Quick Cryptic 2312 by Pedro

I found this one from Pedro to be on the harder side, with a fair number of clues that combined multiple elements and needed careful parsing. I just avoided the SCC, scraping home in 18:52.

Definitions underlined in blue italics, wordplay indicators in square brackets, synonyms in round brackets, deletions in squiggly brackets.

1 Urban area: it’s found within country’s borders (4)

IT inside the first and last letters [borders] of CitY.

Nice misdirection with “found within”: hands up everyone who tried to find the name of a town or city as a hidden word in “country’s borders”!  I toyed with creating the little-known Croatian town of SBOR for a while.

3 Doctor attending one in a game finishing early? That’s exciting (8)

DR + I (one) in A MATC{h} (game) without the last letter [finishing early].

8 50 per cent off? I’ll take that! (3,4)

Double definition, the second being an expression of assent.

10 Quick assault seizing power (5)

RAID (assault) + P (power)

11 A group of Titanic’s musicians, possibly, and call to them? (7,4)

A double definition. The Titanic’s musicians could be A BAND ON SHIP, and they certainly would have heard that cry.

The eight members of the Titanic’s band famously did not abandon ship and played tunes intended to calm the passengers as the ship sank.

13 Be against attitude presented by musical work (6)

OP (short for Opus) + POSE (attitude).

Opus is defined as both the identifier of a musical work and the work itself, so no issue with the definition.

15 Soldier laid back in beret for a quick snooze (6)

ANT (soldier) reversed [laid back] inside CAP (beret).

Personally, I think a cap and a beret are different types of hat, so a MER at this definition.

17 Fail to stay upright, being voluble in ocean, swimming (11)

VERBAL (voluble) inside an anagram [swimming] of OCEAN.

Slight MER at voluble = verbal, as I think of “voluble” as meaning “too wordy or chatty”.

20 A local name for European city displaying a certain atmosphere (5)

A + ROMA, as Rome is known to Italians [locals].

My LOI, as I was convinced that the “local” part was going to be a reference to a pub.

21 Revise legal document in Early English, putting King foremost (7)

WRIT (legal document) inside EE (Early English), with R for King (as in CR) at the start [foremost].

I think this clue escaped from the 15×15 puzzle. I didn’t know the abbreviation EE for Early English, although it does appear in the Shorter OED, the recent purchase of which has reinforced my kids’ opinion of my overwhelming word-nerdiness.

22 The favourable slant is overwhelming a stage performer (8)

THE + SPIN (favourable slant) including [overwhelming] A.

23 Risk taken with article still being tested? (4)

BET (risk taken) + A (article).

1 Never frantic, when upset about new spice (8)

NO (never) + MANIC (frantic), all backwards [upset] and including [about] N (new).

I biffed this from the crossing letters, and had to write it down backwards before I saw the wordplay. Another escapee from the biggie?

2 Some late trading will get you fish (5)

Hidden in [some] {la}TE TRA{ding}.

A tetra is a small freshwater fish, very common in home aquaria.

4 Match official in tie finally to improve (6)

REF (Match official) + IN + {ti}E [finally].

5 Spoils question about shops offering confectionery (11)

MARS (spoils) + HOW (question) surrounding [about] MALL (shops).

6 Pinch place after elevating skill in bowling? (7)

NIP (pinch, as in what a crab might do) + SPOT (place), all reversed [elevating, since this is a down clue].

7 Creation of Morse concerns Oxford detective Endeavour, primarily (4)

First letters [primarily] of Concerns Oxford Detective Endeavour.

A lovely surface reading about the fictional Oxford-based detective Endeavour Morse, created by Colin Dexter and the subject (or inspiration) of three separate TV shows so far: Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour.

The definition actually references the real-life Samuel Morse (1791 – 1872), inventor of the eponymous code.

9 Military advisors run off after ideas misfiring (5-2-4)

DECAMP (run off) after an anagram [misfiring] of IDEAS

12 Transient matters that man initially managed in record time (8)

HE (that man) + M{anaged} [initially] inside EP (record) and ERA (time).


14 Advertise seaside attraction, observe, not the first (7)

PROM (seaside attraction) + {n}OTE (observe) [not the first].

“Prom” is a contraction of “Promenade”, a common name for the beach-side walk where rock candy and postcards in dubious taste are (still?) sold in English sea-side towns.

Brooklyn, New York also has a “Promenade”, but it is never abbreviated to “prom”, and lacks the rock candy.

16 Area of Russia, not Southern European region (6)

{S}IBERIA (area of Russia) without S [not Southern].

18 Refusal is beginning to elicit uproar (5)

NO (refusal) + IS + E{licit} [beginning to].

19 Power supplied by piece of legislation and treaty (4)

P (power) + ACT (piece of legislation).

61 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2312 by Pedro”

  1. I found this harder than usual too. After my target 10 minutes, I only had about half the grid filled in. Then it all fell into place for a time of just under 15 minutes. I got CINNAMON immediately, because it was the only spice I could think of with the right number of letters, but I didn’t see how the wordplay worked so I never put it in until much later when it was obvious nothing else would work. Then I saw the backwards thing. Somehow, these things are always more difficult with down clues compared to across/horizontal clues. I, too, was looking for a pub/bar/inn for the ROMA one.

  2. Total struggle today. DNF needing lots of help. Couldn’t even parse quite a few clues. Felt that all the progress I’d made over the last year had been undone. COD Abandon Ship. Lots of other very nice clues just a bit too challenging for me. Nice blog DS and reassured that you took longer than normal.

  3. 11:56. Luckily I saw CITY straight away but I had trouble parsing others like OVERBALANCE and TOPSPIN which I had to biff and try to parse later. CINNAMON was tough for me too, not helped by latching on to the obviously incorrect “cilantro” which blocked any hope of alternatives coming to mind until I returned to it at the end.

    CODE was excellent, helped by Morse and his creator’s love of crosswords.

    Thanks to Pedro and Doofenschmirtz

  4. 16 minutes. This took me into my Red zone (15+ minutes) for the first time since last November so I’d definitely rate it at the harder end of the QC spectrum. There was nothing overly difficult in itself but several clues needed revisiting more than once before they gave up their secrets. I would mention for any newcomers that my QC times quoted always include parsing unless otherwise stated as I don’t just biff and move on.

    SOED defines beret as “a round felt or cloth cap that lies flat on the head, covering it closely (as traditionally worn by Basque peasantry); such a cap forming part of military uniform”. Collins also mentions ‘cap’ in all its definitions other than the COBUIILD one which mentions ‘hat’ instead. It gives the origin of beret as coming “from from French béret, from Old Provençal berret, from Medieval Latin birrettum = cap”, hence biretta as the name of the cap worn by priests.

    1. I stand corrected. It appears that I have to actually read my SOED in order to benefit from owning it. Who knew?

      In my defence, living in the US, the word “cap” (in the sense of a hat) is almost always preceded by “baseball”, and a baseball cap and a beret are very different things. But I should have checked the definition before being snippy: off to check the entry for “voluble” now…

      1. I thought your point was a good one, Doofers, which hadn’t occurred to me whilst solving and couldn’t be sure. It’s always useful to question things.

  5. Never did parse CINNAMON, so thanks Doofers – and for acknowledging it was a hard clue! After five in the first pass of acrosses there was still lots of work to do. Wondered if I’d need to know an exotic type of confectionary before MARSHMALLOW arrived and had a big smile on getting ABANDON SHIP, similarly for AIDES DE CAMP where the cryptic was certainly needed to help me get the camp bit. Ended up all green in 13, which I’m pretty pleased with. Good one.

    1. Beta is short for ‘beta test’, “a trial of machinery, software or other products in the final stages of development, …” (ODE sv beta test)

    2. It’s a term in the software industry: a beta version of a program is one you release in order to find issues that arise in real-world usage. The program is still being tested at that point.

  6. Pleased with 13’59”for a grid that yielded few straightforward answers after my immediate FOI 1ac.

    CINNAMON was LOI and in between I was challenged by AIDES DE CAMP, MARSHMALLOW, OVERBALANCE, REWRITE and others.

    On another day could easily have been a frustrated DNF.

    Thanks Pedro. Thanks Doof for a fine and enlightening blog.

  7. Oh dear. A struggle to finish under 30 mins. Could not parse CINNAMON and could only manage MARS +HM (UK shop chain) + ALLOW which I doubted. NHO TETRA fish but bifd it and finally ran out of time to DNF with last two in bottom R corner, EPHEMERA and BETA.
    All a bit tricky today but fair. Will walk slowly into the club and sink into my corner seat by the window while waiting to welcome a few more than usual. Coffee please.
    Thanks Doofers and Pedro.

  8. I thought I was being a bit dense as I inched my way through this one, so it’s reassuring to know I wasn’t the only one to find it difficult in places.
    Generally it was the parsing that proved trickier than getting the answers with CINNAMON being a prime example and I eventually gave up trying to parse LOI TOPSPIN.
    Other clues that proved stubborn included REWRITE, EPHEMERA and COD ABANDON SHIP.
    Finished over target in 11.41, which I’m reasonably happy with considering some of my struggles.
    Thanks to Doofers

  9. I’m glad it wasn’t just me that found this tough going. I gave up after 25 mins with only half the grid complete. Even when I saw the answers I struggled with some of the parsing.

    My teenage daughter thinks A BAND ON SHIP is “lame” but I liked it, so it’s my COD.

    Thanks to Pedro and Doofenschmirtz

    1. A BAND ON SHIP … what we used to call a pun but now they call a “dad joke”. No wonder your daughter didn’t like it!!

  10. Judging by my time this was the hardest QC this year so far. (Certainly harder than my last weekend QC). I agree with our blogger that a couple of clues wouldn’t be out of place in an average difficulty 15×15. I had slim pickings on the first trawl through the clues and pause for thought on several to work them out (e.g. CINNAMON). LOI MARSHMALLOW. Nice puzzle, though. I liked ABANDON SHIP and NOISE but COD to CODE for the clever surface. 7:12.

  11. I share the reaction of many bloggers above – this was the toughest for a long time and contained many clues worthy of the full Cryptic.
    I jumped around the grid (repetitively) finding scraps where I could and hoping for divine inspiration as I retraced my steps.
    Things accelerated when I got OVERBALANCE, AIDES DE CAMP, and MARSHMALLOW. More of my answers than usual came from biffs based on available crossers (followed by parsing). BETA took too long. My last in were CINNAMON and OPPOSE and they took me into the SCC by a couple of minutes.
    Doofer’s excellent blog will be be worth another look to put a fine but testing puzzle into perspective. COD CODE but ABANDON SHIP was clever. Thanks to both. John M.

  12. 11:28

    Yes, there were a few here which for the sake of speed, I initially overlooked too much parsing – DRAMATIC, CINNAMON, MARSHMALLOW and PROMOTE were each only semi-parsed when written in.

    Agreed too that some of these clues wouldn’t be out of place in the 15×15.

    Good puzzle though – enjoyed the challenge.

    Thanks P and D

    1. Mrs Random said that the expression on my face, after having completed my first pass through the clues, resembled your avatar. I wasn’t surprised, given my lack of progress at that stage.

  13. Some clever clues but there were quite at least a couple which were not at all apt for a quickie imo . Also ‘not half’ usually means I agree strongly doesn’t it rather than I’ll take that – otherwise it was witty clue. Thanks all.

  14. Hard yards, for the same reasons as others have already outlined. Limped home in 12:34 but WOE, fat-fingering REFINR for the dreaded pink square and a Bad Day.

    Many thanks Pedro and Doofers.


  15. DNF. OK LHS, RHS disaster. Failed on DRAMATIC (Frenetic!) so missed MARSHMALLOW, REWRITE, EPHEMERAL, and BETA though have met Beta websites.
    Liked CODE, ABANDON SHIP, AIDES DE CAMP, though I wd define the latter as assistants rather than advisors. (Pause, while I reminisce about glamorous ADCs)
    Thanks vm, Doofers. Blog much needed.

  16. Quick? One for the old hands I suspect. ABANDON-SHIP and AIDES-DE-CAMP (NHO) came late. Couldn’t parse CINNAMON, TOPSPIN, OVERBALANCE, OPPOSE. NHO TETRA.

    For a long time only had CITY, NOT-HALF (mate), REFINE, RAPID, CODE, BETA, TETRA. Somewhere around 25-30mins I saw CATNAP and which began a slow evolution around the grid. Mostly BIFs then breaking down the parsing.

    The SW held out until past the hour until finally THESPIAN and then a carefully thought through PACT (couldn’t get away from Law bef0re) to clock in at 1:09:42 !!

  17. Agree with others that this was a really tough QC test, and although outside target I was fairly pleased to finish in 11.30. I particularly liked the ABANDON SHIP clue, and I’m grateful to Kevin for explaining the parsing of BETA. I note that Pedro managed to get IBERIA into the grid, and wonder if in future he intends ‘doing an Oink’.

  18. All green but well into the SCC at 26:35 – probably with good company! Top half was nearly empty after first trawl but slowly managed to work my way up. FOI CITY, LOI TOPSPIN. Lots of useful info from blog (thanks, doof…) including the very clever surface for 7d – I had no idea Inspector Morse was Endeavour. COD ABANDONSHIP which really made me smile when I eventually got it (was convinced early on that the second word would be BAND). Needed the blog to parse several others so relief is probably today’s strongest emotion. Thanks Pedro, too.

  19. 25 mins…

    But based on the above comments, it seems like I did well to finish. Didn’t think the top half was too bad, but the bottom was an absolute drudge.

    When I eventually saw the answer to 23ac “Beta”, I knew this was on the tough side. I didn’t parse 1dn “Cinnamon”, but it definitely felt like it had come from the 15×15. Synonyms and then mixing it all up as well? Thankfully, the answer was fairly obvious (which is probably why it was in the QC to start with).

    Still not sure about 8ac “Not Half” – presuming it’s 50% = half, Off = not? As 50% is obviously half.

    FOI – 1ac “City”
    LOI – 20ac “Aroma”
    COD – 5dn “Marshmallow” – just because I like them.

    Thanks as usual!

  20. I really feel that some of the clues in this “QC” would be more at home on the 15×15. Sometimes it seems that the setters forget which puzzle they are writing for.

    I had to use all my lives for this one, and still had one clue I could not solve.

    I do think 11a was an excellent clue though.

    39:21 (DNF)


  21. Another tough one that took a while to get through. Delighted to finish without resorting to any help! Could not parse a few, but answers became obvious when a few letters were in. COD ABANDON SHIP.

  22. Mini 15×15 in places, though none the worse for that, nothing unfair, and the clues made me think a bit to parse. The QC should be preparation for the Times cryptic crossword (I think that’s its stated aim). Cryptic crosswords are difficult, even the “easy” ones. I think the QC should include “tricky”, or “unfair” definitions from time to time, and should use all the devices available to setters. Really obscure vocab probably shouldn’t be used, unless crossers and/or easy wordplay make it a write in. Otherwise you’re just preparing to complete easy cryptic crosswords. That’s my take on it anyway, for what it’s worth. I “had” to learn on the 15×15, because there was no QC, and believe me, that could be very dispiriting!

    Back to the puzzle, lots of very well constructed clues, including AIDES DE CAMP, EPHEMERA, CITY. However, ABANDON SHIP was my favourite. THESPIAN LOI.

    The longest solve time so far this year for me, after 5 below target times.

    Thanks to Doofers and Pedro.


  23. What a disaster! Into the SCC and out again the other side. In fact, I have lost track of how long this took. I did solve everything over two sessions, but a lot went in unparsed. In the past, I have often found Pedro’s clues to be very wordy, although recently they have a been a bit more succinct, but today I just ended up getting confused. Interesting that a lot of you enjoyed it even though it was a struggle – sorry to say that I just didn’t enjoy it. Not my best outing to Crosswordland.
    FOI City LOI Beta (too esoteric for a quickie in my view)
    But thanks anyway to Pedro, and big thanks to Doofers for the helpful and entertaining unravelling

  24. Tougher than the average QC. I never did parse CINNAMON, my penultimate entry, as it gave me the A for, LOI, A BAND ON SHIP and I just scanned quickly for typos and submitted. 8:52. Thanks Pedro and Doofers.

  25. A call at the door provided a welcome break from the struggle.
    On returning to finish, as the timer was by now meaningless, I settled down to go (necessarily) slowly through the clues. So – enjoyable but definitely not quick. I enjoyed a smile at ‘abandon ship’. Well blogged Doofers!

  26. Bucking the trend I came in 1 minute under target at 14 mins. Must be down to that indefinable thing called wavelength I suppose. Anyway I was definitely on it today. Never managed to parse either CINNAMON or TOPSPIN (thanks Doofers) but otherwise no great problems. NHO a fish called TETRA but it was clearly correct as I had t-t– at that stage. Enjoyed it, so thanks to Pedro.

    FOI – 1ac CITY
    LOI – 6dn TOPSPIN
    COD – 11ac ABANDON SHIP, closely followed by AIDES DE CAMP and CODE

  27. After an encouraging start in the NW, this turned into a tricky 25min solve with too many biff then parse answers. I also spent too long trying to squeeze Perish into Marshmallow, and Pier into Promote – not letting go of poor guesses is a real time waster. To ‘cap’ off today’s struggle, Beta took an alphabet trawl. However, a tip of the hat to Pedro for a Titanic band clue that, thankfully, didn’t involve a calumny. Invariant

  28. Very difficult puzzle requiring many a resort to word searches and then inability to parse. Had no idea why BETA equated to still being tested.

    1. Software is typically “Beta tested” on willing groups of users before it gets released. It has come to be popular phrase for third party testing anything before wholescale release to the world at large.

  29. Travelling this morning so only just done the puzzle. Completed in 13 minutes but far from all parsed – about 5 in the “I’m sure that’s right but I really don’t see how” camp. Seeing the comments from others I shall consider this a “glad to have finished” not a “shame not to parse them all” day.

    Abandon Ship my favourite; it is so clever that I’m tempted to ask if it’s an old favourite that has been seen before. If not, hat-tip to Pedro!

    Many thanks to Doofers for the blog, more than usually needed today.

    1. Once previously in a QC in 2016:

      Completely give up, like the Titanic orchestra?

      It also appeared that year in a Jumbo with a real clunker of a clue:

      As the Titanic went down, who played the captain’s last request?

  30. 19.05 I had the opposite experience to JamesEd46. I didn’t really get going until the bottom and had to go back to do the top. A good challenge though and thanks for the helpful blog.

  31. Although I got the answer, I am still puzzled by “supplied” in 19d, I can’t see what it doing there other than as a device to suggest the definition is power rather than treaty, and usually that is only seen as fair if it forms part of the wordplay. Am I missing something?

    1. Unless I’m missing something, I think it is just there to make the surface reading smoother. Although maybe it could be argued that P for Power is supplied by you, the solver. But that feels like a stretch.

  32. Much to my surprise after a very slow start I finished in exactly 1 hour. Had to biff quite a few and then parse to prove there were correct except CINNAMON which was not parsed.
    NHO TETRA as a fish rather than a game but it had to be the answer.
    COD was ABANDONSHIP followed by 16d IBERIA but lots of clever constructions.
    Many thanks Pedro and D for the blog.

  33. Are there any seats left for this regular in the SCC?

    For me, this was a day to forget the time element (35 mins or thereabouts if you’re interested) and just concentrate on cracking a tough puzzle.

    This QC certainly helped with my biffing skills (CINNAMON; AIDES DE CAMP; OVERBALANCE), but I was chuffed with myself for working out EPHEMERA, BETA and REWRITE.

    FOI – CITY (lulled me into thinking it was going to be a straight forward QC)

    Excellent blog as always Doofers.

    Sorry about the caps lock.
    This didn’t seem extra hard to me. Lot’s of good surfaces I thought.
    Hard to pick COD -Maybe CODE!

  35. Having read through the posts above, and after yesterday’s struggles with Hurley I am very pleased to report a 38-minute finish today – and moreorless fully parsed.

    I set off at breakneck speed (for me), getting CITY within the first minute. Reality struck at that point, however, and almost every solution had to be prised out of its clue from then on. I don’t know if some of today’s clues were more suited to the 15×15, but I know I had to work very hard to crack them. I also agree with hopkinb above, that we should be tested from time to time.

    Mrs Random crossed the line in 28 minutes and said she found it difficult, almost from start to finish.

    Many thanks to Pedro and Doofers.

    1. Well done Mr R – finishing this one is a real achievement. If Mrs R took 28 mins, it must have been hard! Particularly well done on the parsing, something I struggle with.

  36. harder than most
    Mer about 19 down as I think the clue is badly laid out especially as watt is a unit of power.

    1. P for power is pretty standard in crosswords . . .and easier to remember than Joules/second 😉

  37. 23:41

    The top half was ok but got really stuck in the bottom especially the SW corner where I initially had PROMISE, took an age to see AROMA and finally LOI PACT. Well over target today.

  38. 11.09

    Eked them out and tend to the view that there were no obscurities so tough but fair

    However I always have a MER at “no” for “never” as I struggle to see them as synonyms

    Thanks all

  39. Well, normal service well and truly resumed. Finished this morning, well into the SCC. Never did parse CINNAMON or OPPOSE. Took ages with AROMA which is something of a chestnut. Many thanks for the excellent blog and to Pedro – tough!

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