Times Quick Cryptic No 2353 by Joker – Counting my chicks…

This went surprisingly quickly.  When I looked at the clock I found I had completed in 11 minutes, although it felt a bit longer than that whilst solving.  There are some nicely quirky definitions here, and a good cross-section of clue types, hopefully, something for everyone to like.  Many thanks Joker.


  • Financial office compassionate about the French royal family? (8,5)

CLEARING HOUSE – LE (the in French) inside CARING (compassionate) and HOUSE (royal family).  I slowed myself down by biffing COUNTING HOUSE initially.

8  Enough to taste without needing seconds (5)

AMPLE – {s}AMPLE (taste, without needing S{econds} – drop the S).

9  Regret holding English twit back in train (7)

RETINUE – RUE (regret) containing E{nglish} and NIT (twit) reversed (back) to give RETINUE defined by train – meaning followers in this case.

10  Casual pressure breaking shoulder-bone (7)

SCAPULA – Anagram (breaking) of [CASUAL and P{ressure}].

11  Bond again exposing some backward counterfeiters (5)

RETIE – Reverse hidden (some backward) in {counter}EITER{s}

13  Copy round short piece of advice for new staff member (9)

APPOINTEE – APE (copy) containing (round) POINTE{r} (short piece of advice).

17  Don’t start to strain lock (5)

TRESS – {s}TRESS (strain, not starting – don’t start).

19  Deeply carved in a cathedral (7)

ACUTELY – CUT (carved) in a and ELY (a cathedral).

20  Runs an old instrument, one making pasta (7)

RAVIOLI – R{uns} and A VIOL (old instrument) and I (one).

22  Navy going after a company as a source of oak (5)

ACORN – RN (Royal Navy) after A CO (a company).

23  Excessively bold oddball I’ve confronted (13)

OVERCONFIDENT – Anagram (oddball) of [I’VE CONFRONTED].


Stylish steamship in ceramic material (6)

CLASSY – SS (steamship) inside CLAY (ceramic material).

Seaside walk pleased an eccentric (9)

ESPLANADE – Anagram (eccentric) of [PLEASED AN].

Bring new supplies of regularly ordered crack (2-5)

RE-EQUIP – Alternate letters (regularly) of oRdErEd to give RE-E and then QUIP (crack of joke).

4 Return to status quo with two girls at island working (13)

NORMALIZATION – NORMA and LIZ (two girls) AT (at) with I{sland} and ON (working).  At first I worried about spelling LIZA with a Z or S, but actually, the second girl is LIZ which only has one spelling, so problem avoided.

One dislikes headgear carried by old queen (5)

HATER – HAT (headgear) and ER (our immediate past Queen – first time I’ve seen her referred to as such).

6  What’s regularly placed in current container (3)

URN – Alternate letters (regularly placed) in cUrReNt.

7  Opening of organ permitted (6)

EYELET – EYE (organ) and LET (permitted).

12  Consequently European umpire gets involved in other foul (9)

THEREFORE – E{uropean} and REF (umpire) inside an anagram (foul) of [OTHER].

14  Suit man working for  a big rise in the main (7)

TSUNAMI – Anagram (working) of [SUIT MAN].

15  Store energy transformed as a type of sound (6)

STEREO – Anagram (transformed) of [STORE and E{nergy}].

16  Young bird making noise like a small seal (6)

CYGNET – Homophone clue (making noise like) – it sounds like SIGNET (small seal).

18  Mostly remain around old Greek philosopher (5)

STOIC – STIC{k} (mostly remain) around / containing O{ld}.

21  Compete with four in Germany, right away (3)

VIE – VIE{r} (four in German, dropping last letter – right away).

81 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2353 by Joker – Counting my chicks…”

  1. 15:11 I needed the blog to understand POINTE(r) and LIZ not Liza. I solved EYELET and THEREFORE consecutively and grumbled when I saw that they yielded 6 “e”s and an “o”for crossing clues. Great help!

  2. One pink square. Put me in the LISA club. As a Brit I usually favour ‘s’ in these types of words, which is also Times house style.

    Was tracking a 19th century time, so felt heavy going. APPOINTEE was tough with both Hint and Tip possible for ‘short piece of advice’, with or without truncation.


  3. 10 minutes, but with an ‘error’ over NORMALISATION which I dispute. According to Wiki, LIS is a common enough given name (especially so in Denmark and Sweden) and they list 21 examples of ‘famous’ ones including the late actress Lis Sladen who played Sarah Jane Smith companion to Doctor Who for many years and subsequently in two very popular spin-off series in which she starred in her own right.

    I also had COUNTING HOUSE at 1ac briefly but it obviously wouldn’t parse so I thought again.

    1. I don’t think I have ever met a LIS Jackkt, but I’ve known many LIZs. Hence my comment about LIZ removing any ambiguity over the spelling. I take your point though, if LIS is a viable alternative. In any case, LIZA or LISA simply can’t work. Incidentally, in Chambers, the first (preferred?) spelling is normalization, and Fowlers has a very interesting article about choosing between Z and S for such words – worth looking up.

      1. My paper copy kindly has ‘Return to status quo in Oz no marital frolics’ as the clue for 4d

        1. Yes, Sally Cant has also pointed this out below.
          Strange. The clue in the printed copy makes it unambiguous. Given the timescale of producing and distributing a printed copy, a change to the online version must have been made later. I wonder why?
          I think we should be told………. John

        2. This is what is currently on the online puzzle. So no problem choosing Z rather than S.

          As it happens, my sister’s name is Elisabeth, but she uses Liz for short.

          1. I think the problem is that many people solving online chose S and were marked as having a wrong answer. This can affect their overall scores and ratings in the league table. The editor (RR) has now addressed the issue in the forum but hasn’t so far given any assurance that both answers will count as correct.

      2. I take your point, Rotter but Wikipedia has a long list of examples of Lis (and they are not all Scandinavian).
        Try looking up ‘Lis (given name)’ in Wiki.
        I have never seen so many bloggers who have failed to answer the same clue correctly. I think it was a bit mischievous on Joker’s part. John.

  4. Only two on the first pass of acrosses (RAVIOLI and ACORN) and still lots of gaps at 10m. Ended up with a pink square for NORMALIsATION, which I thought I’d parsed but I’d obviously used that A twice. Quite a lot to enjoy here – with the mist clearing for ACUTELY being a high point. Not all green in 18.

  5. 11 minutes and a bit, but another victim of the LIZ trap. No excuses, I was ranting and raving about sloppy editing until I came here and realised that by entering LISA as the second ‘girl’, I hadn’t accounted for that spare T. That’ll teach me to be 23.

    1. I thought LISA first then revised it to LIS + AT to account for the T. Of course Minnelli is famously ‘Liza with a Zee’ so it wouldn’t have helped with the Z vs S dispute.

  6. Slow slow slow. It’s been a bad week. Needed lots of checkers for the two long ones top and bottom, then stared at my checkers for 4d for an age before deciding maybe one of them was wrong – it was, I’d put RAVIOLA (a + viola). Corrected that and then stared again, before finally putting NORMALISATION and then seeing the DPS. Arrggh. That pile of errors took me 14:16.

    Many thanks Joker and Rotter.


  7. Another LIS. From the leaderboard it looks we are in the majority! Otherwise all done in 4:45.

  8. A tricky but entertaining puzzle but with a pink square for a naughty ‘s’ in NORMALIZATION. Thought I’d parsed it correctly so was a bit bemused at first but having read the blog I realise that , like Mendesest, I made double use of the first ‘a’ so no complaints.
    Got double breezeblocked at the end by CYGNET and LOI ACUTELY, where I forgot to lift and separate so spent time wondering if there was some unknown technical word for etched or suchlike.
    ‘Finished’ in 11.47
    Thanks to Rotter

  9. Put me in the NORMALISATION camp, too. So, a DNF.
    It was not a quick solve for me but I enjoyed quite a few enjoyable PDMs along the way.
    I am interested in the number of others who were caught by the S/Z issue and wonder if Joker might have anticipated this and was just ‘aving a larf?
    Thanks to Rotter. John M.

  10. 14 minutes to fall foul of the S. I was so sure that -ise- is the required spelling that I assumed Lis must be a variant or name I didn’t know. Whether it is or is not is not really the point; given that most British English speakers favour S over Z for -isation words (witness the considerable numbers of people, including very experienced solvers, with a pink square), perhaps I might respectfully suggest that setters treat the ise/ize issue as radioactive and try to avoid it?

    That apart, Mrs Lincoln …

    Many thanks to Rotter for the blog

  11. I thought this was pretty tricky in places (yes you, 19ac), and that was even before I read about the online clue for 4d. No complaints therefore about yet another 21min finish this week – I’m getting to know the coach driver quite well. Loi Appointee took a long time to mis-parse as Ape + Pointe(d out), which works after a fashion. CoD to the sneaky Acutely. Invariant

  12. Like Vinyl, I found tHis quite difficult, though I was most certainly on the wavelemgth! However from my above comment, you will see I had less of a challenge on whatseens to have been the most difficult clue. FOI CLASSY, COD THEREFORE, LOI APPOINTEE, though I needed the blog to get the POINTe. Otherwise, all parsed and enjoyed .Thanks Joker and Rotter.

  13. My printed copy had the anagram – perhaps it will encourage the setters to be more careful about using ‘girl’ for feminine forenames.

  14. I fell into the LIS trap on 4dn, so DNF.
    A tricky puzzle, which took over 16 minutes.

  15. 35.23 … it felt like a grind which is a shame because I think there’s a lot to appreciate in here. I just didn’t seem to have the same vocab as Joker today.

    First pass of clues took over 7-mins which demonstrates how I was struggling to get my brain in gear and I only had URN, VIE, SCAPULA, the -EREF- part, the OVER- part and a wrong Plato at the end of it.

    I always say you have to watch out with Joker as there’s usually one clue which can deliver a mistake. It seems it was NORMALIZATION today and I avoided that trap having originally put in NORMA and LISA but then making myself figure out the ending. Noting comments about Lis being a Scandi name – the girl with the dragon tattoo books is a Lisbeth.

    I tried Companies House (doesn’t fit) and then Clarence House (does fit) until ESPLANADES got me to reconsider. Couldn’t see RE-EQUIP, APPOINTEE, ACUTELY even though I saw some of the wordplay creating them (REE, APE, A-ELY).

    CYGNET was LOI – a hopeful submission as my small seal knowledge is poor. All in all, pleased to get it finished for another solve but a little worn down by it.

  16. It’s an anagram of ‘in oz no marital’, isn’t it? Sorry if somebody’s already made this point

    1. Not in the online version, as mentioned above. The original clue was a charade of two girls names at an island working, not an anagram. It has subsequently been altered due to the controversy.

  17. As a ‘paper’ solver, I had no issues with 4D, only with working out the 13 letter anagram! Luckily the different versions of the clue were this way round as I dislike clues where you need to think of unspecific names, either male or female. I tend to look at these clues and then go elsewhere in the grid to try and get some crossers.
    I think 12D THEREFORE gets my COD, but overall I enjoyed this one.

  18. I don’t think I should be happy to be among “the top solvers” by not checking up on the S/Z dilemma but it’s reassuring that we all do it! Slow, today, for 30:25 and the pink square. Biggest hold-up was APPOINTEE which just wouldn’t appear even with all the checkers. When the light dawned, the next delay was ACUTELY, followed swiftly by LOI CYGNET. FOI CLASSY, which pretty much describes the QC and the blog. Thanks Joker and Rotter

  19. Well I originally biffed NORMALISATION but fortunately spent an extra 20 seconds at the end to check the letters of the anagram (paper version) and changed the S to a Z. Feeling very pleased with my time of 6.55 after seeing some of the times posted above. Having seen the comments on this clue, I understand why it was changed.

  20. I went for Z and clicked submit before even realising it could be an S. A moment of panic set in but luckily I’d picked the right one. No idea why I went for Z instinctively….

    1. I go for the “z” over the “s” instinctively if the word contains the “z” sound instead of the sibilant “s” sound . To me NORMALIZATION is always pronounced with a “z” no matter which spelling is used!

    1. Agree this was a tough blue/intro red ski slope but we can’t just ski doing ‘pizza and chips’ on green nursery runs forever. We’ve got to occasionally slip on our backsides before we head off-piste or to mogully blacks with the biggie. The quickie blog is a terrifically patient ski coach.

      1. What on Earth are you talking about? Are you trying to say it’s good to have more difficult puzzles from time to time? If so, why not simply say so? 🤣

          1. I enjoyed your amusing analogy, MangoMan. The same point has been expressed here in plain English many times before so it’s good to try a different approach.

      2. This was definitely a red run, only a few blue turns. (Though I used to ski a lot, I don’t remember eating pizza and chips😯. Well, maybe frites now and then.) It’s not obligatory to upgrade to the 15×15, btw. We can just wedel about here, but the green slopes seem few and far between these days.

        1. Ha! ‘Pizza’ is snowplough to slow down and ‘chips’ is parallel to speed up – it’s not apres ski – it’s shorthand to teach kids ski positions on the nursery slopes.

    2. My strategy in such cases is to resort to aids. They might get me on the wavelength, but at least I get to see what I’m missing (!) and maybe learn something for the next time. I never throw in the towel, or my toys out of the pram.

  21. Big struggle, but got there in the end.
    Pretty slow all round, come to think of it.
    Pleased to get CYGNET (COD). Also liked VIE, ACORN, AMPLE.
    Admit I used the Check word option on line to get NORMALIZATION right.
    (Look forward to our village shop reopening so I don’t need to drive to fetch the paper paper.)

  22. 9:14

    4d with the anagram so no problem with the Z/S choice.

    Held up a bit in the end not seeing STOIC (thinking STA{y} rather than STIC{k} around the O) which slowed down seeing OVERCONFIDENT

    Thanks Joker and TheRotter

  23. 4d anagram of IN OZ NO MARITAL in my newspaper. I find Joker’s puzzles hard, and this was no exception, especially APPOINTEE and RE-EQUIP, since I didn’t get the ‘crack’ = joke until the end: this was LOI.

  24. 23 mins…

    Being a paper solver, the 4dn controversy passed me by. Main hold ups were 7dn “Eyelet”, 13ac “Appointee” and 3dn “Re-Equip”.

    In terms of definitions, 11ac “Retie” didn’t feel like “bond again” unless I’m missing something.

    FOI – 6dn “Urn”
    LOI – 7dn “Eyelet”
    COD – 12dn “Therefore”

    Thanks as usual!

    1. If they tie the knot, you could say two people are bonding together for life.
      If they do it again after divorcing, they must be retie-ing.

      Tie=bond not the best synonyms I would agree and I struggled to see it on first pass. Think that was representation of many of the struggles I had today. Along with now noting that HATER is pronounced differently to HAT-ER and ACUTELY differently to A-CUT-ELY also make things tougher.

      Well done on your 23mins 👍

  25. The cluing for NORMALIZATION was the anagram including OZ so this wasn’t one that held me up. I did wonder why there was a reference to girls names in the earlier comments. I was slow all over the grid and some of the answers I didn’t fully parse. LOsI were CYGNET and ACUTELY in a could have done better 13:28.

  26. Very tricky, to say the least! Only SCAPULA and ACORN were entered after my first pass through the Across clues, and my first pass through the Downs bore only slightly more fruit.

    All three of the 13-letter clues put up stiff opposition, even NORMALIZATION, where I couldn’t see the anagram (I do the paper version). However, a 10-minute interruption shortly after entering the SCC had the magical effect of clearing my head and I then made good progress until being held up at the end by EYELET and TRESS (my LOI). I always struggle with clues which require you to drop the first letter – I just don’t recognise them as such. Any tips?

    Total time = 40 minutes. Slower than recently, but it could have been a lot worse.

    Many thanks to Joker and Rotter.

    1. Well, the clue encourages you to find a 5+1 = 6 letter word meaning Strain, take off the first letter (don’t start) and end up with a 5 letter ‘Lock’. The snag is that there are dozens of 6 letter strains to choose from (apparently), though in real life probably no more than half a dozen strong candidates. In the science world stress and strain are close friends, and lock/tress are pretty standard in crossword land, so all reasonably straightforward – once you see what’s going on.

  27. I was puzzled by some of the comments above about 4dn, until I realised that the clue in the paper (the one I did) must be different from the clue in the on-line version. In the paper, the clue is ‘Return to status quo in Oz: no marital frolics’ so an anagram of ‘OZNOMARITAL’ Therefore, I got it “right”, although, being English and of a certain age, I always spell the word “normalisation”. As Shakespeare says in ‘King Lear’, “Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter.”

  28. ‘S’ not ‘Z’ here too and no reservations – should have been more careful as ‘Lisa’ doesn’t fit but ‘Liz’ does and I wouldn’t recognise ‘Lis’ as a name.

    I struggled throughout this puzzle with EYELET, CLEARING HOUSE., RE-EQUIP, APPOINTEE & THEREFORE all causing consternation but I love the fact that the occasional overly chewy puzzle appears. I hope Mr Wyvern above has a good slow trawl through the blog – it’s the only way to get to grips with the tough quickies.

  29. 14.21 I started late (as usual) so the online clue for NORMALIZATION was the anagram. This was enjoyable. I didn’t get stuck anywhere, just slow throughout.

  30. What a difference a day makes.

    Yesterday a major DNF but bang on the wavelength today, less than 10 minutes helped by solving on paper with the anagram clue for 4d.

    FOI Clearing House
    LOI Overconfident
    COD Tsunami

  31. As anticipated, today’s time was slower than yesterday’s – 13:10! Also as usual, it was the curse of the last two in that did for me – CYGNET and NORMALIZATION. I nearly fell into the S not Z trap (house style on every publication I’ve worked on), but suddenly twigged just before coming here. The surface of the new version seems very clunky, even if it is easier to solve.
    A while ago, someone suggested that when setters used ‘girl’ in a clue, the required name would be a short form or nickname, while ‘woman’ implied a full name. That doesn’t seem to apply here, as Norma isn’t a diminutive, although Liz is! I wonder if there’s any truth in it.
    FOI Ample LOI Normalization COD Nothing really stood out but I quite liked 19a ACUTELY and 10a SCAPULA – sounds painful though!
    Thanks Joker and Rotter

    Also as I thought, I am struggling with the biggie today!

    1. Still flying along at 13+ mins PennyB – nicely done 👍

      I saw the discussion on girl/woman a while back. Think the conclusion was it may have started out like that, but over time the convention has been disregarded so often that it’s hit and miss these days.

      1. 😊 Yes, that makes sense – there doesn’t seem to be any logic to it these days.

  32. 4:31 this afternoon, mercifully removed from the controversy, by solving the paper version, as ever. Even so, I was careful when entering 4 d to double check that the “z” was in the anagrist. I’ve noted in the Times 2 crossword in the past that the setter specifies, whenever there is any doubt, which consonant is correct in such situations.
    Anyway a steady solve and I enjoyed the usual witty servings from Joker, such as the revised surface for 4 d “normalization” (although others will have to vouch for its accuracy in real life) and 16 d “cygnet” which I didn’t recognise as a chestnut.
    Thanks to Joker and Rotter

  33. Not on Joker’s wavelength, not for the first time. Struggled through this until I was left with just 19ac, but that refused to yield so in the end I resorted to an aid. Must have taken around 23 minutes to get to that point. Solved on paper, so no s/z controversy.

    FOI – 8ac AMPLE
    LOI – DNF

    Thanks to Joker and Rotter

  34. Not thinking very straight today so def not on the wavelength and found it mostly tricky. My strategy in such cases is to resort to aids – sometimes the synapses begin to fire and I find the wavelength. But today I was sometimes forcing myself to see the answers in order to try to learn something from them. So a not at all satisfactory ‘solve’ but at least I got to see what I was missing (!). That said, I guess I properly solved over half. Hopefully my brain will be back in gear tomorrow. COD 19a Acutely.

  35. No problems until, spaluca, spacula, scapula etc (poor clue imo), acutely and LOI cygnet.

    For a QC, either easy: short scar and pull a shoulder bone.
    Or a bit harder: Shoulder bone dislocated, Paul in serious cycling accident initially.

    COD Acutely.

  36. I knew something must be wrong when I appeared at 76 on the leaderboard despite being well into the SCC. I solved this on my iPad and 4d was clued with the anagram version.

  37. 39:55

    Glacial and well over my usual 30 minute cut off but was determined to finish after yesterday’s disaster. Took forever to see APPOINTEE and LOI REEQUIP.

  38. I don’t ski, so the comparison with runs went over my head (a bit like large sections of this QC, which I found very hard).

    Today made me realise just how slow my progress is. Another finish somewhere around the 35-40 min mark. A grind that exposed my inability to remember things I should know by now (such as ELY for cathedral).

    What I find so galling is that I often see tricky clues straight away, but then experience blind spots elsewhere. I still routinely miss anagram indicators (oddball today), and others ‘simple’ ones (like 6dn).


    I shall be positive and take heart from 4 successful finishes this week thus far. My hopes of a sub 2 hour week however lie in ruins.

    Thanks for the blog Rotter! 😊

    1. Dear Mr A,
      Keep your chin up! (Or, should that be keep up your chin?)
      I’ve been doing these now since June 2020 and I still often record times of 40 – 75 minutes. Three steps forward, two steps back.

  39. Well that was hard. Started this morning, out for the day, tried again tonight and gave up after 1h 23m with four clues unsolved and several unparsed.
    There was a lot to enjoy such as CYGNET and ACUTELY but THEREFORE was difficult especially without the T to start from the equally hard RETIE.
    Thanks for the helpful blog and well done to all those who finished.

      1. Thanks Gary, I’m impressed with your 4 finishes this week.
        My score this week is 3-1 to the setters so a finish tomorrow would help restore respectability.

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