Times QC 2316 by Mara : Attack of the collywobbles


A challenge from Mara which uses one word that I can’t find in the OED or Collins.

8D  has “Colly” as a short form of cauliflower. My Dad used it, but it’s not in the OED or Collins. One reference is in the Wiktionary, which includes a citation, and offers the spelling of  “cauli”.

The word “Collywobbles”, a kind of ‘butterflies in the stomach’ is derived from colic & wobble (OED), not cauliflower as I had always believed.

1A brought  to mind our family trip to Idaho to see the 2017 total solar eclipse. I can confirm that “words have failed”  is a good description of how one feels in the Moon Shadow. See you in Dallas on 8 April 2024.

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

1 Open-mouthed initially, words have failed, seeing eclipse (10)
OVERSHADOW – O{pen mouthed} + (WORDS HAVE)*

This was my last to parse, as “failed” did not resonate as an anagram indicator. I was also keen on a more literal definition of Eclipse: MOONSHADOW.

8 Law enforcers around Iran rebuilt Muslim tower (7)
MINARET – MET (Law enforcers) containing (IRAN)*
9 Online nuisance, pest finally taking tumble (5)
TROLL – pes{T} + ROLL (tumble)

I looked in the OED for the earliest citation of Troll as a verb used in this way, it comes from USENET groups, 1992.

10 Bit of scandal, ostensibly misplaced (4)
LOST – Hidden (“bit of”) inside scandal ostensibly
11 Caution: answer is wrong (8)
WARINESS – (ANSWER IS)* Anagram indicated by “wrong”
13 Figure ending in lorry, number in back (6)
NINETY – lorry{Y} + TEN (number) + IN. All reversed (“in back”)

I suppose 90 is a “figure”, so this is a Definition by Example. Other figures are available, in fact an infinite number of them.

14 Show on the subject of meat (6)
REVEAL – RE (on the subject of) + VEAL (meat)
17 Don’t give away a great deal about a Scottish celebration (8)
HOGMANAY – HOG (Don’t give away) + MANY (great deal) containing A

The first “a” is just  what I call clue shrapnel, but the second “a” is part of the wordplay.

19 Tooth cooler with filling, ultimately (4)
FANG – FAN (coller) + fillin{G}
21 Minimum allowed, while incarcerated (5)
LEAST – LET (allowed) contained AS (while). “Incarcerated” is used to indicate that AS is imprisoned by LET.
22 Jump into suitable shabby cinema (4-3)
FLEA-PIT – FIT (suitable) containing LEAP (jump)

The OED has this as one word, with the magnificent description of “verminous place of public assembly”.

23 Cast down, neither sad, remarkably (10)

“Cast” is a verb here, which made the anagram harder, as I was looking for an adjective for “sad”, ending in -ED.

2 Meat in ovens gone to pot (7)
VENISON – (IN OVENS)* – anagram indicated by “gone to pot”. Nice surface.
3 Unusual way steak served, perhaps? (4)
RARE – Double def
4 Hired killer disguised in hat has snared victim in the end (6)
HITMAN – (IN HAT)* (disguised)  containing victi{M}
5 Last bit in signed document, thorough (8)
DETAILED – DEED (signed document) containing TAIL (last bit)

This was my LOI.

6 You and I, having penned nonsense, were authors (5)
WROTE – WE (You and I) containing  ROT (nonsense)
7 Hit during air journey, evidence photo taken? (10)
FLASHLIGHT – FLIGHT (air journey) containing LASH (hit)

Flashlight as in what photographers use, not the American torch.

8 Sadness reporting on fruit and veg? (10)
MELANCHOLY – Homophone for Melon (fruit) + Colly (vegetable)

See blog intro for a discussion of “colly”. My alternative clue:

Lass and Lassie heard of sadness (10)

12 Country sunk, supposedly last, ain’t bothered (8)
ATLANTIS – (LAST AINT)* Anagram indicated by “bothered”
15 Old partner generous, for instance (7)
EXAMPLE – EX (Old Partner)+ AMPLE (generous)
16 Flying force was airborne briefly — a lottery (6)
RAFFLE – RAF (Air Force) + FLE{W} (airborne),
18 Impressive amount of money (5)
GRAND – Double Def, with Grand= one thousand pounds
20 Seed on top of ripe fruit (4)
PEAR – PEA (see) + R{ipe}

A Pea is a seed? News to me.

73 comments on “Times QC 2316 by Mara : Attack of the collywobbles”

  1. I wondered about ‘colly’, however spelled, but assumed that it exists in UK English. 6:18.

    1. I have always spelled it “cauli”, which does just as well, and I thought was standard.

  2. 17:08. Thinking of overthrown for OVERSHADOW and heaps for GRAND didn’t help the cause. DETAILED was last in as I thought last bit would the letter t. I think of FLASHLIGHT as torch so enjoyed realizing the photographic use. Is your alternative clue Melan =lass or Mel an’ = lass and ?

    1. Lass and Lassie heard of sadness (8)

      Sounds like “Mel ‘n’ collie” — Mel=“lass”, collie=“Lassie” (the collie dog in the Lassie films.

      1. Reminds me of this:
        Collie dog a melon saw, and thinking oh how jolly
        Collie ate the melon and was filled with melancholy
        I can’t remember the rest properly: it starts
        Now he’s resting in his grave .. but the final line is
        Watermelon Cauliflower

        1. Sounds hilarious, I am dying to know the words of this, please please can someone remember

      2. I actually thought the clue as it was was excellent. we always call it colly and, as it’s a sounds like, it works!

  3. 11:21. Seems I’m in good company with DETAILED as my LOI; I was stuck on ‘Last bit in signed’=D which wasn’t very clever. We often referred to the abbreviated version of “cauliflower” when I was growing up but I wouldn’t have known how to spell it. Yes, 1a described my reaction at ‘seeing (a total solar) eclipse’; even if it was 47 years ago, one of the most memorable events in my life.

    It’s six of one and l’m being pedantic at the same time, but for HOGMANAY, I had MANY=’a great deal’, in which case that first ‘a’ could be taken as more than just “clue shrapnel” (yes, good term).

    Thanks to Mara and Merlin

    1. How exciting to have seen a total eclipse. I do remember watching a Transit of Venus live on Nasa TV and found it oddly moving (metaphorically).

  4. 10 minutes, hitting my target but only by a margin of a few seconds. I didn’t have any issues or queries but I was hampered a little by requiring all available checkers before MELANCHOLY came to mind. I’m very surprised to find the abbreviated vegetable is not in any of the usual sources as I can vouch for it having been in general use in England for as long as I can remember in greengrocers and markets. Whenever I’ve seen it written on signs there it has been in the plural and spelt caulis or cauli’s when using the traditional greengrocer’s apostrophe.

    1. Same here – it was all over the greengrocers’ stalls in markets in East Anglia in the 1970s. Always with the apostrophe, of course!

      1. On reflection examples of the traditional greengrocer apostrophe would be banana’s, orange’s etc, but in the case of cauliflowers cauli’s is not incorrect because the apostrophe is indicating the omission of letters.

    2. Couldn’t agree more. the question mark was enough to justify the homophone. It’s very much in everyday use unlike many of the words that the setters and bloggers are often content with!

    3. Thought that reporting (sounds like) applied to both fruit and veg – so didn’t see issue.

  5. Quite a toughie with quite a few ‘now what’s going on heres’. DNF as I carelessly dashed in MELONCHOLY having mebr at ‘choly’. Since melon was misspelled it does stand to reason that cauli would be too. Durr.
    LOI as previously noted.

  6. Felt a bit sluggish working my way through this one so was surprised to come in under 8 minutes. No specific sticking points but the parsing of OVERSHADOW, NINETY and DETAILED took some thought. Kind wordplay and helpful checking letters prevented me putting an ‘o’ in HOGMANAY, which my head always tells me is how it should be spelt.

    Started with MINARET and finished with a tentative PEA (which sounds uncomfortable), having shared Merlin’s pea/seed query, in 7.58.
    Thanks to Merlin

  7. A gentle enough puzzle from Mara and all done in 7½ minutes. My reading of the Melancholy clue was that “reporting on” applied to both the fruit and the veg, so that Melon and Cauli became Melancholy. Seems to work well enough.

    I had more queries over calling Ninety a “figure”. To my mind a figure has just one digit, so 9 would be a figure, but beyond that they are numbers. But then I remembered, eg, “the trade figures”, aka the trade numbers, so I was reconciled that 90 could be a figure.

    Anyone who has ever actually been seriously trolled online would challenge Mara’s blithe definition of trolls as “nuisances”. I have, briefly, run into specimens of this execrable lower life and know people who have suffered much more seriously at their hands, and believe me, “nuisance” is a totally inadequate word to describe them.

    Many thanks to Merlin for the blog

  8. Gosh, it seemed easier than usual, though lots of biffing needed. I pencilled in OVERSHADOW without parsing, ditto DETAILED, NINETY. FOI HOGMANAY, LOI DISHEARTEN.
    Thanks for much needed blog, Merlin.

    1. Were you working on your Existentialism badge? I didn’t get much further than “Ging Gang Gooly”

  9. Zipped through but was greeted by the Dreaded Pink Square (“DPS”) on completion, having unaccountably bunged in LOSE instead of LOST. What a gumby. My DPS count is unacceptably high at the moment.

    Merlin, at 9a I think TROLL is a noun not a verb here, and at 13a the reversal indicator is just “back” not “in back”.

    All done in 06:18 for what would have been exactly 1K but WOE for a Disheartening Day.

    Many thanks Merlin and Mara.


  10. Certainly better than yesterday.

    DETAILED parsed after the solve.

    ATLANTIS was LOI, the comma and new line brought “supposedly” into my thinking for wordplay, rather than being part of the definition.

    I liked MELANCHOLY.


  11. 7mins on the dot to be defeated by a lazy ‘dishearted’ not DISHEARTEN.

    Thoroughly enjoyable puzzle with an interesting range of clues and answers HOGMANAY MELANCHOLY FLASHLIGHT MINARET OVERSHADOW FLEAPIT all great words.

    Thanks Mara and thanks too, Merlin. (I really like your alternative for 8DN and I think bloggers should make that more of a thing once in a while!)

  12. I seem to be in a minority here as I found it on the tough side today as my time of 13.20 reflects. It took me a long time to get ATLANTIS as I was seeking one that actually exists, after getting this I was able to get my LOI which was DISHEARTEN.

  13. A fair puzzle from Mara. I think I would have done rather well today without three interruptions. I lost time and concentration and went over target. Pity.
    Thanks to both. I agree about ‘cauli’ and enjoyed the discussion above. I think meloncauli was my COD.
    Thanks, both. John M.

  14. Was excited to see Mara’s name come up as last week, they gave me one of my fastest times ever and I always feel confident of completing their puzzles reasonably quickly. Today was no different other than it took 27.09 which was double last week’s but still satisfactory esp. compared to other recent solves.

    I biffed my way through a lot of this with OVERSHADOW, HITMAN, TROLL, MINARET, RAFFLE, HOGMANAY, FLEAPIT being nervously unparsed and some other immediate write-ins with VENISON, REVEAL, RARE, LOST, GRAND on first pass. Broke with my usual tradition of going clue by clue and tried to build off of what I already had.

    Then the trouble began and it took a while to get past the surfaces and see there were actually a bunch of generous anagrams with ATLANTIS, DISHEARTEN, WARINESS.

    Reached 19-mins with MELANCHOLY, NINETY to go and at 25-mins had only DETAILED left. I didn’t unravel its parsing as I thought it was a double def with “detailed” being a technical term. I’ve heard of soldiers being detailed to go do that job and so on.

    Lovely blog from Merlin today. I was fine with choly being a homophone of cauli and I assume pea is a seed or what else do the next generation grow from?!

    The puzzle itself, on reflection, all makes sense and now seems straightforward but while solving, it felt much harder than it is. Think Mara was generous in the cluing but also complicated in the surfaces.

    1. At the end of the year, we should plot our times and see if there is a consistent 5 min gap 😀

  15. 18 minutes and over target again. I think ‘supposedly’ should be underlined as part of the definition for ATLANTIS, but otherwise excellent blog from Merlin, thanks. WARINESS was my LOI, RARE FOI and COD to FLEA PITs (haunts of my youth). A satisfying QC, which seems to confirm my suspected degenerative deceleration in these things.

  16. I see a lot of people far better at solving cryptic crosswords than me make the same mistake in understanding “definition by example”.

    ‘Figure’ does not define ‘Ninety’ by example, because ‘Figure’ is not an example of a ‘Ninety’.

    ‘Ninety’ does define ‘Figure’ by example because ‘Ninety’ is an example of a ‘Figure’

  17. Just into the SCC at 20:46 but all green. FOI MINARET, LOI DETAILED, which seems to be common. Quite a few biffed so glad to have the blog – thanks Merlin and Mara. Enjoyable but left with the feeling I should have done a bit better.

  18. I was fine with 8 down, CHOLY as cauli because of MELAN being melon. I had far more of a to-do (if that’s how you spell it🤔) with 23, DISHEARTEN, because I, like some others here, thought “cast down” meant sad so wanted the answer to end in “-ed”.
    Quite liked WARINESS, 11, mainly because the surface was so smooth. Similarly, 6, WROTE.
    Thanks to setter and blogger

  19. No problems today apart from being CARELESS; I had biffed this at 11a and needed a minute at the end to unravel it and write in LOI WARINESS after DETAILED. 7 minutes in all.
    Whilst solving I immediately awarded COD to MELANCHOLY. A homophone so spelling irrelevant; not sure how I’d write it, but in common parlance as mentioned above.
    A good QC.

  20. Looked harder at first than it turned out to be. Only got a few to start with, but gradually got to grips with it. Last in were OVERSHADOW, DISHEARTEN and (finally) DETAILED.

  21. I found this one tricky in places, but enjoyable.

    Some of the answers caused a bit of head scratching when I went back over the clues. DETAILED for example. I could see what the answer should be but could not work out why, until I came here of course.

    Just got back from the dentist having had to have a tooth repaired after it broke. Still numb from the anaesthetitc. Perhaps it was that which helped me secure my quickest solve of 2023 so far. 🙂


    Edit: Sorry. Second quickest of the year. Oops.

    1. Nice to see you having a good one PW. You’ve seemed a little (understandably) frustrated recently 👍

  22. Taken into the SCC by DISHEARTEN and PEAR which I struggled for around 5 minutes on – dear oh dear. Otherwise only problem was in parsing DETAILED – many thanks Merlin. I really liked MELANCHOLY – cauli was used regularly in my childhood (as was FLEA PIT) and I honestly didn’t consider whether it was a dictionary entry… Interesting discussion all. Many thanks Mara.

  23. Quite tricky in places, but a walk in the park compared to yesterday’s teaser from Joker. Like others, I skipped over 1ac and started at the Minaret and Troll level, and moved steadily down the grid. The parsing of Ninety took some effort, but I was still eyeing a comfortable sub-20 before struggling with the parsing of Detailed. Fortunately, loi Overshadow was by then obvious from the crossers and a breeze to parse, giving a welcome 19min solve. I thought the Flashlight and Raffle clues were impressive, but CoD to 1ac , Overshadow, for the surface imagery. Invariant

  24. 27 minutes, which is a good time for me, but difficult to get started and several clues not fully parsed.

    My LOI was DETAILED, but I only found it via an alphabet trawl. Also, I never really understood OVERSHADOW.

    Please could someone explain why ‘ripe’ can be abbreviated to R, as I can’t think of any situation or context where it might be?

    Many thanks to Mara and Merlin.

    1. I read the clue as Pea (seed) on (above for a down clue) the top of (first letter of) ripe.

  25. 22 mins…

    Main struggles were teasing out 1ac “Overshadow” and 5dn “Detailed” – the latter giving a clever bit of misdirection with “last bit”.

    I didn’t have an issue with “colly” for cauliflower for 8dn, as I think it’s a common expression (whether it’s in the dictionary or not).

    FOI – 3dn “Rare”
    LOI – 5dn “Detailed”
    COD – 8dn “Melancholy”

    Thanks as usual!

    1. For what it’s worth last July, Trelawaney gave us “Overshadow some movie clips eventually (7)” in #2177. My rote memory tends to log these things (but I do have to search to find them).

  26. Enjoyable steady solve with VENISON in first, followed by RARE, which allowed me to see OVERSHADOW. DISHEARTEN brought up the rear. 7:48. Thanks Mara and Merlin.

  27. 10:00. Not too much for the vegetarians (apart from the fruit and veg concoctions at 8d and 20d!) what with VENISON, rare steak, reVEAL and (implicitly) haggis. Although we do have a veggie haggis in the fridge ready for tomorrow 😅
    I thought this was surprisingly wordy for a Mara, but there were some fun surfaces. The MELON-CAULI soundalikes made me smile. I couldn’t see what was going with OVERSHADOW, so thanks Merlin for the clarification. No problem with pea = seed – as L-Plates says, what would you grow a pea plant from?
    FOI Minaret LOI Detailed COD Wariness
    Thanks Mara and Merlin

  28. Another late solve, this time so as not to miss the pinky orange sunrise. Pretty but brisk. Enjoyed this one. Off to a fast start but then hard yards as I built up checkers before the end came quickly. I’ve never heard a camera flash referred to as a FLASHLIGHT even when describing the light that comes from the flash but once it occured it clearly parsed. Similarly HOGMANAY seemed inevitable but that took more parsing. Enjoyed ATLANTIS when I twigged on my third visit. Good one, all green in 12.

  29. I enjoyed this one and was bang on 20 mins. Pitched just right for my level of ability, with some tricky ones and a good mix of clues. Got the first 6 across clues on the bounce and thought I was on for something special. A little slower thereafter, but very satisfying.


    Great blog as always, thank you!

  30. Nearly half an hour, the majority of it spent not entering NINETY (and doing other things) because I couldn’t make any sense of it. Eventually biffed and it was right. The blog was very helpful, thank you.

    1. Well done Ian. You are getting closer and closer. I don’t think it will be long before the champagne corks are popping!

  31. 10:36 but sadly with LOI MELONCHOLY! My penultimate solve was OVERSHADOW so I knew I was off the pace with all those missing first letters. I biffed NINETY and failed to parse it so thanks Merlin for the explanation.

  32. Better than yesterday but that’s not saying much. For the second day running I stopped mis-solve as I wasn’t getting anywhere and came back to it later. 27 minutes in total with not all parsed. I delayed putting in several answers (NINETY, HOGMANAY) because I couldn’t parse them.

    FOI – 10ac LOST
    LOI – 5dn DETAILED

  33. Looked harder than it was
    Usually struggle with Mara but OK this evening
    8d was funny as was flea pit
    Cheers all round

  34. 22:34

    Fairly slow with several answers going unparsed including DETAILED, LEAST and NINETY and failed to spot the anagram indicator in LOI WARINESS for far too long. A disappointing time.

  35. Struggled with this one but finally made it with WARINESS my LOI. Needed the blog to explain several clues, so many thanks to Merlin

  36. I’m surprised there were not more comments about 1a “failed” as an anagram indicator. Is this use of “failed” common / usual for others? Thanks.

    1. It hadn’t occurred to me as unusual when solving, but having just checked the enormous list of anagram indicators published by Chambers I was rather surprised to find that ‘fail / failed’ is not amongst them. One meaning of ‘failed’ however is ‘gone astray’ which seems to me as good as many an established anagram indicator and better than some of the more dodgy ones.

    2. I noted in the blog that I didn’t recognise “failed”as an anagrind. But that Chambers list seems infinitely extensible.

  37. Daphne

    A collie dog a melon saw
    And feeling rather jolly
    The collie ate the melon
    And was filled with melancholy

    The collie dog is in his grave
    The melon proved too sour
    And o’er his resting place there grows
    A melon-cauliflower

    As usual the Internet came up with this answer!

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