Quick Cryptic 2631 by Noel

A rare puzzle from Noel, who also uses the name Alfie.  It is his first of the year, and indeed he has only given us a dozen or so in the last 3-4 years combined. I find them usually quite challenging, and this one was no exception, taking me 15:47.  Definitely a puzzle that was both 13A and 15A!

Puzzles from Noel often have some sort of twist or theme, but other than the numerical qualities of three of the four long edge clues, I have not spotted anything.  But then I very seldom do, and no doubt if there is something here, someone will enlighten us all in the comments.

So thank you Noel for what I thought was a most enjoyable puzzle.  How did you find it?

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Revised intention’s to get hold of English ciphers (11)
NONENTITIES – (Intentions)*, with “revised” being one of the less convoluted anagram indicators, and then with E (for English) inserted into it.  Nothing to do with codes, as I first thought, and quite a tricky anagram to start us off – I needed all the checkers.
8 Housing developments in European countries (7)
ESTATESE (European) + STATES (countries).  Housing developments as in Housing estates, and unusual perhaps to have the letter E clued as a separate letter in the first two clues.
9 A female with dilemma getting stick (5)
AFFIX –A  + F (female) + FIX (dilemma), giving us stick as in glue or fix something to something else.
10 Kinky sex in pool is a blast (9)
EXPLOSION – (sex in pool)*, with the anagram indicator being “Kinky”.  A very nice surface, and I am sure it is indeed a blast, though I don’t speak from experience!
12 Match official concerned with foul, primarily (3)
REFRE (concerned with) + F (initial letter of foul).  This was my FOI, partly because I often try to get the short words first, and a nice loosener to get me going.
13 Cards won by Yankee displaying cunning (6)
TRICKYTRICK (cards won, eg in a game like Bridge) + Y (the letter Y is called Yankee in the NATO alphabet).  I so wanted this to be Tricksy, but we are one letter short.
15 Suggest visiting quiet flat (6)
SMOOTHMOOT (to moot = to suggest something) inserted into SH (quiet).
17 Worry when leader of race goes missing (3)
EAT – Our race is a HEAT, from which the H (leader) is deleted, giving EAT.  The connection with Worry is the twin phrases “What’s worrying you?” / “What’s eating you?” – for anyone who has not seen this pairing before it is worth remembering as it is regularly used in Crosswordland.
18 Some record I sent ombudsman to unearth (9)
DISENTOMB – A nice and relatively straightforward hidden, in recorD I SENT OMBudsman.  Hiddens that go across four words are quite rare.
20 Low-down American type (5)
GENUSGEN (info, low-down) + US (American).
22 Food supply in desert is sustaining one, mostly (7)
RATIONS – A bit of work required to construct this; the components are RAT (desert) + IS containing (“sustaining”) ON (one, mostly).
23 This clue initially tough? They weren’t troubled! (6-5)
TWENTY-THREET (initial letter of Tough) + (they weren’t)*, the anagram indicator being “troubled”.  And it is indeed clue 23.
1 Umpire’s call assumed to be reversed (3,2)
NOT UP – An assumed air could be said to be PUT ON, which when reversed gives our answer NOT UP – something a tennis umpire might call when the player has not hit the ball before it has bounced a second time.
2 Formed contacts: goal was successful (9)
NETWORKEDNET (goal – think “the ball is in the net”) + WORKED (was successful).  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know …
3 Monster’s head, that is (6)
NESSIENESS (head, as in headland or cape) + IE (that is), giving us the mythical Loch Ness Monster affectionately known as Nessie by the Scottish Tourist Board, for whom it must have earnt a small fortune over the years.
4 A princess recalled another in opera (3)
IDAA + DI (Diana, Princess of Wales), all reversed (“recalled”).  Princess Ida is one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas, though I think it is more usually considered an operetta by music buffs.
5 Facts about old king with new blazer (7)
INFERNOINFO (facts) with ER (old king, choose any Edward from I to VIII) + N (new) inserted into it.  I spent far too long thinking of blazer as jacket and looking for an article of clothing.
6 Punishment of old thief busted with boxsets (3,2,3,4)
SIX OF THE BEST – An anagram of THIEF and BOXSETS, with the anagram indicator being “busted”.  I have included the “of old” in the definition part of the surface because this standard schoolboy punishment of my youth is now frowned upon; and otherwise “old” is not contributing to the clue (said with some feeling as I tried initially to include an extra O in the anagrist!)
7 Old record from event you kept within view (7-5)
SEVENTY-EIGHTEVENT + YE (you) inserted into (“kept within”) SIGHT (view).  Vinyl records are having a bit of a moment just now – my son has discovered them and spends much time in old record shops – but they are usually the post-WW2 versions which played at 33 rpm or 45 rpm.  78 rpm records were old even in my youth.
11 List with name I’m on put up — by this person? (9)
NOMINATOR – A complex clue; we start with ROTA (list) and add N (name) + I’M ON, and then reverse (“put up”) the lot, and this gives the person who might put our name on a list.  Put up works as the reversal indicator because this is a down clue.
14 Powerful hint ensemble has taken on board (7)
INTENSE – Our second hidden of the puzzle, in hINT ENSEmble.
16 Lively wit of corrupt priest (6)
ESPRIT – Straightforward anagram (“corrupt”) of (priest)*.
19 Bracing air round region (5)
OZONEO (round) + ZONE (region), giving us a hint of sea air (“bracing air”).  Ozone, a gas made up of molecules of 3 oxygen atoms, is usually described as more “pungent” than bracing, but its smell has been likened to chlorine, or sometimes seaweed, and this gives the connection with sea air and so bracing.
21 Was a poser  part of the weekend? (3)
SAT – A DD to finish with.   Someone who was a poser might have sat (eg for a photograph), and part of the weekend is Saturday, shortened to Sat.

51 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2631 by Noel”

  1. I biffed NONENTITIES, trusting the anagrist was all there. Biffed TWENTY-THREE and SEVENTY-EIGHT. I didn’t notice that EXPLOSION had changed my NOT ON to NOT OP, so one more error. 8:30.

  2. 24:56. Some very hard ones for sure, relieved to get every thing eventually. SMOOTH, NESSIE, and NONENTITIES were my favourites. I thought the opera was Aida and A IDA was a princess. So that makes a princess the definition? Not sure if that really works.

    1. It doesn’t, but that didn’t stop me from thinking something similar: AIDA minus the A. But that doesn’t work either, and I figured what the hell, 3 letters beginning with I, it’s got to be IDA.

      1. I see that the lead character in the opera Aida was an Egyptian princess, so a princess (A IDA) recalls(in the sense of brings or calls to mind) another princess AIDA(which is also an opera). Still not working totally but I think better than calling IDA an opera!

  3. So tricky. I liked the kinky sex in the pool lol

    I also liked Twenty Three – maybe clues like that are old hat but I’d not seen it before.

  4. 15 minutes puts this right on the extreme edge of my target time suggesting that it wasn’t an easy one.

    I still have quite a large collection of 78sand even few records that are supposed to be played at 80 rpm if one has the means.

    Given Noel’s previous 8 offerings I’m sure there’s more significance to the numbers than we have come up with so far, but perhaps we shall never know. 4 of them appeared on Christmas Day or Eve and had seasonal themes, and the others had letter or number tricks going on.

    Richard Rogan confirmed long ago that Noel and Alfie are the same setter, and their combined total now stands at 22 puzzles, but I’ve always had my suspicions that they may be yet two more in his own assortment of pseudonyms.

  5. This was very, very hard for me and took nearly 50 minutes only to be breezeblocked by NETWORKED.
    The pedant in me would want to argue that (Princess) IDA is an operetta, or comic opera, as G&S didn’t write operas which are a very different genre. (This is the second time in recent weeks that a setter has made this mistake and it does cause a bit of unnecessary head scratching.)
    There was nothing ‘quick’ about this QC and it rounds off a very disappointing week, for me at least. Hey ho. I will doubtless bounce back into the classroom on Monday morning full of beans.
    Enjoy your weekend everyone.

  6. I thought this was a lovely crossword and it very much fits my definition of a ‘Times lite’. It took me 18 minutes (so a little outside of my usual range or 10-15 minutes) and I would say it was possibly harder than some of the easier main 15×15 crosswords. But to put that into context, I have never done the main crossword in less than 25 minutes and yesterday’s ‘Friday stinker’ saw me giving up after 45 minutes with only about half the grid filled in.

    So yes, I would say this is definitely a Times QC and a great introduction to the world of the main Times crossword. It is just one of the harder ones.

  7. Found this quite chewy, especially as all of the long perimeter clues proved slow to solve. However I enjoyed the tussle with plenty of rewarding PDMs along the way – I thought EXPLOSION and DISENTOMB were particularly good.
    I kept half an eye out for some sort of theme but, as usual, if there is one it went over my head.
    Started with ESTATES and finished with GENUS in 11.49.
    Thanks to Cedric

  8. 8.25

    Excellent crossword; excellent blog. Liked EXPLOSION of course but also the vision created by the SIX OF THE BEST CLUE. Like Kevin confused about what was happening with IDA but in it went.

    Thanks Noel and Cedric

  9. 7:17, but it a Noel and his are always tricky. Like Jackkt I too think this is a pseudonym of Richard Rogan, the crossword editor. I enjoyed the numbers, which include Two, Six, Three and One – the number of the puzzle. Also evident are None, Seven, Seventy, Eight, Twenty, Twenty Three and Ten, and Nine if you count IX and Five if you count V. Any more? Are Ratio and Stat just serendipitous? Good fun. Thanks Noel and Cedric.

    1. And I can’t read 1ac without seeing NINETIES in it despite the fact that it isn’t!

    2. I also thought that “none” put a number of sorts into 1a, for balance. And like jack, seeing the numbers in the other three side, and all the letters in the anagrist, all manner of nineteen, nineties, ninetyone muddled my anagramising for a good spell.

  10. Wow, a long slog but success finally at 43.22 although couldn’t parse six of the best and rations, thanks Cedric.

    We resorted to the thesaurus for cipher which gave us the answer. By this time we were looking for a number like the others, and post solving the dictionary on my phone gives the following for cipher:

    2. A mathematical element that when added to another number yields the same number, = 0,cypher, nought, zero

    So it is a number😀

    Thanks Jalna, we also enjoyed the pool fun 🙄

  11. I had a real struggle with this, and for me it was a 15×15 in all but size.

    TIME 8:01

  12. I lost my timer part way through, so no accurate time, but it was long. I mean very long. But I got there in the end. This was tough for me, but rounds off a good week which saw me achieve a new PB and only one DNF (I think).

    Happy Weekend all. Pi

  13. DNF. Bit of a disaster. Managed RH side but eventually decided to reveal SEVENTY EIGHT in order to try and finish. Still discouraged I also revealed TRICKY which I should have got. And I look up Cipher in the CCD.
    Too difficult to be enjoyable, but thanks Cedric. I noted the numbers theme.

  14. 28 mins…

    Definitely on the tricky side and found myself scatter gunning all over the grid to pick up answers. Enjoyed both 7dn “Seventy-Eight” and 23ac “Twenty Three”, but had to complete 1ac “Nonentities” without properly understanding the definition.

    Main hold up was 1dn “Not Up” – as I couldn’t decide whether it was this or “Net Up”. Luckily, I picked the right one.

    FOI – 3dn “Nessie”
    LOI – 1dn “Not Up”
    COD – 23ac “Twenty Three”

    Thanks as usual!

    1. NOT-UP … I went through NOT-IN, LET-UP, OUT-?? with zero confidence about whether the clue really wanted an umpire’s call. And if so which umpire from which sport. And then it turns out to be a call, I don’t think I recall ever hearing called !! Not a friendly start to the QC when combined with 1A

      1. I saw the anagram at 1A straight away. And yet I never did solve 1D. A nasty little clue.

  15. 45:23 across two sittings. Had to put it aside at 35mins with six left as needed to get ready for parkrun. Ran 22:46 there and then came back and got it sorted. QCpr of 1hr09+

    I had in mind that my comment today would be about how Christmas seems to come earlier each year – here we are in March and Noel has arrived before Easter.

    Seems poorly pitched for the QC and when I went back through the clues, I can’t say I find any of them enjoyable. My list of complaints is long and not worth boring anyone with.

    Oh well, I guess my glass half full is that I finished it.

  16. Toughest Saturday one so far. DNF with many clues had to use the blog. Liked Explosion

  17. 15:43 (Copernicus publishes De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.)

    A tricky crossword. My L2I were 1a and 1d. With all but one of the checkers in place, I still needed to write out the anagram before spotting what sort of cipher was required. I was not familiar with NOT UP as a tennis call, and thought it might be SET UP until 6d removed the only possible S.

    Thanks Cedric and Noel

  18. A Di = a princess (Princess Di). All reversed = Ida – another princess in an opera?

  19. DNF

    NHO NOT UP as an umpires call. Put NET. The rest seemed fairly tricky but nothing too obscure. Was well over my 20 minute target anyway and no parkrun QC Saturday double.

    1. A common ruling in squash, but squash officials are usually called refs.

  20. I think I am beginning to lean towards Noel being another alias for our Editor – this one was certainly on a par with some of his other, better known, offerings in terms of difficulty. I didn’t help myself by immediately thinking that a cricket umpire’s call was required for 1d, and that 1ac must refer to some sort of code (not knowing the other meaning of cypher), so not a great start. Plodded on, slowly building up footholds, but the 30min post was in plain sight by the time loi Smooth (moot !) finally fell. Invariant

  21. Never heard of NOT UP in tennis at all but it worked as ‘put on’ reversed so in it went. Biffed NONENTITIES as DNK that meaning of cipher. IDA went in unparsed – thanks for explanation. Otherwise seemed fairly straightforward although took me quite a while. Many thanks C and Noel.

    On edit – guessed NONENTITIES rather than biffed it!

  22. 23:07 Tough stuff.

    LOI EAT with fingers crossed. I’ve seen it before but was also worried about a baby eel or newt which is something like eft, or elt, or ent.

    I could imagine an umpire saying “not on” in cricket, with a bowler yelling “howzat” at him.

    Didn’t really see why NONENTITIES = cipher.

    1. Collins:

      in British English
      or cypher
      6. a person or thing of no importance; nonentity

  23. 7:35

    Much enjoyed from a setter we don’t see much of. I noticed a lot of numbers too but couldn’t see a theme amongst them – FOUR seems to be missing and the four letters in the centre make up the word EYES – draw your own conclusion…

    SEVENTY-EIGHT reminded me of the one of my father’s that I SAT on and broke – Perry Como’s ‘Magic Moments’ – fortunately he didn’t give me SIX OF THE BEST perhaps because it was his fault for leaving the disc on the seat of the armchair….

    Thanks for the enjoyably entertaining blog Cedric, and to Noel/Alfie/whoever you are!

  24. Cracking puzzle, completed on the tarmac waiting for my delayed flight to move. (Spoiler alert – it still hasn’t.)

    Really enjoyed both EXPLOSION and SIX OF THE BEST. I was baffled by NOT UP, thanks for the explanation Cedric. I had entered “not on”, then scrubbed out the “on”, then scrubbed out the “ot” as well and waited for all the checkers!

    Top puzzle, top blog, the weekend starts well. Many thanks both. Done in 10:28 for 1.25K and a Good Day.


  25. I’d NHO NOT UP either, but the crossers and wordplay made it inevitable. NESSIE was FOI. Liked EXPLOSION and SIX OF THE BEST. Was certainly a 13a crossword. SAT was LOI. 11:15. Thanks Noel and Cedric.

  26. Slow but got there in the end – 17:14. As it was Noel (as Jack suggests, it could be another of RR’s aliases?) I looked for a nina and got EYES in the middle and various numbers, and no J or Q, so really none the wiser till I came here!
    I wonder how our esteemed editor selects his pseudonyms for different puzzles?
    I didn’t know NOT UP but it couldn’t be anything else. DISENTOMB was a brilliant hidden and SIX OF THE BEST was close to being my COD, but I’m afraid the lols won that contest 😅
    FOI Estates LOI Not up COD Explosion
    Thanks Noel and Cedric for another very interesting blog

  27. Very slow start but picked off odd clues around the grid and did eventually finish. Didn’t know NOTUP but it worked from parsing. Stuck on 7d for sometime because having seen ‘view’ I wrote in ‘sight’ for second part of answer. Thanks Noel and Cedric.

  28. 15:57 here, slightly over target, but an enjoyable puzzle for a Saturday morning. COD to TWENTY-THREE. I think I remember “not up” being used by volleyball umpires.

    Thanks to Cedric and Noel.

    1. I played and coached National League for many years and did my share of officiating. I have a Level I qualification for it which I took under the eye of Jeff Brehaut – who refereed two Olympic Beach Volleyball finals as well as many international matches.

      The officials are “referees” who just blow their whistle and make a hand signal. There is no verbal communication unless the captain wants to talk to them about something specifically. I don’t recall there being a “not up” signal, the rally simply ends the moment the ball is deemed to have touched the court.

      That said, it may well have been played how you say in lower leagues or friendly matches. But they’re still not umpires!!

  29. My first Saturday comments here as I normally stick to the 15×15 which takes me a long time normally. An easier than average 15×15 and not much sport today, so I gave this a go.
    Done in 15:04 with a slow start and fast finish. LOI ESTATES.
    A good challenge.

  30. All green in 27 minutes while having dinner so only semi-concentrating. NESSIE my LOI. Definitely harder than a normal quickie.

  31. Had to squint at bit at some of these clues, as well as write a few out, before I could see the solutions. This gave it a very different flavour but it was all fair enough. A nice change!
    FOI 1a nonentities
    LOI 17a Eat
    COD 10a Explosion
    Still holding Sawbill for Sunday!

  32. Interesting that you chaps, who are so well informed about e.g. cricket, haven’t heard of NOT UP. I seldom played the kind of tennis that required umpires, but one would just admit to Not Up if the ball bounced twice.

    1. Dare I say us chaps tend to be quick enough round the court that the ball rarely bounces twice … 😜

  33. 17.06 Away yesterday so late to this. I’d NHO NOT UP, but the wordplay was clear. NOMINATOR was the trickiest to parse so I left it until I’d finished. EAT was LOI. Good fun. Thanks Cedric and Noel.

Comments are closed.