Times Quick Cryptic 1617 by Mara

Posted on Categories Quick Cryptic
I thought this was kind of tricky, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of those puzzles that splits us down the middle; the more experienced solvers not really noticing the sideways, superficial and distracting parts, while more novice solvers get a bit frustrated.

I hope I’ve interpreted the setter’s intentions at 10ac correctly.

As usual, definitions underlined.

1 Practise fighting, taking knocks from behind (4)
SPAR – reversal of (from behind) RAPS (knocks).
4 Defender on the floor, stop attacking (4,4)
BACK DOWN – BACK (defender) and DOWN (on the floor).
8 Unruly perm’s cut in rainbow colours (8)
SPECTRUM – anagram of (unruly) PERM’S CUT.
9 Location faculty mentioned (4)
SITE – sounds like (mentioned) “sight” (faculty).
10 But it’s a dramatic work! (4)
PLAY – cryptic definition, alluding to the fact that ‘to play’ is ‘to not be serious about’, and if we’re talking about ‘a dramatic work’ we might might expect more serious treatment. If I’m right about this, it’s a bit subtle for those learning the ropes who might prefer more justifiably Ximenian clues on the green slopes.
11 Fine land around Leicester’s outskirts (3,5)
ALL RIGHT – ALIGHT (land) containing (around) the first and last letters (outskirts) from LeicesteR.
12 Turning a hundred, I left line on map (6)
TROPIC – reversal of (turning) C (a hundred), I and PORT (left).
14 Eat in dining establishment (6)
INGEST – hidden in (in) dinING ESTablishment.
16 Model done with this playboy (8)
HEDONIST – anagram of (model) DONE and THIS.
18 European contradicting principle (4)
POLE – double definition: a national of Poland, and a figurative opposite extreme (usually ‘pole’s apart’).
19 Song recalled in Hair, Aquarius (4)
ARIA – reverse hidden (recalled in) hAIR Aquarius.
20 Tweeter‘s bedtime tipple? (8)
NIGHTJAR – tweeter as in bird, NIGHT (bedtime) and JAR (tipple).
22 One or two animals in the field? (8)
SHEEPDOG – SHEEPDOG (one), or SHEEP and DOG (two); animals concievably in a field.
23 Nut was obliged to protect kernel in general (4)
HEAD – HAD (was obliged) containing (to conceal) the central letter from (kernel in) genEral.
2 Much-loved dad, initially up late and reading (7)
POPULAR – POP (dad) and the first letters from (initially) Up Late And Reading.
3 Difficultas peak may be? (5)
ROCKY – double definition. Lovely em dash.
4 Local block (3)
BAR – double definition.
5 Beef optimal, can emptied out (9)
COMPLAINT – anagram of (out) OPTIMAL and CaN (excluding the middle letter, emptied).
6 Smart running (7)
DASHING – double definition.
7 Listened to this or that, sorceress (5)
WITCH – sounds like (listened to) “which” (this or that).
11 Education somehow sold off (9)
AUCTIONED – anagram of (somehow) EDUCATION.
13 Flammable substance for glass (7)
PROPANE – PRO (for) and PANE (glass).
15 Alas, nut wrong fruit! (7)
SULTANA – anagram of (wrong) ALAS NUT.
17 Roof off cosy place, our home (5)
EARTH – first letter removed from (roof off) hEARTH (cosy place).
18 Field throw (5)
PITCH – double definition.
21 Is that funny? Silence! (3)
GAG – double definition.

52 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 1617 by Mara”

  1. I managed to be both slow and sloppy, putting in NIGHTCAP unthinkingly. It makes no sense given the clue, of course–well, a nightcap is a tipple, but ‘tweeter’ is totally uneplained– and I knew NIGHTJAR, so no justification for the error. 7:56 but.
    1. NightCAP was my first thought too, thinking that the definition was at the other end. Obviously not helped by my idea of a night-time tipple being a whisky, and a jar more of a lunchtime or birthday breakfast drink…
  2. I think we’re in a tricky patch Jackkt, I was over 20m yet again today. Lots I entered without being able to parse – GAG, PLAY, HEAD, TROPIC and POLE so thanks for the blog William. All green but once again not submitted in total confidence. Leaderboard shows slower times than usual and many more mistakes, so this seems to have been hard – and not actually that much fun.
  3. 15 minutes. Second missed target in a row and I had a run of three of them last week. Are we going through a more difficult patch or is it me, I wonder?

    I must admit I wasn’t overly impressed with PLAY, or POLE for that matter as although I’m aware of ‘poles apart’ and ‘polar opposites’ I wondered about defining this as a ‘principle’.

    PROPANE was my last one in, adding at least an extra minute to my time.

    NIGHT CAP was my first thought at 20ac but I held off writing it in because it didn’t account for ‘twitter’.

    Edited at 2020-05-20 04:26 am (UTC)

  4. Well, I don’t think I count as a beginner any more, but wordplay for 10ac didn’t make sense to me!
    1. I didn’t have trouble with the wordplay–it’s a (dramatic) work, but it’s called a play–I just didn’t think it was much of a clue. Even when I had the L & Y, I held off until the last moment before filling it in.
      1. Couldn’t agree more if the blogger is not sure how to parse it it is pretty much 24 carat twaddle (even though I got it immediately)
  5. Got very excited entering the first three acrosses in under a minute. Then I put HERE instead of SITE for 9a and i slowed to my usual grind. LOI PROPANE. Thanks William for explaining the parsing of couple of them, particularly HEAD
  6. I came here to see if I’d missed anything clever with PLAY and POLE which both seemed a little unsatisfactory and meriting a ? on my copy, but I see I’m not alone. I managed to resist the NIGHTCAP bear trap. LOI GAG. I rather liked that AUCTIONED is an anagram of EDUCATION. 4:29
  7. I enjoyed this one. 10a play was clever, as was 12a tropic. If I hadn’t put patch instead of pitch, I’d’ve done quite well.

    Sitting enjoying the sight of a large flock of young, newly sheared, sheep-in-a-field.
    Thanks all.

  8. William is quite right about splitting us apart. I found this difficult and very frustrating. I sailed into the SCC but was surprised when my time still showed as ca. 3K. I ended up sticking in PLAY and HEAD with little conviction so thanks, William, for a helpful blog. And I stupidly biffed NIGHTCAP, like some others, before reading the clue properly. Finished in the SW corner finding EARTH slow to emerge but obvious when it did – that was often my experience today so well done MARA for unsettling my feeble brain. John M.
  9. I found this quite tricky, and like others could make no sense of PLAY. POLE I thought weak too. Otherwise I went down all the blind alleys, anf found this quite a frustrating puzzle. I thought of NIGHTCAP first, but didn’t linger with it, as I thought of NIGHTJAR as well. 13:38. Thanks Mara and William.
  10. I crossed the line in 15:44 but with NIGHTCAP. It didn’t feel quite right at the time but I had bigger problems elsewhere. I managed to correct All Clear at 11a which meant that DASHING was LOI. I wondered about POLE and missed the hidden INGEST until the end.
    Mara back on tricky form. A good test for us all. David
  11. Well, I’m glad others found this hard. Not only did I “finish” in the disgraceful 80:08, but I fell into the nightcap trap. Despite being a biologist, I thought that as I knew there was a bird called a blackcap there might exist a nightcap that I hadn’t heard of. I should have at least questioned it and tried to think of an alternative. As with yesterday’s, it was the SW that really held me up, with PROPANE taking a lot longer than it should have, which gave me TROPIC, and then eventually thinking of SHEEPDOG which finally allowed me to think of LOI EARTH.
  12. Just inside 20 minutes, but a longish way outside target range! The top 4 acrosses all went straight in, followed by all of the connecting downs, so it must have been the bottom half wot dun me! Thanks Mara and William.
  13. Mondays 15 x 15 was easier than this. I got there in the end but had to grapple with a lot of clues which were far too difficult for a quickie in my opinion. I think Mara lost the plot with 10a – it barely works for a difficult cryptic.
  14. Maybe, at two years in, I’m still a newbie. Maybe I’m just thick. Maybe I’m both. But I found today’s crossword no fun at all. I set up a crossword appreciation WhatsApp group on January. We’re all still very much learners but we attack the puzzles with enthusiasm. However, recently, I seem to have had much harder work keeping them interested because there seems to have been a glut of crosswords which are too close to the more difficult end of the spectrum. There must be challenging grids, of course. But I’m not convinced the balance is there, these days. When I started attempting these Quick Crosswords in 2018, I don’t recall there being quite so many instances of opaque and tortuous parsing as there are now. And, although I’m still a comparative novice, I know more than I knew then.
    1. I agree. I do the QC for 30 minutes of fun anything over that I have lost interest. I believe these have got a lot more difficult over the last year I have been doing them. Of course I too may be thick
  15. Propane and sultana were fun…
    play, nightjar, pole, sheepdog all grated.

    Maybe it’s just the kids riding past on those plasmacars that don’t quite allow for total relaxation.

  16. I am no longer a neophyte but I thought that that was (a) hard and (b) not very good. All of POLE, PLAY, ROCKY, NIGHTJAR and SHEEPDOG were poor clues in my book. Others were a bit convoluted, as Louisajaney has observed. Crossed the line in 1.8K which is normally a Good Day but I just didn’t enjoy the puzzle so I’m giving it a Bad Day. I did like AUCTIONED and HEDONIST, though.

    FOI SPAR, LOI EARTH, COD HEDONIST. Thanks William and thanks for trying, Mara.


  17. I’m not sure how long this took because I abandoned it after 8 minutes with very few entries in the grid including an erroneous ‘here’ at 9a. After a cup of tea I resumed and the break helped. I couldn’t justify PLAY, POLE or ROCKY and needed the blog for an explanation so thank you William.
  18. ….and I can pop out for a NIGHTJAR.

    I thought this was quite tricky, but MER at POLE. I thought PLAY was a perfectly straightforward clue, but then I’m approaching 50 years as a Times solver.

    LOI PROPANE (which, with TROPIC, pushed me over my limit !)
    TIME 5:02

  19. Did not get SHEEPDOG, should have got Earth. Still don’t understand sheepdog.
    Managed Nightjar!
    Unable to parse Pole.
    Started very well but came to a grinding halt.
    Thanks as ever.
    1. Does the field contain two animals, a sheep and a dog, or one a sheepdog?
  20. After a slow start, in the end it was about average for me. Thought PLAY and POLE were rather weak. On the other hand I sort of figured them out, so I guess the clues did the job.
  21. I agree with those finding a rising trend of difficulty (perhaps not noticed by the brilliant solvers to the same extent). Having got used to finishing or nearly so, it’s now 2 in a row where I got no further than halfway and many recent failing to get very near.
  22. Another day and another problem corner – this time the SE. I knew Nightcap was wrong, and wasn’t happy with Catch at 18d because it forced a very unlikely Celt for 18ac. After the customary tea break, Pitch, Pole (with a shrug) and, eventually, Nightjar made more sense. I’m relieved that others are finding these harder than usual, as I’ve reached an age where a slowing mental agility can have other implications! Overall this was another tricky one from Mara. Invariant
  23. Not as hard as yesterday’s offering but it still took us 24 mins which we regard as disappointing. However, we were happy to work through the challenge – thanks Mara.

    FOI: spar
    LOI: all right
    COD: sheepdog

    Thanks for the blog William

  24. I couldn’t get into any rhythm today but was pleased with my time of just over 15 minutes so thanks, Mara.
    Some clues were so straightforward that I doubted my entries were correct, such as BACK DOWN, SHEEPDOG AND PITCH but I enjoyed ALL RIGHT, COMPLAINT and SULTANA (which reminded me that I need to buy some!). Like others, I questioned PLAY and POLE as they didn’t seem to be complete clues.
    Thanks to William for the blog.

  25. 2K and share the comments above – play and pole particularly. I rather hoped that sheepdog could be made to equal ‘in the field’ – as in an entrant in an event (sheepdog trials) but I never convinced myself. Well done for unravelling it all William.
  26. What a strange mixture of write-ins, biffs, head-scratchers and annoyances (they’ve all been covered by previous comments). A real stop-start affair that I didn’t really enjoy. Also my second 8’ plus in the last few days to add to my woes.
  27. Very slow solve for the second day in a row. I agree with previous bloggers about the rather poor nature of certain clues and the over-complexity of certain others (23ac comes to mind). I did however manage to avoid the nightcap/nightjar trap at 20ac.
    FOI – 1ac Spar
    LOI – 18ac Pole
    COD (not many contenders today) – 6dn Dashing a very nice succinct clue.
  28. There was a puzzle a few weeks back that I struggled to get anything after 15 mins and today’s was like that. I thought it might be just tiredness after a long bike ride this morning, but I can see from the above comments that it has split opinion.

    This felt like a 15×15 – and I just didn’t enjoy it. From looking at the blog there doesn’t seem to be anything too controversial, but for whatever reason I was definitely not on the right wave length. To cap it all off, I also put Nightcap for 20ac.

    Someone mentioned if these were getting harder. I’m not sure, however the times2 Crossword in the paper (non cryptic) definitely has.

    Thanks as usual for the blog.

    Edited at 2020-05-20 02:39 pm (UTC)

    1. Definitely agree re the Times2. A significant step up in difficulty, in my view.
  29. … as I can see from the comments already posted that I am Not Alone in having struggled with this one.

    All entered in 19 minutes and all correct, but it didn’t really flow at any time. And I join the chorus of questions at 18A Pole. I don’t really see – correct that, I don’t see at all – Pole and Contradicting principle as close enough in meaning to each other.

    Question for those who are more experienced: which word in 5D Complaint tells us it is an anagram? It can only be “out”, but in which case, I can only reply “Really?” Somewhat obscure I would suggest …

    Blog much appreciated, and today also very necessary. Thank you William.

    1. The indicator is just ‘out’ – and it’s one to remember as it’s used fairly often!

  30. … I’d agree the QCs seem to be getting harder. I had got into a regular sub 10 minute solves, but more latterly 15 minutes is a more realistic level, and today’s puzzle was the second recently where I struggled to come in under 20.


  31. Found this easier than yesterday and finished on our modest 30m target. Pole a nd tropic not parsed but seemed the only answers, had nightcap in but the error was noticed before finishing. Thanks to Mara and for blog
  32. I actually got in a muddle with 9a as I saw it a a triple homophone, with “cite” for “mentioned “, and then couldn’t see which to use until I decided that was too recursive.
  33. I broke the tape just a few seconds under my 5 minute target but I’m one of the “more experienced solvers” so didn’t stumble over much, but it didn’t feel like it would be an easy run out for novices.

    I agree that PLAY and POLE were weak clues, and as I was typing NIGHTJAR I guessed that a few unwary solvers would biff NIGHTCAP.

  34. Tricky in all the places that others have mentioned and to top it all off I chucked in a lazy NIGHTCAP, so a disappointing solve all round. Having said that I did enjoy my penny drop moment with PROPANE. ‘Finished’ just under target in 14.49.
    Thanks to william
  35. I have been doing QC since no 1 and I do enjoy it, pb is 7:50 so not doing too bad. However it is still rooted in what a gentleman who went to Oxford in the 30s would know (Not Cambridge, there would be a smattering of science if anyone involved had gone to Cambridge)
  36. Some tricky clues…..
    liked 16A ” model done with this playboy (8) “

  37. Don’t get ‘play’ at all, ‘pole’ is v iffy and ‘hedonist’ doesn’t fit the definition ‘playboy’ (hedonists can be either sex). Quite C-minus.
  38. Stumped by TROPIC and PROPANE, but I see why. Found it hard but an enjoyable struggle.
  39. found this difficult and the earth/sheepdog crossers took me ages- eventually got earth and worked out sheepdog. Others that caused trouble included pole, pitch and tropic.
    thanks setter and blogger
  40. Starting to lose interest in the QC as they have become joyless and difficult. Like a previous commentator I started doing these in 2018 and they have got progressively harder. Either that or I’m going senile! Thanks to blogger though

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