Quick Cryptic 2671 by Mara

Crazy numbers of double definitions today (no fewer than six!) so you’ll either click or you won’t. Also three hiddens and a couple of anachronistic “yous”; all done with Mara’s customary smoothness. It took me a bang average 08:10 and I enjoyed it: how did you all get on?

Definitions underlined in bold

1 Game’s ending pal! (4)
MATE – the first of the many double definitions gets us underway. A game of chess can end in MATE; “hello MATE/pal”.
3 Number of grains behind you (8)
THOUSAND – SAND for grains, coming after (“behind”) THOU for “you”.
9 Person putting clothes on cabinet (7)
DRESSER – double definition #2. Being a DRESSER used to be a specific job in theatre (Collins: “a person employed to assist actors in putting on and taking off their costumes”). Maybe it still is, any thesps about?
10 Something that pulls loom(5)
TOWER – double definition #3. If you pull/tow something (eg a trailer behind your car) then you are a TOWER, and if you are very tall then you TOWER/loom over other people. It took me a while to see that second definition because of the change of vowel sound, sneaky.
11 Spillage of paint not appropriate (5)
INAPT – anagram (“spillage”) of “paint”.
12 Four off, about to cause uproar (6)
FURORE – anagram (“off”) of “four”, followed by RE for “about”.
14 Sporting event elegant and arty, he gathered (6,7)
HENLEY REGATTA – anagram (“gathered”, no me neither) of “elegant arty he”. Rather Brit-centric: HENLEY REGATTA is a rowing event held on the Thames every summer. In my experience it would  all be a lot more fun if they allowed bookmakers in the Stewards’ Enclosure.
17 Emphasise result of demand exceeding capability? (6)
STRESS – double definition #4, the second one a little loose (hence the ?).
19 Animal more affected by ’eat? (5)
OTTER – ah, the good old deletion of the voiceless glottal fricative. [h]OTTER.
22 Machine that’s black installed in part of plant (5)
ROBOT – B for “black” inside (“installed in”) ROOT (“part of plant”). The word ROBOT was coined by Karel Čapek in his 1920 play RUR (standing for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti  – in English, Rossum’s Universal Robots). The robots in RUR aren’t “machines”, as they are in the clue, they are synthetic organic humans who rise up against their manufacturers and kill them. Skynet, anyone?
23 Contrary way — how Edward Lear worked? (7)
INVERSE – Edward Lear wrote quite a lot of nonsense poetry and so he “worked” IN VERSE. Geddit? It took me a moment to get this because my first thought of Lear’s work was as a painter.
24 Youth, ten, eager to develop (8)
TEENAGER – anagram (“to develop”) of “ten eager”. Since all you had to do was swap the n and the e, I’d be surprised if this one detained many people for long.
25 Not as much found in holes, surprisingly (4)
LESS – hidden inside “hoLES Surprisingly”.
1 Dark having arisen, mysterious thing the witching hour (8)
MIDNIGHT – MID is “dim” upwards, so = “dark having arisen”. Then add NIGHT as an anagram (“mysterious”) of “thing”, et voila. In folklore, the time when dark supernatural forces were most prevalent.
2 Article cheers Greek character (5)
THETA – THE is “article”, TA is “cheers” (for “thank you”).
4 English county: old US president donning new shirt here (13)
HERTFORDSHIRE – As Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn pointed out to each other once she had conquered her tendency to drop her voiceless glottal fricatives, “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen”. Gerald FORD is today’s “old US president” and he is surrounded by (“donning”) an anagram (“new”) of “shirt here”. Hands up if you briefly wondered which shire county had an ABE in it.
5 Thorough, say (5)
UTTER – double definition #5.
6 Taking the most pessimistic view, tort was shocking (2,5)
AT WORST – anagram (“shocking”) of “tort was”. I was taught the Law of Tort by the late great Tony Weir, who did tend to take a pessimistic view of humanity.
7 Fuel in front of vehicle flaming up (4)
DERV – I was dimly aware of DERV as a fuel but have never really known what it is. It turns out just to be diesel, the word an acronym derived from Diesel-Engine Road Vehicle. “Front of vehicle” = V, RED = “flaming”, all reversed (“up”).
8 Fly with some characters in jet set, several (6)
TSETSE – hidden in “jeT SET SEveral”.  TSETSE flies were regular characters in books I read as a child about adventures in Africa; they were greatly feared because their bite could give you sleeping sickness, which sounded very glamorous. TSETSE actually means “fly” in Tswana, a Bantu language, so “tsetse fly” is a pleonasm.
13 Head in hands, still bald! (8)
HAIRLESS – H is “head in hands” (ie the first letter of “hands”), followed by AIRLESS for “still”. Very neat and my COD.
15 Important absence of diagram? (7)
NOTABLE – if there’s NO TABLE, there’s an “absence of diagram”, ho ho.
16 Furrow where nothing gets planted in orchard (6)
GROOVE – a GROVE is apparently an “orchard” (Collins says only in American English, Chambers says in both, so there you go). Insert an O for “nothing” (“nothing gets planted”).
18 Additional text ratified in part (5)
EXTRA – our third hidden, inside “tEXT RAtified”.
20 Figure runs into you (5)
THREE – R for “runs” (cricket notation), into THEE for “you”.
21 Small stones in bottle? (4)
GRIT – double definition #6 brings up the rear. A rather good one, I thought. “Bottle” as in nerve, pluck.

72 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2671 by Mara”

  1. Actually disappointed in myself today – normally I don’t put too much stock in how I get on but this I had finished in under 10 min except for DERV.

    I nho of DERV. I got the DER bit, checked the word for all green then set about finding the last letter. I do NOT KNOW why I didn’t choose ‘v’ for front of vehicle except that it looks very unlikely and I didn’t see the wordplay anyhow.

    Completely fair clue, I just couldn’t see it. Silly word though, I’ve decided 😋

    Didn’t know the other meaning of the word ‘bottle’ either. Would the clue ‘small stones in bottle?’ not need the question mark if it didn’t have the word ‘in’ in the clue?

    1. You know T I think you might be right. What if it was ‘bottle small stones’? BTW I’m not sure when small stones become sand or grit, because at 3ac could we not say ‘number of small rocks behind you?’ Anyway, looking forward to the next TfTT Melbourne catch up!

  2. NHO DERV, but found the puzzle nice otherwise. I don’t think I could ever put DERV in as an answer no matter how clear the wordplay, it really sounds/looks nothing like a word! I guessed DARK as it seemed most likely. D (assumed diesel gets abbreviated to D) + ARK (vehicle) and flaming up as in burning out or going dark 🤨

  3. We’ve had DERV before and ‘shirt here’ made HERTFORDSHIRE materialise before I even thought of the Gerald, but the one Brit-centric clue that held me up was HENLEY REGATTA. Until then I had been flying along but I ground to a halt in the lower half and it was only after puzzling out the rowing meet that things got moving again. 9.36 in the finish, LOI the clever hidden TSETSE. Now that Templar has explained it HAIRLESS is indeed a good clue, less sure about NOTABLE. Thanks to both, nice puzzle.

  4. Like Vinyl, I recalled DERV from a previous cryptic (How previous, Kevin? I’d say a couple of years; surprised I remembered it.) I would have biffed the shire except that I had to check to make sure it wasn’t Hereford. 5:17.

  5. This was a hard slog this morning and I was defeated by biffing HEREFORDSHIRE, thereby earning one pinky to spoil my week’s clean sheet, coming in at around 25 minutes. I’ll gather my things.
    HENLEY REGATTA took an absolute age to see, (largely because I was looking for a 7/6 rather than a 6/7 by mistake -Doh!), and NOTABLE and STRESS slowed down my SW corner. COD for me was TSETSE.
    Many thanks to Templar and Mara.

  6. We’re having a bit of a purple patch finishing in 13.13, I think our second best ever. All parsed too.

    Sadly had one pinkie having not taken care over the anagrist and put in Herefordshire, grrr.

    Derv was well known as it was used on garage signs a lot in our younger days but until Templar’s blog didn’t know what it meant other than “ lorry fuel”!

    A little while ago we met the dresser for Glyndebourne Opera so they’re definitely still around.

    Thanks Mara and Templar for the extra info

  7. 8:42, it was nice to have a relatively easy puzzle after the battle with today‘s cryptic!

  8. 11 minutes. I remembered DERV from my childhood days and more recently from its appearance in a few cryptic crosswords over the last few years. I was just about to submit when I decided to look at the anagram fodder for 4d again and changed the offending extra E to a T. No spoilers but an ‘Old (US) president’ also pops up in the 15×15 today.

    Favourite was the surface and tricky parsing of HAIRLESS.

    Thanks to Mara and Templar

  9. Thought this was fairly gentle but a careless HEREFORDSHIRE produced another pink square – can’t whinge today as, unlike BletchleyReject, I didn’t go back to double check the anagrist.
    Started with MATE and finished with DERV, which needed to be dredged from the depths as I’ve only ever come across it in crosswordland.
    Thanks to Templar

  10. Just under 10 mins – but made the same mistake as Plett11.

    Thank you, Templar and Mara

  11. As per Plett, HEREFORDSHIRE went in as soon as I got the H from THOUSAND. Double drat and blast.


    Well played Mara to catch out the careless!


  12. Starred mystified at my pink square and then checked the leaderboard only to fund hardly anyone else had one. So it wasn’t Herefordshire then it was my next door neighbour HERTFORDSHIRE. Lots of US Presidents I don’t know so didn’t think too hard about the parsing when I was it fitted. Can’t blame a typo, DNF in what had been a pleasing 10.05.

  13. Stuck on DERV – haven’t heard that for many years – otherwise all good, except CNP HAIRLESS.

  14. Didn’t know the second meaning of STRESS and could not see how to parse HAIRLESS, so biffed both. Thanks Templar for clarifying. HAIRLESS was a very clever clue.

  15. Another HEREFORDSHIRE, so a DNF in 14:59
    FURORE held me up assuming it needed TO, so I ran through non-words such as FUTORO for a while. LOI was THOUSAND, since I assumed “number” would be anaesthetic related, and failed to spot that a number is sometimes just a number.

    The quitch shows 35 reference solvers have one or more errors, so I suspect there were a whole herd of Herefords today.

    Thanks Templar and Mara

  16. 10:22 today so spot on average. Thanks for clarifying HAIRLESS which went in unparsed. Nearly fell for the Herefordshire trap too.
    I’ve been to Henley Regatta once and spent the day going up and down The Thames alongside the races. Unfortunately, during the entire day, our boat never managed to be by the finishing line at the same time as the competitors. Therefore, I left not having seen the outcome to a single race. The Pimm’s did its best to make up for it.

  17. Whizzed through this and was on for a sub-7 minute finish, but then paused to check and re-check the anagrist for the county, and changed my answer from Herefordshire to Herts. So, 8 minutes all green rather than 7 minutes WOE – I’ll accept that trade.

    Did not/could not parse HAIRLESS, and I thought NOTABLE weak – a table is not really the same as a diagram, but NOCHART didn’t work. And a good thing STRESS was clued as a DD – I’d say it was more like a 1½ or even 1¼ D as the second definition was pretty tenuous IMO.

    Many thanks Templar for the blog. Advice for QCers who occasionally essay the biggie – today’s might not be the best one to try as Mrs S recorded a very rare DNF.

    1. Collins:
      in British English
      a Brit. name for diesel oil
      Word origin
      C20: from d(iesel) e(ngine) r(oad) v(ehicle)

      noun, Brit
      diesel oil used as a fuel for road vehicles.
      ETYMOLOGY: 1940s: from diesel-engine road vehicle.

      Shorter Oxford (3rd ed)
      1948. [f. the initial letters of diesel-engined road vehicle.] Diesel oil for road vehicles.

      Your move, Martin.

      1. i can only go by my recollection of the Derv vouchers issued during the 1957 fuel crisis. Then and up to recently Diesel was extracted from heavy oil by a process. Petrol at the top then other stuff including terps , paraffin etc. lower down. Hence the term diesel extract. Nowadays any old stuff ranging from the oil from chippies, rapeseed, buttercups can be used in order to keep diesel engined road vehicles smelling sweet and clean. the new definition you quote applies to the vehicle not the fuel. one surely cannot call a vehicle by the name of the fuel. otherwise we would surely have pervs on our roads!

  18. A fairly swift 6.17 for me today, which I sense is better than I may have expected as it seemed tougher than that in solving. No trouble with DERV even though I don’t know precisely what it is, although I’m aware that larger commercial vehicles may use it. It has appeared on numerous occasions before however. My first thought for the county was the correct one HERTFORDSHIRE, but as I was writing it in the alternative Herefordshire came to mind, but a quick check to see if a T figured in the anagram confirmed matters.

  19. Completed this one without much trouble, and help not required from Pumpa today.

    I remember the word “derv” from when I was a bin lid. Not sure why.

    Next door’s six-toed cat sneaked into my house today and ate all Pumpa’s food. The cheek of it! Good job he wasn’t in.


    My verdict: 🌞
    Pumpa’s verdict: Who’s been eating my food?! 😾😤

        1. In Oz they’re billy lids – old-school depression-era ARS, the billy being a pot boiled on an open fire to make tea…

    1. Pumpa might appreciate a cat flap like ours which only lets Nutty in as it is unlocked by reading her microchip.

  20. My all-seats pass in the SCC in getting plenty of use this week, with a back seat solve today after being held up by the regatta, furrow, and runcible spoon protagonist clues in the SE. Fortunately, wondering what had happened to the ‘t’ in shirt saved me from a careless Herefordshire DNF. I also noticed in passing that Mara had slipped some Red (diesel) into the DERV tank in 7d, an easy mistake to make (honest, Officer). CoD to 13d, Hairless, for the parsing pdm. Invariant

    1. Red into Derv – I saw what you did there! Neat. I use a lot of Red but no opportunity to mis-use it.

  21. 10:14 with the wrong county. The fact that I’m off on hols there in a couple of weeks made me overconfident. Shame as I thought it was a nice puzzle.


    Thanks Mara

  22. An average solve for me, coming in at 17 minutes. Several went in unparsed as the answer had become obvious from the crossers. Most time was spent on the NE corner where for quite a while I only had TOWER. Then I added UTTER but it didn’t help an awful lot. I eventually managed to crack THOUSAND and it all flowed from there. Checked the anagrist carefully at 4dn to make sure I didn’t come to grief there.

    FOI – 1ac MATE
    LOI – 12ac FURORE
    CODs – 8dn TSETSE and 13dn HAIRLESS

    Thanks to Mara and Templar

  23. Nice clever puzzle. Dredged DERV out of a distant memory but thought it would be a hard one for non UK or younger solvers, especially as flaming and red aren’t obvious synonyms.
    GRIT took some time to appear but was my COD.
    40 minutes but with the wrong shire.
    Thanks both

  24. 14 mins…

    I really enjoyed this and thought there were some terrific clues. 3ac “Thousand”, 1dn “Midnight” and 19ac “Otter” all had me nodding and chuckling in approval. Like many, I nearly put Herefordshire for 4dn, but luckily saw it didn’t parse without a “t”. Regarding Templar’s description of ‘Robots’ from RUR – aren’t they ‘Androids’? Haven’t seen or read it, so just speculating.

    Continuing the theme of clues coming along like buses, this is the third time I’ve seen “Tsetse” in as many weeks across different puzzles. Always seemed a staple of Geography when learning about the Masai etc. in the 1980’s.

    FOI – 2dn “Theta”
    LOI – 3ac “Thousand”
    COD – 13dn “Hairless”

    Thanks as usual!

  25. Held up at the end by LOI GRIT, otherwise fairly steady progress. No problems with DERV, remembered from childhood, although couldn’t have told you what it stood for. Liked OTTER 😆 and NOTABLE, but agree with Cedric that a diagram is not really a table. Many thanks for extra info Templar.

  26. 6:04

    Never used DERV myself but it’s one of those funny words that sticks in your head.

    NOTABLE reminds me of “The NOTABLE surgeon was NOT ABLE to perform the operation because (s)he had NO TABLE”

    Didn’t stop to parse HAIRLESS. LOI was THOUSAND which I bunged in before parsing after the fact.

    Thanks to Templar for the elucidations and to Mara

  27. Felt rather smug biffing Herefordshire straight away. Hm.
    Otherwise all correct and quite quick. FOI MATE, LOI STRESS. Liked NOTABLE, OTTER, along with UTTER, THOUSAND along with THREE, INVERSE, INAPT, GRIT.
    Thanks vm, Templar. Cd not parse HAIRLESS. I agree that Henley wd be more interesting with bookies.

  28. 10:08. Excited to be staring at just D-R- with only 7 minutes gone. However it took another 3 minutes to see DERV would parse though the term was NHO. Thanks for parsing HAIRLESS- looked at it several different ways but couldn’t crack it. MIDNIGHT and GRIT were my favourites.

  29. From THETA to TEENAGER in 5:51. More or less biffed HERTFORDSHIRE. Really glad I didn’t think of HEREFORDSHIRE! Thanks Mara and Templar.

  30. I haven’t seen the word DERV at a filling station for decades in Britain. It’s now just diesel. I think the key letter is R so not for farm vehicles where the tax is different. As Invariant said that was red diesel. Inspectors would use a dipstick in your tank and if it came out red you’d better be driving a tractor. Johnny

    1. I stopped to re-fuel at an unmanned ‘petrol station’ in the Netherlands a few years ago and pulled up at the only available pump (which looked just like all the others, although it was slightly set apart. . .). You had to put your credit card in to start the pump, and it was only when I noticed the nozzle was a bit on the large size that the penny dropped, but what to do ? Didn’t dare leave the activation open in case a lorry driver ran up a whopping bill on my card, so dribbled the minimum 5l of Dutch DERV equivalent, which memory suggests was actually coloured red, into the Volvo and then brimmed the tank from one of the normal pumps. The site had loads of cameras, so half expected a tug at some point, but all was well.

  31. Wow, 6 double definitions! That’s a lot, even for a Mara puzzle. Especially liked the clue for TOWER – sneaky vowel sound change! Definitely a fun challenge. 8:10 is a great time by the way.

  32. I was held up a for a while towards the end as I had biffed stafFORDSHIRE earlier on, which made THOUSAND and DRESSER impossible until I spotted my error. Otherwise, I found this mostly a straightforward puzzle and I finished in 25 minutes. Comfortably in the SCC, but still a good time for me.

    Many thanks to Mara and Templar.

  33. 22:08 with the last few minutes trawling for something other than DERV (how about derp? 🤣), then convincing myself that it was the only thing I could get to parse, though flaming = red seemed like a stretch (but when does that ever stop a setter?). Also spent quite a lot of time parsing HAIRLESS. Same hold-ups as for other non-British solvers, I’m glad that Hynlee and Hyneel didn’t look tempting. Pleased with myself for remembering what “bottle” can mean.

    Thanks to Templar for the informative blog, in particular I had no idea Lear was a painter. And to Mara for the entertaining puzzle.

  34. Gave up with DERV still outstanding – irritatingly a set of letters I’d considered and dismissed as not being a plausible word.

    We live and learn. About 20 mins for the rest to go it.

  35. 9.58 DNF. Another HEREFORDSHIRE biffer. Gah! THOUSAND helped with THREE, the THOU having made me think of THEE. I liked TSETSE. Thanks Templar and Mara.

  36. I join the party in Herefordshire today so DNF but a fun puzzle. Garages (in Devon, where I grew up) often used to have a chalked sign: NO DERV. It came back instantly and as I wrote it in, I thought, this will provoke debate! It’s now getting ‘otter by the day in Suffolk, so sun hats on for the 13d. Unlike some, I liked no table for absence of diagram. 20 minutes flew by!

  37. 11:26
    DERV is an unlikely looking word, not surprising it stumped a few. I definitely thought about Herefordshire first, and checked the anagram to be sure. Who knew there were two counties with just one letter different?

    I wouldn’t want to upset people from Watford or St Albans, but it’s hard to think of a cricket team, cheese, accent or holiday destination to get excited about Hertfordshire.


  38. 27 min finish. LOI Three, nearly gave up until I remembered the earlier Thou.

    Enjoyed it thank you Mara and also Templar, parsing Hairless was beyond me.

  39. Another HEREFORDSHIRE biffer. Didn’t pay enough attention and went for the beautiful county next door.

  40. This all went in far easier than I anticipated – it being one of Mara’s puzzles. Another single Costa this sunny afternoon. Thx for parsing 13d Hairless, but ‘it had to be’ was my reasoning! We’ve seen 21d Grit before.
    FOI 1a Mate
    LOI 13d Hairless
    COD sorry, but nothing stands out today, but I liked 3a Thousand!

  41. Another appalling performance.

    19 minute DNF after putting HEREFORDSHIRE. I knew the T was missing and I still got it wrong. Imbecile! The fact others made the same error does not console me in the slightest.

    So there’s another week blown. My inability to make a very simple target is frustrating beyond measure.

    Totally fed up ☹️. Every day something goes awry.

    Thanks for the blog.

  42. Took me all day on and off to finish this, with THOUSAND, DERV and UTTER really foxing me till the bitter end. A real tester.

  43. Timely, Templar, given that it’s May, but how many of this crowd do you think know what a triple double is?


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