Quick Cryptic 2696 by Joker

A witty and engaging one from Joker today, if a little harder than average in places. There’s some top hidden word action and I absolutely love 3dn . 6.5 minutes

1 Get totally absorbed in Lavengro’s story (7)
ENGROSS – hidden word
7 Singing contest featuring girl with wooden sound (7)
KARAOKE – KARA is a girl and OKE sounds like OAKY
9 Drums time — annoying child has a new one (7)
TIMPANI – T (time) + IMP (annoying child) + A + N + I
10 Picture reason for dropping coffee? (3,4)
MUG SHOT – Mug’s hot. Très drôle
11 Old plane not keeping constant speed (4)
RATE – Old plane is a CRATE, minus C for constant
12 Bananas, celery and gin? A sweet-tasting liquid (9)
GLYCERINE – anagram (‘bananas’) of CELERY + GIN
14 One knowing nothing of what Signora Mussolini is concealing (9)
IGNORAMUS – hidden word. Superb clue.
16 Establish the extent of moans being expressed (4)
SIZE – sounds like ‘sighs’
17 Time batting gains missing wicket (7)
INNINGS – Gains are WINNINGS, minus W for wicket
20 Where to keep things as alternative in acting area (7)
STORAGE – STAGE is acting area, insert OR meaning alternative
21 After a quake sure get significant movement (7)
GESTURE -anagram (‘after a quake’) of GET SURE. Significant movement because a gesture signifies something. Nice accurate clueing.
22 Some seafood to throw over back of trawler mostly (7)
LOBSTER – LOB (throw) + STER[N] which is the back of a trawler (or any other boat). Not sure what the ‘over’ is doing, unless ‘lob’ is defined as ‘throw over’
1 Training teen working providing hospitality (12)
ENTERTAINING – anagram (‘working’) of TRAINING TEEN
2 Initiative unfortunately outing MP (8)
GUMPTION – anagram (‘unfortunately’) of OUTING MP. ‘Gumption’ is a wonderful and very under-used word.
3 Yes, yes, yes! (4)
OKAY – OK (yes) + AY (yes), meaning yes. This is so neat I can’t believe it’s not a chestnut, but I have never seen it before.
4 Devil appearing in heaven is revealing (6)
SKIMPY – IMP (devil) inside SKY (heaven)
5 Advancement Roger shortly found in Fleet Street (8)
6 Fluttering insect — mum shows no sign of hesitation (4)
MOTH – Mum is MOTHER, take off the ER of hesitation
8 Right after prune entrée upset businessman (12)
ENTREPRENEUR – anagram (‘upset’) of PRUNE ENTREE + R
12 Queen introduced to geum as a garden plant (8)
GERANIUM – GEUM with RANI (Hindu queen) inside.
13 I shout about grit — not good — that in shoe, perhaps (8)
IRRITANT – I RANT outside [G]RIT. Grit in one’s shoe being an irritant
15 Seafood — not as much being brought up under a lot of mud (6)
MUSSEL – LESS backwards undeneath MU[D]
18 Drama in Japan about southern food (4)
NOSH – NOH outside S. NOH (or NO) is traditional Japanese theatre, and I only know that because I do crosswords
19 Battlefield object making blast, primarily (4)
BOMB – acronym

89 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2696 by Joker”

  1. 17 minutes, missing my extended target by 2.

    I’m not sure I know KARA as a name. I glanced through the list of notable Karas on Wiki but didn’t notice anyone I ever heard of.

    I missed the definition of IRRITANT because I didn’t pay enough attention to the surface, just dissected the wordplay and bunged it in.

      1. You may well be right that’s what the setter had in mind, but I’m no further forward with Cara as a name as I don’t know any and the Wiki list of notable ones doesn’t contain a single person I ever heard of. Fortunately none of this held me up as I knew the answer and how to spell it.

  2. What a brilliant puzzle. Ignoramus is outstanding. We got off to a flying start with the left half done in 6 minutes. Right hand a little slower until at 14 something breeze blocked by size. The alpha trawl for *i*e took us to 19.04 but very good for us for a Joker.

    Prefer Curarist’s dropping his hot mug than our shot one 😀 otherwise all passed apart from Trawler’s back which as a sailor I can’t believe I didn’t get, thanks.

    Thanks Joker, great fun.

  3. Nuts. Didn’t think Kara was a name so went for Kari even though KARIOKE looks massively wrong now I type it out and the ONS says that whuile there were 38 baby Karas born in England and Wales in 2022 there were no Karis – and only 40 Helens for fans of dying names. Struggled with OKAY even when I saw it fitted and so missed out on really appreciating a great clue. Not all green in 14.

    1. Yes I was wondering how to spell Karioky as well. That’s the problem with words borrowed from a language which doesn’t use our alphabet: there’s no native original to guide us and so it could be almost anything if it sounds close, as for example was discussed in yesterday’s blog over the spelling of Quran/Koran. But while Kari – rather Kári – is quite a common (male) name in Iceland I dismissed it as a female name in Anglophone countries and the wordplay (and a vague feeling that Kara was a possible name) led me stumbling to the right spelling. Tough one though.

      1. In the case of Japanese I think pronunciation, and therefore transliteration, is actually fairly consistent, in that there are characters to express ‘ka’ + ‘ra’ + ‘o’ + ‘ke’ which are used in phonetically the same way in other words. Agreed that a Japanese pronunciation would sound very different to our native UK ‘carry-oh-key’, though.

    2. The kara in karaoke is the same spelling and meaning as the kara in karate, which may help you remember the spelling (at least assuming you know how to spell karate).

  4. Joker was on top form for this one. I kept nominating a COD only for another to displace it shortly afterwards which is always a sign of a good puzzle.
    GUMPTION gets my WOD, although I’ve always associated it more with resolve/courage rather than inspiration and MUG SHOT eventually pipped OKAY to COD as I do enjoy a good pun.
    Started with ENGROSS and finished with IRRITANT in 7.09.
    Thanks to Curarist

  5. Well done Joker, much more than OKAY with some excellent clues today.
    I was that IGNORAMUS -very smooth hidden – to slip into the SCC after a fast start with all but 3 acrosses and the two long anagrams down giving a helpful framework.
    I struggled particularly to get SIZE (anything *I*E invokes instant panic and brain freeze) and LOI, KARAOKE which I think of as a form of hell rather than either “singing” or indeed a contest as such. And never met or heard of any KARA as far as I can recollect, although the K should have been enough on its own to point me home.

  6. I mostly enjoyed this (though some surprise to see two IMPs in SKIMPY and TIMPANI), but failed to appreciate OKAY at the time (easy enough to biff, as there could hardly be any doubt about the definition, but I could not parse it) and I’m not sure I’m any closer to liking it having read Curarist’s explanation. It seems a bit odd to me – OK is used twice, once in the clue construction and again as the whole answer, I spell AY with an E on the end (AYE) and OKAY is a pretty grudging affirmative, not the enthusiastic affirmative of Yes Yes Yes!

    But that apart, some lovely clues – any crossword with GUMPTION in it gets my vote – and all done in 11 minutes.

    Many thanks Curarist for the blog

  7. I spelt karaoke with an i also, duh. Apart from that, I “finished” in 11:34.
    As already mentioned some clever cluing today. Mug’s hot was especially clever I thought.

  8. 11 minutes. One of those puzzles which was quite hard going at the time, but when looking at the blog, with no really difficult clues or unusual words. Some good hiddens as pointed out and MUGS HOT brought a smile.

    Even with Cedric’s not unreasonable reservations, I still liked ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ and it was my pick today.

    Thanks to Joker and Curarist

  9. Ah finally I ride the wavelength!

    8 minutes flat.

    I didn’t realise it was MUG’S HOT, I just assumed that if someone shot your mug (with a gun) you’d drop it lol

    I don’t know any European stuff at all, but I knew words like Noh, Obi and how to spell Karaoke before doing crosswords.

    Some of the hiddens were great in this one.

  10. Also started with karaoki until I knew it had to be ENTREPRENEUR. Thanks Curarist for explanation of OKAY – biffed it but so obvious now!

  11. 11:46
    Hovered over LOI KAROKE as not sure of its spelling, and couldn’t see a girl in there, Kara? I know that as a radio station in California, not a girls name. I always pronounce it Carrie-okky so I couldn’t quite make it work. Bunged it in anyway. All green.

    Distraught with the news that only 40 Helens were born last year. The face that launched a thousand ships now rarer than Tiffany. The Trojan wars have brilliant names, we should be using them all. I’d love a grandson called Paris, or a daughter Electra.

    MUG SHOT was good, but needed a few checkers in place before it popped.

    Yes, yes, yes. Yes, my COD.

    1. Mrs S taught for some years at a primary school and vividly remembers two sisters named Persephone and Sheherezade. And I have a friend whose secretary rejoices in the name Afroditi (spelt thus). Wonderful names all.

      1. Persephone is good, but Sheherazade surely? But then some seem to delight in calling their children by “wrong” spellings, e.g. Danial, Jonathon, Rachael, Jenifer, KARA.

      2. I worked with a Pericles.

        Also, a good friend of mine married a woman who’s given name and surname were identical to those of his immediately preceding girlfriend. Strange!

        1. And I knew a woman with the last name Paris who married a man with the first name Paris.

  12. Superb puzzle, gosh I enjoyed that. Just as Plett says, one COD candidate after another.

    I really thought I was on for a PB after finishing the entire LHS in 2 mins but I got gummed up on the right, especially in the NE where I just couldn’t see SKIMPY, MUG-SHOT (COD from me – great clue) and LOI KARAOKE, where my finger hesitated for at least a minute between the I (sounds right, looks wrong) and the A (vice versa). Got it right, phew.

    All green in 08:37 for a CuddaWuddaShudda Day. Many thanks Joker and Curarist.


  13. 14:24 (James I returns to Scotland, after being a prisoner in England for 18 years)
    Breezeblocked by OKAY. It had to be two words meaning yes, that together meant yes, so I assumed foreign languages were involved. Failing to find any suitable candidates , I paused the crossword to make a cup of tea, and while the kettle was boiling OKAY finally popped into my head.

    Thanks Joker and Curarist

  14. 4:37. Lovely puzzle. MUG SHOT was my favourite from quite a few candidates. Thank-you Joker and Curarist.

  15. Enjoyed this , Okay is very clever! I don’t think Karaoke is a contest but that’s a minor quibble! Thanks all.

  16. 6:14

    Very nice, thanks Joker and blogger.


    Done enough singing in bars to know the spelling with confidence.

    1. Tried to get chap gpt to come up with first letter type clue. Frustrating experience.

      Its best effort is:
      Singing contest: Karen’s antics really amuse, offering keen entertainment initially.

  17. Where I live we pronounce it ‘CARRIE – OAKY’ . I therefore parsed the clue as a homophone of ‘girl’ (Carrie e.g Fisher) with ‘wooden’ (oaky), leaving ‘sound’ as the homophone indicator.

  18. I think I must be in a bad mood as this clever puzzle annoyed me.
    7a KARAOKE I disagree Kara is a girl; it is a Hindi surname I gather from Wiki. It might be Carrie, as in Johnson. I didn’t like the clue (at the time) but agree it is (as others here) inventive.
    11a I thought the “not keeping constant” for (c)RATE was misleading as it hints the missing letter is embedded.
    22a LOBSTER agree with Curarist “over” doesn’t help.
    3d OKAY. I objected but Curarist has shown me it was a splendid clue. I biffed it. Very delayed PDM and COD.
    8d I typoed ENTerPRENEUR, delayed 12a Glycerine.
    19d BOMBed here; final defeat, never saw the first char thing AGAIN and biffed.
    I think I ought to say that having struggled thru this my mood has improved and the puzzle is a very good one.

  19. A very friendly one from Joker today – only -I-E wasn’t enough for me to get SIZE (moan = whine, but not really = sigh). Love the hot mug. No problem with KARAOKE – that’s how it’s spelt – only suggest it’s not a contest.

  20. Very enjoyable, needing Pumpa’s help with just one clue – 13d.


    My verdict: 👍
    Pumpa’s verdict: 🐈

        1. Inspired by Pumpa’s feats, we’ve asked our cat (Perdita – black and white female, although she prefers the term “Queen”) why she doesn’t step up with similar assistance.
          Apparently she thinks Very Hard Indeed about the crossword, closing her eyes in concentration, breathing heavily (aka snoring) to make sure her brain is oxygenated and not moving a muscle so as not to distract the thought processes.

  21. First time back to commenting after many months out, and a 5:45 today which is well under target for me.

    I have to agree with Cedric that OK within OKAY is tantamount to literal clueing of the constituent parts of compound words, which I understood as being ‘not on’. I interpreted it as a potential triple definition during the solve, but now I’m not exactly sure how you would extract a truly distinct second definition, let alone a third.

    It appears I am also not the only one to come up with the idea that a shot mug is one that has had it, and therefore prone to a handle cracking or some such.

    Kara certainly is not my first, second, or even hundredth choice for a girl’s name but checkers were fairly generous, and perhaps Fatima’s suggestion of a Carrie homophone could carry us out of trouble.

    COD probably goes to IGNORAMUS, but it flew in so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to properly appreciate the surface. Thank you, Curarist and Joker.

    1. RE:
      Yes ! Yes ! Yes !

      Made me think of the restaurant scene in “When Harry met Sally”.
      But I suppose that is just the way my mind works.

  22. 5.55

    Super puzzle for all the reasons folks have said. Had no idea about the parsing of OKAY but in it went.

    Cara Delevingne anyone?

  23. For KARAOKE, the intention was for the ‘sounds like’ to cover both elements, the dictionaries suggesting an English pronunciation sounding more like ‘CARRIE OAKY’. Sorry if this wasn’t quite made explicit enough so as to leave no room for doubt, and thanks for all the kind comments on this one. Joker

    1. Thanks Joker for reading our comments and putting up with our fumblings. This makes sense and is what I thought, as it matched how I say it.

      “At our wine club this evening let’s go round the room, give your name, and one word to describe the Australian Chardonnay we are drinking. You, the American actress who played princess Leia, you go first”

  24. DNF. Quite a tough one.

    Missed by two answers:
    13 Down- Irritant.
    A very irritating clue.

    16 Across.- Size.
    Just could not size this one up.

    N.B 18 Down. Nosh.
    I always thought that Japanese theatre was NO and not NOH. At least I have learnt something from this failure.

  25. Just crept in under target at 9.43, only to discover I had one wrong. Yep, you guessed it KARAOKE spelt with an I. This is particularly annoying as I have a Kara on our Christmas card list, and I really should have brought this to mind. In spite of this blip, I enjoyed the puzzle which I thought was first rate. I spent about a minute on my LOI OKAY, not stopping the clock until I’d successfully parsed it. A very clever clue, full marks to the Joker.
    My total time for the week was 52.45, giving me a daily average of 10.33, just a little over par.

  26. Really enjoyable puzzle. We called it a day at 57 minutes 8 seconds with 4 still to get. Biffed in OKAY, MOTH, MUSSEL and LOBSTER. Not a bad showing for us! Fresh start tomorrow.

    1. Struggling today, working out next month, breezing through next year. Enjoy your training!

  27. 4:37

    Flew through this with little to slow me down. No trouble with the spelling of KARAOKE with all checkers in place. Enjoyed MUGS HOT and that great word GUMPTION. GLYCERINE and honey is my go-to soother for a sore throat/cough. Short pauses for thought at the end with SIZE and OKAY (which I didn’t parse in flight – couldn’t think of anything else in short order that would fit the checkers and the obvious definition).

    Thanks Curarist and Joker

  28. Slightly held up at the end by IRRITANT and LOI SIZE, as per a poster above – ?I?E immediately causes brain shutdown.

    OKAY gets my COD, but the hidden for IGNORAMUS was superb.


  29. Enjoyable and fairly straightforward. Liked GUMPTION, such an old-fashioned yet expressive word. Didn’t worry about KARAOKE at the time but the only way I can now make it work is Kara (I do know one) plus homophone of oak-y. Don’t understand the Kara=Carrie thing at all – what am I missing?! Didn’t know NOH but had to be. LOI and COD to SIZE. Many thanks C. Thanks Joker.

  30. Great fun! 28mins but got them all. COD for me OKAY, very nice! 18d and 12d bit obscure but guessed based on the letters

  31. DNF. It transpires that my first ever attempt to spell Karaoke wasn’t 100% successful – hopefully I’ll be ready next time. A pity because it was an enjoyable and quick (about 20mins) solve (not always the case with Joker), with quite a few CoD candidates. If pushed, I think Skimpy wins out for the surface, but Mug Shot and Ignoramus must be close behind. Invariant

  32. A dnf after 60m with the last 10 spent staring without success at K_R_O_E. Kicking myself now but in fairness I expect most solvers biffed it as the clueing wasn’t much help.
    Otherwise a fantastic puzzle, much enjoyed.
    I always thought GUMPTION required some OOMPH as well as INITIATIVE but it was easy enough from the anagram.

  33. Failed on OKAY, but solved and enjoyed the rest. Quite fast, too. Liked MUG SHOT, ENGROSS, SIZE, LOBSTER , NOSH, SKIMPY, among others. Nearly forgot that Devil is Imp in Crosswordland.
    Thanks vm, Curarist.

  34. 9:31. Well, that was a lot of fun-OKAY, MUG SHOT, GUMPTION, and IRRITANT were my favourites.

    1. I forgot to mention that I first thought OUI’S for multiple yesses and also thought SORTAGE could be a word.

  35. Some excellent hiddens and great to see words like GUMPTION and IGNORAMUS. Mrs Random applies those two words to me on a regular basis, although not in as complimentary a way as I would like.

    I started with ENGROSS (it’s always good when you solve the first clue you try) and finished with SIZE, which required a short alphabet trawl. I had question marks by RATE, INNINGS and NOSH, – all for different reasons – but I was confident they were correct when I put down my pencil. Time = 22 minutes, so a good day.

    Many thanks to Joker and Curarist.

  36. 19 mins…

    Struggled with parsing 7ac “Karaoke” – but now that I’ve seen Joker’s response above, it makes more sense. Some good clues today – I particularly liked 2dn “Gumption”, 12ac “Glycerine” and 14ac “Ignoramus”, however I have to give my COD to 3dn “Okay” which I thought was brilliant (whether it was technically a no-no or not).

    FOI – 1ac “Engross”
    LOI – 13dn “Irritant”
    COD – 3dn “Okay”

    Thanks as usual!

  37. I have a friend called Cara, but haven’t seen it spelled with a K, however the K was immutable. ENGROSS was FOI and LOBSTER brought up the rear. 7:30. Thanks Joker and Curarist.

  38. One man’s meat is another man’s poison; I found this a doddle, everything went straight in, with the exception of “IRRITANT”, which was my LOI because I didn’t immediately spot how the word play gave us ‘RIT’.

    Like some others, I didn’t like the “Yes, yes, yes” = “OKAY ” clue, and I thought the clue for “KARAOKE” was lame, but the answer was obvious and I knew the spelling.

  39. 8.18 A lovely puzzle. I was held up for a couple of minutes by IRRITANT and SIZE at the end. IGNORAMUS and OKAY were nice. Thanks Curarist and Joker.

  40. 17:59 and I join the applause for this witty puzzle from Joker, who is fast becoming a favorite with me. The long anagrams mostly unraveled themselves, which helped a lot. Like many, I failed to parse OKAY and had a MER at the enthusiastic surface. But it’s a great, great clue. The GLYCERINE surface made me giggle. SKIMPY took longer than it should have, partly because I had just used IMP and didn’t think it would show up again, partly because I got hung up on FLIMSY.

    Saw the enigmatic _I_E at 16a and froze. During the alphabet trawl (after being tempted to throw in WINE – whine, wine press, express, something something something – but resisting because I just knew it was wrong) it began to dawn on me that I was probably looking for a homophone for a synonym of moans, fortunately in time to catch SIZE, my LOI. COD too hard to decide.

    Bravo to Joker and many thanks for the helpful blog to Curarist.

  41. 15:02 here, with OKAY bunged in as the best choice from the short list that CCD offered for O_A_, and then the PDM came between pressing “Submit” and the result coming back. I initially had MOTH pencilled in as the four-letter old plane, imagine my surprise when it turned up elsewhere in the grid.

    Thanks to Joker and Curarist.

  42. Enjoyable puzzle completed within our 30m target with one misspelling. We enjoyed the cat comments above.

  43. 13:00, spending a fair while on LOI SIZE and needing some help from Curarist to parse a couple. Thank you for the blog!

  44. DNF but got most. Although I needed Curarist to tell me why they were right. Like most really enjoyed ignoramus. Thx Joker

  45. DNF

    A fitting end to my worst ever week, only the one completed puzzle. Today I was all done in under 15 but biffed WINE for moans being expressed. I know, I know, it doesn’t fit the first half of the clue. I really must be more careful in future. Excellent puzzle BTW.

  46. 12 minutes, and could have been 10 but for OKAY, my LOI.

    Kara is not that uncommon a name. There’s an actor Kara Tointon who was in EastEnders and Strictly.

    A truly bizarre week, even by my standards:
    M – 52 mins
    T – 20 mins
    W – 14 mins
    Th – 50 mins
    F – 12 mins

    Consistently inconsistent and overall a disappointment. I’m still nowhere near achieving my rather modest goal, 2 hours with no DNFs. I need to avoid the horror shows, but that is easier said than done.

    Thanks for the blog.

    1. 12 minutes is a very good time Gary making 5 finishes for the week with 3 under or around 20m
      It shows you can do it and all that’s holding you up is some breeze block clues which is perfectly normal.

    2. Zowie. 12. I wonder if your metabolic rate is all over the place 🙂 Or maybe your caffeine intake?

  47. Also a DNF. Didn’t get anything for 3d and no idea about Japanese Drama (18d). But lots of other clues went in easily and at one point I was wondering whether I might escape the SCC. No such luck and off to the special table again 😥


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