Times Quick Cryptic No 2277 by Hurley

Solving time: 09:06

A medium-strength offering from Hurley – should be nothing too tricky here, though there is a pink-square possibility if you are not careful….

About average time for me for this horsey-flavoured puzzle, though nearly fell into a maybe-unintentional trap with the un-horsey 14d. How did you get on?

Definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions and substitutions are in curly brackets} and [directions in square ones].

1 Bread — mine? Thanks (5)
PITTA – PIT (mine) TA (thanks)

Pitta bread is a flat, hollow, slightly leavened bread which can be split open to hold a filling – in the UK, often seen as the carbohydrate component of a doner kebab.

4 Leather firm is welcoming radio operator (7)
CHAMOIS – CO (firm) IS – insert HAM (radio operator)
8 Help from above, rapid or otherwise (3,4)
AIR DROP – Anagram [otherwise] of RAPID OR

Whether humanitarian aid, leaflets or military equipment, an AIR DROP is made without the aircraft landing.

9 Dramatic work co-op oddly abandoned ahead of time (5)
OPERA – {c}O{-o}P [oddly abandoned i.e. remove the odd letters] + ERA (time)
10 Horse race speeches, late unfortunately (12)
STEEPLECHASE – Anagram [unfortunately] of SPEECHES LATE

The name comes originally from horses and riders racing from one town’s church steeple to the next, where hedges, low stone walls and streams would have provided the obstacles.

12 Set of animals not easily moved (6)
STABLE – Double definition – ‘set of animals’ as in the racehorses of a particular training establishment.
13 Referring to bones, plan is faulty (6)
SPINAL – Anagram [faulty] of PLAN IS
16 Stupidly miss site logo for quake expert (12)
SEISMOLOGIST – Anagram [stupidly] of MISS SITE LOGO
18 Warning signal after alcoholic drink? Right (5)
ALERT – ALE (alcoholic drink) RT (right)
20 Unfinished journey by way of Lima? Of little importance (7)
TRIVIAL – TRI{p} (journey [unfinished – final letter removed]) VIA (by way of) L (for Lima from the NATO phonetic alphabet)
21 Couple hosting popular European afternoon show (7)
MATINEE – MATE (couple – verb) containing [hosting] IN (popular) E (European)

Not clear from the cryptic whether the European should appear before or after the E from MATE i.e. could be MAT(IN E)E or MAT(IN)E E – thoughts welcome.

22 Silly person, Oscar, leaving tower at first sign of panic (5)
TWERP – T{o}WER (Remove O for Oscar) P{anic} [‘first sign of’ indicating the first letter]
1 Acclaims postscript about move up (7)
PRAISES – RAISE (move up) surrounded by PS (postscript)
2 Fun for horsy set Friday through Sunday? (5-3,5)
THREE-DAY EVENT – Think the whole clue is the definition here, being a combination of dressage, cross-country and show jumping, indicated by ‘fun for horsy set’ being an EVENT running from Friday through Sunday i.e. over THREE DAYs.
3 Pairs cool off in Athens landmark (9)
ACROPOLIS – Anagram [off] of PAIRS COOL
4 Initially complex indeed, penning woman’s secret message (6)
CIPHER – C{omplex} I{ndeed} P{enning} HER (woman’s)
5 A party making fuss (3)
ADO – A DO (party) – a chestnut
6 Liable to be offended, sore even — visit going wrong (13)
OVERSENSITIVE – Anagram [going wrong] of SORE EVEN VISIT
7 Disadvantage of small horse (4)
SNAG – S (small) NAG (horse)
11 Mesmerising person trained this pony over time (9)
HYPNOTIST – Anagram [trained] THIS PONY. Stick T (time) on the end.
14 Unintentionally say tenancy taken by cricket fielder (3,4)
LET SLIP – LET (tenancy taken) SLIP (cricket fielder)

Nearly pink-squared myself here by entering LEG SLIP (a different type of slip fielder, this time on the Leg/On side of the batsman) before realising I’d overwritten the T from 16a

15 Sally, kind, idle after vacation (6)
SORTIE – SORT (kind) I{dl}E [after vacation i.e. remove all but the first and last letters]
17 Still involved in classical music (4)
CALM – Hidden word [involved in] classical music
19 Metal, it’s brought up North (3)
TIN – TI (reverse IT [brought up – pertinent as this is a ‘down’ clue]) plus N (North)


90 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2277 by Hurley”

  1. Straightforward. DNK the EVENT, but I knew eventing. I can’t see any reason to prefer one parsing over the other with MATINEE. 4:31.

    1. Hi there
      General question.
      When completing a QC do solvers read the questions first and then start or is the timer set before any reading?

      1. If online, the timer is set before any reading.

        If on paper, then one could read the questions before beginning to fill in the grid, but wouldn’t that be giving one a headstart?

        1. Thanks
          We start the timer as soon as we start reading…I think it would be a headstart. Just checking if there is any set rule.
          Thanks for replying.

      2. I solve via the print newspaper and the clock starts as soon as I begin to read the first clue.

  2. This was a completely fair puzzle for me, but like Mike, I did try to stick ‘LEG’ into the cricket clue before the crossers sorted that out

    Speaking of which no idea what a Sally or a Sortie is at all! Off to the dictionary.

  3. 9:34. Very straightforward today. The only clue giving me difficulty was LET SLIP where like Tina and blogger I thought ,after seeing the initial L, that a leg would be involved.

  4. Seems to be the first one MAT(IN E ) E. Had no idea about Sally . Thought it was softie ie kind.

  5. Galloped through this one in 7:35, very fast for me. Like vinyl1, I got the long anagrams very quickly, which is unusual. FOI PITTA, LOI and COD SORTIE.

    Thanks to Hurley & Mike.

  6. 10 minutes. 14dn required revisiting as I also was thinking of LEG as the first word. I returned to it when SEISMOLOGIST had provided a checker and quickly resolved the issue.

    THREE DAY EVENT was a write-in once I had some checkers but I then wasted time on it looking for non-existent fragments of wordplay.

  7. Seven on the first pass of acrosses and even better on the downs. Needed to spot the second V in the anagrist to get OVERSENSITIVE, took far too long to get SPINAL and then held up at the end trying to think of a three letter word for horse to scupper my sub-seven chances. All green in 7.08 is still one of my quickest ever.

  8. 9:36 for a bounce-around-the-grid solve with SNAG, CIPHER and ALERT the LOIs.

    It felt like a plethora of anagrams at one stage but perhaps just a sequence of them in my random order of solves.

    Thanks Hurley and Mr H

  9. 4.33

    Probably a PB – plenty of biffing. Inserted LEG SLIP but the earthquake expert wasn’t ending in g so avoided that bear trap.

    Liked ALERT

    Thanks Hurley and Mike

  10. Some fast times here already and I join them with a 7½ minute solve. As this implies, nothing much held me up, for an enjoyable romp through.

    Leg/Let slip didn’t cause me to hesitate but my potential pink square was in Cipher, which for some reason I always try to spell Cypher. But checking the wordplay very carefully kept me all green.

    Matinee seems an odd clue with genuinely two equally possible parsings – I forget which one I found while doing the puzzle, and I confess the idea of looking for a second parsing never crossed my mind!

    Many thanks to Mike for the blog.

    1. Glad to see I’m not the only one who spells it CYPHER. I biffed with a high degree of confidence, barely glancing at the clue. Result: pink square and red face.

    2. Alternative parsings are not uncommon when double letters are involved. There’s no convention as far as I’m aware that setters should avoid them as the object for solvers is to get the right answer, and if anything the alternative makes this marginally easier.

    3. Another who originally thought it was cypher. Also I have to shamefully own up to almost entering sphynx yesterday.

  11. 20 minutes and no real problems. The long anagrams going in sorting the anagrist after.
    LOI: TRIVIAL after sorting the WP.
    Favourite: MATINEE.

  12. Felt like there were a lot of anagrams in this one and, fortunately, the cap was firmly in place today. Spent some time trying to parse CIPHER before I realised that ‘initially’ referred to 3 words and not just one. LOI STABLE also took longer than it should.
    Started with PITTA and its offshoots and finished in 7.59
    Thanks to Mike

  13. FOI & COD was PITTA, what a neat clue. Did the acrosses first today so avoided the LET/LEG issue. Really fun puzzle.

    All done in 07:13 for 1.6K and a Good Day.

    Many thanks Mike and Hurley.


    1. I’m new to crosswords and today was only the second time I managed to finish in 35 minutes! Feeling elated! I had to look up chamois and the idea of ham as a radio presenter.

      I really enjoy this forum for helping me learn on days I cannot solve the answers but there are some bits I cannot understand! What do the following mean:


  14. Under target, but not as quick as some.

    All went in well enough, STABLE was my LOI and caused the most head scratching, probably because I was looking for a collective noun for a while.

    TRIVIAL was my favourite.


  15. A sound solve for me but not spectacular. At least I was back on target today – to the second. I liked CHAMOIS, AIR DROP, TWERP, and TRIVIAL. STABLE needed crossers.
    Thanks to Hurley and Mike. John M.

  16. In a rush today so I was happy to finish in 8 minutes.
    Except I changed a dodgy LOI STALLS to SNAILS, which I wasn’t sure about.
    Will take more care tomorrow.
    COD to LET SLIP.

    1. STAlLs to SnAiLs: I did exactly the same. Both seemed (and still seem) perfectly legitimate answers to me … and yet both are incorrect. Why?

  17. When I read Mike’s blog, I thought he was referring to Cypher/Cipher, but I can see Leg/Let Slip could be another trap. No problem, of course, if you parse your answers. A few too many anagrams for perfection, but a friendly enough QC that took me a full 15mins thanks to loi Stable. CoD to 22ac, Twerp, just ahead of its ‘stablemate’ 20ac, Trivial. Invariant

    1. A rule of thumb I’ve seen somewhere (maybe Don Manley’s excellent Crossword Manual) is no more than 5 anagrams in a puzzle… today we have 6. I can’t say I noticed there were a lot, but I did notice that three of the four long answers were anagrams

      1. I think the ‘rule’ is 5 pure anagrams but there can be partials too. Mind you, that’s for 15×15 puzzles, so maybe we need to knock off one for 13×13 QCs?,

        1. There are in fact, 6 and 8/9ths 😉 anagrams in today’s puzzle: acrosses 8, 10, 13, 16 downs 3, 6, 11

          1. I used to be absolutely hopeless at anagrams, using a hit and miss approach. These days I look at possible endings first and then see what’s left over. Like DD’s, they can be a great clue if you get the answer quickly, and the devil’s invention if not. A few too many today though.

  18. Nicely within target today, at about 13 minutes, although distracted by several extraneous events. I wasn’t tempted by leg slip, thinking of the definition at 14d kept me on track. Thanks both.

  19. No problems with this as the long ones all went in fairly quickly, which helps with the checkers. I liked MATINEE best. Thanks Hurley and Mike. 4:13.

  20. I thought I had finished in a fairly speedy 6.28 until I discovered that it wasn’t SNAILS but STABLE. It wasn’t as if I didn’t give it enough thought as it was my LOI, and it stopped me from finishing in under six minutes. I did have a nagging feeling there was something wrong however.

    1. I had the same LOI, but no “nagging feeling”. Snails are a ‘set of animals’ which are ‘not easily moved’, especially when stuck to something. So, a cryptic definition in my book.

  21. I found this harder than most other solvers seem to have and just didn’t get SORTIE or STABLE. Ah well.
    Haven’t noticed before that “after vacation” means leaving only first and last letters: we live and learn.

    1. Use of “vacation” came up only the Friday before last on Joker’s 2269

      16 Plan scenic home movie on vacation (6)
      SCHEME – Outside letters, [on vacation], of S{ceni}C H{om}E M{ovie}E.

      I even replied to a poster who asked about it.

      You can imagine therefore how galling it was for me to be left starting at SORTIE and thinking wanted a variation of holiday or trip. STABLE my 2nd LOI. Neither jumped off the page.

  22. Very easy, I thought, until I came here and realised I had plonked in Cypher without much thought.
    Long ones went in fast which helped. Liked CHAMOIS, LET SLIP, SNAG among others.
    Thanks vm, Mike.

  23. Another careless DNF as biffed CyPHER. Didn’t know what sally was so 3+ mins on that took me out to 18.31

    About a year ago I started these. It was just after Christmas I had my first unaided solve and a time of 24:30 promised great things. So it was a long, whingey six months wait for first exit from SCC involving many traumas and 1-2hrs solves before it eventually occurred in May. Overall I’ve had 12 successful SCC exits along with a further 8 that were DNFs. PB now stands at 11:13. Reading clues faster has helped!

    This month, completed 11 of 21 QCs with only Wurm’s on 15th having more than 1 left or incorrect. Average solving time just under 30-mins with 6 under 20mins (4 of which were DNFs) while only three took longer than 45-mins . Pleasant progress and these things are now beginning to feel like they are actually quick!

    Thanks for all who have encouraged and responded along the way!

    PS Any chance of a Like button? 😀 Often want to signal thumbs up to others without having to post a glib reply.

      1. I don’t see a thumbs-up icon. The reply box is just a box to type into with “Post comment” below it. Is there a setting to get these?

            1. Talking of keyboard tips, how do I get either Italics or Bold type into comments on the N.A.I. (“new and improved”) TftT blogpage please?

                1. Yes, we discovered a while ago that the underline doesn’t work unless one has author level access rights or higher i.e. it’s only available to bloggers. This seems to be a WordPress thing rather than something imposed by our TfTT developers.

    1. I’m coming up to my second annual anniversary of trying cryptic crosswords. I’m not sure what the entry time is for the SCC, but I’m absolutely sure I’ve never failed to get in, even on my relatively “quick” solves. 🤣

      1. I’m working to the SCC cut off being 20-mins. You were probably the poster who inspired me to post here PW 👍

        1. I’ve always understood it as 20 mins. It’s probably covered in the glossary.

          I’m another SCC regular, but I try not to let it bother me. As long as I enjoy the solve and feel that my brain has had a decent work out, the time doesn’t really matter.

          I also solve the old-fashioned pen and paper way, which is perhaps slower but, for me, more satisfying.

          Some of my most satisfying solves have been the hard QCs where just getting to the end is reason to celebrate.

  24. Fairly straightforward today, all complete and parsed in 13 minutes. More time spent checking the letters in SEISMOLOGIST to ensure the correct spelling than anything else. I also tend to spell CIPHER with a ‘y’ but luckily read the clue carefully enough to avoid this error.

    FOI – 1ac PITTA
    LOI – 8ac AIR DROP
    COD – 20ac TRIVIAL

    Thanks to Hurley and to Mike

  25. No problems with this one. All the down clues went in first time, leaving just four across clues to solve on the second reading.

    TIME 3:30

  26. Pleased to avoid the SCC today (17 mins) with STABLE my LOI. Steady solve otherwise with quite a few write-ins for me (STEEPLECHASE, HYPNOTIST, SEISMOLOGIST, ACRROPOLIS, OVERSENSITIVE) which helped considerably. I also had ‘cypher’ initially but changed halfway through. Liked SORTIE/Sally – sally not heard much these days. Thought PITTA was clever. Many thanks all.

  27. 15 mins…

    Enjoyable puzzle from Hurley I thought. Spent the most time on 12ac “Stable” (initially had “Stalls”) and 7dn “Snag” where my brain decided to have an outage.

    Quite a lot of biffing though, with 2dn “Three Day Event”, 16dn “Seismologist” and 10ac “Steeplechase” all being penned without too much effort.

    FOI – 1ac “Pitta”
    LOI – 7dn “Snag”
    COD – 15dn “Sortie”

    Thanks as usual!

  28. Got a bit overexcited as was heading for an 8 min PB so went into superbiff mode. Hence the cypher and softie errors made by others. Left the fizz on ice. J

  29. Loved it ! Everything went straight in other than red herring of softie and cypher initially. I’m finally getting the hang of QC .

  30. I reckon this must be the easiest QC this year, as I completed 19 of the 24 clues in fairly short order. Then I gave up, beaten by CHAMOIS, TWERP (describes me!), CIPHER, OVERSENSITIVE (I had all the letters, on paper in a circle, but just couldn’t see the answer) and SNAG. I know I’ll never complete one, but am very pleased with today’s effort. Many thanks for the blog.

    1. “I know I’ll never complete one”. But I know that one day you most certainly will!

    2. You got the two (stable and sortie) that were my last ones in so there is hope for you yet Ian. Well done – keep plugging away at it 👍

    3. I think you’ll get that breakthrough soon- maybe one day when you least expect it.”Courageous persistence” is the mantra I mumble to myself !

    4. You have gone from “what’s the point!” to completing 19 out of 24 clues in fairly short order. That is progression – I am convinced you will get there.

    5. If I can do it, you certainly can! There were some tricky ones today and that result is real progress. Well done.

  31. From “Triumph” (a rare escape from the SCC, and a near PB) to “Disaster” (a DNF) in a matter of moments (reading Mike’s blog after I had finished). My LOI was SnAiLs for 12a, having initially had STAlLs, but Hurley had STABLE. Quite why my alternative answers are wrong beats me. My challenge now is to “treat those two imposters just the same”. Trouble is, I don’t think I come up to Kipling’s definition of “a man”.

    Mrs Random finished (all correct) in 23 minutes. She’s on a good run at the moment. Her definition of ‘a man’ is not me. I’m often on the receiving end of “If you don’t/won’t/can’t do it I will get a man in – a proper man”.

    Many thanks to Hurley and Mike.

    1. As long as she’s only talking about putting up a shelf or some DIY, I’d let her get on with it. Will give you more time for the QC!!

  32. 9:41, with possible PB but spent 2 mins on STABLE at end, with STALLS looking very tempting.

    Nothing else held me up, but did carefully study CYPHER/CIPHER.

  33. I thought I was on track for a record time, until floored by my LOI, 12ac. I am another one who wanted it to be SNAILS, and just could not see STABLE, although it made perfect sense when revealed.

    Many thanks

  34. Very late to the party but since I recorded a super rare sub 6 minutes finish I needed to relish the moment. FOI PITTA and LOI SORTIE. 5:49

  35. Thank you Hurley. Delighted with my first ever sub 1 hour solve at 58:12.
    LOI STABLE not helped by the final letter of 1d morphing into an I.
    Spent ages on SORTIE until meaning of vacation became clear. Must remember that and IN for Popular. It’s like learning a new language.
    Note to fellow Ian: keep plugging away.
    Thanks Mike and others for the very helpful blog

    1. My word, yet another Ian – did I miss numbers 2,3 and 4?

      Well done that man! 👏 Very satisfying to see the round number barriers broken.

  36. Hurley seems to have been a hit today. I was just into the SCC and was quite pleased, although your comments made me think I might have done better.

    It’s remarkable how perceptions of a QC vary. I found yesterday’s QC straightforward and yet some people struggled.

    Held up a little today by 15dn and 12ac. Great sympathy for those of you who put ‘snails’. It didn’t occur to me, but it looks like a good answer.

    COD – 20ac

    Many thanks for another great blog.

  37. DNF

    All done in about 15 minutes apart from STABLE, for which I put SNAILS thinking it an anagram of ANIMALS without the M. I knew it wasn’t right but couldn’t think of anything else.

  38. Straightforward for me today with a 13th fastest ever 12:27, though I DNK ham was a radio operator. Thanks all.

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