Times Quick Cryptic No 2198 by Mara

I found this a touch on the easy side of average difficulty.

I only missed three of the acrosses on a first pass, which is good for me: 12ac misdirected me very successfully; I gave up thinking of four-letter words for “butt” to prefix US at 15ac; and 24ac was clearly an anagram, but would have taken some time to disentangle without checkers.

10d was my LOI and my only real hold up… eventually entered with a bit of a shrug, but I guess it’s fine. Coming in a bit under 7 minutes meant I missed the top-notchness of several clues while solving, but appreciated now – many thanks to Mara!

1 Signal where trade insubstantial (7,5)
TRAFFIC LIGHT – TRAFFIC (trade) LIGHT (insubstantial)
8 Notion, one almost gone (4)
IDEA – I (one) DEAd (“almost” gone)
9 Red edges in fleece (7)
CRIMSON – RIMS (edges) in CON (fleece)
11 A nobleman has penned conclusion of epic story (7)
ACCOUNT – A COUNT (a nobleman) pens C (“conclusion” of epiC)
12 Wobbly right, measure round waist (5)
GIRTH – I confidently dismissed RIGHT as having any anagrams, but indeed it does, indicated here by “wobbly”.
14 Club chauffeur (6)
DRIVER – double definition
15 American alongside bottom row (6)
RUMPUS – US (American) alongside RUMP (bottom). Etymology uncertain, possibly related to ROMP.
18 Small measure previously containing uranium (5)
OUNCE – ONCE (previously) contains U(ranium)
20 Philosopher in audible whisper? (7)
RUSSELL – is an audible RUSTLE (whisper). Love a bit of ol’ Bertrand!
21 Italian food carried by gang, as a lawyer recalled (7)
LASAGNA – “carried by” gANG AS A Lawyer “recalled”
23 Top mimic ending on box (4)
APEX – APE (mimic) X (“ending” on boX)
24 Upset, trainees do it badly (12)
DISORIENTATE – anagram (badly) of TRAINEES DO IT. It was unlikely to be an adverb, and was likely going to start with DIS-, but still tricky to crack without checkers. So I didn’t couldn’t.
2 Journalist caught in disturbance, weakening (9)
REDUCTION – ED (journalist) caught in RUCTION (disturbance). I would have been a while getting this without checkers. RUCTION is “apparently an Irish English pronunciation of a shortening of INSURRECTION” (OED)
3 Payment securing a track lifted for film (7)
FEATURE – FEE (payment) secures A and RUT (track) “lifted”
4 Goad visible, it’s said? (6)
INCITE – is said the same as IN SIGHT (visible)
5 Deceitful probably, inglorious hosts (5)
LYING – probabLY INGlorious “hosts”
6 Boastful conversation: hang up (3)
GAS – SAG = hang, “up”
7 Wind instrument silent, with cracks (3,7)
TIN WHISTLE – anagram (cracks) of SILENT WITH. I biffed this and therefore missed the lovely surface.
10 Callous — as Humpty Dumpty might have been? (4-6)
HARD-BOILED – cryptic hint. Fair enough I suppose.
13 Show salesman envy (9)
REPRESENT – REP (salesman, short for, er, representative) RESENT (envy)
16 Arrogant person out of bed before dawn (7)
UPSTART – UP (out of bed) before/preceding START (dawn). Very nice.
17 Make sense finally during case (6)
CREATE – E (sensE “finally”) curing CRATE (case). Nice again.
19 Maestro left in fury when shown up (5)
ELGAR – L(eft) in RAGE (fury) when shown “up”
22 First of six lives for sibling (3)
SIS – S (“first” of Six), IS (lives). To be = to live, as in “I hear Jemima is in Stutterfield these days” – useful to remember, along with LIVE = ARE or BE. It’s tripped me up enough.

67 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2198 by Mara”

  1. I had a really hard time with this! Took me ages to get going and in the end DNF on ‘RUMPUS’. I think i might have gotten it if I thought of more words for bottom, but i might not have equated rumpus with row. We have a rumpus room and you bet I do not allow any sort of row in it!

    I also disregarded ‘right’ as having any anagrams until I came back and groaned lol

    Also, how did we all collectively agree that Humpty Dumpty is an egg? Who started that? It’s not in the lyrics.

    Thanks all!

    1. Lewis Carroll portrayed Humpty Dumpty as an egg in Alice in Wonderland with illustration of him, so I would guess that really solidified its myth as an egg.

      I’m sure I’ve read elsewhere that HD was a large cannon defending a fort/castle.

      Who knows what the truth of it is!

      Edit: appears others have discussed below. The mistake of reading comments in order and replying as you go!

      1. Colchester claims Humpty Dumpty. It was a Royalist town in the civil war. HD was the name given to a large cannon on the city wall that fell and broke. Hence “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men”

    2. Mobile phone solve in 12:33 held up by the CREATE/RUSSELL intersection. I really don’t like solving on the mobile but I have no choice as I’m in transit to the UK and I’m bringing the Mallorcan weather with me. Should have packed an aircon unit too!

  2. 14:36 here, but I resorted to an anagram site for DISORIENTATED, so a technical DNF. I’m just not very good at anagrams, so would rather get help than get frustrated.

    Never realised that Humpty-Dumpty wasn’t explicitly an egg in the Wonderland stories – thanks for that!

    MER at SAG = HANG. Can someone explain, I can’t come up with a substitution that works.

    1. Well I didn’t realise he was in Alice! I was just thinking about the nursery rhyme.

      The fact that Alice says he’s just like an egg is a perfectly good origin story for the meme, so thank *you*!

      1. Per Wikipedia, the nursery rhyme predates Lewis Carroll by about a century. Just one more entry in the long list of Google searches inspired by the QC.

    2. Your MER just reminded me of a song we used to sing ‘do your boobs hang low, do they wobble to and fro, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow?’

      Which I believe works if hang = sag haha

      Maybe the original of the song was about ears.

      1. Do you get a funny feeling when you whack ’em off the ceiling?

        Who wants to join the Navy anyway?

    3. Sag as in saggy – it means to droop esp. folds of fatty flesh or overstretched pullovers and the like.

  3. A rare DNF for me on this QC. I had completed all but 17dn as my target 10 minutes arrived but then I was completely stuck. As the minutes ticked away, after I’d carried out an alphabet trawl I eventually revisited the checkers and found that in my haste I had written LASAGNE (the more usual spelling) at 21ac. Having replaced the first E-checker with an A, I’d hoped the answer would leap out at me but it didn’t, and as I was out of steam and way past my target time I gave up on the missing word and used aids to find CREATE. But for that initial misspelling putting me so far behind schedule I’d probably have managed this quite easily. I certainly should have!

    1. Jack. Made the same mistake with the same knockons. It’s a clear error of us both in the clue reading. Lasagne is the plural. I must add that for the price in Waitrose I’d be mighty biffed off to get one sheet of pasta in my ready meal. But maybe these are the times we live in. J

  4. 24 minutes and a bit of a struggle especially in the lower half of the grid.
    LOI: CREATE. Fortunately, I did spot the hidden reversed for LASAGNA or I too would have an errant ‘E’
    BIFD RUSSELL the homophone just didn’t come to mind.
    Favourite: CRIMSON.

    1. I also spotted the hidden but when I came to writing it in my auto-pilot took over and I wrote it as I would normally spell it.

  5. I mentioned Bertrand Russell as the only mathematician I knew yesterday and then he pops up here as a philosopher – nice. Still didn’t equate a rustle with a whisper though so passed over it. In fact I only had five answers in after six minutes. Then I revisited TRAFFIC LIGHT and progressed mostly clockwise from then to finish all green in 16, with CREATE my last one in. Took all my crosswording discipline to consider ‘make’ rather than ‘make sense’ the definition. Now to walk Bertie!

  6. I can’t remember anything in particular, other than I thought that UPSTART was rather poorly defined by ‘arrogant person’. 6:47.

  7. 1051 William of Normandy ( the Conqueror-to-be) marries Matilda of Flanders

    10:51 for another consistent time (three in a row in the eleventh century) LOI was CREATE, but longest time was on the anagram DISORIENTATE, which had very common letters in unhelpful spots. Also, did not know if I was looking at a definition of “upset” or “badly”. Clue would work either way.

    Deliberately left the last letter off LASAGNA post-biff until I confirmed the hidden reversal.


  8. Tricky in places with the anagrams for DISORIENTATE and TIN WHISTLE (NHO or long forgotten) being particularly stubborn and both had to be written out before I could spot the answers.
    My education via crosswords continues to grow and as a result my fear of the word philosopher in a clue is not quite as strong as it used to be, but still needed a few checkers to point me in the right direction for RUSSELL.
    Crossed the line with LOI and WOD RUMPUS in 9.30.
    Thanks to Roly

  9. Well, I seem to have done a different puzzle from our blogger, as I found this definitely tough. 17 minutes in all, and more than a few head-scratches on the way. I was another who wrote in Lasagne on autopilot before checking the hidden very carefully – I gather that in Italian, lasagna is one sheet of pasta and lasagne is the plural; outside Italy, the dish is usually spelt -e except in the US where it is -a. Not I suspect the first time we’ve had American spelling in the QC, but it does raise the question of whether Americans only have one sheet of pasta in their version of the dish…

    Interesting discussion on Humpty Dumpty always being portrayed as an egg. That comes directly from Lewis Carroll and an illustration in his book, but an internet search suggests that the rhyme may be as much as 200 years older than Carroll and that Humpty Dumpty was probably a cannon used by the Royalists during the English Civil War. Which if it fell off its mount would be very difficult to put back together again.

    And thus are several minutes occupied. All very entertaining.

    Many thanks to Roly for the blog

  10. DNF here too. Just like Jack, I saw the hidden but wrote LASAGNE on autopilot. That left me with -R-E-E and after trawling came up only with “breeze”, “freeze” and “frieze” I gave up and came here.

    A spelling error on a hidden word … 🤦🏻‍♂️

    Many thanks Mara and roly.


  11. Always demoralising to come over here and see the blogger refer to it as “on the easier side” after you’ve put in a 1hr11 shift to solve it !!

    In all honesty, there is no easy answer to any sensitivity on the part of slower solvers to these sort of comments. I think the role of the blogger is to give their opinion and, as long as it is ‘politely’ put – which they always are, I just need to get over myself !! And the comments are here for people to agree or push back on that opinion.

    Philosophising aside, I was initially pleased to see a Mara grid but once started, I needed HARD-BOILED to have anything on the grid on first parse. That gave me most of the SW corner but I couldn’t unravel DISORIENTATE for 57-mins and TRAFFIC-LIGHT came even later followed by TIN-WHISTLE (missed the anagram) and the rest of the NE.

    Definitely clues in there like CRIMSON, REPRESENT and INCITE which I should have got a lot earlier, and didn’t spot the LYING hidden word. Kept flirting with some form of “butt” / “bum” on RUMPUS and had to restrain myself from biffing ruckus or bumpus at the end for my LOI.

    Thanks to Rolytoly and Mara 🙂

    1. Agreed. I do find it a bit demoralising when I struggle on a puzzle, only to read the blogger saying how easy (or “delightful”) it was. But like you I need to stop taking it personally. Just because I struggled doesn’t mean everybody has to tiptoe as if on eggshells 🤣

      1. Yes I can see how that could be a bit demoralising. Sorry, and thanks to both of you for understanding the blogger’s dilemma: there are puzzles that are obviously easy or difficult, but when you’ve been doing these things for years it can be easy to misplace a wide range of ones in the middle, and I certainly appear to be a bit of an outlier on this one.

        I’d would say the average Quick Cryptic is quite a difficult crossword, even after a few years practice, so a “touch on the easy side of average” is still a difficult puzzle! But point taken, “easy” does leap out rather – I’ll aim to be more mindful of my wording in future.

        1. No no, you shouldn’t have to change how to write your blogs, just because I, or anybody else, finds the puzzle more difficult than you. It’s for me to stop letting silly things like that affect me. 👍

    2. Bad luck, Mr Plates. I know from bitter experience that to end up with a DNF after toiling away for 1 hr 11 mins is a dispiriting experience. I very nearly suffered the same fate today, but I persevered for one more minute and managed to finish in 1:12.

      1. Maybe I’m complaining unnecessarily – wasn’t a DNF, just a very slow solve! At three-in-a-row now so that’s pleasing

      2. I’m another one who found this very hard today. It took me somewhere around the 70-80 minute mark, so very similar to you.

    3. Dear Mr Plates, if I may be so bold as to offer a tip re anagrams. If I do not see them straightaway, as was the case today with DISORIENTATION, I ALWAYS write the letters down on a piece of paper. You had HARD-BOILED so the D was in place. Assuming you had SIS, D-S would (normally) be DIS….
      …..T-T- at the end of a word equally would be likely to be TATE. If you get ELGAR, the only letters left are O,I,E, and N. That should help lead you to the correct solution. Do persevere.

      1. Thank-you for taking the time to reply and suggest. At the risk of seeming ungrateful my piece of anagramming paper is almost full from the past couple of weeks. I did indeed have D-S-R—T— and toyed with -TATE and -TION endings, along with DIS- and DES- startings. I suspect the issue was more that I didn’t associate “Upset” with “disorientate”. But, as per my previous comment there were a few should-have-figured-that-out-quickers today!

  12. This was not easy, in fact I found it almost impossible in places and needed a second sitting to crack the NW corner (Traffic just wouldn’t come to mind, and I really needed those first letters). I’m blaming the heat, as I should have seen Incite, and I did consider Fee in 3d at one point. CoD to 16d, Upstart, for the smile. Invariant

  13. I agree with Cedric – I was also faced with a different puzzle to our esteemed blogger. I also took a similar length of time. I shared Jackkt’s error by automatically writing Lasagne (a brilliant feint from Mara). However, I saw my LOI CREATE reasonably quickly despite the A which I corrected before completion.
    I got nowhere at first but slowly built up toe-holds around the grid until I was able to finish with a sprint (apart from CREATE). Getting 24a made a huge difference (although I resorted to pen and paper to get it). In the end, I was just 3 mins over target and relieved to have finished.
    Thanks to Mara for an unusual and testing (for some of us) puzzle. I will now read Roly’s blog to enjoy some of the subtleties in Mara’s clueing that I missed when solving. John M.

  14. Over target at 16 minutes and some small change, but entertained by both the puzzle and the discussion above. I agree with the ‘difficult anagrams’ comments, LYING was FOI for me, which gave LIGHT in 1a, but TRAFFIC didn’t come until much later. LOI RUSSELL as ‘philosopher’ always moves me on to the next clue. Thanks both.

  15. Much to enjoy when I finally got on the wavelength. Can you hard boil a broken egg – as Humpty Dumpty became ??? 🙂 . I had to double check Lasagna because I thought it had to end in an ‘e’ – one of my favourite bits of trivia is that its name is possibly derived from the word for a chamber pot! Thanks all !

  16. Second failure in two days…after 15 minutes.

    It was the CREATE/RUSSELL crossing that did for me.

    Temporary (I hope) loss of crosswording chops.



  17. 14.35

    Interesting. I also struggled with this pretty mightily. I did see RUSSELL quite quickly but RUMPUS I just couldn’t see at the end whilst TRAFFIC LIGHT needed quite a few checkers. I wonder whether this was one which didn’t work so well for my approach of getting one and working from there, as there were a couple of easier ones (GIRTH) that I realised some time in that I hadn’t looked at

    Also not helped by spending some time calling to mind COR ANGLAIS; inserting it then wondering why it seemed to have no connection with the w/p!

    Thanks all

  18. Like several others I found this a struggle. Very few answers in at first go, but when I saw TRAFFIC LIGHT the first letters helped a lot. LOI was CREATE. I agree about odd spelling of LASAGNE/LASAGNA.

  19. 7:26, but foiled by fat finger syndrome on my POI. FEATUEE! Gloom and despondency:-( Thanks Mara and Roly.

  20. Glad that others found this tricky. Most of the last 10 mins of my overall 30+ mins were spent on LASAGNA (I too had lasagne at first), CREATE and RUSSELL (is rustle a whisper?). Otherwise all seemed fair enough. Liked RUMPUS – what a top word. Thanks to Mara and rolytoly.

  21. For a Mara puzzle I found this one very difficult. I gave up after getting less than half the answers. It surprises me as Mara tends to be a bit nicer to us beginners compared to some other setters. Perhaps Mara couldn’t find any clean socks today and so took it out on me personally 🤣

    I too found the spelling of Lasagna odd. I’ve always phonetically called it La-sag-knee.

    The name Mara always makes me think of a sabre-toothed tiger. Not sure why.

    1. Strangely, I too refer to it as La-sag-knee yet never considered it would be anything but LASAGN-A

      Mara makes me think of the old Peter Davison Dr Who story – Kinda

  22. I struggled at first with my first one not coming until 14A. Getting 7D quite quickly helped with the east side but it wasn’t until I made myself look at each word in the clue that I began to speed up and also appreciate the smooth surfaces of the clues.
    10D took some time to crack (!) where HARD came to me quite quickly, but I then wanted to follow it with SKINNED or some variant thereof. Enjoyed the discussions above about the origins of the rhyme and the egg. I wonder how I’ve spent nearly 70 years on this planet and never wondered about this before!
    Thanks to Mara and Rolytoly.

  23. The clock stopped for me at 14.25 but I had no less than three interruptions that made the timing irrelevant. I would say I was over my ten minute target for sure as like others I thought it was on the tougher side. So nearly spelt LASAGNA with an E but fortunately took a little time to check the clue for spelling. LOI 20ac RUSSELL preceded by CREATE. A very enjoyable crossword so thanks to Mara and to Rolytoly

  24. Tricky.
    Slowed down by represent, traffic light, and feature.
    Humpty Dumpty nice but COD crimson.

  25. Normally give up after 30 mins, but I persisted with this one (which I thought was pretty difficult) and managed to pull it all together in 35 mins.

    In retrospect, some are fairly obvious – but the point is when you’re faced with a blank grid, and they are all equally challenging, nothing is straightforward.

    Barely got any in the top half on my first pass and for a while thought 7dn could be “Pea Shooter” before I had any checkers (I have seen that as a wind instrument somewhere else).

    The rest just went in slowly – Mara was not generous with write ins today I thought.

    FOI – 12ac “Girth”
    LOI – 3dn “Feature”
    COD – 21ac “Lasagna” – cleverly hidden

    Thanks as usual!

  26. Wasn’t Elgar a composer rather than a maestro? He’s better known for his compositions (cello concerto, Land of Hope and Glory etc) than for conducting.
    Took several goes at half hourly intervals to finish this very enjoyable puzzle.

    1. ‘Maestro’ is applied to a distinguished figure in many areas. It means ‘master’ and is widely used in that sense. Elgar was a master composer (and he did conduct a bit – I have some of his recordings). John

  27. Not many in the top half on the first run through so this was basically a bottom-up solve. I thought it was quite tricky, certainly the trickiest of the last few days, s o I was quite pleased to finish in 18 minutes. Never managed to parse CRIMSON (thanks Rolytoly) and was held up a bit by trying to put HARD SHELLED in at 10dn – it doesn’t fit (and anyway doesn’t make a lot of sense). I’m pleased to say that I spotted the unusual spelling of LASAGNA but it didn’t help a lot with 17dn. Biffed TIN WHISTLE from the crossers without checking the anagrist.

    FOI – 8ac IDEA
    LOI – 6dn GAS
    COD – 9ac CRIMSON

  28. Jumped about the grid after FOsI DRIVER and HARD-BOILED. Solved a few then stuck embarrassingly on TRAFFIC. Then slowly slogged through to the end with DISORIENTATE. Fell into the LASAGNe trap at first. (Spaghetto, anyone?). Slow to see RUSSELL, and the easy ACCOUNT.
    Liked CRIMSON, INCITE, RUMPUS, among others.
    Thanks vm, Roly. Today the parsing fell into place once one knew the answer. (MER at UPSTART = arrogant. Arriviste? Parvenu? Whatever. )

  29. 22:38. A lot of words needed a few checkers before I could get them-DISORIENTATE, FEATURE, RUSSELL, and HARD-BOILED were some . I liked rustle as whisper after coming up blank on a synonym for a long time. Had ruckus first for RUMPUS possibly influenced by ruction in INSTRUCTION. I knew ruck was in rugby and possibly connected to back? – No. COD to CREATE. Thanks for clearing many things up in blog.

  30. 6:48 this morning. I found this the toughest QC for a while, although it’s clear not all of us felt the same way. Several clues required a re-visit once crossers were in place which puts a fast time out of reach for me. Still I enjoyed the puzzle with a series of well-crafted clues.
    POI 11 ac “account” where I couldn’t dredge up the right nobleman, then LOI 3 d where the “u” crosser lead me to “rut” reversed in “fee”.
    Liked 5 ac “lying” (although I have seen a hidden clue being flagged by “hosts” before) and 19 c “Elgar”.
    Thanks to Roly and Mara

  31. This was really hard and far from encouraging for those of us starting. I realise that the quick cryptic is not intended to encourage new people and it achieves this. The editor needs to consider whether they want new blood or the same people doing these puzzles in record times. A group of 10 of us started about 4 months ago all but 2 have packed it in. Just occasionally there needs to be a solvable puzzle or at least 80%.
    On the other hand if as the name suggests these puzzles are just for experienced people to set record times than so be it, but I think an opportunity to get others into the game is lost.
    Personally I will keep at it but I am guessing most are not. Just an observation.

    1. This issue comes up quite regularly, so it’s not just your group that has struggled to get to grips with the Quick Cryptic (please note it’s not called the Easy Cryptic). Eventually it will become more straightforward but, just like learning any new language, it can be baffling at times. I still struggle a bit on days like today, but if I have a few hours to kill can usually finish the 15×15 – something well beyond me when I started out. Reading, and understanding, the blog is the best way to make progress.

    2. Byron – I started last December. Six months later I was beginning to lose the will particularly after a run of tough ones. Possibly my situation was made worse by solving one in under 25mins in the first fortnight and another in 30-mins a few days later, so expectations were high.

      I think the thing that saved me was getting one of the ‘official’ Time QC books to have more practice. I reckon I’d done about 200 in total across the book and dailies by the time things began to snap into place. I don’t think my GK / vocabulary particularly improved – only my familiarity of what setters tend to use regularly for synonyms and clueing.

      Stick with it mate. Do what you can and walk away from a grid when it becomes onerous. Just keep picking up the paper and giving it a try without too much expectation.

    3. I started 18 months or so ago and I found it extremely hard today, so you are not alone. It does get easier, so stick with it.

  32. Joined those who had trouble with 21a lasagna/e. We thought of create for 17d but failed to see the hidden in 21a. Quite a test on a hot day.

  33. Slow – Quick – Glacially Slow!

    Nothing until DRIVER, then only four more during the remainder of my first pass. A mostly blank grid at that stage presented quite a daunting prospect.
    However, TIN WHISTLE and TRAFFIC LIGHT revealed themselves early in my second pass and I was then up and running.
    Until the three-to-go point, that is! Those three clues – REPRESENT, CREATE and RUSSELL – took just over 40 minutes to crack. I refuse to use aids when attempting to solve these QCs, so agonisingly long and drawn-out finishes are common place for me. Perhaps I should relax my rules, but I’m convinced they’ve made me a marginally less atrocious solver over the long term.

    Many thanks to Mara and Rolytoly.

  34. I found this very difficult and thought my brain had been fried by the heat. The SW corner got blocked when I had HARD HEADED for 10d and I kept thinking that PASTA should somehow fit 21a. The whole thing was like getting blood out of a stone even using word searches etc

  35. Enjoyed this even though extremely tricky for me. No time but in the order of 30 minutes. I got Russell and Rumpus as last two in.
    Crimson tricky. As were many others!
    Thanks all

  36. Not only a DNF but also a DES (Didn’t even start). I think of a rustle as a quiet crackling sound, certainly not a whisper, so didn’t even put in the only success, though on another day I might have been willing to stretch the definition. I agree with those who thought it a difficult puzzle, but the main reason for my spectacular failure is that I attempted at the end of a day when my brain was addled by the heat.

  37. Well that put me firmly in my place. I’ve done well this week but today I was over the hour mark. Couldn’t see 1ac for ages and just not on the wavelength. Mara is usually gentle so maybe I was having a bad day.

    Thanks as ever for the blog!

  38. I felt quite smug getting HARD-BOILED, TRAFFIC LIGHT, LASAGNA, GIRTH and TIN WHISTLE quickly when they fooled so many. Then completely bamboozled by RUMPUS and FEATURE. Ah well, Mara can always use HUBRIS somewhere soon to remind me! Nice one.

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