Times Quick Cryptic 2440 by Mara


Solving time: 9 minutes

I hope most will find this quite straightforward  as I don’t think it contains anything remotely obscure. Whilst solving I wondered if an ornithological theme was developing but in the end concluded that three types of bird and a roost do not a Nina make.

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.

7 Part of tree containing small branch for resting birds (5)
ROOT (part of tree) containing S (small)
8 Roc, this fantastic bird (7)
Anagram [fantastic] of ROC THIS
10 Large room containing aged bag (7)
HALL (large room) containing OLD (aged)
11 Commercial that is posh, so long (5)
AD (commercial), IE (that is), U (posh)
12 Faulty timers on a domestic appliance (5,4)
Anagram [faulty) of TIMERS ON A
14 Prompt letter, by the sound of it? (3)
Sounds like [by the sound of it] “Q” (letter)
15 Light   fish (3)
Two meanings
16 Rum or the small beer for partner (5,4)
Anagram [rum] of OR THE, then HALF (small beer – half a pint)
18 One who’s taught where light enters (5)
A definition and a cryptic hint referring to eyesight
20 Alcoholic drink: drunk earns it! (7)
Anagram [drunk] of EARNS IT. Greek disinfectant.
22 Star one rubbished in act of betrayal (7)
Anagram [rubbished] of STAR ONE
23 Pip lassoes head of troublesome horse (5)
SEED (pip) contains [lassoes] T{roublesome} [head of…]
1 Where players found the car trip so awful (9,3)
Anagram [awful] of THE CAR TRIP SO
2 Dog, really gutless, mine (8)
COLLIE (dog), R{eall}Y [gutless]
3 Volcano dormant, evidently has packed up! (4)
Hidden in [has packed] and reversed [up] in {dorm}ANT E{vidently}
4 Prison   more stylish? (6)
Two meanings
5 Riddle of ultimately mysterious coach (8)
{mysteriou}S [ultimately], TRAINER (coach). Riddle as in ‘sieve’.
6 Kid in Wellington is, first of all, a New Zealander (4)
K{id} + I{n} + W{ellington} + I{s} [first of all]
9 In which those in suits set up precarious scheme? (5,2,5)
13 Dark at night, spies carrying on with investigations in the end (8)
MOLES (spies) containing [carrying] ON, then {investigation}S [end]
14 Initially nothing found inside broken article — blow it! (8)
N{othing} [initially] contained by [found inside] anagram [broken] of ARTICLE
17 That lady’s son trained birds (6)
HER (that lady’s), then anagram [trained] of SON
19 Not very many heard — what a relief! (4)
Sounds like [heard] of “few” [not very many]
21 Piece of libretto, shocking drivel (4)
Hidden in [piece of] {libret}TO SH{ocking}

84 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2440 by Mara”

  1. A nice steady solve. If i hadn’t been held up for a couple of minutes on my LOI 14d i would have avoided the SCC (which is good for me). Never heard of riddle meaning sieve in 5d but the answer was clear from the wordplay.
    I think there is a small typo in the 5d explanation where you need coach (noun) = trainer (not train).
    Thank you jackkt and mara.

    1. A riddle/riddle is a large circular sieve-like wooden garden tool with a coarse metal mesh useful for separating stones or bulbs from soil. It’s both a noun and verb.

      1. Is the phrase that something “is riddled with holes” part of the etymology?

        1. Hi L. I would imagine so. As would “Riddled with worms”. English has a lot of cultural and linguistic influences. Quite surprised we are able to communicate with each other at all. Come to think of it …

  2. 16:13. MOONLESS and OTHER HALF took me a while to parse. I also lost time by first thinking gee instead of CUE and adios instead of ADIEU. RETSINA also makes an excellent paint thinner besides being a disinfectant. I drank some once by mistake and feared I would need my stomach pumped.

    1. Cue the very old joke about retsina:
      “Can retsina make you drunk?”
      “No, because you have to be already drunk to want to drink it”.

      To be fair, that joke is from 40-50 years ago when it really was vile. I’m told that some retsina is now really quite drinkable – if you are out of doors, in the sunshine, and in Greece.

      1. Actually I acquired a taste for Retsina when we lived in Greece. Some varieties better than others!

  3. I thought of STARLESS, but also thought of MOONLESS and waited; the M settled it, and once I typed it in I saw the wordplay. I wonder if anyone will come to the defense of retsina (I sure as hell won’t). 6:26.

      1. Traditionally the hemlock killed him, but industrial quantities of RETSINA wouldn’t have helped 🤣

    1. Yes absolutely – love it and will be drinking plenty of it next week in Crete.

      1. Me too, it’s refreshing and fun. Better than Domestos (Demestika).
        Took a while to parse MOONLESS.
        Oh, from the Philosopher’s song:
        Socrates will be sorely missed,
        A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed.

  4. 19.35 for a good start to the week. Slowly plodded through, helped by spotting the long anagrams without much trouble. Thanks Mara and Jackkt

  5. 9 and a bit minutes. No complaints here and everything came together steadily. I couldn’t agree more with curryowen and Kevin’s comments about RETSINA, except I would call it a paint stripper rather than just a paint thinner; definitely not my tipple. Favourite was HOUSE OF CARDS, which could perhaps be parsed as a double def – one literal, the other figurative – and a cryptic def but that’s probably over-complicating things.

    Thanks to Mara and Jack

      1. Not strong enough, surely? What’s the difference between ouzo and Pernod?
        The one that takes the roof of your mouth off in Crete is their raki which fortunately is given out free (in liberal quantity) at the end of every meal. It’s colourless, like vodka – anyone got a better definition for it? Definitely not tasteless, though – delicious.

        1. Quite agree about raki which is dispensed like water at the end of every meal in Crete. I fully intend to enjoy it to the full when I go to Crete in September.

  6. Yay! Third ever excursion outside the SCC. This time, my view is over the wonderful Aegean Sea, which maybe helped my solving faculties. I shall take one for the team by trying out the local RETSINA and shall report back on its paint-stripping quality.

    An enjoyable QCC for me. Thanks Mara and Jackkt.

    PS – Why does U=posh? Is it Upper Class or something?

    1. Yes U = upper class. It was a 1950s usage made famous by Nancy Mitford I think.

      1. But I believe Nancy Mitford would never have used the handy but non-U word ‘posh’.

    2. Upper class …. and only ever used by crossword setters these days. It appears frequently in the QC so worth remembering.

  7. A very satisfying start to the week coming in all green in 15:48. NHO of STRAINER as a puzzle, but it had to be, and like Snail above could not link ‘U’ with posh although, again, it had to be. I much enjoyed CLARINET, HOUSE OF CARDS and COLLIERY.
    Thank you Mara and Jackkt.

    1. A puzzle may be a teaser or a poser or a tickler, but not a strainer. You can see Steakcity’s clarification of ‘riddle’ in today’s second comment.

  8. I found this fairly straightforward with my main hold ups being self-inflicted – I was looking for a ‘precious scheme’ at 9d until I read the clue properly and a typo in OTHER HALF made LOI CLARINET tricky.
    Finished in 6.20
    Thanks to Jack

  9. 8’32” for an enjoyable grid – had to bounce around and it looked like a DNF might be looming but actually it fell into place rather steadily. Were there more anagrams than usual?

    Agree on Retsina – I think it’s one of those drinks that the locals all insist is the must-try traditional drink and then they all laugh as the visitors suffer horribly before they admit that none of the natives touch it as they KNOW it’s undrinkable.

    Thanks Mara and Jackkt

      1. Funny – My favourite Italian ristorante in Covent Garden always gives me a free ice cold Limoncello to finish off. It’s not a problem ‘cos I love it!!

  10. Rather than doing this straight after breakfast I experimented today, and tackled it after a long lunch with a relative featuring the definition, but not the answer, of 20ac. Result: 12.33, when I would usually hope for something in single figures for a puzzle like this without many obscurities. Looking back I can’t see what held me up, yet while doing it I had answers scattered everywhere but couldn’t get a flow going.

    As a member by marriage of the Greek diaspora I can testify that RETSINA is not commonly drunk, even by the most nostalgic, but I will not hear a word against the silky aniseed magnificence of ouzo. Some years ago my late Greek father-in-law Argyris and I were sitting in the sun on Easter Sunday ‘overseeing’ the lamb turning on the spit, tending to the charcoal etc. He cut a cucumber (agurri) directly from the vine in the garden and cut it up on a plate, then poured us each a glass of ouzo. The two together were sublime.

    1. I am off to Rhodes tomorrow for a week, are you suggesting I might struggle to find Retsina, I was interested in trying it. As for ouza, I don’t remember being overly enamoured by it, maybe I will ask for a cucumber as well this time!

      1. Hi Coco, I’m sure you’ll find it in Greece, I was referring to the great Greek diaspora in Oz where it doesn’t seem to be consumed much at all. I had a similar teenage experience to Templar (though not in Greece sadly), possibly we all have because it’s usually very cheap. With ouzo, you don’t drink it so much as let it slide gently down your throat. And given what I’m hearing about the heat in Greece right now, I can’t recommend ouzo on ice too highly. (It goes a beautiful cloudy white colour…)

        1. Thanks Lindsay, I will keep an eye out for it. I have recently found Chatruese as a sipping drink, which is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. Ouzo has some work to do!

  11. I got drunk on RETSINA aged about 15 on a school classics trip to Greece. Oh the horror.

    I enjoyed that though it felt quite anagram heavy. Never seen the “those in suits” trick before, very neat. Couldn’t parse MOONLESS, thanks Jack. COD to COLLIERY.

    All done in 06:20 for a wafer-thin sub-K but they all count!

    Many thanks Mara and Jack.


  12. A good Monday puzzle. I moved around the grid very quickly and thought I might be on for a quick finish but I was held up by needing pen and paper for ORCHESTRA PIT. I was slow to see COOLER and HOLDALL. I worked out STRAINER quickly but the riddle connection was a slow PDM. Still, I was under target by 10 seconds.
    I didn’t parse MOONLESS but enjoyed HOUSE OF CARDS and OTHER HALF.
    Thanks to both. John M.

  13. Baisically easy, but almost every clue needed some thought and i was probably up to average time. I loved the surfaces – some setters (one in particular) don’t take the trouble. Couldn’t parse STEED, in spite of seeing the head of Troublesome, ironically about the easiest clue. FOI OSTRICH, LOI and COD CLARINET. Thanks Mara and Jack.

  14. 20.48 … understood the clues and what they wanted, saw the misdirections. Just couldn’t bring the right word to mind in places e.g. collie=dog, cooler=prison and held up by trying to unravel orchestra-pit, ostrich, clarinet. Probably added 50% to my time but overall quite enjoyable. I just took STRAINER to be a brain strain type of riddle but now see the sieve version. Incidentally should be a MOONLESS night as it is new moon at 7:30pm here.

      1. Will be doing both along with Wordle, Worldle, Statele, Heardle, Connections, Framed, Plotwords, Numble, Plusword and the Cryptic Quintagram during the two-hour window to let food digest between eating breakfast and training.

        Obviously on Izetti days, I don’t have any time left to post; on quicker solves I’ve still got an hour or so to kill!!

  15. Lots to make me smile today. A few twists and turns. At 8A I thought a CHORIST would be a nice name for a bird and at 14D a CANTILER might have made a nice tool perhaps used in glassblowing. Ah well got there in the end.

    I cup of coffee.

    Thanks for a great puzzle Mara and Jack for the blog

    1. I was hedging towards a sighting of a CORTISH but it was scared off by a PRATMIGAN which I saw in a QC last December ! 🐦🦃

  16. Just under 12 mins is about as fast as I am ever likely to go, and all but RETSINA went in across on my first run down. The downs followed smoothly too. Nice smooth surfaces throughout, very enjoyable.

  17. 13 minutes and would have been quicker had I not paused to properly parse and enjoy the COD MOONLESS. Very nice example of the Setter’s art from Mara, and good, concise blogging from Jackkt – thanks both.

  18. 9:01 (Æthelwold rebels against his cousin, King Edward the Elder, with the help of the Danes of East Anglia)

    A steady solve. Enjoyed CLARINET (an instrument which I can play very badly). LOI was MOONLESS.


  19. Worryingly slow start but then things picked up and finshed in under 30 minutes and all parsed except for ETNA where I missed the hidden yet again.
    Bit of an anagramfest in places but well disguised and Mara had me trying to make an anagram out of ‘those in suits’ in 9d before I saw the clever meaning of suits.
    COD to 7a ROOST for the wordplay.
    Nice puzzle thanks Mara and Jack.

  20. A nicely constructed puzzle from Mara, which didn’t present too many difficulties and was cleaned up in two passes through the clues.

    TIME 3:19

  21. All green in an hour, so thank you, Mara, for an enjoyable puzzle (FOI OSTRICH, COD RETSINA – off to land of retsina on Wednesday – LOI COOLER), but several difficult to parse: NHO “rum” as anagram indicator (will learn), NHO riddle = STRAINER (but it had to be), failed to parse MOONLESS, and missed anagram of “article” (silly me, LOL). So thank you, Jackkt, for your blog. Only this: sieve doesn’t help to get any nearer to riddle (NHO), so thank you, Steakcity, for your explanation above.

  22. Still suffering with summer cold, so a bit thickheaded, but the puzzle was pretty straightforward except for LOI MOONLESS, which I biffed as I was under 4 mins. Saw the MOLES post-solve.

    Like most rough white wine, if you chill it to a degree or two above zero, and drink with food, retsina is fine in the warmth of a Greek evening. I’m not sure whether that’s damning it with faint praise.


  23. 18:56 officially but quite a few minutes quicker as I spent a while finding and watching my son’s flight from Dubai to Stansted on Flightradar24. A steady solve with some nice surfaces – and all parsed, which is a bonus. Thanks Mara and Jack.

  24. After 15 minutes I put in LOI MOONLESS with a resigned shrug; could not parse it at all.
    I then spent a further 5 minutes looking at it before coming here-so thanks Jack for the insight.
    I had GEE at 14a until it became impossible; should have gone further through the alphabet.
    Not an easy grid and not that easy a puzzle in my view; but a proper and enjoyable QC.

  25. From ETNA to STEED in 7:23 with MOONLESS causing a pause for parsing. PUPIL amd TREASON made ORCHESTRA a write in. Thanks Mara and Jack.

  26. I found this a very difficult solve. I thought the wordplay was more disguised than your average QC and that some of the definitions were more askance (e.g. ‘blow it!’ or ‘where the players are found’). Enjoyed it though, a very good lesson in lift and separate. And a timely reminder that I am very poor at anagrams.

  27. 5:32

    Pretty smooth except for a few moments at the end working the anagrist for 14d (doh!) and puzzling out LOI 13d which was my favourite clue. As for Greek follies with alcohol – don’t talk to me about Metaxa (Greek brandy-like liqueur) – lovely when that is sliding down the throat, but horrific the morning after…

    Thanks Mara and Jack

  28. Having just returned from a 4 day hike along part of Offa’s Dyke it was good to have a straightforward QC. I struggled with ORCHESTRA PIT as I was fixated on the wrong kind of players and my LOI was MOONLESS. 8:05

  29. 1024 Edward the Confessor starts work on Westminster Cathedral

    Very slow start, but like Vinyl, once ORCHESTRA PIT went in things moved quickly. I even had to resort to writing letters out on paper. Even “roc this” for OSTRICH didn’t jump out.

    Nothing much else to trouble here. Slow with COOLER as just about any ER word can be slang for jail.

  30. A pleasant and in the end fairly relaxed 9 minute solve for me, but it did not start that way and after failing on the first few acrosses I turned to the downs. Fortunately my FOI Orchestra Pit went in smoothly and the grid opened up from there. LOI House of cards where I wasn’t sure how the parsing worked and whether there was more to it than a straightforward cryptic meaning.

    I can think of a number of politicians who qualify as “those in suits” and given the morals of some of them, “house of cards” is at times not a bad description for the House of Commons.

    Many thanks Jack for the blog.

  31. Perfectly straightforward apart from my last three (8ac, 4dn and 9dn) on which I probably spent 5 minutes. This took me to 21 minutes, so over target. For some reason it took me an age to crack the OSTRICH anagram after which the other two fell in fairly short order.

    FOI – 7ac ROOST
    COD – 23ac STEED

    Thanks to Mara and Jackkt

  32. Many years I had lunch with s lady who told me she’d had dinner the previous night in a Greek taverna (in London) and ” she’d had a bottle of duff retsina “. I replied “How did you know ?”

  33. Just outside target at 10.24, as I couldn’t seem to build up any speed with this one for some reason. Having said that, there was nothing too tricky so I was just a little off form perhaps. I liked the reference to OTHER HALF as partner, or as many often say Better Half. My favourite description has to be Arthur Daley’s ‘er indoors’ however.

  34. Nice gentle start to the week. Enjoyed MOONLESS and HOUSE OF CARDS. LOI STEAM IRON. Wasn’t aware of the sieve meaning of riddle – thanks steak city – good to learn a new word. Thanks to Jack and Mara.

  35. An enjoyable QC, and a steady solve. Some v easy, eg KIWI, but a bit slow on LOsI CLARINET and STEED. Guessed the latter early on but, dimly, couldn’t parse at first.
    Liked HOUSE OF CARDS, HOLDALL, ADIEU, ORCHESTRA PIT, TREASON, among others. (Watching TV about Philby’s treason.)
    Thanks vm, Jack.

  36. A lot of comments for a Monday lunchtime. Anyway, 18 mins…but would have been quicker if I hadn’t had a mind blank on 4dn “Cooler”. At one point, I thought it might be “Roller”.

    Overall though, a fairly straight forward QC from Mara, with a lot of classic answers.

    FOI – 3dn “Etna”
    LOI – 4dn “Cooler”
    COD – 19dn “Phew” – which is what I said when I just snuck inside 20 mins again.

    Thanks as usual!

  37. Blew a really fast one today by not having my anagram hat on and then not being able to see what was going on with MOONLESS but all green in 7.26 is still very fast for me. Seven on the first pass of acrosses but none of the anagrams. The checkers from the downs help mightily on the second pass and the checkers from OSTRICH, STEAM IRON and RETSINA let me mop up all bar MOONLESS which needed some hard focus to fall.

  38. Gosh it’s only just after 12 and everyone is here already! Little to add. Very straightforward and enjoyable QC with lots to enjoy. Thanks jakkt for blog.

  39. A slow start, but things improved once the Orchestra Pit was in place and in the end a comfortable sub-20, as ever including parsings. Talking of which, Moonless (carying ‘on’) was going to be my CoD, but 16ac Other Half wins out because of the smoother surface. Invariant

  40. Tackled while still a bit woozy following some hospital outpatient treatment before being allowed to go home, so pleased to finish in an average time. Slim pickings on a first pass through the acrosses, but the downs went in quicker. I liked KIWI for the surface and HOUSE OF CARDS for “those in suits”. Thanks Mara and Jackkt. 5:17.

  41. 8:47, so a good start to the week. A nice, fairly straightforward puzzle, I thought, although a few seemed a bit trickier and took some unravelling – OTHER HALF, STEED, MOONLESS and CLARINET, all of which I liked after the PDM.
    FOI Roost LOI Phew COD Ostrich, although Steam Iron came a close second.
    Thanks Mara and Jack

  42. 3.25. I can’t write any quicker than that. Nearly caught the Busman, now that would be a red letter day. Onto the big one now.

  43. I yearn for straightforward. 10/24. Had the letters for some of the anagrams, but just couldn’t see the answers.

  44. 10m. LOI clarinet once the spelling of retsina sorted.
    Couldn’t parse moonless.
    COD retsina.

  45. 14.56 Slow today. None of the anagrams came easily and it took me a while to parse MOONLESS and ROOST. HOUSE OF CARDS was nice. Thanks to jackkt and Mara.

  46. All done & everything except MOONLESS parsed in 7:42, very fast for me, but then undone by a typo on STRAINER. Rats.

    Thanks to Mara & Jackkt.

  47. 15:01

    I thought this was going to be quicker but took a while to unscramble ORCHESTRA PIT and LOI COLLIERY. Still, 5 minutes under target suggests this was on the easier side.

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