Quick Cryptic 2657 by Mara

A bright and witty offering from Mara today, with one topical clue to bring us back to earth from the realm of crossword land. Seven double defs and six anagrams or partial anagrams should have made for a speedy solve but I found a few difficult to see straight away and was reasonably satisfied with my time of 10:17.

Thanks to Mara

Definitions underlined in bold.

1 Mammal after insect, one of two on the field? (7,3)
CRICKET BATBAT (‘Mammal’) following CRICKET (‘insect’)
8 Carbon in wrought iron is for cutter (7)
INCISORC (chemical symbol for ‘Carbon’) contained in (‘in’) anagram (‘wrought’) of IRON IS
9 Measure monarch, for example (5)
RULER – Double definition

A ‘measure’ as in something used for measuring.

10 Flier, bit of a laugh (4)
LARK – Another double definition

There will be better examples but think cheerful chappie sort of humour: That’s a lark / a bit of a laugh.

11 Extraordinary dormice: tail on one is ordinary (8)
MEDIOCRE – Anagram (‘Extraordinary’) of DORMICE then E (‘tail on one’ = last letter of ‘onE’)
13 Lifeless piece of theatre nicely turned around (5)
INERT – Reverse hidden (‘piece… turned around’) in ‘theaTRE NIcely’
14 Mean line for painter of matchstick men (5)
LOWRYLOW (‘Mean’) RY (‘line’) – RY for “railway”

L. S. Lowry’s most famous works depict ‘matchstick men’ in the industrial areas of Manchester and surrounds.  A fairly modest looking sketch of his was brought into an Antiques Roadshow repeat I was watching last night and was valued at GBP 10,000-15,000 – probably regarded as a steal. I knew a bit about him, but it was interesting to read more on Wikipedia and in other places. I was unaware of The Lowry gallery in Salford, containing many of his works.

16 Metal tin, a lump processed (8)
PLATINUM – Anagram (‘processed’) of TIN A LUMP
17 Wind up, containers knocked over (4)
STOP – Reversal (‘knocked over’) of POTS (‘containers’)

This should have been a gimme but I was stuck on the “provoke” sense of ‘Wind up’.

20 Shabby hat worn by that man (5)
CHEAPCAP (‘hat’) containing (‘worn by’) HE (‘that man’)
21 Room where Barbie’s boyfriend entertains desire (7)
KITCHENKEN (‘Barbie’s boyfriend’) contains (‘entertains’) ITCH (‘desire’)

Nice surface and maybe not exactly the ‘Room’ we were first meant to think of. My COD.

22 Source of bait that’s a big issue? (3,2,5)
CAN OF WORMS – Double definition, the first literal, the second idiomatic

A big, big issue would be a Pandora’s Can of Worms.

1 Cold, cold incline (5)
CHILLC (‘cold) HILL (‘incline’)

Works best with ‘Cold’ as a noun for CHILL, as in being told many times by my Mum: “You’ll get a cold / chill if you don’t put your jumper on when you go outside”.

2 Certain cadre, unfortunately, locked up (12)
INCARCERATED – Anagram (‘unfortunately’) of CERTAIN CADRE

Good surface; probably the fate of many a ‘cadre’ or its members.

3 Smooch: a little peck is similar (4)
KISS – Hidden (‘a little’) in ‘pecK IS Similar’

The whole clue can also be read as an extended, non-cryptic definition.

4 Failure, something for Christmas dinner (6)
TURKEY – Double definition, the first a colloquialism
5 A rifle I’d misused where planes observed (8)
AIRFIELD – Anagram (‘misused’) of A RIFLE ID
6 Evidently unhappy employee, one observing hands on face? (5-7)
CLOCK-WATCHER – Double definition, one idiomatic, one literal

Is a CLOCK-WATCHER necessarily an ‘unhappy employee’?  I would have thought more of a lazy one, or one with commitments outside work which meant that the employee had to leave work at the scheduled time.

7 Long fish eaten by small fish without effort (6)
FREELYEEL (‘Long fish’) contained in (‘eaten by’) FRY (‘small fish’)
12 English work in Haiti destroyed country (8)
ETHIOPIAE (‘English’) then OP (‘work’) contained in (‘in’) anagram (‘destroyed’) of HAITI

Sadly, it seems Haiti has recently become a ‘destroyed country’. I was going to make this my COD but found it a bit too close to the bone.

13 Rogue operation in effect (6)
IMPACTIMP (‘Rogue’) ACT (‘operation’)
15 Daft bird (6)
CUCKOO – Double definition

In this part of the world probably the most common six-letter avian description of a ‘Daft’ person is a DRONGO, but it doesn’t have an adjectival sense.

18 Rubbish garment (5)
PANTS – Another double definition

As far as I’m aware, PANTS as a word for ‘rubbish’ (or “inferior” as an adjective) isn’t used hereabouts, but it comes up often in this sense in UK crosswords, sometimes as an anagram indicator.

19 Hotpot not dry’s served up (4)
STEW – Reversal of (‘served up’) WETS (‘not dry’s)

WETS as a reversal of ‘not dry’s’? I suppose so. The only ‘Hotpot’ I’ve knowingly eaten is of the Lancashire variety, one of the delicacies ‘served up’ to us at boarding school. Do counties like Surrey or Berkshire have their own version I wonder.

71 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2657 by Mara”

  1. I had the same reaction to CLOCK-WATCHER as BR. DNK LOWRY, but it was easy enough to get with a couple of checkers in. 6:05.

  2. This was an enjoyable but strange one for me, with a lot of tricky clues and some (CUCKOO, TURKEY, CLOCK-WATCHER) that almost wrote themselves in. It took me an age to get going, FOI was 8dn INCARCERATED after I gave up on the acrosses. MEDIOCRE and INCISOR were terrific anagrams that took a lot of effort to crack. CRICKET BAT was almost my LOI but once I twigged I gave it COD. IMPACT (not my favourite) was my actual LOI and took a while, dragging me to 9.52. Thanks Mara, thanks BR, see you tonight squire.

  3. DNF(11:41). Entered LOWLY for LOWRY. Didn’t recognize the artist’s name but looking up his work I realize I have seen it. Also I should have gotten RY for line.

  4. I started at the bottom and put in TURKEY for CUCKOO (which worked for kitchen and platinum but not for can of worms) but when I got to the top I had to rethink things. Poor birds, along with the dodo getting a bad rap

    For Chinese hotpot, get yourself to a Haidilao restaurant – they’re a worldwide franchise – you can have up to four different soups to dip your food of choice in, and a whole bar of different sauces to choose and mix together

  5. 13:00, early solve with the other Aussie solvers. Looking forward to seeing you later today.

    TURKEY, CUCKOO and LARK were all clued as double definitions. PANTS is a Britticism we can certainly do without.

    LOI MEDIOCRE, as did not see Extraordinary as an anagram indicator.


  6. I normally like Mara’s puzzles and this was no exception, earning my ‘Congratulations!’ after about 12 minutes. Having raced through the first few Downs the top half was quick to come, apart from my LOI – FREELY. The only one that held me up significantly was MEDIOCRE. I liked INCISOR and KITCHEN the most.
    Many thanks to Bletchers and Mara for a nice start to yet another chilly day.

  7. Raced through in 8.59 which would have been excellent for me but I’d managed to invent the ‘bag of worms’ on the way through. Saw what an ninny I’d been as soon as the pink squares showed themselves but can remember bringing those bags of chalk that climbers have to mind during the solve so I think I was just being far too literal. So a DNF to extend my pink square glut. No typos today though!

    On bags of chalk I caught some competitive climbing on TV over the weekend – seek it out, it’s astonishing!

    1. Another with the bag of worms! I can only think it’s because the word “BAit” subconsciously led me down that garden path.

      Competitive climbing, I watched some in the last Olympics. It’s just crazy quick how they’re almost skimming up there.

    2. Count me as another who put in BAG OF WORMS (which on Googling does sort of exist as a phrase but in a very different context!) which along with taking an age to get INERT, IMPACT, and CHEAP pushed me out to 34:36 WOE.

  8. Of late I am managing to finish the puzzles, but making unduly heavy weather of them. Hopefully the belated arrival of something resembling Spring will induce fresh brain activity and reawakening intelligence… Maybe.
    Anyhow, looking back today from my SCC deckchair I enjoyed this mini zoo of birds, bats, fish, animals and insects, albeit that the dormice had me bemused for some time, and taking more than ten seconds to think of a daft bird ending in O was inexcusable. LOI was, appropriately, STOP.

  9. A fine puzzle from Mara, and, after cruising through most of it, I was slowed down in both SE and NE corners – my LOI took almost a minute to land.

    TIME 5:24

  10. 19.24 for me today. First pass across was hopeless. Downs were much better, and then I was flying through, but, as ever, the last 2-3 held me up terribly. Anyway, I’ll happily take the SCC escape.

    Happy Tuesday. Pi.

  11. Thanks all for your input. A happy employee is unlikely to be looking at the clock but an unhappy one can’t wait to get out. Worked for me.

  12. 8.24

    On the train with finger tapping on the phone even more unreliable than normal so happy to finish without a pinkie. CRICKET BAT was quite good and eluded me till almost the end

    Thanks Mara and BR

    1. If it was you talking behind me, I hope you noticed my air of disapproval! People who talk on morning trains should get at least 18 months with no remand. I had to stop the puzzle, fish out my AirPods and drown it out with white noise.

      1. Have to agree. Morning trains should be a haven of quietness and contemplation, and not a vehicle for people who like the sound of their own voices at such an ungodly hour. I too have occasionally resorted to headphones to drown out the drone.

      2. May I suggest Dvynys might have been quite innocent? He had his “finger tapping on the phone”, yes, but perhaps silently doing the crossword? Agree wholeheartedly about “I’m on the train” menaces.

  13. Slow to get going but once I’d tuned in I had no serious hold ups. My only query was STOP where the answer and wordplay were straightforward but the definition eluded me until writing this comment.
    Started with RULER and finished with STOP in 7.25.
    Thanks to BR

  14. I too loved COD KITCHEN. What larks, Bletchers!

    Fast enough through that, though unbelievably the BAT part of CRICKET BAT was LOI! Lots of good clues.

    All done in 06:30 for 1.1K and an Excellent Day. Many thanks Mara and BR.


    PS – did anyone else Ninja Turtle their way to LOWRY via Brian & Michael’s 1978 hit “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs”?

  15. An odd solve, getting few of the acrosses on the first pass, then a complete clean sweep of the downs – all entered in order – then back to the across clues which with the checkers suddenly did not seem anything like as challenging. All led to a very fast (for me) 7 minute solve with no major issues.

    I notice a large number of animals in the answers and clues – bat, lark, worms, turkey and cuckoo in the answers and fry, eel and dormice in the clues. Plus (p)ants in 18D.

    Many thanks BR for the blog

  16. Gah another DNF, all corrected at 15:15 due to a What was I thinking? BAG of worms!

    I was racing through this until I got to the INERT/IMPACT, MEDIOCRE/FREELY and STOP/PANTS pairings and spent 6-7mins maybe a little longer on them. Got there in the end but … what was I thinking 🤦‍♂️

      1. It’s comforting to know someone else went down that route. I never thought to question it, went straight in. And yet, in the cold light of day I know it’s a can!

  17. A nice quick one today, although LOI IMPACT seems questionable. An imp may be many things, but surely not a rogue? In Lincoln, UK, we’re very protective of the reputation of the Lincoln Imp, a carved stone in the cathedral!

  18. Took me a while to get going and then suddenly it all fitted into place. LOI MEDIOCRE. Liked LOWRY (a favourite artist) KITCHEN, CAN OF WORMS, FREELY (COD).
    I agree that an IMP isn’t a rogue. Missed the hidden in KISS but it had to be!
    Thanks vm, BR.

  19. You wait for a while, then two come along at once! Today’s WITCH considerably greener than yesterday’s for roughly the same time.

    I found this similar to yesterday, pretty straightforward, with plenty of good clues. I liked FREELY, CRICKET BAT, KITCHEN, ETHIOPIA. CHEAP was LOI.


  20. A bit trickier than yesterdays, and I got a bit bogged down at the end in the nw corner. Eventually CRICKET BAT came to me and finally CHILL and LARK. I still managed to get under target at 9.04, so not a bad day.
    I was never a great fan of LOWRY, but nevertheless when in Manchester took an opportunity to go to The Lowry in Salford Quays. My opinion turned full circle after seeing his work, and it was interesting to see how his unique style evolved with details of his life. I would recommend a visit to those that have an interest in the arts.

  21. 5:26

    After not getting the first four acrosses straight off the bat, I wondered if this might be another toughy, however things flowed pretty quickly thenceforth with momentary stopping points for FREELY, CHEAP and LOI IMPACT. Surprised that the Quitch is as high as 89 – this seemed easier than yesterday…

    Thanks Bletch and Mara

  22. Please explain how “wind up” = STOP? (Thank you, New Driver!)
    I had SNAP which seemed plausible (wind up a watch – it snaps).
    Can’t agree that CHEAP = shabby, nor is this definition in Collins.
    We had CLOCK-WATCHER just the other day.

    1. When you “wind up” a company, you’re closing it down

      As you say CLOCK-WATCHER came up recently. Interesting how setters can come up with such different clues for the same phrases. The previous one was something about a timepiece in a college cupboard!

  23. Par solve for me. There was nothing scary here but I struggled on some clues. FOI CHILL and then CRICKET but had to come back to solve BAT. Annoyingly LOWRY didn’t come easily to mind and I needed the checkers. CAN OF WORMS nearly went in as ‘war of words’ but it didn’t make sense. LOI IMPACT in 8:17. I hope the weather is kinder to all those meeting in Melbourne than it is currently in Mallorca (9 degrees) and at home (Buckinghamshire – 8 degrees). Have fun!

  24. 8 minutes today which is fast for me.
    Nearly held up by LOI 7d FREELY as there are so many fish in the sea. But FRY occurred to me and then I was home.
    Nice puzzle.

  25. 10:19. Nice puzzle. I struggled somehow in the SE corner with the STOP/PANTS intersection. In hindsight, a little hard to see why, but got there in the end.

  26. I struggled to get started on this, but once I got a couple of clues in it became a lot easier.

    Had to ask Pumpa for help on 11a as it just wouldn’t come to me.


    My verdict: 👍
    Pumpa’s verdict: 😸

  27. Last two in were CUCKOO and CAN OF WORMS. Can’t believe that I actually got held up by CUCKOO – dearie me. The rest slotted in easily enough. Particularly liked FREELY and PANTS (much-used in our household I’m afraid Merlin!). Thanks for the blog BR.

  28. Started off with KISS and TURKEY, which led to CRICKET BAT. The top half then flew in but I ground to a halt and had to regroup for the lower sectors. Eventually I stopped being wound up by my inability to see the cease definition of wind up and popped STOP into 17a. Having put in ETHIOPIA as my LOI, I hit submit and was informed that I was 98% complete. A quick check showed that STEW was missing. Phew! 8:18. Thanks Mara and BR.

  29. 9:39 (death of King Æthelstan)

    solving on my phone, so several delays caused by fat fingered typing.
    I also give COD to KITCHEN for the surface.
    LOI was CUCKOO.

    thanks BR and Mara

  30. Finished in just over 24 mins. I remember my Year 6 primary school teacher showing us one of Lowry’s works whilst playing ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’ in the background. Thanks to Mrs F for helping me get this clue! I now have the song stuck in my head, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  31. Lots of misdirection but plenty to smile about. I liked CRICKET BAT, KITCHEN and CAN OF WORMS.

    Seems a few of us have IMPACT as LOI. Not sure why that was so hard.

    Had a big disappointment when I went to a restaurant in China and ordered a hotpot and found it wasn’t a delicious stew.

    Thanks Mara and BR.

  32. As normal, flying start ground to a halt with MEDIOCRE, which seemed a bit contrived, a fraction over target 30 including messing about with washing machine

  33. 10:07

    Clock stopped then, but did it in two sittings a few hours apart, had to stop with chill and lark outstanding.
    COD chill.

  34. 16:41, a very enjoyable puzzle that held me up, oddly, on the short ones and the NHO LOWRY. I’m grateful for the introduction to this artist. I join the applause for KITCHEN, and also loved the two fish. I spent a fair amount of time stupidly mis-parsing CHEAP because I got hung up on CHAP and couldn’t account for the E.

    Thanks to Mara and Bletchley!

  35. Most of this seemed straightforward. Can of worms being a straight write in for example but impact was tricky as imp is usually mischievous rather than rogue.

  36. 24 mins…

    Thought I was on for a really good time and then ground to a halt on the 13ac/13dn combo. Never would have associated “imp” with “rogue”, and when I eventually got 13dn “impact” realised I’d spelt “incarcerated” wrong.

    FOI – 1dn “Chill”
    LOI – 13ac “Inert”
    COD – 21ac “Kitchen”

    Thanks as usual!

  37. 12.19 Mostly straightforward but I managed to spend three minutes at the end on TURKEY and CUCKOO. In my partial defence, I never have turkey at Christmas. No excuse for cuckoo though, apart from the obvious. Thanks BR and Mara.

  38. Solved this on my own today as Mrs RH is away for a couple of days. Some a bit faster as didn’t have the out loud discussion of the parsing but slower without her lateral thinking. Took 3 goes but all done in 25.02 with chill and lark holding out longest as was fixated on looking for incline as the definition.

    Have always liked Lowry and as Mrs RH grew up near Manchester a lot of his work really resonates with her childhood memories. As well as the Lowry gallery we recently visited the Manchester Art Gallery in the city centre and they also have a fine collection of his work along with some great Pre-Raphaelites, thoroughly recommended.

    MER at ruler as we had a teacher at school who would tell us often that a ruler is a king, the thing in your pencil case is a rule!!

    Kitchen was my favourite
    Thanks Mara and BR. Hope you have fun at your meet, would be good to see photos.

  39. Without being a 6d, I took much longer over this Mara puzzle than yesterday: the double definitions are obvious when you get them, but I took an age over the daft bird and the rubbish garment. But it all gradually fell into place with loi Impact. Itch (desire) inside Ken was neat and my COD. About 25 minutes ☹️

  40. Mostly straightforward but I do agree with Johnny H re him and he.
    COD – choice between CRICKET BAT and KITCHEN.

    1. 👍. Maybe I spent too much time in Germany. Quite a difference between this and that. I believe they are more grammatically correct but languages evolve of course.

  41. 5:04 which felt a little slow as I failed to see a lot of the answers at a first attempt. LOI CUCKOO held me up at the end. I liked CRICKET BAT and KITCHEN. Thanks Mara and BR. I was delighted to see the photo of your get together this evening your time while I was still out walking in persistent drizzle in the lovely Suffolk countryside. My trouser bottoms are still wet, but I don’t think I can use that as an excuse for not being entirely on the ball. Thanks Mara and BR.

  42. Slow, slow, quick, quick slow. Bad start with the acrosses, faster with the downs, a slow grind for the last few. All done and parsed in 21 minutes. All quite obvious really with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

    FOI – 9ac RULER
    LOI – 17ac STOP (entered with a shrug before I cottoned on to the correct meaning of wind up)

    Thanks to Mara and BR

  43. Hi Bletchley… Which clue are you referring as “ with one topical clue to bring us back to earth from the realm of crossword land” ?

  44. 9:44

    Sub-10 solves are rare as hens teeth for me so that must have been easy. My only hesitation was LOI IMPACT which I risked biffing without parsing for a single figure time.

  45. Excellent (for me, at least)! All done and dusted in 16 minutes and a second successive SCC away-day. Not quite unheard of, but almost.

    I actually started very slowly with none of the first six Acrosses going in on first pass. However, the Downs were much more forgiving, apart from CHILL (which I solved much later, having desperately wanted it to be ClImb). I had no idea who Barbie’s boyfriend was, so KITCHEN was my LOI once I had all of the checkers.

    Many thanks to Mara and BR.

    P.S. I didn’t post on Saturday or Monday so, for completeness, my times were: Sat. (Wurm) = 41 mins and Mon. (Trelawney) = 17 mins. I remember taking 12-13 minutes to crack BLUESTOCKING as my LOI on Saturday. Grrrr!

  46. Another nightmare DNF day.

    Finished in a barely adequate 13 mins but put BAG rather than CAN for 22ac. An error caused by trying for a respectable time. Dreadful mistake.

    My horrific run of DNFs continues – 4 in last 12 days is unacceptable, but perhaps an indicator of my limitations?

    Weekly target up in smoke. Totally fed up (as usual) and it’s only Tuesday.

    This time last year I had a run of 20 or so consecutive finishes. Now I can’t manage a week of them. I really am on a bad run.

    My confidence has just drained away because I am still finding new ways to mess it up. Don’t think I’ll ever crack the QC at this rate!

    I haven’t read the other comments but I suspect there were many excellent times today, so well done if you had a good one.

    Thanks for the blog.

    1. Au contraire Monsieur A! Just 13 minutes with only bAg for CAN cannot be described as a “nightmare”. You solved the crossword, so well done!
      Some time ago I consciously decided to slow down slightly in order to reduce the frequency of such minor errors. Over time, this change in tactics has worked and my enjoyment/frustration ratio has markedly improved as a result.
      Good luck tomorrow.

      1. Thanks Mr R (and well done on your times for Monday/Tuesday). I see from reading the comments that some esteemed solvers fell into the same trap as me, so perhaps I was being a little hard on myself.


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