Times Quick Cryptic 2160 by Mara


Solving time: 11 minutes. Much of this was straightforward but I still managed to miss my target time by a minute. My QC solving times include parsing (unless otherwise stated) and I think it was the parsing at 14ac that was responsible for delay today, and actually the one I came up with whilst solving was not what I arrived at when writing the blog. I shall be interested to hear what others made of it.

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 Neighbour on vacation initially lying back beside a river (4)
A, then N{eighbour} + O{n} + V{acation} [initially] reversed [lying back]
4 Wet   fat (8)
Two meanings as in ‘dripping wet’ and the fat and other juices that drip whilst roasting meat and later solidify.
8 Fashionable suit, to a great extent (2,6)
IN (fashionable), SPADES (suit – cards). ‘Spades’ is the highest ranking suit in some card games (e.g. bridge) so having a hand ‘in spades’ will outrank an identical set of cards of another suite.
9 Revolutionary or reasonable man (4)
OR (reversed) [revolutionary], OK (reasonable). Chessman.
10 3 down, money earned catching cold (4)
PAY (money earned) containing [catching] C (cold). The cross-reference is to ‘nippy’ defined as ‘brisk’. We do not appreciate cross-referenced clues, especially in the Quick Cryptic.
11 Get near drunk imbibing English drink (5,3)
Anagram [drunk] of GET NEAR containing [imbibing] E (English)
12 Recognise the boil (6)
SEE (recognise), THE
14 Very good container, edge swapped around (6)
 POT (container), then TIP (edge) reversed  [swapped] = PIT. This gives us POT+PIT to be reversed [around] to make TIPTOP.  It all  seems very convoluted so if anyone can offer an alternative parsing or a neater way of explaining it they’d be welcome to try.
16 Old relative an escort, embarrassingly (8)
Anagram [embarrassingly] of AN ESCORT. I wasn’t sure about ’embarrassingly’ as an anagrind, but ’embarrass’ is in the Chambers list and it works in the sense of ‘disturb’.
18 Map left inside vessel (4)
L (left) contained by [inside] PAN (vessel)
19 Change in speed I thought (4)
Hidden [in] {spe}ED I T{hought}
20 Killer, idiot repeatedly elected (8)
ASS + ASS (idiot) [repeatedly], IN (elected)
22 Author, really gutted, leaves say? (8)
GREENE (author), R{eall}Y [gutted]. Graham Greene (1904-1991).
23 American  tug (4)
Two meanings
2 Ancient marker gripped by climber (7)
TAG (marker) contained [gripped] by VINE (climber)
3 Cold and brisk (5)
Two meanings
4 Failure, however you look at it? (3)
The cryptic hint tells us it will be a palindrome
5 Person who examines prices, not fixed (9)
Anagram [fixed] of PRICES NOT
6 Vegetable’s standard cut (7)
PAR (standard), SNIP (cut)
7 Who’s in empty room 12E (2,3)
NOON (12), E
11 Dog in tea garden, barking (5,4)
Anagram [barking – mad] of TEA GARDEN
13 Supporter distributed letters (7)
Anagram [distributed] of LETTERS
15 Nothing helping speech (7)
O (nothing), RATION (helping)
17 Drain ground, lowest point (5)
Anagram [ground] of DRAIN
18 Pie    lacking in colour (5)
Two meanings
21 Voice, for example (3)
Two meanings

85 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2160 by Mara”

  1. DNF
    I couldn’t make sense of 7d –spent a long time thinking ’empty room’ was RM–and finally came up with NO ONE, but still didn’t get the 12E bit. And I never got ROOK, so I finally threw in the towel. Jack it looks like you’ve extended the underline too far at 7d.

  2. 14:36. FOI : PARSNIP. LOI: VINTAGE. COD: DRIPPING. TIPTOP, AVON, and ROOK took extra thought to parse. It’s a relief to come back to a QC ( for me Sunday evening) after puzzling over the weekend menu!

  3. 6:43. Like Kevin, my difficulties lay almost entirely in the ROOK / NO ONE crossing. Very tricky, but I’m glad I persisted and eventually succeeded!

    1. I don’t know about easier, but it should have had one anyway as it’s framed as a question.

      1. I’m not sure it is necessarily framed as a question – it could be read as a definition maybe?

  4. DNF at 37 min plus. I find Mara quite difficult. First 6 min I didn’t even have one answer.

    Still find the double definitions the hardest. I got No One no problem though.
    Needed letters revealed for Avon (nho), Rook, Pacy, Plan. Four letter answers were my nemesis today.

    1. Educating Tina

      The Avon: This is the river on which Stratford-upon-Avon is to be found. Shakespeare’s ‘hood. Which is why he is dubbed ‘The Bard of Avon’.

      1. Thanks Meldrew, I’m learning there are a ton of rivers in England/Europe and I really need to write down a list of them!

        1. They are already written down in lists on Wikipedia etc.
          Study a map of Britain, after all this is a British crossword puzzle.

          1. I did an Australian cryptic last week from the paper it was so much easier for me!

            To be fair to the Times crossword I don’t know names of Australian rivers either.

            1. You’re not going to try to memorize a whole list! But at least the following are worth knowing (I’m sure I’m forgetting some that show up often): Cam, Dee, Exe, Isis, Ouse, Severn, Trent, Wear.

              1. …. Arun, Wye, Tees, Tyne, Dee, Ure, Aire, Slea, Lea, Lune, Eden, Yare……… Beck!?

                  1. I think we’ve seen the Aire, the Ure and the Tees here although I could be mistaken and they were in the biggie. And not forgetting the Soar – my local river 😊 But I’m fairly sure that’s only appeared in the 15×15.

          2. Wikipedia says there are 10 rivers in the UK with Avon in their name, and I only discovered recently that my local one, that of The Bard, is not the one that flows under the Clifton Suspension Bridge (it flows into the Severn a bit further north at Tewkesbury).

        2. Too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing—I saw “neighbour on vacation”, that made me think “NR”, then “lying back beside a” and I was off to the races trying to work out how to fit ARNO in there, a Tuscan river I only know from crosswords.

          Because of that, AVON was one of my last in. Now, would anyone care to guess which river meanders past within two hundred metres of my solving sofa, and which I’ve lived next to for more than twenty years? D’oh.

    2. Apart from the Avon running through Stratford, there is one emerging into the English Channel at Christchurch and one into the Severn mear Bristol. And I believe it is the Welsh or Celtic word meaning “river”. DNF with six blanks including AVON and SEETHE, all perfectly fair clues when I see the blog. A bad day, though NO ONE came quickly. Thanks Mara and Jackkt

  5. 13.30

    Worst time in months. I found this a mixture of the easy and incomprehensible

    I did get the NOONE thing eventually followed by ROOK (quite good that) and I liked VINTAGE and SEETHE even though I didn’t see what was wanted there either

    My problems came from inserting PLOT for PLAN which seems a perfectly acceptable alternative, so much so it took a long time to twig it couldn’t be right. Finished with TIPTOP which did seem a bit convoluted to me too.

    Thanks Jackkt and Mara

  6. 21:50, outside target. Really struggled with 1a, AVON which seemed to have too many instructions. “On vacation” means first and last letters, which led to confusion. TIPTOP similarly over endowed with ways to solve. And is a TIP really an edge? The tip of a knife is the not the edge. Tried to make RIM work, much more edgy.

    Commiserate with people who put PLOT for PLAN.

    LOI VINTAGE, I had to come here to see the parsing. I tried NIB and PEN for marker, and IVY for climber.


    1. I don’t disagree with your thoughts about the TIP of a knife not being it’s EDGE.

      But is there something along the lines of reaching the tipping point, where you are at the edge of tumbling over?

      1. Indeed. One can’t just take a single context that perhaps doesn’t quite apply and dismiss a synonym. To be valid in crosswords it only needs to work in one instance and you have identified one obvious example.

  7. 15 minutes so about as fast as it gets for me.
    FOI: AVON followed by DRIPPING then all the downs from them other than 7dn.
    Finishing with ROOK and NO ONE.
    Took me a moment to see what was going on with 9ac and 7dn otherwise, I could have been faster.
    COD: NO ONE.

  8. Bottom half dropped in nicely but spent 10 minutes gnawing over 9A with all the usual alphabet trawls, checks and cross checks before finally banging in ROOM for a DNF. Thanks Jack. Annoyed with myself for missing ‘man = chess piece’. It gets me every time!
    Took me to 32.20 but as ever, a pleasant indulgence.
    Thanks Mara.

  9. Sub-27 to finish. The top half was bit of a struggle so when I glanced at clock at 4+ mins I’d barely done any. Then the SW bleeding eastwards went in and I was surprised to look again and see I was now only at 7+ Mins. It all seems to be slowing down these days.

    The NW was last major area to fall with VINTAGE opening it up. As I crossed into SCC territory, I was left with SEETHE (tried something to do with spots early on), ROOK (obvious but not obvious) and TIPTOP. Not a fan of words like the latter where it could be two 3-letter words or hyphenated and with the difficult clueing makes it even harder to see.


    1. The setter is trying to make it harder to see – that’s the idea behind a Quick Cryptic crossword!

      1. Thanks Tina – not doing too badly yourself recently!

        My Aussie river knowledge stretches to the Swan and Yarra 🙂

  10. A lot of this was very straightforward but it had a couple of stings in the tail – some of them self-inflicted.
    Like Merlin I looked at 1a and spent time going down the ‘on vacation’ route and was only put right when I got VINTAGE. I was also a plotter rather than a planner, which took some unravelling. I enjoyed NO ONE for the PDM but needed an alpha trawl for LOI ROOK.
    Crossed the line in 8.38 with COD to DRIPPING.
    Thanks to Jack

  11. C.30mins with a decent break. TIPTOP (still a bit tied in knots by the parsing) NO ONE, ROOK and INSPECTOR all dragged this out for me but it took a while to get started too having been successfully misdirected for some time by ‘on vacation’ to look for a river made up of NRLA … Larn? Narl?

    Quite tough but thanks Mara and Jackkt

  12. Avoided the SCC but not by much, at 18:30 – more than 3 minutes over target. This was a real challenge for me with difficulties all over the grid. My LOI was AVON, which I know well, but beaten by the ‘on vacation’ being used for something else. Not too much trouble with NO ONE and ROOK, but TIPTOP delayed me for a good while. At one point I was going to enter tiptoe for ‘edge around’ but it didn’t feel right. Thanks Mara and Jackkt.

  13. I found this surprisingly tough. I hardly dented the top half and just worked up from the bottom. Having then made some progress in the top half, many of the answers just dropped out but I wasn’t sure of ROOK and, having entered it, NO ONE was a biff rather than the product of confident parsing. My further delay was caused by entering PLOT for 18a (L in POT) instead of PLAN (very sneaky of you, Mara) which made ORATION impossible. It took time to sort this lot (and TIPTOP) out. All this tipped me into the SCC.
    A thoroughly unsatisfactory start to the week for me but thanks to Mara for a sharp lesson and to jackkt for a crisp blog.

    P.s. I still find the wide line spacing and paragraph spacing a pain and I spend too much time scrolling up and down my iPad like a demented phone freak to read the blog and comments from others. Is it really not possible to use narrow line spacing? The spacing of the blue lines in the links at the top right of the page is better although even these lines are separated from their headings by a wide gulf. It would be a big improvement, I think. Does it not annoy anyone else?

    1. Personally I like the wider spacing. Have you tried zooming out a bit to fit more onto your screen?

      1. Thanks. I altered the Zoom setting (and text size) when I first had a moan about the layout. It helps a little but I still find the layout very wasteful of space (and the changes are in conflict with my Safari settings for other websites). One of the best things about the old Live Journal layout was the ability to move up and down through other blogger’s comments easily. I must admit that the present layout discourages me from doing this nearly as often. I don’t seem to enjoy the same day to day relationship with fellow bloggers. How many ‘flicks’ up or down the screen does it take now to get through the blog, never mind up or down the list of comments when the number gets above a handful (missing some along the way!)?
        The previous layout used more of the available screen width, too, given a smaller font size. I have a couple of screenshots of comments from the previous blog early in 2022 and I found it much more user-friendly (not that the move away from the previous owners was other than a very good thing!) John M.

        1. Some tweaks to the layout are under test at the moment. See here. Many have commented they like the extra readability so I’m reluctant to make big changes that mangle the theme design the site is based on and, personally, I found the old sight too cluttered and not that easy to read. What device are you using? The design is adaptive for different screen widths and actually uses more of the width on a desktop device. If we have any CSS gurus here who would like to help me enhance the site design, let me know!

          1. Thanks for your detailed response, John. I routinely use an iPad (8th generation).
            Perhaps I should see how it performs on my laptop (macbook).
            I am sure it is not easy to deal with all the different devices and software changes so thanks for your efforts. If everybody else is happy with the format, I will put a sock in it! John M.

            1. I test by varying the browser window width on my desktop, but I also have a cheapo android tablet. In Chrome there is an option in the menu to use “Desktop site”, which I prefer – i.e. it gives me the “sidebar” at the side rather than the bottom and the proper menu at the top rather than a button. It also uses a smaller font. Does Safari support that? BTW I also use “portrait” rather than “landscape” orientation, which I find better for scrolling. Do give the test site a try and let me know how you get on.

  14. Felt like wading through treacle at times. Got properly gummed up in the NW where I fell into the “on vacation” trap and took forever to climb out of it. Thank goodness for some anagrams to get a foothold.

    Thanks for the blog, Jack , which I needed today – couldn’t parse either TIPTOP (still can’t) or NO ONE (“even” for E? Yikes!) – two Golden Raspberries from me!

    FOI INSPECTOR, LOI AVON, COD DRIPPING, time 10:21 for an OK Day.

    Thanks Mara.


    1. I agree Tiptop was a bit fiendish, but 7d is just surely just Noon + E = No one ?

      1. Yes, sorry, I didn’t make myself clear – I couldn’t parse it because I had never seen “even” for E and so I just couldn’t work out what the E was doing in the clue. Then when I read the blog at least I understood it, but I thought it was rubbish, hence the GR.

  15. TIPTOP

    I’m not hopeful of getting a response but I have posted this query in the Club forum:

    Is there a mistake in the clue to TIPTOP? I parsed it after a fashion for the blog at TfTT but it seems very convoluted for a QC clue. I wonder if the setter thought there was a simple reversal going on without realising it doesn’t work.

  16. I started off with ARNO at 1a, and even after PACY gave me NIPPY, took an age to see AVON. I was also held up at the end for ages by NO ONE and ROOK. Most of the puzzle was straightforward, but those few took me over my target. 10:17. Thanks Mara and Jack.

  17. VINTAGE is not equal to ancient in my book, so that took a while, once I had it, my LOI AVON was easy enough, because I could then ignore the instruction to “vacate” neighbour.

    Biffed NO ONE after getting my COD – ROOK.

    Seems I did OK as I was within target range.


  18. An excellent puzzle from Mara which I found hard to finish off.
    I assumed 9a was ROOK; I am getting used to the chessman device, but it still took me a while.
    After 12 minutes I returned to the problem NW. Thought 3d was RAPID; couldn’t parse it of course. A re-think got me there and LOI was SEETHE which took several alphabet trawls. About 19 minutes in the end.
    Did not parse NO ONE.
    I live near the river Beck and am waiting for its crossword debut.

  19. I found this very tough. Most of the clues I got stuck on others have commented on i.e. AVON, ROOK, TIPTOP (biffed) but the two that held me up the longest were NIPPY and my LOI IN SPADES. 14:04 for a poor Monday.

  20. Submitted in 4:12, but only realised after pressing the key that I hadn’t solved 7D. Of course, NO ONE was glaringly obvious at that point.

  21. As Jackkt says TIPTOP doesn’t quite parse although in finishing the crossword I somehow convinced myself it had. When ‘solving’ the clue I simply judged that TOP and TIP simply had to be reversed, but on checking later it didn’t of course work. There seems to be overuse of the direction swapped I would say.
    Like others I wondered what was going on with 7dn, but put NO ONE in as it fitted. I did go back to it however and finally twigged what was going on.
    I finished in the top left hand corner with NIPPY evading me for a while and my LOI was 10ac as a result.
    Fell across the line in 10.25 which on reflection now seems pretty good!

  22. Dabbled with Arno and Drenched for the top line, but fortunately my brain then woke up. A good job as well, because some of the clues lower down were on the fiendish side of tricky. Like Jackkt, I agonised over the parsing of 14ac, and drifted into the SCC as a result. That still feels like a good outcome for this particular Mara puzzle. CoD to 7d, No One 😃 Invariant

  23. DNF – failed to parse 22A
    Like others, I struggled with 9A and 14A and spent an age trying to parse 7D. I do not like cross-referenced clues either – 10A.
    Not my best day!

  24. Failed on ROOK, alas, but managed NO ONE after a lot of thought. Only saw 12 noon in retrospect.
    Otherwise once I got started I was OK. Liked IN SPADES, PASTY, PARSNIP, and SEETHE, among others. I too was thinking of rivers ending in A for 1a but nippily changed my mind.
    Thanks all, esp Jack. Some fellow bloggers have solving skills in spades.

  25. A 15 minute completion, but not enjoyed.

    I usually try to be complimentary and polite but I thought this a poor crossword with too many decidedly dodgy clues, most of which others have already commented on. My shoulders ache from all the shrugging and my eyebrows were raised so often they are probably still in orbit. Tiptop simply doesn’t work, the surface for No-one is clumsy (and needs a question mark to even half rescue it), I’m not convinced “in spades” really means “to a great extent”, and finally the cross-reference between 3D and 10A is poor (especially as the two clues intersect) – I am delighted Jack called this out in his blog and I fully support his remark.

    All of which no doubt sounds pretty grumpy, and taken individually I’d probably accept most of these clues as “slightly off” but no worse. I might even appreciate the clever misleading in “Neighbour on vacation” not meaning NR as it often would, as opposed to feeling it was underhand. But taken cumulatively this crossword annoyed me. Ah well, and on to tomorrow’s.

    The Saturday Special from John Interred, on the other hand, was sheer delight – I tried to comment on the solution post there but for some reason the webpage wouldn’t let me …

    Many thanks to Jack for the blog

      1. Exactly. If I ask “Is the food at that restaurant good?” and get the answer “In spades!” it does not mean “to a large extent” (ie that most of it is good most of the time), it means that it is beyond good, perhaps excellent or outstanding.

        1. The definition of ‘in spades’ in SOED is : colloq. to a considerable degree, extremely.

          It fits ‘to a great extent’ perfectly in my view.

          1. Guess it is hair-splitting but imo ‘to a great extent’ means a great deal but not all 🙂. But crossword answers are by nature ambiguous.

  26. Much the same experience and views as others. I didn’t get started until nearly halfway down the the across clues and mostly finished the lower half of the grid first. In fact, the whole process was a bit hit and miss so I was surprised to finish in 11 minutes. I think I maybe in a room on my own because I rather liked NO-ONE (although I would say it’s hyphenated, not two words).
    FOI Green tea LOI Nippy (yes, I solved Pacy first 🙄) COD Great Dane
    Thanks Mara and Jack

        1. That threw me when I saw the comment in the notification email! I wondered what on earth I’d done. Definitely better to read it in context 😂😂

  27. This was a real struggle for me, today. I had made very good progress to reach five clues to go inside 25 minutes, but that’s when I ground to a halt. Those five clues, all in the NW corner, were all interconnected, so I was faced with ____ (AVON), __N____, (VINTAGE), __P__ (NIPPY), ____ (PACY) and ___T_E (SEETHE). It took me more than 20 minutes to find the key (VINTAGE), which quickly unlocked the remaining clues. Total time = 51 minutes.

    Mrs Random got stuck in the same corner, but she took far less time to escape and finished, all correct, in 33 minutes. Neither of us liked TIPTOP, but mainly because we can’t think of any way that TIP or PIT could mean ‘edge’.

    Many thanks to Mara and Jack.

  28. I’m pleased as this is the first Mara puzzle that I’ve managed to finish – although I certainly didn’t sail through it.

    It took not one, not two, but three seperate visits to complete, with VINTAGE/SEETHE the LOI’s.

    ROOK/NOONE certainly took some time, but proved satisfying when solved.

    1. Good to see such determination, and if you are anything like me, the pleasure from cracking a tough one is much greater than racing through – but then I would say that 😉

  29. 5:15. A couple of tricky clues I thought. Hope to get back to my target times soon ie 5 mins. It seems to me that devices suitable to the main cryptic are being deployed more frequently. I think this is a good thing as it may encourage those that do not do the main crossword to give it a go.

  30. I don’t seem to have had the same problems as quite a few others on this site. I was all complete and parsed in 16 minutes – a relatively good time for me. Having said that, I glanced at the clue as I entered TIPTOP and thought it parsed, but now I see that it doesn’t really work. I am also not in favour of cross-referenced clues, especially when the answers intersect. Other than that no quibbles!

    LOI – 14 ac TIPTOP

    Thanks to Mara and Jack

  31. Late to it today with a change of routine. Top was bare for a long time. VINTAGE and ROOK really held me up – just coudn’t see that I had to separate ‘reasonable’ from ‘man’. All green in 17 after getting seven on the first pass of acrosses.

  32. Back after a holiday so glad to have finished.
    No problem with no one at all
    Doesn’t Avon mean river anyway like beck does?

  33. A depressingly slow start while waiting 15 minutes at the dentist. Only got started for certain with 12a and then worked through the SW and edged to the SE, and then the NE later waiting for my jaw to thaw. A DNF with 1a, 10a and 9a (forgot the chessman ruse). Did get in-spades although with a MER attached. . But once these missing answers came from this blog, then 2d and 3d fell easily. Not at all keen on Tiptop. A PDM for 7d No-one. Add me to those not like cross-referenced clues. Liked 22a greenery. I moved slowly with sudden bursts of speed which left me uncertain whether this was easy or really hard. The DNF settled that. Def needed the helpful blog today!

    1. Too many numbers! Crossword Bingo! Please use the actual words.
      If everyone did this, it would be a scroller’s nightmare!

  34. I quite liked this one with a reasonable time of 17 mins. I agree with others about TIPTOP. Apart from that I parsed the rest of my answers which is a bit novel for me.

  35. A quite speedy 10:14 for me. FOI DRIPPING. Echo the sentiments about the interdependent clues in the NW, leading to LOI PACY. COD NO-ONE: I thought the “12E” device was very clever.

  36. Still in the SCC but thoroughly enjoyable. I think some of the comments are a little harsh as I didn’t see anything ‘wrong’ with any of the clues. A good Monday workout.

  37. Late to this, but completed in 15 mins.

    DNK “Rook” = man, but the wordplay was fair. Main struggle was unravelling 1ac “Avon” of all things and then finishing 2dn “Vintage”.

    Contrary to the first comment I read, I quite liked 7dn “No One” and thought it was pretty good.

    FOI – 4dn “Dud”
    LOI – 2dn “Vintage”
    COD – 7dn “No One”

    Thanks as usual!

  38. Bottom half 7 mins. Top half 27. That was tough.
    Many years back a Cornishman told me that the River Avon meant ‘river river’. There are lots of them. Does Ouse mean similar? J

    1. FWIW … there are a few River Bournes – although they don’t make the QC.

      Living near Bournemouth, we have areas called Northbourne, Southbourne and Westbourne. But Eastbourne is 100 miles or so east in Sussex. There is also a Westbourne somewhere around the Chichester area.

      Apparently this is because Bourne is a derivation of the old word “burn” which means stream.

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