Quick cryptic No 653 by Rongo

This was an enjoyable puzzle that was solved comfortably inside my target time of 10 minutes, so I think on the easier end of the spectrum. Some lovely surfaces, some very easy clues to help us get started (my thanks to Rongo), and a couple of less easy ones to get our little grey cells working. I liked the four-word hidden in 1a and the construction in 5d, but make 18d my COD for its perfect surface.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated by [square brackets] and deletions with {curly ones}


1 Fall guy seen in dunce’s cap, ego attacked (9)

SCAPEGOAT – a nice easy hidden (seen in) to get us started, cleverly included in {dunce’}S CAP, EGO AT{tacked}

6 Fashionable joint(3)

HIP – two word clues are often double definitions, as is the case here

8 Small fruit is up to date, it’s said (7)

CURRANT – sounds like (indicated by ‘it’s said’) current, or up to date

9 Mostly hard bit of skin covering soft skin on head (5)

SCALP – this is a shortened, i.e. remove last letter from (indicated by mostly) SCAL{e}, or hard bit of skin, with P (musical notation for piano), meaning soft appended

10 Chime perhaps in perfect condition (5,2,1,4)

SOUND AS A BELL – double definition, with chime being an example (hence ‘perhaps’) of something sounding like a bell, and the expression usually meaning in perfect condition, health, etc.

12 Range of notes from flying avocet (6)

OCTAVE – straightforward anagram (clued by ‘flying’ to suit the surface) of [AVOCET]

13 Person taking a nap? One’s smoked and eaten (6)

KIPPER – Another straightforward double definition

16 Former adopter of strange positions gives up con for blackmailer (12)

EXTORTIONIST – a former adopter of strange positions might be an ex-contortionist. Simply remove the ‘con’ as instructed by ‘gives up’

19 Arab possibly wasted US aid (5)

SAUDI – simple clue with a nice surface. Anagram (indicated by ‘wasted’) of [US AID]

20 Gaudy, incorporating new decoration (7)

GARNISH – Gaudy is GARISH which incorporates N for new

22 You and I connected to book’s network of online pages (3)

WEB – You and I would be WE, connect to B{ook} to give the world-wide WEB

23 Meet drama’s cast, an ideal group of players? (5,4)

DREAM TEAM – anagram (clued by ‘cast’) of [MEET DRAMA’S]


1                 Belt that can be worn on the foot (4)

SOCK – another double definition, where belt is the SOCK a boxer might give rather than the one that holds up his shorts

2 Fortified wine after song? Things could take off from here (7)

AIRPORT – the wine is PORT and ‘comes after’ the song which is an AIR

3 Letter from Greece and when it’s due to arrive (3)

ETA – Double definition, with ETA serving as the seventh letter in the Greek alphabet, and as the TLA (three letter acronym) for Estimated Time of Arrival

4 Away from home turf, almost a fugitive from justice (6)

OUTLAW – away from home gives OUT, turf gives LAW{n} with the ‘n’ dropped to satisfy the ‘almost’ indicator

5 Time since chap with Scottish name related to Australian state (9)

TASMANIAN – T{ime} with AS (since) MAN (chap) and with IAN (Scottish name) all make up the name of someone (or some devil) from an Australian state.

6 Haul north away from paradise (5)

HEAVE – take N{orth} away from HEAVE{n}

7 Much-liked tree seen around university (7)

POPULAR – a kind of aspen tree or POPLAR around U{niversity}

11 Don’t worry, pests having broken study up (5,4)

NEVER MIND – the pests are VERMIN which slot into DEN reversed (up)

12 Supervised but maybe cut too much wood off? (7)

OVERSAW – a bit of a pun by Rongo

14 Eg stamp collecting, ie stamp arranging (7)

PASTIME – clever construction, anagram (arranging) of [IE STAMP]

15 Sound of sleigh bells used in advertising (6)

JINGLE – double definition, the second with a JINGLE being a catchy musical phrase oft repeated in advertisements

17 Digit coming from continuous noise in terabytes (5)

THUMB – HUM is the continuous noise, slotting into T{era}B{ytes}

18 Close friend is much changed (4)

CHUM – Lovely surface and little-disguised anagram (changed) of [MUCH]

21 Peculiar male following rugby union (3)

RUM – M{ale} follows R{ugby} U{nion}. Could it get any simpler?

23 comments on “Quick cryptic No 653 by Rongo”

  1. Really enjoyed today’s crossword and probably a pb time of 30 mins!

    I think there is a small typo in the blog for 3d: TLA should be ETA.

    Thanks for a great blog.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Flashman, and scored a pb. There is no typo – TLA was the deliberate three-letter acronym for Three-Letter Acronym. ETA is the TLA for Estmated Time of Arrival.
      1. Being very “picky” (this is a crossword blog after all), ETA is NOT an acronym, it’s an abbreviation: acronyms should strictły form existing words, eg: BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is an acronym but SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) is not. So, TLA in this case is a Three Letter Abbreviation. Great blog and a big thanks to all the bloggers for the splendid job they, without exception, do.
  2. I’m no Roger Bannister so this must have been on the easier side today.

    No less enjoyable for all that. Thanks Rongo and Rotter.

  3. Finished this a record of 15 minutes. However, I didn’t understand the clue for SCALP, but with my checkers, it couldn’t be anything else. I still don’t think it’s an easy clue, though as it’snot obvious (to me, anyway) that you need to replace one letter for another.
    1. It’s not a letter replacement as such, it’s just SCAL (mostly SCALE) + P (soft), as Rotter says.

      However the definition for scale is “hard bit of skin covering”, not “hard bit of skin” as Rotter has it.

        1. I think that ‘hard bit of skin’ works OK for SCALE – skin after all is a covering. The ‘covering’ could then be indicating that the shortened SCAL{e} is in front of the P{iano}, although this interpretation would work better on a down clue. On balance, I think Galspray is correct, but the niceties of the argument were lost on me at 2:15am.

          Stunning time by the way Galspray – I’m not sure I could even read and answer the clues in less than 4 minutes, never mind get them typed into the i-Pad. Well done.

          Edited at 2016-09-08 09:23 am (UTC)

  4. 7.39 so medium strength,


    Under 4 mins Galspray – wow! Sorry about the cock-up on the cricket earlier.

    horryd Shanghai

    1. Don’t apologise Horryd, it gave me a chance to be a smart-ar*e in my only area of expertise!
  5. Thought I was going to break 10 minutes today but ensuring I’d parsed 9a and 11d correctly after completing the grid took me to 11 mins (still a pb). LOI 10a
  6. On paper, more like Peter Snell, who within ten years had improved Bannister by six seconds. NEVER MIND went in without parsing, LOI CHUM. COD 12d. Doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as it’s satisfying. Thanks rotter and Rongo.
    1. Totally agree Robrolfe. Doesn’t matter how long it takes so long as it is satisfying. I found this pretty straightforward and great fun.
  7. My target/average time is about 20 minutes, with only a couple of completions before under the 15 minute marker. But smashed my record today with a 8:30 finish. LOI outlaw
  8. Unlike the real experts, it seems, I am always doing the puzzle with pencil and paper. I tried to get it completed in a 15 minute slot before having to go out – how I have progressed over the past couple of years! – but just failed. The problem stemmed from not spotting scapegoat too easily, compounded by carelessness in putting in ‘current’ instead of ‘currant’. It took me back to my childhood when a benefit brochure for a Lancashire cricketer included a piece by Fred Trueman in which he wrote that he hoped that ‘the old current bun (sic) would shine’ for him. I hadn’t spotted anything wrong but my friend, soon to go to Winchester, burst out laughing. I stowed away for life the correct spelling of the two words but let myself down today and ETA, which is so easy became a matter of finding a suitable word ending in ‘e’. Impossible DM
  9. Nothing too difficult in this enjoyable puzzle, but it still took me about 20 minutes. I kept nodding off as I tried to solve it after returning from a round of golf in very warm weather today in SE England. Even the coffee couldn’t jolt me into life. David
  10. New pb at 7:50 – didnt know what to do with the rest of the 15 mins I allow myself for lunch
  11. Well done Rongo. I didn’t check the time, but it was easily the quickest I’ve done. This is as difficult as the QC should be, imo.
  12. An easy one, and it’s good to be back in the sub 20 zone for the first time in an age. I also did not parse SCALP, and my daughter, who is starting to get the hang of cryptics was able to spook several double defs that I hadn’t got.
  13. I agree with others that this was on the easy side of moderate – 24 minutes here fully parsed, save for 9ac (thanks Rotter for the explanation). I had 11d as my CoD, just ahead of 4d and 5d. Nice puzzle. Invariant

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