Times Quick Cryptic 2420 by Alex


Solving time: 19 minutes. This is only the second QC from Alex, the first having been on May Day. I was unable to get any rhythm or flow going during my solve and wasted a lot of time hopping around the grid in the process. ‘Deranged’ for ‘mad’ was my last one in; I’d thought of ‘demented’ right away and realised it was wrong but I had problems thinking past 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 Brief commander prior to treaty (7)
COM (commander), PACT (treaty)
5 Hit    woollen footwear item? (4)
Two meanings
7 Boy from Los Angeles meeting duke (3)
LA (Los Angeles), D  (duke)
8 Mad as called into action (8)
RANG (called) contained by [into] DEED (action)
10 Sail around Eastern passage (5)
Anagram [around] of SAIL, then E (Eastern)
11 Greed is a sin overwhelming all rogues initially (7)
A+ VICE (sin) containing [overwhelming] A{ll} + R{ogues} [initially]
13 Display old model (6)
EX (old), POSE (model)
15 Merciless wife gets worker working (6)
W (wife), ANT (worker), ON (working)
17 Donna dancing around graduate in desert (7)
Anagram [dancing] of DONNA containing [around] BA (graduate)
18 Region monitored for auditor (5)
Sounds like [for auditor] “tracked” (monitored)
20 Agent sat out to vegetate (8)
Anagram [out] of AGENT SAT
22 Parrots regularly seen in painting perhaps (3)
{p}A{r}R{o}T{s} [regularly seen]
23 Heads of Swiss company ably manufacturing fiddle (4)
S{wiss} + C{ompany} + A{bly} + M{anufacturing} [heads of…]
24 Head of parks longs for playing fields (7)
P{ark} [head of – again so soon!], ITCHES (longs)
1 Gather right before a line for security (10)
COLLATE (gather), R (right), A, L (line)
2 Styles sitters left out (5)
MODE{l}S (sitters) [left out]
3 Commercial prepared as directed (9)
AD (commercial), DRESSED (prepared)
4 Handle holding hot hazard (6)
TREAT (handle) containing [holding] H (hot)
5 Partly misunderstands star (3)
Hidden in [partly] {mi}SUN{derstands}
6 Company and former partner having one way to live together (7)
CO (company), EX (former partner), I (one), ST (way – street)
9 Gives back control by governments (10)
REIN (control), STATES (governments)
12 Dwelling place suitable to house craft people (9)
APT (suitable) containing [to house] ART (craft) + MEN (people)
14 Modifiable little picture, finally included (7)
PIC (little picture) with LAST (finally) included
16 Pitch tents in spots put up by politician (6)
ACNE (spots) reversed [put up], MP (politician)
19 Crush head of advance party (5)
A{dvance} [head], BASH (party)
21 Jewel gleams oddly (3)
G{l}E{a}M{s} [oddly]

60 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2420 by Alex”

  1. I had trouble with the anagrist for STAGNATE, and needed some checkers before I got it. 5:07.

  2. I did it in 6.21, my best from memory. Spent a while trying to anagram DONNA and BA into a name for a desert, not a verb, and at 8ac (DERANGED) I thought an anagram of AS CALLED was required for something meaning action. Not sure how TREAT = HANDLE. Thanks jackkt for pointing out that ACNE was in ENCAMP. Didn’t SPOT that…

      1. Ah yes, The Travelling Wilburys, Handle Me with Care…
        I guess so, but I still think it’s a bit of a stretch!

  3. 13:33. COLLATERAL gave me the most trouble as the word collate eluded me a long time. I had pliable in my brain first and only saw PLASTIC after I had the c at the end. Crush for ABASH and merciless for WANTON weren’t among my first thoughts for definitions. Mention of acne brought back uncomfortable teenage memories!

  4. 11 minutes. I’ll second what curryowen had to say about COLLATERAL, WANTON and ABASH which were the ones to give me most trouble. Like LindsayO, I was also fooled by the surface for 17a into initially looking for the name of a ‘desert’, so no speedy solve today. Still, no WANTON obscurities and an enjoyable QC.

    Thanks to Jack and Alex

    1. That would have suited me, I unaccountably read ‘woollen’ as ‘wooden’ and CLOG then fitted well enough.

  5. Greetings from the sunny Yorkshire Dales, although it’s been a very damp night.
    This was A Very Hard one for me to start the week with. I got APARTMENT and TRACT wrong so no time given, but I was well over half an hour. COLLATERAL slowed me up considerably as did the, in retrospect, straightforward THREAT. I very much enjoyed ABANDON and PITCHES.
    A tricky one, but a good work out for the diminishing grey matter.

  6. While wool was the norm for a SOCK once upon a time, man-made fibres proliferate these days. However, the question mark justifies its appearance in the clue.

    My quibble was the the use of “merciless” as a synonym for WANTON, though it didn’t hold me up.

    I actually found this to be on the trickier side, but managed to creep inside my target despite biffing “demented” at 8A, only realising my folly when I cracked THREAT.

    TIME 4:48

    1. “As flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods – they kill us for their sport”

  7. Tricky, especially LOIs REINSTATES and the PLASTIC / STAGNATE pair. I had PIC at the end of 14d, which lined up with SPY=agent for 20a.

    My 15×15 time was almost as fast.

    1. Mine too. Encouraged by your comment I gave it a go, and emerged with a 20 minute solve which is I think one of my fastest times on the 15×15. Several of the clues were very QCish.

    2. As I had the time I gave the 15×15 a go but I needed 30 minutes. There were two intersecting words that I didn’t know so had to rely on the wordplay alone. Perhaps not so easy for those with limited GK.

  8. Made good progress through most of this but got bogged down with a few at the end.
    Had a brain fade at 5d where I missed the hidden and then spent time trying to work out how to make ‘sol’ work. It turned out that getting SUN was the key to finishing as DERANGED, ADDRESSED and LOI THREAT following closely behind.
    Crossed the line in 9.11
    Thanks to Jack

  9. I’m not sure that early morning is the best time for me to try to solve a cryptic. I think perhaps I should have had another cup of tea first. I thought the QC was very accessible but I was a little slow to see COLLATERAL, THREAT and LOI ABASH. 8:33

  10. I found this tricky, and it took me 14 minutes. Not sure if that was unfamiliarity with the setter’s style, slowness on my part or some slightly questionable cluing (Wanton for merciless, Abash for crush – neither seem very close synonyms?). States for governments also held me up; state as a synonym for country, certainly, but it took time before “the State” = “the Authorities” = “the Government” came to me, and I still think it doesn’t really work very well in the plural.

    It’s very minor things like this, or the “Heads of” in consecutive clues as Jack points out, or using model/pose/sitter twice (13a, 2d), that show how difficult it is to set a top-notch puzzle – and by extension how good most of the setters are.

    Many thanks to Jack for the blog

  11. Massive Monday Morning Misadventure.

    15:07 gives me 3K for a Disastrous Day. Thank goodness there’s another one tomorrow!

    Many thanks Alex and Jack.


  12. 9.18

    I found this a bit on the tricky side. Maybe down to the newish setter? No complaints. Very solid puzzle I’d say though maybe no stand out clues.

    Thanks Alex and Jackkt

  13. I’m glad I am not alone in having a disastrous day. Like jackkt, I jumped all over the place (and biffed demented before seeing the light and finding that DERANGED was the key THREAT). I share quite a few of Cedric’s MERs, too.
    Another stupid (a bit desperate?) biff was Elastic for 14d which made the simple EXPOSE impossible until I realised that PLASTIC was the only parsable answer.
    Not a happy bunny to begin the week in the SCC. Perhaps it was the consequence of too much fine Claret last night…..
    Thanks to Alex for a different setting style which tested (and unbalanced) me and to jackkt for a good blog. John M.

  14. I completed the top half in about average time for a full solve, and, seeing Ulaca’s comment might try today’s biggie if I get time. Many potentiaal PDMs were spoilt because I thought the definition did not work; eg COMPACT is not the same as BRIEF. I cane here to see if merciless really was WANTON, and, finding it was, gave up. Crosswords would be too easy if definitions are never stretched, but, for this solver, there is a limit on how far and how many, especially in a QC. DERANGED was a super clue, however! Thanks, Alex and Jack

  15. A dash of jetlag may have pushed me into the club this morning at 22.30. Could not see Handle=TREAT. Thanks to those above. Did not finish with a sense of joy, more job done. Thanks Alex and Jackkt.

  16. Good example of why I don’t do the quick cryptic on the club site (my concise submissions are also riddled with typos). I “finished” with DERANGED, pressed submit, but I hadn’t filled out 18 across…

    I’d not been flowing before that – not used to Alex’s style I suppose. I liked DERANGED though.

    6:49 with an additional 3 seconds for TRACT.

  17. 4:20

    Bang on the wavelength this morning – most everything thought of went in – acrosses missed on the first pass (EXPOSE, TRACT, STAGNATE, PITCHES) were mopped up in the second round. Last few in were ABASH, ENCAMP and ADDRESSED.

    Thanks Alex and Jack

  18. I too had to jump around the grid but managed to finish in 12 minutes with LOI ADDRESSED.
    I agree some of the definitions were a stretch but a good QC challenge.

  19. 17 minutes and two over target, unsettled by the newish setter. ABASH was LOI, FOI SOCK and COD to ENCAMP and AVARICE. I saw REIN straight away, then took forever to think of STATES. No complaints from me – thanks Alex and Jackkt.

  20. A slow start to the week, but as every day is slow for me, that statement is somewhat meaningless. Another day in the SCC. Mrs Snail is asking awkward questions about why I spend so much time in the SCC lounge. She is merciless, and finds me wanting.

  21. What should have been a relatively average time for my solve turned into a slow one. I was still under target by about 30 seconds until I got to my LOI 4dn. This turned out to be impossible for me to solve having made the same mistake as Jackkt and put in DEMENTED for 8ac. Why I didn’t return to this to check the parsing I have no idea, it’s a pretty basic rule of solving isn’t it!
    Eventually after five wasted minutes I finally twigged what was wrong, and DERANGED went in followed by THREAT. A poor start to the week at 15.37.

    1. 👏👏👏👏👏

      (and no, it wasn’t easy, which makes your time all the more impressive – great PB)

  22. This one was not too bad at all. I was held up for a long time as I always thought Apartment was spelt with two Ps (APPARTMENT).

    Enjoyed this one.

  23. Back from a week in the sun (without Times or internet). Dilemma: looking forward to being “called into action” again, or slightly dreading the pressure? Not sure. Glad others found some puzzles here ‘cos I was surprised how almost laughably easy the short ones were (FOI SOCK, also LAD, ART, GEM), but then quickly got stuck, and failed (after an hour or more) on three (DERANGED, TRACT, THREAT) – nothing else to say.

  24. I was struggling a little bit. Definiite MER at WANTON=Merciless, and COM in COMPACT is not a recognised abbrev for Commander. CO is accepted for Commanding officer, but Wiktionary has
    com (plural coms)
    Abbreviation of committee.
    Synonyms: cmte, comm
    Abbreviation of communication.
    Synonym: comm
    Abbreviation of command.
    Synonym: cmd
    so Alex should have left off the ER in cmdr.

    1. Collins dictionary is one of the official references for The Times crosswords and is available free on line, so it’s better to go there than to Wiktionary.

      Collins has:
      in British English
      1. Commander
      2. committee
      3. Commodore

  25. Bit of a thinker but got there in the end.

    Two new things for me.

    “Treat” for handle. Says so in the dictionary I guess but can’t think when I’d use one for the other.

    “Auditor” as a homophone indicator – I like it now I know it, but totally stumped me, my only reveal I think.

      1. At the top of the comments (I was second, we wake up early in Oz) I raised the same query and with Jackkt’s help remembered The Travelling Wilburys – Handle Me with Care. Still a bit of a stretch but I think it’s there.

        1. I’m glad we’ve convinced you (sort of!) but I really don’t understand what the ‘bit of a stretch’ is.

          1. I suppose it must be Oz idiom, the definition is obviously loose but it means something like ‘OK, sure, maybe, I’m kind of convinced but you know…really?’ It’s how many people on this site react when they think definitions in the clue do not strictly accord with what they thought a word meant. I am one of them sadly.

  26. Not my day, off the wavelength. Had to jump around the grid. Needed help with some eg ADDRESSED, and to biff others eg TRACT, COMPACT, APARTMENT.
    Liked ABANDON when the penny dropped. LOI COLLATERAL also seemed obvious when finally solved.
    But thanks for much needed blog, Jack.

  27. Not the easiest start to the week. In fact, a bit of a disaster in the SE corner, where Pitches (!), Abash and Tract delayed me so much I had to run after the coach (aka a 30min solve). Once every couple of months or so for Alex is hardly frequent enough to get used to their style, so this could be a painful learning curve. . . I had Reinstates down as my CoD, but that was only because I failed to parse Deranged, which, having read Jackkt’s blog, of course now gets the prize. Invariant

  28. I thought I might be in for a fast time as the first few across clues went straight in and I had a good number of answers after my first pass. However mopping up the last remaining clues seemed to take an age especially the ADDRESSED/DERANGED crossing. Didn’t parse either DERANGED or REINSTATES as they were obvious from the crossers. Eventually finished in 16 minutes.

    FOI – 1ac COMPACT
    LOI – 8ac DERANGED
    COD – 16dn ENCAMP

    Thanks to Alex and to Jack

  29. Made it in a shade under 15 and all green too. Quickish at the outset, then slow then a mad rush to the finish. A bit of unpicking needed at the top after some casual reading of the clues before coming ending up with REINSTATES. Good one.

  30. 18.46 Quite sluggish today. ABASH for crush seemed like a stretch and, uncertain about that leading A, I took several minutes at the end to realise why TRACT was the answer to 18ac.

  31. Found it hard to finish this one. LOI DERANGED by quite a long way (so wanted it to be an anagram) and PDMs galore including REINSTATES, PITCHES and ABASH. Also wanted ABANDON to be an unknown desert… Found it hard to get into any sort of rhythm. May try the biggie. Many thanks all.

  32. Slow again today, as some others jumping around the grid. Lack of anagrams did not help as they tend to be our strong point.

  33. On the harder side, especially for a Monday, but a perfectly fair and enjoyable QC.

  34. Found this hard and ended with dnf as could not get DERANGED, ADDRESSED or TRACT. Should have seen the auditor guidance.
    Wasn’t keen on ABASH for crush or TREAT for handle.
    Thanks anyway.

    1. Another dismal Monday.

      I went to a funeral this morning and, to be honest, this QC was about as much fun.

      That isn’t meant as a criticism of the setter, save for a MER at STATES for governments, which I thought a bit of a stretch (I note another poster queried this). Rather, I just find myself unable to see some of the simplest clues, leading to frustration/irritation, and then lack of enjoyment.

      I still forget that ‘out’ in the clue means an anagram and I continue to have massive problems with ‘around’ – anagram, backwards, one word around another, circa – how do some of you see it so quickly? AISLE took ages today but was doubtless a write in for most. Got so frustrated that I also couldn’t see PITCHES for a long time.

      NHO ABASH and I still don’t get TRACT. Why does ‘for auditor’ indicate a homophone?

      I finished in a very poor 32 mins and feel very grumpy. ☹️

      I can’t work out whether I’ve reached my limit as a solver or whether I can progress further. After today I have a horrible feeling it’s the former.

      Thanks for the blog Jackkt, much appreciated as ever. Needed it today!

      PS Ignore my question about auditor. Just looked it up. Didn’t know it could mean a listener. Blame it on my comprehensive school education!

      PPS Message to Mr R and L-Plates: what is happening with AFC Bournemouth? Really poor treatment of a decent manager in my book!

      1. I was happy to scrape home in just under 30mins! It was slow but steady, tough to spot some of the defs. The NW was a particular struggle and crosswords are always harder without 1A and 1D filled in.

        Was surprised to hear AFCB had ditched Gary O’Neill for some Spanish guy I’ve never heard of. Not convinced he will be any better.

        I think GON(e) did a decent job this year but there were a couple of black marks against him. When he took over in August, they were awful having just lost 9-0 at Liverpool. He got them playing well and they shot up the table.

        Then the Qatar World Cup happened and they barely won a game in December / January and slipped back to relegation fodder. I really thought the American owner would have got rid of him then. He didn’t, the team picked up, had an amazing 1-0 win at Liverpool, beat Tottenham, almost beat Arsenal (2-0 up at 60mins and conceded a 97th min goal to lose 3-2) and made it to safety.

        Once safe though, they lost 6 of their last 7 games claiming only a win to relegate Leeds. So I’m split on how good a job GON could have done taking them forward. Of course, you balance that off against a potential revolving door of managers.

        Given the state of modern football and the money involved with the Premier League, I guess I’m not that surprised. As Jurgen Klopp said, a couple of months back – he’s aware that he’s probably only got his job because of what he’s achieved in recent years (i.e. Liverpool’s first title in 30yrs). I don’t think any manager can expect what you or I consider “decent treatment” these days.

        I think a savvy club will pick Gary O’Neill up and he’ll get another chance.

        1. On reflection, I was perhaps a bit harsh on myself yesterday. It looks like a number of quick solvers struggled. I think anything under 30 mins was decent. What still annoys me is that I can often work out the supposedly tricky ones but then stumble over the easier offerings.

          Interesting to get your take on AFCB. Many of the posts on the BBC website from fans suggested that GON had gone as far as he could and replacing him was the right thing to do. Only time will tell. I wonder if he will come into the reckoning for the Leeds U vacancy?

          Even if it was right to replace GON, the way it was done is shoddy and I think a lot of people who had Bournemouth as their ‘second’ team will desert them. I will still have my fingers crossed for them next year.

          1. It is a shoddy way to treat people … holding onto someone until a better option presents itself. If the owner didn’t think he was good enough at season’s end, should have made his move then. Not sure it would have been that much more palatable but…

            I think you’re right about AFCB as a ‘second’ team – they just went from being “lovable underdog” to “backed by rich billionaire” – and that doesn’t go down well with Brits (unless it’s their own team)! I keep an eye on football but I am not in thrall with it like I was through the 80s/90s.

            1. Good to see the chat about AFCB. I did the QC yesterday (37 minutes), but didn’t get the time to read the blog or post my comments). I think Gary O’Neil will have walked away with a tidy sum and good prospects, despite having been shown the door. I had wondered whether he would be there next season.

  35. 14 mins…

    Fairly late to this. Overall, I enjoyed it, with the only issue around the parsing of 8ac “Deranged”.

    FOI – 1ac “Conpact”
    LOI – 9dn “Reinstates”
    COD – 9dn “Reinstates”

    Thanks as usual!

  36. Gosh that was slow. 23:15, entering the unfamiliar portals of the SCC, and even that requiring two separate sessions, one of 15 min and one of 9 min, with a parochial church council meeting in between.

    LOI was COLLATERAL – annoyingly I could have biffed it quite early, but could not parse it, being stuck on lateral being the line, then the first part not making sense.


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