Times QC 2326 – St Withins Day

A good puzzle with plenty of tricks and good surfaces, but Orpheus could have avoided a pretty offensive usage at 13A.

I’m sure there is a typo at 7d, where “with” should be “within”. What with the backwards usage of “without”, which actually means “within”, I’m calling today St Withins Day.

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

1 At home, engaged in safe cushy job (8)
SINECURE – SECURE (safe) containing IN (at home)

A tough one for 1A, there seemed to be too many IN’s: ‘engaged’ can mean ‘in’, there’s an ‘in’ in the clue as well, and in cricket ‘in’ means ‘safe’. So my notes have IN,IN,IN,IN.

5 Reheated meat dish: hot remains (4)
HASH – H[ot] + ASH (remains)

I was confused by having a checker for H at the end, so was looking at the clue wrong. I never really knew the definition of Hash, so now I do.

8 Boss, heading off for plant (5)

I think I’ve seen this plant clued a few times like this, I’m sure that at some point, setters could use EASTER, WASTER, CASTER or even RASTER as well.

9 Very old cat in north east complex (7)
ANCIENT – (CAT IN NE)* with anagram indicated by “complex”
11 Stick one’s nose in, exposing party regularly (3)
PRY –  Alternate letters of P A R T Y.
12 Wader’s invoice for item of kitchen silver? (9)
SPOONBILL – Cryptic def, as in a BILL (invoice) for a SPOON (item of kitchen silver)

A rather beautiful bird, google it if you haven’t seen one. Although they bred in East Anglia during Medieval times, they had not bred in Britain for over 300 years until 2010, when a small colony was discovered on the north Norfolk coast. I saw mine in the Everglades

13 Sailor backing ugly old woman, a despicable type (6)
RATBAG – TAR (Sailor) reversed (backing) + BAG (ugly old woman)

“Bag” for “ugly old woman” is flat-out offensive, plenty of other ways for Orpheus to clue it which would have worked just as well:

Sailor reverses into trap, a despicable type (6)

15 Make off, finding unhealthy condition around City (6)
DECAMP – DAMP (unhealthy condition) containing EC (City (Postcode for City of London))
18 Abnormal pique soldiers finally felt, finding kit (9)
EQUIPMENT – (PIQUE)* + MEN (soldiers) + fel[T]
19 The fate of Abraham’s nephew? (3)

Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was the one whose wife turned into a pillar of salt.

20 One agitating in prison? About right (7)
STIRRER – STIR (prison) + RE (about) + R[ight]

This was easy to solve but hard to actually parse. “About” can be a placement instruction (as in 16d), an anagram indicator, or “RE” as here. Think of the default reply in EMail software.

21 Big cat formerly seen around university (5)
OUNCE – ONCE (formerly) containing U[niversity]

Another word for the snow leopard. I checked its etymology, and it comes from Lynx, or Lonce in French. English speakers thought it was L’once, hence once, then ounce.

22 Legendary creature in Himalayas, still one to be seen (4)
YETI – YET (still) + I (ONE)

Surely a write-in for everyone, but what a great surface. And next to the Snow Leopard as well.

23 Skivvy from eg boxers’ organisation (8)
DOGSBODY – DOGS (eg boxers) + BODY (organisation)

I had a tough time with this one. “eg boxers” triggered “shorts” or “pants” for me. Also vaguely thought an anagram of (EGBOXERS)* might work.

1 Large, aggressive turtle; one taking photos (7)
SNAPPER – DD. There is a Snapping Turtle, which may be called colloquially a Snapper, though not much evidence of this.

Snapper was used to clue Camera at 1A yesterday.

2 Crazy description of Brazil  (5)
NUTTY – DD with the second referring to the Brazil Nut
3 Eccentric chap of greater astuteness, a cheat (11)
CARDSHARPER – CARD (eccentric chap) + SHARPER (of greater astuteness)

This uses the old fashioned “He’s a bit of a card”, surely now confined to P.G. Wodehouse. I only ever heard the shorter “cardsharp”, but the OED has recent (21C) references for both.

4 Extremely restive young relative without a cause (6)
REASON – R[estiv]E + SON, without (=outside) A

This “without” device always trips me up, as it is often used as an omission indicator. When I complain, two usages are always cited:

There is a green hill far away
Without a city Wall.

And church names such as “St. Giles-without-Cripplegate” (London), or “St Mary-without-the-walls” (Chester)

6 A married woman in the States (7)
AMERICA – A + [M]arried + ERICA (woman)

ERICA Random woman’s name (my first girlfriend, too). M for married appears on family trees, genealogies etc.

7 Somewhere to stay with earshot — elevator? (5)
HOTEL – Hidden inside “earshot — elevator”.

Not sure about the hidden indicator, the only word left is “with”, surely “within” would have worked better, and much better surface as well. Probable typo.

10 Happy with evidence of debts? That’s controversial (11)
CONTENTIOUS – CONTENT (happy) + IOUS (evidence of debts)
14 Tripper, one entering French town at end of August (7)
TOURIST – TOURS (French town) containing I (one) + august[T]

Charles Martel was famous for “defeating the Moors at Tours”, even though it doesn’t actually rhyme.

16 Mad about Queen Elizabeth’s porcelain (7)
POTTERY – POTTY (mad) containing ER (Queen Elizabeth)

A year ago this would have been clued as just “Queen”, I think. Now “Queen” means Camilla, and she doesn’t have a short form, so would be pretty hard to work into a clue.

I wanted BATTERY to work here, with mad=BATTY, and even looked up to see if there is a type of Battery Porcelain. There isn’t.

17 Oddball having party by low dam (6)
WEIRDO – WEIR (low dam) + DO (party)
18 Try drug provided by son, for example (5)
ESSAY – E (drug) + S[on] + SAY [for example]

Not easy. The verb form always means “try” but is not common these days, and the noun form, which originally meant “try” is now almost always used for a piece of text. French speakers will find this easier where essayer just means “try”.

19 Slow piece loaned by leader of orchestra (5)
LENTO – LENT (loaned) + O[rchestra]

Lento is a musical instruction for a slow piece, as is Largo, which also fitted.

76 comments on “Times QC 2326 – St Withins Day”

  1. I didn’t notice the ‘with’ problem at the time; but surely it’s a typo for ‘within’? ‘with earshot’ doesn’t make any sense to me. 6:33.

      1. Evidently they silently corrected it; it was definitely ‘with’ when I solved the puzzle, a few minutes after 12.

        1. It was still “with” when I checked the Club puzzle post solve at about GMT 10:00 (after reading this debate post solve).

          1. The Editor made a comment on this blog at GMT 10:03, I expect he changed it around then. We had a setter comment last week, too.

        2. Yes, I saw the editor commentated further down the blog. He must have done the necessary.

  2. 10 minutes. ASTER covers a variety of plants, one of them being the Michaelmas daisy, so you may find it clued by ‘daisy’. It has certainly been used many a time in clues to the word ‘Easter’. If I remember correctly, in my childhood there was a charity flag day called Aster Day and I can see the paper flag as sold with a pin through it in my mind’s eye, but a Google search has revealed no evidence of it so it probably stopped or was renamed something else decades ago.

    I think the setter is just being helpful by giving us ‘Queen Elizabeth’ instead of only ‘Queen’, remembering this is a Quick Cryptic. Current meanings become historical as people’s status changes or organisations change their name and are no less valid. I have seen GR clued as ‘king’ somewhere within the past few days. Camilla’s cypher is CR, the same as Charles’s but takes a different design.

  3. Surprised to finish in 12 because I found this tricky, particularly in the top half. Like Merlin I didn’t know ‘er’ could go on the end of cardsharp, plus it’s an odd word (to me) so I needed all six checkers before it came to me. ASTER occured to me early but caused delay because it doesn’t sound a letter short of ‘master’ when I say it. I noticed the ‘with’ problem once I saw HOTEL would both fit and was hidden in the clue, couldn’t make it parse any other way (or think of an alternative to fit H_T_L) so in it went.

    1. Up here in t’north the ASTER clue works perfectly – but we all know there is no ‘r’ in master !

  4. DNF. After 10 mins staring at LOI 23A, I threw in the towel. Not impressed with ‘ugly old woman’ to clue ‘bag’ or the ‘er’ on cardsharp. Seems a bit like referring to a person as a bricklayerer.
    Anyway, it was otherwise enjoyable. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin

  5. All done in 12:40 here, but heartily agree with your comments about 13a: you were much more restrained than I would have been. That is so far below the editorial standard we should expect that I’m lost for words. That usage is explicitly marked as “derogatory” in the SOED.

  6. Always thin of without as opposite of within a la Manfred Mann…
    Just squeezed in under 20.
    Thanks Merlin for excellent blog and particularly for the Lynx/Lounce explanation. That will stick better in my feeble brain from now on along with Ocelot (and Sinecure another crosswordland classic)
    Thanks also to Orpheus for a fair old workout

  7. There’s nothing wrong with CARDSHARPER. It’s in all the usual dictionaries as an alterative to ‘cardsharp’ although only Collins has it and ‘cardsharp’ as continuous words. The Oxfords favour two words and Chambers likes hyphens.

    1. I had never heard it as “cardsharp”. Always “cardsharper” when I was growing up – we spoke of little else.

  8. Whizzed through this until hitting the buffers with LOI DOGSBODY, where I started going through various iterations of WBC, IBF, WBA etc and then tried to anagram egboxers until spotting there weren’t enough Os.
    Like others I’d only heard of the shorter version of CARDSHARPER, but it was clearly clued, and I did a double take at the use of bag in 13a in what was otherwise and enjoyable solve.
    Finished in 7.40.
    Thanks to Merlin

  9. An enjoyable puzzle (with the exception of the surprising old bag). All seemed to go in smoothly apart from a silly biff of largo for 19d which I only corrected when my LOI OUNCE became obvious and I parsed LENTO properly. I was surprised when the iPad showed I was 2 mins under my 15 min target. It felt quicker.
    No problem with ‘without’. COD DOGSBODY.
    Thanks to both. John M.

  10. Eventually got there in 38:39 … vaguely heard of SINECURE and NHO SPOONBILL / LENTO / OUNCE / HASH or French town of TOURS. CARDSHARP came up yesterday in something else. SNAPPER in yesterday’s QC. Alphabet trawl to figure out what that it was (m)ASTER rather than astor. REASON was FOI, took a few moments to remember the “without” thingy. All in all pleased to get it finished with no errors.

  11. No problems here, all mopped up in two straight passes. It’s good to have got the puzzle done straight after breakfast, rather than at bedtime !

    TIME 4:10

  12. 13 minutes with no problems, FOI SINECURE, LOI CARDSHARPER needing all of the crossers. I just spotted your witty sub-title on the blog Merlin, very good. Our 15 x 15 counterparts usually adorn their blogs with similar remarks. How do readers view us QC bloggers doing similar (if we share the wit and creativity needed to do so)?

  13. I enjoyed this – thanks setter and blogger. I agree with those who say that ‘cardsharper’ is a not quite right – at least it’s not a term most people would use, but a minor blip for me!

    Did anyone try the Daily Quiz – Olav seems to have fallen for the old chestnut in Q1 – needed an extra word to give a unique answer!

  14. Quite tricky in parts, so I was happy enough to be set for squeezing in a sub-20 with only a couple to go. Unfortunately they were the Weirdo/Dogsbody crossers, neither of which jumped off the page. A tedious alphabet trawl (answers beginning with ‘w’ are never helpful in that respect) produced Weirdo, and the impossible Dogsbody then quickly followed. As others have mentioned, the clue for 13ac really shouldn’t have seen the light of day, but that apart, this was an enjoyable challenge. CoD to 12ac, Spoonbill, which for a bird clue was mercifully easy. Invariant

  15. Hesitated long over CARDSHARPER, but otherwise paused only for WEIRDO and LOI REASON, where I was fooled by the “without” trick, as I always am. (Why is “son” young relative? I’m a son and sadly I’m not young any more.)

    All done in 08:29 for 1.3K and a Good Day. Many thanks Merlin and Orpheus.


      1. “Younger” is not “young”, and anyway the comparison is not inevitably with the parent (since the son might be older than his sister or cousins or other relatives).

        1. Of course younger is young! Besides which, because the word “son” was used, I associated it was in relation to a parent. If it was “brother” I would have associated it with sibling. Not that difficult.

          1. Also not difficult is to notice that the word “son” was only used in the answer, not in the clue. “Young relative” (in the clue) for “son” (in the answer).

            The point is that a “son” is always a relative but may not be young. While the Queen was alive, for example, Prince Charles was her son but was not a “young relative”.

            1. Yes, son was in the answer, therefore the son was the younger relative.

              Honestly, it’s pointless discussing this with you. You stick to your interpretation and I’ll stick to mine. At the end of the day, regardless of how we looked at younger relative, we both answered the clue correctly. That’s what matters.

              1. “You both solved it and you’ve both done very well”
                ‘Young’ Mr Grace

                Apologies if “Are You Being Served” is before your time(s).

  16. 4.35. This seemed to flow easily, and when I finished I looked eagerly to see if I had finally broken four minutes.

    It seems I just can’t write that fast even when the answers come easily.

    I can’t get too worried about use of the word bag. But then I find that I just shrug when I read about Mr. Raab’s antics.

    Perhaps a generational thing.

  17. No problems today. Home in just under 10 minutes.
    Inevitably LOI was the plant. But ASTER is common enough and it was a good clue.

  18. On seeing ‘without’, and as someone who had a lot of meetings in Glasgow back in the day, I always reverse it just to check – is it ‘outwith’ meaning ‘outside’…

  19. 10:02. Maybe took a bit longer than it should have but some quite tricky ones here for me including CARDSHARPER and ESSAY. I confess to not even noticing the ‘with’ (which I agree now should have been “within”) at 7d and also felt uncomfortable with 13a.

    I like SPOONBILL(s) too. The ones we get here are appealing enough but the roseate SPOONBILL (which I’ve never seen) looks stunning.

    Thanks to Merlin – yes, v. witty blog title and good to see Mrs. C. F. Alexander getting a mention in your explanation of 4d – and Orpheus. Thanks also to our Editor for popping in and acknowledging the ‘with’ boo-boo.

  20. Enjoyed today, apart from The Bag!
    ASTER often appears, so that’s useful, ditto OUNCE. FOI SNAPPER, which helped with SINECURE. Liked SPOONBILL, DOGSBODY (luckily thought of Boxer dog), ESSAY and CONTENTIOUS.
    LOI REASON unparsed due to ‘without’ problem. DECAMP also unparsed.
    Thanks vm, Merlin

  21. Not too bad, though took me forever.

    Disagree with blogger. Bag certainly is not offensive. I can think of a lot worse words to call an “ugly old woman”.


  22. Held up by Dogsbody, otherwise plain sailing. I’m not sure “bag” is so very offensive either, tho it’s certainly not complimentary and I was raised in the pre-political correctness era.

  23. This felt distinctly un-PC with the “bag” thing and no less than three archaic terms for mental health and personality issues. Thankfully I don’t let these things worry me. 6:32

  24. 10 mins. LOI decamp.

    Not too bothered about bag in 13a, an easy but softer version:
    Interfered with bra tag, scoundrel!

    COD Spoonbill.

    1. Interfered with bra tag, scoundrel! (6)
      Very nice alternative clue. I find that trying to write a good clue now and again makes me appreciate the setters’ art much more.

  25. Enjoyed a quicker than average solve. I have heard BAG in this puzzle’s context jocularly so often that I find it no more offensive than being called a rogue, or even a rotter! WITHOUT is archaic for OUTSIDE, and I remember being caught once, but not this time. I had only heard before of CARDSHARP, but thought it an unusual word, and probably an abbreviation for CARDSHARPER. FOI SINECURE LOI and COD DOGSBODY. I enjoy a puzzle with wit within, so let the blogs be also without wit. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin.

  26. 19 mins…

    Hadn’t heard of 1ac “Sinecure” (but probably should have) – however, it was generously clued. There definitely seemed to be a lot of weirdos, oddballs and general nuttiness in the grid today.

    I also raised an eyebrow at 13ac, but I’m sure we’ve had similar, somewhat offensive terms before.

    FOI – 2dn “Nutty”
    LOI – 1ac “Sinecure”
    COD – 10dn “Contentious”

    Thanks as usual!

  27. Enjoyable puzzle, stretching in places, but beaten in the end by CARDSHARPER which I just couldn’t see.
    NHO ‘stir’ for prison but guessed stirred anyway.
    Spent time on 23a trying to solve an anagram from ‘eg boxers’ before the penny dropped.
    Blog was v helpful in parsing some biffs.
    Thanks Merlin and Orpheus.

  28. Always think of without as opposite of within a la Manfred Mann…
    Just squeezed in under 20.
    Thanks Merlin for excellent blog and particularly for the Lynx/Lounce explanation. That will stick better in my feeble brain from now on along with Ocelot (and Sinecure another crosswordland classic)
    Thanks also to Orpheus for a fair old workout

  29. Ok, given the comments above, this non-native speaker is not disappointed anymore with his only error, putting RATHAG instead of RATBAG.

  30. I found that very hard, from start to finish. My vocabulary and GK in particular let me down today. For example: I DNK ESSAY, SINECURE, LENTO, CARDSHARPER, SNAPPER or LOT, and I had forgotten that OUNCE = big cat. All of these made forward progress very slow, but my LOI (AMERICA) alone took nearly 10 minutes to arrive. I saw M for married, of course, but none of ElIzA, EdInA (from AbFab) and EvItA seemed correct. My alphabet trawl skated past ERICA on at least three occasions before she eventually popped her head above the surface. How is it that some solvers never seem to experience these kinds of problems? Eventually, however, I did manage to cross the line, but only after 46 minutes of hard work.

    Despite fielding several messages and a call from No. 1 son, who was attending an interview today, Mrs Random still finished comfortably – 28 minutes for her. She expressed surprise at the gaps in my GK/vocabulary and wondered where I had been all of these years.

    Many thanks to Orpheus and Merlin.

    1. You often do very well, better than most of us in the SSC, Random, but sounds as if there was a wavelength issue today.

  31. 7/26. Dreadful. Alarmed to realise today that I have been trying QCs for almost four years, and have never solved one unaided. Will now give up. Many thanks to the bloggers and to those who have offered words of encouragement. I have two degrees, but am simply not clever enough for a Times QC. Sudoku, here I come!

    1. It depends if you enjoy it. I have been doing the 15×15 for about 6 years now and still don’t finish it most days.

      If you do, keep going.

    2. I’m not surprised that Orpheus has tipped you over the edge!😅 It is not about intelligence so much as learning all of the techniques. Don’t forget that to many you will appear super smart at your solving ability as it stands now. If you haven’t done so I would buy a book of these QC’s – several now available – some of the earlier ones go back 8 years or so. Some are very approachable.
      It sounds as though you enjoy the challenges…until getting stuck. Oh and jump around the clues quickly if you don’t spot the answer – try getting the easy ones asap to give as many letters etc.
      Anyway, good luck! Hopefully you will finish one and then not look back.

  32. Good start, slow finish. All green in 20:45. DOGSBODY (LOI) took ages to appear, not least because of a typo in CONTENTIOUS which meant I was trying to solve it as _O_T_O _Y – not helpful! NHO OUNCE for a big cat but no other problems. A MER for CARDSHARPER but not a big issue. Thanks Orpheus and Merlin.

  33. Spent a long time trying to fit hag for an ugly old woman until the penny dropped and bag made sense of the clue. Didn’t associate EC with the City but biffed Decamp on the basis of the c for city. DNK the ounce for a big cat but the rest of the clue gave me ounce. A bit tricky but got there in the end. Keep going Ian, it’s taken me several years to be able to solve most of the QCs and it still takes me an hour or so!

  34. 19.03 An enjoyable but slow solve. SINECURE and HASH went straight in but then I fell for nearly every piece of misdirection.

  35. Enjoyed the workout, thank you Orpheus, and enjoyed reading the blog, thank you Merlin – I do like a chatty blog.
    [As a by-the-by, Merlin, I notice you’ve stopped putting an historical fact beside your solving time. I used to look forward to that. I appreciate that there’s probably a good reason for ceasing to do so, but please know that it was appreciated at the time when it appeared]

    I commented to Mr SR that there’d be objections to the use of “bag” in 13a.
    As a woman in my 50s, I’m heading into “bag” territory (maybe already there – yikes!) although hopefully in the “old” rather than “ugly” sense (Mr SR assures me this is the case; Mr SR is very kind always) and wasn’t over-worried about seeing the word used that way myself.
    Having said that, I wouldn’t call somebody else it, so maybe it would have been better to clue “bag” differently.

    1. Well done to Mr SR! And on a potentially tricky subject.
      Mrs Random often refers to herself as an “old bag”, but I always beg to differ. To me, she is still the most beautiful young lady in the whole wide world (despite the fact that we are now in our mid-sixties). It is one of the very few things about which she allows me to hold a different opinion.

  36. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one struggling with my LOI DOGSBODY. I wasn’t keen on the BAG definition. My mother often refers to herself as an old bag but I don’t think, even at 82, anyone would consider her ugly. 8:45 for an OK day.

    1. Think a lot of us fell for the potential anagram, but once I got the two “O” endings in the down clues I quickly abandoned that idea.

  37. Did this one at work in between other jobs so no proper time.

    A tricky but fair workout. Held up for 2nd day in a row by a long down clue (3dn), but spotted ‘ious’ from ‘evidence of debts’ for the first time!

    Would certainly have been in SCC even if done at home, but still very enjoyable.


    Great blog as ever- many thanks!

  38. We found this trickier than the last few days. Comments about some outdated words amusing to us two oldies, people seem much more judgemental these days.

  39. 11.44

    Really struggled with CARDSHARPER, taking me well over 10 minutes. Fair enough on that one. Didn’t like the misleading “young” though in REASON as discussed above. And speechless on the BAG reference.

    Nice blog though!

  40. Came to this late after a day visiting distilleries, and this may explain my slower than usual time at 17 minutes. Though to be fair, nearly half that time was on my LOI Dogsbody, which simply would not come. That apart, a nice puzzle which I glided through in something of a post whisky tasting haze, not noticing either the typo in 7D or the offensive term in 13A (though now it has been pointed out, I tend to agree it is not Orpheus’s finest clue).

    Rotter – I would be all for your suggestion. And I too miss Merlin’s date facts!

    Many thanks to Merlin for the blog, dateless though it be

  41. 35:10

    Gosh, that was a struggle. I too was convinced CARDSHARP needed no ER on the end but it was the right hand side that caused the problems. Failed to parse DECAMP and took ages to figure out LOI REASON.

  42. What is the world coming to? If bag offends, life in the modern world must be pretty unendurable given that so many much more offensive words are encountered in modern parlance. Glad that “the oldies” have a sense of humour.

  43. DNF. Defeated by WEIRDO and DOGSBODY.

    Nice to see our old friend the OUNCE. This cat was once regularly spotted in crosswordland, but sightings have been rarer of late, and I was wondering if it was facing extinction.

  44. Interestingly enough, after attempting this crossword on Wednesday (DNF – defeated by 13A, 15A, 23A and 3D) the very next one that I attempted was QC 773 from 23 February 2017. This had sat in a pile of old papers in my shed for several years before being in my work bag for several weeks.
    The remarkable coincidence is that the clue for 21D in QC 773 was “Abraham’s nephew’s destiny (3)”.
    Does anyone know whether this clue has come up in any of the 2320 other QCs? If not, it’s some coincidence.

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