Times Quick Cryptic No 2333 by Orpheus – Mad as a Hatter?

This took me 11 minutes to solve, fully parsed.  However, there were several questions arising from the solving and parsing, particularly in 13 and 14 down.  Otherwise, I had no real problems, and expect to see some fast times.

There is a slight flavour of Alice about it, I thought, what with Nobles and hats and small rodents and stuff.  How did you all get on?


Flee from snakes initially invading European headland (6)

ESCAPE – S[nakes} (initially) inside E{uropean} and CAPE (headland).

7  Old bloke extremely negligent about a new contract (8)

COVENANT – COVE (Australian informal, or old British slang for a man or chap) and N{egligen}T (extremely) around A and N{ew}.

8  Fellow protégé, a pusillanimous type (6)

COWARD – A fellow protégé might be a co-ward.  Pusillanimous is one of those words that I sort of know, but would be pushed to provide a clear definition for.

9  Communication from police officer’s district (8)

DISPATCH – DIS (D{etective} I{nspector}’S – police officer’s) and PATCH (common term for a police precinct or district.

10  Epic tale of silver found in South Africa (4)

SAGA – AG (chemical symbol for silver) inside S{outh} A{frica}.

12  Small rodent’s sleeping-place beside Yorkshire river (8)

DORMOUSE – DORM{itory} (sleeping place) next to OUSE (Yorkshire river).

15  Setbacks concerning poetic endeavours (8)

REVERSES – RE (concerning) and VERSES (poetic endeavours).

18  Leaders of expedition travelling near a volcano (4)

ETNA – First letters (leaders) of E{xpedition} T{ravelling} N{ear} A.

20  Surpass head of English in south, somehow (8)

OUTSHINE – Anagram (somehow) of [IN SOUTH] and E{nglish} (head of).

22  Bet involving north German composer (6)

WAGNER – WAGER (bet) containing (involving) N{orth}.

23  Nobleman’s make of car and ship (8)

MARQUESS – MARQUE (make of car) and SS (steam ship).

24  Tightfisted guy ultimately associated with scam (6)

STINGY – STING (scam) and {gu}Y (ultimately).



Pith helmet: most superior one (4)

TOPI – TOP (most superior) and I (one).  The TOPI is one name for the pith helmet worn by Europeans, especially in India.

2  Casual worker delayed making model (8)

TEMPLATE – TEMP (casual worker) and LATE (delayed).  In my experience, TEMPs are far from casual workers!

3  Pale 1950’s youth sought by police? (6)

WANTED – WAN (pale) TED (teddy boy, 1950’s youth).  For us old hands, this will bring back memories of Dorset Jimbo, once a respected member of this community, and staunch defender of TED’s reputations.

One who makes an impression as a craftsman (6)

ETCHER – Cryptic clue – we had a discussion about the difference between an ETCHER and an engraver only last week, if I remember correctly.

5  Sound reason for corvine cries (4)

CAWS – Homophone clue (sound) sounds like CAUSE (reason).  Corvine here refers to the crow genus Corvus.

6  Quiet, skilled workman, one devoted to a cause (8)

PARTISAN – P (quiet – musical notation) and ARTISAN (skilled workman).

11  Rent a bar for a change, deviating from type (8)

ABERRANT – Anagram (for a change) of [RENT A BAR].

13  A specific person finished first we hear  (3)

ONE – Homophone clue (we hear, although it doesn’t really work for me) sounds like WON (finished first).  When I say ONE it sounds more like wan than won (wun?).

14  Carefully examine old vicar about spoils from robbery (8)

OVERHAUL – O{ld} and REV{erend} (vicar) reversed (about) and HAUL (spoils from robbery).  MER at OVERHAUL = carefully examine.  I see OVERHAUL more as examine and repair as needed, rather than a simple examination, however careful.

16  Wild moor originally featuring in literary work (6)

STORMY – M{oor} (originally), inside STORY (literary work).

17  Heavenly body giving son a sudden shock  (6)

SATURN – S{on} and A TURN (sudden shock).

19  Article about unidentified writer (4)

ANON – AN (article) and ON (about) to give ANON (short for anonymous, often used to indicate that the writer of a piece is not known).

21  Shelter in Tyneside street (4)

NEST – NE (Tynesdie, north east) and ST{reet}.

69 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2333 by Orpheus – Mad as a Hatter?”

  1. My eyebrow twitched slightly at OVERHAUL, as I’ve always taken it to include revision or repair, not just examination, but Collins gives two separate definitions:
    1. to examine carefully for faults, necessary repairs, etc
    2. to make repairs or adjustments to (a car, machine, etc)

    1. Thanks Kevin, I found similar in Chambers after the fact, but too late to prevent the MER. I sometimes rely too heavily on Chambers, because I have the app on my iPad, but having won a nice hard copy Collins as runner-up in a Times Saturday Cryptic a couple of weeks ago, I should start to use that more as a reference.

  2. 1336. Mount Ventoux is climbed by the Italian poet Petrarch: who claims to be the first since classical antiquity to climb a mountain for the view.

    Took ages for FOI, with several minutes before SAGA. NW corner ended up being the hardest, with LOI TOPI. I knew that I didn’t know it, and that it had come up before. Vaguely reminded me of another crossword favourite, IMPI, which also feature prominently in Zulu

    Thought the previously unknown “chaser” might re-appear as 4d, ETCHER. Also didn’t think much of the definition of OVERHAUL as “carefully examine”. 5d would be tough if you didn’t know “corvine”.


    1. I climbed Mont Ventoux for the view in 2019 at the end of a cycling holiday. The rest of my gang cycled up it but I decided it would be more enjoyable on foot. I walked up 5000ft and back down the same way for 26 miles. It took me about 8 hours.

      1. Impressive! Mrs P and I drove to the top many years ago on very hot summers day and couldn’t believe the strength of the wind at the summit!

  3. Yes the homophone ONE and WON doesn’t work in non-RP English. ONE rhymes with CON and WON with SUN the way I say them. FOI ETNA LOI COVENANT

    1. Works fine in the non-rp version of what passes for English that we speak down here in the antipodes

  4. I struggled throughout, partly because I made a real mess of typing ETCHER so that COWARD needed to start with an H. Took ages to see I hadn’t typed the the first E and thought I’d repaired the mess but on submission it saw it still said ‘ETCHrR’ – double carelessness, annoying. COVENANT gave me the most trouble, I know we’ve seen it before and it’s fair but ‘cove’ for ‘old man’ consistently fails to come to mind when I need it. I also agonised over MARQUESS and REVERSES. Lots to enjoy but tough. 17m (one pink).

  5. 16 minutes. My (weak) excuse is that I was still recovering from the 15×15, but really I was just more than usually slow on the uptake today. Mainly held up in the SE by mistakenly thinking ‘Surpass’ at 20a would start with “over” and when that was sorted out I also had trouble with OVERHAUL for ‘Carefully examine’; thanks to Kevin for clearing this up.

    I liked WANTED which also reads as a cryptic def.

    Thanks to Orpheus and TheRotter

  6. I didn’t get an uninterrupted run at this one and finished with an estimated time of 12 minutes. I think I’d have been well within my target 10 minutes if I’d been able to concentrate fully.

  7. 17mins with a 5min interruption. Held up in SE corner and nothing to add that hasn’t been said above re OVERHAUL where any reservations were shot down by KG’s first post and ONE/won which raises no issues for me and am wary of entering pronunciation/dialect debates on what is and isn’t a homophone.

    Thanks Orpheus and Rotter

    1. “Playful maverick”. Great expression, I swear, the obituaries in The Times are its finest writing.

    2. What an interesting life. I am so glad I had the chance to learn more of him and his achievements.
      I simply knew him from the TftT blog where his imagination, contrariness, and ‘straightforward’ posts and responses stood out. I remember rising to his bait on this blog quite a few times……
      Sad to find out who he was through an (outstanding and informative) obit.
      Note. I couldn’t find his obit on my ‘classic’ online edition but it does appear in the ‘new’ app.

    3. After discovering that the obit wasn’t in the printed version, I took the trouble to find it on the online version. I’m so glad I did, what a character! The perpetrator of the best practical joke I’ve ever heard of.

  8. I found this chewy in places and was slow to get going with my FOI being SAGA.
    I had particular struggles with OVERHAUL for the reasons stated earlier, COWARD (had a vague feeling that pusillanimous had something to do with being miserly) and LOI COVENANT where I was trying to wangle Pa/pop etc into the mix.
    With that in mind I was pleased to finish under target in 9.09 with COD to DORMOUSE for the surface.
    Thanks to Rotter

  9. I didn’t find this easy in the SE, where MARQUESS, OVERHAUL, OUTSHINE (which, to add insult to injury, I fat-fingered as OUTSHINR) and LOI SATURN put up stiff resistance. Really liked COD WANTED, and did indeed think of Dorset Jimbo!

    11:49 WOE for 2.2K and a Poor Day.

    Many thanks Orpheus and Rotter.


  10. A very good QC with no tricks or gimmicks. Most of my solve flowed smoothly and I enjoyed it despite the same queries as Rotter – OVERHAUL and ONE (which came to mind at once but which I wasn’t prepared to enter until the end when I had crossers). SATURN came late (I was too keen to use Star) and my LOI was COVENANT which only arrived when I stopped trying to include OB for Old Boy.
    I was under target at a smidgen under 14 mins but it seemed quicker. I enjoyed TEMPLATE, DISPATCH, and MARQUESS.
    Thanks to Orpheus and Rotter.

  11. 6.37

    No problems here. No stand outs but all flowed nicely enough.

    Yes, great obituary. The practical joke plastering up the door was very funny. How many other notables does this blog include I wonder? Mebbes a bit of a shame it takes someone’s passing to find out.

    Thanks The Rotter and Orpheus

  12. Enjoyable QC ( I saw the SNITCH for the 15×15 and took shelter with this puzzle). The homophone for ONE doesn’t work for most accents.
    I think OVERHAUL can be used for a thorough examination- clockmakers and clocks etc.
    Thanks for the blog, and thanks to the setter.

  13. 11 fairly comfortable minutes for me.
    LOI was OUTSHINE after pausing over the definition of OVERHAUL- dealt with fully above.
    COD to DISPATCH; some other good candidates.

  14. I thought it was tougher than Rotter suggests and expected to see a fair number struggle with this one. Having said that I felt I was on good form today and finished within target at 8.45, pausing only to try and remember the name for the pith helmet and the meaning of pusillanimous.

  15. Took a while to get going. The SW proved to be more fruitful and I slowly worked my way anti-clockwise. NW was my downfall where COVE and TOPI were both unknown and it took a while to decide they were the only possibles before committing at 24:52. Like the Rotter pusillanimous is a word I knew but hadn’t an idea what it meant, so needed to check it before adding COWARD. LOI COVENANT. COD DORMOUSE. Thanks Orpheus and Rotter.

  16. Enjoyed this one vm but failed on 1a. Short of time today so looked up Contract.
    Thanks as ever, Rotter.
    No obit for DH in paper edition. Will look on line.

    1. I just read Horryd’s obit in my online Times app, which was a good read and matched exactly with the picture that I had formed of him through his interactions with this blog, but still managed to surprise me with his creativity and achievements. It is well worth finding and reading.

  17. Snorted at the non-homophone (we talk proper up here in t’North) but it didn’t stop my gallop.

    TIME 3:46

  18. “Expect to see some fast times”. I had to laugh aloud when I read that.

    Gave up after 45 minutes with 6 unanswered. Some very difficult clues.

    DNF (6 unanswered).

    1. Well at least I gave you a laugh PW.

      One of the problems with blogging is that one is expected to give some sort of comment on the approachability of a puzzle, without the benefit of a second or other opinion. This results in bloggers’ comments being based entirely on their own experience of the puzzle, often in the early hours of the morning, when, in the cold light of day, other solvers’ experiences can be very different. There was no smugness or malice intended in my comment. It’s just that for me, I had few problems and expected some other solvers to breeze through this in relatively fast times. I’m sorry that wasn’t true for you, but I do watch your progress with interest – and feel sure that these will get easier with time.

    2. Likewise! I also gave up after 45 minutes, but with two unanswered.
      Then, as I was clearing away my stuff, one of them popped into my head and the remaining clue immediately followed. Strange things, brains!

    1. Probably. As I posted above, his obit is currently only in the ‘new’ Times app online at the time of writing.
      I have the ‘new’ app open on my iPad and use it intermittently for news because it is updated throughout the day. My preferred ‘classic’ app mirrors the printed edition and seems to be similarly always ‘set in stone’ until the next day.

  19. Just wanted to share a piece of synchronicity with you. Did this while listening to the commentary from the NZ v England Test. A wicket fell, and as I was writing in WAGNER, the commentator said ‘Wagner’, who was coming in as nightwatchman.
    Did this in two sessions so no time but definitely not the easy romp Rotter suggests!

  20. Dnf…

    Might be in a minority here, but I struggled with this. I crawled to my cut off time of 30 mins, but just couldn’t get 7ac “Covenant” – must remember cove = old bloke/chap.

    I also wasn’t convinced of the definition of “Overhaul”, but it couldn’t have been anything else.

    FOI – 4ac “Escape”
    LOI – dnf
    COD – 5dn “Caws” – although I nearly put “Cors”…

    Thanks as usual!

  21. I too found this unusually difficult for a QC and I nearly gave up with 6 clues unsolved. But I persevered and finally reached the line in just over 14 minutes.

    Once I had done this I thought it was one of the most enjoyable I have seen for quite a while. Thanks Orpheus for a really good workout!

  22. Fairly straightforward until I got down to my loi, 8ac. Two problems then arose. Firstly I wasn’t completely sure about the meaning of Pusillanimous, and secondly I had a worryingly unparsed Crow for 5d. That left me looking at C*o*r*. A couple of minutes later I plumped for Co-ward as the most likely answer, but it still took an alphabet trawl to correct 5d to Caws. Only then did I recognise that ‘sound’ was a homophone indicator (who would have thought that 🙄) Happy enough with a squeaky sub-20, but it could have been better. Invariant

    1. I was faced with precisely the same problem at the end, but for me it took 10+ minutes to crack.

      1. Recognising that you have made a mistake is one of the hardest aspects of this game. I had a head start in that I always parse as I go along, so Crow went in, but with a red flag.

  23. Steady away again, with ESCAPE FOI and LOI, OVERHAUL, requiring a bit of thought because of the (certainly to me) lesser known definition. As usual I pondered and wondered about the homophonic singular clue. 7:51. Thanks Orpheus and Rotter.

  24. Unusually, I solved this in the morning instead of tackling it either in the late afternoon/evening or even when retiring. I’m not sure whether this helped but I found it straightforward with 8A and 10d on the first pass and giving plenty of crossers for the second pass. 7a covenant and 20a outshine took some head scratching but most of the rest was clear enough.
    FOI 4a Escape
    LOI 14d Overhaul
    COD 23a Marquess
    Now I’ll get on with the chores I was putting off!

  25. Was on fire today, though I was still a little surprised to read Rotter’s comment as the clues didn’t seem that easy even as they somehow flew into my head. I was held up a little with the OUTSHINE/OVERHAUL crosser at the end, but still finished with easily my best time of the year so far (and 6th best ever) of 10:48. I’m extra pleased with myself seeing that quite a few of the regulars who are usually way faster than me, came in with slower times. Clearly I should do these in the late mornings more often. Damn work getting in the way of more important things. COD to STINGY. Thanks Orpheus and Rotter.

    1. Congratulations Crispian. It’s always satisfying to have a day when you finish ahead of those who are normally faster than you.

  26. My solving times seem to be either well over target or well within target. Today was a very good day starting with ESCAPE and finishing with the CAWS/COWARD intersecting pair. Thankfully I remembered COVE from this forum but I had no idea what pusillanimous meant so COWARD was constructed from the available checkers and word play. 7:36

  27. Oh dear, 25 mins today and needed blog to parse COWARD. LOI MARQUESS. Vaguely remembered ‘cove’ from a previous QC. WANTED made me smile. Many thanks all.

  28. Just couldn’t solve Overhaul, Stingy and Covenant today so another dnf.
    Liked 3D wanted even after trying to use Mod rather than Ted. The Mods were 1960s.
    Thanks all.

  29. Well, after two consecutive DNFs – a complete mauling by Teazel and a self-inflicted error yesterday – I was hoping for an easy ride today, if only to boost morale. However, with Orpheus as our setter, that was never going to be the case. On average, I break free from the SCC about once every five weeks, but never have I done so with Orpheus … and that trend continued today.

    I struggled to get started, but the going got easier in the bottom half of the grid and I think I had only five clues to go as I entered SCC territory. Those five – DISPATCH, ETCHER, COVENANT, COWARD and CAWS (plus TOPI, which I had solved, but was very unsure about) – then put up much stiffer resistance and it was a further 25+ minutes before I finally put down my pencil. In fact, I actually gave up with two left to solve at the 45 minute mark, but COWARD suddenly came to me just as I was about to come here and CAWS was easy after that. I had Crow in for CAWS for some considerable time, which made COWARD impossible to find. Total time in the end = 47 minutes.

    Mrs Random did it in 17 minutes. Her heartwarming comment was “Well, at least you’ll know what pusillanimous means next time”. She’s lovely, is Mrs R!

    P.S. What does the word ‘Old’ signify in 7a? I thought COVEs could be almost any age.

    Many thanks to Orpheus and Rotter.

    1. The old is actually referring to the old British word ‘cove’, rather than it being an attribute of the man referred to.

    2. Keep going Mr R. I went through a very sticky patch with the QC recently but came out the other side.

  30. A mixed bag, I thought. Some went in very quickly (ESCAPE, SAGA, ETNA), but my last two took up 4 of my 14 minutes. COVENANT eventually came, and like Blighter, I wanted to get STAR into SATURN, but the crossers didn’t quite work. COD to COWARD.

    Thanks to Orpheus and TheRotter.

  31. Well this time I’m the one making the fuss. DNK COVE (= old bloke – thank you, Rotter, for explaining old = old word), and never heard of TOPI (obscure?), so DNF the NW corner. FOI SAGA.

  32. 11 minutes for this interesting puzzle, and as so often one learns about alternative or additional meanings of words one only knows one meaning of. In this case both Overhaul (knew it meant repair, did not know it can also mean just examine before the repair) and Pusillanimous (knew it meant timid or showing a lack of determination, did not know it can also mean showing a lack of courage). Both put in from checkers, and after reading the blog one ends the day if not wiser, then certainly better informed.

    Many thanks to Rotter for the blog

  33. 4:19 this afternoon. Nothing too troublesome from Orpheus, which isn’t always the case.
    No really standout clues but a good QC nonetheless.
    Having had a rather disrupted day today, I only have a half hour window for the 15 x 15 which I fear is going to be insufficient!
    Thanks to Rotter and Orpheus

    1. If you crack the 15 x 15 in your half hour slot today, then you are a better man than me Mr P!

      1. No need to worry Rotter, 5 clues short after the half hour! I’ve never made any secret that the high Snitches find me out!!

  34. Finished but erroneous entry for 15 ac as put in recesses (which are set back in a wall).
    Should have parsed it better

  35. Thoroughly enjoyed this one and managed another 4ac from the SCC. I can however see how some folks found it tricky as there were a few hard clues to tease out. Just one of those days when I got on the wavelength early. I did guess TOPI. Nice to see my local river getting one of its regular mentions. I’m walking part of it at the weekend.

    LOI – CAWS

    Thanks for the blog Rotter. It’s also great to see you coming back later in the day to add further comments. 😊

    PS Hope to see the obituary in my printed copy of The Times tomorrow after reading the comments from others

  36. 29:19

    Technically a DNF thanks to a spelling mistake onLOI MARQUESS which I’d always thought spelt with an I. That alone accounted for 10 minutes taking me way over target today.

  37. Hard. Wild guess at TOPI – delighted it was right! LOI COVENANT. Not sure of OVERHAUL= examine carefully or WON sounding like ONE.

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