Quick Cryptic 2561 by Myles


Myles has set what for me was a puzzle which provided a good challenge without being too fiendish. Finished in 10:33.

There are a few which I can’t explain properly so I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say. Only having one (partial) anagram (as a wordplay device anyway) and several cryptic definitions didn’t make things any easier.

It won’t help me be a better player (no hope), but I now know a little more about chess terminology thanks to 10a and 2d.

Thanks to Myles and a happy New Year to everyone.

Definitions underlined in bold.

7 Composer discernible in subtle harmonies (5)
LEHAR – Hidden (‘discernible’) in ‘subtLE HARmonies’)

A not too difficult one to start with.

8 A couple of animals shot for host, say (7)
ANAGRAMA (‘A’) NAG RAM (‘couple of animals’)

‘Shot’ is an anagram of ‘host’. Neat, though the clue specifies only two animals.

10 Players, guided, moved two men defensively (7)
CASTLEDCAST (‘Players’) LED (‘guided’) with extended definition

Our first chess reference. I’d heard the term often enough (yes, mostly in crosswords) but didn’t know exactly what castling was. It is a special move in which the king moves two spaces to the left or right while the rook on that side moves to the opposite side of the king. It is the only chess move allowing two pieces to be moved at the same time. There are also a few conditions which have to be satisfied. This link from chess.com explains it with pics.

11 Fellow holding me back is evil genius (5)
DEMONDON (‘Fellow’) containing (‘holding’) EM (‘me back’=’me’ reversed)
12 Its players are a shade lighter than their traditional opponents (9)
CAMBRIDGE – Cryptic definition

There may be more to this than I can explain. CAMBRIDGE are the “light blues” vs. Oxford who are the “dark blues” (named from the shade of blue they wear) eg in the Boat Race and other sporting events, hence ‘players’.

14 Neanderthal starting on all fours (3)
OAF – First letters (‘starting’) of On All Fours

The poor old Neanderthals are a byword for OAFish behaviour, though from the TV programmes I’ve seen about them, they seemed to have been quite intelligent.

15 Severely criticise Peter in theatre (3)
PAN – Definition with cryptic hint (‘Peter in theatre’= Peter PAN)
16 What seasonally encourages a romantic understanding? (9)
MISTLETOE – Cryptic definition
18 A great American author or two (5)
TWAIN – Double definition

“Mark” and “ne’er the…”

20 Look left on plane for its destination (7)
AIRPORTAIR (‘Look’) PORT (‘left on plane’=left side of plane)

‘Plane’ is there for the def to make sense; could also be a boat (though I don’t think I’ve heard PORT and starboard being used for other forms of transport).

22 Slowly move young woman back, straggler (7)
LAGGARDDRAG (‘Slowly move’) GAL (‘young woman’) all reversed (‘back’)
23 Philanthropist’s name inscribed in entrance (5)
DONORN (‘name’) contained in (‘inscribed in’) DOOR (‘entrance’)
1 Kind of letter that’s written to be financially obstructive (5,7)
BLOCK CAPITAL – Definition with cryptic hint. To BLOCK CAPITAL is one way of being ‘financially obstructive’

‘Letter’ being a character, not a missive.

2 Bishop, for one, whose position is determined by rank and file (8)
CHESSMAN – Having only heard of ‘rank and file’ in a military sense, I didn’t understand the wordplay and had to look it up. In chess terminology, ‘rank’ refers to the eight (horizontal) rows on the chess board, numbered 1 to 8 and ‘file’ to the eight (vertical) columns, lettered a to h. Serendipitously I happened to first find this on Big Dave’s Blog “Chess Terminology” page.
3 Test in Oval with area separating sides (4)
ORALO (‘Oval’) A (‘area’) between (‘separating’) R L (‘sides’=Right and Left)

I can’t remember seeing O for ‘Oval’ before; I think it’s referring to the shape of an ‘oval’, like an upper case O, rather than its first letter.

4 Frank, Charlie and I would (6)
CANDIDC (‘Charlie’) AND (‘and’) ID (‘I would’=I’d)
5 Distort shared lines for aggressive marketing (4,4)
HARD SELL – Anagram (‘Distort’) of SHARED and LL (‘lines’)
6 Advocating for Mahler’s first for concert (4)
PROMPRO (‘Advocating for’) M (‘Mahler’s first’=first letter of ‘Mahler’)
9 GBS and RLS, for example (3,2,7)
MEN OF LETTERS – Cryptic definition.

Two male writers, George Bernard Shaw and Robert Louis Stevenson, who are often identified by their initials (‘letters’)

13 East European‘s craziness depicted in series (8)
RUMANIANMANIA (‘craziness’) contained in (‘depicted in’) RUN (‘series’)
14 Going to be published before spring (8)
OUTBOUNDOUT (‘to be published’) coming in front of (‘before’) BOUND (‘spring’)

A couple of separations in the surface reading, between ‘Going’ and ‘to be published’ and between ‘before’ and ‘spring’, required here.

17 Small and convenient mixed drink (6)
SHANDYS (‘Small’) HANDY (‘convenient’)
19 A journey across river for legendary vessel (4)
ARGOA (‘A’) GO (‘journey’) containing (‘across’) R (‘river’)

‘Journey’ as a verb for GO in the wordplay.

21 Attempt to improve some wine circle (4)
REDORED (‘some wine’) O (‘circle’)

See also 3d

153 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2561 by Myles”

  1. 9:47. MISTLETOE and CAMBRIDGE held me up longest as I couldn’t figure out the wordplay for either. Very pleased when what was going on finally hit me.

  2. I finished this one. But I must admit I didn’t enjoy any of it, which is unlike me.

    I am *very proud* that after biffing ROMANIAN I went back and parsed it and changed it to RUMANIAN which I never heard of but made sense

    I heavily disliked the cryptic definitions of CAMBRIDGE and MISTLETOE. There’s nothing to work out, imo, very much iykyk clues.

    GBS and RLS both mean Guerre Barre Syndeome and Restless Legs Syndrome to me respectively, and when I googled both acronyms that’s what I got (tbf, Google probably knows I’m more likely to be googling various ailments than authors and dishes results up accordingly) and so my LOI was MEN OF LETTERS that I biffed and even afterwards had no idea who GBS and RLS were until the blog.

    I thought CHESSMAN was weak and I don’t understand why LL is ‘lines’

    And I only just figured out why ‘air’ is ‘look’ now (it’s a noun, Tina)

    Also why is a demon an evil genius?

    1. Well done with RUMANIAN, indeed! I only know that as the way you *don’t* spell ROMANIAN (!)

      L as an abbreviation for “line” is in the dictionaries, so I suppose two lines could give you LL? I am struggling tho to think of any context in which I’ve seen L for line.

      Demons can certainly be evil spirits, or (figuratively) geniuses. Both together may perhaps be poetic licence?

      1. Ah I’ve never heard of demon figuratively used for a genius…

        I guess if someone is a demon at chess….

        1. I think the DEMON clue is a triple definition (well, actually, a double definition plus the wordplay – I’m not sure I’ve seen this structure before but I can’t imagine Myles is the first to use it). As an adjective, it means ‘evil’ (e.g. demon barber of Fleet St) and, as a noun, ‘genius’, as stated above. But it would never specifically mean an ‘evil genius’. That would be a demon demon.

    2. “l” stands for ‘line’ of text (p.7, l.4). Plural lines, ll. (Similarly, N=new, NN=news.) ‘Line’ can also be RY (railway).

    3. Sorry Tina, forgot to click on the “Reply” button. Please see my response below.

    4. Same for me here, hate to say I just gave up in a huff blaming new years fogginess. So I’m glad to see others had the same struggles as me (albeit with more perseverance!)

      1. Seeing your comment gave me some consolation- there was a lot of tutting and sighing from me !

    5. totally agree- didn’t enjoy this and felt that several of the clues weren’t word play or even properly cryptic and required too much specialist knowledge. I enjoy clever word play, so Myles is now my least favourite setter!

    6. Guillain-Barré Syndrome first described by Landry but he never got much recognition. (Thanks to my brief career in Neurology).
      On the other hand I assumed ‘craziness’ was ‘rum’ and biffed ‘anian’ but still took 35 minutes and finished a day late. At least I should get back in sync on Saturday. Happy New Year.

  3. I am not at all proud of biffing ROMANIAN and not bothering to parse it.
    I didn’t care for 12ac; it’s only barely cryptic. 5:19 WOE

  4. For ‘lines’, I think of L (in lower case) as an abbreviation for ‘line’, say when referring to a line number in a piece of writing, so ‘lines’ = L L. To me a DEMON can be a baddie, as in an evil spirit, though it can also mean someone who is very good at something. Collins has, as sense 3 for DEMON: “Also called: daemon, daimon an attendant or ministering spirit; genius”. Seems to be one of those words you can use to mean what you want it to mean.

  5. I too was puzzled by the DEMON ref and then thought of Fred ‘The Demon’ Spofforth, a 19C Australian cricketer who was called that because he could bowl very fast, not because of some association with the underworld. 8.08 for me, I think I’m returning to match fitness after a bit of time out. I also initially fell into the trap of spelling RUMANIA correctly. COD to ANAGRAM, thanks Myles and BR. Will miss The Rotter.

  6. Didn’t enjoy this one, and DNFed at 30 minutes missing CAMBRIDGE, ANAGRAM, and RUMANIAN.
    Cryptic definitions are often unsatisfying and usually make me feel like the setter is trying to show off more than anything. I feel like if you don’t see the answer then there isn’t much you can do to solve them, and even if you spot the answer from crossing letters, you often don’t have any reassurance from the clue that the answer is correct. I assume for the older British crowd this is less of a problem since the references are generally targeted at them.
    It will be interesting to see the QSNITCH on this puzzle. I have a theory that it under-scores tricky puzzles that less experienced solvers can’t finish. I’d guess seasoned solvers would write CAMBRIDGE in immediately, but us mere mortals struggle, and many of us wouldn’t be able to reach RUMANIAN. I had a look at the QSNITCH vs average solving time and they are correlated (albeit not strongly), so I think there is some truth in the fact that slower solvers find harder crosswords relatively more difficult. This might also explain why the more experienced solvers find it annoying when there are complaints about a hard QC, since something just a bit harder than average for them, is quite a lot more difficult for the slower solvers.

    1. I don’t think times with DNFs or errors count in the snitch either (be glad to be told I’m wrong) which means those puzzles with that one tricky clue often get marked with a low QUITCH score whereas newbies are agonising and dragging out their times over one clue

    2. I agree with your assessment. I love the notion of the Quick SNITCH, but I also reckon the gradient of increasing difficulty is shallower for experienced solvers than it is for less-experienced ones.

      What could you do to compensate? You could either:
      1) broaden the SNITCH’s base to include more less-experienced solvers (though I suspect data limitations preclude that); or
      2) have a separate scale for less-experienced folk. So a 93 score (this puzzle’s score at the time writing) might be rated as “harder” for us mortals and “easier” for the QC demons (😜). That approach, of course, is still fraught with problems like which type of solver you are, when do you suddenly switch from one type to another etc.

      In summary, I think we’re stuck with the QUITCH algorithm (all kudos to the provider by the way – I think it’s a lovely piece of analysis), and just have to interpret the score for ourselves as individuals. For me, therefore, a 93 is not “easier”, it is definitely “harder” as I DNF after 30 mins with several answers missing.

      1. Firstly to say, none of the following is a criticism of the time and effort that starstruck_au has done in creating the SNITCH/QUITCHes. Even with its limitations, I have found it useful within context.

        By its methodology, the Quitch is geared to showing how quickly the crossword can be done when everything goes right for a particular group of reference solvers. And if they don’t feature in the top 100 solving times on The Times website leaderboards their time doesn’t count towards the Quitch. (I may be wrong about this and stand corrected if so)

        I’ve stated elsewhere that discounting DNFs or incorrect answers loses valuable info towards difficulty.

        In the ideal world, you would simply create the Quitch value off the same group of solvers every day. But how you get that data and verify its accuracy is problematic. Expanding it to show us lesser-mortals would surely give a more interesting view of the data.

          1. Its legends says there are 4 categories:
            – Reference solver used for SNITCH
            – Other Reference solver
            – Tracked solver
            – Blog solver

            Doesn’t that mean only the 1st group are used towards creating the Quick SNITCH value?

            1. We will need starstruck to confirm, but what would be the point of collating the other data if it wasn’t used for the snitch.

    3. I’m a seasoned solver, I suppose, but CAMBRIDGE was my last one in after RUMANIAN gave me the last checker.

        1. Hmm. I can be a bit salty, I suppose. I was just replying to the original comment about CAMBRIDGE probably being a write-in

    4. I’ve thought about this a lot. I came to the conclusion that the Quitch is accurate, it’s just that my idea of what is hard doesn’t match up to what it shows.

      If my 85-year-old mother took up crosswording tomorrow, she would say every one of these grids is hard. You could give her a grid full of hidden word or initials clue and she’d still fail to see it. A Quitch of 6o or 140 would both be difficult to her. Between her and the elites, there is a continuum of difficulty.

      How do you define a hard QC?
      Is it one where you can only get one answer every two minutes thereby taking 50mins to solve it ..
      … or one where you get 24 answers in ten minutes and then struggle for 40mins for the last clue?
      Are they both hard?
      What happens if I get that last clue quickly, does that make it an easy QC?

      Ponder on …

      1. The Quitch is “accurate”, because it is a derived figure from real solving times. But I wholly agree with you that the correlation between the Quitch and whether one finds a puzzle hard is complex and certainly not linear. And will differ for every individual. For example a very experienced solver might find that a higher Quitch takes him or her from 4 minutes to 5 minutes, it might take me from my usual 12 minutes to 20+, and it might take some other solvers from 30 minutes to a DNF.

        1. Yes, Cedric. I agree with your conjecture about varying difficulty on different levels of solver. I’m less sure about accuracy though, as some of our expert solvers admit to submitting “off the leaderboard” when they’re not sure they’ve got everything correct. That’s a form of data corruption IMO., which in turn makes the Quitch slightly less reliable.

    5. Yes I too wondered whether the QSNITCH had little value when many of the slow solvers simply DNF. Also yes, where it’s “harder than average” for experienced solvers, it can mean DNF for the likes of me.

  7. 9 minutes. I had no problems with RUMANIAN as it was the spelling I was taught at school. My AI assistant advises as follows:

    Romania was spelled “Rumania” in English for a long time. The spelling with “u” was adopted from the French “Roumanie” in the 19th century and remained the preferred form until the 1990s when “Romania” became the dominant spelling in English. The switch wasn’t an official event but rather a gradual shift driven by linguistic and political factors. It’s a fascinating example of how language evolves and adapts over time.

    The clue that gave me most food for thought was to my last one in, OUTBOUND, but eventually I realised that if a book (for example) is advertised as ‘out’ in February 2024, it means that’s when it’s ‘to be published’.

    I understand that some dislike cryptic clues just as I hate those involving spoonerisms, but whereas I am certain that crosswords could survive without the good doctor, I’m not sure that cryptic puzzles would be true examples of the form if they contained no cryptic definitions. Re CAMBRIDGE, for example, what makes it interesting and more than ‘barely cryptic’ is that its surface might suggest the answer will be the name of a game or sport rather than that of a team.

    On chess terminology and notation I recently learned from a clue here (and have hopefully stored it away for future use) that 0-0 is used to indicate castling on the King’s side of the board, and 0-0-0 indicates castling on the Queen’s side. The former can be very useful to indicate the letters OO in a crossword answer.

    1. Jack, the 90s was 30 years ago, which is probably at least half of most people’s lives here. I think that it would be fair in a QC that the current (as of the past 30 years!!!) spelling be used

      However, wordplay did very much point to the other spelling, even if it was an unchecked square

      1. Oh yes, I tend to agree with you. I only mentioned it to give background and to explain why I didn’t personally have a problem although I admit I tried ROMANIAN first before I looked at the parsing.

      2. I disagree quite strongly that the 90’s were 30 years ago, despite all evidence to the contrary! Surely they were just a blink ago?

        1. Well I was small in the 90s and my back is telling me I’m old now, so I do feel like it was eons ago 😂

      3. Tina, next thing you’re going to try and tell us the sixties were 60 years ago- yah right!

    2. I don’t know where, if anywhere, this takes the discussion, but official documents in Romania use either spelling ‘Romaneasca’ or ‘Rumaneasca’, although the ‘o’ is apparently more common than the ‘u’. Place names can be tricky. For example, even though Bombay officially became Mumbai in 1995, many Indians (particularly the cricket commentators) still use the former name.

  8. Not one for me – 40 minutes and lots of cheating to finish and still spelt Romanian without the U as roan and ruan meant nothing to me. Very hard crossword and not enjoyable – knowledge to get Cambridge not possible for me for example

    1. Apologies in advance if you are not a UK resident, but have you never watched the Cambridge vs Oxford boat race ?

        1. Besides, rowers are definitely not ‘players’ – racing of any brand is not a sport you ‘play’ – so knowledge of the Boat Race seems a bit irrelevant. You have to guess their rugby teams etc. wear the same colours to get this clue, something I had no idea about, despite having actually been to watch the Boat Race in ye olde days.

          1. I used the boat race to illustrate the point because I thought it would be a well known real life example. I accept that if you are unaware that the Cambridge and Oxford colours are different shades of blue, then the clue makes no sense.

  9. BTW for those who want to venture there the 15×15 is very approachable today, I suggest having a go and making it a habit in 2024!

    1. It’s true that I solved the 15×15 well within my target half-hour but as I have noted in my blog and early commenters have confirmed, it contains 2 or 3 answers barely known even to seasoned solvers. They are clued by helpful wordplay though.

      1. For me, barely known answers clued by helpful wordplay is what sets the Times apart from the rest.

        1. Indeed, that’s the beauty of cryptic puzzles. I just added the word of warning in case the recommendation was interpreted as the puzzle being very easy.

    2. Thank you Lindsay, solved all but 2 clues and really enjoyed the construction of practically all of them. A welcome balance to today’s QC which is the first one I’ve truly not enjoyed.
      You have turned my frown upside down!

  10. I found this difficult and DNF, and frankly thought it was a terrible puzzle. For a time I thought I might have been doing the main cryptic. Won’t be sorry not to see this setter again.

    1. Oh dear! I also DNF, but I think your characterisation of the whole puzzle as “terrible” is a little harsh.

  11. Not a very nice puzzle, imho. I threw in the towel after my 30 minute cut off point to continue my dismal start to 2024. CAMBRIDGE, whose ivory towers were strictly off-limits to a secondary modern oik like me in the 70s, and OUTBOUND were my main obstacles to a finish.
    Whatever happened to the good old down to earth QC?

    1. I totally agree with your final sentence:
      ‘Whatever happened to the good old down to earth QC?’
      I finished the 15×15 quicker than today’s supposed QC. The plot has been well and truly lost over recent months. John M.

      1. I’m not sure there was ever a time when ‘good old down to earth QCs’ predominated. Of the first 30 published in 2014 I achieved my target (then 10 minutes as I’d consider myself an expert solver) only 6 times! 2 of them took me half-an-hour which is my target for the main puzzle.

        These things have always gone in cycles.

        1. The past has always been romanticised as a Golden Age, when Things Were So Much Better. Human nature.

          1. I cannot disagree, in general.
            However, my comments on this particular subject are evidence-based. I do a range of crosswords and have a clear idea of the short-term ups and downs (which do not obscure the longer-term trends).
            I am struck, also, by the pretty consistent comments from many respected fellow solvers.
            The CT ‘cycles’ mentioned by jackkt seem to be driven by much bigger wheels these days. John M.

            1. I see you’re still beating the same drum. My “evidence-based” comment is that my average time has improved since 2014 from 10 or so minutes to about 6 and a half, where it has been for a couple of years, not really budging.

              It’s a puzzle, a cryptic crossword puzzle. If you can’t do it on a particular day, or can’t do it in the time you think you should do it in, it’s not a personal attack on you by the setter, or the editor, or whoever else, and it really is of little consequence either way. If it’s that distressing, go and do the Telegraph one, go and do the concise, go and do the Kenken.

              1. I don’t think I have a monopoly on ’beating the drum’.
                After a lifetime of crossword solving, I find your last paragraph patronising, to say the least.
                I will not respond to further comments.

      2. Hello, Blighter! Good to hear from you again. Do please share your thoughts from time to time, even if not every day. I always read your comments with interest. You gave good value.

  12. Well that was a disaster, I can’t remember the last time I had two pink squares – and neither of them a typo.
    I found the definitions tricky today and had no idea what was going on in 9d, eventually I was relieved to find something that seemed vaguely plausible but went for the singular rather than plural. My other mistake was carelessly sticking ROMANIAN in and not bothering to parse it, my very weak defence is that I’d not seen the other spelling.
    Thanks to BR

    1. I don’t think that’s a weak defence at all. If you think the obvious way is going to give you a misspelling then you’re bound – like me – to think that there may be something new or obscure going on with part of the clue. Perfectly legitimate mistake to make – although still a mistake of course!

      1. I see what you’re saying but the weak defence bit was related to the not going back to fully parse – I saw ‘mania’ and thought ‘that’ll do’.

  13. 4:12. I was surprised by the spelling of RUMANIAN with a U, but the wordplay was clear. That and my LOI CAMBRIDGE held me up a little at the end. Thanks Myles and BR.

  14. I’m with a few here who didn’t enjoy this one much, but that’s ok, you can’t have it all your own way, can you?

    A DNF for me with one pink square on RoMANIAN. Even if I know that series = RUN, if I think it’s going to give me (to my mind) a misspelling, then I’m going to biff RON and assume it’s something obscure. ‘My bad’ as some people say, much to my annoyance (‘Your bad what? Finish your sentence!’)

    That wasn’t my only quibble as I thought CHESSMAN, CAMBRIDGE, CASTLED and BLOCK CAPITAL were all just a bit too hard/unsatisfactory. I biffed LEHAR too as a big NHO to start with.

    Still, thanks to Myles for the grid and BR for the perfect blog.

  15. Thought it was Izetti until I came here (Don reference me Don and a stinker!)
    Agree with many that this was a bit too cool for school (Tom Brown’s?)
    Tina is a good barometer for the mood of the younger, and to my mind the should be targeted, audience so take heed editors!

    1. Aw thanks TC – but I’m only mentally younger, I probably am not actually much younger than most

      My husband is one year older than I am and a whole generation older, his experience growing up completely different to mine in music and media, references, technologies. I’m from an refugee family so didn’t have English speaking parents to share English-language things with me. I’ve also been on the internet since I was 11.

      There is a cryptic written in the Saturday Paper here in Aus by a gentleman who is younger than I am and I do wonderfully at that lol

      1. wow! I take my hat off to you doing a crossword in a second language; very impressive! Did I note a medical reference with the Guillain Barre and Restless Legs? I’m recently retired from all that doctoring malarkey (and, sad to say, judging by comments from still practising colleagues and the UK press, well out if it)

    1. Thanks for your Thespian suggestion. I wondered about a theatrical angle too but couldn’t fit in the light blue v dark blue bit as referring directly to the theatrical ‘players’, though I guess it may not have to.

  16. I enjoyed much of this so thanks setter and blogger. Do the setters compare notes I wonder? I think this one was a bit of a stretch for a quickie.

  17. Good thought Thespian – makes 12A a more interesting clue. Found this moderately easy but didn’t like RUMANIAN even though that’s how it was spelt when I was at school in the 50s. It’s not even pronounced like that nowadays. Thanks to Myles and BR.

  18. Breezeblocked yesterday, and today too – that (word+word* = ANAGRAM) device always, but always catches me out. Then it was all in vain anyway, because, like Plett above, I went for the singular at 9D, and earned a genuine, rather than fat-fingered pink square. Not the most auspicious of starts to 2024. It seems there are an awful lot of QUITCH solvers WOE today, I suspect the RUMANIAN is the cause of that though, which I dodged by reading the clue for once.

    Off to the 15×15 to see if I can do better there.


  19. Very pleased to finish this one. Although I couldn’t care less how long it takes me to complete a QC (they are all of differing levels of complexity, are completed with highly variable levels of alertness, and in any case are purely for enjoyment) I did note that this one took a full 38 mins! MEN OF LETTERS, the unknown LEHAR, CAMBRIDGE, ANAGRAM and BLOCK CAPITAL all required particular tenacity. Thanks for the extensively-used blog, especially for the explanation of ANAGRAM (doh). Pleased to have persevered to the end. COD TWAIN. LOI CAMBRIDGE. Thanks Myles and BR.

  20. Caught out by RUMANIAN as I went for speed over parsing – my mistake, although I don’t think there’s much need to use a reasonably rare variant in a QC especially when (and because) the letter’s unchecked.

    I quite enjoyed seeing some cryptic defs. As long as the word itself is known, and the crossers kind (both important given the single point of entry for a solver), they’re part of a varied diet. Having said that, CAMBRIDGE was a bung and shrug; I went to Cardiff.

    Thanks both.

  21. DNF

    Well that was tricky. Took 35 minutes to complete only to find OUTGOING should have been OUTBOUND. Frankly, I’m amazed I even got that far, quite some guesswork required for ORAL, MEN OF LETTERS and CAMBRIDGE.

  22. This was quite tough, and with a difficult grid.
    LOI OUTBOUND after 16 minutes. I had OUT immediately but it took several visits to find BOUND.
    I too corrected ROMANIAN, having heard the mantra so often: if it doesn’t parse ….
    I imagined the setter to be an Oxbridge graduate who liked chess.
    I enjoyed this; never quite got stuck but it needed work. COD to MEN OF LETTERS.

  23. In line with my resolution, I carefully checked for typos before submitting in 3:59 – but wait ! Is that a pink square I see before me? I slapped in ROMANIAN as soon as the ‘mania’ part became obvious, but never fully parsed it. Another resolution necessary methinks!

  24. 14:02, but 1 error.
    Never seen RUMANIAN, and Ron=series seemed slightly more plausible ROMANIAW, with Row=series.
    NHO LEHAR, surely a bit obscure for a QC

    Liked MEN OF LETTERS and BLOCK CAPITAL. But CAMBRIDGE a bit too “hey, I went to Oxbridge, didn’t you ?” for me.

    1. Probably a generation thing, but at one time Lehar’s waltz from The Merry Widow was probably as well-known as Strauss’s Blue Danube.

        1. Fair enough, perhaps; other famous pieces are Elizabethan Serenade and Coronation Scot, very difficult to recall who wrote them.

            1. Well done! By the way, what has happened to The Rotter? I missed that (sad, if so) development. On the other hand, do we welcome back Blighter?

                1. Very many thanks, Merlin – indeed I did. I’m trying to work out where I should have found it, but have failed. What a shock – I have commented in the appropriate place.

                  1. It’s currently at the top of the website homepage. You either reach that through the standard website address of timesforthetimes.co.uk or if you click on the panoramic London banner at the top of each blog or simply the Home button.

                    I’m wondering how you get to the blog if you don’t go via the homepage? Every QC blog has a different URL (i..e. the bit that comes after .co.uk)

                    1. Thank you. I clicked directly on the link you supplied, and up it came. Since you ask how I “get to the blog if not via the homepage”, I’ll answer with pleasure (if this isn’t TMI): I simply click on my bookmark, which takes me directly to Category: Quick Cryptic. So I bypass the homepage. But I suppose many of you are also doing the 15×15, in which case obviously you need the whole bag of tricks. Greetings.

          1. Mr Binge wrote two pieces possibly more famous than Elizabethan Serenade, at least in the UK – The Watermill (theme to the TV adaptation of The Secret Garden) and Sailing By (used on the shipping forecast). He deserves to be better known.

            1. Yes! It seems rather naughty to use this crossword blog as a vehicle for discussing the relative merits of pieces by Rudolf Binge (by the way, the composer of Coronation Scot was Vivien Ellis), but I would like to suggest that although Sailing By is indeed aired every day (at least, I assume it is) with the shipping forecast – and must be earning his estate a fortune – it is much more rarely heard outside that context than Elizabethan Serenade. It is on those grounds that I would like to include him in my collection of ‘One-hit wonders’ which, along with a vast miscellany of Musical Curiosities, I am hoping to publish before I die! But maybe the general opinion is that he is disallowed? Thank you all for this indulgence.

  25. Nothing to encourage the newbies or GaryA.

    At my 20min cutoff, I had 7 left plus the incorrectly spelled RoMANIAN that I hadn’t been able to parse. After that check, continued on and finished on in 24:30 – which I am pleased with.

    But rather unenjoyable given the aforementioned Rumania spelling, NHO LEHAR, GBS/RLS as acronyms plus the obscurities of chessman, cambridge, block capitals, mistletoe, outbound and so on.

  26. Awful DNF on what I thought was an awful crossword. Had no idea what was going on with Anagram. Failed to see O for oval so did not get Oral. Oaf for Neanderthal an unpleasant slur on a race with larger brains than Homo Sapiens (there is good evidence that they only lost out to our ancestors because they had no immunity to the diseases Homo S brought out of Africa). Failed to misspell Romanian – can we now look forward to other discarded spellings like Musick and Knyght for knight (as in Malory of course so must be permitted …). Thought Men of Letters a poor clue (even though I got it). Ditto Mistletoe (more likely to encourage romantic misunderstandings). Other clues which caused a hold-up (eg Lehar, not a particularly well known composer) barely merit a mention given the above but added to my lack of enjoyment.

    Enough of grumbling – these things happen. But either I am a poor QC solver or this was a poor QC.

    Many thanks BR for the blog

      1. Ah. Thank you. Not a poor clue – just a very convoluted one then! I see that if that is where QC clues are going to be in 2024 I’m going to have to up my game considerably.

  27. DNF total disaster. A depressing start to the year. COD MEN OF LETTERS. Liked BLOCK CAPITAL, TWAIN.
    I understand about CAMBRIDGE light blue but Rowers might have been fairer than players. Also came unstuck on ANAGRAM, RUMANIAN, OUTBOUND.
    Thanks for much needed blog, BR.

    1. Oxford and Cambridge compete against each other in many sports other than rowing, for example Rugby.

        1. I think the Boat Race is the only one to still get mainstream media coverage those – and certainly the only one still shown on TV.

  28. 35:39
    As others, I found this really tough and some of the clues less than enjoyable – only just resisting the temptation to throw in the towel. CAMBRIDGE was a pure guess and I was expecting red squares when I entered my last clue.
    FOI: 14ac OAF
    LOI: 10ac CASTLED
    COD: 14dn OUTBOUND
    Thank you for your blog BR (apologies, I can’t seem to bring myself to thank the setter).

  29. Really did not like this “QC”. A big fat DNF.

    How on earth I was expected to know that GBS and RLS referred to Shaw and Stephenson was really stretching it. Did not consider that to be fair for a QC.

    I did like 8a, though I never answered it.

    On the bright side, I completed yesterday’s Daily Telegraph cryptic quite quickly and with no help from the cat. I often find the DT cryptic easier than the Times QC. I don’t believe it’s due to the fact that the DT clues are necessarily easier. Perhaps it’s down to the fact that the clues there tend to be a little longer, which gives me more to play with. Also, if I’m honest, I find the DT cryptic a lot less pompous the Times.

    Oh well, better luck tomorrow with the QC.

    1. I’m with you on the DT. I find I’m doing better at their 15x15s than most of these QCs, which surely can’t be right!
      £3.99 per month well spent I think, with loadsa puzzles – 7 days a week too.

    2. I hate the DT app interface it’s so hard to type on my phone 🙁 I manage Plusword and the easy Codewords and that’s it

  30. This was on the hard side but doable for me. The only word I’d not heard, LEHAR, was perfectly obtainable.

    It is amazing what a break can do for you when stuck on a crossword. Came back to this after brekkie and immediately saw CAPITAL and ANAGRAM that had eluded me before.

    I had all the crossers for my LOI – CAMBRIDGE but couldn’t see it at all – probably because I was looking for a game. Any how, the Gentleman, being interested in sports saw it straightaway.

    COD – SHANDY. Is it because dry January is starting to kick in?

    Thanks Myles and BR.

  31. Like others I initially put in ROMANIAN but for once decided to return to it to check the parsing, and was able to correct it to RUMANIAN. Even as I type that, it doesn’t look right, even though throughout my academic years this would have been the way I spelt it. I was only held up a little at the end with my LOI which was CAMBRIDGE, and I crossed the line in a good time for me of 7.44.

  32. DNF. As others I had MaN OF L… and looked at it hard just before coming here and changed it to MEN so that was a near squeak, and MAN is almost as good as MEN. But the unparsable RoMANIAN stayed in, DOH. I see that Wiktionary allows ROMANIAN, ROUMANIAN and RUMANIAN, so all of those are now in my cheating machine as it reflects not what is right but what setters might use or have actually used.

  33. Didn’t like.
    Finished in 27:11 which is my slowest for a long time but with Romanian. I saw that Rumanian fitted the wordplay but stuck with the O.
    I prefer something like: East European man has madness inside.

    It might be the same setter but I prefer the 15×15 today. I didn’t like cambridge, mistletoe, men of letters, or chessman.
    COD block capital or anagram.

    Edit: I’m a bit worried about GaryA and this crossword!

  34. 6:13 but..

    …didn’t know LEHAR but pencilled in early on, plus a big pink square for MAN OF LETTERS which I meant to come back to and decide whether it should be singular or plural, but neglected to do so – looks like about half of the Crossword Club solvers had at least one fail today…. Otherwise, very quick.

    Thank Myles and Bletch

  35. 9:02 (Battle of the Holme. Danes of East Anglia defeat Anglo-Saxons of Wessex and Kent)

    Enjoyed, apart from the spelling of RUMANIAN. COD was MEN OF LETTERS.

    Thanks BR and Myles.

  36. Dnf…

    Are the editors trying to put everyone off at the start of the year? I found this fiendishly difficult and after 40 mins still had a number of clues in the top half to get, and some of those I did I have, I still wasn’t sure of the parsing.

    1dn “Block Capital”, could equally have been “Large” or “Small” depending on your point of view. Nho of the composer for 7ac and whilst I probably should have got 12ac “Cambridge”, not something that is massively obvious if you don’t know the institutions.

    Not enjoyable at all I’m afraid.

    FOI – 14ac “Oaf”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 16ac “Misteltoe” – only because I’m still feeling somewhat festive.

    Thanks as usual!

    1. BLOCK CAPITAL is a recognised term equivalent to ‘upper case’. ‘Large capital’ and ‘small capital’ do not exist as such.

      1. You’re right – I’m talking rubbish. I must have been thinking of upper/large and small case.

  37. And there was me feeling aggrieved that Anagram(!) had pushed me out to around 25mins. I quite enjoyed this, spotting both chess answers quickly and being old enough for Rumanian to seem perfectly natural (I only discovered the ‘update’ when I asked my adult son what an Ro number plate designated, and he collapsed in laughter at my spelling of the country). I would even, begrudingly, admit that 8ac was a very well constructed bear trap, with shot instantly conjuring up thoughts of brace/pair for the two animals, before the much delayed pdm. CoD to 9d, Men of Letters, another pdm. Invariant

  38. 11.26 WOE. Another MAN OF LETTERS. AIRPORT was biffed and even after reading Tina’s comment I was still confused by AIR/LOOK but I’ve finally twigged. I found this tough so I was very pleased with the time. Thanks BR and Myles.

  39. Good start to 2024 – I am 2 for 2. I enjoyed this one with 8a, 10a and 20abeing favourites. I struggled with LOI 21d -even with both the checkers. Very unkind to the Neanderthals. Is Myles a new setter?

  40. Ran through this quite fast (by my standards) until I came to a halt in the NW. Eventually finished in 17 minutes and came here to read the blog, only to find that I had ROMANIAN instead of RUMANIAN. Having spotted ‘mania’ in the middle I hadn’t bothered to completely parse this. Careless! I also hadn’t the remotest idea what was going on with ANAGRAM except that it contained the requisite two animals. Nor sure about ‘players’ in 12ac – the setter could equally well have written ‘participants’ which would have been better imo.

    FOI – 7ac LEHAR
    LOI – DNF, although my actual last entry was 8ac ANAGRAM
    COD – liked 1dn BLOCK CAPITAL and 9dn MEN OF LETTERS

    Thanks to Myles and BR

  41. Nearly an hour yesterday and a hour-long, DNF today. Not a good start to 2024. Only 5 clues solved after my first full pass and 10+ minutes already on the clock.

    I have NHO either author referred to just by their initials, so I put ruN OF LETTERS. A_A_R_r was then impossible to solve, of course, although I also never saw shot as an anagram indicator. The clue completely flummoxed me.

    I had also NHO LEHAR or ARGO and I can’t remember the last time I saw RoMANIAN spelt with a U. Does anyone?

    Overall, this was far too cryptic for me and required quite a bit of not-so-general knowledge, IMHO.

    Many thanks to BR.

  42. Managed to avoid the elphant trap at 13d even though I’ve never seen the U spelling, but I was nobbled by a typo which I didn’t notice in 1d BOLCK CAPITAL. Drat. That gave 2 erros as it knocked OEHAR out too. 11:52, but! Thanks Myles and BR.

  43. Dismal failure with over half the clues unsolved. My worst day ever – completely off Myles’s wavelength. Disheartening.

  44. I DNF today as I was unable to solve the MEN part of the clue at 9d despite two alphabet trawls. Had I got that I think I would have also solved ANAGRAM which remained elusive without the final letter. I still would have had a pink square due to biffing RoMANIAN. Ah well! About 14 mins in total.

  45. Finished with a bit of help for 12a Cambridge and two errors,Romanian and outgoing for 14d. A shortage of anagrams which tend to be our stronger area.

  46. Also DNF (discouraged non-finisher!). And I still think both MAN and MEN (OF LETTERS) are valid for 9d. Surely the “for example” could mean either “taken individually” or “both together”??

    1. I can see your thinking, my computing logic gate days says the presence of “AND” means you only get the answer if you have both.

      If you’re stood in a room with “George and Robert”, you have men.
      If you’re stood in a room with “George or Robert”, you have a man.

      But heck what do I know. Tough today.

      Am I right to recall you’re a Poole person like myself? RLS lived in Westbourne for a while – coincidentally his house was opposite “Robert Louis Stevenson Ave”. Long demolished but now a small park/memorial garden with a stone lighthouse statue of Skerryvore.

      1. indeed in Poole, having moved there from the East Midlands . . . loving the easier access to the beach!

  47. I finished it just before it finished me. Hard going, although I didn’t feel the opprobrium of many commentators above.

    1. Hear hear. I very rarely comment, but have been following this blog for years (and doing the Times crossword for 50+ of those, fwiw, so not a newbie).

      The vitriol being spouted today is absolutely horrible, and I feel so sorry for Myles. I thought it was a good, challenging and perfectly fair crossword. There seems to be a new tranche of contributors to this blog who want very easy crosswords, and moan when there’s a slightly tricky clue. How will you ever learn? Shame.

      1. hear hear. we found it hard but with lots of very good clues, dnf but very enjoyable. Chris and Francesca

      2. I’ve given up trying to reason with them daipugh. The whingeing from some quarters if it’s not a write in is deafening, and as you say, quite often offensive.

        1. Maybe that’s the problem – you’re trying to reason with people about some thing that is an emotional issue.

          1. If you’re emotional about a quick cryptic crossword puzzle, you need a new hobby, or you have way too much time on your hands.

      3. I try to keep out of commenting on such matters these days unless something really crosses the line, but I have to say I agree that a lot of what has been said here today makes for very uncomfortable reading and has spoiled my enjoyment of the discussion. It’s quite possible to make constructive criticism of a puzzle without rubbishing the efforts of the setter. I really appreciate the contributions of commenters who find things hard but still soldier on and strive to improve according to whatever yardstick they choose to apply.

        1. I wish we had like buttons! I completely agree with you, Dai, C&F, and Hopkinb (Ben?) – it’s a puzzle, nothing more. My day isn’t complete if I don’t get my fix, but I don’t mind if things go wrong – like yesterday! Sometimes I find the criticism quite wearing – I doubt that anyone would speak so harshly if they were face-to-face.

            1. Can’t claim that 😅 I just had a vague memory that you mentioned your name in a discussion on names some time last year! Hence the query.

        2. You are quite right of course. And if we all commented the day after the puzzle I’m sure there would never be a problem, but sometimes, in the heat of ‘battle’, Triumph and Disaster are distant cousins.

  48. I was heartened to read various comments above and was a DNF. I fell for the Men of Letters, thinking GBS and RLS were initials for medical conditions! 🤔

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