Quick Cryptic No 2715 by Joker

A fine puzzle from Joker this morning, which I found a real challenge.  My FOI was not until 18A, by which time alarm bells were definitely beginning to ring (could I be the first blogger ever to get no answers at all?).  Fortunately I had a confidence booster getting 2D with only one checker, and the down clues that followed it were also rather more friendly.  With the grid now nicely populated with checkers the across clues did not seem quite so obstinate and I finally came home in 14:52, my slowest for many months on a Joker puzzle and this only after a word-search for a couple of the final clues.

Once done, I can appreciate Joker’s wordplay more – most of the words, with the possible exception of 15D, are common enough and none of the clues is outright outside the normal QC universe.  But without doubt the last word for me (and COD for its aptness) is 22A – this was definitely Chewy.

I also note that once again we have the strange quirk where the puzzle I blog always seems to have at least one clue in it which was either an answer in a very recent puzzle or the subject of comment in a recent TfTT forum.  This time it is Borough in 4A, which was discussed by Mike Harper in his blog on QC 2712 by Jalna last Wednesday.

Thank you Joker for the mental workout, and I’ll be interested to hear how others fared, or whether I was just being dim this morning.

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

1 Soak in this way before application (5)
SOUSESO (in this way) + USE (application).
4 Born round disreputable area of London (7)
BOROUGHB (born) + O (round) + ROUGH (disreputable).

Borough is just south of London Bridge and was indeed in the past one of the more disreputable or rougher areas of London, being across the river from the City proper and so outside the City magnates’ control.  But the clue requires us to Lift and Separate “disreputable” and “area”: these days Borough is less raffish, and as we learnt in the blog only last Wednesday (QC 2712), is best known for Borough Market, haunt of many upmarket food stalls.  And of course for being the home of The George, where some of us met for a drink two weeks ago.

8 Plot wicked torment (7)
BEDEVILBED (plot, as in garden plot / flower-bed) + EVIL (wicked), with the definition Torment using the verb sense of the word not the noun sense.  I took a very long time to see this, even with the checkers which made the -EVIL ending obvious.
9 Musician initially performing in support (5)
PIPERP (initially Performing) in PIER (support, as the noun).  I started by thinking that the P from “initially performing” was the first P, and then spent some time trying to find a 4 letter word meaning “in support” to follow it.  Beautiful misdirection.
10 Boundless disturbance reportedly held sway (12)
UNRESTRAINEDUNREST (disturbance) + RAINED (sounds like reigned, ie held sway).  Another where I needed all the checkers.
12 Strongly urge sexy shorts must have extremities covered (6)
EXHORT – the inner letters (ie “extremities covered”) of sEXy sHORTs.  I have not met “extremities covered” to mean “remove the extremities” before and I have to say it is not an obvious one to me by any means.
13 Some signs unknown company holds help back (6)
ZODIACZ (an unknown in algebra) + ODIAC, which is constructed from AID (help) inside CO (company), all reversed (“back”).
16 Barking pet guards the family member (12)
STEPDAUGHTER – (pet guards the)*, with the anagram indicator being “barking”.  A straightforward enough anagram once I had seen it (though aren’t they all?),  but another of the clues that held me up for some time.
18 Former gold coin  of imposing appearance (5)
NOBLE – a DD.  My FOI, and very glad I was to get off the mark with it.

A Noble was an English gold coin, current for just over 100 years (1340s to 1460s), and worth 80 silver pennies or six shillings and eight pence.  Wikipedia tells me that when first minted it was about 9 grammes, equivalent to over £500 at today’s gold price.  Some coin!

20 Westwards advance in second vehicle (7)
OMNIBUSSUB (advance) + IN (from the clue) + MO (second), all reversed (“westwards”).
21 Unfortunately I retain a tendency not to change (7)
INERTIA – (I retain)*, the anagram indicator being “unfortunately”.
22 Cold cut, ultimately very tough (5)
CHEWYC (cold) + HEW (cut) + Y (ultimately, ie last letter of, verY).

I believe the setters do read our musings on their puzzles and I suspect that they are therefore aware that the word chewy is often used to mean difficult, tough etc.  I wonder if Joker is signalling here that he knows this was not the most straightforward QC he’s ever set.

1 Include subscription amount on end of invoice (7)
SUBSUMESUB (subscription) + SUM (amount) + E (end of, ie last letter of, invoicE).
2 Secretly  being very drunk (5,3,5)
UNDER THE TABLE – a DD, and I was very relieved to get it early on as it opened up much of the left hand side of the grid very nicely.
3 Overhear a cause of sagging roof? (9)
EAVESDROP – a second DD in consecutive clues, the question-mark in the second definition being because dropping eaves are only one possible cause of a sagging roof.
4 Bats evidently live flying round … yes, initially here? (6)
BELFRY – the first letters (“initially”) of Bats Evidently Live Flying Round Yes.  But what to underline as the definition?  It could be the whole clue, or perhaps just the words Bats … live … here.  That would break all the rules though, so I have gone for just the word “here”, as where bats evidently live.
5 Tear that’s often seen on gravestone (3)
RIP – a third DD in the first five down clues, with the second definition slightly cryptic:  R.I.P. is often used on gravestones for Rest In Peace (or for those who want to display their Latin learning, Requiescat In Pace).
6 Republican Ted is running? It’s not certain (13)
UNPREDICTABLE – (Republican Ted)*, with the anagram indicator being “running”.
7 Run into small building, feel pain (4)
HURTR (run) inserted into HUT (small building).  The definition is “feel pain” not just “pain”, so we need the verb sense of Hurt.
11 Can origin get sorted out for mineral? (9)
INORGANIC – (can origin)*, the anagram indicator being “sorted out”, and the question-mark being because while all minerals are inorganic, not all inorganic things are necessarily mineral.
14 Bob has lorry mostly climbing? Yes, climbing (7)
CURTSEYTRUC (ie most of truck or lorry) reversed (“climbing”) + YES reversed (the second “climbing”).
15 Notes on scriptures used in Christmas oratorio (6)
MASORA – A hidden (clued by “used in”) in ChristMAS ORAtorio.

An easy enough hidden to find, once I had the checkers, but not a word I knew at all.  The dictionary has “a body of notes on the textual traditions of the Hebrew Scripture compiled by scribes during the first millennium of the Christian era”, which is pretty much exactly as Joker has clued it.

17 Against upsetting no-good giant? (4)
ANTI – (iant)*, the anagrist being giant without the G (“no-good”), and the anagram indicator being “upsetting”.
19 Consume natural fuel when short of power (3)
EATPEAT (a natural fuel) without the letter P (“short of power”).  And thank goodness for a less challenging clue to end the puzzle.

48 comments on “Quick Cryptic No 2715 by Joker”

  1. I had to reveal most of these and when I did, I enjoyed the clueing. I laughed a bit at CURTSEY

    But yeah too hard for me today.

  2. A chewy one, all right. I was surprised to find MASORA here. Like Cedric, I benefited from getting UNDER THE TABLE early on (was ‘being’ necessary?); also STEPDAUGHTER. Still, it took me a long time. 9:45.

  3. DNF and gave up after 20 minutes with one answer missing which I was unable to solve even after resorting to aids because I had an alternative answer to an intersecting clue and therefore an incorrect checker.

    I doubt it will come as a surprise that the answer that floored me was at 15dn, MASORA, a word I would argue has no business in a Quick Cryptic as it has appeared only once before in the TfTT era , in a Mephisto puzzle 14 years ago. Many solvers admit to having difficulty spotting hidden answers even when they are everyday words, so I’m not ashamed that I missed such an obscure one.

    In any case it was a non-starter for me as I was looking for something to fit ?A?M?A because I had MINIBUS at 20ac having interpreted ‘in second’ as IN 1 M (1 minute). I’d agree IN MO is neater and OMNIBUS is a better answer, but I happened to think of MINIBUS first and my wordplay seemed reasonable so it didn’t occur to me to look for an alternative.

    1. I started with MINIBUS but couldn’t parse it, so for once I actually removed it instead of telling myself I’d come back to it.

  4. I’m starting to get a bit fed up of the quick cryptic being far more difficult than the main cryptic.

    1. As to which, the main cryptic today is quite fun if like me you found the quick cryptic too tricky to enjoy.

  5. Definitely at the trickier end of the spectrum and I thought I was going to go through all the acrosses without having filled anything in at all until INERTIA came to my rescue, quickly followed by COD CHEWY.
    The downs were a bit more amenable but I had to work hard throughout. I ended up in the NW where a dubious ‘douse’ at 1a needed a serious rethink before which finally allowed me to get SUBSUME and UNRESTRAINED.
    Finished in 14.50.
    Thanks to Cedric for the excellent blog and Joker for the workout.

  6. 12.13. Very tough for a quickie I thought, some of the vocab (eg MASORA) and some of the wordplay being more at home in the 15×15. That’s not to say it was an unenjoyable Joker puzzle, just that the Q part of QC is surely there for a reason. Very helpful and informative blog from Cedric. I thought I might be on to something when I remembered both SOUSE(d) and UNDER THE TABLE appearing in an episode of Fawlty Towers, but sadly it all ended there…

  7. DNF here as well. MINIBUS seemed fine, but that left the hidden MASORA impossible, with notes of ANCDEF and NT for scriptures there was plenty of misdirection fodder. And certainly NHO MASORA.

    I also had DOUSE at 1a, but now I think on it, that’s not how it’s spelled.

    Gonna try the 15.

  8. Chewy indeed, but with a bit of biffing got there in 27.37. We then spent 45 seconds parsing our LOI curtsey having spent too long thinking Bob was the S checker we had p, as in shilling (remembered from an earlier puzzle that caused much consternation at the time) even though it’s the first word we just didn’t consider it as a definition 🤨

    Took a while to get in too but FOI eaves drop got us going.

    NHO masora but spotted the hidden quickly. What a brilliant anagram for republican ted !

    Taking the extremities off of sexy shorts seemed an obvious instruction (and I always do what I’m told) so this was a write ib, and definitely COD, such a great surface.

    Thanks Joker, and Cedric for the excellent blog and parsing of piper, we too thought the p was the first one.

    Time for a a walk in the sunshine, hurrah!!!

  9. My experience was almost identical to the blogger’s and I needed a break with four to go before I got home in a total of 27 minutes which is, for me, the longest I think I have ever taken for the QC.

    So definitely a 22a puzzle which felt at times more like doing the main crossword. Then again, compared to yesterday’s 15×15 offering ,which was (by my standards at least) a regular stinker and took me the thick end of an hour and a half to finish, I would say this QC still justifies its claim to be quick.

    It is a Times crossword after all, so I don’t think we should ever expect ‘quick’ to translate to ‘easy’.

  10. The Times Puzzles email newsletter this morning is particularly interesting on the issue of obscure/anachronistic references in clues/answers, etc. And on the role of the QC in encouraging newbies and younger solvers. It also seems that mentions of living persons in all crosswords is now to be permitted. Plus some further observations on yesterday’s Nina.

    1. Hm. We shall have to wait and see I suppose. If the existing Sunday Times practice of allowing living persons is what they have in mind, then I am happy with that, but as far as I’m aware that change occurred without any public announcement. I am concerned that since the new decision has been announced setters may begin to indulge their new freedom to excess and we shall find that we are now expected to familiarise ourselves with line-ups of football teams and the latest bunch of ephemeral so-called ‘celebrities’ on TV reality shows. At least with dead people one can assume they acquired some sort of lasting fame or notoriety so one stands a chance of having heard of them if they are outside one’s own particular fields of interest.

      Another part of the article mentions that the Quick Cryptic will now aim to avoid “archaic slang and the kind of abbreviations you know only from doing crosswords”. To me that sounds as if they may set out to exclude many of the quaint little tics and quirks that brighten the English language and make crossword solving so enjoyable.

        1. I’m not sure the newsletter content is available online as it comes in an email, but here’s the relevant article. I hope The Times will not object to my reproducing it here:

          Our Sign of The Times cryptic last weekend provoked a range of responses from readers commenting on the accompanying article (a topic explored further by Rose Wild in Feedback this week).

          “Really enjoyed that,” wrote S Goldsmith. “I’ve always managed to do the Quick Cryptics but find the old-fashioned lexicon required for the main one beyond me (and I’m pushing 40 and have pretty decent general knowledge). Would love this modern take to become a new feature.”

          Steven Richmond called for cultural references to be updated, ditching fossilised slang – “I’m looking at U, It, Corporation etc” – adding that his “cryptic-curious niece rolls her eyes when she is expected to know about a singer or actor from the 1940s, or whatever”.

          S Wright cautioned against reworking cryptic crosswords “à la Doctor Who”, adding: “It should be about broadening everyone’s horizons, not banning or exclusion. I’m a boomer but I know Dua Lipa and others and am happy to learn new forms of slang.”

          On the YouTube channel Cracking the Cryptic, Simon Anthony’s video solve invited viewers to find out how a middle-aged man might cope with a puzzle featuring “modern slang, younger (living) people, brand names and conversational phrases”. He succeeded with aplomb, of course, but provided some great entertainment along the way with musings such as: “Could Andrew Marvell, the poet, have written Madame Web?”

          Viewers appealed in the comments for more such puzzles. “If you want to keep cryptics alive long into the future this is the way,” said one. “I don’t think the younger generation will be interested in solving puzzles that are only allowed to refer to deceased movie stars from last century.”

          I’m glad we’ve got this much-needed debate going. Our frame of reference does need to evolve more quickly than it has done to date. The Quick Cryptic in particular must welcome new solvers – without alienating existing ones – by avoiding archaic slang and the kind of abbreviations you know only from doing crosswords.

          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.

          And we will look at finding a regular slot for puzzles like last week’s, which can help to get new generations interested in the joy of cryptic crosswords.

      1. Hear hear! The Times crossword is an institution. The new ‘Sign of the times’ crossword fulfils the modernisation brief. Messing with the main crossword (and QC) is not required and seems a risky move; the quality and idiosyncrasy are precisely what set it apart from the rest.

        1. I agree it does seem beneficial to have a range of traditions across the various publications that print cryptic crosswords, and if The Times was known to be on the more Ximenean end of the spectrum I’m a bit surprised they’ve decided to modernise like this.

      2. I thought the “Sign of the Times” crossword was going to be the place for that eg. Removing the archaic little tics/slangs etc. – or am I misunderstanding what they are intending to do?

  11. Finally had to reveal SOUSE, SUBSUME, ZODIAC and CURTSEY. And struggled with much of the rest. Only easy clues were EAVESDROP and STEPDAUGHTER. Oh and liked BELFRY, RIP and CHEWY. NHO MASORA but biffed. Chewy indeed, as others have remarked, and not enjoyable, as far as I was concerned.
    But thanks vm, Cedric, for thorough blog.

  12. 11:21

    Like Cedric, it was some time before I confidently inked in my first across answer (INERTIA), however the downs were slightly more accessible and gave some toeholds to cling to. As for several others here, MASORA was an unknown, though I detected that the answer might be a ‘hidden’ and pencilled it in – STEPDAUGHTER and OMNIBUS both giving it enough credence to leave it in place.

    Must admit that Cedric’s first two (NOBLE and UNDER THE TABLE) didn’t seem quite so obvious to me, to the extent that I had N___E for 18a and UNDER THE T___E at 2d for a while – so obvious now of course!

    LOI was 11d after correcting UNRESTRICTED to UNRESTRAINED to give the correct first letter…

    I liked BELFRY.

    Thanks Cedric for an excellent blog – thoroughly entertaining and informative – and thanks Joker for an excellent challenge – thoroughly enjoyed.

  13. This seemed to take me forever but was highly enjoyable. I needed the blog to parse BELFRY and OMNIBUS – many thanks Cedric. Definitely CHEWY and probably took me longer than any other QC of late. MASORA was new to me but for once I spotted the hidden. Great to learn a new word. Thanks Joker.

  14. I also found this chewy. UNDER THE TABLE was FOI. A biffed UNRESTRICTED held up INORGANIC for a while. MINIBUS was first thought at 20a, but I had a rethink and put OMNIBUS without parsing it properly. Luckily the totally unknown hidden LOI, MASORA, confirmed it. 10:55. Thanks Joker and Cedric.

  15. 42 minutes!!!

    That was hard going. Over double my target time and well over the hour (and then some) for my QCPR double. It all fell apart when I put UNRESTRICTED instead of UNRESTRAINED making the SE all but impossible. Nearly threw the towel in until I saw CHEWY and realised the rest had to change.

  16. I thought it was just me having a bad day, so relief to come here and be reassured that it was quite stiff for a QC.

    NHO MASORA, but it was an obvious hidden.

    LOI CHEWY (quite apt!)
    TIME 6:22

  17. 17:53
    Had a similar time to Mike and John with a stray UNRESTRICTED giving me some obscure and horribly spelled mineral along the lines of CROAGININ, which meant CHEWY was all the harder. Huge NITCH today of 158 according to my lovingly curated spreadsheet, and glad to hear others felt the same.

  18. Dnf…

    Maybe a record with 8 uncompleted clues before I jacked it in after 38 mins. I’m glad others found it difficult as well, as I was beginning to think I was having some kind of sudden decline.

    Some slightly obscure words here, let alone tricky parsing. Not the most enjoyable it has to be said.

    FOI – 5dn “RIP”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 14dn “Curtsey” – seen this before, but always makes me smile.

    Thanks as usual!

  19. 18:28. Got most of the CHEWY ones others above had trouble with but INORGANIC( hung up on finding specific mineral), STEPDAUGHTER, and CURTSEY took me ages. NHO MASORA but it was there in plain sight.

  20. 20.22 LOI SUBSUME had to wait ages for DOUSE to get fixed. The late night didn’t help. Thanks Cedric and Joker.

  21. Tough Quickie! 8:03 for a combined ParkSolve time of 36:20.

    Liked RIP. NHO MASORA but I don’t think we can complain about a hidden.

    Thanks Joker, and excellent blog as always Cedric.

  22. Finished at last! My first answer didn’t come until 5d – RIP, that was at coffee time this morning … thoroughly exhausted!!

  23. Damned hard work! Had to check Masora was indeed a word although the clueing was direct enough.
    FOI 4a Borough – seemed likely given recent events at The George
    LOI 10a Unrestrained
    COD 14d Curtsey
    Can I add my name to those anxious the liberalisation of the rules doesn’t taint the QC – esp the use of living people as I am not interested in much sport or what passes as ‘culture’ these days and so could miss out a lot and need to go elsewhere.

  24. 20:04
    Scraped into the SCC, but glad to finish by the end. NHO MASORA.
    LOI was OMNIBUS.
    This took nearly 5 minutes longer than today’s 15×15 took.

    Thanks Cedric and Joker

  25. Not sure I’d have got there on my own. Mrs T came to the fore with CURTSEY and LOI EXHORT which took us the longest. NHO MASORA like most others but the clueing was clear once you also had one or two checkers. 16:08 so definitely on the tougher side. Despite the optimism provided by a couple of other commenter I doubt we’ll get close to that on the 15 x 15 which we are just about to tackle.

    Edit: Well we were only about 3 1/2 minutes slower than for the QC, which is a new PB for us by around four minutes or so!

  26. This was a toughie but I managed to complete it in about 32 minutes. I thought I was going to be miles away but they eventually fell in to place.

  27. I feared it was just me after an unquiet night, but apparently not. This took me just over an hour, in several bouts throughout the day, the longest time I’ve taken since my first few weeks doing these. A fine example of the point someone made the other day about harder puzzles being much more costly for new or slower solvers than for the speed demons.

    Probably no one will read this, but I have to add my fear that the puzzles will become unsolvable for me if they are modernized to become very topical. Jackkt’s point about famous dead people versus the living is exactly right.


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