Quick Cryptic 914 by Rongo

So, in my last blog (25th Aug Quick Cryptic) I pulled an absolute blinder by failing to spot the Nina. I blame the low oxygen tension in the mountain air, plus the fact I had no idea such things appeared in the quickie.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m on about, a Nina is a message or theme or some other device hidden in the solved grid of a crossword. They are a regular feature of the Times Concise, but rarely appear in the cryptics. The term ‘Nina’ comes from the work of the American caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who would hide the word ‘Nina’ (his daughter’s name) in his illustrations.

So, I thought I would take this opportunity to remind everyone of the greatest Nina of all time, which appeared in Times Cryptic number 26000 (20th Jan 2015), solution here.

1ac is BINARY, and rows 2 & 4 feature the number 26000 in binary (110010110010000), which is neat enough, but the last three across answers are CLOUDBASE, THIRTEEN and BABOON, which is unremarkable until you realise that 26000 in base 13 is BAB0. A thing of beauty is a joy forever. (Of course, do share if you know of a better one…)

Anyway, on to today’s quickie. I found this somewhat ho-hum. 8 minutes. Nothing too taxing, but nothing especially elegant or witty either.

1 Scratch a piece of bed linen — match results shown here? (10)
8 Vote against closure of Electric Avenue, curving inwards (7)
CONCAVE – CON (vote against , noun) + C (end of electriC) + AVE
9 Show some flashiness? (5)
SHINE – hidden word: flaSHINEss
10 Kiln’s broken connection (4)
LINK – anagram of (‘broken’) KILN
11 Other ranks nominate every other part of unit for decoration (8)
ORNAMENT – OR (other ranks) + NAME (nominate) + NT (every other part of uNiT). OR is a common little element, often indicated by ‘men’ or ‘soldiers’
13 Result of photo of the sky? (6)
UPSHOT –  a photo is a shot.
14 Place of eternal punishment, unending for each abettor? (6)
HELPER – HELL ‘unending’ is HEL + PER (for each)
17 Somehow salvages desert city (3,5)
LAS VEGAS – Anagram of (‘salvages’)
19 Move on the subject of bloodshed (4)
GORE – GO (move) + RE (on the subject of)
21 Stone added to display rack (5)
STAND – ST (stone) + AND (added to)
22 Lad tore ragged, stretchy costume (7)
LEOTARD – Anagram of (‘ragged’) LAD TORE
23 Knot with large wave — it should produce an outright winner (3-7)
TIE-BREAKER – Double definitions

2 Dogs one brought into film festival location (7)
CANINES – CANNES (film festival location) with I brought in
3 Spoiled pear harvest (4)
REAP – Anagram of (‘spoiled’) PEAR
4 Alcoholic drink from the woman beginning to renationalise railway (6)
SHERRY – SHE (the woman) + R (beginning to ‘renationalise’) + RY (railway). A good cryptic clue hides the definition in a plausible surface reading. Not sure this one meets that test.
5 Spaces for printers: City editor keeps five in servitude (8)
ENSLAVED – Now, pay attention: old-fashioned hot-metal printers had two different-sized space blocks available – the EM (which was the width of a letter M) and the EN (the width of the letter N). Their only remaining use is in crosswords. Hence: ENS (spaces for printers) + LA (city) + ED (Editor) ‘keeping’ V (five)
6 Bitter harangue cutting off Di and a close-knit group (5)
TRIBE – DIATRIBE (bitter harangue) minus DI and A
7 Landlord boss’s pre-printed stationery (10)
LETTERHEAD – double definitions
8 Colonel associated with us, not so neutral or tame? (10)
COLOURLESS – COL (colonel) + OUR (associated with us) + LESS (not so)
12 Unwilling to work with British on Muslim festival, the French (4,4)
BONE IDLE – B (British) + ON + EID (Muslim festival) + LE (‘the’ in French). Much better surface reading.
15 Fuel sometimes supplied in bottles supporting sheet of glass? (7)
PROPANE – PRO (supporting) + PANE (sheet of glass)
16 Garment maker alternatively extending part hanging at back of coat (6)
TAILOR – Got this immediately, but spent an age trying to parse it for no good reason. ‘Alternatively’ is OR, which ‘extends’ (is stuck on to) TAIL (part at back of coat). I was fixated with T being the end of ‘coat’, then trying to work ot what the hell ‘AILOR’ meant.
18 Clever sting (5)
SMART – Double definition
20 Choice of mild anaesthetic initially prolonged unconsciousness (4)
COMA – Intial letters of Choice Of Mild Anaesthetic.

25 comments on “Quick Cryptic 914 by Rongo”

  1. Wow! I think I recall doing 26000, but the Nina presumably completely passed me by. As you say, that’s amazing.

    The thing that really excited me about this puzzle was that I started it believing it was the main Cryptic, so for a few moments I thought I was heading for a sub-3-minute time on a Friday. It was very late.

  2. I struggled a bit with this one and needed 13 minutes to complete the grid. I was held up on the LH side by 8ac, 8dn, 12, 13 and 21, but mainly by having bunged in RAPE at 3dn, thinking ‘harvest crop’ instead of the act of harvesting.

    If there’s a nina today, curarist, I missed it too. But then I also missed the last one!

  3. 17:24, about average for a Friday for me. Not too memorable today, and seeing EM/EN was depressing. Not a fan of words that only exist in crosswords and scrabble.

    There are so many good new words, abbreviations etc of the last 20 years, why don’t we ever see them?

    OR for other ranks another tiresome one.

    1. I’m afraid I disagree on EM and EN which are very useful words in their own right particularly when applied to the armoury of punctuation marks available when writing correct English. There’s the em dash (—) and the en dash (–), not to be confused with the shorter hyphen (-). I don’t know that we have typesetters in the traditional sense any more, but presumably there are the modern equivalent working in publishing who need to know these things, quite apart from authors themselves. On review, I don’t think LJ can cope with the difference between an EN dash and a hyphen. It looked fine before it was posted.

      Edited at 2017-09-08 09:28 am (UTC)

      1. One could argue that web designers are the new typesetters, and we do in fact still use ems as a measurement. Here’s an example I just grabbed from the “style sheet” code from The Times’ very own website:

        .MagazineArticle .Pullquote-quotemarks:before {
        font-size: 5em;
        margin-top: 5rem;

        …which enables the extra-large (“5em”) quotation marks that accompany pull-quotes in magazine-article style pages.

        I’m also—very much—a fan of the em-dash!

        1. En dashes are not dead. I’m currently setting a book for a friend and our editor insists on the correct usage of ens and hyphens. It’s the really outdated terms like ‘IT’ and ‘GUY’ I think could be retired.


          Edited at 2017-09-08 11:55 am (UTC)

      2. I too am familiar with em-dash and en-dash from using MS Word, and as an extension of that, had heard of en-space and em-space, so this clue didn’t throw me.
      3. That’s all very well and interesting, but ens is too obscure for a quick cryptic I think.
  4. I didn’t quite manage 10 mins. For enslaved. I put it in because it fitted and I could see the Ed and the V. Might have got LA for the city but only if I had the faintest clue about the spaces. I’m with Merlin on this particular clue – not impressed!
  5. I agree they’re an invaluable resource for setters – when graduating to barred puzzles it’s worth remembering that to distinguish them when spoken they were called ‘mutton’ and ‘nut’.
  6. Screwed this one up by not reading the clue for 5d properly and putting ENSLAVES. Took me ages to see my LOI COLOURLESS. Otherwise an enjoyable puzzle which took me 10:37. Thanks Rongo and Curarist.
  7. Just over 30 mins, fully parsed, today, with 14ac my LOI after solving 13ac. The blank line across the centre spoilt a straightforward top to bottom solve, with 6d my CoD. Invariant
  8. 5:51 for me, which I think is probably a personal best. All good fun. As with John, took a while to see COLOURLESS and I also very nearly scuppered myself with ENSLAVES, but wondering where the Editor had gone saved me at the last minute.
  9. Hard surfaces I thought -which may well defeat less experienced solvers.
    It took me about 17 minutes to get all but the SW. I took a break as I was completely stuck with 4 left –8d 12d 13a and 21a.
    On my return I got Colourless ( a tricky clue for a QC) and then the others followed.
    About 25 minutes all told. Perhaps not on the wavelength. And I too put Enslaves but failed to correct it.
    Good puzzle. Hardly any gimmes. David
  10. I struggled with ENSLAVED — (Em dash) I got it, but only through EN for City, ED for editor and SAVE for keeping (forget the L!). Totally wrong. And I had TRADE for group: tirade minus Di, which I really buggered up I know. Then Sharp instead of SMART which gave me PIEBREAKER, haha!
    In my defence, I had a great deal of Fentanyl through a drip in hospital yesterday, which has left me feeling decidedly odd. Has anyone else tried it (and then attempted a cryptic)? 🙂
    1. Strange. I regularly have a bottle of it before I tackle a cryptic and it seems to help.

      – Nila Palin

  11. No problem with ems and ens I used to print invitations etc. on my Dad’s old Adana to earn a bit of pocket money. About 10 mins for all except 8d and 13a which I never did get although both are obvious once pointed out. I dont really understand 9a though how does shine = show?
  12. … because for me, Brian, “bloodshed” is not a fair definition for “GORE”. “Bloodshed” means slaughter or killing, whereas “gore” means simply blood or (more technically) clotted blood. Now it is true that blood cannot clot unless and until it has been shed – but in that case the clue should have been “blood shed”, not “bloodshed”.

    Anyway. Got there in the end but even after getting it wasn’t sure and had to check on here!

    I knew about ems but not about ens, but it wasn’t too hard a leap. Though LA for “City” threw me, because of the capital C for City (which usually indicates EC) – not sure why LA should be a capital C City.

    COD for me was 13ac UPSHOT, which I thought was a lovely little clue and resulted in a mental round of applause (obviously not actual, I do this on a commuter train and would have my season ticket torn up for such behaviour).


  13. A bit of a struggle today, mainly due to not having a clue what was going on with 5d and I eventually gave up trying to parse it – I’d never heard of the ens and ems. Also took an age to see what was going on in my LOI 8d – which isn’t a word I’d associate with tame, but with hindsight the word play is fair.
    Enjoyed 13a and 16d. Completed in around 30 minutes, over two sittings
  14. Incidentally, Magoo in his Cracking the Cryptic youtube video for this puzzle attributes “What is this life if, full of care…” to the wrong W.H. – it’s Davies, not Auden. The setter ‘Tramp’ would have known!

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