Times Quick Cryptic 2510 by Mara


Solving time:16 minutes with 21ac and 10dn as my last two in.


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 Degree matters for a failing student, at first (6,2,4)
Anagram [failing] of MATTERS FOR A, then S{tudent} [at first]
8 Medal pinned by king on general (4)
Hidden in [pinned by] {kin}G ON G{eneral}
9 Writing rules, leader in government wants stuff written two ways (7)
G{overnment} [leader], RAM + MAR  (stuff + stuff reversed) [written two ways]
11 I’m not sure about Hindu queen, posh element (7)
UM (I’m not sure) containing [about] RANI (Hindu queen) + U (posh)
12 Country: it’s secured by locks, briefly (5)
IT contained [secured] by HAI{r} (locks) [briefly]
14 Small room available, one secured (6)
I (one) contained [secured] by TO LET (available)
15 Energy encapsulating a brass band sound (6)
OOMPH (energy) containing [encapsulating] A. And here’s some jolly OOMPAH music to brighten your Monday morning!
18 Safety mechanism absent for group of players (5)
NO NET (safety mechanism absent)
20 Catastrophe if a rule broken (7)
Anagram [failure] of IF A RULE
21 Stop wrapping a hundred worthless items in order (7)
DIE (stop) containing [wrapping] C (a hundred) + TAT (worthless items)
23 One somehow sealing off very hot chamber (4)
Anagram [somehow] of ONE containing [sealing off] V (very)
24 Metallic objects, brass tacks (4,3,5)
Two meanings, one literal, the other figurative slang for ‘the real business/ actual details’
2 Worship commercial address (9)
AD (commercial), ORATION (address)
3 Label policy, making funny phrase (3,4)
TAG (label), LINE (policy)
4 Government I am supporting say in outskirts of Rome (6)
EG ((say) + I’M (I am)  contained by [in] R{om}E [outskirts]
5 Smart and expensive   beam (5)
Two meanings, style and light
6 Drink rather unpleasant, miffed originally (3)
R{ather} + U{npleasant} + M{iffed} [originally]
7 Correct moulds shattering (10)
Anagram [moulds] of SHATTERING
10 Cambridgeshire town pursuing teacher (10)
HUNTING (pursuing) + DON (teacher). I was thrown by thinking immediately of Hunstanton which isn’t in Cambridgeshire anyway, and after that I had a problem getting my brain back on track. It was only the arrival of the missing D-checker that resolved the matter.
13 Unwise putting lippy around actor’s bottom (9)
IMPUDENT (lippy) contains [around] {acto}R [bottom]. What on earth led Mara’s mind to this surface reading? Still, it raised a smile.
16 South American river, old river I love in which party turned up (7)
O (old),  R (river), then I + 0 (love) contains [in which]  CON (party) is reversed [turned up]. Fans of the Wombles might have Ninja Turtled this one.
17 Insult beyond the limit? (6)
OFF END (beyond the limit)
19 Crown, one buried in fictional plantation (5)
I (one) contained by [buried in] TARA (fictional plantation – home of Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’)
22 Firm on top of twin bed (3)
CO (firm), T{win} [top]

67 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2510 by Mara”

  1. 11:45. URANIUM and DICTATE were favourites.
    I also enjoyed OFF the END and NO NET. When I first saw the Hindi words for king and queen,Raj and Rani, years ago I was struck by how much they reminded me of Latin Rex and Regina and French Roi and Reine.

  2. 7.12. I thought this was a really nicely pitched puzzle from Mara, some were gimmes but others had the right amount of difficulty for a challenging but enjoyable QC solve. Thanks to jacckt for the blog, I hadn’t realised GONG was a hidden (thought first G was for (king) George) and never properly figured out IMPRUDENT, ORINOCO and DICTATE. I hesitated over HUNTINGTON because I thought it was in obsolete Huntingdonshire, which research reveals is still a shire except it kind of isn’t…Liked HAITI, MASTER OF ARTS and URANIUM.

  3. Felt like I made hard work of this, not helped by needing lots of checkers before getting the useful MASTER OF ARTS and HUNTINGDON.
    Started with GRAMMAR and finished with TOILET in 10.29 (in good company I see).
    Thanks to Jack

  4. Started slowly at night and then whizzed through to complete in the morning. Amazing what a few hours of sleep can do. A good range of clues, this was a bit tougher than the expected Monday offering but pretty fair. Thanks John for the illustrated competitor’s report of the competition. Sounds like a masochist’s marathon of endurance. 👏 to all those that participated and 🏅 to Verlaine.
    Thanks Mara and Jack

  5. My first solve Copenhagen. Panicked as we came to Osterport and bunged in decease for DICTATE. Should have done it on the flight for extra time but even so that was a tough clue for me. Not all green in 12.

  6. Dnf…

    34 mins to complete, but then found I had 21ac wrong. I put “Decease”, although I admittedly couldn’t parse it.

    Overall, I thought it was on the tricky side, even if clues like 1ac “Master of Arts” and 7dn “Straighten” took far longer than they should have.

    FOI – 6dn “Rum”
    LOI – 7dn “Straighten”
    COD – 11ac “Uranium”

    Thanks as usual!

  7. 12 minutes for me, finishing with very careful parsing of DICTATE where I had considered bunging in DECEASE and then DECLARE.
    All of which meant I spent much time on that clue and not much on the others, where several were in fact unparsed.
    A good QC.
    I’m now going to have a look at the “Stinker” from Saturday’s championships; in the main paper.

  8. I found this hard. Also struggled with Huntingdon and dictate but, after about 15 minutes, it was a dnf. I’d put in master of arMs – possibly because it fitted with the collection of letters and is a familiar term. The clue was crystal clear so no excuses.

  9. My heart sank after failing to get either 1a or 10d off the bat … FOI NUTS AND BOLTS then provided a foothold and I slogged my way up the grid, delayed mainly by convincing myself that 19d was a hidden word (indicated by “buried in”), and that because of the final A there must be a crown in some far-off civilisation called an ALPLA. Well it made sense at the time!

    Crossed the line in 10:01 to join the double figure gang today and notch up a Reasonable Day.

    Many thanks Mara and Jack.


    PS on edit – am I the only one who got to ORINOCO through the Wombles?

  10. Difficult, compounded by URANIAM.

    I can get the concise and the 15×15 correctly typed, but I have no end of typos here.


  11. I had major problems finishing this one with the same two clues as Jackkt stumping me for over four minutes. I didn’t help myself by making up an element called IRANIUM for 11ac, before correcting it thus allowing me to finally see HUNTINGDON. Even then I ended up with a DNF as I put in DECLARE for 21ac, even though I couldn’t of course parse it. Finished in 13.56 for a poor start to the week, so must improve.

  12. 13:18

    Bad day at the office for me and my worst time against Mara by more than three minutes – same issue as Jack in coming up with 10d and 21a – I had thought of DICTATE earlier but was thinking the second letter was an A – if I’d thought of DIE for ‘stop’ sooner, I might have been quicker. Should have thought of HUNTINGDON sooner too as my father is just down the road from there and has been in hospital there once or twice. Oh well.

    Thanks Mara and Jack

  13. 20:55 after a heavy weekend.
    Struggled with toilet, oompah, straighten, master of arts, and LOI flash.
    COD toilet or nonet.

  14. Thoroughly embraced by the SCC today, glad to finish a distinctly unMondayish QC. Uncrowded so far, but I suspect I may have to move from my Rees Mogg pose on the sofa soon.
    FOI 1A, and 2D, so I had high hopes but after a few more of the hangers went in I found things getting slower. LOI TOILET where I knew I knew what was going on but my brain was for some reason hiding it. Hmm. A few others like that including NUTS AND BOLTS which was so obvious that it evaded me for ages. OOMPAH went in with a groan, likewise IMPRUDENT. Good puzzle if tough for me.

  15. Found myself really struggling, can’t think why! Never noticed GONG was hidden, missed the fact that STRAIGHTEN is an anag, took for ever to see the blindingly obvious TOiLET. Had forgotten that HUNTINGDONshire isn’t quite=Cambs. Oh well onward and upward to the 15*15.

  16. Very few on first pass and those mostly in the bottom right. Left-hand side remained pretty well blank for what seemed a very long time. I eventually finished up with a time of 21 minutes which, although rather slow, was quite pleasing because I had feared it would take much longer. Not sure that I equate FAILURE with catastrophe at 20ac, so a MER at that. Never parsed DICTATE. Not sure in hindsight why this was tricky – I think I’ll have to blame wavelength (lack of) or Monday brain fog (plenty of).

    FOI – 15ac OOMPAH
    LOI – 24 ac NUTS AND BOLTS
    COD – 13dn IMPRUDENT

    Thanks to Mara and to Jack

  17. Glad other people found this hard too. FOI was HAITI and only got NONET and OVEN of the other acrosses on the first run through. Eventually finished in 32:32 after what was meant to be my last one in, MASTER OF ARTS, scuppered my ONE LINE for 3d (well if you can have a one liner, it made sense that the funny phrase was one line), which in turn meant my vaguely remembered Japanese General KOBE was clearly my brain inventing things. A good workout anyway to get half term started. Thanks Mara and Jack.

  18. 24:48
    As with others, I struggled with this, finding it very challenging. Missed my target time by nearly 5 mins.
    I was bogged down until I saw HUNTINGDON and MASTER OF ARTS (parsed) which gave me starters for all the clues I hadn’t solved.
    Biffed IMPRUDENT and STRAIGHTEN, the latter being the second clue I never spotted the anagram for (thanks Jack).
    FOI: 20ac FAILURE
    LOI: 5dn FLASH
    COD: 17dn OFFEND
    Thanks to Jack and Mara

  19. Missed the hidden, missed the ‘moulds’ anagrind, missed the double meaning of ‘locks’ and typed RUN instead of RUM none of which made this any easier.
    Looked up HAITI in desperation and finished after that.
    So a dnf but overall I enjoyed it especially clues like REGIME and there were a few good chuckles for a Monday
    Thanks Mara and Jack.

  20. Despite a good start, with 1ac almost a write-in, this turned out to be a difficult 24min struggle. Nothing unfair about Mara’s clues, just slowness on my part, especially around the Oompah/Imprudent crossing, and not knowing where Huntingdon was – Cambridgeshire wouldn’t have been my first guess. CoD to 17d, Offend, not the most challenging of clues, but it still brought a smile to this solver’s face. Invariant

  21. 16 minutes which considering my adventures over the weekend is pretty amazing. On Friday night I had a fall and smashed my face into the pavement, then spent 36 hours in hospital under observation, finally getting home yesterday afternoon. Lots of bruises and grazes, including to my ego, but luckily no further damage it seems – except for my spectacles. Nice puzzle, thanks Jackkt and Mara.

    1. Ouch! Poor you!
      Glad you’re home now with no further sequelae.
      Very impressed you even tried, let alone completed, the crossword.
      So, looks like no concussion, anyway.
      Hope the cuts and bruises heal soon (ime, egos take longer…)

    2. Much sympathy and many good wishes. They look innocuous, but I know several people who have been mauled by pavements – nasty things.

    3. Leicester City winning their sixth consecutive away match should have cheered you up at least! Hope you’re on the mend

    4. Sorry to read that Rotter. A nasty thing to happen. I hope you’re back on top form soon.

    5. Sorry to hear about your accident. Are you (and your doctors) sure about the cause of the fall? I just ask because I had an argument with a pavement once that turned out to be due to transient loss of consciousness. (Underlying cause now fixed.) Presumably that is why they kept you in for observation.

      Mrs L and I found the QC pretty tricky today, definitely more a Friday than a Monday affair.

  22. Only got a few at first go, but speeded up once 1a and 10d went in. Couldn’t parse a couple, but guesses were correct, thankfully. Definitely on the harder side.

  23. Found this tricky in places. FOI ADORATION, LOI STRAIGHTEN. Biffed URANIUM then belatedly recognised ‘rani’. OVEN and OFFEND took an embarrassingly long time. NHO Tara but TIARA had to be. A few write-ins (OOMPAH, ORINOCO, GRAMMAR, TOILET). Overall a pleasing mix of ease and challenge. Many thanks.

  24. Relatively few (eight, I think) solved after my first pass through the entire grid, but then managed to make decent progress in the top half. The bottom half of the grid proved altogether more challenging, however.

    NONET, TIARA, ORINOCO and URANIUM posed problems through my lack of GK, whereas DICTATE, OFFEND and STRAIGHTEN were just hard. My last two in, OOMPAH and IMPRUDENT took nine minutes to arrive at the end.

    Total time = 37 minutes, so I was quite happy and relieved with that.

    Many thanks to Mara and Jack.

  25. Quite difficult. Failed on DICTATE, as I too put Decease. LOI TOILET, also slow on STRAIGHTEN (failed to see anagram). Took a while to remember ORINOCO, and HUNTINGDON. Biffed IMPRUDENT, HAITI, GRAMMAR etc. Needed blog today, Jack. I took Lippy to mean lipstick! But did remember Tara.
    Interesting to read about the Great Competition!

  26. 12.20 MASTER OF ARTS went straight in but I was held up at the end by OOMPAH (I had brass bands playing tiddley-om-POM-POM stuck in my head) and STRAIGHTEN, where I didn’t spot it was an anagram until after I’d finished.

  27. Just over the hour but totally stuck on 21a. Like a few others I bunged ‘decease’ in. More in hope than judgement. I could only see ‘order’ as a verb.
    Is ‘failing’ often used as an anagram indicator? Its a new one on me. Very enjoyable.

    1. I can’t recall seeing ‘fail’ before but no-one can possibly remember all the anagrinds that have appeared over the years. You may be right that it’s a rare one though, or even its first appearance, as it’s not in the extensive list compiled by Chambers.

  28. Found this very difficult, several CNP (does that exist? = could not parse), and after a long time just had to give up on four. NHO ORINOCO; never seen stop = die but ok, I suppose so; dislike and never use the ugly word T**LET but have to concede it exists; winced at 13d, too; failed to see OFFEND; maybe the Nina is lavatorial, or at least lack of taste? Thank you, jackkt.

  29. Add me to those who found a slow start and then had DECEASE instead of DICTATE even though CNP it.

  30. “What on earth led Mara’s mind to this surface reading? Still, it raised a smile.”

    Made us smile too, Jack.
    Having come across Mara’s alter ego Paul in the Guardian crossword, I think we got away lightly with the clue for TOILET and I shudder to think what he could have done with MASTER OF ARTS if he’d really gone down the schoolboy humour route…
    Having said that, Mr SR and I like Mara/Paul a lot (which probably says something about us…).
    I’ve swum in the Orinoco, so, naturally – once we had ****O*O – blurted out “Limpopo”! Total face/palm moment.

    Enjoyed the puzzle, thanks Mara.
    Thought we didn’t need the blog today (although it’s always an enjoyable read) but it turned out we’d parsed GONG incorrectly, going for George ON General like a previous poster, so many thanks for that, Jack.

  31. A complete brain fog at the start of this one – after 10 minutes I had 4 clues (and not one of the anagrams). So I did something I very seldom do – put it aside, got on with the morning and came back to it after lunch.

    It seemed to work, with 8 more minutes seeing me home. Not sure why I was so slow first thing, though I note some slower than average times from others too. So maybe we mark this one as “tough”. But also I think “fair”, though I joined those struggling to think of Huntingdon as being in Cambridgeshire. Poor Huntingdonshire, gone but not forgotten.

    Many thanks to Jack for the blog.

  32. Difficult at the start but then things started to click. Spelt oompha wrong and couldn’t see straighten in the clue so a dnf as usual.

  33. Found this tricky and we were very slow to finish, all right except 21a where we had decease.

  34. I went round the houses a bit with this one, starting with a down and going off in various directions to finish in 11:35. Pretty enjoyable although I also nearly put in DECEASE at 21a and thought 13d was both impudent and IMPRUDENT – not overly keen on that one 😒 I did like NONET, FAILURE and NUTS AND BOLTS though.
    I had a look at the championship puzzle last night and couldn’t see a single entry point 😂 It was very late but I don’t hold any hope that today will be any better!
    FOI Regime LOI Dictate COD Gong
    Thanks Mara and Jack

  35. 9:46 (murder of King Edmund) but with one typo.

    Huntingdon, being local to me came easily to mind; Huntingdonshire is not totally forgotten, its name lives on in Huntingdonshire District Council.

    Orinoco is definitely a Womble first, part of the title of an Enya song second, and a river third.

    Thanks Mara and Jackt

  36. 24:04. I was slow on this one, having completely mislaid my anagram hat today. Particularly liked OFFEND, and definitely backed into ORINOCO via The Wombles!

    Thanks to Mara & Jackkt.

  37. DNF

    Annoying as I persevered with this one and finished in 27:50 only to discover my LOI was wrong. Faced with D_C_A_E meaning stop I plumped for DECLARE as in stop a cricket innings. Admittedly I didn’t parse the rest of the clue.

  38. A bit under 11 minutes. Nothing I found especially difficult but most clues needed some thought to parse properly and I couldn’t get a good run-on to finish it off more quickly.

    Just a thought, but I parsed FLASH as a triple def; the ODE, if not Collins and Chambers, gives some support for a separate ‘expensive’ sense.

    Thanks to Mara and Jack

  39. I suppose I should be happy with 32 mins, but I really felt like my brain was in a thick fog today. Avoided one of my horror shows but had zero momentum.

    Highlight of day was working out 21ac, but that took ages. I know I can do much better than this, but the little grey cells wouldn’t play ball.

    I was a bit surprised that so many of the more accomplished solvers found it tricky, although there were perhaps very few write ins today? I came here expecting to find comments suggesting it was of average difficulty. Always hard to tell.

    Did the Quintagram in less than 2 mins, so not all bad.

    Thanks for the blog.

    PS Thoroughly enjoyed John’s report on the Times Crossword Championship. Well done to everyone who took part. What I wouldn’t give for that level of ability!

  40. As one who came to crosswords in or around my eightieth year I have not passed comment for many months. However, I would like to pay tribute to those of you who enlighten me when I get stuck, especially with parsing after obvious biffs. The photos from Saturday showed a surprisingly all male presence as far as I could see and a reassuring age profile! Today I have conquered Mara’s challenge without resorting to aids. I am never concerned about my time – anything under 20 minutes suggests a very easy puzzle. I have great empathy with those who think of completion in any time a triumph. To them I would offer one piece of advice: don’t go through al the across clues before looking at the down; find a corner that opens up and build form there. Today the top was difficult, but I built from the bottom upwards – and surprised myself by finishing a puzzle of ideal difficulty.

  41. 27:59, one of my slower times for Mara’s puzzles but very enjoyable. FOI GONG, LOI OFFEND (which I should have got quicker) Normally OOMPAH and TOILET would be my contenders for COD, but my immature sense of humour makes IMPRUDENT the best I’ve seen in a very long time. How did Mara come up with it?

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