Times Quick Cryptic 2560 by Alex


A Happy New Year to all our readers!

I needed 14 minutes for this, but the final 4 of those were spent on my last one in at 22ac. This was a rare contribution from one of our newer setters, Alex, whose first puzzle appeared in May 2023 and has provided us with only 6 puzzles to date. How did you all get on?

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 Aftermath of second cleanse (8)
BACK (second), WASH (cleanse). I was nearly tempted to biff ‘backlash’ here, especially as I didn’t know ‘backwash’ in the figurative sense of repercussions, only as a backward current or movement of a receding wave.
5 Cat born in vault (4)
TOM (cat), B (born). I sniggered at the thought of cats in crypts before realising what was required.
8 Late interval when dancing with unknown instead (13)
Anagram [when dancing] of LATE INTERVAL, then Y (unknown)
10 Kisses following small errors (5)
S (small), LIPS (kisses). I’m not sure I have ever considered ‘lip’ as a verb before, but that’s what’s needed to make this work.
11 Select Ernie to carry reading desk (7)
Hidden in [to carry] {se}LECT ERN{ie}
12 Label popular Eastern stew (6)
TAG (label), IN (popular), E (Eastern)
13 Important man by Ulster’s borders (6)
U{lste}R [borders], GENT (man)
16 Isolated group is wretched clan embraced by First Lady (7)
Anagram [wretched] of CLAN contained [embraced] by EVE (first lady)
18 Dislike platform with missing front (5)
{p}ODIUM (platform) [with missing front]
20 Fire prisoner getting standard share (13)
CON (prisoner), FLAG (standard), RATION (share)
21 Sheep consume loudly (4)
Sounds like [loudly] “use” (consume).The homophone works for  ‘use’  pronounced as a verb.
22 Run properly, losing head of late (8)
R (run), {d}ECENTLY (properly) [losing head]. The checkers were not very helpful: _E_E_T_Y. I lost time thinking I was looking for a word meaning ‘run’ constructed from a word meaning ‘properly’ minus the letter ‘l’ as ‘head of late’.
1 Prohibits importing European seeds (5)
BANS (prohibits) containing [importing] E (European)
2 Incisive    piece from newspaper (7)
Two meanings
3 Atlas drawn roughly by learner with shortcomings revealed (5-3-3)
Anagram [roughly] of ATLAS DRAWN, then L (learner)
4 Fasten  leading commodity (6)
Two meanings
6 Poncey ex-oilman returned holding flower (5)
Hidden [holding] and reversed [returned] in{{ponc}EY EX-O{ilman}. The first word of the clue can mean ostentatious or pretentious, which is derogatory but not particularly offensive, unlike its more usual meaning.
7 Howl before individual finally thrust blade (7)
BAY (howl), ONE (individual), {thrus}T [finally]
9 Build in corner patio untidily (11)
Anagram [untidily] of CORNER PATIO
12 Syrup from maple perhaps covering a caramel’s edges (7)
TREE (maple perhaps) containing [covering] A + C{arame}L [edges]
14 Scrabble piece returned by first snob? (7)
TILE (Scrabble piece) reversed [returned], 1ST (first)
15 Strive to smuggle animal product for non-meat eater (6)
VIE (strive) containing [to smuggle] EGG (animal product)
17 Travelling ocean in boat (5)
Anagram [travelling] of OCEAN
19 Filthy masses welcoming king (5)
MANY (masses) containing [welcoming] K (king)

62 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2560 by Alex”

  1. Happy New Year everyone! Hope you’re pulling up well today. I got three hours sleep and a plan to paint the outside of my house in this glorious weather

    I DNF to start the year. After 20 min I wasn’t ever going to get RECENTLY

    I didn’t get the ‘flag’ portion of CONFLAGRATION either and I struggled a lot with the first half of BACKWASH. Are vegetarians still called ‘veggies’ these days?

    Happy to get the other long answers and I enjoyed all the short clues today with cats in vaults and travelling in oceans and welcoming kings into dirty hoardes

    Here’s to a wonderful 2024 to you all, thanks to everyone who sets the crosswords, blogs the answers and chats in the comments

    My wish for the year is that you all have both time and money to fulfil your hobbies 🙂

  2. 16:22. I didn’t know that meaning of BACKWASH or any meaning of TAGINE. Luckily I looked again at my first attempt, MANGY, and changed it to MANKY as K made more sense than G. My first guess CHEESE gave way to VEGGIE with the help of checkers. I echo Tina’s HNY wishes to all here-especially the “time and money”concept!

  3. Best wishes to all for 2024. Just had first swim of the year (a bit chilly TBH) and am now sitting under the shade of an olive tree doing a crossword with a glass of red, so the year is all good so far. 11.31 for me, some nice clues from Alex and an enjoyable way to kick off. I’m with Jackkt re ‘to lip’ = ‘to kiss’, I don’t think it works. The Crystals never sang And Then He Lipped Me and there is no better authority than that.

    1. Reluctantly I had to accept that ‘kiss / LIP’ is valid but it’s arcane and perhaps a bit much for a QC.

      1 verb trans. Touch with the lips, apply the lips to; poet. kiss; touch lightly, (of water) lap. E17.

      Shakespeare – Anthony & Cleopatra . A hand that kings Have lipp’d, and trembled kissing.

      Chambers’s Journal – Some little bay lipped by the Arctic current.

      1. I agree – personally I feel that obscure and /or outdated usages are inappropriate for a QC.

      2. Agree, lips = kisses arcane, although with emojis 💋💋= kisses!
        14m 50s today despite very little sleep (out ‘til 03.30). Last three, in order: RECENTLY, MANKY then ODIUM (which was only obvious to me with the M.

  4. Happy New Year. Not a good start to 2024 for me. After fair sprinting out of the blocks, and seeing the long ones straight away, I was doing really well until I was pulled up by EWES and STAPLED. I then cheated at my half hour cut off time to get those last two. So a DNF to start the year. ☹️
    However, Mrs ITTT and I have enjoyed a very pleasant festive season. I’ve yet to wish her a Happy New Year as I haven’t been able to speak to her since she retired early to bed last night – a vision in candlewick and curlers – complaining about how ‘fireworks should be banned unless it was firework night’ as she mounted the stairs.
    Here’s hoping that 2024 is good to all of you, and that I can reverse my declining performance at The Times QCs in the coming months.

  5. I did this soon after midnight, and applied my New Year resolution to it : “I will not try to rush the crossword, and will check EVERY time before submitting it.” In view of this, don’t expect to see me inside 4 minutes any more, and my target is now 6 minutes (which I achieved).

    MER at “lips = kisses”, but it didn’t deflect me from my purpose.

    TIME 5:32

  6. Tricky in places despite having my anagram hat firmly in place, giving me plenty of good footholds in the grid.
    Particularly struggled with BACKWASH, ENCLAVE, URGENT (where I wanted ‘ur’ to go at the end) and STAPLE. Also spent time wondering if ‘cryonet’ might be an obscure blade of some sort 🤦‍♂️.
    Started with ALTERNATIVELY and finished with STAPLE in 9.07 but forgot to go back to try and parse RECENTLY.
    Thanks to Jack and a happy and healthy 2024 to all.

  7. 5:15. I had a bit of a slow start getting only a handful of across answers on a first read through but the downs got me going. LOI STAPLE took a bit of head scratching. I good test to start the year. Thank-you Alex and Jackkt.

  8. Very happy to kick off 2024’s quickies with a sub 10 at 8’24” for what I found to be a quite tricky grid.

    Biffed BACKlASH until WARTS jumped out and got lucky with seeing RECENTLY – it’s the kind of clue that can easily leave me hanging.

    Thanks Alex for a really good puzzle and Jackkt for the, as ever, fine blog.

    Happy new year all.

  9. 17:51 (Britain changes from Julian to Gregorian calendar)

    Stuck for ages on my LOI STAPLE.

    Thanks Jack and Alex.
    Happy New Year everyone.

  10. I found this tough, and I don’t think it was entirely due to last night’s revelries. Both Veggie and Manky took time to emerge; neither are in my regular vocabulary and they seem rather “modern-speak” to this more senior solver – but then we comment unfavourably about archaisms (eg Lips for kiss, which I also had a MER at), so we cannot have it both ways, and it is nice to see a setter prepared to use words coined more recently!

    I was less sure about Urgent, which is not the same as important – any politician will tell you there are Urgent issues and Important issues, and the big challenge is to address the Important ones without being consumed by the need to satisfy the immediate demands of the Urgent ones. Climate change is the classic example: all politicians agree that addressing it is important but they all find reasons to put off what is necessary as (despite all the activists) the need for action is not yet deemed urgent.

    LOI was the seemingly simple Ewes – I did not get it on the first pass, then left it, then discovered it was still unfilled in when checking (a new year’s resolution to do this more diligently!). And it then took far longer than it should have while the penny very slowly dropped that “loudly” was a homonym indicator.

    All this led to a 17 minute solve, not my finest hour. The year will improve from here! Many thanks Jack for the blog and a Happy New Year to all

  11. I thought that was hard, with some slightly sideways definitions going on (lips for kisses, filthy for manky, leading for staple etc). LOI RECENTLY beat me all ends up, with my thought processes being exactly as Jack’s. So 2024 starts with a big fat 10:19 and a missed target.

    Oh well, tomorrow morning I’ll wake up having gone to bed at a more sensible hour after more moderate consumption!

    Happy New Year to all, and many thanks Alex and Jack.


  12. Happy new year everyone. I thought this was a good one to start the new year – thanks Alex and jackkt. Little quibble with ‘slips’ for the reason that jackkt gives but otherwise all good!

  13. Happy New Year everyone.

    DNF: I would say I made some SLIPS today but I never managed that one, well not in the error sense anyway!

    Don’t know why ODIUM took so long as it’s one of my go-to’s in Wordle.

    COD TREACLE – great imagery and I love maple syrup on my pancakes.

    Thanks Alex and Jack

  14. I seem to be first footing the SCC for this year, although the puzzle wasn’t particularly hard. I was somewhat distracted by the apparent ongoing rocket conflict outside, well beyond midnight, which made sleep unlikely and prompted me to open the QC to pass the time, so my concentration was far from focused. Alcohol may also have been involved. And watching TV. Did I mention the alcohol?
    1 completion however for the year, hopefully many more to come. Best wishes to setters, solvers, bloggers and contributors of all persuasions. All power to your pens, pencils and digital devices of all types.

  15. No problems today finishing in 10 minutes with STAPLE.
    One of those days when everything was clear including RECENTLY which I parsed carefully.
    Enjoyable puzzle.

  16. A Happy New Year to all from Looby Loo and me.
    In spite of a late night overindulging into the new year, I was doing OK on this tough puzzle with only one to get and about eight minutes elapsed. It took me almost three minutes to think of STAPLE after two alphabet trawls, the first being unsuccessful. I eventually crossed the line in 10.45 for a half way decent start to the year.

  17. This seemed hard as I was all round the grid but after about 6 minutes most was completed. The remainder had to be ground out finishing with the two ‘in plain sight’ clues in the NE which then allowed STAPLE to claim loi spot. In all a few seconds over 10 minutes. Thanks and Happy New Year to all.

  18. Thank you to those who kindly explained what a portcullis grid is. I now understand they can be frustrating. Wishing you all a very Happy New year

  19. Couldn’t see Backwash to start with, but then had a good run with the across clues. The downs seemed a little harder, but the plethora of crossers was a great help, and a sub-20 beckoned – just the last couple in the SE to get. . . Five minutes later (Recently !), I convinced myself that G(eorge) for king was either a bit of a stretch from Alex (but then he had form with kiss/lips) or another typo with ‘last’ missing, and entered Mangy for loi 19d. I shall of course argue my point with those sitting near me. Invariant

    Happy New Year, everyone.

  20. 18:04. This one took a minute longer than today’s 15×15, mainly due to STAPLE which, like AndyPandy and Chris, was my LOI after much blank staring. I didn’t really understand SLIPS and can now see why. BACKWASH for ‘Aftermath’ also seemed a bit odd; I’ve only come across “washup” in a similar sense before. I’d categorise MANKY as being close to an onomatopoeia.

    Thanks to Alex and Jack and happy New Year to all

  21. Happy new year to all.

    A 20 minute solve earns me a ticket for the SCC today but at least I finished it – not the case with some of last week’s. In retrospect it doesn’t seem too difficult but I made heavy weather of it with only a few across clues appearing on first read through. I did better with the downs but it was all rather slow (nothing to do with lack of sleep or over-consumption of alcohol of course). The two long anagrams were especially slow to come and it took a long time to see the reverse hidden at 6dn.

    FOI – 5ac TOMB
    LOI – 6dn OXEYE
    COD – 18ac ODIUM

    Thanks to Alex and Jack

  22. A nice start to the year! Thanks jack and Alex.

    Favourite word MANKY 🤣

    Happy New Year!

  23. DNF but enjoyed. Couldn’t solve STAPLE and had to look up Platform to get ODIUM which, I admit, helped me with MANKY.
    FOI BEANS. I biffed the long clues quickly so that was enjoyable too.
    Thanks vm, Jack, and Happy New Year to all.

  24. 8:46

    Same eyebrow raise as others over LIPS. Mostly jumping around the grid picking up the easier answers collecting checkers for the more brow-furrowing items. Held up by last three, ODIUM, MANKY and RECENTLY which took a minute or two to puzzle out. HNY to all setters, bloggers and commenters everywhere – hope this year is a good one for you.

    Thanks Alex and Jack

  25. A guid new year. Late to this having a lie in and chores. 10′ after a chewy start. Then all ok until LOI SLIPS, which I didn’t like, though maybe kiss=lap=lip like a wave on the beach?? Dunno, I’ll move on. Thanks Jackkt and setter.

  26. 13.41 Happy New Year! This was the opposite of biffable though RECENTLY went straight in from the checkers. SLIPS, EWES, TOMB and OXEYE held me up at the end. Thanks Jack and Alex.

  27. DNF for me because of 10a. I thought it to be a poor clue to be honest.

    Other than that I did enjoy this first QC of the year.

  28. Not a good start to a new year of crosswords unfortunately! DNF after 20 minutes or so (my cut off time) with RECENTLY and STAPLE unsolved. I find Alex quite tricky, maybe I still need to get used to his/her style. MANKY made me smile – I probably overuse it and had to try and define it for a young Brazilian the other day. I didn’t include filthy as part of it though 😅
    Thanks Alex and Jack, and a happy new year to you all 😊

  29. 11:44
    Difficult but that might just be the aftermath of too much champagne etc.
    LOI staple.
    COD ewes

  30. 18:46
    As a note, the New Year adds one second to my target time, which is now 20:24.

    Slow at the end with STAPLE and EWES. I don’t like “loudly” as a homophone indicator. EWES sounds like USE even when spoken very quietly.


  31. Happy New Year all from decidedly ex-sltrach. New name nothing to do with the Society and everything to do with an old family name 😁
    Biffed RECENTLY then struggled to unravel the parsing. Wasn’t sure about SLIPS but couldn’t think what else it could be. Biffed EWES, needing blog to see that loudly was a homophone indicator – who’d have thought? Favourite was MANKY, a word well-used in my household and wonderfully descriptive. A nice start to the year. Thanks Alex and Jack.

  32. Happy New Year to all! I decided to spend the evening socialising at home with a like-minded group of folkies on Zoom, thus avoiding the need for taxis or a designated driver. I thought a Scottish group would be a good place to start for Hogmanay, but they all went off to their beds at 10pm, so I then joined a group hosted from Mars Hill North Carolina, where they kindly had a toast at midnight GMT for the 3 or 4 Brits in the session. I finally retired at 3am and surfaced at 11am without a hangover despite the beer, wine, whisky and song! That still didn’t help me to polish this puzzle off in short order though. Quite a tricky one. BEANS went in easily enough, but by the time I’d solved POI, RECENTLY and LOI, ELITIST, the clock showed 14:15. Thanks Alex and Jack.

  33. 2023 was awful and, so far, 2024 is even worse.

    This was my usual festival of failure. DNF after 49 minutes of torture. Put MANGY for 19dn and DECENTLY for 22ac (which I found impenetrable and is a perfect example of my inability to read a clue in more than one way).

    I tried to be optimistic today, but here is where I am at less than one day into January:
    confidence – shattered
    self-esteem – non-existent
    pessimism about tomorrow – off the scale

    I would love to come here and share good news with you, but I can’t see it happening any time soon. I just can’t remember all the abbreviations and other tricks. I try desperately hard to commit them to memory but I’m simply not bright enough to achieve that. This is a game for great intellects and sadly I lack the mental capacity. Today was only moderate on the Snitch and I was no better than when I began solving without aids.

    I hope you have a better 2024 than mine thus far. ☹️☹️☹️

    Thanks for the blog.

    1. Hard luck Mr A, although at least you spent less time banging your head on the wall than I did today.

    2. I’ve finally got round to looking up Monday’s answers. I couldn’t fill in a single clue on my own!😔
      I have been known to fill in nearly all on an occasional Very Good Day.
      However….. having put the across answers in I managed to work out a few down clues without looking at the answers.
      I think it was difficult. Ah well…..Let’s hope for some more friendly crosswords in 2024.

  34. I enjoyed this puzzle a lot (ALTERNATIVELY, OX-EYE, CONFLAGRATION) but DNF due to TOMB. As a novice, I’m still very puzzled by the seemingly random use of any word at all to clue its starting letter, as “born” for B and “run” for R. (As a result, saw DECENTLY and RECENTLY but couldn’t parse and flipped a coin to decide which one to put in, and got lucky.)

    Any tips?

    1. Well, you do see b. as an abbreviation for Born in, say, biographical details, and r. for Runs in cricket scoring. So one just has to remember that sort of thing – am still struggling!

    2. Hi Steel City,

      You can find a list of common abbreviations on the internet. When I began, I printed this off and used it until I became sufficiently confident to solve without it.

      There are a significant number and, if my experience is anything to go by, you won’t complete solves regularly unless you have a degree of familiarity with them.

      Another tip is to write them down as you meet them in the QC, as the act of writing does help to make is stick.

      Sorry I can’t offer anything better, but I am still a solver of very limited ability!


  35. Not a good started to the new year. Despite a slow start, I made decent progress until I reached the four-to-go point after 25 minutes. Unfortunately, those four (ELITIST, VEGGIE, RECENTLY and STAPLE) occupied me for a further half an hour. Total time =55 minutes.

    I enjoyed ENCLAVE, but never fully parsed RECENTLY and have absolutely no idea why ‘leading’ was included in the clue for STAPLE. This clue single-handedly added 15 minutes to my time at the end and I think it works much better without the middle word.

    Mrs Random also had trouble with STAPLE, but her LOI was EWES and her time was 33 minutes. Comfortably faster than me, but quite slow for her.

    Many thanks to Alex and Jack, and a happy new year to all.

  36. Happy New Year!
    I had a welcome sleep in this morning so started the QC with a clear head. FOI TOMB. The clues requiring more than one glance were WARTS AND ALL, LIPS, STAPLE and my LOI RECENTLY in a standard time of 9:03.

  37. DNF after 30 mins due to SLIPS, STAPLE, ODIUM, BACKWASH, CUTTING & MANKY.

    Late to the crossword today having spent most of the day with police after some kind people looted my home while I was away. Perhaps you can get a sense of my attitude to them from the checkers… TH_EVING SC_MB_GS.

    Happy new year to you all! 🍾🥂🎉🎊🎈❤️

    And to the light-fingered swine that stole my late mother’s engagement ring, may you rot in hell. ⚰️💀🗡️🔥

    1. That’s awful for you. Let’s hope the police get them and they get their just desserts.

    2. So sorry to hear that. That’s a grim start to the year. Here’s hoping that 2024 gets better and better for you from hereon in.

      1. Thanks ITTT. Certainly an inauspicious start to the year. It must get better from here…I hope.

    3. That is just awful. Commiserations on a miserable reception from your trip.
      Despite recent announcements that the police will investigate every burglary, their success rate in recovering stolen goods is not great. It may be worth a trip to a local pawn shop/cash converter type shop in case it turns up. Although the horse has bolted, upgraded security to the stable doors may deter.
      A sad reflection on a society that knows no bounds. A neighbour reports that her wheelchair and walking aid were stolen from outside her front door on New Year’s Eve.

      1. Thanks Steak. I am revisiting all security arrangements, and although the police said I did more than most to protect my property, there’s always a chink in the armour somewhere. Awful to hear about your neighbour. There are slimeballs everywhere. I just have to trust that most people are decent, but you can’t always tell.

  38. 25 mins…

    A bit late to this, but a difficult start to the New Year. Couldn’t get anything in the top half on my first pass, and still struggled with 1dn “Beans” (I thought it might be “bears” – as in “seeds” something – luckily I changed my mind). In addition, I initially had “Snippet” for 2dn, until I realised it wouldn’t fit with 12ac “Tagine”.

    FOI – 16ac “Enclave”
    LOI – 22ac “Recently”
    COD – 15dn “Veggie”

    Thanks as usual!

  39. A slowish 19:18 here, resorting to aids to finally see STAPLE: strongly agree that the “leading” in the clue is just distraction and doesn’t belong. That and TOMB consumed the last 5 minutes of my time, no idea why I found TOMB so tricky.

    Thanks to Alex and Jackkt, and happy new year to all.

  40. Anoyher DNF from me. Struggled to get half a dozen answers at firts look. Then out until early evening, had another go but finally gave up on ELITIST ( couldn’t think what a Scrabble piece was!!!) and RECENTLY – just couldn’t see that one. Guessed MANKY.

  41. My first attempt was nearly a complete failure so I left it and tried again. This time I had a few across and several down clues resolved and that helped me gauge the wavelength and get going. However a DNF as I failed to see 21a as a homophone and so discarded the correct answer, and then failed with 22a. Thanks to this blog, I now see my errors! HNY to all.

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