Times Quick Cryptic No 1998 by Mara

Posted on Categories Quick Cryptic
A very pleasant puzzle of about average difficulty from Mara: I came in a notch under 9 minutes, held up briefly at the end with 18ac. It seemed like there were a lot of references to attractiveness and foreign places which gave a warm, breezy feel to the solve. Or perhaps I was more attuned to them as I’m just back from (a very welcome) holiday. Much enjoyed – many thanks to Mara!

1 Item for breakfast, baloney (6)
WAFFLE double definition.
4 A cute, unusual, pistol, originally — might it be filled with gunpowder? (6)
TEACUP – anagram (unusual) of A CUTE and P (Pistol, “originally“). As in gunpowder tea.
9 River circled by pilot, I gathered, in capital city (7)
TRIPOLI – R(iver) circled/surrounded by an anagram (gathered/assembled) of PILOT I
10 Relative in European resort, by the sound of it? (5)
NIECE – or NICE (European resort) “by the sound of it”
11 Flower in Agadir, I see (4)
IRIS – “in” agadIR I See. Agadir is a city in Morocco, I see.
12 Talk: problem in Persian, for example? (8)
CHITCHAT – HITCH (problem) in CAT (Persian, for example)
14 A spirited author? (11)
GHOSTWRITER – cryptic definition, referring to ghost/spirit.
18 Bronzed skin fading on a trip in Argentina? (8)
TANGOING – TAN (bronze skin) GOING (fading). To trip = to skip, dance, etc.
20 Cap half on in swimming pool (4)
LIDO – LID (cap) O (“half” of On). Named after the beach resort near Venice, now a general (dated?) term for an open-air swimming pool.
22 Version of Tosca somewhere in Berkshire (5)
ASCOT – anagram (version of) of TOSCA
23 Reportedly, I saw a sight! (7)
EYESORE – sounds like (reportedly) I SAW
24 Attempt to keep tail cool (6)
TRENDY – TRY (attempt) to keep END (tail)
25 Fruit boy found behind barrier (6)
DAMSON – SON (boy) found behind DAM (barrier)

1 Fashionable, how one might take one’s gin? (4-2)
WITH-IT a “gin and it” is a gin and Italian vermouth
2 Adequate swimmer gulping oxygen? (7)
FAIRISH – FISH (swimmer) gulping AIR (oxygen)
3 Country also in a mess (4)
LAOS – anagram (in a mess) of ALSO
5 Theorist in nineties, surprisingly (8)
EINSTEIN anagram (surprisingly) of NINETEES
6 European payment taken on the phone? (5)
CZECH Sounds like (“taken on the phone”) CHEQUE (payment)
7 Quite beautiful (6)
PRETTY double definition
8 Tory footballer? (5-6)
RIGHT-WINGER – double-ish definition
13 Various roasted nuts, including last of peanuts (8)
ASSORTED – anagram (nuts) of ROASTED, including S (“last” of peanutS)
15 Journalists in Dorset I fancy (7)
EDITORS – anagram (fancy) of DORSET I
16 Begin to accommodate first of undergraduates in royal house (6)
STUART START (begin) to accommodate U (“first” of Undergraduates)
17 Asian influence ultimately in holy text (6)
KOREAN – E (influencE “ultimately”) in KORAN (holy text)
19 Hot inside particular nook (5)
NICHE – H(ot) inside NICE (particular): nice as in precise/discriminating/particular, etc.
21 Huge name, gargantuan to some extent (4)
MEGA naME GArgantuan “to some extent”

68 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 1998 by Mara”

  1. I don’t particularly like going first, but 14 minutes is a 7dn low target for most.

    FFOI 1ac WAFFLE — plenty to come….

    LOI 6dn CZECH — they are hardly seen in UK these days!

    COD 14ac GHOSTWRITER fine piece of misdirection

    WOD 5dn EINSTEIN — Brian the Beatles manager, unless I’m badly mistaken

    Was 12ac in ‘The Biggie’ as well, or am I not supposed to ask?

    On edit: I have just realised what an excellent clue 18ac is — it parsed all understanding hereabouts. Mr. Mara at his best!

    Edited at 2021-11-04 05:06 am (UTC)

  2. Got there in the end but I stalled badly in the NW. I thought baloney meant rubbish rather than WAFFLE so that didn’t come easily and I fell headlong into the ‘air’ not O for oxygen trap for FAIRISH which slowed the F. Once WAFFLE went in I could see WITH IT — which I dimly remember my Grandmother using — and submitted despite not having heard of a gin and it. Loved STUART having again been taken in my the misdirection — ‘begin to accommodate’ this time — which better history recall would have avoided. I need that to see what ‘trip’ was up to in TANGOING. Slow, quick, slow on the way to all green in 21m — 1.5 Horryds on yesteday’s new scale. Enjoyable in retrospect.

    Edited at 2021-11-04 06:15 am (UTC)

  3. Achieved my target 10 minutes but it was a close thing.

    I think my main hold-ups were WAFFLE (it may be a staple of the American breakfast, but not of mine) and TANGOING. There seems to be some dispute about the nationality of the dance as diverse as from the Argentina/Uruguay border region (Wiki) and Latin America (Chambers). I could be no more specific than (ignoring Chambers) South American. I guess the question mark covers most bases anyway.

  4. The first 2 consecutive finishes I’ve ever had – hoorah.

    Definitely feel like progress is being made here although I routinely find myself getting held up on the last few clues!

    Today’s hold up was in the SE corner, it took almost 13 minutes to get KOREAN 17a – I couldn’t figure out what part of the clue was the definition, in the end I’m embarrassed to say I had to resort to Google Maps and a trawl around Asia…

    After that DAMSON dropped in fairly (another 3 minutes!) quickly.

    LIDO took far too long as did EYESORE, however they were both lightbulb moments and found them rewarding.

    All in all a bit of a challenging solve, not due to any unknown GK or wordplay, however.

    I really enjoyed TRENDY and FAIRISH, I love it when you follow the wordplay and it just works!

    A statistical aside:

    I’ve been making a record of my times, along with the amount of clues the puzzle has. After a bit of division, we get a ‘Clues per Minute’ figure — even though today’s solve was slower overall, it had 2 more clues than yesterday and so I ended up with a faster ‘Clues per Minute’. Funny really because it felt a heck of a lot slower after spending half the time on two clues!

    Edited at 2021-11-04 08:24 am (UTC)

    1. … Congratulations! Once you’ve achieved it for a second and third time, maybe you next target should be to be ‘in credit’ at the end of each week (i.e. 3-2 or better).

      Statistical note: I also keep records, but have found my times don’t really correlate with the number of clues.

  5. 12:04, rattled along with LoI WAFFLE, also thought that baloney=rubbish.

    Tried to jam Patagonia in at 18a when I saw “in Argentina”.

    NI(E)CE and NIC(H)E both seem to have come up a lot recently , but I was spared the NHO flag=IRIS which appeared yet again in the 15×15 this week. Thanks setter for avoiding that.

    6d CZECH caused a bit of thought. Any alphabet trawlers would have had a long run after staring at C-E-H, as I did. I did a demonym trawl instead : pole Dane, Turk, swede, Finn, lots of homonym potential.


  6. DNF with this one. I am away for most of the day so could not spend more time on this.

    I have to say that there were various clues that I did not like, even would go as far to say that they were very poor clues.

    TANGOING. I do not see the reference to Argentina. What has Argentina got to do with the answer?

    CZECH: Cheque = payment taken over the phone? Really? I have never heard of cheque being referenced in this way. I would have thought that seeing as Czechoslovakia does not exist anymore, this would have been somehow indicated in the clue. “Old European” for example.

    RIGHT WINGER. I liked that clue. Very good.

    So, a disappointing DNF with 5 clues left unanswered.

    I have always liked Mara’s puzzles, but this one was, in my opinion, very poor.

    1. I think over the phone here was indicating that it was a homophone, like broadcast or sounds. So the cheque part of the definition was payment. Although Czechoslovakia is no more, we still have the Czech Republic so there are definitely Czechs around.

      1. Thank you for explaining that. Yes, the “over the phone” does make sense now that you explained it. Thanks again.
    2. Tangoing in Argentina is comparable to Clogging in Wales or Waltzing in Austria.

      Edited at 2021-11-04 08:38 am (UTC)

    3. As I get force fed “Strictly Come Dancing”, I’ve become familiar with the concept of an Argentine Tango.
    4. I would encourage you to read David Nobbs’ 1983, ‘Second from Last in the Sack Race’.
    5. Absolutely agree. I thought some of the clueing very poor. Like you I generally like Mara puzzles, not this one
  7. Tough going today, with the NW being particularly obdurate. The only breakfast item I could think of with an ‘L’ as the fifth letter was muesli but that made no sense at all. Embarrassingly, I initially dismissed the Stewarts as a possibility in 16d and I needed all the checkers for my LOI, the well disguised GHOSTWRITER. COD to CHITCHAT for the PDM when I started thinking about cats as opposed to countries. Finished in 13.29.
    Thanks to roly
  8. I was on the wavelength today, finishing in just under 15 although with a typo at 1 dn. I’ve never know what the “it” is in gin and it, but have read many books where it features. FOI: Tripoli, LOI: Chitchat where I needed the blog to understand the parsing. COD: Tangoing.

    Thanks to Roly and Mara

  9. ….my LOI, but no problems otherwise, although GHOSTWRITER isn’t a single word to my mind. I suppose if you’re indulging in WAFFLE you are “talking baloney”, so no problem there.

    TIME 4:07

    Edited at 2021-11-04 08:48 am (UTC)

  10. A few minutes under 2 Horryds again today, so hurrah! Liked this Mara offering, TANGOING was great and I liked the TEACUP and CHITCHAT amongst others. A groan when EYESORE clicked after too long, but all well clued and entertaining.
  11. … and all done in just over 9 minutes, of which nearly a third was on my last two — 18A Tangoing, which I only semi-parsed as being from Argentina, and did not see the cleverness of trip in the surface, and LOI 1A Waffle, which was an alphabet search on W-F-L-. I don’t myself eat waffles at all often and I think of them as neither breakfast food nor baloney, so this one stretched me!

    I have once tried the tango, on a trip to Buenos Aires. I went to a salon that offered to teach tourists the basic steps — it is very much more difficult than it looks, and the gracefulness of good tango dancers is something I never ever came remotely close to. The visit to the salon was also memorable for being in La Boca, one of the roughest barrios (suburbs) of Buenos Aires; one saw another side of the city, and had I known before setting out what sort of neighbourhoods I would be going through I think I would have had major second thoughts about the wisdom of the visit.

    Many thanks to Roly for the blog

  12. Energised after my museum and dinner trip with realisation that lips still move without a mask, I completed this in a satisfying 1.1xSCC.
    For some reason I always (wrongly) think a Gin & Tonic is a Gin & It from the Shhh you know what of the past. I liked the dynamite/pistol misdirection and it took a minute to parse, also Persian and cat. Wasn’t convinced about Nice=Particular but NICHE had to be. Altogether a good PM/AM to get me off to my ‘flu jab, puppy care and WFH today. Wuff wuff.
    Thanks Mara and Roly and all.
  13. I managed to spell niece incorrectly (i before e, of course), so C-E-H made no sense, and couldn’t for the life of me work out TANGOING
    as I don’t watch Strictly, and hadn’t the least idea why Argentina had anything to do with it.

    But otherwise it went in with just the right amount of brain power required to solve it without it being too easy.

    Thank you, Mara and Roly


    Edited at 2021-11-04 09:17 am (UTC)

  14. Just made it inside the SCC at 19 minutes, for what felt like a very different puzzle today from Mara. I liked TEACUP (I always drink gunpowder for breakfast, so not misled there), I did struggle with TANGOING, and slowed myself down by stupidly putting in CHECK initially (a kind of double-homophone, as I think our American friends spell cheque that way). Otherwise a good challenge this morning. Thanks both.
  15. FOI with-it, so waffle came easily. I solved seventeen on first pass but couldn’t see teacup, Einstein or Czech. Had a brief walk-round, sat back down and remembered enjoying brews of Gunpowder years ago. Einstein then fell into place leaving only Czech which I carelessly misspelt, h for z. A pink square. Fifteen minutes. COD or of the year, teacup, a bit of a smasher. Only one unparsed – chitchat. Did not see the problem, or the Persian. Beautiful. Thanks, Roly, and Mara.

    Edited at 2021-11-04 09:55 am (UTC)

  16. I liked the puzzle though — some very good clues. TEACUP, GHOSTWRITER AND CHITCHAT stood out for me.

    I took some time to realise that my TAN was GOING and that therefore trip=dance, and then STUART was my LOI for some reason, looking back — I probably had the beginning “a” from accomodate, and the first “u” from undergraduate in my head, and was trying to concoct a royal house from that inauspicious start, so a misdirection from the setter that fooled me, if no one else!


  17. It looks like it was just me. I struggled with this. Had four left after 16 minutes but then quickly got FAIRISH (having ditched the O),WAFFLE and WITH IT.
    I then spent a few minutes on 18a coming up with TAN, WORN (fading) and A. I did not associate the tango with Argentina, so I have learnt something today.
    One wrong after 21 minutes.
  18. Trotted through this fairly quickly, RIGHT-WINGER, CHITCHAT, STUART and LOI TANGOING holding me up at the end to finish in just under 12 minutes.

    NHO dance=trip before which kept me guessing for a while,

    LIDO may be a bit out of use but spent a lot of time in the Tooting Bec Lido as a youth so familiar to me

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  19. 69 mins but completed. Over my morning “allotted” hour but very enjoyable. PDM’s with waffle, eyesore, with it and several others kept me persevering.
  20. I was on wavelength although I still had to skip over WAFFLE with my FOI TEACUP. I paused a few times with Oslo instead of LAOS (neither a country nor the correct letters), the parsing of CHITCHAT, NICHE because I doubted nice = particular and my COD TANGOING. My LOI was CZECH. I agree with horryd. I can’t remember when I last wrote a cheque (or check for some here) but it was certainly pre covid19. 7:41 for a very good day.

    Edited at 2021-11-04 10:45 am (UTC)

    1. I think I last wrote a cheque more than two years ago, but I do remember the last instance of paying with a credit card using one of those mechanical gadgets which slide across and take an imprint of the embossed details on the card. It was in an Italian restaurant 2-3 years ago (?) when the whole payment system had gone down, nationwide. Neither our waiter, nor the manager knew how to use the machine, so I had to do it myself.
  21. Got there in the end. Solved GHOSTWRITER and RIGHT-WINGER fairly early on, then completed bottom half. Slow in NE as NHO Gunpowder tea, but gather from ‘tinternet it is deeply healthy.
    LOI PRETTY (doh) which shd have been pretty easy even if it is not exactly a synonym for Beautiful.
    WITH IT another old-fashioned clue!
    TANGOING COD. I am sure I knew the dance back in yore before Strictly.
    Thanks for blog, Roly.

    Edited at 2021-11-04 10:44 am (UTC)

  22. I had no idea what was going on at 18a and eventually mombled TANDOWNA from what appeared to be the wordplay. 11:53 WOE is me! Thanks Mara and Roly.
  23. Jesus Green Lido here in Cambridge is now open throughout winter, a chilly experience I’m sure!
  24. I didn’t enjoy this much. I had lots of interruptions and that didn’t help but, even without them, I don’t think I would have ever seen 18 across, TANGOING, even though I had all the checkers. I guess the wordplay was fair but the mention of Argentina completely fried my brains. Like others here, I, too, don’t think that WAFFLE and baloney equate. And WITH IT, to mean fashionable wouldn’t be with it for my grandmother.
    Feeling grumpy…
    1. My late father was prone to urge me to “get with it” when I was indulging in one of those frequent daydreams that adolescents are prone to. Fashion didn’t have anything to do with it !
    2. On seeing baloney I immediately thought of our PM, so waffle was quite straightforward….
  25. Fairly straightforward. Some hesitation over why TEACUP at 4a as I am unaware of gunpowder tea, being a coffee drinker! Thanks for explanation. COD: TANGOING.
  26. Defeated by this I’m afraid, and after 30 mins still had quite a few clues to get. Went down lots of rabbit holes that came to nothing.

    Put “Into It” for 1dn, thinking it related to being fashionable which made 1ac “Waffle” impossible. Was convinced “Persian” had something to do with a rug (completely forgetting about the cat). Even after going through every European country (or what I thought) I still missed 6dn. DNK 18ac “Tangoing” so that was always going to be a struggle. For some inane reason, I initially put “Billy Bunter” in for 8dn, which on first pass actually did fit.

    Also, I’m guessing the use of oxygen as “air” is in terms of expression rather than scientific fact.

    Overall — one to forget I think.

    FOI — 3dn “Laos”
    LOI — dnf
    COD — 14ac “Ghostwriter”

    Thanks as usual!

    Edited at 2021-11-04 11:25 am (UTC)

      1. A classic example of where reading something in the newspaper beforehand subconsciously taints your thinking 😀
  27. Requests for clarification are always welcome, but it would be polite, and perhaps instructive, to glance at a dictionary and/or the blog before commenting on how poor the clues are: Wikipedia and Lexico both list the tango as an Argentine dance; and the clue for Czech was parsed in the blog in the same way stowic explained.
  28. Amazing what a good night’s sleep can do (sadly down to exhaustion more than recovery), as this one went in without too much difficulty. In fact, if loi Tangoing had come to mind a little quicker, this might have been a rare sub-Plett, but I’m happy with 16mins after two torrid days. CoD to 12ac, Chitchat, though Trendy ran it close. Invariant
  29. Nowhere near Mara’s wavelength today which is unusual for me. It must be me (although rotter didn’t find it exactly a doddle either). I was well into the SCC and didn’t enjoy searching for words like TANGOING and FAIRISH which seemed rather contrived. There were some easy clues mixed in with the more off-beat ones but WAFFLE and CHITCHAT eluded me for quite a while and GUNPOWDER tea is beyond my experience (although I have heard of it). This is one to forget for me but thanks, Roly. John M.

    Edited at 2021-11-04 01:20 pm (UTC)

  30. anyone else put RISE for 18a?
    Went straight in for me having spotted what I thought was the hidden and equated rise with blossom/flower.
    Held me up for quite a while!
  31. The most difficult of the week IMO. It took me 23 mins to finish, all parsed. I spent a long time on the last three – 5dn, 14ac and 18ac. Irritated by 5dn because I knew it was an anagram but just couldn’t see it (originally thought it must end in “ist” but chitchat put paid to that. For 18ac I convinced myself that I was looking for some obscure town in Argentina until the penny dropped.
    Good brain exercise though – my thanks to Mara, who I often find challenging.

    FOI – 11ac IRIS
    LOI – 18ac TANGOING
    COD – a toss-up in my book between 8dn RIGHT WINGER and 14ac GHOSTWRITER

  32. Yet again I spent a couple of minutes on my LOI, which seems to be the one which baffled many of us! As a Strictly fan, I am aware of both the tango and the Argentine tango – two separate dances but I still don’t really understand why! The latter seems to be a lot more … what shall I say? Sultry 😉 Maybe time to do some research.
    Took a few moments to get started but all done and parsed in 12 minutes. I thought there was lots to like – TEACUP, GHOSTWRITER, EINSTEIN and ASSORTED all got ticks.
    FOI With it
    LOI Tangoing
    COD Tangoing
    Many thanks Mara and Roly for the very clear and precise blog

    Funny how often the same words turn up in both crosswords! Even funnier / stranger is how often I don’t see the repeat straight away 😅

    Edited at 2021-11-04 06:20 pm (UTC)

  33. I imagine it is. I solve on paper but guess if I had submitted electronically having CHECH for CZECH would result in what others call a pink square. A shame as I found this an enjoyable and mostly readily solvable puzzle. COD TANGOING, FOI IRIS, LOI CHITCHAT. Mny thanks Mara and Roly.
  34. Not at all easy, but just do-able after some hard thinking in places. I particularly enjoyed TEACUP and EYESORE. I agree with some others that TANGOING and FAIRISH were a bit contrived, but it must be difficult to find words to fit some spaces at times.

    My LOsI were TRENDY, NICHE (I DNK that ‘particular’ = NICE, and still don’t really) and TANGOING, and I finished in 43 minutes – about par for me at the moment. Mrs Random also found it quite tricky, saying she finished without being able to parse everything. Her time was 32 minutes, which is just over par for her, currently.

    Many thanks to Mara and rolytoly.

  35. DNF which has hardly happened to me before with the QC.
    I know it takes two to tango but I’ m obviously not one of them! In an otherwise straightforward puzzle, I became fixated on trying to construct a solution in the form of “tan o n a”. Like John Dun I even toyed with the invention “tandowna” but at my personal 10 minute cut-off I had to throw in the towel
    “C’est la vie” I guess or maybe “asi es la vida” is more appropriate!
  36. Not on good form today – but finished correctly in 55 minutes.

    Next door they are stripping old tiles off the roof – every 30 seconds there is a thud as a tile is thrown 25 feet down into a metal skip. Not ideal for concentration.

    Had not heard of Gunpowder Tea – is it what they drank while planning the Gunpowder Plot?

    TANGOING was clever – when I tried to learn ballroom dancing I tripped up quite a lot.

    Quibble with 2 down FAIRISH (inserting Oxygen) – air is not the same as Oxygen. Air is only 20% Oxygen and 18% Nitrogen – 2% Neon, Co2 etc.

  37. This is getting scary – 4th solve this week, a record for me! No doubt tomorrow will be stinker and bring me back down to earth. LOI TANGOING, I got the tan going but couldn’t make the connection to “trip in Argentina” until I read the blog.
  38. Another quick solve (by my humble standards), well within target 20. That said, the NE corner was something of a biff-fest with teacup, Czech and chitchat all going in without being fully parsed.
  39. Hard to keep going here. I can confirm that Wiki does not have Tangoona as a town in Argentina.That was a dead stop no finish. Pretty and Chitchat popped in but only after a good break for a meal, and the latter did not parse not my way anyway. Thanks for all illuminations.
  40. NE held me up as I’ve never heard of gunpowder tea.
    Eventually had to put it in as it was the only anagram that fitted.
    Nice puzzle
    45 mins until TEACUP
  41. Tried really hard at the end of a long day but gave up with 1a and 1d and 18a not completed…..

    No surprise I disliked all three of these clues/answers.

    Even though I had Tan/O/N/ what on earth is Tangoing about? Insane

    Waffle — disappointing — not something I’ve ever had for breakfast.

    With It? How old is that expression for Gin and ?

    I really enjoyed the struggle but was displeased to see what I missed out on.

    And usually I’m quite benign!

    Thanks all
    John George

  42. Fairly straightforward, and I found I solved it from bottom to top. Took a while to twig about GUNPOWDER- not my favourite tea.
    Have a good weekend!

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