Times Quick Cryptic No 2253 by Corelli

As soon as I saw the Setter’s name, I was on the lookout for a theme or Nina, and I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, I think it may be a double theme if such a thing exists.  See my comments below the main blog for more clarification but do have a look for it yourself first.

Despite the presence of such a strong theme or themes, the puzzle resolved itself very smoothly, taking me only 11 minutes to solve, so well-done Corelli for a great setting job.  Everyone else, please let me know your thoughts.


Cleanse with (initially) grey powder? (4)

WASH – W{ith} (initially) and ASH (grey powder?).

3  As a whole pointless, amnesty partially reversed (2,5)

EN MASSE – Hidden reversed (partially reversed) inside {pointl}ESS AM NE{sty}.

Available at the shop – or yet to arrive? (2,5)

IN STORE – Double definition, two meanings.

9  Is going to southern lobby (5)

SHALL – S{outhern} and HALL (lobby).

10  Copper first to be seen in the nick (3)

CUT – CU (copper, chemical symbol) and T{he} (first to be seen in The).

11  Copper, maybe, from east allowed to imprison people (7)

ELEMENT – E{ast} with LET (allowed) containing (to imprison) MEN (people).  Definition by example, signalled by ‘Copper, maybe’.

12  Accused’s defence fails if bail oddly withheld (5)

ALIBI – Alternate letters (oddly withheld) of fAiLs If BaIl.

13  Punish bad Bert for vandalising jail (3,6,4)

PUT BEHIND BARS – Anagram (for vandalising) of [PUNISH BAD BERT].

16  Hand on shoulder: the thief come for finally (5)

REFER – Final letters (finally) of shouldeR: thE thieF comE foR.

18  Forgive scam performed (7)

CONDONE – CON (scam) DONE (performed).

21  Note from the French hotel (3)

LAH – LA (the in French) and H{otel} (phonetic alphabet).

22  Office where duty’s arranged (5)

STUDY – Anagram (arranged) of [DUTY’S].

23  Runs in a race at the start, then has a breather (7)

ARRESTS – A R{ace} (at the start) and the RESTS (has a breather).

24  Tool one passes across? (7)

SPANNER – Double definition, the second as in bridge, which one could use to pass across.

25  Short fat and very desirable! (4)

PLUM – PLUM{p} (fat, short = drop the last letter).  PLUM as in something choice, such as a plum job.


Chess player who starts with unusual energy (5)

WHITE – Anagram (unusual) of [WITH] and E{nergy}.

Dodgy American quietly entering cult? (7)

SUSPECT – US (American) and P (quietly) inside (entering) SECT (cult).

Shocking punishment one won’t stand for (8,5)

ELECTRIC CHAIR – Cryptic definition.

4  Dirt about celebrity is hot stuff (7)

MUSTARD – MUD (dirt) surrounding (about) STAR (celebrity).

Police once turned up in taxis at sunrise (5)

STASI – Reverse hidden (turned up in) {tax}IS AT S{unrise}.

6  Icer Sal used especially in cakes (7)

ECLAIRS – Anagram (used especially) of [ICER SAL].

7  One used for skipping or doing somersault at gym (4)

ROPE – OR (or) reversed (doing somersault) to give RO and then PE (gym).

13  Parts of sentence served by her pass turbulently (7)

PHRASES – Anagram (turbulently) of [HER PASS].

14  Any role played close to the start (5,2)

EARLY ON – Anagram (played) of [ANY ROLE].

15  Awakening, missing start of drinking party (7)

AROUSAL – {c}AROUSAL (drop first letter (missing start) of drinking party).

17  All the wildlife from an unknown norther area, originally (5)

FAUNA – Initial letters (originally) from From An Unknown Northern Area.

19  Police informer’s name found on old ship (4)

NARK – N{ame} and ARK (old ship).  Where NARC in the US is a narcotics cop, NARK in the UK is a police informer.

20  Racecourse record some cannot complete (5)

EPSOM – EP (record – extended play) and SOM{e} (cannot complete, miss last letter).


The first theme or part of theme should be immediately familiar to any board game players of my generation.  There are references to people, objects and rooms from Cluedo© (UK) or CLUE© (US) all over the grid, including; Colonel MUSTARD, Professor PLUM, Mrs WHITE, ROPE, STUDY, {s}HALL and SPANNER.

Secondly, most of the rest of the grid seems to have a continuing crime and punishment theme, although less directly connected with CLUEDO: SUSPECT, ELECTRIC CHAIR, PUT BEHIND BARS, ALIBI, CONDONE, ARRESTS, NARK, STASI.  There may be more…

70 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2253 by Corelli”

  1. 16:50. Took me a while to realize REFER= hand on and also that in went with runs to get the definition for ARRESTS. S_a_l had so many possibilities I almost gave up on it but fortunately going through possible letters again I saw that SHALL worked. Very tricky definition. PLUMP took the longest as I couldn’t see how “short fat” worked. I enjoyed WHITE because it used with as anagrist when the poor word is usually just a connector or the letter w.

  2. 8 minutes. I was looking for a theme as I solved but didn’t spot it until afterwards. According to the Wiki article, the weapon at 24 is called a wrench but is depicted as an open-ended spanner ‘in some traditional UK versions’. I think on the few occasions I played the game we called it a spanner anyway. Can’t stand Cluedo myself, and only ever played it under protest.

    1. I’ve always thought that ‘spanner’ was Britspeak for ‘monkey wrench’, as in ‘throw a __ in the works’.

      1. I could expound on types of spanner for some time, but it would all be from a perspective this side of the Atlantic – divided by a common language! Monkey Wrench has always implied to me a type of adjustable spanner, similar to a Stillson Wrench (invented by an American), whereas a ‘spanner’ fits one size of nut and bolt only. They are either metric, where the size refers to the distance ‘AF’ (across the flats), or imperial, where the size relates to the size and type of thread (e.g. BSW – British Standard Whitworth). Of course, there are adjustable spanners too, but they aren’t the same as Monkey or Stillson Wrenches.

        1. Quite right, rotter – about spanners and monkey wrenches and also about our two nations divided by a common language. 😉
          I still have three sets of spanners/sockets bought for my former vehicles to cover BSW/BSF (UK), UNC/UNF (US), and then Metric (almost all bolts are now metric thank goodness). John

          1. I just remembered a quote from, I think, P.J. O’Rourke about a monkey wrench being ‘a tool for rounding the head of a bolt’.
            Perceptive. Sorry I can’t find the original source. John

            Also applies to pliers and vice grips (mole wrenches in UK for some older mechanics).

          1. Predictive text strikes again, I imagine. Have you got anything to say about the crossword or are you just here to mark homework?

      2. …which I became aware of thru the title of John Lennon’s second book, A Spaniard in the Works.

  3. Missed the theme totally but didn’t have any problems. I think of WRENCH and SPANNER being American and British words for the same thing, like TRUNK and BOOT (back of a car).

  4. Started well from FOI: SUSPECT then steadily worked through the top half and the SW including the two long crossers. Then took about the same time again to tackle the SE.
    LOI: PLUM with a smile when I spotted the parsing.
    25 minutes without spotting the theme but I did notice Coppers, crime and punishment etc.

  5. I normally manage a time pretty close to rotter’s but I failed today. I was quite taken by the puzzle but I had to jump around more than usual and the whole process seemed disjointed. I finished a couple of minutes over target again.

    As soon as I saw that there was a theme/Nina, the penny dropped. Any normal ‘flow’ on the part of the setter or solver evaporates as soon as the former is finding words to fit a theme instead of letting his/her brain run free. Why do setters do this?

    Thanks to rotter but a GR to Corelli from me. Bah! Humbug! John M.

    1. Why do they do this? Probably because there’s a fair proportion of solvers who enjoy it. I’m quite partial to it myself but less so if it’s a theme (e.g. sport and recent popular culture) on which I have little or no knowledge.

      1. Define “fair proportion” Jack ! I suspect that the proportion of solvers who find these things spoil the puzzle is higher, but we can’t definitively prove that

        1. As you say, we can’t know. ‘Fair proportion’ is also undefinable, but I certainly wouldn’t claim it means the majority. Probably most solvers don’t even notice.

      2. Fair enough for you, Jack. As an experienced solver with a very quick mind, it adds something for you and, because you pick up on a theme quickly, it helps you complete a puzzle.
        Some of us don’t pick up on themes (too busy concentrating on each clue and moving on quickly after solving one).
        For me, it interferes with the subtle and mysterious relationship between setter and solver. I always know when something is not quite ‘normal’ and, because I am a bit slow on the uptake, usually make sense of this and realise there is a theme when I have finished a puzzle.
        I recognise that we are all different and approach cryptics in different ways but it doesn’t stop me from finding ‘themes’ a disruptive pain (and saying so).

        1. Your opinions are always welcome here, Blighter, and it’s clear that you are not alone in your dislike of Ninas and themes, and that’s fine.

          Regarding my own experience today, as mentioned above I didn’t pick up on the theme until after I had completed the puzzle even though I was expecting one having seen who the setter was, so the theme was no help to me in that respect.

          1. Thanks, Pam. Nice to know I’m not alone!
            Don’t seem to have seen you here for a while. Welcome back. John

  6. Steady going with no major hold ups. Saw it was Corelli so had a look for a theme after completion and for once spotted it. Had I seen it during the solve I wouldn’t have spent so long on MUSTARD where I couldn’t get wasabi and masala out of my head – even though neither made any sense or had the right number of letters.
    Started with WASH and finished with CUT in 8.06 with COD to PLUM.
    Thanks to Rotter

  7. 8.26

    Blundered around a bit with ELECTRIC SHOCK (the h checker was correct) CONCEDE and EARLL ON all of which caused delays ..but no pinks and a decent time so happy enough with that.

    Never look for the Ninas and ditto here but liked it in retrospect

    Thanks Rotter and Corelli

  8. Great game, Cluedo. ( All the same I missed the theme, apart from a vague thought about crime. ) There is a modern version which introduces a new character, oh dear. Had to buy it for GD2 (8) who is mad about the game . Just checked – Mrs WHITE has been eliminated from the new Cluedo! Possible skullduggery.

    Anyway I finished this quite quickly for me. Only held up slightly by LOI PUT BEHIND BARS. FOI WASH, WHITE. Liked IN STORE, CONDONE, among others.

    An enjoyable puzzle. Thanks vm, Rotter.

  9. Why does it not surprise me that those who solve crossword puzzles more easily than me have a detailed knowledge of spanners, wrenches etc.? Enjoyed the solve but then I am of the Cleudo playing generation

  10. Too many ‘what on earth. . .’ moments to describe this as a comfortable solve, but at 20mins it was my quickest of the week so far. Mind you, that was with 15d unparsed, as Carousal/drinking party has sadly passed me by (the name, not the activity). I should have remembered that Corelli is yet another of the Editor’s nina hats, and that torturous definitions should be expected, as sure as night follows day. CoD to one of the more straightforward in 20d, Epsom. Invariant

  11. I spotted the police and punishment theme, but completely missed the Cluedo one, despite playing it a lot many decades ago, so was held up on my LOI of PLUM.

    Many thanks to Rotter and Corelli.

  12. It is a bit annoying that The Times still hasn’t fixed the glitch that prevents one from seeing the name of the setter when solving on a phone. If I’d known it was a Corelli I’d have looked for a theme – I rarely spot them, but enjoy looking.

    Lovely smooth puzzle and I enjoyed it very much. Held myself up briefly by putting IN STOCK and EN TOUTE but soon unscrambled. Otherwise pretty much top to bottom.

    COD PLUM, time 08:02 for 1.2K and a Very Good Day.

    Many thanks Corelli and Rotter.


    1. Templar, having recently (and reluctantly) switched to doing the puzzles on my phone, I so much agree with your opening sentiment. “It is a bit annoying that …” is absolute gold-standard British understatement!


  13. I found parts of this difficult, particularly when the definitions were not clear to me e.g. REFER.
    I paused to improve on STALL at 9a; I could see it didn’t quite work but couldn’t improve on it for too long; again I missed seeing the definition.
    Wondered how GLAM could work at 25a.
    Last in were AROUSAL and ARRESTS where I failed to see the Runs In definition.
    A clever puzzle. I missed the theme.
    16 minutes in the end.

  14. Spotted the theme once I saw Rotter’s intro, but I never actually look for one otherwise. Started with WASH, finished with ARRESTS. No dramas. 8:11. Thanks Corelli and Rotter.

  15. A lovely puzzle, all solved in 9 minutes and for once I did spot the Nina. Or at least the “crime and punishment” Nina – I conclude that it needs a setter to throw two at us for me to have a hope of spotting one of them.

    SE corner held out the longest with Arrests never parsed (I completely failed to connect the “in” with “Runs” and then Plum only got through an alphabet search – I was tempted at first by Glam but could not find a word going GLAMx for fat. If I was a Cluedo player I might have got the Professor a bit quicker…

    Many thanks to Rotter for the blog and Nina-explanations.

  16. Just squeaked in under my target time at 9.58 with this one, and thought it a well constructed crossword. As usual a theme didn’t occur to me, and after Rotter’s heads up I still managed to miss the Cluedo connection. My time would have been better if I hadn’t been so long with my LOI 23ac ARRESTS, where I was fixated into thinking it had to be AIRsomething because of the mention of breather.

  17. I just could not get into this puzzle today. It totally failed to grab me. Whether it was just me not being in the mood, or the puzzle being lacklustre I don’t know. I got about half way and just lost interest in it.

    Not been a good week for me with these QCs.

    1. Dear PW,
      Today’s puzzle “failed to grab” me, as well. I think it was because the wordplay was often cumbersome/awkward. I did eventually finish, but only after what seemed like an eternity and much gnashing of teeth.

      1. Me too. I did it this morning in just under 1o minutes, but was quite underwhelmed by it. I don’t mind a good theme or nina, but they do often make for awkward cluing, and I usually have to have them pointed out, even when I know to look for them!

  18. Very straightforward, apart from PLUM! Didn’t spot the NINA, but then I rarely do! It is a clever one.

  19. Totally missed the theme as usual and for a while even had custard instead of MUSTARD 😂 Started really slowly, then began to speed up as I neared the 20 minute mark. Lots of PDMs including SHALL, WHITE, GLAM and STASI (so slow to spot the hidden). Liked CONDONE best. Briefly considered new word ‘noss’ for NARK – oh dear. I found this harder than others for some reason but all correct and parsed in around 25 minutes which seems to be my average this week.

  20. Saw it was a Corelli, reminded myself that threatening to bash him over the head with his own mandolin was uncharitable, and got on with solving it without considering a theme. Not quite as tortuous as usual and seen off quite quickly. Themes quickly noted on completion.

    TIME 4:19

  21. 5:24 this morning, a little above target, which might have had something to do with a meal out with old work colleagues yesterday evening? The Fiano with pumpkin risotto was certainly most enjoyable at the time.
    Was vaguely aware of a crime and punishment theme as I went through the puzzle but didn’t use it to solve any clues. Thanks to Rotter for identifying the link to Cluedo, which I confess is another of the many board games I’ve never enjoyed.
    I suspect setters enjoy a Nina from time to time, as it provides an extra challenge from their point of view. I’m fairly relaxed about that sort of thing from the solver’s angle.
    COD 7 d “rope” – liked its surface.
    Thanks to Rotter and Corelli

  22. 19 mins…

    Frustrating really, as I was whizzing along until I got to the SE corner and then I hit a brick wall with 18ac “Condone”, 23ac “Arrests”, 15dn “Arousal” and 25ac “Plum”.

    The rest of it I enjoyed, and although I knew there’d be a Nina in there somewhere I failed to spot it (not that I was really looking).

    Had a weird moment with 9ac where I had “Shall” but kept thinking it should be pronounced like “Shawl”, so couldn’t understand the definition until the inevitable brain fog lifted.

    FOI – 1ac “Wash”
    LOI – 25ac “Plum”
    COD – 13ac “Put Behind Bars” – only because I imagined Bert from Sesame Street in jail for some reason.

    Thanks as usual!

  23. In case there’s ever a vote, Mr SR and I would put our X firmly in the pro-Nina/theme box.
    I practically never see them but Mr SR is pretty good at both spotting them and remembering which setters are prone to them. However, it very rarely helps with solving; we just enjoy the setter’s agility in retrospect when Mr SR notices one or the blog indicates one.
    My problem is that I always assume a Nina is a word/sentence formed by letters in the grid and a theme means words/clues through the crossword associated with said theme.
    So sometimes, once alerted, I’m looking for the wrong thing.
    I must be more flexible and realise they’re used interchangeably.
    Many thanks both Corelli and Rotter.

  24. As many as 28 clues today – a relative rarity.

    I made very good progress until the last few, which proved tortuous in the extreme, but even those that came relatively quickly didn’t seem to flow (IMHO). In several cases the wording seemed cumbersome, even back to front on occasions. Maybe that’s because I’m not as quick at deciphering the wordplay as others above, but I still retain that impression, even after reading Rotter’s excellent blog.
    My last three in, all in the SE corner, were ARRESTS, AROUSAL and PLUM. They added just over half an hour to my time! Why did I bother? Sheer cussedness, that’s all. Total time = 56 minutes

    Mrs Random finished in 39 minutes, but also struggled in the SE corner.

    Many thanks to Corelli and Rotter.

  25. P.S. I have a Cluedo story from a little over 20 years ago.
    My eldest son received the game as a Christmas present when he was 8 or 9 years old. So, six of us (5 adults and said son) set it all up and spent quite a while explaining the rules. My son was allowed the first turn and threw the dice. He moved into one of the rooms and made his accusation (although I can’t remember where, who or with what). Each of the rest of us checked our cards in turn, but none of us possessed any of the room, character or implement in question. He was therefore encouraged to open the envelope in the centre of the board, which (of course) revealed that his first accusation in his first ever game of Cluedo was 100% correct. He had won the game without any of the rest of us even getting a turn.

    1. I would be pleased to know what his favoured numbers are for the National Lottery this week.

    2. Did he Cheat? My brother had a reputation for sneaking a look at the cards before they went into the wallet thingy 😀

  26. Like Mr Random, 30-mins to have ARRESTS, AROUSAL, PLUM left. Another 3 attempts totalling 25-mins and I really couldn’t figure them out.

    I wonder whether ECLAIRS was originally intending to involve Miss Scarlet as it’s nearly an anagram.

  27. Never saw the nina (not that I ever do) and failed completely to solve 25ac PLUM. Maybe if I had spotted the Cluedo theme I would have got this. Instead I had SLIM which I was always unhappy with as it clearly didn’t parse. Other than that I found this relatively straightforward, finishing (or rather DNFing) in 17 minutes.

    FOI – 9ac SHALL
    LOI – DNF
    COD – 18ac CONDONE

    1. Likewise I couldn’t get slim out of my head for _l_m but the only thing I could build on was the “very desirable!” in the clue. Well, I reasoned, wasn’t Twiggy slim and very desirable?

  28. Gave up after 66 minutes. 21 clues completed. Did not see the Nina. Thank you for the very helpful blog.

  29. One of our quickest solves for many a day, so much enjoyed. We failed to see the nine. Thanks Corelli.

  30. Cluedo. One of the best board games ever. My sons are very much inbetweeners not the strange creatures one sees on Only Connect and they love Cluedo. The newer versions are a bit more fast moving than the 70s version J

  31. 11.16, was absolutely racing though it then got held up in the bottom right. Didn’t spot the very obvious Nina. Doh.

  32. I was enjoying this until 25ac and 15dn remained. After much thought, put in aroused for 15dn, not for one minute thinking it could be wrong. That will teach me to check my tenses.

    I’d worked out wordplay for 25ac, but, as a result of my error, was left with *d*m. I put in edam, which I find very desirable! Not sure if it’s short and fat.

    Oh dear, a poor week goes from bad to worse. I should have concentrated on 25ac first as I would have come to plum eventually.

    A pity because I am getting more of the wordplay but stumbling over a small number of clues and consequently finding it a slog at the moment.

    Needless to say, the nina(s) passed me by.

    Thanks for the blog Rotter.

  33. 19:17

    Saw lots of crime related words but missed the Cluedo Nina. All fairly easy apart from a few hold ups in the bottom right and LOI SHALL.

  34. Stabled at the end with ARRESTS, where I was thoroughly misdirected by the runs and also because ‘runs in’ is not in my vocabulary and PLUM where similarly ‘lump’ for ‘fat’ doesn’t register so that was LOI and took an alphabet trawl before submitting with fingers crossed. NINAs – clever but never improve a puzzle.

  35. “the former is finding words to fit a theme instead of letting his/her brain run free”

    If only that were possible (!)
    Setters always have to fit a grid at the very least.

    “There is a Cluedo theme of sorts here, with Mrs WHITE and Colonel MUSTARD as SUSPECTs in the top half of the grid, along with a ROPE in the HALL. But they have an ALIBI. Instead, it’s Professor PLUM under ARREST (literally) in the bottom half, having been caught with a SPANNER in the STUDY, and is to be PUT BEHIND BARS (possibly facing ELECTRIC CHAIR in the US version).”

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