Times Quick Cryptic No 2327 by Hurley

Solving time: 8:49

It felt like I couldn’t really get up a good rhythm with this entertaining grid from Hurley. I found I was jumping around somewhat, trying to pick up those answers which gave themselves up more willingly, and providing crossers for those which were less obvious.

Certainly a few entered here without fully understanding the parsing at first – only fully parsed post-solve. However, a backslap to the setter for 3d – Myrtilus’s creation recognised at last!

How did you get on?

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

1 Chartered Accountant in condominium sadly unable to be contacted (13)
INCOMMUNICADO – CA (Chartered Accountant) inserted into anagram [sadly] of CONDOMINIUM

I was trying to make UNCOMMUNICATIVE at first until realising that it had too many letters.

8 Number exercise, we hear, in part of plant (7)
TENDRIL – TEN (number) DRIL i.e. homophone [we hear] of DRILL

TENDRILs are threadlike appendages found on climbing plants and are used for attachment and support

9 Food, tons, ready to eat (5)
TRIPE – T (tons) RIPE (ready to eat)

The edible lining of the stomach of various farm animals and other ruminants.

10 Being of tender years, they, fun souls potentially (12)
YOUTHFULNESS – Anagram [potentially] of THEY FUN SOULS

Hastily bunged in YOUTHFULSOME at first, which I am not sure actually exists.

12 Yearly warning unable to be ignored on regular basis (6)
ANNUAL – Alternate [ignored on a regular basis] letters of wArNiNg UnAbLe
14 College is happily housing Japanese girl (6)
GEISHA – Hidden in [housing] College is happily
17 Around North Carolina, leave strange area unlike its surroundings (7)
ENCLAVE – Around NC (abbreviation for North Carolina), anagram [strange] of LEAVE

An ENCLAVE is a territory entirely surrounded by another territory. Examples include the Vatican, San Marino (both entirely surrounded by Italy) and Lesotho (surrounded by South Africa).

19 Article about ultimately fair English Cardinal (5)
THREE – THE (article) around last letter [ultimately] of {fai}R then E (English)
20 Controlled and guided herd of cows, maybe (5)
DROVE – Double definition – ‘maybe’ is added as a DROVE can be a herd of any livestock
21 A bad habit encompassing unlimited harm — greed (7)
AVARICE – A VICE (a bad habit) around [encompassing] {h}AR{m} – i.e. without its first and last letter [unlimited]
22 Journalist referring to hotel employee perhaps (8)
REPORTER – RE (referring to) PORTER (hotel employee perhaps)
23 Tidy, not using mixer (4)
NEAT – Double definition, the second of which refers to the drinking of spirits without anything added e.g. gin without tonic, or whisky without soda
1 Letter from Greek island love cheers (4)
IOTA – I (island) O (love = zero in tennis) TA (cheers i.e. thank you)
2 Unite firm New Jersey supports with other industrial name initially (7)
CONJOIN – CO (firm i.e. company) NJ (abbreviation for New Jersey) with O{ther} I{ndustrial} N{ame} [initially – initial letters of all three words in this case]
3 Deserve minor eyebrow raise at first — it’s needed (5)
MERIT – MER (first letters of ‘minor eyebrow raise’) + IT

MER is short for Minor Eyebrow Raise and appears in the TfTT glossary (go check it out if you haven’t already). Might be used by commenters who think the setter’s clueing or definition might perhaps be a little bit wrong.

Nice bit of Times crossword solvers’ meta put to good use here by setter!

4 Pitiful, heartless — reform required to give boost (6)
UPLIFT – Anagram [reform required] of PIT{i}FUL with middle letter removed [heartless]
5 Cerebral and popular, order European, punctual, to dismiss pun (12)
INTELLECTUAL – IN (popular) TELL (order) E (European) then {pun}CTUAL i.e. PUNCTUAL with the PUN ‘dismissed’
6 A team’s digression (5)
ASIDE – A SIDE (team)
7 Exaggeration about California, say, intended to be heard (13)
OVERSTATEMENT – OVER (about) STATE (California, say) then MENT i.e. homophone [to be heard] of MEANT (intended)
11 In Mecca lend Arab table with date information (8)
CALENDAR – Hidden inside [in] Mecca lend Arab
13 Playing for fun, a pal you’re texting (7)
AMATEUR – A MATE (a pal) UR (textspeak for ‘you’re’)
15 Certain Mike is being included? A guess (7)
SURMISE – SURE (certain) containing [being included] both M (NATO alphabet for Mike) and IS

SURMISE here is a noun

16 Busy type embracing conflict? Look out! (6)
BEWARE – BEE (busy type) around [embracing] WAR (conflict)

The idiom ‘to be as busy as a bee’ means to move about quickly doing many things

18 Noisily chew meat cut by Monsieur (5)
CHOMP – CHOP (meat) with M (Monsieur) inserted [cut by]

121 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2327 by Hurley”

  1. No problems. Like Vinyl I bunged in INCOMMUNICADO & YOUTHFULNESS without checking the anagrist, which opened up lots. 5:23.

  2. Can’t bring myself to say more than a rogue J in YOUTjULNESS has deprived me of my second fastest time. (But if I was to go on it would be to say how much I enjoyed 3d!).

  3. 8 minutes, so 3/3 targets achieved this week so far whereas last week I managed only 1/5.

    Although I parse as I go I didn’t notice MER for ‘minor eyebrow raise’ as I don’t as a rule read the surfaces of clues.

    1. Hi jackkt, can you explain how you solve without reading the surface while still parsing as you go? This feels like a nugget that might really help me achieve a breakthrough in my solving times!

      1. Not sure I’ve expressed what I do, or that I can, but it’s a technique I know is used by others here so I’m not alone in applying it. It involves not reading clues as sentences but as separate words or perhaps groups of words. The real speed merchants more often than not will spot the definition immediately and come up with the appropriate answer, bung it in and move on – this gave rise to the abbreviation BIFD (bunged in from definition) and then biff, biffing etc which you will have seen. I prefer to make sure I understand the parsing too so I usually look at the clue again but still focussing on individual words some of which will supply letters towards the answer and others will be indicators of anagram, deletion, enclosure etc, until I am satisfied that I have accounted for everything needed to parse the answer. Of course there are some clues (cryptic definitions and &lits) where this technique doesn’t work so one needs to be able to realise that as soon as possible and treat them differently.

        For the 15×15 puzzle I use the same methods until the clue is solved but then I mark up the grid and clues on my printout to indicate the parsing, so at that stage I’m more likely to take notice of surface readings.

        1. This is exactly what I try to do, except for the bit about the 15×15, which I generally find too difficult for me! In the QC it’s easier to spot what the individual components of the clue are doing, but I find that in the 15 I am much less able to break the clue down and so I end up being seduced into reading the surface as a whole (at which point I’m doomed).

        2. Mrs Random, who seems to know everything, says that a good way to proof-read a passage of text for spelling errors (errers?) is to read the words in reverse order. I wonder if that technique could help when solving awkward crossword clues.

          1. Sounds good for proof reading! A technique for dealing with awkward clues recommended here in the past (possibly by Dorset Jimbo) is to write all the words of the clue

            1. A similar technique for anagrams is to write the consonants and vowels on two separate lines.

        3. Thank you, the depth and clarity (and time you took to do that) is much appreciated

        4. But a clever surface is at least half the fun!
          Of course, I’m not striving to increase my speed (or concerned about slowing down… yet).

  4. 13:29. Slow to get the SW corner for some reason and also took a while to see INCOMMUNICADO. Good to see MER being given official recognition, or sort of.

    Thanks to Hurley and Mike

  5. 20:37, which is outside my target (20:23). This was almost entirely accounted for by ENCLAVE, where I just couldn’t get “strange area” to work. More time on the final clue than the rest of the entire puzzle, nothing in our glossary for this.

    The Wikipedia page on enclaves and exclaves is brilliant.

    With MER now in the clues, we might start seeing other elements of our glossary in clues, and maybe even in the grid. Here’s my effort:

    Staring, a confused set of letters forms the answer (8)

    1. Though it didn’t make it into the glossary, someone coined “breezeblock” for a puzzle that was going swimmingly until the last clue.

      1. That’s wonderful. I shall use that from now on as I frequently come across breezeblocks!

      2. In my experience it more likely to be a pair of adjoining breezeblocks that delay or prevent me finishing. I had one such example in today’s 15×15 as mentioned in my contribution.

        1. When I woke up this morning, I never expected to be reading about “a pair of adjoining breezeblocks”. It’s discussions like this that make the world (and this community) a fun place to be.

  6. 10 minutes, and a puzzle with much to enjoy, but also for me some of the clunkier surfaces we have seen. Perhaps that is inevitable with the longer IKEA-type clues, but the clue for 5D Intellectual hardly trips off the tongue, and that for 10A Youthfulness is not a lot smoother.

    But one forgives Hurley a lot when he can give us a clue like 3D Merit!

    Many thanks to Mike for the blog.

  7. Was taken over target by this one with the main culprits at the end being UPLIFT, TENDRIL and LOI YOUTHFULNESS, where even with pen and paper and all the checkers it took a bit of working out. Also took time to spot the parsing of GEISHA and INCOMMUNICADO was slow to reveal it’s secrets.
    Let out a snort at MERIT which is my clue of the week, even though it’s only Wednesday.
    Finished in 10.17
    Thanks to Mike

  8. Lots of successful biffing this morning. OVERSTATEMENT sprang to mind, followed by INCOMMUNICADO and YOUTHFULNESS.
    Wish I had timed myself as I was deffo on the wavelength too.
    Yes, liked MERIT (COD), among others.
    Thanks vm, Mike.

  9. Definitely on wavelength. I have never before completed a crossword without being only 90% sure of at least some answers and needing crossers to confirm…until today. However it was not without challenge.! Spotted an unusual symmetry in the grid. FOI INCOMMUNICADO, LOI THREE, COD MERIT. Thanks Hurley and Mike, whose blog I consulted to check I wasn’t kidding myself!

  10. I rattled through today for a sub 20 min solve (17.22) which is fortunate as I have a busy work day. I had my own MER at ‘THREE’ trying to parse His Eminence and English into TE, or, E, THE but then why R so, just biffed it as I still don’t get it to make THREE which seems a weak indicator for a cardinal number.
    Thanks Hurley and Mike

  11. I found this much easier than yesterday’s puzzle, and finished in 8.25 with no particularly hold-ups. LOI was AMATEUR. I enjoyed 3dn.

  12. A good puzzle but I found it tougher than yesterday’s. One or two very slightly clunky clues were overshadowed by the excellent ones. I thought I was going to rip through this at first but I ended up, like our blogger, jumping about a bit at the end. I hesitated for a while over NEAT and OVERSTATEMENT didn’t pop out. YOUTHFULNESS was my LOI so I missed the advantages that the filled squares from the longer answers would have brought and ended up, sadly, 3 mins over target.
    MERIT was perhaps a bit of an ‘in’ clue but biffable for those who don’t frequent this site.
    Thanks to Hurley and Doofers. John M.

  13. Top to bottom, almost as fast as I can type on my phone. Slight hesitations over the parsing of INTELLECTUAL, AMATEUR and THREE cost me a sub-5 but never mind, because all green and parsed in 05:08 is a sub-K and thus that rarest of days, a Red Letter Day!! Huzzah!

    Proper chuckle at MERIT, which is a stand out COD.

    Many thanks Hurley and Mike.


  14. 12 mins fully parsed so I think this was a record time for me today. I fear I have lost track. LOI was NEAT which took 2 of those minutes as I had the answer but could not see the double definition. I hurt my times by insisting on parsing before entering an answer but I find it much more satisfying that way.

    COD for me was THREE with the clever misdirection. I also chuckled at AMATEUR – does anyone actually use ‘UR’ for ‘you’re’ when texting these days?

    I didn’t even notice the MER in MERIT. It would be interesting to hear from Hurley whether it was actually intended. Perhaps too much of a coincidence not to be.

    Thanks Hurley for a fun puzzle and Mike for the blog.

  15. 9 minutes today. LOI AMATEUR.
    No problems but some tough parsings. I biffed a couple.
    ENCLAVE was tough.

  16. Without doubt my best ever performance. Constant progress. On the setters wavelength etc. etc.. It still took 14.11.
    How on earth do you speedkings do it?!

  17. I found this one difficult to get going, but once a few clues went it, I picked up speed.

    Not sure why the fuss over Minor Eyebrow Raise. The clue suggests taking first letters of Minor Eyebrow Raise. I saw nothing extraordinary about that.

    “ The edible lining of the stomach of various farm animals and other ruminants.” – rather you than me 🤢🤮

    A difficult QC that I didn’t think I would finish, but I did. Albeit having to use all three lives.


    1. I think the comments about MER are simply a happy surprise that a piece of our own ‘jargon’ from this blog has made it into the Setter’s arsenal.

      1. Ah, of course. I would have seen that had I read that part of the blog properly.

        My apologies. 👍

  18. 11 minutes, LOI strangely to REPORTER, which should not have delayed me. Is anyone else finding that they have to regularly re-log-in to the site? I seem to be asked every day for 7 or 8 days, and then not again for a couple of weeks. It is a little strange and aggravating.

    1. Yes I often get asked to log in. But then again it could be because I often switch between phone, tablet and PC.

    2. For reference … I’ve probably only had to log in once or twice since the site began. I have two machines which are used regularly to view the site. I don’t get many broadband outages so maybe that helps.

      1. Specifically, do you clear cookies (and maybe cache as well) when you clear history?

        Because I believe cookies hold the login info, whereas history itself is list of where you visited, cache is a store of all the pictures/logos to make for quicker site loading.

        1. ‘Clearing history’ covers history, cookies, and other browsing data.
          I now remember that I need to log in again to this (and many other sites) when I clear a long list of activity in ‘history’. John

          1. It happens to me even if I don’t clear history etc. More often than not it’s because I switch between devices (iPhone, Laptop etc) and probably forget to tick the box that says remember me on this device.

    3. I have to log in every day, otherwise I have no avatar. (Sometimes, every time, as today😕)

      1. I hadn’t noticed, until reading this, that my avatar has disappeared too.
        I didn’t save the picture of our rock rose in flower because my phone is elderly and takes to its fainting couch if I overload its memory (I sympathise).
        I’ll have to find another StoneRose-style picture and then try to remember how to add an avatar, or stay as a white silhouette for ever.

        1. I daresay Mr SR loves whichever avatar you use – white silhouette or beautiful flower.

        2. See my reply below about “Remember me”. Another thing to bear in mind is your browser cookie settings. If you use Chrome, for example, there is a setting that removes cookies on closing the browser…
          You can let sites remember information during your browsing session, but automatically delete the cookies when you close Chrome.
          On your computer, open Google Chrome.
          At the top right, click More More and then Settings.
          Click Privacy and security and then Cookies and other site data.
          Turn on Clear cookies and site data when you close all windows.

    4. The default login persistence for WordPress is 48 hours or 14 days if you check “Remember me” at login. After the first few weeks of operation of the site I added some code to change the login persistence to 3 months, but that only works if you check “Remember me”. It is controlled by a cookie so if you are still having trouble try clearing the cookies for the site before logging in again. Let me know if you are still having a problem.

      1. My issue with not receiving responses to my comments has now been solved by ensuring I am logged in prior to commenting. Thanks for your support and advice on that

    5. Yes, I’ve been having this problem for weeks. In fact, the system logged me out again today between posting this morning and replying to Templar just now. Johninterred has been trying to resolve this for me for some time, but despite everything, I still get logged out regularly! It only started happening towards the end of the year. Frustrating, but it’s a comfort to know it’s not just something I’ve done wrong!

  19. 13:09 for my joint fastest time of the year. Admittedly there was a typo but this ain’t the world championships.

    An asymmetrical grid was playing on my mind a little and the top half was empty apart from IOTA on first pass. But the helpful regulars and hiddens of ANNUAL, GEISHA, CALENDAR got things moving.

    When I put SURMISE in and was left in the SE corner with -E- – and a clue I couldn’t fathom I feared I might be left at the end staring and alphabet trawling as the clocked ticked into the SCC but NEAT came to me on a second look later.

    In my world of synchronicity I was only this past weekend watching a Youtube looking at the Spanish enclaves on the north Africa coast next to Morocco. Interested by Mike Harper’s description that enclaves are entirely surrounded by another country as Ceuta and Melilla are peninsulas into the Med. A deeper look into Wikipedia suggests they are technically semi-enclaves! My Youtube recommendations is now full of enclave vids 🙄

    Second pass INCOMMUNICADO went straight in which gave lots of opening letters for the downs. YOUTHFULNESS, I initially wanted to be young- but when MERIT blocked that, I resorted to writing out the letters which took up time unnecessarily.

    Reached my last two of ASIDE / TRIPE at 11:30 and again thought I might be staring for a while. Fortunately the team=side popped in and I was able to alphabet trawl to TRIPE. Once again, a food & drink clue being my downfall!

    1. Congrats on great time- you shot past me and left me to trundle across finish line a good 4 minutes after you!

    2. The grid is symmetrical all right though not in the more usual way. This is symmetrical around a diagonal.

      1. 😁 Oxygen mask needed for the hyperventilation of reaching the heady heights and high altitudes!

  20. It seems I’m not alone with NEAT being my breezeblock today. FOI INCOMMUNICADO followed swiftly by most of the attached downs. This gave me a really good start and I was 80% done in about 12 mins. Things then slowed down until my breezeblock at about 16 mins. Eventually I saw NEAT but still couldn’t see the second definition so delayed until 20:34 before hoping for the best. Enjoyed this a lot, especially 3d. Thanks Hurley and Mike.

    1. Dear HR,
      Some information came my way which led me to speculate that you sometimes attend gigs at Trading Boundaries. If so, our paths may have crossed on occasion. Do you have any favourites from the last few years?

      1. Hi, SRC. We’ve only been to Trading Boundaries a couple of times, as it’s a long way from home for us (we’re in Northampton) and we have to stay over in the hotel in the nearby village. We went once in 2018 for the Carl Palmer trio and once in 2019 for Luca Zabbini and Barock Project; Luca was presenting an evening of piano music from Keith Emerson’s repertoire, and pretty much the entire Emerson family showed up. Emerson’s talented grandson also played a couple of pieces. We may indeed have crossed paths! We keep meaning to go to one of the Steve Hackett acoustic shows that he does every December, but TB don’t seem to have an early warning system, and by the time I spot the dates all the seated tickets have been sold. This has happened the last three years; I’m going to try to be more vigilant this year. We were at De Montfort Hall, Leicester last night for The Musical Box, who are touring The Lamb at the moment – very good as always. What are your highlights from TB? It’s a great venue, that’s for sure 🙂

        1. Living only 40 minutes away in W Sussex, we have seen several bands at TB over the last few years.
          We saw Barock Project on their first visit (Luca is top class) and Steve Hackett (excellent of course, although I prefer his Genesis Revisited shows).
          We have seen Lifesigns (John Young, Dave Bainbridge and others) more than once at TB and I would strongly recommend you try to catch them somewhere – actually, I think they’re back at TB very soon for two nights.
          Also, Wilson & Wakeman (v. entertaining), Panic Room (inactive at present, I think) and Curved Air (Sonja Kristina is still going).
          During lockdown, the restaurant/bar at TB was re-modelled to increase capacity. Also, the small retail outlets outside have now gone and are being replaced by some hotel accommodation. So, you may be able to stay on site on future occasions.
          Finally, everyone raves about Focus, who appear there 2-3 times each year. We haven’t seen them yet, but they’re on my bucket list.
          Well worth another visit, I’d say.

          1. I’m either too old or too young to recognise any of the bands above. Are these in the same vein as your other recommendations to me Random?

            1. Barock Project are a young band from Italy. Definitely prog-rock and led by a virtuoso keyboard player who also sings.

              Steve Hackett was Genesis’ lead guitarist in the 1970’s. His recent solo albums are prog rock with world influences, and his live shows are simply the best experience ever. Look on Youtube for his performance of Supper’s Ready (24 minutes!) at the Royal Albert Hall, but watch it on your telly, not on your phone.

              Lifesigns are a more recent collaboration between a bunch of talented musician’s in their 50’s and 60’s who have all worked with various other bands over the years. Expect slightly poppy/jazzy prog rock, although they’re difficult to find on the streaming sites.

              Damien Wilson & Adam Wakeman (son of Rick W). An eclectic mix of tunes. Great vocals (DW) and expert piano/keys (AW).

              Panic Room appear to have disbanded, but they served up a wide range of very musical songs/albums. Led by Anne-Marie Helder, a multi-instrumentalist who sings beautifully.

              Curved Air were in their heyday back in the early 70’s. The only band I have come across whose lead instrument is an electric violin. Sonja Kristina is their lead vocalist.

              1. You’re right about Steve’s live shows, SRC. We always get two or three dates for every tour. This last time round we saw them in Cambridge and Northampton. The whole band are all just so totally brilliant. The accommodation at TB has been rumoured for ages; hope they can get it going. Our local equivalent is The Stables at Wavendon, MK. Superb little venue. G2 do a 3-day residency there every year. The Phil Toms group is a gem if you like Tubular Bells, by the way; they also tend to play the smaller venues. Will aim to catch Lifesigns 🙂

  21. 14 mins…

    Enjoyable puzzle this, although there were definitely at least 4 that I bunged in straight away (sometimes the longer clues are the easier ones to see).

    Main hold up was bizarrely 18dn “Chomp” where I had initially misparsed and thought the m= meat. As a result, I couldn’t understand why a “monsiuer” was a “chop” rather than a “chap”.

    FOI – 1ac “Incommunicado”
    LOI – 18dn “Chomp”
    COD – 19ac “Three”

    Thanks as usual!

  22. Back in the saddle after a few days away on the south coast. Started slowly and then picked up speed. I didn’t solve the long anagrams too quickly, and essentially this is why I finished outside target at 10.49.
    Frankly, I’m just glad to be able to post this comment after a frightening incident on the M5 a few days ago, when the car immediately in front of me shed its entire exhaust system, and with nowhere to go to avoid it I ploughed into it at seventy miles an hour. I was lucky to make it to the hard shoulder with my wife and I in one piece with so much traffic around us. The car didn’t fare so well.

    1. Sounds a very lucky escape. Must have been scary. Hope you’ve recovered from the shock and have a sympathetic insurer. You were perhaps fortunate to have a hard shoulder to use…’improving’ the M1 over here leaves us with none.

      1. Believe it or not, at the point of accident, the hard shoulder had been coned off, and I had to drive 300 to 400 yards to find the point where the cones finished. When I eventually made the hard shoulder it was comforting to then have the cones behind us! The noise the car was making dragging the discarded exhaust beneath my car was dreadful, with accompanying smoke to worry us further. The recovery process was brilliantly quick, with the car on a low loader in 30 minutes, and the insurance company very sympathetic. I would have been dreadfully worried if it was one of the so called ‘smart’ motorways that you refer to. They should be phased out.

  23. INCOMMUNICADO went straight in, but I seemed to be off the wavelength as I progressed. OVERSTATEMENT and INTELLECTUAL took a while to see and I was also held up in the SW. Eventually crawled over the line in 12:52. Thanks Hurley and Mike.

  24. MER at MER. Will solvers outside this community understand it ?

    Having got all the down clues on my first pass, I returned to the four missing across clues and biffed INCOMMUNICADO without rereading the clue – easy parse on completion.

    TIME 4:07

    1. But there’s no need to know what ‘MER’ means, or that it means, to solve the clue.

  25. 16:32 today with nearly 5 mins on LOI SURMISE – definitely a breezeblock! Interesting to hear how expert setters ignore the surface initially. I so often get misdirected I may well give this technique a go – thanks for discussion above Prof/Jack. COD to MERIT. Many thanks to Hurley and Mike.

  26. 9:00. I quite enjoyed this one, as I don’t usually get onto Hurley’s wavelength easily! I did think that a couple of surfaces were a bit clunky – YOUTHFULNESS and INTELLECTUAL in particular – but MERIT made me smile. Perhaps it does deserve an MER – it is a bit cliquey after all – but not knowing our jargon wouldn’t stop experienced solvers getting it. If they investigated a bit, they might even find us! I didn’t fully parse NEAT or INTELLECTUAL. It seemed like we were travelling all around the world today, including to THREE American states.
    FOI Iota LOI Neat COD Nothing really stood out
    Thanks Hurley and Mike for the cracking blog

  27. I was a bit slow getting going despite INCOMMUNICADO and YOUTHFULNESS going straight in. It didn’t help that I wrote the former in wrongly so was puzzled by 4D seeming to start with an I at first – I do my crosswords on paper but still manage to have “typos”! I was amused by the MER reference. Thank you Mike and Hurley. 5:22.

  28. Put off by some of the clunky surfaces today (well that’s my excuse anyway). I was certainly slow to start with the top part of the grid completely empty at first. Gathered pace further down and basically solved from the bottom up. All done in 18 minutes but couldn’t parse 23ac NEAT and 4dn UPLIFT. Thanks to Mike’s fine blog for the explanations.

    FOI – 12ac ANNUAL
    LOI – 9ac TRIPE
    COD – 22ac REPORTER

    Thanks to Hurley for a good workout

  29. 4:44 this morning. Unusual grid I thought, where cracking the longest clues opened things up.
    LOI 23 ac “neat”, once I’d stopped thinking of concrete and Kenwoods.
    Another fan of 3 d “MERit”.
    Thanks to Mike for an informative blog and to Hurley.

  30. After a first look at the grid I had already resigned myself to a lengthy solve but then 1a came straight away. I even managed to spell it correctly first time. I enjoyed seeing MER. Having BIFD both the hiddens, GEISHA and CALENDAR, I’m awarding them jointly my COD. 8:06 for an on target solve.

  31. No MERs from me, as I broke free from the SCC to finish in 17 minutes. The SE corner (incl.THREE and NEAT) held me up a little towards the end, and one or two clues (e.g. AVARICE) were never fully parsed. INCOMMUNICADO and CALENDAR both went in quickly to provide plenty of starting letters. Altogether, a good day.

    Many thanks to Hurley and Mike.

  32. Looked hard at first, but once a couple of the long words went in, progress improved. LOI TRIPE.

  33. 9.25 First sub-ten since last Wednesday. This was mostly straightforward finishing on an ironic note with YOUTHFULNESS.

  34. Long clues helpful, but we slow in checking the spelling causing get unnecessary delay.

  35. This felt like the acrosses and downs had been set by different people. I got almost nothing on my first pass of the acrosses – first one in was THREE – but then almost all of the downs came quickly. Happy to end up all done in 17:13, with only the second meaning of NEAT unparsed. Broad grin here at MERIT, looking forward to FOIST at some point.

    1. Followed by LOITER and CODICIL perhaps! I’m struggling to think of a word that begins with DNF though 😅

  36. I can’t say I found this easy, but someone needs to occupy a seat in the SCC. Yet another long anagram held me up (10ac), and I also struggled with DROVE (for a long time thought it was DRONE, which does arguably fit as one controls a drone and they are now used for herding purposes). Thought 13dn was an anagram (reference to ‘playing’).

    Must have been on an off day given some of the times recorded above, but I was done somewhere around 30 mins.


    Thanks for the excellent blog.

  37. Lovely crossword which flowed really well for me. Wondered slightly about the parsing for 19 across, so thanks to the blog for sorting that out for me. Like a lot of others, loved the MER clue.

  38. Missed a hidden 14a – how does that happen! Great puzzle from Hurley, and a useful blog from Mike helping with some overlooked twists in the clues. Interesting to learn some insights from the faster solvers.
    FOI 1a Incommunicado
    LOI 18d where I had first tried Champ, with 20a forcing a closer look
    COD 13d Amateur.

  39. All done in 41 minutes, well within my 1 hour target.
    Lovely puzzle.
    Was worried about NEAT as after n for not I couldn’t see how eat could be a mixer so thanks Mike for the explanation as a double meaning.
    COD 11d calendar because it had me going round in circles before I spotted the ‘in’. Same with Geisha. These hidden word clues are easily missed.

  40. 14:53

    Much more my level after yesterday’s struggle. No tricky vocab just a few answers where a little more thought was needed, ENCLAVE, AVARICE and LOI TRIPE.

  41. Took a while to get the long ones but did like overstatement
    Just over one ( very delicious) course

  42. Gosh, comment overdrive! Great to see the community thriving. Puzzle done this morning on my laptop. Forgot to comment, then a busy day. No access to laptop just now, so no recollection of the puzzle, or my exact time.

    Mid 4’s I think, fwiw.

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