Quick Cryptic 2718 by Joker

I found this one mostly quite approachable, but with three clues that I haven’t been able to explain to my full satisfaction. I don’t have an accurate time due to user error (and interruptions while solving, but mostly user error), but I’d guesstimate that this took about my average of 15:00.

The problem clues:

    • The composer in 7a remains unidentified despite some cursory Google checking.
    • I’m not happy with “rate” = “is assessed as” in 20a. I’m sure I’m on the right lines, but haven’t quite got there yet.
    • Likewise with “tackling” as an inclusion indicator in 4d.

Today’s favorite clue is MEAN: you’ve got to love a three-word triple-definition clue.

I look forward to your comments on these and the other clues.

Definitions underlined, synonyms in round brackets, wordplay in square brackets and deletions in squiggly brackets.

1 Son isn’t a very good person (5)
SAINT – S for son, AIN’T (isn’t).
7 What might be playing Hart score? (9)
ORCHESTRA – (Hart score)* [what might be playing].

An &lit clue, as the whole of the clue is both the definition and the answer.

I biffed this one, not knowing of a composer called Hart. The first Google hit for “Hart composer” is Lorenz Hart, half of the Rodgers & Hart team that wrote multiple Broadway hits, but he doesn’t quite work because he was the librettist: he wrote the words, not the music.

Doing more digging, the only composer called Hart I can find who doesn’t violate the “no living people” rule is James Hart, 1647-1718. But that seems unfeasibly obscure for the Quick Cryptic, so I guess I just don’t know what was in Joker’s mind here.

9 One who’s back in Poirot cast? (5)
ACTOR – Hidden [in] poiROT CAst reversed [back].

Our second &lit in a row.

10 Certain about including right individual blood type. Wrong (9)
ERRONEOUS – SURE (certain) reversed [back] including R (right), ONE (individual), O (blood type).
11 Cannabis finally concealed for border (3)
HEM – HEM{p} (cannabis) with its final letter hidden [finally concealed].
12 List of appalling Conservative after Conservative (9)
DIRECTORY – DIRE (appalling), then TORY (Conservative) after C (Conservative).
14 Dark and mysterious planet in far edge of universe (9)
SATURNINE – SATURN (planet), IN (errr, “in”), last letter [far edge] of {univers}E.

A word that I knew existed, but couldn’t confidently have defined.

16 What’s sticky Cajun soup giving out bad small (3)
GUM – GUM{bo} (Cajun soup), minus [giving out] BO (“body odour” = bad smell).

Edit: I didn’t even notice the typo here during the “solve & blog” process. But I’m confident that’s all it is: for “small” in the clue above read “smell”.

18 Sad following holiday problem with car? (9)
BREAKDOWN – DOWN (sad) after [following] BREAK (holiday).
20 Your setter is assessed as very angry (5)
IRATE – I (your setter, from their point of view), RATE (is assessed as).

“I rate this as excellent” is a close relative of “This is assessed as excellent”. There’s probably a better example (the subjects and objects of the verbs don’t correspond in that example), but it’s close enough for me.

21 Increase of former unease? (9)
EXTENSION – EX (former), TENSION (unease).
22 Sudden blow besetting European visitor (5) 
GUEST – GUST (sudden blow), around [besetting] E [European, as in EU].
1 Go through fabric stiffener when time is key (6)
SEARCH – STARCH (fabric stiffener) with T for time replaced by E (a musical key).
2 Glove in cold season without top temperature is on and off (12)
INTERMITTENT – MITTEN (glove) in {w}INTER (cold season without top), T (temperature).

You have to avoid the temptation to define ‘mitten’ as ‘glove in cold season’.

3 Runs in to adore stirring bullfighter (8)
TOREADOR – R (runs, cricket) in (TO ADORE)* [stirring].
4 More irritated tackling constant goal getter (6)
SCORER – SORER (more irritated) including C for constant.

‘Tackling’ is obviously being used as the containment indicator here, but I’m struggling to come up with a usage where “to tackle” could mean “to contain” or “to include”. Anyone?

5 Low  average  signal (4)
MEAN – an example of the lesser-spotted triple definition.

1) “That was a mean thing to do.” 2) “The mean value is…” 3) “But what does this gesture mean?”

6 Planet hot and ultimately very wet underfoot (6)
MARSHY – MARS (planet), H (hot), {ver}Y [ultimately].
8 What traveller takes proper food? (12)
13 Caught with penchant for housework (8)
CLEANING – C for caught (cricket), LEANING (penchant).
14 Public transport turning up prepared for part of a group (6)
SUBSET – BUS (public transport), reversed [turning up] + SET (prepared).
15 One mathematical figure regarded as symbolic (6)
ICONIC – I (one) + CONIC (mathematical figure, as in conic section).

Conic sections are the curved shapes you get when a plane cuts through a cone: ellipses, parabolas and hyperbolas (I looked it up). I last encountered these in O-level maths in 1984, and about the only thing I remembered is that a circle is just a special case of an ellipse.

17 Consequence of workers cutting vehicle test (6)
MOMENT – MEN (workers) inside [cutting] MOT (vehicle test).

The MOT test is the British annual test for roadworthiness of vehicles over a certain age: it was named after the Ministry Of Transport, which no longer exists, but the name stuck.

19 Tease about new style (4)
KIND – KID (tease) around [about] N (new).

kind = type = style.


85 comments on “Quick Cryptic 2718 by Joker”

  1. Under ten minutes! Woo!

    I didn’t have any qualms about rate meaning being assessed, and re: tackling, I just thought it was like a rugby tackle, where one word gives another word a big ol cuddle then rams the other word’s head into the ground and gives them a concussion

    I remembered MOT from last time and the ACTOR clue was my favourite.

  2. 11:20 Pleased to have a decent time after first two this week! I thought when you tackle an opponent in rugby or U.S. football you enclose him in your arms thus containing him. I can see Conic Section is a mathematical figure but is CONIC by itself one? INTERMITTENT, DIRECTORY, and ERRONEOUS were favourites- which is a change for me since lately I’ve preferred the shorter clues.

      1. A conic section is a 2-dimensional mathematical figure obtained by cutting a cone which is a 3-dimensional mathematical figure. Ellipses, hyperbolas, parabolas and circles are all types of conic.

        1. Not forgetting a triangle. Takes me back to Technical Drawing lessons over 50 years ago. Can’t remember what I did yesterday though!

          1. can I point out that a cone is actually the solid revolution of an angled line?
            Therefore we often only see half of it

  3. After mentioning yesterday I hadn’t been under seven minutes for ages, ta dahhh – 6.52. FOI SAINT, LOsI BREAKDOWN and KIND (after rejecting RINB and RANG). Doof I’m not sure that the identity of the composer matters that much, I took ‘Hart score’ solely as anagram fodder, a change from carthorse. Or is there some &lit convention I’m unaware of that requires Hart to be an actual composer? I’m with Tina on tackle, in rugby and AFL a tackle often involves the player with the ball being surrounded and contained. Then, as Tina mentioned, injured.

  4. I’m with Lindsay re Hart being simply part of the anagram fodder. Nice puzzle but will have to look up consequence/moment to figure it out but the wordplay got me there. COD to thoroughfare.
    Thanks setter and D.

  5. 10:27, Airport solve just before boarding.

    I dont expect anagrams to make any kind of sense, so Hart was not troubling.

    MOMENT=consequence gave me a pause. How does that work?

    Mathematics graduate here, so Conic sections bring up memories of little wooden models spliced into an ellipse, hyperbola or parabola.

    PS 15×15 is pretty approachable today.

    1. Something like ‘the decision to declare war turned out to be one of great moment’. It feels similar to the idea in physics as well – a force at the top of a yacht’s mast will have a levered impact on the craft. (Apologies to physicists everywhere!).
      Great crossword- loved the election reference in conservative after conservative. 🤣

    2. I think people talk of something being ‘of little moment’, ie not mattering much. I’m glad you found the 15×15 approachable, I thought it was a shocker!

    3. The abdication of the King was of great moment / consequence / importance etc I am guessing that the adjective momentous comes from the noun moment.

  6. 9 minutes with MOMENT as my LOI.

    I agree 7ac works as it stands but it would have been a much better clue if Hart had been a composer, but unless Joker drops by I guess we won’t know whether it was intentional or a slip-up on his part.

    Doofers may be on to something re 20ac. I don’t think the wordplay works grammatically whether taken all in one or when lifted and separated.

  7. Mucked this right up. Took ages on ERRONEOUS which I then managed to spell with the I I’d put in from individual in the clue when I was stuck. Then as yesterday whacked in a word that related to teh clue without taking proper care, so blinded by fabric conditioner moved through search to STARCH. Not all green, again, in 17.

  8. My third slow solve on the trot – 15 minutes for this one, and not sure about consequence = moment, or about “is assessed as” = rate (if anything it should be rated not rate). Also did not immediately associate tension with unease, or proper with thorough. And I also DK Hart the composer, but then I thought it was just me being ignorant again. And as for tackling in 4D, yes the clue was easy enough to understand but inclusion indicators seem to be becoming almost as numerous (and as random) as anagram indicators.

    So all in all I thought this was a somewhat loose puzzle, with some very nice clues but several of the wordplays “there or thereabouts” rather than precision setting. It takes all sorts, but others will warm to this puzzle more than I did.

    Many thanks Doofers for the blog

    1. Collins sense 4: “ import, significance, or value; a man of moment”.

      Hence “momentous”.

  9. An enjoyable puzzle where I just wrote in the answers as I read the clue other than my LOI THOROUGHFARE where I had to write the checking letters out to fill in the spaces. I didn’t notice the typo at 16ac until I read the blog.
    My favourites were the building of ERRONEOUS and INTERMITTENT.

  10. 6.16

    Stared blankly at ERRONEOUS for a while as had typed MARSHY incorrectly so the checkers were wrong. Veby anniying tryong to type on ones phinr.

    Nice puzzle. Thanks Doofers

  11. 4:41 but…

    …clearly didn’t read 1d properly as bunged in STARCH, so a pink square. Otherwise, everything wrote itself in pretty seamlessly, finishing with LOI ICONIC.

    Thanks Doofers and Joker

  12. Didn’t think too much and just bashed on to finish in a rare sub 15 minute whirlwind. Only hesitation was realising SEARCH not STARCH.
    Pleased to see all green at the end as I expected I would have made some error or other due to carelessness or falling into a trap. I think most will find this at the easier end of the spectrum.
    Thanks Joker and Doofers.

  13. Doofers – excellent blog. I took the composer to be Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) who was the lyricist partner of Richard Rodgers prior to the latter’s work with Oscar Hammerstein. His excellent lyrics can be heard in such timeless classics as “Blue Moon”, and “My Funny Valentine”.

    I share your reservations over “IRATE”. The syntax clearly leads to “rates” in my book, but I merely shrugged and moved on.

    I was a little worried when I missed four consecutive across clues on the first pass, but the odd grid layout, which gave four consecutive letters in a couple of the down clues, was helpful in mopping everything up on pass 2.

    TIME 3:57

  14. Fairly straightforward starting with SAINT and finishing with MOMENT in 6.28. GUM went in with a shrug due to the typo.
    Thanks to Doofers

  15. 10:20 held up by MOMENT as ‘consequence’.

    I see ‘tackling’ as ‘grabbing’ (and therefore holding or containing) as in a rugby tackle or if one tackles a burglar.

    I don’t understand how the clue for 16A makes any sense as a sentence in itself (and I note smell not small). It just sounds/reads wrong. Should it have a question mark? Even then…I can’t find a way to say it in which it feels like a workable sentence.

    Thanks Joker and Doof.

  16. Gentle Joker today; I was surprised to find out that it was him post solve. Checkers needed for SATURNINE and LOI ERRONEOUS but otherwise they went in first time. Hesitated over smell/small but it had to be. I thought of “tackle” as a slang word for “eat” (“he tackled his breakfast with relish”).

    COD to SEARCH, all done in 06:22 for an Excellent Day. Great puzzle and blog, many thanks Joker and Doofers.

  17. Soundly beaten by this one – quit after 30 minutes with 6 still unsolved, but still a valuable learning experience.

    Enjoyed MEAN, HEM, SATURNINE largely because I spotted what was going on quickly, and (COD) ACTOR for its wit and concision.

    Disappointed about ORCHESTRA – if Hart had been a composer it would have been a genius &lit, but he wasn’t… so it’s not… (and I really hope Vinyl is wrong that the setter and editor just didn’t know!)

    INTERMITTENT took some unravelling as I was trying to fit a type of glove ‘IN’ (w)inter as directed. Must remember that these are “clues” not “instructions”.

    Thanks Joker for pushing me beyond my abilities, and Doof for teaching me how to improve!

  18. Same as Mike Harper except a minute slower. Brain fade, as I parsed my answer STARCH as being SEARCH with the key (E), turning to T (time). Just didn’t read the clue properly. Bah. Second DNF this week.

    Surface for my LOI DIRECTORY made me smile.


  19. DNF.
    Sorry, but I thought that many of the clues were bad and very frustrating.
    A very nasty puzzle.
    I will not be bothering with these cryptics for a while.

  20. Put in STARCH for the same reason as hopkinb – not thinking properly 😡. Not very happy with KIND meaning style – think it’s a very loose synonym. Biffed ICONIC as did not think ‘conic’ can stand alone as a noun, without being followed by ‘section’. No problem with MOMENT meaning consequence, with memories of A level Hamlet and the ending of ‘To be or not to be’. COD 12A. Thanks Doofers for excellent blog as usual.

  21. Finished and enjoyed. FOsI SAINT and TOREADOR. LOI MOMENT. PDM THOROUGHFARE but one of the last.
    GUM was a bit of a sticker (ha ha).
    Thanks vm, Doofers. I admit I biffed SCORER without thinking too hard.

  22. 8:59
    No hold-ups, despite the several issues with the clues mentioned in the blog.

    Thanks Doofers and Joker

  23. 6:43

    Would the score not include the vocal parts and thus the lyrics? The actual score for Pal Joey should credit both.

    “I rate” = “I am rated” for me, so no problem there.

    In fact, I thought this was excellent, not loose, and I thank Joker for it: also thanks for the great blog.

  24. Finished it – but CNP some with the result that StARCH was wrong (“time is key” eluded me). NHO GUMbo (misprint in the clue didn’t help) but GUM it had to be. LOI ICONIC; not quite happy about “figure” noun = ICONIC adjective, but remember others saying that changing the part of speech is permissible.

    The authoritative Grove Dictionary of Music does give various Harts who were composers (Fritz 1874-1949, James 1647-1718, Philip c1674-1749) but as you say all are extremely obscure and cannot have been in Joker’s mind.

  25. 15:09

    Had queries next to iconic (conic = of a cone), irate and gum.
    CsOD orchestra and actor.

  26. Would have broken the six minute mark if it hadn’t been for 1dn. I biffed STARCH as it seemed so straightforward, thankfully I decided to return to it before stopping the clock and SEARCH was then the obvious answer. I also misspelt INTERMITTENT with an A instead of a final E, but solving BREAKDOWN gave me an automatic correction. I finished finally in 6.05, so a good start to the week.

  27. 6:38 but with a pink square for StARCH. I saw fabric stiffener, Time and ARCH and didn’t dwell on it any further with the S already in place from SAINT! I see I’m in good company though. LOI and COD for me is DIRECTORY.

  28. 8:47
    At the time I had the same issue with 20a, but on second look you could argue that ‘I rate (highly, e.g.)’ means the same thing as ‘I am assessed as (good)’. Either way I’m not sure it elicits a feeling of ‘how did I miss that?’ as much as one of ‘I’m not surprised I missed that’. Otherwise I enjoyed this puzzle and thought the clueing was mostly accurate and fair.

  29. A careless STARCH spoiled an otherwise quick, for me, 24m solve. I knew STARCH was wrong as ‘fabric stiffener’ wasn’t at the start or end of the clue which is good advice that I read on this site but I failed to follow up on it.
    I remember Rogers and Hart from old musicals.
    Thanks for the puzzle and the entertaining blog.

  30. About 18 minutes, with a general sense of brain apathy – I seemed to make things more obscure than was actually the case, or missed fairly obvious points. No particular highs or lows, but a wry smile at DIRECTORY. I’m waiting for ex-directory to turn up as an answer in the rest of the week.

  31. I RATE a 2 on the fast solving scale = I AM ASSESSED AS a 2 on the fast solving scale.

    Enjoyed this and was for me a PB of 18:28.

  32. 18 minutes with a few interruptions. I agree about SATURNINE – one of those words which I only sort of knew the meaning of. Like Oompah Charlie, I wondered if “score” also included the words of a composition as well as the music. Collins sense 8c has “the songs, music, etc, for a stage or film musical” which may let Joker off the hook for ‘Hart’.

    Thanks to Doofers and Joker

  33. We seem to have caught Joker in a friendly mood today. I certainly found this much more straightforward than his usual teasers, coming in with a very comfortable sub-20. Although I didn’t pay too much attention to Hart in 7ac at the time, instead jumping straight to Orchestra, I now agree it does seem more than a little odd. CoD should really be Erroneous, but I can’t resist the smile in solving 12ac, Directory. Champagne’s in the fridge. Invariant

  34. I’m with Plymouthian on this one – I seemed to create my own difficulties by making things more complicated than they were. Still, I slid under 20 minutes for the first time this week (19 to be exact). I managed to avoid entering starch at 1dn, rim at 11ac and earthy at 6dn because I couldn’t parse them. Maybe I’m finally learning to read the clues properly. I didn’t have any problem with not knowing a composer called Hart – just solved the anagram and moved on. I did however have a MER at assessed in 20ac – didn’t quite work for me.

    FOI – 1ac SAINT
    LOI – 1dn SEARCH

    Thanks to Joker and to Doofers

    1. Well, we could just claim that we get the most mental exercise that we can out of what is provided 🤭 even if it isn’t actually there.

  35. 7.10 The only hold-ups were trying to justify GOO for sticky stuff and STARCH for LOI SEARCH. Thanks Doofers and Joker.

  36. A new personal best, though not by much, at 10:45. I was amazed to see the time and wondered if I had inadvertently stopped the clock. Especially after spending over 52 minutes on Monday’s QC!

    It always helps to be encouraged by getting 1A right off, so thanks for the write-in, Joker. A surprise because some of his QCs have been very very hard for me. There were many amusing clues but I agree with Doof and award COD to the triple 5D MEAN. LOI was 15D ICONIC, for no particular reason. My ignorance saved me from trouble at 7A as I simply assumed Hart must be the composing half of team Rodgers and Hart.

    Thanks to Joker and Doof!

  37. I set off with SAINT then had to skip most the the rest of the across clues as nothing sprang to mind. Once I had a few down clues in to give me the crossing letters they were a bit more tractable. I hesitated over IRATE, but it just about passes muster in a mangled sort of way. Pressed submit at about 6.30 but got the message 98% complete and had to go back and found MEAN still to do. 7:03. Thanks Joker and Doofers.

  38. In your comment on 7 across you mention the no living person rule. Just thought I would mention the recent puzzle newsletter from Mick Hodgkin in which he said:

    In response to feedback we will now take a step that has been under consideration for some time and allow the mention of living people in Times crosswords. This is already the case in The Sunday Times and other puzzles such as the Listener (see, for example, Enigmatist’s brilliant puzzle themed on two contemporary singers, whose solution is published today). We will, however, exercise caution in avoiding topical references that could prove controversial.

    1. And as has been commented on in this blog since the Announcement. We wait with bated breath for the first such answer! Presumably will take a while as setters will have been working to the previous rule.

      1. Sorry should’ve guessed it would already have been brought up on here! I bet it catches me out when it happens. Then again, Umberto Eco made an appearance whilst still alive a few years ago and I just thought, well he must now qualify, not realising that he didn’t.

        1. My comment wasn’t intended to sound critical, just to flag that it had been brought up and discussed, which you might want to catch up on. A lot of trepidation, it seems, concerns about Times traditional values. Very interesting to see how it plays out…!

          1. No worries. I didn’t take it as such. It’s an interesting debate. I don’t mind losing Beerbohm Tree but I hope the more modern cultural references are not too lowbrow and that they do not start appearing at the expense of those elements from the classical canon of art and literature which I value.

  39. This is turning out to be a difficult week. A DNF on Monday, 46 minutes yesterday and 39 minutes today – all well outside my recent average performance.

    I again got out of the blocks quickly with SAINT, ORCHESTRA and ACTOR going straight in, but then nothing else clicked until IRATE at the bottom of the grid. I DNK the meaning of SATURNINE, and I had to spot and rectify a couple of incorrect solutions – at 11a (where I had RIM for HEM) and 19d (LINE for KIND) – before I could make headway with my final few clues. For me, these were GUM (I had GOO for a long time), MOMENT, GUEST, HEM and SEARCH. Phew (again)!

    Many thanks to Joker and Doofers.

    1. Lorenz Hart was famous as a librettist working with (among others) Richard Rodgers (Carousel, The Sound of Music, to name but two) so the discussion was centred on whether it makes sense to refer to him as a composer, given that he didn’t write the music, or whether ‘Hart score’ could refer to the libretto printed in the score.

  40. A quick mid-afternoon break to do this, and no real holdups except LOsI THOROUGHFARE and GUM. I’d forgotten what the soup was called, but once it came to mind, so did 8d. I didn’t pause to think about Hart score as the answer was obvious, but IRATE caused a hiatus until I decided it could actually work as cited by Slow Coach above. Now back to work…

  41. we needed some help to finish, very slow, we blame the dog who woke us up twice last night.

  42. I mostly enjoyed this, apart from the same MERs that others have mentioned. I liked ACTOR and knew Rodgers and Hart, but didn’t think about who did what, so put a big tick next to ORCHESTRA.
    9:18, FOI Saint LOI Iconic COD Directory (by a long chalk!)
    Earworm: Jambalaya – on the bayou (Jambalaya, crawfish pie and a file gumbo, For tonight, I’m-a gonna see my ma chere ami-o)
    Thanks Joker and Doofers

    I thought the biggie was easy – until it wasn’t. As usual, I got stuck on the last three – it’s been the pattern this week.

  43. 20 minutes so in SCC again. Began well but took ages in NE, so another day of failure and disappointment.

    As if this wasn’t bad enough, I then come here and see solvers I am sometimes on a par with beating me easily and finding it straightforward. You all have my congratulations, but why can you do what I cannot? Rhetorical question.

    I’d love to post something positive here, but when I am easy defeated by people who took this up a long time after me, perhaps I need to face reality and accept that I do not have the intellectual furniture to play this game. The limitations of my education are well and truly coming home to roost.

    Being at the very bottom of the pile is no fun at all! Everyone who was on ‘my level’ is now in a different league and I can’t work out why. I can’t just do the QC and forget the clock. It’s not in my nature. 96 minutes and one DNF for the week!

    Thanks for the blog.

  44. Apart from 7a anyway being an anagram, what’s wrong with composing a song…?
    great puzzle.
    FOI 1a Saint
    LOI 17d an overlooked Moment
    COD either 12a Directory or 8d Thoroughfare
    More please…


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