Times Quick Cryptic 2146 by Joker – a bit wonky


Some tough clues at 1ac, 5dn and LOI  16ac held me up and I ended up taking 12 minutes. I suspect that newer solvers may struggle – but I hope to be proved wrong.

Quite a few clues seemed to go out of their way to use unlikely or less common definitions which may sit better in a 15×15. Still, this was doable and I enjoyed the challenge. Also there is a great finish with COD at 21dn. Thanks Joker.

With thanks to comments below – this is Joker’s two hundredth puzzle – look at the first letter of each of the across answers. Nice one Joker!

Definitions are underlined in bold italics.

1 Wave after couple’s decisive match (10)
TIEBREAKER – wave (BREAKER) after couple (TIE). I didn’t see the ‘tie together’ meaning for a long time, being focussed on a couple/pair.
8 Everything inside we had closed off (6)
WALLED – everything (ALL) inside we had (WE’D).
9 Decorated old Royal Navy mate losing millions (6)
ORNATE – old (O), Royal Navy (RN), m(ATE) losing m for millions.
10 Intensity of feeling is hard to take in (4)
HEAT – hard (H), take in (EAT).
11 Illegal tunnel regularly very poor (8)
UNLAWFUL – t(U)n(N)e(L), very poor (AWFUL).
12 Fine new missile (6)
NARROW – new (N), missile (ARROW).
14 Physical ruin of reservoir wall with time (6)
DAMAGE – reservoir (DAM), time (AGE).
16 On the verge of critical attack ousting the British (8)
ROADSIDE – critical attack b(ROADSIDE) omitting B for British. I see broadside as a big/coordinated attack which, I suppose, could be described as critical.
18 Relaxation from brainteasers (4)
EASE – from the letters in braint(EASE)rs.
20 Cruel tyrant kills editor on return (6)
DESPOT – kills – tops, editor – ed – all backwards (DE SPOT).
21 Note the right tie (6)
TETHER – note (TE), the (THE), right (R). With thanks to John – the answer is also included in the clue – no(TE THE R)ight.
22 From now on fetch heron for cooking (10)
HENCEFORTH – anagram (for cooking) of FETCH HERON.
2 Picture India game being thrown (5)
IMAGE – India (I), anagram (being thrown) of GAME.
3 Let’s rob abandoned pad (7)
BOLSTER – anagram (abandoned) of LETS ROB.
4 Author Blyton? Not one to finish (3)
END – (EN)i(D).
5 Learning rising political policy maker on left has advantage (9)
KNOWLEDGE -rising (upwards) of political policy maker (WONK) on left (L), advantage (EDGE). I didn’t know wonk was a thing – or, rather, a person. It’s someone who takes an enthusiastic or excessive interest in the specialized details of a particular subject or field, especially political policy. A cryptic crossword is, by definition, one where you can get the answer even if you don’t know it. It means new terms come up which I attempt, often unsuccessfully, to remember. Wonk seems memorable – as was ‘peregrination’ which I still retain from a 15×15 a long time ago.
6 Restore Magritte perhaps beginning to wear (5)
RENEW – take the first name of (RENE) Magritte (an artist) and add (W)ear.
7 Like a piano given by singers including heartless tenor (6)
STRUNG – ‘given by singers’ gives (SUNG) – I suppose ‘given by talkers’ would have been ‘said’ – including (T)eno(R).
11 Purely oral nutrient, strangely including whiskey (9)
UNWRITTEN – anagram (strangely) of NUTRIENT including whiskey(W).
13 Admitted Authorised Version had debts to others (6)
AVOWED – as in ‘his avowed intent’. Authorised version (AV), had debts to others (OWED).
15 Maazel’s stardom regularly revealed a great conductor (7)
MAESTRO – (M)a(A)z(E)l(S) s(T)a(R)d(O)m.
17 Profundity of department head’s introduction (5)
DEPTH – department (DEPT), (H)ead.
19 Caught a whiff of fish (5)
SMELT – double definition. Get the aroma for the first, for the second think salmon.
21 What’s towards end of shoe? (3)
TOE – COD for this clever last clue. It’s an &lit. A (TOE) is at the end of a shoe. What is towards (TO) end of shoe is (E).


64 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2146 by Joker – a bit wonky”

  1. 14:49. Enjoyed TETHER and DESPOT but COD to ROADSIDE. I had the most trouble with STRUNG and it was LOI. I think broadside originally meant a barrage of shots from a ship’s cannons but now is used metaphorically to mean strong criticism,e.g. the newspaper critic launched a blistering broadside against the play on opening night. Thanks for useful explanations!

  2. 😭

    I will comment further once the intensity of my feelings have been taken in


  3. I biffed 5d and 11d, parsing post-submission. I remember ‘wonk’–specifically, ‘policy wonk’–from the Clinton administration. Today’s 15×15 is worth having a shot at. 5:05.

  4. This morning I stood waiting by the ROADSIDE for 14 minutes.

    FOI 3dn BLOTTER which quickly became BOLSTER!
    LOI 10ac HEAT – Miami?
    WOD 8ac WALLED – to go with garden

    Over to you TINA……

  5. 11 minutes, so I was just a little too slow to achieve my target 10.

    I missed the full parsing of TOE and the KNOW in KNOWLDGE went unexplained until after I had stopped the clock. I knew a WONK as someone similar to a ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ but don’t recall coming across it with specific reference to political policy.

  6. I didn’t have any issues and finished in 21.20 with COD BROADSIDE. For the life of me I could not parse KNOW/WONK but I suppose I have learnt something new which is always a good thing, although in this case I shall not burden my already struggling memory.
    Thanks Joker and Chris

  7. 15 minutes which is about as fast as It gets for me, maybe my quickest finish.
    FOI: TIEBREAKER then it all flowed nicely to my LOI and, COD after the penny dropped: ROADSIDE.

    KNOWLEDGE, Didn’t know the WONK bit but the rest was clear.

  8. Tricky today. Only three on the first pass of acrosses with a sense that others weren’t dangling too far out of reach. Downs were tough too but the Ks and Ws as checking letters made life a little easier from then on. No problem with ‘wonk’ but I banged in KNOWLEDGE from learning and the K and the L for left from the clue. I do usually parse as I go but I couldn’t unravel that one and since the answer seemed to fit so well I pressed on. SMELT made me pause, it seemed to fit but was the fish ‘sild’ – went for it anyone to finish all green a shade under 14, which I reckon was pretty good.

  9. Broadsided by unlawful knowledge in tiebreaker. But for that would have been around the quarter rather than half an hour mark. Good mental workout. Many thanks

  10. 5:25, found this one hard going for some reason. UNWRITTEN and UNLAWFUL took an age to see, and I was also held up by STRUNG and ROADSIDE for a while, but all seemed obvious when they went in. Found this harder than the main cryptic, but maybe I was just warming up!

  11. At the harder end of the scale but no real problems. I had to zig-zag across the board using the checkers. COD to ROADSIDE

  12. DNF – gave up at 35-mins with HEAT and ROADSIDE unsolved. Everything else was completed in the 18-20min mark so a little disappointed to END so badly. Was less than half finished at 12+ mins so, from that respect, pleased with way second half came together.

    I don’t know how the big guns get these done in under 5-mins, I was still on my first readthrough of the clues at that stage. Have taken to do a quick first read and move on if nothing obvious occurs or BIFs. Making a mental note of where the anagrams are, as these should be later solvable or more apparent with checkers.

    Held up with BOLSTER as originally saw BORSTEL (took it out but put back in when TIEBREAKER fitted the B) and also LOBSTER a possible!

    I guess things are improving though and experience is counting for a lot. DESPOT I only got because I’ve seen it once or twice before. The build them clues like ORNATE, DAMAGE, DEPTH was obvious because of I’ve learned those components / abbreviations.

    NHO SMELT=fish, NARROW=fine, WONK

    1. As one of those ‘big guns’ I can only say that it’s quite simply down to experience. I’ve observed before that solving cryptic crosswords is rather akin to learning a foreign language – think of the clueing techniques in terms of the grammar. As time goes by, you’ll pick up extra vocabulary and a good deal of General Knowledge. In terms of learning that grammar, it can be helpful to regularly tackle other less weighty crosswords and parse the clues afterwards. It won’t happen overnight – I’ve been solving cryptics for over 60 years now, and I think I peaked about 25 years in !

      1. Thank you – that’s really encouraging to hear. I’ve been doing the QC regularly for around 4 years, and on and off for a couple of years before that. This took me 35 minutes today as I refused to give up with only ROADSIDE to go… So, in 20 years time I should be doing this in sub 5 mins 😆

        1. Yes you will and Phil and I look forward to reading in 20 years time about you encouraging the newcomers … it will be a joy. If anyone is struggling a bit or contemplating the ‘leap’ to the 15 x 15, I would say relax and just do it. I still, after 50 years, do not solve every clue, but does that stop me enjoying the process?

          1. I couldn’t agree more. Practice might not always make perfect, but it certainly helps an awful lot. I certainly recommend having a go at the biggie – nothing ventured, etc. It took me years before I started finishing them on a regular basis – and it’s still not every day by any means. But the process is usually a lot of fun.

      2. Thanks all for the replies and encouragement. Fully expecting it to improve over time. Definitely taken a step up during May.

  13. I enjoyed this and it seemed to take shape quicker than most recent QCs for me. I finished in 13 mins after a clockwise solve from the NW corner to the SW.
    Perhaps it was partly down to the grid format; I found that there were plenty of helpful crossers. All parsed despite some of the quirky definitions.
    Too many nice clues to list. Thanks to Joker and Chris. John M.

  14. 724 ( Charles Martel consolidates power)

    7:24 a PB for me according to my notes. FOI TIEBREAKER, after just reading an article about the French Open. LOI BOLSTER as not convinced about “abandoned” as an anagram indicator.


    1. Indeed it is, and is ‘thatjohn’ Joker aka Mr Grimshaw?

      We were given something special to mark #150 and I just spotted
      TW HNRD in the first column which is an approximation to TWO HUNDRED.
      Sorry if there’s more that I missed.

      Congrats to our setter on his milestone !

      1. Thanks to you spotting TW HNRD, I see that it is TWO HUNDREDTH if you zig zag down the first letters.

        1. Well spotted, both! I was, as usual, completely oblivious to the nina until I came here.

      2. No, this thatjohn does not have an aka – long time member of the SCC with occasional excursions into sub-15 and even fewer into the sub-10 minute clubs but tackled every QC since they began and always appreciated the blog and especially jacktt’s record keeping and measured comments. Keep up the good work!

  15. 12 minutes and wot Alf said above. Some very good clues here made for an entertaining solve with no real difficulties (other than the NHO WONK). FOI TIEBREAKER, LOI ROADSIDE, COD MAESTRO, WOD AVOWED. Thanks Joker and Chris.

  16. A slow solve in 14.30, with one error – Scent instead of Smelt, which works for half the clue, but my guess that Scent also had a fishy connection was wrong.

  17. After a quick start with 1a and most of it’s offshoots going straight in, this turned into a sluggish solve. I had to resort to writing out a couple of the anagrams and I was held up for an overly long time at the end by HEAT and ROADSIDE, the second of which gets COD for the PDM.
    No complaints as it was an entertaining way to spend 12.26 minutes of my morning.
    Thanks to Chris

  18. DNF x 2 after a long struggle. Put Blotter instead of BOLSTER which made WALLED impossible. Oh dear.
    Thanks all, esp Chrs. And happy 200th, Joker.

  19. Must have been on the wavelength. TIEBREAKER straight in then a steady run to the ROADSIDE in 5:37. Thanks Joker and Chris.

  20. My target is 30+ minutes, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was done in 20.

  21. Enjoyable but difficult offering. Took me well past my target 20 mins.
    Like others NHO WONK and struggled to get 16A
    Thanks to Joker for reminding me of one of my favourite Paul Simon songs… the beautiful ‘Rene and Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war’.
    Thanks also to Chris.

  22. I don’t find Joker the easiest of setters, so I was pleased to start with 1ac as a write-in, with good progress thereafter. Narrow for fine has caught me out before, likewise ‘on the verge’ rang a few bells, so both of those went in without too much difficulty. Finished at the 19min mark, but a nagging doubt over 10ac Beat (is/be, but where was hard?) prompted a final alphabet trawl for a more satisfactory Heat, albeit with a nudge into the SCC. Invariant

  23. A similar solve to yesterday for me as for the second day running I found the top half went in very smoothly and the bottom half needed a bit more thought. 16A Roadside was my LOI, as I took time to connect Broadside with Critical attack, but otherwise some nice clues and all finished in 9 minutes which, judging from the comments above, means I found it less of a challenge than some compared to “par”.

    Many thanks to Chris for the blog

  24. 23 mins…

    Main hold ups were 16ac “Roadside” and 19dn “Smelt” (where I nearly put Scent). Ended up biffing 5dn “Knowledge”.

    FOI – 1ac “Tiebreaker”
    LOI – 19dn “Smelt”
    COD – 11dn “Unwritten”

    Thanks as usual!

  25. I actually did this puzzle at half past midnight, before the blog was available. I found no difficulty with it, though I didn’t spot the hint at Joker’s bicentenary – many thanks for all those excellent puzzles John !

    When I submitted, it told me I was third of eight on the leader board – which makes my time quite apposite !

    COD TETHER (really clever !)
    TIME 3:08

  26. DNF
    I failed on a couple. Not a disaster.
    Just a query to do with the parsing of 21 Across:
    “21 Note the right tie (6)
    TETHER – note (TE), the (THE), right (R).”

    I thought that the musical notes were :
    “Do Ray Me Fa So La Ti Do”
    This was the case for all the references which I found. Can anyone advise on this ?
    So is it “Te” or is it “Ti” ?

    1. I’ve given up on the spelling of these as they seem to vary almost at random. ‘Te’ has certainly come up before.

      1. Thanks for that.

        I am not quite sure what a major scale or a lower scale is but I will have to do a bit more
        research into music. I vaguely remember something called a tonic scale from my schooldays.

  27. Struggled a little, especially with ROADSIDE. I’d included the “of” in the definition I was looking for.

    V clever marking of number 200, so “hat” to the setter!


  28. Not only the newer solvers! This (relatively) old timer also struggled today. At 16 minutes, it was more than twice yesterday’s time, and only a minute or two shorter than my time for today’s biggie. (I must admit that I got stuck on one clue there so it was a DNF but all the same…)
    Fun, but a strange mix of pretty straightforward and quite tricky clues. The only wonk I’m aware of is the policy one!
    FOI Image LOI and COD Roadside, although I did like BOLSTER and SMELT too.
    Amazing how the setters keep up such a high standard though – 200 quickies, and that’s not forgetting the daily concise, among many many others. Congrats and thanks to Joker 🍾😊
    Thanks also to Chris, and congrats to Jackkt and Sawbill for working out the nina!

  29. I got stuck on the exact same clues as our blogger Chris…i.e. TIEBREAKER, KNOWLEDGE and ROADSIDE (plus HEAT) but I needed 16 minutes in all to sort them out. Solving TIEBREAKER seemed key to a quick solve.

  30. 6.39

    Slightly better than normal-ish time for me. No real hold-ups though a bit sluggish at the very beginning. Persevered with 1ac and I was off.

    Many congrats on the 200 milestone

    Thanks all

  31. Flew through most of this and finished in a 9th best ever time of 11:50, although I must admit I didn’t pause to parse KNOWLEDGE. Perhaps having the warm up of yesterday’s 15×15 (a discontinuous 77 for that) stood me in good stead. LOI and probably COD was ROADSIDE. Thanks Chris and Joker.


  32. There seems to be a curious mix of seasoned solvers who found this a doddle, and others who struggled to achieve their ‘normal’ times. I found it generally a bit more testing than usual perhaps, and just got inside my 10 minutes target at 9.45.

  33. ROADSIDE very much LOI; solved during a coffee break at The British Museum. It was very busy; tourists are back along with the half-term crowds.
    Good puzzle.

    1. I once went to the Natural History Museum during half term. It was absolute hell and I promised myself I would never go to a major museum during a school holiday ever again.

  34. ROADSIDE very much LOI; solved during a coffee break at The British Museum. It was very busy; tourists are back along with the half-term crowds.
    Good puzzle.

  35. To my considerable surprise I found this very straightforward for most of the solve. I don’t particularly time myself, but was well under 20 mins with one clue left. That clue – 16ac – put me in my place and I finished, at a guess, around 30 mins. But, for a brief time, I experienced what it must be like to be a relatively fast solver.

  36. DNF

    All was going fine but came completely unstuck on 16ac. Couldn’t figure out the clue and had several words that fit the checkers, GOLDMINE, PONDLIFE and had to throw in the towel.

  37. Like a few others I got stuck on ROADSIDE , but plodded through the rest with some pauses for thought. A good challenge.

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