Quick Cryptic 2685 by Joker

Parkrun + Solve = 36:30. (Parkrun a trifle slow as an unusually high tide had the Swan River encroaching on a bit of the track)

Not sure of the overall difficulty (I took longer than my average time) but there are a few tricky clues.  If PUSTULE and PULE are both unfamiliar to you then 18ac is tough.  There’s a rare device in play for UNCRITICAL, and HELIUM will befuddle some newer solvers.

I’m hopeless at spotting Ninas, but something seems to be afoot.  There are ten answers that contain two C’s, including the first eight down clues.  That feels like too many for a coincidence but not enough for me to glean any significance.  Perhaps Joker is enjoying a Dreadlock Holiday?  Let me know if you can see what I’m missing or if I’m seeing something that isn’t there.


Anyway, here’s how I parsed the clues.  Would be delighted to hear your thoughts / complaints / corrections:

(In the clues, definitions are underlined and anagram indicators are in italics.

In the explanations (ABC)* indicates an anagram of abc.  Deletions and other devices are indicated accordingly, I hope).

1 Fight to send packing walker’s pack (8)
RUCKSACK – RUCK (fight) + SACK (send packing)
5 Drug agent managed to get back cocaine (4)
NARC – NAR [RAN (managed) reversed (to get back)] + C (cocaine)
8 Dish cousin avoids at home more than once (8)
COUSCOUS – COUS [cousin “avoids” IN (at home)] + COUS again (more than once)
9 Cliff Wilde, perhaps not the first (4)
SCAROSCAR (Wilde, perhaps, without the first letter)
11 Chore mixing pigment for paints (5)
12 Canadian cheers piece of vocal music (7)
CANTATA – CAN (Canadian) + TATA (cheers)

Not 100% convinced.  To me “ta” =  thank you = cheers, while “tata” = goodbye = cheerio (maybe).  Presumably there are other localised usages to justify this one, or perhaps I’m missing the point.

Edit:  Jack points out that there’s dictionary support for cheers = goodbye.

13 Naturist daughter is in Brazil? (6)
NUDIST – D (daughter) + IS in NUT (Brazil?)

The question mark is there to indicate the DBE (definition by example)

15 Scarf returned without a fight (6)
FRACAS – FRACS (scarf returned) outside (without) A
18 Whine about beginnings of small, tender and unsightly pimple (7)
PUSTULE – PULE (whine) about STU (beginnings of Small Tender and Unsightly)

Don’t think I knew pule, and wasn’t too sure of pustule, so this one took a while and was my last one in.

19 Topic covered by Rotherhithe Messenger (5)
THEME – Hidden in (covered by) rotherliTHE MEssenger
21 Fit last four parts of astrolabe to move round (4)
22 Broadcast court impounding RAF plane (8)
AIRCRAFT – AIR (broadcast) + CT (court) “impounding” RAF
23 24-hour periods are stunning, reportedly (4)
DAYS – Homophone (reportedly) of DAZE (are stunning)
24 Person imitating bird like a thrush or robin initially (8)
EMULATOR – EMU (bird) + LATOR (initial letters of Like A Thrush Or Robin)

We had a war with the emus once.  They won.

1 Animal ran around cricket club with ducks (7)
RACCOON – RAN around CC (cricket club) + OO (ducks, as in zeroes)
2 Bed frame (5)
COUCH – Double definition, a noun and a verb
3 Fuss with clues rewritten, about 100 achieving results (10)
SUCCESSFUL – (FUSS + CLUES)* about C (100)
4 Conservative heads routine church support (6)
CRUTCH – C (Conservative) + RUT (routine) + CH (church)
6 Very old bridge, one linking capitals of Austria and Czechia (7)
ARCHAIC – ARCH (bridge) + I (one) “linking” A and C (capital letters of Austria and Czechia)
7 Approximately half Circassian (5)
CIRCA – Half the letters of CIRCAssian
10 Not too fussy until the previous answer is sorted out (10)
UNCRITICAL – [UNTIL + CIRCA (the answer to the previous clue)]*

Quite a rare device, to include another answer as part of the anagrist.  I think a lot of people will solve this from the crossers and the definition and parse it retrospectively.  Or not.

14 Show pals involved in home improvements (7)
DISPLAY – (PALS)* in DIY (home improvements)
16 The girl left short term refuge (7)
SHELTER – SHE (the girl) + L (left) + TER (“short” term)
17 He’s to buzz around old priest (6)
HELIUM – HUM (buzz) around ELI (old priest)

He is the chemical symbol for helium.  If you haven’t encountered this device before, it can be fiendishly difficult to spot, as words such as “He” and “As” (arsenic) are so easily disguised within a clue.  Or more likely at the start of a clue, as Kevin points out below, because of the required capitalisation.

18 Cloth put down after first sign of puddle (5)
PLAID – LAID (put down) + P (first letter of Puddle)
20 Praise extension filled with aluminium (5)
EXALT – EXT (extension) “filled with” AL (aluminium)

40 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2685 by Joker”

  1. Slow, and I don’t know why. Biffed PUSTULE, RACCOON, ARCHAIC. I thought 21ac and 22ac were rather poor clues: ‘last four parts of astrolabe’ is a short step away from ‘last four letters of astrolabe’; and clueing RAF by ‘RAF’ lacks a certain je sais quoi. I think we’ve had He before in a QC, don’t think we’ve seen As yet. Fortunately, the elements require capitals, so, as in today’s example, they need to come at the beginning of the clue. 7:42.

    1. I thought duplicate thanks too. If TA is “thanks”, two of them would be the plural of thanks which is still… “thanks”. No?

  2. When will I remember that ‘without’ can also mean ‘outside’?

    Thanks for the ‘I’m not in love’ earworm Galspray!

  3. Back to 14 minutes today, nearly missing my target for the second time this week but just scraping in under the wire. The only hold-up was the parsing of PUSTULE where I took on trust that PULE had to exist. Shakespeare wrote of ‘the infant mewling and puking’ rather than ‘puling and puking’.

    1. I got it from Romeo & Juliet (my O-level Shakespeare, funny how things stay with you) – Capulet calls Juliet “a wretched puling fool, a whining mammet” for declining her arranged marriage.

  4. 10:10 (Viking settlements in North America)

    LOI was HELIUM. NHO of PULE, but biffed PUSTULE anyway.

    Thanks Galspray and Joker

  5. Felt sluggish throughout this one and then my final 3 slowed me down even more – HELIUM (have seen the device before), EMULATOR and UNCRITICAL, which I never did parse.
    With regard to all the double Cs, how many QC’s has Joker set – I’m wondering if it’s 200?
    Finished in 10.54 with WOD to PUSTULE.
    Thanks to Galspray

    1. Good suggestion, it’s 250 today, although I’m not sure how all the C’s reflect that.

      Maybe a combination of C’s and L’s? There are 14 C’s in the top half of the grid and 7 L’s in the lower half – twice as many C’s as L’s, as in CCL. Or am I reading too much into it?

      Anyway congrats, Joker on your milestone!

  6. I found this on the tricky side, and my LOI was delayed by my inability to think of “emu” rather than “owl” or “tit” despite the “lator” bit of SLOI 24A being obvious. I loathe cross-referenced clues, and 10D was particularly irritating. Watch out Joker, I’m loading up my Rubber Bullets….

    TIME 5:40

  7. 13.44

    Tough for me, breezeblocked at the end on UNCRITICAL (finally saw what was happening but needed p&p) EMULATOR (missed the initially bit needed to apply to five words) and the tricky HELIUM where I thought Izetti must be the setter and I was looking for some barely known priest.

    Nice one Joker and great witty blog as always

  8. I have not seen the He/As type device before, and it beat me. Thought of Eli as the old priest, but if I used it in the wordplay that left me without any apparent definition, so went hunting other old priests – unsuccessfully.
    Also failed on EMULATOR, and if I had that M it might, just, maybe, have made me see what was going on with HELIUM, but twas not to be. Hopefully my gardening will be more fruitful. I will return later to see what the hive mind comes up with on the multiple Cs.

  9. 9:18. FOI RUCKSACK, LOI COUCH. I found the AIRCRAFT surprisingly difficult to spot. Having seen the device before, I liked the sneaky He for HELIUM

  10. An enjoyable puzzle with so many clever clues with great surfaces. We smiled a lot as we worked through at a decent pace until breeze blocked by the helium emulator intersection. Was close to looking up mates of Elijah, and Zadok after failing putting bee around the outside when Mrs RH came up with hum and the penny could be heard from a few miles away! Emu was then a write in to finish in 29.26

    I saw ta ta as the plural of cheers, can’t think of an example but surely in the same way, more than one thanks are thanks?? I have to say this has provoked heated discussion over our coffee as Mrs RH is adamant there is no plural of cheers. We’d better go for a walk and enjoy this morning’s sunshine😗

    Thanks Galspray and Joker.

  11. 8:03

    Slowed up at the end with UNCRITICAL which I thought was an odd choice for ‘Not too fussy’, then HELIUM and finally EMULATOR, needing all of the checkers. Having read comments above, that’s a nice trick of Joker’s to have CCL in each of the odd-numbered columns representing his 250th QC – congrats! Looking forward to the next 250…

    Thanks Joker and Galspray

  12. Dnf…

    The Saturday woes continue. Had a few gripes with this – particularly the ‘ta ta’ for cheers (I ended up putting Cantana) and “Couscous” being a dish (isn’t it more of a combined food?).

    However, the wordplay structure of 10dn defeated me, as did the clever chemical formula device for 17dn. Dnk “pule” = whine, so 18ac was also incorrect.

    Overall, just a tad too difficult for me I think.

    FOI – 1ac “Rucksack”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 1dn “Raccoons”

    Thanks as usual!

  13. Happy to come home in the medium paced coach today sub 15. Spotted the circa anagrist, possibly because I was given a book of Daily Mail Cryptic Crosswords for Christmas and that’s a common device used there.
    Congratulations Joker on CCL (milestone & NINA) and thanks Galspray for a good blog and the initial (if slightly wide of the mark…big boys don’t cry) CC spot 😉👍

  14. Fantastic puzzle, I thought, stuffed full of excellent clues. Well worthy of a 250th celebration – thanks for all the fun (and frustration …) you’ve given us, Joker. COD to COUSCOUS but it was such a strong field.

    Absolute slapped my forehead when I spotted the He device, which I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to. But main hold up was LOI ARCHAIC, where I failed to lift and separate “very old bridge” for too long and was racking my brains for famous bridges. Durr.

    All done in 09:10 for a Really Enjoyable Day. Many thanks Joker and Gallers.


  15. DNF. Quite fast but then slow in SE. PDM with AIRCRAFT , but had to look up EMU. Don’t know why because they are a popular bird in Xwordland. No idea about HELIUM though thought of Hum. I was looking for a particular priest.
    Otherwise enjoyable mostly, as I biffed around. Liked SCAR, FRACAS, NUDIST, SHELTER, COUCH. NHO Pule but biffed the unpleasant answer😕
    Thank vm, Galspray.

  16. 10 minutes for a smooth solve. Pule not known but parsed in retrospect from Pustule – slightly sad how often I completely fail to see the setters’ clever wordplays until after I have the answer.

    I did notice all the Cs but couldn’t see an explanation.

    Many thanks Galspray for the blog

  17. Held up by EMULATOR and LOI HELIUM. Once I’d put in ‘hum’ and corrected Ely to ELI (dearie me) I still didn’t spot what was going on for a rather long time. Very enjoyable. Thanks Joker. Particularly liked CANTATA (no problem for me accepting TA + TA = cheers x 2). Will try to remember He and As for future crosswords! Many thanks galspray. In awe of you Nina-solvers. I’m always totally clueless.

  18. Taken over my target time by this one. FOI was OCHRE. Missed the CCLs. Failed to parse UNCRITICAL. ANCIENT and CADENZA were soon backed out. Fortunately I knew PULE and PUSTULE, so wasn’t held up by that one. Spotted He quickly too. LOI was LAID. 11:25. Congrats and thanks to Joker and TA for the blog Galspray.

  19. 11:06. I threw in PSALM for praise thinking PS for extension and maybe ALM was used somewhere for aluminium. Fortunately the obvious crossers soon revealed EXALT. Ta Ta all!

  20. Another tricky QC, especially at the end. After 25 minutes I was down to my final three clues, although I still had question marks by NARC and PUSTULE. However, those three clues – HELIUM, EMULATOR and UNCRITICAL – held me up for another quarter of an hour or more. Never mind, I did like HELIUM and UNCRITICAL when they eventually came.

    Time = 41 minutes.

    Many thanks to Joker and Galspray.

  21. 19.48 HELIUM took a good while and I spent the last third of the time on UNCRITICAL and EMULATOR. The nina was brilliant, not that I noticed it. Thanks galspray and Joker.

  22. All went smoothly for a bit over 15 minutes, despite my ignorance of SCAR=cliff and RUCK=fight. Enjoyed COUSCOUS. Got a kick out of the cross-reference trick. Then spent another 12 minutes fruitlessly fiddling with EMULATOR and HELIUM. Of course LATOR was clear but could not see EMU for a long time, and kept entertaining the idea that the definition was really “person imitating bird”. And of course I thought of ELI right away but kept desperately seeking the definition part of the clue. Decided it must “priest” or “old priest” at one point and put in LEVITE and tried to parse it. Haha. Can’t be “he”, I thought. Until I saw that it had to be.


    Thanks and congratulations to Joker, always a good puzzle from you, and to galspray for the excellent blogging.

  23. DNF

    Thought a sub 10 was on the cards at one point, a real biff fest. But came unstuck with EMULATOR. Foolishly looking for a 4 letter bird followed by ATOR. HELIUM also eluded me. At least parkrun was back to a sub 30 time today.

  24. 15:54, pushed past my target by EMULATOR and my LOI and COD, HELIUM.

    Thanks to Galspray and thanks and congrats to Joker.

  25. We were doing quite well until we got held up by COD HELIUM, POI UNCRITICAL and LOI EMULATOR. NHO PULE but PUSTULE seemed reasonably obvious so we went on trust. 15:26. Thanks, galspray, and thanks and congratulations to Joker!

  26. Very clever work by Joker kept me entertained and engaged throughout. Amazed he managed the CCL device without destroying some of the clues. I so wanted 2d to be Cruck…
    FOI 1a Rucksack
    LOI 10d Uncritical
    COD either of 13a Nudist or 22a Aircraft

  27. A busy day, so a late solve, which might go some way to explaining why it ended in standing room only on the coach (other simpler explanations are available). CoD to 17d, Helium, for the head slap pdm. Congratulations to Joker, for including so many references to CCL without ruining the puzzle. Invariant

  28. Well, that was a bit of a rollercoaster. Most of it went flying in with no bother whatsoever, and then I spent maybe fifteen minutes on HELIUM, UNCRITICAL and (LOI) FRACAS. Bravo to Joker for the first two of those (joint CODs), and a stern talking-to for me regarding the third – no excuses, the instructions are right there in the damn clue. Bah.

    27:20 overall. Thank you and congratulations to Joker for a lovely head-scratcher, and thank you to galspray for the blog!


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *