Times Quick Cryptic 2020 by Tracy

Posted on Categories Quick Cryptic

Solving time: 11 minutes, delayed 3 minutes at the end by my last one in at 22ac.

As usual definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions and substitutions are in curly brackets} and [anagrinds, containment, reversal and other indicators in square ones]. I usually omit all reference to positional indicators unless there is a specific point that requires clarification.

1 Actress handled vial nervously (2,9)
Anagram [nervously] of HANDLED VIAL. Considering Olivia de Havilland began her acting career in 1933 I was going to remark that we were being expected to delve back into ancient history but I was amazed to find that she died only last year aged 104 so has only recently become eligible for an appearance in The Times crossword. She was still working in 2009.
8 Willpower about to crack (7)
RE (about – on the subject of), SOLVE (crack)
9 144 in total (5)
Two meanings. A gross is 12 dozen, and one’s gross or total salary is the amount payable before deductions for tax etc.
10 Whisky, for example, before good savoury item of food (6,3)
SCOTCH (whisky), EG (for example), G (good). This time last year we were being treated to acres of press coverage debating whether or not a Scotch Egg constituted ‘a meal’ for the purposes of complying with government regulations on Covid restrictions in order to be allowed to enjoy a drink in a pub. Yet even after all that, and with the passage of time, I can’t recall whether this was ever officially established. My recollection is that one Cabinet minister said one thing one day and another said the opposite the next. This particular matter has not come up again so far this year, but plus ça change as demonstrated by what ministers have to say on the subject of the proposed forthcoming festivities, social gatherings and parties. I heard four completely differing interpretations expressed by four different ministers last week.
12 Hand tool — test briefly upon return (3)
EXA{m} (test) [briefly] reversed [upon return]
13 Collect a cold cure concoction (6)
A, C (cold), then anagram (concoction) of CURE. Accountants and investors will be familar with this word.
15 Breed of rabbit from African country, right for length (6)
Angola (African country) becomes ANGORA when R (right) is substituted for L (length)
17 Animal, partly domesticated (3)
Hidden in [partly] {domesti}CAT{ed}
18 Not entirely    where studying may lead one? (2,1,6)
Two meanings, one vaguely cryptic
20 Former statute, correct in every detail (5)
EX (former), ACT (statute – law)
22 One may read this either way (3,4)
Collins defines this as a novel or drama depicting the lives and concerns of the English middle classes, an allusion to the popularity of Aga cookers among the English middle classes, cf. kitchen sink drama. ‘Either way’ indicates that the answer is a palindrome. This clue took me some way over my target time.
23 Second eleven shown in book mate circulated (7,4)
RESERVE (book), then anagram [circulated] of MATE
1 Nightclub in Sheffield is colourful (5)
Hidden [in] {Sheffiel}D IS CO{lourful}. I’ve never been completely happy with this definition of ‘disco’ but it has appeared so many times that I have learned to accept it and move on.
2 Playing Dutch role, surrounded oneself with admirers (4,5)
Anagram [playing] of DUTCH ROLE
3 Watched rival? United? (6)
VIE (rival), WED (united)
4 On   stage (3)
Two meanings, cricket, and a stage in a competition
5 A very old blighter, round for fruit (7)
A, V (very), O (old), CAD (blighter), O (round)
6 Comic character, reckless and wild (9,3)
DESPERATE (reckless), the anagram [wild] of AND. More ancient stuff going back nearly as far as Olivia De Havilland’s film career! Desperate Dan appeared in The Dandy from 1937 until the demise of the comic in 2013. He was also referenced in last Friday’s QC set by Corellii.
7 Callers upset with Tracy? That’s perfectly obvious (7-5)
Anagram [upset] of CALLERS TRACY. Does our setter have to deal with many complaints, I wonder?
11 Drink mother’s ruin — are legs almost buckling? (6,3)
GIN (mother’s ruin) then anagram [buckling] of ARE LEG{s} [almost]
14 Sword nicked young woman (7)
CUT (nicked), LASS (young woman)
16 Decline to admit a Conservative’s in front (6)
FADE (decline) containing [to admit] A + C (Conservative)
19 True masculine domain (5)
REAL (true), M (masculine)
21 Sailor, famous person, heading off (3)
{s}TAR (famous person) [heading off]

58 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2020 by Tracy”

  1. I was going to remark on DE HAVILLAND myself; despite her only recent demise, I wonder how many of us are familiar with the name? With nothing but A’s for checkers, I had to do an alphabet trawl for 22ac; fortunately G comes soon. When I first saw this term–in a 15×15, of course–I’d never heard of Aga, let alone ‘Aga saga’. I’m embarrassed to say that I biffed HELD COURT; had no idea what was going on until I looked again after submitting. “D’oh!”, I believe, is the appropriate phrase here. 6:50.

    Edited at 2021-12-06 02:26 am (UTC)

  2. 1ac (Olivia) DE HAVILLAND is well known hereabouts, Kevin. It is also a British Aeroplane was and my FOI to boot.

    LOI 22ac, which I had clean forgotten about. We had Agas all my time in UK.

    COD 16dn FACADE

    WOD 6dn DESPERATE DAN — with Cow Pie.

    I am not ‘a cat person’. The word ‘cat’ is not mentioned in the Bible, although DAN was in the big cat’s den for a while.

    Edited at 2021-12-06 07:45 am (UTC)

  3. NHO DE HAVILLAND — except as an aircraft — and very nearly had Di Havelland. Also NHO an AGA SAGA and all those A made for a frustrating few minutes staring at the grid running through the alphabet. Managed to type ‘clarr’ for the clear in CRYSTAL CLEAR in any case. So a struggle that ended in pink squares. 17m.

    Edited at 2021-12-06 08:14 am (UTC)

    1. She was related to Geoffrey de Havilland, of Mosquito and Tiger Moth fame. She starred in Gone with the Wind, playing Melanie Hamilton.
      1. I must confess to having never seen Gone with the Wind. Film in general is among the many things to not be my forte. I do accept Oscar winners are probably fair for crosswords but I couldn’t name many@
  4. Like mendeset, I have never heard of De Havilland. I only managed to answer it because I was familiar with the aircraft.

    Aga Saga? I assumed it was a palindrome, but having never heard of this phrase before, I had to resort to aids for this answer.

    Enjoyable crossword, marred by 22a.

  5. I was another in the aircraft camp for 1a, but it went in fairly early regardless. A lengthy alphabet trawl for the unknown AGA SAGA nearly took me over target, so was disappointed to see a dreaded pink square after submitting. It’s the second time recently that I’ve been undone by not checking tenses properly – I had HOLD COURT at 2d, having previously been a bit stuck on it starting with HALF.
    I wonder if Tracy is going to start going down the self-referring route on a regular basis a la Oink?
    Thanks to Jack
  6. DNF — and I doubt I’ll be alone …
    … as not only had I NHO 22A Aga saga, but nor had my primary go-to aid (Mrs S), and nor indeed had her extensive list of aids which she sometimes has recourse to for the very obscure words in the more complex puzzles she does.

    I wonder if Tracy had a feeling that this clue would lead to comment (4 of the 7 so far mention it, and not to praise it) when he clued 7D!

    I’m beginning to see a pattern with my fortunes with Tracy’s puzzles. All of my DNFs in the last 3 months have been on puzzles set by him, and it is nearly always one very unusual or obscure word in an otherwise perfectly fair and addressable puzzle. As this one was, 22A apart.

    Many thanks to Jack for the blog

    1. Dear Mr S (or Mr St A?),
      I concur with your observation. My records for the past three months show 4 DNFs, 2 lengthy solves and just 1 relatively comfortable solve for me. Prior to that, Tracy was one of my most approachable setters.
      I wonder what has changed, and why.
      1. Dear Mr R

        We are at least in very good company as I see 22A escaped Phil Jordan too. My very first 1.0 Phil!

        Mr S

  7. Looked at this and half-heartedly alpha-trawled for 2 or 3 minutes then gave it up for a bad thing at 8:04. That’s the second less than common phrase that’s been clued loosely in a week. On edit, I suppose it’s not loosely clued if you know the answer, or hadn’t half given up on it like I had.

    I liked SCOTCH EGG, and I like scotch eggs, though maybe not with whisky, but definitely with beer.


    Edited at 2021-12-06 09:16 am (UTC)

  8. An interesting puzzle. I started well but found myself jumping around until I made solid progress in the SW. I needed crossers for some of the 3-letter answers and I took a while over HELD COURT (I stupidly miscounted and wanted the second word to be cult). I was also slow to see TO A DEGREE (nice one) and FACADE (I wanted it go be ACCEDE) but I enjoyed GINGER ALE.
    I took much too long over my LOI AGA SAGA and was surprised when I saw that I had strayed into the SCC but no matter. I enjoyed the ride and my handle has finally made its way into a QC! Thanks to both. John M.

    Edited at 2021-12-06 10:01 pm (UTC)

  9. 15 minutes, DNF, defeated by facade. Jumped about all over the grid as the first pass going straight through was not promising. I missed lots of nuances in the parsing. Olivia de Havilland was a very bright woman who did lots of other things as well as acting. Thanks, Jack, and Tracy.
  10. Couldn’t get 22a at all and struggled to get going generally but persevered and enjoyed it so thanks setter and blogger. Had a lightbulb moment with De Havilland so the anagram made sense. I didn’t know there was any protocol about who might be acceptable as a Times crossword entry. Perhaps it explains why the majority of those seem to have been active in the middle of the last century, if not earlier, and wouldn’t be familiar to younger solvers. Personally I wish setters would think a bit more about this – just my opinion though!
  11. I was on around 7 minutes with 16d and 22a left, but ran into a wall as I’d carelessly and inexplicably biffed GINGER TEA at 11d. I eventually saw FACADE and AGA SAGA eventually revealed itself when I revisited 11d and saw my mistake. Still scraped in under my target. 9:50. Thanks Tracy and Jack.
  12. All fun and steady going until the FACADE/AGA SAGA intersection where I eventually got the former but gave up on the latter despite realising it was a palindrome: assumed it was some famous oriental work I had failed to read, or notice, the Aza Maza, Ava Yava,…. Not a phrase with which I am familiar although on reading the blog, very distant bells rang.
    1A was a bit of a push for those of us of pre-retirement age not inclined to watch Saturday afternoon movies on TV but the bells were a little louder and the anagram fodder and division helped. Amused to see the cow pie man appear again so swiftly.
    Not crystal clear today, but not upset with Tracey either.
  13. Had a PDM with AGA SAGA – it’s a phrase I know. The book trade invented it to define the women’s fiction genre Joanna Trollope was said to have initiated about 20 years ago. Now not so fashionable. Must admit I live in Aga territory but don’t have one (shock, horror).
    I failed to solve 16d FACADE. Got DE HAVILLAND without much trouble, but a bit slow on ACCRUE. Biffed DESPERATE DAN but would younger people have heard of him?

    Mostly fairly quick apart from the above mentioned. Liked many clues inc SCOTCH EGG, AVOCADO and GINGER ALE.
    Thanks, Jack, vm.

    1. I also knew both De Havilland and Aga Saga but also got stuck on facade. A combination of our ages and lifestyles!
  14. DNF. 22A was to blame. I had heard of the word- Joanna Trollope was linked to this in the 80s and 90s.
    All other clues got reasonably quickly. An unsatisfactory stat to the week.
  15. DNF – All completed within target except for the NHO AGA SAGA and two useless alphabet trawls.
  16. Another tricky one from Tracy. I was lucky enough to spot De Havilland and Crystal Clear without too much delay, so all those first letters gave me a good start. Steady progress thereafter, and once I saw CoD Facade, I was ‘just’ left with 22ac as A*a/*a*a. 19mins up to that point, but after a couple of alphabet trawls (one of which did throw up the possibility of Aga), I used aids to get the nho Aga Saga. Hmm, a ‘could do better’ for setter (and solver). Invariant
  17. After 30 mins had to take a couple of punts for 1ac and 22ac.

    As a result, my 1ac was Di Havelland — thinking it was a first and last name. I’m assuming most of us realised 22ac was a palindrome, but I’ve never heard of Aga Saga either — sounds more like someone’s frustration with an oven.

    However, whilst I was frustrated with not completing the grid, there were some really good clues. I particularly liked 3dn “Viewed” and 11dn “Ginger Ale”.

    Overall, a tricky start to the week I thought.

    FOI — 4dn “Leg”
    LOI — dnf
    COD — 11dn “Ginger Ale”

    Thanks as usual!

    1. I tend to agree, particularly in a QC. It’s clearly an anagram but even with all the checkers in place there are three different vowels left over, so without the necessary GK the solver is required to guess, and DE and DI are both possible as part of a proper name.
    2. I’m a bit of a duffer at these crosswords but De Havilland jumped out straight away. She was brilliant in Robin Hood, and of course, GWTW. I think she only died last year. Not that it helped me. Aga Saga!
  18. I was thinking this was an easy puzzle for Monday as I raced through it. No problem with De Havilland; I knew the actress but might have struggled with the spelling but for the anagram. I rushed to the end to get a reasonable time-just over 10 minutes.
    But I had HALF COURT (do I remember a half-court press?- doesn’t parse anyway).
    And in haste I had ALA BABA at 22a, a variant spelling of Ali Baba, which also does not parse. I am very familiar with the term Aga saga, probably from The Times literature sections.
    So two big errors.

  19. 2+ hours filming in a freezing field at 2 am put my brain into a state of suspended animation and I bailed out this morning after 45 mins with the much referenced 22A unsolved.
    Had I had one it may have come to mind while putting a hot water bottle on my feet!
    Thanks Jack
  20. Liked Jack’s avatar. I didn’t realise Dan was still so famous. I was about to moan that I’m always confused when people change their pic!
    1. He’s one of my comic characters I keep in reserve for special mention. Billy Bunter is another one
  21. Happy to throw the towel in after trawling through the alphabet for the NHO AGA SAGA. Poor clue.

    The Oldie mag has the 5 ages of man:Lager, Aga, Saga, Viagra, Gaga (where Saga is the travel company for the 50+)

    But no problem with DE HAVILLAND, for me her most memorable role is with Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains in Robin Hood.

    Did not see the anagram for HELD COURT and was stuck in the dead end of HALF for “Dutch”. Also missed FACADE.


  22. DNF I was defeated by AGA SAGA and FACADE. I think I’ve only ever come across the former in a crossword from the dim n distant past…. Not recently enough to come to mind anyway. The latter just a good clue that I couldn’t crack….it happens.
  23. Like almost everyone else DNF thanks to 22a which spoilt an excellent enjoyable puzzle, just slightly more challenging than the average QC. 22a was obviously a palnidrome, and would have been 7d if anybody had heard of an AGA SAGA. Was held up on seeking Di until the penny dropped. Her relative, a wartime plane engineer, also designed the Comet, the world’s first commercial jet aircraft. The first three versions contributed to then little known knowledge of metal fatigue, sadly with much loss of life. I once flew in a Comet 4, which I remember as one of the most comfortable flights I ever had. FOI DISCO, COD1 HELD COURT, COD2 and LOI TO A DEGREE
  24. 8:06 this morning and the same issues with 22 ac as so many others. I could see how the clue worked but having NHO the term, successive, and increasingly desperate, alphabetic trawls failed to come up with anything that made sense to me, except, eventually, the answer.
    Also just corrected in time the spelling of 1 ac “De Havilland” and the tense of 2 d “held court” before entry, so scrappy performance all round.
    COD 6d “Desperate Dan” who I recall always looked like he shaved with a blowtorch.
    Thanks to Jack for the blog and to Tracey for almost all of the puzzle!
  25. … at the end to solve my last three – TO A DEGREE, FACADE and AGA SAGA (which was a pure guess, as I had NHO the term). This pushed my time out to 62 minutes in total, but I came here still quite pleased at having avoided a DNF today. However, my self-satisfaction was mis-placed and lasted only until I read plett11’s post, whereupon I realised I had made the same mistake – HOLD (instead of HELD) COURT. Mrs Random commented helpfully that I often get the tense wrong in two-word anagrams. So, based on the comments above, I appear to have solved all of the difficult clues, only to DNF on an easy one.

    N.B. Mrs R is currently catching up on last week’s QCs. We had other things on our plate last week and puzzling had to take a back seat, I’m afraid. I caught up over the weekend, and was pleased to finish all four of the Tues.-Fri. puzzles within a range of 28-33 minute. Last Monday’s Jalna, however, was a different story altogether – I gave up after 76 minutes with three clues unsolved and two correct-but-totally-random guesses.

    So much for Monday’s being a gentle start to the week!

    Many thanks to Tracy and Jack.

  26. After reading the Desperate Dan comments, it recalls an upmarket coffee house in the Lakes that has a Desperate Dan strip framed in the toilets.

    It has Dan going for a mild workout before his dinner of a massive cow pie (complete with tail sticking out of the pastry) which involved him using an industrial wrecking ball as a punch bag.

    Never fails to amuse me.

    1. And Dundee has life-size bronze statues of Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx in the centre of town.
  27. DNF – like a previous respondent I could not see FACADE, even after having guessed AGA SAGA, which is somewhat obscure for a Quick Cryptic I feel. The rest I found quite hard but entertaining.
  28. We had no problem with DE HAVILLAND and AGA SAGA but it took us ages to get FACADE (which is actually quite a clever clue). Olivia de Havilland’s sister was the actress Joan Fontaine — they were both Oscar winners and apparently best of sibling enemies! We finished in 14 minutes.


    Thanks Jackkt and Tracy.

  29. Although 22a didn’t spring to mind straightaway, it took a short alphabet trawl for the penny to drop – fortunately I started at A today! I’ve read a few AGAS SAGAS in my time – holiday reads mostly, but like many genres, they become quite predictable after a while.
    Overall I found this nicely challenging and finished in 11 minutes. I could see that 1a was an anagram but De Havilland took a while to make her entrance, so to speak. No problem with DISCO for nightclub – it’s when it’s clued as party that I get irritated! Having said that, I’ve been to plenty of parties where there was a mobile disco. Hmmm, I might have to rethink that one 😅
    FOI Disco
    LOI To a degree
    COD Crystal clear, but there were quite a few to choose from
    Thanks as ever to Tracy and Jack

    If it’s not Rotter, it’s Blighter – I do hope our setters aren’t casting too many aspersions!

  30. Olivia De H. probably best known for Gone with the Wind (she being the love of Ashley, whom Scarlett O’Hara swooned after. Anyway….)

    Got stuck in SE corner :
    DNK ‘mother’s ruin’ was GIN
    and never heard of AGA SAGA. That’s a thing?

    Otherwise worked steadily through.
    Very much liked 7D re. Tracy — perhaps a little nod to those of us nibbling at our pencils today in frustration?

  31. 18 minutes and got de Havilland late — expecting a Christian name ….. but well known if a tricky spelling…
    NHO Aga Saga…. Just managed to get it via google…. So technical DNF
    Great otherwise
    Thanks all
    John George
  32. I’m back! Finished closing submissions today. Knocked this off in court during my opponent’s reply, hiding my phone from the judge behind a stack of files.

    Astonished by the number of people who didn’t know AGA SAGA, one man’s GK etc etc. Can I count this as a red letter day for beating two out of the three speed kings? No, because that honour is reserved for sub-Ks. Grr.

    FOI DISCO, LOI VIEWED, COD AGA SAGA (sorry/not sorry) time 7:36 for a Pretty Damn Good Day.

    Thanks Tracy and Jack.


  33. I believe AGA SAGA came up in a Sunday puzzle a couple of years ago – otherwise I would have thought it to have emerged from an Indian vegetarian menu. I do like a Scotch Egg and Ginger Ale – but I would not call it a meal. COD to Olivia De Havilland who was born in …….Toyko!
  34. and can’t possibly comment on ‘lives and concerns of the English middle classes’! I did Resolve ‘Leg’ though didn’t remember why, and tried dozen and score before I reached Gross. Alphabet letters gave me Aha Haha, more likely spoken than read, l suppose. But I grant myself a *star for creative effort, at 35 min a GN7*.
  35. DNF in over an hour (partly due to nodding off in the middle after a tiring day) due to misspelling DE HAVILLAND (with an extra A instead of two Ls – like I said, I was tired) and because I was convinced 22a was some Latin term I hadn’t heard of. Annoyingly, I have vaguely heard of an AGA SAGA and DE HAVILLAND. Maybe I will remember both more vividly from now on. Thanks all.
  36. Left with A_A_A_A after 30 minutes. Well, that could be anything. I knew it wasn’t going to be ALABAMA, but was never going to get th3 actual answer.
  37. Scuppered by the ludicrous AGA SAGA

    De Havilland’s last big-screen film appearance was over 40 years ago too. I get that older solvers would be familiar with her since she’s an Oscar winner, but it feels a bit harsh in terms of general knowledge for a QC? Even if I did manage to guess it from the anagram, crossers and aircraft manufacturer.

    Edited at 2021-12-07 01:06 am (UTC)

  38. I really liked this puzzle. A lot of good clues. Its a real shame it had to be ruined by Aga Saga.

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