA among others. FOI TREASURE TROVE (having only pencilled in DEFT), LOI the clever UNEATEN and COD 52: which a meaner setter mght have defined as PACK!

  12. Daddy longlegs I only know as that ubiquitous spider you find in the corners of the ceilings. Do you call them that too or have a different name for them if you call a type of fly daddy longlegs?

    Today I learned that a ha ha is a type of retaining wall.

    1. Did your husband not romance you with tales of retaining walls and all things brickwork during your dating years? 😀

    2. A ha-ha does have a retaining wall but it is more a hidden ditch to avoid making a fence or wall to spoil the view of one’s park or fields.🦌🐏🐄 are thus unable to reach one’s croquet lawn.

      1. I should have known HAHA from Discworld’s own architect Bloody Stupid Johnson and his hoho (like a haha, but 50 feet deep and has claimed three Palace gardeners).

  13. DUNGHOLE my downfall. I even thought as I put it in that I’d never heard of the herb DOLE.

    LOI and COD to FIFTY TWO.

    I was struggling a bit anyway in the bottom right, and was well over target at 8:40


  14. Oh, was feeling rather smug but see I was actually in a Dunghole. Moral: go back and parse properly.
    Seemed quite an easy and enjoyable puzzle though almost stuck on LOI CALMNESS.
    And AtoZ helped with PENZANCE.
    Thanks vm, Curarist.

  15. Slowed by the very smart FIFTY TWO and beaten by DUNGHILL like others going for ‘hole’ – stupidly as I know ‘dill’ as a herb and dunghill as a word.

    Great puzzle thanks Alfie and Curarist

  16. No time today after COVID booster yesterday which appears to have wiped me out. I have a very busy few days ahead, so hopefully I’ll feel better later. I was on the lookout for something alphabetical from Alfie, and pleased to spot the pangram. I didn’t spot 52 though, so it’s a DNF for me.

    1. Hope you get better fast Rotter. This round of vaccines seems to have a bit more side effect than previous ones – I was pretty low for about 48 hours.

    2. I’ve had 6 Covid jabs now (the latest last week) and with no reaction to any of them. There’s a theory that blood-type has some bearing, with O as the least likely to be affected but I don’t know whether it’s true.

  17. Back after a short break to a puzzle from Alfie which I found really testing.
    FOI DABCHICK which I assumed might exist. Other clues confirmed it. Then quite good progress but DUNGHEAP and LICKER were rather careless.
    Had I got DADDY LONGLEGS more quickly ,things might have been different. 23 minutes in the end with LOI GESTURES ,narrowly avoiding GESTURER.
    Enjoyed the puzzle and assumed it was a pangram, but that did not help me at all.

  18. Not quite a stampede, but the horses were definitely restless as I hopped around the grid trying to make sense of the often incomprehensible. Finally came to a halt after 25mins, with a gap in the NE corner waiting for 6d to turn up. The iffy parsing of Jape for 9ac didn’t lend any confidence to a possible Erase, and (eventually) even I could see that Joke/Erode were better fits. CoD to 23ac, Fifty-two, for the smooth surface. Invariant

  19. I only got about half of the clues on this difficult crossword.

    I’ve seen Spooner in several cryptic clues, but I’ve never understood the Spooner reference. I Googled Spooner and now I understand.

    A very poor week for QCs for me. Let’s hope next week is better.

  20. DNF as I could not see the 5a, 6d and 9a block in the NE corner. Struggled also with FIFTY-TWO and guessed IMPI (NHO). Not a good day!

  21. On the contrary Curarist, my horse bolted and sped off down the lane ensuring I finished in 33 mins.

    However, on reflection it wasn’t too bad – I just couldn’t see some obvious clues. 1dn “Daddy Longlegs”, for example, had me swearing when I finally realised it wasn’t to do with aircraft. Dnk 1ac “Dabchick” nor 10dn “Impi” but they were obtainable. Will have to go and look up the “U” for acceptable – I think I’ve seen it before but it’s been a while.

    FOI – 3dn “Haha”
    LOI – 8ac “Dunghill”
    COD – 23ac “Fifty Two”

    Thanks as usual!

  22. Lovely puzzle today, very much enjoyed although DNF. I was whizzing through nicely until stopped by DEFT and ERODE, neither of which I could solve before giving in at 30 mins. No time to linger so thanks to Curarist for the blog.

    Coukd somebody help me with why ‘U’ means ‘acceptable’? I have seen it as ‘upper class’ (which is the Nancy Mitford definition) and cannot find anything on the internet to explain how it can mean acceptable.

    COD to A TO Z.


    1. U and non-U were fairly standard for upper/decent/ acceptable etc, and the equivalent opposites, at a time when PLU (people like us) and FHB (family hold back) were also in vogue. All quite dated now, which is why they feature in crosswords. . .

  23. 6:08 this morning, slower than normal sorting out the anagrams, as exemplified by staring for what seemed ages at LOI 12 ac “calmness”.
    For once, spotted the pangram but not the sequencing of the letters until mentioned by our blogger. A really clever construction by Alfie which didn’t impact at all on the quality of the individual clues.
    Particularly liked 23 ac “52” and 1 d “Daddy Longlegs”.
    Newcomers shouldn’t be disheartened by what was a trickier than average QC imo – rather, enjoy a fine example of the crossword setter’s art.
    Thanks to Curarist and setter for a fine end to the week.

  24. I thought this was tough but fair as my time of 11.18, a minute or so outside target reflects. Even then it has to count as DNF as I stupidly substituted the O for an E in LIQUOR. Some of the clues took me a while to parse, UNEATEN and FIFTYWO being examples. COD certainly goes to the latter, which was so well disguised as an anagram.
    The HA-HA at 3dn was a landscaping device, often in the form of a sunken ditch, that was extensively used by landscape gardeners in Georgian times. An example can be seen in the grassland slopes that form the foreground to the beautiful Royal Crescent in Bath.

  25. Very much enjoyed this puzzle which took me 13 minutes. For some unknown reason I decided to start at the end for a change, and 21D A to Z was my FOI. This and the setter’s identity gave away what to look for and certainly made it both easier and a fun solve.

    Having said that, is one ever “at” a country? In Oz perhaps, but At Oz? Not the only very slightly loose one, IMO – the surface of 22A (“Which are in the conceited…”) is perhaps a bit clunky, and “are wearing” = Erode is also a bit odd as the parts of speech don’t seem to match at all.

    Minor points though on a very nice puzzle. Many thanks to Curarist for the blog and a good weekend to all.

    1. It doesn’t have to be ‘at a country’, the two words can be defined separately. ‘At’ can mean visiting – “I was at Dave’s”

  26. I loved this puzzle. A two-espresso battle at 7am. It seemed to me to be a perfect QC….a mixture of write-ins and head scratchers, with some GK required (1ac, 10d for example) but all possible to solve from the wordplay. I am still smiling at 8c, five hours later. It took me about 20mins, but who’s counting?

  27. Very tricky, I’d say, and I felt uncomfortable somehow throughout the solve. Having said that, I finished in 31 minutes, which is still quite good for me. My FOI was JOKE and LOI was EGOS, after correcting it from EcOn. FIFTY-TWO was very clever, as was HA-HA. I had NHO DABCHICK or IMPI, and so had to cross my fingers at the end.

    Many thanks to Alfie and Curarist.

  28. Tricky one, I also hesitated with liquer/liquor, having fallen on this before.
    52 and uneaten held me up the longest as I forgot U for acceptable.
    COD 52 or daddy longlegs.

  29. 15:50. A TO Z and FIFTY-TWO almost remained ungettable for me but I finally thought of Oz for Australia and then saw”knocked” as anagrind. UNEATEN was my favourite. I went through dungheap and dunghole before seeing DUNGHILL. Penance as regret and fly for DADDY- LONGLEGS didn’t seem right at the time but what do I know? Appreciated blog for clearing everything up!

  30. I wondered if there may be more to the A-Z theme here with FIFTY TWO being twice that number of letters. It almost suggested a double-pangram may be lurking , but sadly not.

  31. Not at all on Alfie’s wavelength today – beaten by 16dn UNEATEN, which I had to resort to an aid to get after 26 minutes. Noticed the pangram as I struggled on but it didn’t really help as I hadn’t spotted that the letters appeared in order reading across. Very clever.

    FOI – 11ac YEAR
    LOI – DNF
    COD – maybe because it was all such a struggle, nothing really stood out for me.

    Thanks to Alfie and Curarist

  32. All sorts of problems for me today. Had HI-FI (first letters of hidden I’ve found it) but why a boundary? Because of the F had LANDFILL for the filthy place and so thought 1d was DAILY or DELAY to do with journeys. Took a while to untangle all that and didn’t see the witty anagram so ? 52 or 62. Was annoyed not to spot the pangram as I usually check as soon as I see Z, J, Q etc.

  33. Enjoyed this, finishing in 17:20. I spotted the theme for the first time ever, which helped me because my LOI needed a W, which led to the “oh, maybe it’s an anagram” moment, which led to the answer. FOI BANDAGE, LOI & COD FIFTY-TWO. Thanks to setter & blogger.

    1. Not bad Ian. I think you will see from the comments that this was tough. Well done for sticking at it.

  34. A late start for me and I found it a mix of straightforward and decidedly quirky clues. I missed my target by a minute but perhaps that wasn’t too bad, given some of the comments above.
    Thanks to both. John M.

  35. Clever stuff which took 14 minutes to unravel. The pangram became apparent but thanks for pointing out the grouping and the pointer.

  36. Finished in 2 sittings but one wrong – had ‘anul’ for ABUT. Knew it didn’t parse but just couldn’t think of anything else… Very enjoyable. Liked A TO Z. Thanks all.

  37. I caught that it was a pangram but not that all 26 letters appeared in alphabetical order — what an absolutely delightful conceit!

    Finished in around an hour, mostly steady plodding through, not as much squinting and mumbling as usual. The one spot that had me absolutely tearing my hair out was putting AH-HA in for HAHA and then trying to anagram “dick bach” to fit D_B_A_C_. Dibhacck? Dkbcaich? I’m still exhausted!

    Oh, and FIFTY-TWO threw me off just because I’m always surprised to see a number as the answer in a crossword. I mean obviously the word for a number is still a word, but somehow my brain thinks the two can’t coexist or something!

  38. I belong to the VSCC (typically over 40 mins) but enjoyed this. Kicked myself on several occasions at being taken in by the surface. Had to look up IMPI, are these well known in Crosswordland? Thanks Alfie for (to me) a challenging but eventually doable puzzle.

    1. It’s definitely worth looking out for Impi, although they’re probably more frequently spotted in the biggie!

  39. Never really got on the wavelength today and took 45 mins for a DNF as put dunghole for 8ac. Thought this was an Australian term but should have concentrated on the parsing. I thought this was a tough but very fair offering. Only knew 10dn as a result of Zulu. Didn’t know u meant acceptable.

    Thank you for the blog.

  40. Just got round to this – so only a techie question – I see it worked well today but do pangs always have to show in alphabetical order? Vinyl1 mentions this above. I hadn’t noticed this hitherto.

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