Quick Cryptic No 2679 by Felix

I found this a stiff workout, the second Saturday toughie in a row, with the clock stopping at 14:09, longer than my par, and a number of clues requiring careful parsing to unpack them after I had completed the grid.

There are at least three IKEA or “assemble from many parts” clues which are very clever, and I personally find them very satisfying when I finally work out what is going on, though I am aware some solvers just see the answer and move on.

Only one DD, at 8D, but it is a good one, and gets my COD.   And (as usual) if there is a NINA, then I failed to spot it.

What did everyone else think of the puzzle?  (NB I am out and about almost all day today so my apologies in advance if replies to any comments people may wish to make are delayed).

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, deletions and [] other indicators.

1 Distributed on all pitches, but not uniform (5,7)
PLAIN CLOTHES – (on all pitches)*, with the anagram indicator being “distributed”, and the meaning referring to eg a policeman who is on duty but not in uniform.  Also known as “in mufti”, one of the relatively few words in English derived from Arabic.
9 Not all regular guests bicker (5)
ARGUE – A hidden (ie “not all” of) in regulAR GUEsts.
10 Memory loss in a very big area worried men (7)
AMNESIAMNE (anagram of men, with the indicator being “worried”) included in ASIA (which is indeed a very big area).
11 Unable to escape, resident finally knocked (7)
TRAPPEDT (resident “finally”, ie last letter of resident) + RAPPED (knocked).
12 Subject of article by yours truly (5)
THEMETHE (article) + ME (ie yours truly).
13 Tailed zebras every so often, arriving at trees (6)
ALDERS – Every other letter (“every so often”) of tAiLeD zEbRaS.  It took me a long time to work out what was going on here, and the penny only dropped when all three checkers were in.
14 Sounds and smells overwhelming one (6)
NOISESNOSES (smells, as a verb) surrounding (“overwhelming”) I (one).
17 Ogre’s ruined spiny shrub (5)
GORSE – (ogres)*. A straightforward anagram, with the indicator being “ruined”, but I found it surprisingly difficult to spot for a simple 5 letter word.
19 Without delay: therefore one’s ahead of time (7)
SOONESTSO (therefore) + ONES (from the clue) + T (time).  I had a boss once for whom everything had to be done “as soon as possible”; he didn’t seem to understand that this did not necessarily mean “immediately”, and sometimes “next Tuesday” really was “as soon as possible”.
21 Diplomatic staffer to fix date at last (7)
ATTACHÉATTACH (fix, in the sense of affix) + E (date “at last”, ie last letter of date).

A loan word from French for someone who is assigned or attached (ie attaché, past participle of the verb attacher) to a diplomatic mission.  In English the acute accent is optional but not wrong, but (as was discussed only recently, in the blog for QC 2672, Friday 10 May), in Crosswordland accents and other diacritics are never used.

22 Increasingly distant, keeping company no longer with queen (5)
ICIERICI (company no longer) + ER (queen).

ICI, or Imperial Chemical Industries, was founded in 1926 and for much of its existence was the largest British company and a stalwart member of the FT-30 then FTSE, but it was taken over in 2008 and broken up by its new owners.  So, a “company no longer”.

23 Exceptionally, monsieur abandons minor row at cathedral city (12)
INORDINATELY – An IKEA clue, constructed as INOR (minor without the M, ie monsieur abandons it) + DIN (row) + AT (from the clue) + ELY (Crosswordland’s favourite cathedral city). I biffed this from the checkers and only then worked out the wordplay.

Ely is very popular with setters as it is a common and useful 3-letter combination; it is often also clued as see or diocese.

2 Pull young lady up: a dawdler! (7)
LAGGARDDRAG (pull) + GAL (young girl), all reversed (“up”, as this is a down clue).
3 Green endpiece in Rex’s jumble (13)
INEXPERIENCED – (endpiece in rex)*, with the anagram indicator being “jumble”.
4 Debussy maybe receiving praise in church (6)
CLAUDELAUD (praise) inserted into CE (church).  A definition by example, using the fact that Debussy’s first name was Claude, and indicated by the “maybe”.  Other Claudes could also have been used, with perhaps the best known being Claude Monet.

Claude Debussy was a French composer prominent in the last decades of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th; his most well-known piece is probably Clair de Lune.

5 Yellow egg to lift across log for bird expert (13)
ORNITHOLOGIST – Our second IKEA clue, and again in four parts, the construction being OR (literally gold, but used for yellow in heraldry) + NIT (egg, a nit being the egg of a louse) + HOIST (lift) containing (ie “across”) LOG.

Another one that I biffed then later (considerably later) worked out the parsing for. I wonder if setters are ever disappointed that their very cleverly constructed clues are simply guessed like this – if so my apologies to Felix!

6 Possesses note that’s made by one in a hurry? (5)
HASTEHAS (possesses) + TE (a note in the Sol-Fa scale).  I’ve taken the definition to be the whole six-word phrase, as someone in a hurry makes haste;  one could argue that the definition is just the word hurry on its own, as hurry and haste can be synonyms, but that does not use all the words in the clue.
7 Veterans putting on plays? (7)
STAGERS – An  all-in-one clue, as veterans are sometimes called Old Stagers, and people who put on or stage plays are presumably also stagers.  Perhaps slightly forced, as I have never heard of veterans called stagers without the “old”, nor for that matter is stager as the noun for someone who stages a play that common either. But it just about works.

I did wonder whether this could be classified as a DD, but the part of speech for “putting on plays” isn’t right for stagers – it would need to be staging.

8 The inclination (but evidently not the ability) (4)
CANT – This one on the other hand I did decide could be classified as a DD – a rather unusual DD though, with Cant meaning inclination, slope or tilt, and Can’t implying that someone cannot, ie does not have the ability to, do something, and the whole surface making use of the second meaning of inclination as willingness or desire, to give us the picture of someone who wants to do something but is unable to.  Very clever.

The DD is made more difficult to spot by the different pronunciation – in (southern) British English at least – of the two meanings, and (against some stiff opposition) the clue gets my COD for its simplicity yet complexity all in one.

13 HF again used for broadcast from Kabul? (7)
AFGHANI – (HF again)*, with the anagram indicator being “broadcast”, and the reference being to a native of Kabul, which is in Afghanistan.
15 Unusual, small gym class US agents left (7)
SPECIAL – Our third construct-it clue, with the moving parts being S (small) + PE (gym class) + CIA (US agents) + L (left).  A lot packed into a short clue!
16 Like seabird at back of ship (6)
ASTERNAS (like) + TERN (seabird).
18 Port to consume at ten to one for example (5)
RATIORIO (a port) with AT (from the clue) inserted into it, and the meaning given by a “definition by example”, 10:1 being an example of a ratio.

A very nice surface, though personally if I start drinking port at 12.50 (“ten to one”) I am guaranteed to lose the afternoon to slumber and a headache on waking.

20 Sailor at end of cavern finding mountain lake (4)
TARNTAR (sailor) + N (end of, ie last letter of, cavern).  A nice simple one to end a challenging puzzle.

51 comments on “Quick Cryptic No 2679 by Felix”

  1. 13d in the app reads: ‘HF again used for broadcast: Kabul’s ready’ which made the clue trickier for me than what’s in the blog

    I got closer to finishing this one than others this week but mostly because I biffed first and ikea’d after.

    I didn’t get CANT. I tried all the words I knew for an incline but CANT didn’t come to mind.

  2. I had never heard of (OLD) STAGERS so that held me up for 5 minutes, before assuming it made more sense than anything else I could think of. Otherwise I was on wavelength today and still finished under my average time. Lots of tricky clues to unravel but I was always able to get enough checkers to get a foothold.
    I was probably lucky to biff ORNITHOLOGIST which helped unlock a number of other clues, it was quite a friendly definition, and INEXPERIENCED also came quite quickly. Getting the long words early always helps.

  3. The ‘Kabul’s ready’ (ie the currency of Afghanistan) is the clue on The Times website, not sure how/why it got changed but in the end I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Thank you Cedric for doing the heavy lifting on INORDINATELY and ORNITHOLOGIST, both of which I biffed. The construction of each was pretty-well indecipherable until I read the blog. The finer points of ICIER also eluded me and I never worked out the anagrist for INEXPERIENCED, just saw an X and bunged it in. An enjoyable puzzle from Felix, I started slowly (FOI AMNESIA, then a drought) and finished in 9.46. CANT was an excellent clue (I don’t think the pronunciation matters, it’s not a homophone) but I’m not fully convinced by how we get to HASTE. LOsI CANT then STAGER where I initially put STAYER and was told I had an error. Thanks all.

    1. Oh i didn’t understand that ‘ready’ meant ‘money’. That makes much more sense now

  4. 15:01. I first thought CANT would be BENT and I also stared at RIATO for quite a while wondering if it was some arcane term for a longshot bet. Cedric, I have to vote for The Girl with the Flaxen Hair as my favourite piece by Debussy( but you’re right Claire de Lune is best known). Interesting to learn about ICI.

  5. I raced through this in about 13 minutes only to be stymied by CANT. (I finally bunged in WANT in desperation but it wasn’t to be. Bugg*r!)
    Overall then it’s been a curate’s egg of a week with a couple of stinkers thrown in but mostly quite doable.
    Enjoy your weekends all.

  6. Made good progress through this one, although there were a couple of tricky bits to contend with.
    I initially put ‘want’ in for 8d which kind or works but it never really felt right so I revisited before submitting. Slightly surprised by STAGERS as I wouldn’t associate it with veterans without old attached to it.
    Started with LAGGARD and finished with CANT in 6.35 with the first part of ORNITHOLOGIST parsed post submission.
    Thanks to Cedric

  7. 13 down requires the word ‘ready’. Someone from Afghanistan is an Afghan. The currency is Afghani.

  8. Apart from THEME at 12ac I can’t see a theme as I would normally expect from Felix. Perhaps he’s toying with us?

    13 minutes. Like ITTT, I put WANT at 8dn as it made more sense than anything else I could come up with. If you want to do something you are inclined to do it, and ‘want’ can indicate a lack of something, ‘ability’ for example. I’m not seeking to justify it, but even if I’d considered CANT I doubt I would have recognised it as fitting the clue in any way.

      1. CANT vs WANT:
        This is where solving on paper, which I always do, has its advantages. I found CANT first, but was not 100% sure. So I carried on trawling and found WANT, and I was similarly unsure. Both sort of fitted both definitions, so I stopped my watch (they were my LOI) and came here. I wasn’t forced to choose between the two solutions, so I didn’t get a pink square and I feel perfectly justified in counting my effort as a successful solve.

        1. Likewise. If the setter is going to use an unchecked letter to distinguish between two potential answers, then in my book both are valid. Invariant

  9. A nice challenge finishing in under target 20.56 here. Definitely needed Cedric’s help with the parsing of the chewier ones. Although it’s always irritating to find one was a hidden, argue, grrr.

    We agree, very satisfying when the IKEA clues come together

    Thanks Felix and Cedric, hope you had a good day?

    1. Thank you; a fine day out and I return to find not just one but two talking points – the changed clue at 13D (all I can say is that it was changed after I did the puzzle) and the CANT/WANT duo. I saw Cant first and was happy with it, and naturally one doesn’t then look further, but the same would be true for those who thought of Want first of course.

      I think cant is genuinely the better answer, but I’m aware that very occasionally the editor allows a second answer to be “good enough” and not count as an error for eg the Club, despite not being the one the setter had in mind. I’ve no info in this case though that Want has received the editorial nod…


  10. NINA bottom-left corner, and possibly in the top two rows, or am I starting to get obsessed?

  11. 4:13. Like Kevin, I biffed the long ones. LOI CANT took the longest to see. As for the theme… nope I can’t spot it. Thanks Felix and Cedric.

  12. NHO STAGERS for Veterans without OLD in front . Also thought 8D might be BENT until put ARGUE in. ELY went in first at the end of 23A before I worked out the clue. Getting used to crosswordland! Could not parse ORNITHOLOGIST – thanks Cedric for explaining what is very obvious once you see it.

  13. I enjoyed this so thanks. I do agree though that the expression is ‘Old stager’. I put in Want for Cant which seemed to work.

  14. 11:47. Good one. FOI 1ac PLAIN CLOTHES, which is always a nice start. I had BENT at first for 8dn, switched to CANT when ARGUE came along. Much better. LOI SOONEST. COD ICIER. WOD INORDINATELY

  15. Dnf…

    24 mins, but errors on 5dn “Ornithologist” (obviously can’t spell it properly) and 8dn “Cant” where I put “Want”.

    Another tricky Saturday offering (at some point I will do a proper statistical review of my Saturday performances).

    FOI – 13ac “Alders”
    LOI – 23ac “Inordinately”
    COD – 4dn “Claude”

    Thanks as usual!

  16. Difficult to the point of opaque. Did not know what I was aiming at in some cases.
    Had to reveal CANT and AFGHANI (unfamiliar with Afghan currency)
    PLAIN CLOTHES helped a bit. Did biff STAGERS, plus 3d and 5d.
    Early solves included ATTACHE, ASTERN, AMNESIA, CLAUDE.
    Did not much enjoy but thanks, Cedric.

  17. I was perhaps lucky to be of an age that Claude and Stagers were write-ins, but lost time with alpha-trawls needed for Icier(🙄) and loi Want (it works for me). Gave up trying to parse 23ac, Inordinately, at the 25min mark, so thank-you for working that one out Cedric. Invariant

  18. Had to wander around the grid for this one, but it all came together in the end. LAGGARD was FOI. ORNITHOLOGIST was biffed. ATTACHE was LOI after I managed to expunge ARTICLE from my thoughts. 7:17. Thanks Felix and Cedric.

  19. 7:33

    Clueless as to any THEME though PLAIN CLOTHES, INEXPERIENCED, SPECIAL, TRAPPED, ORNITHOLOGIST, CLAUDE might all be identifiers of some random French police drama that no one remembers 🙂

    A fairly swift solve, nothing that ungettable, just a bit slow in the execution – cat on keyboard halfway through didn’t help, had to backtrack his careless typing.

    Thanks Cedric for the entertaining blog, and Felix for the perplexion

    1. I think I might have watched that French police drama in one of my crazy dreams last night! (The bird expert was innocent, in case you were wondering.)

    2. Well you got the French bit right. Following a tip-off from Mick Hodgkin that there was a theme that we missed in one of RR’s puzzles last month (and what the themes was) I went back to this one and have found 10 hidden French Departments (so far – I may have missed a couple). AIN , LOT, CANTAL, ORNE, GARD, AUDE, OISE, TARN, CHER and NORD. Nice one lately-departed Felix. Your clever themes will be missed by me at least.

  20. 26:54 WOE, I was going great guns until I forgot that I had put in BENT at 8D without being able to parse, and so was completely stuck on 9A. Finally took it out and saw ARGUE. Then fell in the WANT trap, had to have my hand slapped to see that CANT was a much better solution.

    Loved INORDINATELY! Liked LAGGARD. Could not parse ORNITHOLOGIST, also a great clue, so thanks to the blogger. Put in STAGER and ICIER with a shrug, British GK that I’ll try to remember.

    Thanks to Felix, and great blog Cedric!

    1. But Evidently Not The ability gave me BENT too. Until I got argue whereupon I too put WANT.

  21. Another toughie.
    Needed an alpha trawl for LOI cant.
    No problem with stagers.
    Like trapped but COD to Claude.

  22. Not so difficult today but nevertheless frustratingly pushed out to over 15 minutes with about 3 of those spent on LOI 15a. It looked like it had to be a NHO until we finally spotted my fat-fingered typo with ORNOTHILIGIST. The latter was a biff which we didn’t ‘waste’ (spend enough!) time on. We also failed to understand the parsing of the first half of INORDINATELY so thanks for the explanation of both, Cedric. On the app you don’t know the setter so we wouldn’t have thought to look for a NINA, which at least avoids the frustration of not being able to spot it. Thank you, Felix.

  23. Glad I wasnt the only one to opt for `Want` in 8down. Did a cursory Google meaning of Cant – and cannot find that it has second meaning of incline. Bit obscure imo.

  24. Thought of cantilever and that swayed me from ‘want’. I thought this very approachable for a Felix puzzle. Pretty well top down with only a couple holding out until the end – Cant and Stagers.
    FOI 1a Plain Clothes
    LOI 7d Stagers
    COD 18d Ratio
    Needed the blog to parse 22a Icier.
    Very enjoyable puzzle. Ready now for the Sunday Special.

  25. 30.43 DNF for WANT of CANT. All done in under ten minutes except for 8d and 7d. Eventually I got STAGERS and biffed WANT. Once I had the pink square I took another couple of minutes to think of CANT and see why it was right. Two poor days in a row. Looking forward to next week. Thanks Cedric and Felix.

  26. 10:15 here, WOE as I join the legion of people thinking that WANT is a perfectly good answer for 8d. Never parsed ICIER, as the news that ICI no longer exists had entirely passed me by.

    Thanks to Cedric and Felix.

  27. 9:50, with WANT instead of CANT. I think clueing could have been a little tidier with this one, and still think both are valid and no crossers. CANT is admittedly the more convincing of the two, but it shouldn’t be left to the solver to try every possible outcome. otherwise very enjoyable puzzle.

  28. DNF

    I’m not particularly happy with 8d CANT. I thought WANT a perfectly good double definition. If you have an inclination for something you want it and if you lack the ability you’re wanting.

    At least Parkrun was kind today with a splendid outing to Rotterdam.

    Edit: Having read the other comments I see WANT is an incredibly common error. Which, I think, indicates a dreadful clue.

  29. DNF CANT (another WANT here too) but no problems with the rest. Liked LAGGARD and ICIER. Many thanks Cedric.

  30. Fairly quick after a day at Mayfest in Winchester, watching Morris dancers – perhaps that’s good brain food – I didn’t have any trouble with this. LOI CANT, as it wasn’t immediately obvious, but a quick alphabet trawl got me there – lucky I started from A, so never considered want. Helpful to get the two long down ones very quickly, of course.

  31. 8.08

    Late entry here. Fortunately didn’t think of WANT. STAGERS LOI as I had carelessly biffed PLAIN CLOTHED

    Great blog


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