Times Quick Cryptic No 2178 by Felix

A typically fine puzzle from Felix, pitched a touch on the tricky side with a bonus Nina for the idle.

I missed my target by half a minute, my main hold-ups being: a careless half-biff at 8ac that gave me 9d starting with an E; an inability to get “castigate” out of my head for 10ac, despite not being remotely close to the anagrist (nor especially close to the definition, for that matter); and finally a mental block at the type of paper at 6d.

Lots of neat clues and a good dash of originality made for a very fun solve – many thanks to Felix!

See below for a few bits of the theme I spotted.

1 What vessel is spoken of for spells? (10)
WITCHCRAFT – is “spoken” as WHICH CRAFT (what vessel)
7 Sorcerer appearing in periodical, American (5)
MAGUS – MAG (periodical) US (American)
8 Girl, turning venal, lets expensive houses (7)
ESTELLA – “turning” venAL LETS Expensive “houses”. Google has nearly three times more hits for ESTELLE, so I consider my labour-saving guess fully vindicated.
10 Send down artist, cue prepared (9)
RUSTICATE – anagram (prepared) of ARTIST CUE. If one goes “up” to university (or to town), the opposite is being sent down as punishment to somewhere more rustic.
12 Not in the best of health? At first it’s fifty-fifty (3)
ILL – I (“at first” It’s) L-L (L = 50 in Roman numerals, doubled)
13 Small bag of pennies, etc, OK for change (6)
POCKET – anagram (for change) of P[ennies] ETC OK
15 Possessing and using a razor, not the first (6)
HAVINGsHAVING (using a razor), “not the first”
16 Narrowly beat seed (3)
PIP – double definition
17 Children on team? It’s not the main problem (4,5)
SIDE ISSUE – ISSUE (children) on SIDE (team)
20 Bar run by 12 (7)
RAILING – R(un) by AILING (ILL, as per 12ac)
22 Particular demand (5)
EXACT – very nice double definition, not being the first senses that spring to mind.
23 Tibetan ad’s awfully inappropriate (2,3,5)
IN BAD TASTE – anagram (awfully) of TIBETAN ADS
1 Pay wife over a long time (5)
WAGES – W(ife) over/above AGES (a long time)
2 Match one head’s irritability (9)
TESTINESS – TEST (match) I (one) NESS (head)
3 Scavenger had briefly to suppress longing (5)
HYENA – HAd “briefly” to suppress/contain YEN (longing)
4 Rodent’s thick, black coat reflected (3)
RAT – TAR (thick, black coat) reflected/reversed
5 Italian film director collapsed in one (7)
FELLINI – FELL (collapsed) IN I (one)
6 Abrasive old comedian Dick on the Times? (5,5)
EMERY PAPER – Dick EMERY is our old comedian, the question mark on the TIMES means it is an example of a (news)PAPER.
9 A large limb aquatic mammal raised briskly (10)
ALLEGRETTO – A L(arge) LEG (limb) OTTER (aquatic mammal) “raised”
11 Inspectors after turning up get rid of pitmen (9)
EXAMINERS – “after turning up” = reverse AXE (get rid of) PITMEN (miners)
14 Legend or icon, apt to stray (7)
CAPTION – anagram (to stray) of ICON APT. LEGEND in the the sense of an inscription.
18 Appreciate Italian figure (5)
DIGIT – to DIG = to appreciate (among the hep, at least) IT(alian)
19 False fiancée ultimately bringing disgrace (5)
SHAME – SHAM (false) E (fianceE “ultimately”)
21 Princess embraced by Midas (3)
IDA – “embraced” by mIDAs

So I haven’t read it – but, half-expecting a Dickens book, PIP did pop out rather: we also have ESTELLA, the Messrs POCKET, Miss HAVISHAM (at 15ac-19d), and MAGWITCH (at 7ac-1ac), and I hold Great Expectations for further enlightenment.

64 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2178 by Felix”

  1. I biffed EMERY PAPER, having no idea about the comedian. I took forever to see ESTELLA (LOI); I’m always obtuse with hiddens, and this was a good one. 7:15.

  2. This one took me absolutely ages, but it was fine, I was pottering around everywhere for about 45 min but in the end I couldn’t get the testiness/rusticate pair.

    Rusticate cos well, I’ve never heard of it, and even with the anagram I wasn’t sure it was right and testiness, I didn’t know a ness was a head.

    Newbie discussion:
    Inspectors after turning up get rid of pitmen (9)
    I am struggling with the word ‘after’ in this clue. Why is it there? I don’t understand why it’s part of ‘turning up’ as per the blog. To me it indicates a word for inspector to be written below EXA = a word for pitmen.

    Thank you for the very helpful informative blog, I appreciate all the extra info and tips!

    1. It’s taken me ages to lock in NESS as ‘head’ but the famous Scottish loch of the monster is down from Inverness which is placed at the base of the Moray Firth between a number of significant headlands…now I throw NESS around willynilly, and frequently wrongly, when I see ‘head’ in a clue.

      1. Oh, ness is a head the same way Cape is a head.

        I don’t know how I will remember that, it seems like a very useful word!

  3. 7 minutes. I was ready for a theme or Nina possibly related to Dickens as that has been Felix’s favoured territory. I spotted PIP as a possible reference early on, which helped with ESTELLA . MAG-WITCH and HAVI-SHAM being split between answers emerged post-solve. I didn’t know POCKET but spotted it, again post-solve, when I looked up a list of the principal characters.

  4. Got ALLEG nice and quickly but with music as one of my blind spots I had to wait until I been through all the aquatic creatures to get the RETTO part. LOI was ESTELLA where Felix’s misdirection had me not even considering the reverse hidden, even once I’d seen it would fit I couldn’t parse for ages. Also inexplicably slow to realise 12 meant ‘ill’ in solving RAILING. Once EMERY board didn’t fit I had to wait to see what would fit. Dick was as clear a hint for EMERY as I could have hoped for. A lot of angst fitted into my 15m – good one!

  5. 6.51

    Missed the Nina of course though I did think of Dickens when ESTELLA came up

    Thought this was on the tricky side but clever to get all the GE references in

    Thanks Rolytoly and Felix

  6. 19 minutes with time added parsing ALLEGRETTO, POCKET and spotting the hidden ESTELLA.
    Favourite: SIDE ISSUE.
    Missed the Nina.

  7. 13 minutes would have been sub 10 if I hadn’t been utterly stumped by the crossing DIGIT & RAILING but got there in the end.

    I missed the Nina, as GE is one of the many Dickens books/films I’ve swerved but now it’s been pointed out I am tickled by the dogleg HAVISHAM. I wondered if there was something to be found with an Italian flavour with it featuring directly in two clues and then one with Roman numerals and another with musical direction.

    Enjoyable puzzle. Thanks Felix and Roly

  8. I wish the Times phone app would allow you to see the setter’s name. If I’d known it was a Felix I’d have been looking for a Dickens Nina at the time, instead of going back to the puzzle afterwards on seeing the setter’s name here!

    Lots of fat fingered typing today but a very good work out. I enjoyed that.

    FOI WAGES, LOI RUSTICATE, COD DIGIT, time a pleasingly tidy 08:08 for 1.1K and a Very Good Day.

    Many thanks Felix and roly.


  9. No serious hold ups today but carelessness with 6d produced a pink square as my read through failed to pick up emery papAr.
    Started with MAGUS and finished with RAILING, with a tip of the hat to SIDE ISSUE.
    Thanks to Roly

  10. 15 minutes, distracted slightly by the Open golf, but some challenging stuff here, with GK required, as well as GE if you were to spot the theme. I didn’t see it all, but PIP and ESTALLA were giveaways (along with the Setter’s name obviously). Many thanks Felix and Roly.

  11. I always enjoy Felix crosswords and the bonus of spotting a Nina. ESTELLA led me straight to Great Expectations and I found the others too. I wondered if FELL ILL and SHAME LINGERS were part of it too, but maybe I’m being a bit fanciful. Good clues too. LOI SHAME. COD to POCKET. Thanks Felix and Roly.

  12. A pretty approachable puzzle today. No real difficulties – last ones in TESTINESS and WITCHCRAFT.

  13. I found this even easier than yesterday, finishing in 6:37, helped by being of the generation to remember the Dick Emery show. I am not good at looking for Nina’s, and so did not spot this despite having read Great Expectations more than once. Many thanks Felix and Roly.

  14. Not many of the across clues in the first pass but made up for it with the downs and then it just remained to fill in the blanks. Having got the first couple of crossers for 9dn I spent some time trying to make ‘allegator’ fit. Yes, I know it’s spelt ‘alligator’ and not long enough and not a mammal but I still wasted time on it. Eventually finished in 15 mins with all parsed. Didn’t spot the Nina, but then I never really look for them and I haven’t read Great Expectations (a good excuse I feel!).

    FOI – 7ac MAGUS
    LOI – 20ac RAILING (lost time trying to parse this until I realised that 12 referred back to 12ac)
    COD – 17ac SIDE ISSUE. Also liked 6dn EMERY PAPER

  15. No NINA for me, having never knowingly read any Dickens…

    This week I has been very consistent for me – all in the 4:30 to 4:50 range.

    ESTELLA was my LOI by some distance, and was a biff…I have a similar blind spot to Kevin with hiddens.

    WITHCRAFT favourite.


  16. As soon as I saw Roly mention the nina, I went back and spotted some characters from Great Expectations, although I missed Miss HAVISHAM and MAGWITCH. RAT and HYENA got me on the move and WITCHCRAFT was LOI. 8:57. Thanks Felix and Roly.

  17. 22 mins…

    For the second time in a few weeks I misread/didn’t read the letter combinations properly for a clue, struggling to resolve a 10 letter anagram for 23ac which didn’t exist. Frustrating, as by the time I realised, I’d wasted a good 5 mins.

    Other than that, another enjoyable offering from Felix. Didn’t spot the Nina, even if I did think at the time “Estella” was an unusual name to use (and quite cleverly hidden as well).

    A little musical knowledge always helps for clues like 9dn “Allegretto” – although I could never fathom why it applies to the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony.

    FOI – 1dn “Wages”
    LOI – 23c “In Bad Taste”
    COD – 12ac “Ill”

    Thanks as usual!

  18. Another close run thing trying to sneak in ahead of the SCC, but the Exact/Shame combination held me up at the end just long enough to ensure I was left queuing for a seat near the front. Guessed there would be a Dickens nina because it was Felix, but it didn’t spoil the solve, with the nho Magus easily biffable. CoD to 11d, Examiner – a quite baffling clue until it wasn’t ! Invariant

  19. Identical situation to Rolytoly where I had ESTELLE after to failing to check the clue properly which in turn made 9dn my last one in difficult. As a result drifted over target at 10.25.
    Haven’t seen or heard the name Dick Emery mentioned in many a year which is a shame. His comedy shows were good harmless fun and watched by millions, and would be popular if repeated I’m sure.

  20. 19:12. “Wot larks, Pip, wot larks!” as Joe Gargery said on several occasions. Really enjoyed DIGIT and RAILING but COD to WITCHCRAFT. Thanks for pointing out all the Great Expectations references and for rest of insightful blog.

  21. Absolute meh reaction to this. Awful, meaningless surfaces that simply seemed to be collections of words rather than decent clues. Most answers went in tentatively, even RAT. No idea who Princess IDA is. ILL wanted to be IFY until ALLEGRETTO built itself. FELLINI (think he made 8-1/2 and maybe The Icicle Thief) but if I hadn’t known him I’m not sure I’d have got it. Answers just seem beyond QC level.

    Stumbled through to about 2/3s done in 20-mins and then only added HYENA, ESTRELLA and TESTINESS in the next 40-mins.

    Gave up and glad I did as couldn’t unscramble RUSTICATE (NHO) or CAPTION despite many minutes spent on them. Also did try POCKET as an anagram but but it ain’t petcok, etpock or petock so I didn’t follow through on that line of thought. Thought of Dick-EMERY but again didn’t know what the clue wanted me to do with it and my synonyming wasn’t up to scratch for the abrasive or PIP. RAILING was the other that did for me and I couldn’t see a link to ILL and it was nothing to do with noon or dozens.

    The explanation that a NINA says it all. Can’t believe it was almost six months ago (Feb-11) that we had the Bleak House NINA!

    Thanks to Roly for the blog.

    1. Sorry you had an unhappy solve on this. I try to take a glass half full approach if I fail on a puzzle. If there’s 25 clues and I get over half right, hey I passed! Then the days I just miss say 2 or 3 I tell myself wow I’m pretty hot stuff. Of course we’re all trying to improve each day and not be satisfied with failing to solve the whole puzzle but if you look at each individual clue as the test instead of the whole thing you can feel better about yourself. Oh, and The Bicycle Thieves(1948) was directed by Vittorio Da Sica- it’s very influential in film history so might show up in a puzzle here some day!

      1. Thanks for your words of solace. Just one of those days after a run of good form 🙂

    2. Didn’t you have a very good time recently? Don’t let one tricky QC get you down. I really struggled with this one too.

      1. Second fastest ever yesterday indeed. A run of 6 solves in 7 days.

        I simply didn’t enjoy this from the moment I started it. The surface of the clues felt clunky. Early answers like MAGUS, FELLINI, ALLEGRETO, IDA simply didn’t feel QC level.

        I’m happy enough to have got about two-thirds of it done in 20-mins. Disappointed I couldn’t figure out what to do with the remaining clues or unscramble three anagrams. There seem to be days where my brain doesn’t work!

  22. 12 minutes for this very approachable puzzle, with the biggest delay being on Railing where I simply didn’t spot that the “12” in the clue was a reference to 12 across. One knows lesser crosswords in other papers use this trick quite a bit but it is not at all common in the Times QC and completely caught me cold.

    A real throwback to the 1970s with Dick Emery. I do remember seeing his show, last shown on the BBC in 1981 (and even then seen as sailing pretty close to the wind of what was acceptable – these days its combination of homophobia, racism and much else besides would put it quite beyond the pale!) Which raises the interesting question of why (and how) does the brain recall something – and pretty instantaneously at that – that I genuinely have not thought about at all, not even once, for over 40 years? I ask genuinely seeking the answer …

    Many thanks to Roly for the blog

      1. Yes, another show that would not get off the drawing board now! Were those watching it 40 years ago wrong to laugh (and we did …)? Would you laugh or grimace/cringe if you watched it today?

    1. It’s a convention that e.g. ’12’ refers to a clue (viz. 12ac or 12d), while ‘twelve’ does not. (Of course, e.g. ’50’ is not going to refer to a clue.) This ‘trick’ is quite common in Times crosswords, although maybe not in the QCs.

  23. When I read there was a NINA, I saw it. COD WITCHCRAFT.
    SHAME upon me to fail on 19d and also had an ISSUE in that I missed half of 17a.
    Although I am familiar with term RUSTICATE, I hadn’t really thought about its Latin origins. Interesting.
    Good puzzle but difficult. Thanks, Roly.

  24. 1456 : Cape Verde islands discovered by Portuguese

    14:56. I still don’t see how RUSTICATE means “send down”. I thought it was an interior design thing, making a kitchen or whatever look “countrified” by adding an Aga, a settle, an impractically large sink and pans hanging from butcher hooks.

    I had EMERY BOARD for some time, which held up the SW corner. Also CAPTION seemed to have many ways to arrange the letters that looked promising before the secondary meaning of “legend” popped into my head.


    1. I believe rusticate means to suspend a university student as a form of punishment for a wrong deed.

      1. Or school pupil. I remember several boys being rusticated when I was at school! It always created a stir.

        1. A delightful word meaning, literally, “banished to the countryside” when you are “up” being unworthy of the company of the erudite. A bit less violent than “defenestration” another form of punishment or, to the BOFH, a solution to many intractable IT service related problems. Required educational reading for me now I’m effectively sysadmin for this site.

  25. I found this one very tricky. But perseverance had me going to the end with a completion.
    Never heard of Fellini, but I guessed correctly with the letters in place. I biffed allegretto as it sounded like it might be a word.

    Took a long time, but I got there.

  26. Less than 1K by a few seconds so half of yesterday’s solve!
    I saw ESTELLA and POCKET, so had medium expectations for a Dickens nina, but didn’t see the split names. I’m afraid PIP passed me by, although I liked the simplicity of the clue a lot. More Dickens I haven’t read but I do remember watching it on TV as a child. A Sunday evening serial perhaps?
    I also remember Dick Emery from a similar time – pretty grim in my view. Non-UK and younger solvers haven’t missed much! Perhaps I was too young to understand the humour, or perhaps he just wasn’t very funny (like rather a lot of comedians from then). Having just looked over the posts, I’m astonished to read Cedric’s comment that DE was still going in the 80s!
    FOI Magus LOI Examiners COD In bad taste
    Thanks Felix and Roly

        1. “Sub-K” means completing the puzzle faster than Kevin Gregg of this parish. An impossible dream for many of us.

          There’s a wonderful glossary linked to on the home page – https://timesforthetimes.co.uk/glossary

          It includes the following entry: “Kevin – A jocular unit of speed invented by the SCC, in which they compare their times to one of the faster solvers.”

          1. Ah thank you. I just do the crossword in the newspaper so don’t look at times for solving etc. I love the blog it’s so helpful. We (husband and I) often do the puzzles days or weeks after publication- we keep the paper. We are getting better. To start with we couldn’t solve anything but we often finish them now – although I think our times would be many Kevins!! I will look at the glossary. Many thanks again, C

            1. Hi Carocol and Templar

              I’ve been out all day so have only just picked this up. Thanks so much T for explaining the jargon, and welcome and congrats to Carocol 😊 Hope we’ll be hearing from you more often now!
              I was right BTW – I didn’t get on very well with today’s quickie 😅

  27. Trickier than yesterday. 20a Railing stumped me for quite a while, even understanding the link to 12a I couldn’t parse it for simply ages. 18d was my other problem but got there in the end. Missed the Nina, but not a fan of Dickens anyway. Liked 1a Witchcraft and 17a Side Issue. Also struggled with 9d Allegretto but nothing else fitted!

    FOI 10a Rusticate
    LOI 20a Railing
    COD 9d Allegretto

  28. Nice to see Dick Emery make it into the puzzle, we are of the generation that laughed, happy days, if not acceptable now, sadly? Enjoyable puzzle, thanks Felix.

  29. Got there in 29 minutes today, despite not knowing MAGUS and RUSTICATE, and not being able to parse RAILING. I have read Great Expectations and I did spot PIP and ESTELLA, but I didn’t make the connection. To me, whilst they’re often very clever, Ninas are a bit of a SIDE ISSUE.

    Many thanks to Felix and rolytoly.

  30. 16 minutes and LOI allegretto- I wanted to put in Allegretta but took a while to see atter needed to be otter…..
    Magus NHO as sorcerer
    I had no expectations for this but enjoyed it!
    Thanks all

  31. Can you explain ESTELLA for EXPENSIVE HOUSES?! Never heard of Rusticate either. I’ve been trying to finish the Times quickie for … 2 years! Still learning – still haven’t finished one ever!

    1. ESTELLA is a reverse hidden in ‘venal lets expensive’. Houses is prompting you to look inside those words ; turning is telling you that something should be in reverse; the whole sentence is rather a good example of misdirection! Hope I haven’t confused you more 😊
      BTW in reply to your comment below, emery boards are made from emery paper! Another name for sand paper.
      Keep trying – you’ll succeed in due course 🤞🍀

    2. Estella is a backwards ‘hidden’ clue, starting with the e of expensive. The definition is the girl. It was our last one in.

  32. Also – arghhh! Emery PAPER! I’ve been using Emery BOARDS my whole life. Us women buy them for our nails. But paper – no way?!!

    1. A friend of mine is a virtuoso concert guitarist. He pauses between pieces sometimes during his concerts to file the nails on his right hand. He tells the audience which grade of sandpaper he is using – normally purchased from B&Q.

  33. This QC reminded me that I am still a very poor solver compared to most of you, so I will take solace in the fact that I managed to complete it. Held up massively by 20ac. Recognised that 12 referred to 12ac but took ages to get ailing.

    This setter has replaced Hurley as my nemesis.

  34. As I wrote in MAGUS as my first one in, I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy and I was right. I did smile to myself as I wrote in RUSTICATE though, as I suspected that it would be an unknown word to a lot of people. I certainly hadn’t seen it used before I went to university and haven’t heard of it since I left. Anyway, LOI was RAILING, COD to EMERY PAPER, Time: 21:52. Thanks Felix and Roly.

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