Times Quick Cryptic 1281 by Hurley

I feel happy to have finished a whisker inside 10 minutes for this, as it seemed sticky going in parts. My advice is, more than usual, to trust in the word play. There were a couple of unknowns which broke down into ‘must be’ and other ‘knowns’ which weren’t obvious as a definition but fell into place easily (e.g. Cod 14dn and loi 2dn). So, will the SCC chug serenely through the word plays or get bamboozled? Will the Formula 1 set (F1S) have always known the Spanish writer and the wise man and scream into a sub 4 minute solve or trip up over an ill-judged bif? Do let me know.


1. EXCUSE – pardon. Former (EX), copper (CU), (S)incer(E).
2. CARTON – box. Needed by (an integral part of) vi(CAR TON)ight.
8. LUNATIC – foolish. Learner (L), international body (UN), half of dogm(ATIC).
10. AGAIN – once more. A (A), profit (GAIN).
11. SCI-FI – literary genre. (S)ome (C)ommend (I)t (F)or (I)magination.
12. RED MEAT – description of bacon as an example (noted by the ?). Embarrassed looking (RED), setter (ME), at (AT).
13. EDGBASTON – Warwickshire cricket ground in Birmingham (good luck non-UK, non-cricket aware people). Anagram (excited) of BAND GET SO.
17. HEADSET – cans (an informal name for headphones/set). Top teacher (HEAD), prepared (SET).
19. SHOVE – push. Very (V) involved in footwear (SHOE).
20. ELITE – exclusive. European (E), description of low calorie items (LITE).
21. SWAHILI – language (the ! indicating definition by example – DBE). Anagram (dreadful) of WAIL HIS.
22. TANDEM – cycle. Time (T), with (AND), English (E), Male (M).
23. NESTOR – wise man (the oldest and wisest of the Greeks in the Trojan War – or any wise old man; sage). Cosy home (NEST), centre of f(OR)t.


1. ENLIST – join up. In from the French (EN), lean (LIST – as in a boat). Simply couldn’t work out why ‘roll’ could mean ‘lean’ but eventually realised it didn’t so I looked further.
2. CONSIDERATION – fee. Argument against (CON), team (SIDE), allowance (RATION).
3. SITTING – session (e.g. of parliament). f(ITTING) to get change of leading letter – in this case ‘S’.
5. AWARD – medal maybe. A (A), person under protection (WARD).
6. TRADE UNIONIST – member of workers’ organisation. Anagram (upset) of OUTSIDER AT INN.
7. NINETY – number. No indication of DBE – I’m not sure what the rules are. [On edit – with thanks to Kevin and John, and I hope I’ve got his right now – 21ac and 7dn are not DBE as the answers are examples of a category. 12ac is DBE as the answer (red meat) is the category of the example in the clue (bacon).] Popular (IN) and tips – ends from (E)lemen(T) captivated (captured) by New York (NY).
9. CERVANTES – Spanish writer (on look up – the chap who wrote Don Quixote 414 years ago). Happily, the answer is in the clue (somewhat) ni(CER VAN TES)t (thank you, Hurley).
14. TESTATE – with final instructions given (what a great definition). Had food (ATE) after cricket match (TEST – possibly played at 13ac).
15. THREAT – source of danger. That (THAT) is drawing inside itself Royal Engineers (RE).
16. SENIOR – older. Anagram (unfortunately) of NOSIER. Great surface.
18. SIEVE – kitchen item. Is turned upwards (SI) beside girl (EVE).

43 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 1281 by Hurley”

  1. Pretty straightforward; I expect sub-4 minute times from the usual suspects. CERVANTES was a somewhat infelicitous hidden, I thought–for one thing, I spotted it immediately, which suggests not well-hidden–since the pronunciation of the clue is almost the same as the (English) pronunciation of the name: -cerVANtest, CerVANteez. CARTON was a horse of etc.: my 2d to LOI, after I gave up on trying to interpret the wordplay. I must have come across EDGBASTON somewhere; anyway, I needed the checkers. 6d biffed from checkers and def. NHO ‘cans’ for ‘headphones’. I liked the use of ‘that’ to clue THAT. 21ac isn’t a DBE, Chris; if it had been “His dreadful Swahili!” to clue LANGUAGE, that would have been a DBE. The exclamation points here are to make the clue grammatical, or at least plausible as expressions. (“Wail!” doesn’t quite cut it for me, but.) 5:37.

    Edited at 2019-02-05 03:35 am (UTC)

  2. 8 minutes. Raced through the top half but slowed a little towards the end with the unexpected NESTOR and both SIEVE and TANDEM requiring extra time for thought. ‘Cans’ for ‘headphones’ has come up before in 15×15 puzzles so the variation, HEADSET, went in easily enough.

    Edited at 2019-02-05 05:10 am (UTC)

  3. 11 minutes, not bad half asleep after staying up for the Liverpool game which starts at midnight here.

    Last few were threat, headset and elite. No real hold ups apart from thinking of lite for 20a.

    Liked headset but Cod senior.

  4. Quicker than yesterday but only just at 17.20. Almost all of that in the SW. Didn’t spot THREAT was almost all in front of me in the clue – know RE was in the middle but didn’t couldn’t see how to make the rest of the word until deep groan. I often cause myself trouble where AND is defined so lost a lot of time on TANDEM which I’m sure will have been a write-in for many. Never heard of NESTOR but we had NEST similarly defined recently and what else could be centre of fort. In the NE slowed down by AWARD, nicely placed to give the most useless checkers.
  5. Starting in the NW this seemed relatively straightforward and I had no hold-ups at all until the SW. The Spanish writer was a gimme but HEADSET for Cans was new to me. NESTOR only emerged from the cryptic but once there, it seemed OK. My last two were ELITE and SIEVE ( I had tried Slice but could see no girl in there). 11:50, which is quick for me. David
  6. I Initially had MENTOR for 23A, but half-way through the Downs the Greek name floated up from my sub-conscious and I corrected it. I tried making 21A end in -ISH before spotting we had the compilers’ club favourite African language. LOI SITTING where I was looking for a synonym of “fitting” to change the first letter. Doh!

    In answer to your query at 9D, Chris… As Kevin pointed out about SWAHILI, NINETY defined by “number” is not a DBE, whereas “Ninety, perhaps?” as a clue for NUMBER would be. The rule is that if the definition is “a thing” e.g. ORANGE and the answer is “the type of thing” i.e. FRUIT, the DBE is signalled by the use of maybe/perhaps and/or a “?”. Or that’s how I think it works. I hope others will correct me if I got that wrong! 5:22.

    Edited at 2019-02-05 07:55 am (UTC)

  7. 16.09 and MENTOR biffed for NESTOR, which I should have seen having read the original albeit nearly 40 years ago. Mostly found speedy going and was hopeful of, at least, Formula 3 but stuck for several minutes on RED MEAT as LOI. Bit suspect as a definition, even with the question mark, in my opinion. Spot on, Chris, with the word play comment. I think some clues slid in so easily that in others the trickery was missable e.g. RED MEAT: I was hooked on red setter.
  8. Ebbed and flowed with this one. To my shame as an Englishman I was a little slow to get Edgbaston. I’ve never heard of cans but put in headset and hoped I was right. I thought capitalizing bacon was a bit naughty – I was wondering if an historic Bacon was a red head 🙂
  9. 22 minutes, so just over my target. I might have beaten it but I mis-spelt NINTEY. Very silly, it looked wrong when I put it in, and every time I looked at it, but I was stuck on my last two Red Meat and Headset until I saw the mistake.
  10. 16 minutes for me, so a reasonable time as far as I’m concerned. It was the NE corner which slowed me down – Carton, Award, Red Meat and Ninety in particular, but as always, once I got one of them then the rest fell out quite quickly.
  11. Well, I certainly clicked with Hurley today. After a run of SCCs, I skated through this one in 9.24. I biffed a few but did parse them all within that time. Nice to know there is still something going on ‘upstairs’. I liked HEADSET and thought CERVANTES was cleverly hidden. THREAT and TANDEM took more time than most. LOI was CONSIDERATION. Thanks to Hurley for a good start to the day and to Chris (and supporters) fir a good blog. John M.

    Edited at 2019-02-05 09:58 am (UTC)

  12. I started strongly and thought I may be on for a sub 10 minutes until getting snarled up in the SW corner which took a while to unravel needing all checkers for my COD headset (I was looking for an anagram of teacher until sieve went in). Then went over to my LOI which should have been NESTOR but I mistakenly went for Mentor and, given it was the last, happily (but too hastily) stopped the clock at 15 minutes pleased to be well under my norm of 20ish.

    Then I read the blog and saw the error. Half wished that I’d not read the blog now 🙂 thanks Chris for enlightening me!

  13. I pressed submit today 99% sure I was going to have pink squares come back to me but having spent 2 or 3 minutes with my cursor hovering over the submit button trying to think of alternatives to MENTOR I just thought ‘sod it’. It was particularly annoying as I have studied the Iliad but my mind was completely blank.
    Other than that a relatively straightforward puzzle where my only other hold ups were with 15d/17a.
    Thanks for the blog
  14. I was definitely on the wavelength of this one, breasting the tape in 7:04. I too toyed with Mentor for 23ac, but couldn’t make it work. Nice puzzle. Thanks to Hurley and Chris.


  15. This looked like it would have been my first sub-10 minutes, but a little slow to finish up the SW corner. Completely biffed NESTOR. Finished at just over 15 minutes in the end, which is still a PB, I think.
  16. When I was governor of a primary school we dismissed the PE master for gross misconduct one Sports Day. He had presented a medal to an attractive 18 year old teaching assistant for “Best Cans”; apparently in yoof-speak cans = boobs. (This had to be explained to me.) She was not impressed and nor were we!

    That’s my excuse for a DNF today – I just could not bring myself to write in “headset”, despite having parsed it correctly, because I just could not believe that anyone would call a headset “cans”. Hey ho.


    1. What a remarkable thing that is to do! That someone actually thought ‘This will be funny’ and then went through with it is truly amazing. I’ve heard a number of bizarre disciplanaries and appeals over the years so I should be inured, but I suppose there are always more people dreaming up bizarre ways to raise the hackles of their employers as this guy found out.

      Edited at 2019-02-05 03:32 pm (UTC)

  17. As a relative newcomer to the Quick Cryptic can someone please advise on what DBE and SCC stand for. Ta.
    1. DBE = definition by example. I have always found this a somewhat elusive concept and I’m not sure how useful it is in terms of helping one solve, but today’s blog has the clearest set of explanations I’ve ever seen.

      SCC = Slow Coach Club, a self-deprecating moniker for those feeling that their times aren’t all that great. It’s all relative!

    2. DBE = Definition by example. SCC = slow coaches club (or somesuch). I know I am part of it.
  18. Raced through this with a rare-as-hens’-teeth sub- four a real possibility but hit the buffers in the NW corner. Unlike Chris, I was happy to convince myself that ‘lean’ and ‘roll’ were sufficiently synonymous to give me ENROLL at 1d. Once I’d sorted this out the clock had ticked round to 4’30”ish.
    Thanks as ever to setter and blogger.
  19. ….SWAHILI when done on an Android phone, which I tried again this morning. Apart from the inevitable finger trouble, not being able to see the whole square is a distinct disadvantage. I actually went through the clues in order, then went back and did the the same again. After that, I had two left. I’ll be interested to see where I sit on the leaderboard though, since I wasn’t far over my 5 minute target when doing it on paper.

    No real problems with the actual puzzle !

    TIME 5:26

  20. Never heard of ‘cans’ = HEADSET or of ‘NESTOR’, but both easy enough to biff with the checkers. EDGBASTON was a bit tough for a non-English, non-cricket aware solver I would have thought. It is not even one of the better known test grounds. Enjoyed TESTATE. Made me chuckle.
  21. I usually find Hurley quite tricky, but scooted through this one in 6:28. I once went to EDGBASTON when Viv Richards and Ian Botham were playing. Sadly Viv was out for a duck. Knew NESTOR from the 15×15, so a write in from the wordplay. EXCUSE was FOI, and THREAT LOI, but causing a slight hold up as my tired brain tried to make sense of it. Thanks Hurley and Chris.
  22. Well, I had most of this done in under 20 mins, but then came to a complete halt with a very thin looking SW corner and a very doubtful Mentor for 23ac. Time for a cup of tea. When I came back, I could see that R****E wasn’t working for 15d and I eventually twigged that that was That (still following? ) and that Threat was the required answer. That (!) unlocked the SW, and after some more thought I opted for the completely unknown Nestor, as being a better fit to the cryptic for 23ac. Another unknown Greek to add to the list. Invariant
  23. After yesterday’s debacle I am back on form finishing in a third of the time. This was very much a clockwise solve with FOI 1a EXCUSE and LOI 15d THREAT. I was thrown by the simplicity of both 3d SITTING and my LOI THREAT but only briefly. I guessed HEADSET and NESTOR from wordplay and all was done and dusted in just over 8 minutes. Thanks Chris and Hurley.
  24. I am rather surprised that so many people should have considered enroll, which is surely the transatlantic spelling of the word. DM
    1. You’re right, it is. I’m not sure if there are any rules on U.K. vs US spelling. The usual mantra is ‘if it’s in the dictionary then it’s fair game for the setter’ – and both are in Collins. Roll and lean are pretty close if you think about boats – and this would be higher up the cerebral processing than which variant – at least it was for me.
    2. You’re right, it is. I’m not sure if there are any rules on U.K. vs US spelling. The usual mantra is ‘if it’s in the dictionary then it’s fair game for the setter’ – and both are in Collins. Roll and lean are pretty close if you think about boats – and this would be higher up the cerebral processing than which variant – at least it was for me.
  25. 18m which is the fastest we have done so far, pleased with that. Had to check for Nestor, as mentor did not seem to fit the bill. Thanks to Hurley and other contributors.
  26. I ran through the first few clues , walked through the next dozen and trudged through the remainder. Only an alphabet trawl delivered “headset”. I’ve never heard of “cans” as a name for these. I couldn’t understand what the clue was asking me to do and once it became clear that an anagram of “teacher” wasn’t the answer, I was, as it were, stuffed. Even once I’d realised it must begin with “head”, I still stared at the squares which remained as empty as my brain. I, too, had the deeply unsatisfactory “mentor ” for 23 across until Nestor surfaced from somewhere. LOI was “elite” for reasons which now escape me as it’s actually completely obvious. Rather pleasingly, “tandem ” means not just a bicycle but also is Latin for “at last ” or “finally ” (as in “about time” ) which gives the clue an extra frisson of loveliness. I complete this puzzle from a sunny rooftop terrace in Marrakesh and send you all blue sky wishes. Not much looking forward to the ice and snow which awaits next week. Many thanks today for the excellent blog and head-scratchy crossword.
    1. Of all the blogs in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. Well, nearly. So I’m guessing that 17ac gets your golden raspberry? Have a great holiday.
    2. Our latin teacher used to teach us how to distinguish tamen from tandem, tandem having 2 parts like the bike (at length) compared to 1 part for tamen (however).
    3. Of all the blogs in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. Well, nearly. So I’m guessing that 17ac gets your golden raspberry? Have a great holiday.
  27. For the relatively inexperienced please could someone interpret some of the acronyms, viz.:
    We think DBE = Definition by Example, and COD = Clue of the Day
    There are probably more – everything please!!
    1. LOI – last one in (I’m not sure I’ve seen it but FOI would be first one in).
      NHO – never heard of (an alternative to DNK – did not know)
      SCC – Slow Coach Club
      PB – personal best (time)
      DBE = Definition by Example, and COD = Clue of the Day
    2. And GR meaning “Golden Raspberry ” to describe a clue which makes you feel a bit cross. (even when you suspect that it’s just you being a bit dense or a bit crabby or a bit of both ).

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