Quick Cryptic No 2586 by Orpheus

I was flying through this offering from Orpheus, until suddenly I wasn’t. After 6 minutes (6 minutes!) I had all but three done, but those three held out for another 4 minutes, giving me a time of 10:11.

I’m still very pleased with that, but the interlocking ALASTAIR, SIGNET and UNATTENDED held out as a group, until SIGNET revealed itself, and then the other two fell reasonably quickly. There were plenty of clues in here that almost count as chestnuts: BAND, APPRECIATE, THINKING and DATED as a sample.

I hope you all enjoyed this one, however long it took you.

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

1 Be thankful for increase in value (10)
APPRECIATE – A classic double definition to get us started.
8 Poet nursing curious aim to be pub employee (7)
BARMAID – Anagram [curious] of AIM inside BARD (poet).
9 Bungling players initially employed in popular film (5)
INEPT – Players [initially] inside [employed in] IN (popular) + ET (film).

ET is the setters’ all-time favourite film, at least for inclusion in clues.

10 Grass certain ruminants brought back (4)
REED – DEER (certain ruminants) reversed [brought back].
11 Birds sound contented mostly, finding flowering plant (8)
LARKSPUR – LARKS (birds) + PURr (sound contented [mostly]).

I was SO close to putting HAWKSPUR, but then I remembered that there is a town called Larkspur near San Francisco, and it was probably named after something… So this went in with crossed fingers. Turns out that larkspur is a type of delphinium.

13 Direct  animal on farm (5)
STEER – Another double definition.
14 Opening Henry found in Riviera resort (5)
NICHE – H (SI abbreviation for Henry, the unit of inductance) in NICE (Riviera resort).

18-year old me could have told you what “inductance” is. Current me will direct you to Wikipedia.

16 Chap demanding a final song, perhaps (8)
ALASTAIR – A LAST AIR (a final song).

I looked at the wrong end of this one for ages, trying to come up with synonyms for encore, swansong etc.

17 Group of musicians prohibited on radio (4)
BAND – Sounds like [on radio] BANNED (prohibited).
20 Mum or Dad’s brothera pawnbroker (5)
UNCLE – Another double definition.

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard “uncle” for “pawnbroker” in real life.

21 Backing school, the French finally sent brief communication (7)
NOTELET – ETON (school), reversed [backing] + LE [the, in French] + senT [finally].

As ET is to films, so Eton is to schools in crossword clues. Other schools are available.

22 Girl was inclined to accept time alone (10)
UNATTENDED – UNA (random girl) + T [time] in TENDED (was inclined).


1 Warning light in Wokingham, Berks (5)
AMBER – Hidden in WokinghAM BERks.

The middle light of a set of traffic lights is known as “amber” in the UK.

2 Tenacity shown by salesman overturned separation (12)
PERSEVERANCE – REP (salesman) backwards [overturned] + SEVERANCE (separation).
3 Vivacity of English knight touring US city (4)
ELAN – LA (US city) inside E for English and N for knight (from chess notation).
4 Asian needing help turned up in lodging-place (6)
INDIAN – AID (help) reversed [turned up] in INN (lodging-place).
5 Underweight ruler’s philosophy? (8)
6 A sight in bed, wearing glasses! (12)

Slightly unusual to see the actual word needed in the answer appear in the clue, but I think the surface wouldn’t be so smooth with any synonym.

7 Stick around entrance to restaurant, but go without food (6)
STARVE – STAVE (stick) around [entrance to] Restaurant.
12 In part, merit reanimated African citizen (8)
ERITREAN – Hidden in [in part] mERIT REANimated.
13 Small gallery accommodating high-class sculpture (6)
STATUE – S (small) + TATE (gallery) including [accomodating] U (high-class).

I’m going to complain about U for high-class every time it comes up when I’m the blogger. It is outdated and reeks of social snobbery.

15 Seal, or young bird, do we hear? (6)
SIGNET – Sounds like [do we hear] CYGNET (young bird).

The meaning of “seal” for “signet” goes back to the time when letters were sealed with wax, and the sender would press their signet ring into the hot wax to show its authenticity to the recipient.

18 Out of fashion, being invited for a tryst (5)
DATED – Our fourth double definition.
19 Animal pen at end of lane? It’s an eyesore! (4)
STYE – STY (animal pen) + [end of] lanE.

91 comments on “Quick Cryptic No 2586 by Orpheus”

  1. 10:17 today.

    I struggled with the parsing for INEPT. the P is employed in Popular Film. Popular Film is lifted and separated so you get In ET, so why isn’t the P inside the ‘in’?
    It’s not popular p is employed in film

    I’ve not heard about uncle being a pawnbroker either.

    Not many anagrams today!

    1. I think the parsing is just “P in INET”. I’ll try to update the entry to be clearer.

  2. 6.46, troubled by the same tricky trio that held up the Doof, they being UNATTENDED, SIGNET and ALASTAIR. A fun crossword though some of these – BAND, UNCLE and AMBER, for instance – were so simple that they should feel fortunate to have been picked in the side. Sure it’s a QC, but even so. Thanks to both.

  3. 7:07. I didn’t know a NICHE could be a hole or UNCLE a pawnbroker. Also have never come across NOTELET. UNATTENDED was LOI as I was thinking Ann instead of Una. LARKSPUR and ALASTAIR were favourites.

  4. 8 minutes for all but THINKING/LARKSPUR and ALASTAIR then another 5 for them.

    I think the likes of ‘bed’ for BED is not so uncommon in QCs as it’s one of the concessions to the easier format.

    I’ve always had the impression that the whole U / non-U thing was made up to poke fun at a tide of change in the English language that substituted so-called ‘refined’ words for plain English usage. It got a little out of hand as a result of some people back in the 1950s taking it too seriously but probably had little lasting effect as the use of simple language has continued to decline steadily to this day.

  5. (PER)SEVERANCE took some time to recall; and LOI ALASTAIR, where it didn’t occur to me that ‘chap’ was the definition. I was always under the impression (never read the book) that the U/non-U distinction was an accurate characterization of certain class distinctions in England, so that e.g. toffs would sneer at someone who said “Pardon?” My objection to ‘U’ is that it’s used too much by setters.

  6. I got terribly excited this morning when I’d solved all but two clues in under 10 minutes. Then I got bogged down with the ALASTAIR/SIGNET intersection for about 6 minutes. Still, it’s a big green for me so I’ll grab by pencil case and move up towards the front of the class to sit behind the swots.
    TENACITY and THINKING both made me smile.
    Thanks to Doofers and Orpheus for a fine start to the day.

  7. Nice to emerge all green after a tricky struggle with LARKSPUR, ALASTAIR and UNATTENDED at the end. Had all the checkers for each of them and still had to work hard. Six on the first pass of acrosses followed by a good showing on the downs before fading to finish a shade under 10.

  8. A fail; I carelessly put a C instead of an S for SIGNET, so in the end an INEPT performance. A pity as I enjoyed this with LARKSPUR and UNATTENDED needing a bit of winkling out along the way, even if it was in vain.

    Thanks to Doofers and Orpheus

  9. Gentle going with my main obstacles being self-inflicted due to a couple of typos with bane for BAND and putting an extra e in PERSERVERANCE making LOI ALASTAIR a challenge.
    Finished in 5.54 with COD to THINKING, despite it chestnuttiness.
    Thanks to Doofers

  10. 6:18

    Struggled to find a foothold early doors so jumped around the grid picking up what I could and building from there – useful to have alternative approaches if things aren’t falling for you. Once I’d got going, all was fine though held up at the last, recalling LARKSPUR and puzzling out the homophone at 15d.

    Thanks Doofenschmirtz and Orpheus

  11. Struggled to crack it open, before the answers started to flow. DNF due to ALASTAIR, however.

    ALASTAIR? Who the heck is ALASTAIR? Or UNA for that matter? Sounds like a terrible 80s sitcom, ALASTAIR and UNA. What the heck are they doing in the QC? Be gone ALISTAIR and UNA, and never darken the QC again!

  12. I thought this was the easiest puzzle for quite some time – the fact that Mohn, Verlaine, and Aphis all came home in under 2 minutes would support that view. I was only 4 answers short after the first pass, and could have been inside 3 minutes had I not taken time to check before submitting.

    COD BARMAID (lovely surface!)
    TIME 3:15

    1. I agree. In fact, a PB for me. Still not managed to get under three minutes, though. 3.01 today.

    2. They didn’t do it in under 2 minutes. I know this is the internet and all but can we please stop being so silly?

  13. Thanks for the blog, D, and the U non-U comments are well noted, but we need look no further than ‘school = Eton’ for an example of social elitism!

    1. Here I am making my predictable complaint about ETON. Other schools are available, and don’t they pretentiously call themselves a College?

      1. Lots of schools are called College – maybe it was the norm when they were originally founded all those years ago. Winchester College 1382,
        Eton College was founded in 1440 by Henry VI as “Kynge’s College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore”.
        I don’t think you can call Henry VI or William of Wykeham pretentious.

  14. Not often I’ve something in common with Doofers! But I too was “flying through this offering from Orpheus, until suddenly I wasn’t. After [relatively few] minutes I had all but three done” – only my three – which I never got – were LARKSPUR (NHO), ALASTAIR and (more stupidly) STARVE. NHO UNCLE either, but had to be. Rather agree with Pi-curious about the weakness of random Alastair and Una.

  15. 11:28 (Matilda marries Geoffrey of Anjou)

    In common with several others, I struggled at the PERSVERANCE/ALASTAIR crossing, as a result of spelling the former with an E where the A should be. Only when I got to the point of thinking “final might be LAST” did I revisit 2d to change the spelling.

    Thanks Doofers and Orpheus

  16. Very fast until held up by the same three as our esteemed blogger. Finally worked out SIGNET, then ALASTAIR, then LOI UNATTENDED. Didn’t know uncle for pawnbroker. Many thanks D and Orpheus.

  17. I suspect that Eton is used for school so often for the same reason that ET is used so often for film – commonly occurring letters. Ditto U for posh etc – it’s just useful code. It doesn’t mean anything more than that. Setters grab onto anything that provides them with building blocks – chemical symbols, do-re-me, medals, whatever. There’s no elitist conspiracy behind using U for posh.

    I struggled as usual with the random names, though I have to admit that I liked A LAST AIR when he finally swam out of the fog! (Don’t get ideas, setters, I still hate random names.) STYE made me think that this would be an Oink but it didn’t feel like his style. My big delay was over LOI APPRECIATE, which took forever, so it was depressing to see it described as a chestnut.

    Crossed the line in 08:47 for 1.4K and a Poor Day.

    Many thanks Doofers and Orpheus.


    1. Quite agree with Templar re Eton, U, etc. Most people have long forgotten U and non-U, except crossword setters.

    2. You are 100% correct. All these puzzles are code, which you learn how to decipher, picking up the quirks along the way. Once you’ve seen the tricks a few times they should stick in the memory. If you’ve not seen a trick before it can seem odd seeing dated language; corporation = tum, pi = good/saintly, sa/it = a certain je ne sais quoi (or it = vermouth), lum = chimney, tile = hat. There are umpteen others. Solvers should learn them when they encounter them, because they’ll come up again as they’re common letter groupings, and help a setter to build a sensible surface.

    3. My comments about ETON and ET being the setters’ favourite school and film were intended as advice for solvers. And while you could argue that U=posh is just another setter’s gadget, I’d still maintain that there are other ways of clueing “U” that don’t rely on a divisive “upper-class against the plebs” mindset.

  18. Gosh, pretty quick today. Wish I had timed, except I was interrupted by chap on phone claiming to be from Microsoft!
    FOI APPRECIATE, LOI ALASTAIR which made me smile. Also amused by DATED, AMBER, THINKING (COD).
    Others enjoyed were STATUE, SIGNET. Biffed LARKSPUR.
    All in all, an encouraging and enjoyable QC. Thanks vm, Doofers.

    1. Microsoft man must have rung me directly after ringing you. Notwithstanding his generous offer I completed in 9 mins, which is quick for me. Thinking finally achieved after running through entire gamut of philosophers from Sophocles to Bertram Russell

  19. I had all but ALASTAIR complete in under 6 minutes but then need another 3 minutes for my LOI. I had a teacher called Alastair Mackintosh. I remember in maths that he tried to explain to us how to calculate the different permutations for spelling his name. I still remember how to multiply numbers but have long since forgotten how many permutations there were! Lots and lots!

  20. Straightforward in the most part, being mostly done after 4 mins, but I had inadvertently entered BESOECTALED, which was making LARKSPUR v difficult. Spotted the error, but then it still took me time to think of LOI SIGNET, mainly because I had LINNET and a marine mammal in my head, and it proved difficult to shift.

    So, probably still straightforward, but undone by myself, and wrong footed by Orpheus on my LOI. I rather liked ALASTAIR, because the chap was clued by the wordplay, rather than being required to insert a Tim, Ron, Den, Ian, Ben into something else to arrive at the correct answer.


  21. 15:12 but with red square for HAWKSPUR. This was a surprise as it sounds like a type of grass. As noted, I get most of my botanical references from Watership Down, and I’m sure there’s a rabbit called HAWKSPUR.

    Also didn’t like UNA. I was looking for Unity as well, needing that UN. Unity Mitford being one of those sisters. At least Nancy stuck to class snobbery with the non-U business. Unity had a crush on Hitler, and thought him “Maaaaarvleous, darling”

    I was close to going for ALASTRIO (last trio) thinking that he might be someone in Othello who was demanding.



    1. Uncle = pawnbroker, banker = gnome, gam = school/pod. All seen frequently enough, along with many other devices – as per Templar’s post above, they’re codes. I didn’t know them, so when I first saw them, I couldn’t understand how a clue worked, then I saw the explanation in blogs here and learned them, and now they’re all ways to try and break into a clue.

    2. “Maaaaarvlveous”. Hmmm-would Unity have said it with the R? I would think more along the lines of “MAH-veh-lus”.

  22. Was cruising along nicely for a sub-60min finish (which remains my target) when I crashed into 16a. Wrestled with it for ages and with the crosses could only come up with ABATTOIR so a DNF for me. Some random chap’s name didn’t even cross my mind!!!!

  23. Fell into the same traps/difficulties as everyone else.

    Usually I put 😀 next to clues that make me 😀 or give me PDMs. None of them today but never mind. Nothing that made me 😡 either.

    Thanks Doofers and Orpheus

  24. 11 minutes for me today narrowly avoiding an error as I had biffed LINNET at 15d. Quick second thoughts (i.e.it did not parse) led me to SIGNET. POI was UNATTENDED.
    Otherwise STARVE took a while as did finding the plant which I seemed to know so it must be from puzzles as plants are generally a big weakness in my general knowledge.

  25. Who’d have thought the innocent little clue Alastair would generate (a) so many delays – it was my LOI too – and then (b) so much comment. I’m with Hopkinb on this one, as I didn’t mind it at all as the answer to a clue (and IMO a very nicely constructed one too); it’s random names as components of clues (step forward Una) that cause me problems and grief.

    Otherwise a very approachable puzzle with few delays or hold-ups, and all done in just under 10 minutes. I have no idea how anyone could finish it in under 2 minutes though!

    Many thanks Doofers for the blog

  26. 3:58. Unlike others, I was a bit slow getting started but the downs went in quicker followed by the crossing answers. LOI UNATTENDED. COD to the THINK KING. Thanks Orpheus and Doofers.

  27. Straightforward today. I was all finished and parsed in 12 minutes. No real hold-ups and I even remembered LARKSPUR (plants not generally my strength) without too much difficulty.

    FOI – 8ac BARMAID
    LOI – 13dn STATUE
    CODs – 5dn THINKING and 19dn STYE. They may be chestnuts but the surfaces still made me laugh.

    Thanks to Orpheus and Doofers

  28. Yet another poor day for me on the QC with a DNF after 15 minutes. I seem to be much better on the 15×15 for some reason, so it’s probably not brain fog! I had all but one to get with 15 seconds to spare to be under target at 10 minutes. The troublesome clue was 16ac, where I failed to appreciate that the answer required a male name, and not just our old friend Al at the front. Oh, and I carelessly spelt PERSEVERANCE with an E instead of a A which didn’t exactly help.

  29. Failed to read 22a and spelled it UNATENDED, which didn’t fit, OBV. Rubber required.
    Also took ages to find 16a ALASTAIR which was dim of me. As I was uncertain whether 16d was SIGNET or CYGNET (I should have known of course), that added to my woes at 16a.

  30. I’m one of the founding members of the “I hate random names in crosswords” club but today neither ALASTAIR nor UNATTENDED caused an issue. I was definitely on for a PB but was Breezeblocked by just one clue…..SIGNET which took over 2 minutes to solve (couldn’t see past an unparsed linnet). 6:42

  31. 18:50, for a rare foray outside the SCC. Went reasonably smoothly until I ran into LOI SIGNET which took me well over five minutes all on its own, and I wasted a couple of minutes failing to parse INEPT.

    Thank you to Doofenschmirtz for the blog!

  32. A bit of a shocker today, but not unexpected given a poor night’s sleep. Two sittings, with the Thinking/Larkspur and Unattended/Signet responsible for most of the delay, ably abetted by young Alastair. Invariant

  33. 9.59 With the same error as Merlin. As soon as a I saw the pink squares in HAWKSPUR I realised what it should have been, so I have no excuse. I was heading for a PB with only UNATTENDED and ALASTAIR remaining after five minutes, but I’m glad I didn’t get it with the error. Thanks Doofers and Orpheus.

  34. 4.58

    Quick for me today. No stand out clues (with a nod to BARMAID) but good overall standard. Was fortunate to see ALASTAIR reasonably quickly as that was tricky

    Thanks Orpheus and Doofers

  35. A faster than average 11:22 today and would have been faster still had we not spent so long looking at the wrong end of the clue for LOI ALASTAIR. NHO UNCLE for a pawnbroker so delayed putting that one in until we got more than one checker as we thought there must have been something more sneaky to it.

  36. I skated through the top half but became becalmed down under. SIGNET, ALASTAIR and UNATTENDED held me up, but not for as long as LOI, ERITREA. Just couldn’t see the hidden as I squinted at the clue, until I had all the crossers. 9:38. Thanks Orpheus and Doofers.

  37. I have been doing the QC since their inception and I thought this was going to be the very first one where I got all the answers straight off without having to look anything up. But no! Having spelled PERSEVERANCE with an E instead of an A, I just couldn’t get ALASTAIR. It can be spelled ALISTAIR but not ALESTAIR I think.

  38. I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said, only that I loved some of the surfaces, most especially the ambitious poet!

  39. Dnf…

    Everything went a bit wrong today – hate anything to do with flowers (with regards to clues), so 11ac “Larkspur” wouldn’t come at all. Then I put “Cygnet” for 15dn which meant there was no way I was going to get 16ac “Alastair”. To top it off, couldn’t get 5dn “Thinking” either. One to forget.

    FOI – 1ac “Appreciate”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 6dn “Bespectacled” – funny surface.

    Thanks as usual!

  40. Late post – so I can say ‘I agree with the above’. Same clues held me up at the end which took me to 11 minutes. COD to ALISTAIR for the reasons our blogger mentioned – it leads you to the wrong way of thinking before then working your way back.

  41. Having read the comments above we feel somewhere near the bottom of the class. It did not seem to suit our aged brains today. Some went in quickly eg 1a and 1d., but there were many others which caused trouble eg 22a and 16a. Lack of anagrams did not help.

  42. Very enjoyable. It had to be uncle but didn’t know second def. And Alastair frustrated me. But otherwise good fun after yesterday’s all green! Thanks for grid and blog.

  43. Like many others I struggled to see ALASTAIR – obviously LOI. NHO UNCLE = pawnbroker, but clear from the clue. The rest a steady solve.

  44. A disappointing DNF today, despite reaching the two-to-go point after just 22 minutes (jolly fast for me, especially with Orpheus). Having wracked my brains for a few more minutes, I unfortunately opted for cyGNET which, in turn, rendered my final quarter of an hour or so’s alphabet trawling of A_A_T_y_ utterly worthless. For some reason, I never considered ‘Chap’ as the definition, even when ALASTAIR briefly came to mind. I also never saw LAST for final or AIR for song, so I definitely didn’t deserve to finish successfully today.

    In the end, I gave up somewhat disillusioned after 45 minutes.

    Thanks to Orpheus and Doofers.

  45. Gentle but with some lovely wordplay
    Did like thin king especially after the comments about Charles’s coat yesterday.

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