Times Quick Cryptic No 1988 by Orpheus

Posted on Categories Quick Cryptic
About average difficulty today I think, although I found it trickier than yesterday’s and had to rely on a bit of biffing to arrive home at the 9 minute mark. A steady and satisfying solve, with even the potential stumbling blocks such as 19ac and the two random names clued generously enough to reduce the chance of long frustrating stares. Suited me very well – many thanks to Orpheus!

7 A head turning to a starchy tuber (6)
POTATO – A TOP (a head) “turning”, TO
8 Girl unknown in part of New England (6)
MAXINE – X (unknown) in MAINE (part of New England)
9 Catch sight of article, displaying fury (8)
SEETHING – SEE (catch sight of) THING (article)
10 Knight leaves Scottish island for western US state (4)
IOWA – N (knight in chess) leaves IONA (Scottish island) for W(estern)
11 Small fish producing appalling smell (6)
STENCH S(mall) TENCH (fish)
13 Direct course of male ox (5)
STEER double definition
14 For example, Oscar’s sense of self-importance (3)
EGO – EG (for example) O(scar)
15 Argumentative type on the river? (5)
ROWER cryptic hint, with a pun on row/argument.
17 Ready to accept English chef’s first guide to food preparation (6)
RECIPE RIPE (ready) to accept E(nglish) C (Chef’s “first”)
19 Pith helmet, best quality one (4)
TOPI TOP (best quality) I (one). News to me (I think).
20 Stale old joke involving golden-brown horse (8)
CHESTNUT – double definition
22 Woman’s husband entering compound (6)
ESTHER – H(usband) entering ESTER (compound)
23 Draw out? It’s not allowed, we hear (6)
ELICIT – “we hear” the same as ILLICIT (not allowed)

1 Dimwit’s stupefying drug (4)
DOPE double definition. The apostrophe-s is possessive in the surface reading and an abbreviation for “is” meaning equals in the cryptic – also used in 14ac, 22ac and 13d.
2 Box only initially missing from humorous drawing (6)
CARTON O (Only “initially”) missing from CARTOON (humorous drawing)
3 Buffer created by E European monarch (8)
POLISHER – POLISH (E European) ER (monarch)
4 Self-satisfied, giving sweets up (4)
SMUG GUMS (sweets) “up”
5 Cut out for duty (6)
EXCISE double definition
6 Nose around primarily with doctor, finding spring flower (8)
SNOWDROP – SNOOP (nose) around W (“primarily” With) DR (doctor)
12 Slow mover upsetting to Tories (8)
TORTOISE – anagram (upsetting) of TO TORIES
13 Necromancer’s errors unexpectedly overwhelming church (8)
SORCERER – anagram (unexpectedly) of ERRORS overwhelming CE (Church of England)
16 Hang about for hearing, having influence (6)
WEIGHT – is heard the same as WAIT (hang about)
18 Inflorescence identified by Tom and family (6)
CATKIN – CAT (tom – a male cat) and KIN (family)
20 Mind vehicle at end of avenue (4)
CARE – CAR (vehicle) at/by E (“end” of avenuE)
21 Piece of furniture you reportedly can set up (4)
UNIT U (you, reportedly) TIN (can) “set up”

56 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 1988 by Orpheus”

  1. A rare paper solve on a rare train journey. Under 15m and the hold ups were wonky general knowledge. Didn’t know Iona so had to bung in IOWA and then didn’t know any New England states beyond Vermont and New Hampshire so spent a while thinking of states and shoving a ‘y’ in — couldn’t even get the unnown right! Thought I was being clever with bay for the horse before realising I’d been massively overcomplicating things. Done in under 15 to leave quite a lot of journey left.
  2. Even though the grid was far from helpful ‘this were’ a bit of a stroll in the park.

    FOI 4dn SMUG

    LOI 16dn WEIGHT

    COD THE IKEAN 21dn UNIT — well, there wasn’t much else!

    WOD 20ac CHESTNUT > 🌰 of course!

  3. Terrier-like, I scrapped around the grid chewing here and there while dragging the odd rabbit out of the hat. I liked WEIGHT, ELICIT and POLISHER. Was not helped by typing Sorceror but soon saw the error of my ways. Knew TOPI but can’t think why unless it was from Kipling or A passage to India. Definitely wasn’t dress code last time I was there. Could not parse UNIT. Thanks Roly and Orpheus. Back on puppy duties so better brave the rain to avoid domestic mishap.
  4. Another unenjoyable QC for me today. Only managed to answer half of the clues. The rest were utter gibberish to me.
    1. I think there have been some chewy QCs recently but isn’t it a bit early in the day to throw in the towel? We all have times when things seem pretty opaque but I find that a calm approach (or a break and a fresh return) are much more effective than entering a self-fulfilling negative cycle.
      Others have previously said similar positive things and also talked helpfully about the way the subconscious can often operate during a break and open up murky areas, making sense of what previously seemed like ‘gibberish’. It sometimes only takes a ‘crosser’ or two to make a breakthrough and fuel an accelerating upward cycle.

      Edited at 2021-10-21 07:57 am (UTC)

    2. Stick with it. I always post a few dead-ends or mistakes. I still get comfort from seeing others stumble.
    3. A friend of mine in London has given-up with The Times QC – instead he has started playing ‘Captcha’, which can be tricky at times, but is more his speed.
  5. I found this easier than usual and finally achieved my Holy Grail of a sub 10 minute time. I think I must have been on the wave length as the girls names went in easily. LOI Elicit.

  6. A steady solve …
    … and all done and parsed in just over 10 minutes, so I would agree that it was a less chewy one after some recent toughies. Only the word Inflorescence (in the clue for 18D Catkin) was unknown, but the wordplay was very clear.

    LOI 1D Dope — I find DDs difficult at times because one either gets them or one doesn’t, and with -O-E as checkers there were a lot of options! I even wondered if there was a 3 letter word for stupefying which has an E for drug on the end. But it came in the end.

    Many thanks to Roly for the blog

    Edited later to correct spellings …

    Edited at 2021-10-21 08:28 am (UTC)

  7. I was closer to the setter’s wavelength today so I also found this much easier than yesterday’s QC and finished a couple of minutes under target.
    I finished in the NE corner and having some crossers took me back to my initial thought of Maine, and hence MAXINE, for 8a. IOWA and SNOWDROP then followed quickly. I was intrigued by ESTHER which I biffed, only for the chemical basis for it to dawn on me later (and I have been a Chemist for decades). Thanks to Orpheus and Roly. John M.
  8. Another steady solve with a MER at UNIT and CATKIN going in from the wordplay as I had no idea what inflorescence was. LOI was POLISHER where I was thinking of the wrong type of buffer (those things at the end of a railway line), even though I’d toyed with it starting with POLE earlier in the solve. Finished in 9.06.
    Thanks to Roly
  9. Looking back, I dont see any obvious COD candidates. Maybe the surface for SORCERER.


    Otherwise, not a lot to say.


  10. 19:26 and another day where I escaped the SCC by a hair, LOI like Cedric with DOPE, thinking E=drug.

    I parsed UNIT as sounds like “you knit”, where knit=“set up”.

    I’d be surprised if 1a POTATO was not everyone’s FOI today. Bit of a gimme to start us off

    NHO ESTER=compound. I thought the compound was ETHER but bunged it in anyway.


    PS 15×15 is off-limits for us QC-ers today, with a Snitch of 155, it’s as hard as it gets.

    Edited at 2021-10-21 08:36 am (UTC)

  11. I started off slowly with my FOI STENCH but gained speed as the checkers appeared. I belatedly parsed a few answers including SNOWDROP, IOWA, UNIT and my two minor hold ups at the end were POLISHER and finally WEIGHT. 8:04
  12. This seemed like one of the trickiest QC I’ve seen for a while. Maybe I was just off the setter’s wavelength, but I found yesterday’s puzzle much easier.

    Only 8 clues in after 15 minutes and not much more after a short break.

  13. I started off with CARTON, SMUG and SEETHING. I needed EXCISE before MAXINE hove into view. SNOWDROP then POLISHER brought up the rear. 7:24. Thanks Orpheus and Roly.
  14. Better than yesterday, but at the deeper end of the pool for me still. About 35 mins I think, interrupted by tea. Quite quick in the NW, made little initial headway in the NE which I came back to after gradually completing the bottom half. MAXINE and IOWA took a while, don’t know why in retrospect as there aren’t many girls names with x, y or z and I had the M by then, and fewer four letter states, but the brain wasn’t turning over well.
    Still, finished and enjoyed and parsed as I went along.
  15. Steady progress until needing to unravel the NW – I’d put LOATHING instead of SEETHING (catch sight of = LO A – no it doesn’t quite work and then DOPE made it all obvious). LOI was ELICIT 9:25.
  16. Another Good Day with all done and parsed in 7 minutes on the dot. Just as well if the biggie is as hard as Merlin says – I’m going to have to put quite some time aside to tackle that one! Actually, I never check the snitch first because I don’t want to be put off before I start – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
    I liked CHESTNUT because, although there wasn’t any untoward vocab and only a few potentially tricky bits of GK, there didn’t seem to be any real chestnuts in the clues!
    I always struggle with clues like 10a, where you have to substitute one letter for another. I thought the Scottish island must be Iona, but couldn’t quite see what to do next – that pesky W! But then – PDM 😌 SEETHING made me smile.
    FOI Yes, it was Potato
    LOI Elicit
    COD Iowa
    Many thanks Orpheus and Roly

    OK, 15×15 here we come …

    1. I dont check the Snitch either, but with only 1 clue done after at least 20 mins, it gave justification for an early throwing in of the towel. I’ll work through the blog later and smile, “Wow, I would never have got that one” over and over.
      1. Yes, I’ve been sitting here with it for about 10 minutes and have got 2 (and possibly a third ) so far! Am going out now so will try again later but don’t hold out much hope tbh 😅
          1. Back from lunch, had another go, spent 45 minutes on it with 7 unfinished and several more entered but unparsed. Oof — time for a cuppa.
  17. I found this quite easy to begin with and raced through the top half in about 10 mins, but then ground to a halt on a number of clues at the bottom. It didn’t help that I spelt “Sorcerer” wrong and stuck an “o” in rather than an “e” at the end.

    Eventually I hit my time limit and threw in the towel with 16dn “Weight” and 22ac “Elicit” not completed. Took a lucky punt with the unknown “Topi”.

    FOI — 7ac “Potato”
    LOI — dnf
    COD — 10ac “Iowa” — simple but effective.

    Thanks as usual!

  18. Looked up EXCISE in desperation. Pity. That gave me MAXINE, of course
    Must remember that E European usually means POLISH.
    Otherwise progressed OK. Biffed ESTHER, NHO ETER = compound.
    Blog much needed, so thanks Roly.
  19. This took me almost exactly as long as yesterday’s at 17 minutes. I didn’t get around to posting yesterday, as I was dragged out for a day out immediately on completing the puzzle. Today, I made hard work for myself be mis-spelling SORCERER (I put a second O where the second E belongs), which slowed me down in the SE significantly. I had thought of UNIT but couldn’t bring myself to trust it until ELICIT revealed itself, and that couldn’t happen until I spotted and fixed my stupid error. Thanks Roly and Orpheus.
  20. I found this harder than yesterday’s since I didn’t know INFLORESCENCE (guessed CATKIN) and there were 2 women’s name clues which I detest. NHO ESTER, but with the H for husband the name was obvious, nor TOPI – guessed when O and I were in. Found it all a bit messy.
  21. Kind of on the write-in side for me at ten minutes, and therefore (again for me) a proper QC which clearly suited my solving style, if I have one. FOI potato, nineteen on first pass, LOI weight. COD tortoise. Thanks, Roly, and Orpheus.
  22. Pretty straightforward really — an enjoyable solve. We were finished in 13 minutes.

    COD: MAXINE (we also liked SEETHING).

    Thanks Rolytoly and Orpheus

  23. Found this much easier than yesterday’s, finishing in 13 minutes (less than half yesterday’s time!). I must have been on the setter’s wavelength today, which made for a relatively fast time. Thanks to Orpheus for the puzzle and to Rolytoly for parsing 6dn for me.

    FOI – 7ac POTATO
    LOI – 1dn DOPE (merely because I belatedly realised that I’d omitted it)
    COD – 5dn EXCISE

  24. I’m not a fan of random names. Here we have random girl’s name + H = random compound! Also random state + random unknown = random girl’s name. (or maybe it was vice versa)
    At least there are only 3 or 4 of the usual unknowns to work through and s handful of states.

    Edited at 2021-10-21 01:40 pm (UTC)

    1. I understand how it feels but things aren’t quite so random once you have a checker, or even two, in place, plus the given enumeration. These things are all part of the whittling down process that leads to the correct answer.

      Edited at 2021-10-21 02:01 pm (UTC)

  25. Did not enjoy this one too hard for me. As a point of fact Iowa is a mid-western state not a western state. The only 4 letter western state is Utah. I guess inaccuracy is allowed in crosswords even if it is not helpful to newbies .
    1. I think the Western indicated W so you were supposed to substitute the N in Iona with a W to get IOWA – a US state. The Western was deliberately misleading.
  26. Found this tricky in parts. Did not know necromanser, and thought unit at 21d a bit odd. However finished in abt 30 min which is ok for us.
  27. … unlike for others above.

    I made it to the finish in 49 minutes, but had to resort to some long alphabet-trawls towards the end (incl. ROWER, POLISHER, DOPE, ELICIT). I regard having to trawl as a failure to parse a clue, or a failure of vocabulary or general knowledge. And it drags my time right out and puts a damper on the earlier enjoyment.

    So, to ensure enjoyment, my lovely in-house crossword coach advises me to:
    i) Broaden my vocabulary
    ii) Increase my general knowledge
    iii) Develop better parsing skills
    Should be a cinch!

    Many thanks to Orpheus and rolytoly

  28. Nothing too hard here but got stuck on polisher and dope for some reason. Under my target time for a change though.
  29. Mrs Random and I are in different counties today (and tomorrow), but we have just compared notes and she finished the puzzle in 22 minutes. She said that she didn’t really understand some of the clues and therefore had to guess a bit, but her ability to guess correctly stood her in good stead. I wish I could guess as well as Mrs R.
  30. 45.12
    I seem to have been on Orpheus’s wavelength for a change.
    I like this sort of puzzle — ones that can be solved by logic and word play, not just by remembering lots of obscure shorthand.
  31. My fastest solve in over a month, coming in at 16:29. Not much else to say, but very enjoyable. Thanks Roly and Orpheus.
  32. Did not enjoy this one too hard for me. As a point of fact Iowa is a mid-western state not a western state. The only 4 letter western state is Utah. I guess inaccuracy is allowed in crosswords even if it is not helpful to newbies .
    1. “Western” in that clue is not part of the definition.
      You should read the prior comments before you post.

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