Quick Cryptic no 2691 by Pedro

Well this certainly stretched the weekend brain cells – I often find Pedro one of the more challenging setters and this was no exception, taking me 14:44 to finish it, some way above my par.

I struggled on a couple of clues to find which part of the clue was definition and which part wordplay – this was particularly the case with 18A, where I am not sure what the reference to zoos is for, and on 16D, where the definition could be the whole clue or just parts of it.

Otherwise some very nice clues, including a neat trick in 5D which was new to me, and unusually no Double Definitions (unless I’ve missed them).

Many thanks Pedro for an excellent work-out.  What did everyone else make of the puzzle?

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

1 Group is backing places (5)
SITESSET (group) + IS (from the clue), all reversed (“backing”).

A relatively straightforward clue to start us off – it was my FOI and it is always good to get 1A, but in this case it rather lulled me into a false sense of hope that the rest of the puzzle would be as amenable.

7 Actor’s remarkable at reading (9)
TRAGEDIAN – (at reading)*, the anagram indicator being “remarkable”.
9 Activity around a component of flight (5)
STAIRSTIR (activity) around A (from the clue).  The flight is nothing to do with birds or aeroplanes, but a flight of stairs, so a component is indeed a singular stair.
10 Hard work interrupted by openings for trilling light laugh (7)
CHORTLECHORE (hard work) with TL inserted (openings, ie first letters, of Trilling Light).

The word Chortle was coined by Lewis Carroll in his nonsense poem Jabberwocky, possibly as a blend of chuckle and snort, and is perhaps the most successful of the two dozen or so neologisms in the poem.  It is certainly one of the few to have made it into standard English.

I did once see an attempt to translate the poem into German – it meant nothing at all to me, nor I might add to my German-speaking friend who showed it to me. I’m not sure the humour resonated with his orderly Teutonic mind.

11 One additional thought: question dumping a husband in Suffolk town (7)
IPSWICH – A “build it from components” clue, with the construction being I (one) + PS (additional thought) + WICH (which, ie a question, without the H, ie dumping husband).

A slightly clunky surface IMO, and the clue would certainly have required much “additional thought”, were it not for the lucky happenstance that I was in Ipswich just two days ago.

12 I’ve reached P for “painting technique” (7)
IMPASTO – If you have reached P in the alphabet you have passed O, and you might well declare “I’m past O”.

Impasto is Italian for “dough” or “mixture”, and describes a painting technique in which the paint is laid thickly so that the painting is almost 3D and brushstrokes or palette knife marks are visible.  Rembrandt and Van Gogh are just two of the many well known painters who made much use of the technique.

15 Opponent quite ignoring it regarding historic thing (7)
ANTIQUEANTI (opponent) + QUE (quite ignoring IT).  This is Anti as a noun not an adjective (as in “when it comes to smoking I’m an anti”); a more colloquial usage of the word but well attested in Collins.
18 Zoo resident offering the smallest bit of pride? (4,3)
LION CUB – “Pride” refers to a pride of lions, and the smallest member of the pride may be a cub.  But while I understand Pedro’s thinking here, the smallest member of a pride of lions need not necessarily be a lion cub, if they are all adults, and need not be a zoo resident either (in fact probably the majority of lion cubs in the world are not in zoos).  The question mark at the end of this clue is doing some pretty heavy lifting!
20 Picture AM radio broadcast (7)
DIORAMA – (AM radio)*, with the anagram indicator being “broadcast”.
22 Malevolent spirit in protest ending in disruption (5)
DEMONDEMO (protest) + N (ending, ie last letter of, disruptioN).
23 Equipment given to spy involving a right palaver (9)
RIGMAROLERIG (equipment) + MOLE (spy) with A R (a right) inserted in it.
24 Extract from commentator on doubtful piece of music (5)
RONDO – A hidden (“extract from”) in commentatoR ON DOubtful.
1 South American greeting Japanese food (5)
SUSHIS (south) + US (American) + HI (a greeting).  Hands up anyone else who failed to lift and separate South American and tried hard to find a word starting SA.
2 Various patterns in part of church (8)
TRANSEPT – (patterns)*, with the anagram indicator being “various”.
3 Sign of pollution around river provides tension (6)
STRAINSTAIN (sign of pollution) with R (river) inserted in it.
4 Get back group of soldiers with masterstroke (6)
RECOUPRE (group of soldiers, specifically in this case Royal Engineers) + COUP (masterstroke).

At least, I think that is the parsing.  But I have a slight MER at RE being clued as a “group of soldiers”, which seems somewhat loose to me.  The military is famous for its use of acronyms, and the thought of any of the huge number one could choose from (eg RA for Royal Artillery?) being clued as “a group of soldiers” is not uplifting.

But does anyone have a better/different reading of the clue?

5 Fog is surrounding mount? On the contrary (4)
MIST – Lateral thinking required here:  IS surrounding MT (for mount) would give IMTS, which is not a word.  But “the contrary” is MT surrounding IS, which is a word and gives us our answer MIST.
6 Cover electric vehicle crossing North Pole after overturning (7)
ENVELOPEV (electric vehicle) with N (north) inside it, + ELOP (pole backwards, ie “after overturning”).  Clever use of capital letters to make one think of the North Pole, but the two words need a “lift and separate” to solve the clue.
8 Each April, at sea, leave for islands (11)
ARCHIPELAGO – (each april)*, with the anagram indicator being “at sea”, + GO (leave).
13 Small cage holding rodents up, for example (8)
SPECIMENS (small) + PEN (cage) with EMIC ECIM (mice, ie rodents, backwards, ie “up” as this is a down clue) inserted into it  (typo edited, thank you IanV).
14 DIY works in part a source of great value (3,4)
PAY DIRTPART (from the clue) with YDI (anagram of DIY, with the anagram indicator being “works”) inside it.  My LOI:  the checkers give -A- D-R-, which was not the most helpful set of letters to be staring at.

Pay dirt was originally a term from the California Gold Rush – when miners found an area rich with gold ore, they would say they’d hit pay dirt.  Now used more generically to mean anything that gives you profit or a reward.

16 Source always of quite unusual and strongly augmented radiation? (6)
QUASAR – The first letters (“source always”) of Quite Unusual And Strongly Augmented Radiation.  

I’ve treated the whole clue here as the definition, as a Quasar is indeed a source of massively powerful radiation – the word comes from “quasi-stellar radio source”, and the most powerful quasars can emit more radiation than our entire galaxy.  But the definition could equally be just “Source … of … strong … radiation”, were one allowed excerpts from the clue.

17 Less common to pursue fine food (6)
FODDERF (fine) followed by (ie pursued by) ODDER (less common).  I needed all the checkers for this one, especially the middle D, as I did not immediately connect Odd with less common.
19 Judge supports embargo on old instrument (5)
BANJOBAN (embargo) + J (judge) + O (old).  And for at least the third time in this puzzle Pedro requires us to lift and separate – we are not looking for an old instrument here.
21 Wild party showing limitations to order generally (4)
ORGY – The answer is made up of the first and last letters (“limitations”) of OrdeR GenerallY.

40 comments on “Quick Cryptic no 2691 by Pedro”

  1. 23. 08 one of the longest times I’ve stuck with a crossword without just giving up. Trying to take a leaf out of Gary’s book at least on Saturdays!

    It took me forever to get a true foothold in this puzzle, I find the overly wordy clues very confusing, and I failed to lift and separate many clues. Starting with SUSHI, where I was wondering where ‘south american’ fit into it.

    I was thinking about North Poles and Spy Equipment, fine foods, old instruments etc!

    I’m thankful for the ‘lion’ clue we had this week because I thought of the correct pride for once, and I did remember about flights of stairs.

    I was absolutely terrified when I saw the long ‘islands’ clue and thought I was going to reveal it straight away because there was no way I was going to get yet another island, but I persevered and left it to near the end where thankfully it was a word I knew, not a name of an island

    Thanks for the blog!

    1. 23 mins was about what it took for me to get going today! I forgot (amongst several other things) the “flight” thing, was my last one in. I also froze when I initially saw the island clue!

  2. 20:34. Yes, a lot of lifting and separating plus several difficult anagrams. IMPASTO was my COD with CHORTLE, IPSWICH, ENVELOP, and SPECIMEN worthy runners-up. Thanks for the blog, Cedric, I feel I always come away a wiser man after reading your presentations!

  3. 9:03. For whatever reason, I didn’t find this too difficult, though I was too lazy to notice some of the valid points raised by Cedric (eg for LION CUB) and biffed a few such as ARCHIPELAGO. RE as the abbreviation for Royal Engineers is used quite often for ‘group of soldiers’ so this is how I parsed RECOUP, with ‘Get back’ suggesting the answer began with RE, rather than RA, RI or even PARAS, other potential groups of soldiers.

    Pick of the day was QUASAR which I think would qualify as an &lit as the whole clue is the definition and all parts of the clue contribute to the wordplay. There are also 5 uncrossed P’s across the centre of the grid. This may be by chance, but Pedro can be a cunning old devil who often includes themes or little tricks in the grid under his other setting guises.

    Thanks to Pedro and Cedric

    1. Does Pedro have other setting guises here, or do you mean elsewhere? I only know he’s Paul Henderson and he lives in New Zealand.

      1. Sorry I didn’t make it clear. I meant his other setting pseudonyms elsewhere, specifically as Phi in The Independent and Pangakupu in The Guardian. According to his website he is also one of The Times anonymous setters and sets for The Listener, The Sunday Telegraph and a few other publications. Quite prolific!

        1. Thanks. Now you mention it, I knew about Pangakupu from the same source I learned he lives in NZ. I do The Guardian puzzle every day and have gathered from Fifteensquared that P always includes a Maori reference in his puzzles, but I’ve never spotted one myself.

  4. 14 minutes. No particular hold-ups, I was just slow generally, but perhaps I hesitated a bit over PAY DIRT which I spotted as a possibility but didn’t know its meaning so looked for an alternative before writing it in .

    I also felt that LION CUB was not very well clued although I hadn’t analysed my misgivings about it.

  5. Another steady solve which came in at 1 second faster than yesterday to perfectly hit my Quitch average, which I find strangely satisfying.
    Took a while to unravel TRAGEDIAN but other than that no major issues.
    Started with SUSHI and finished with ENVELOP in 8.22.
    Thanks to Cedric

  6. I think I found the Times Cryptics this week easier than this. PAY DIRT is a phrase I’ve never heard of. Quasar can just be “source” I think.

  7. Very enjoyable and solved with no problems along the way other than waiting for all the crossers before LOI RIGMAROLE.
    Favourite IM PAST O.
    I just marked LION CUB as a DD and moved on without further thought.

  8. An even longer trawl than usual to reach the end but no time as interrupted by sleep. I wondered at some point if this was going to be a pangram and was expecting an X or Z to pop out at any moment but they nor K quashed that. IMPASTO was my favourite. I always smile at those letter plays. RIG(A)MAROLE close behind. Such an odd word, I wonder about its derivation.
    Thanks Cedric and Pedro whom I always enjoy but find challenging.

    1. Regarding the derivation of RIGMAROLE, you may find this from World Wide Words interesting. I think the “consequences” referred to early on in the article should really have an upper case first letter as “Consequences”.

      On edit: Woops, sorry, I was going to include the Wikipedia page link for “Consequences” but I forgot that I need to be moderated for including >1 link. Anyway you can find it on Wikipedia which gives an adequate explanation, even if I did have difficulty trying to work out what the game is all about!

  9. DNF x 2. Failed on SPECIMEN and biffed Djinn for Demon, stupidly. A pretty difficult puzzle which has taken me ages. Should have put it aside and maybe come back to it. Struggled to get started and, as I said, struggled to finish.
    Thanks vm, Cedric. Interesting re PAY DIRT.

  10. Unlike Cedders I needed all the checkers for 1a! Dunce’s cap for me.

    I always have to wrestle with Pedro so I was pleased to make steady enough progress through this, top half first then bottom half from west to east finishing with DEMON (which I had tried to make “djinn” for quite a while). COD to IMPASTO, very droll! All done in 09:49 for an OK Day.

    Sorry to see the Scum (as we Norwich fans fondly call them) making an appearance today; let’s hope it’s as rare as their seasons in the top flight in the modern era ;). Now off to a god-daughter’s wedding, huzzah!

    Many thanks Pedro and Cedric.


  11. 13:11. A steady solve. LOI PAY DIRT. I liked CHORTLE and IMPASTO. Thanks to BletchleyReject for pointing out the row of Ps across the middle. There by chance? Surely not

  12. Dnf…

    28 mins, but made a mistake on 7ac “Tragedian”, swapping the “d” and “g” around. Definitely on the more tricky side, but some good clues nonetheless. 14dn “Pay Dirt” probably took the most time.

    FOI – 1ac “Sites”
    LOI – 7ac “Tragedian” (but errored)
    COD – 5dn “Mist”

    Thanks as usual!

  13. 14:52 (James III born in St Andrews Castle or maybe he was born in 1451 in Stirling Castle, depending on which historian you believe)

    I found this very tricky. Lori was PAY DIRT.

    Thanks Cedric and Pedro

  14. Completed all bar PAY DIRT fairly quickly, then took another 10 minutes on this one clue. Note to self: trust the wordplay rather than vainly searching for a definition! Thanks for the blog Cedric. Interesting to hear that CHORTLE was coined in the poem and needed your help for the parsing of MIST. COD to IMPASTO – brilliant.

  15. What seemed a sluggish 25min solve doesn’t look too bad now I’ve read some of the other comments. Main hold ups included knowing the painting technique began with Imp- but not how it ended, and refusing to believe 1d could be as simple as Sushi until I had S*s*i 🙄 A fairly tough run out from Pedro, with CoD to Rigmarole, a nose ahead of Envelope. Invariant

  16. 17.37 I spent ages on the last two. I over-thought ENVELOP and looked for a word ending in DOR. And I just couldn’t see LOI SITES. IMPASTO appeared in the biggie on Tuesday, which helped. Thanks Cedric and Pedro.

  17. DNF but liked MIST and CHORTLE.
    Pride for Lions came up this week already which helped.
    Cedric, at 13d you meant to put ECIM not EMIC. Thanks for the blog, didn’t know about Chortle.

  18. It’s taken me several attempts during the day but got there in the end. Just couldn’t come up with anything other than PAY DIRT but on coming here was pleased to see it was valid. Thanks for very informative blog Cedric.

      1. Yes you’re right. According to Cedric it’s connected to the gold rush so definitely an American derivation!

  19. Very tricky – but it was set by Pedro… I was surprised to find all done by something <34 minutes – a rare timing as I used the on-line puzzle. Probably giving myself too much credit anyway as I used the 'check' function a couple of times to reassure myself I was on the right track.
    FOI 15a Antique
    LOI 2d Transept – I should have spotted it was an anagram
    COD 9a Stair – Happily I remembered the stairs option early on

  20. 28:19 and feeling very dull after another struggle with the sleep demon. But I see from the comments that I may not be that far off the pack, as it’s only a few minutes over my average time.

    There were many pleasing clues, and I don’t see the problem with LION CUB (other than my own slowness). Failed repeatedly to lift and separate, but as SUSHI seemed so obvious an answer, luckily I threw it in and then saw what I had to do to parse it. Held up for a while on LOI SPECIMEN, as “pen” for “cage” was a step too far for me. DNK where IPSWICH is, but fortunately it’s such an oddball word that seeing IPS was enough to give it to me. COD a toss-up between MIST and IMPASTO.

    The QC is not making any progress through the alphabet: in my wanderings through the back catalog I recently encountered “Only the first sixteen letters” –> “up to P” –> UP TOP. (Felix on 1 Sept 2022, blogged by the lamented Rotter.)

    Thanks to Pedro and to Cedric for the informative blog!

  21. Delighted to finish after, ahem, a lot of minutes, but to finish was the thing. Could barely find the radio, never mind the wavelength, and took ages to find a toehold. Eventually solved from the south up. Lots of clever bits, well done Pedro.

  22. Top half went in quite quickly, but was much slower on the bottom, particularly with DIORAMA, where I was looking for a homophone, SPECIMEN, DEMON and LOI, FODDER. A good challenge, thanks Pedro and Cedric.

  23. 20+ mins, due mainly to a staggering 5 mins for the FOI, just could not get a foothold.

    IMPASTO very clever, kept getting confused with Impetigo.


  24. 6:23

    No big issues here other than being late to the party today. Last two in were TRAGEDIAN which needed the first checker to come to mind, and ENVELOP which came to me in a flash after staring at it for 30 seconds. Needed all checkers for PAY DIRT but familiar with the term.

    Thanks Pedro and to Cedric for the fascinating facts and elucidations.

  25. DNF. In my defence, the washing machine starting leaking water all over the kitchen floor while I was contemplating 12a, and then once I’d sorted the worst of that out my keyboard stopped working. The two events were not related but I have chosen to take them as an omen.

    Anyone know how to disconnect a washing machine?

  26. 13:37

    No real difficulties here but a technical DNF as I somehow typed SITES as SETIS. Had to biff LOI RECOUP though as RE for group of soldiers didn’t register.

    Volunteer week at parkrun so no QCPR double.


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