Times Quick Cryptic No 2363 by Trelawney – very 1 down!

This was one of my fastest times for a long time at 7:48, well inside my target range of 10 – 15 minutes.  Unless I am atypical (and I can be!), I imagine there will be some very fast completions, and there seems to be very little here to stump our newbie solvers.  I hope that is the case – last week was a bit like a school cross-country – a long grind and hard dirty work for many of us, whist this week the QCs have seemed a little easier.


1  Errand boy approaching artist’s captivating work (4,6)

PAGE TURNER – PAGE (errand boy) and TURNER (artist, almost certainly J. M. W. Turner).

8  Foreign article contains fib (5)

ALIEN – AN (article) containing LIE (fib).

9  Instant and extremely prodigious muscles (7)

TRICEPS – TRICE (an instant) and P{rodigiou}S (extremely).

10  Bad experience with chess piece – not the king, the horse! (9)

NIGHTMARE – {k}NIGHT (chess piece – not the king (drop the K)) and MARE (the horse).

12  Teacher with unfinished virtual assistant (3)

SIR – SIR{i} (the virtual assistant on iPad and iPhone, unfinished – drop the last letter)

13  Appropriate, girl getting kiss (5)

ANNEX – ANNE (random girl) and X (kiss).

15  Vagrant with vehicle beginning to park (5)

TRAMP – TRAM (vehicle) and P{ark} (beginning to).

17  Record piece of wood (3)

LOG – Double definition

18  Roamed dry ground – riding this? (9)

DROMEDARY – Anagram (ground) of [ROAMED DRY] with a slightly cryptic &lit. definition.

20  Untouched piano key (7)

NATURAL – Double definition.  The white keys on keyboard instruments are NATURAL (i.e. not Flat or Sharp), or so I understand – not having a musical note in my body.

21  Religious leader to chatter endlessly (5)

RABBI – RABBI{t} (to chatter endlessly – drop the last letter)

22  One who saw European tree – it’s next to a loch (10)

EYEWITNESS – E{uropean} with YEW (tree) and IT and finally NESS (it’s next to a loch).


1  Aircraft reportedly doing something impossible?  It’s straightforward! (5,7)

PLAIN SAILING – Part homophone PLAIN (sounds like (reportedly) plane (aircraft)) and SAILING (something that might be impossible for a plane to do.

Leaving some Tango in glass (5)

GOING – Hidden (some) in {tan}GO IN G{lass}.

Metal roof of Tudor home (3)

TIN – T{udor} (roof of, first letter) and IN (home).

4  Fresh trial about university ceremony (6)

RITUAL – Anagram (fresh) of [TRIAL] containing (about) U{niversity}.

Focal point of very long course cut short (9)

EPICENTRE – EPIC (very long) and ENTRE[e} (course, cut short).

6  Aspire to travel around ancient land (6)

PERSIA – Anagram (to travel around) of [ASPIRE].

7  Cosy starship designed using this? (12)

ASTROPHYSICS – Anagram (designed) of [COSY STARSHIP] with a Semi &Lit. definition.

11  Cook mixed arty stuffing? (9)

TAXIDERMY – Anagram (cook) of [MIXED ARTY].

14  Nullify north-east entrance (6)

NEGATE – N{orth} E{ast} and GATE (entrance).

16  Go after young horse, ignoring a cow’s noise (6)

FOLLOW – FO{a}L (young horse ignoring A) and LOW (cow’s noise).

19  Stroll to make a wager, losing head (5)

AMBLE – {g}AMBLE (make a wager, losing head – first letter).

21  Regularly roast scoundrel (3)

RAT – Alternate letters (regularly) of RoAsT.

85 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2363 by Trelawney – very 1 down!”

  1. 13:07. This was PLAIN SAILING overall. EYE WITNESS and EPICENTRE slowed me the most but I enjoyed them once they were figured out.

  2. 9:56. 956 Lighthouse of Alexandria destroyed in Earthquake

    Piano Key=NATURAL doesn’t seem quite right, but after yesterday’s interesting discussions around Major Third I’m not going to quibble. I think Piano was added purely for misdirection, which worked, this was my LOI.

    AMBLE with a missing first letter and RABBI[T] really are chestnuts.

    ANNEX without a final E looks as odd as AX.


    1. I’m not convinced about “Natural” either. As someone who does play the piano, a “natural” is a term normally used to cancel a sharp or flat in a piece of music (where the key specifies a sharp or flat should normally be played) – it isn’t necessarily a key or a note itself.

      However, I may be splitting hairs, and someone with greater musical knowledge than I may disagree.

  3. Agree that Natural for piano key feels a stretch (even though the white keys CDE etc represent the Natural notes) Otherwise a very nice puzzle COD Astrophysics. My second best time just failing to escape the SCC in 20.36 held up by 5d 6d LOI Sir Thanks to The Rotter and the puzzle setter

  4. I’m usually around the 25 minute mark, sometimes under 20. So 13:24 was a record for me.

  5. 6:38. There were some top clues here, especially PAGE TURNER, PLAIN SAILING and the semi-&lits DROMEDARY and ASTROPHYSICS. These more than made up for the chestnuts mentioned by Merlin. The ‘Untouched piano key’ had me stumped until I had all the crossers to bail me out.

    All very enjoyable.

    Thanks to Trelawney and TheRotter

  6. Needed all the checkers for ASTROPHYSICS and NATURAL and most of them for EYEWITNESS DROMEDARY made me wonder about vowel order – not sure I’ve ever written it down before – and EPICENTRE needed repeating revisiting but after an average start with five acrosses going in at the first pass I still ended up all green in a speedy 8m.

  7. 8 minutes. NATURAL as an example of piano key is okay and Rotter is right that it would be a white one. There are circumstances where sharps and flats can be white notes (B# for example) but that has no bearing on today’s clue.

    1. Natural just feels a bit contrived. Middle C is a natural (not a sharp or flat) note certainly but would anyone talk about a natural key (key referring to the mechanical object not the particular scale the music is played in)? Perhaps they would and I am no pianist.

      1. In early piano lessons one might ask a beginner to play notes on demand – Find me a C natural , Find an F sharp – that sort of thing. However for those who are still not happy with the clue it might help if it were parsed not as a double definition but as one literal (untouched) with a cryptic hint, as the latter can be given more leeway as to strict interpretation.

  8. Gentle going, with my only pauses being caused by LOI PERSIA where I initially missed the anagram indicator and being ignorant of the natural/piano key definition.
    Finished in 4.43
    Thanks to Rotter

  9. 7:28 with a number of clues putting up some resistance in this enjoyable grid: EPICENTRE (LOI), DROMEDARY, and EYEWITNESS. Needed all the crossers to biff NATURAL and can’t comment on whether it works or not, for, as with the recent MAJOR THIRD, anything musical is mysterious to me.

    Thanks Trelawny and Rotter

  10. NATURAL is fine for 20a in my book. Although more usually known as ‘white notes’ they are also called ‘natural keys’. I fair raced through this morning in 12 minutes. I liked 7d ASTROPHYSICS especially.

  11. A nice QC with some longer answers requiring a bit of concentration. A steady stroll around the grid picking off the sitters and then filling in the gaps. I finished in 11 mins (2K) which makes a nice change. I quite liked EPICENTRE and ASTROPHYSICS (which clicked without the need for pen and paper).
    Thanks to both. John M.

  12. Once again I find myself matching Rotter’s experience, as this was definitely a less challenging one after some hard yards recently. 7 minutes for me too; main hold-up was parsing my LOI Epicentre after putting it in from definition and checkers.

    Some of the surfaces are really very good – Astrophysics, for example, and Dromedary. And interesting to see Siri referenced – so often our setters seem to prefer the language of the 1920s not the 2020s! But “Persia” is not that ancient – the country we now call Iran was called Persia (by westerners at least) as recently as the 1930s.

    All in all a very good puzzle and much enjoyed. Many thanks to Rotter for the blog

  13. Easy , as agreed, but the setter must have invested some time in finding so many wonderful clues. FOI PLAIN SAILING, LOI, ASTROPHYSICS, COD DROMEDARY, which I origimally misspelt and then spent far too long on EPICENTRE; otherwise my time could have been a PB. 70 years ago, one of my teachers corrected me to PLANE SAILING, and I see that Collins online gives PLANE as a synonym for SAIL.
    Great puzzle, thanks Trelawney and Rotter.

    1. Well done JL. If you have some time, take a look at today’s 15 x 15 which is very approachable as well.

      1. You must have been on an intellectual roll after blogging the QC, Rotter. Well done!
        I found the 15×15 very troublesome. I had a few stabs at it and finished it but couldn’t describe it as approachable. Just me, perhaps.

  14. Pretty straightforward today, just taking a while to work out the anagram for ASTROPHYSICS and to remember TRICEPS.

  15. Not that it held me up, but I didn’t like Piano key for NATURAL It is a property of the notes that sound when you play the white keys (until you get to f# or g-flat in the cycle of fifths series of keys). It’s a bit like cluing RED with SNOOKER BALL as most snooker balls are red. Whatevs. PLAIN SAILING for me too. Thanks Trelawney and Rotter. 3:35.

  16. If only I hadn’t had to pause on three of the long ones (PAGE TURNER, EYEWITNESS and ASTROPHYSICS). Could have been a PB. Cracking puzzle, even if easy.

    All done in 05:39 for just over 1K and an Excellent Day. Many thanks Rotter and the Squire.


  17. 5:51

    Only half a dozen in on the first across pass, but picked up with the downs and then built on the crossers.

    As with vinyl1, I had to write out the letters for ASTROPHYSICS. It was PLAIN SAILING after that….

    Thanks Trelawney and TheRotter

  18. Some quick times today, and I was quickish at 8.40. Some really nice clues from Trelawney in particular 1dn PLAIN SAILING. It brought to mind the lyrics of a song, I don’t recall which one, that included the lines, ‘have you ever seen a house fly?’ and ‘have you ever heard a diamond ring?’

    1. It was from the Disney film Dumbo, and the song was sung by a gang of crows or similar, from memory, and called, I think, ‘I never seen an elephant fly’.

      1. Thanks Rotter. Looks like I may have made up ‘the house fly’! Still works though!

      1. Thanks for the link Templar, very entertaining! It seems I didn’t make up ‘the house fly’ lyric after all as it’s included in the lyrics along with ‘horse fly’.

        1. It’s also referenced in the first Shrek movie, a connection I hadn’t made until just now.

  19. I think if I could have seen 1ac or 1d straight away, I would be echoing other comments about today’s puzzle. Unfortunately I saw neither until I had several crossers in place, so for me this was a bitty hop around the grid solve. I enjoyed CoD Nightmare, and constructing Dromedary (once I had the right anagrist), and might still have had a shot at a sub-20, but loi Epicentre needed a tedious alphabet trawl to prompt the pdm. Invariant

  20. Finished it! FOI RAT, COD PLAIN SAILING, LOI EPICENTRE. As Rotter says, nothing to stump this newbie solver. Only a couple of things: 1) can’t quite see why PAGE TURNER is captivating? 2) as a pianist I must say that NATURAL is not in itself a piano key – but these are small quibbles. DROMEDARY was ingenious; I assumed “roamed” was the anagram indicator, so wasted many minutes trying to find an anagram of “dry” + “ground”. This was a rewarding puzzle today. Thanks to Trelawney.

    1. The term PAGE TURNER is often applied by generous critics to popular fiction that keeps the reader interested with plot changes and cliff-hangers. I remember the term being applied to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code years ago. Such a book can be described as captivating.

      1. Of course you’re right – I failed to think of that, only fixated on the musical and personal kind (the fellow turning pages for the pianist). Thanks.

  21. If I hadn’t put an O in the middle of DROMEDARY, I might have got EPICENTRE. As it was, I thought I was looking for an unknown artistic word. Oh dear.
    But otherwise a smooth solve.
    Many thanks, Rotter.

  22. A relieved 47 mins (of my allocated hour), after yesterday when I abandoned ship at 67 mins. Didn’t worry about natural – just assumed piano key was referring to one of the ‘ivories’, epicentre was a biff – needed the blog (thank you) for elucidation.

  23. 12 mins…

    Have to agree with Rotter, I think this was definitely on the easier side (which makes a change).

    Only query was “Natural”, which I’ve written a comment about above.

    I was about to say it would have been useful to have a tin roof during the Tudor period, especially with the events a century or so later.

    FOI – 3dn “Tin”
    LOI – 22ac “Eyewitness”
    COD – 13ac “Annex”

    Thanks as usual!

    1. Interesting to see ‘tin roof’. It has, of course, been used for yonks as a description for a galvanised steel roof.
      It makes as much sense as ‘tin foil’ which we all know is entirely aluminium.
      Words…. 🙄😁

  24. Finished correctly in 35 minutes.
    Not an impossibly hard one today thank goodness !
    Did not find it as simple as the experts but just about doable for me.

  25. In what academic discipline is T an abbreviation for Tudor? I just checked the Wikipedia page fo abbreviations which lists about 50 usages. Was Henry VII known as Henry-T like some rapper?

  26. I have only beaten four minutes once before, so to get 3.06 was very pleasing indeed. I can’t remember a crossword where every clue I read I immediately knew the answer. New territory for me.

  27. No dramas. TIN was FOI. LOI, ASTROPHYSICS, needed all the crossers, but I managed it without resorting to pen and paper. 8:02. Thanks Trelawney and Rotter.

  28. Normally don’t put seconds but as I match Wyn Lewis at 5:42 I will.
    Liked Persia, astrophysics and dromedary are good anagrams.

  29. Much easier than recent puzzles and I finished in 17 minutes, all parsed. It would have been quicker but I waited for all the crossers before entering PAGE TURNER because I couldn’t see the relevance of the answer to the phrase ‘captivating work’ (I see it now before you all rush to enlighten me). EPICENTRE took a little while to come to mind but other than that it was all 1dn.

    FOI – 8ac ALIEN
    COD – 9ac TRICEPS for the amusing surface

    Thanks to Trelawney and Rotter

  30. Not so quick for me as most – more of a middle-of-the-road effort.

    Mainly because I just couldn’t see my LOI EPICENTRE – course=entree being one of my blind spots – I really should have learned by now!

    I very much liked DROMEDARY and ASTROPHYSICS.


  31. Would have been a sub 10 PB were it not for multitasking with a bowl of soup!
    I’m sure the Times publish books of these but how about a book containing universally agreed easier ones for newbies? J

  32. 13:13 including answering the phone, so likely to be my best ever time 🤩 POI ASTROPHYSICS leading to LOI EYEWITNESS. Biffed EPICENTRE and needed the blog to parse – many thanks.
    May give the biggie a go – thanks for recommendation Rotter.

  33. 16:27 – not the most taxing, but very enjoyable with some extremely well constructed clues.

    Don’t think piano key works for NATURAL as others have stated. A C natural is a note, but you would never describe it just as a “natural”.

    Took a moment to get the right meaning of “Appropriate” for 13a even when I’d worked out the cryptic elements, and work out which order the vowels came in for DROMEDARY.


  34. 9.39 This felt slow but it was quicker than usual. Some nice anagrams. LOI NATURAL. Thanks both.

  35. 6.32

    Funnily enough not as quick as the last couple of days but happy enough


    Thanks all

  36. 10:32, with my last 4 clues taking fully four minutes. ASTROPHYSICS was my LOI and COD by a mile. I can’t even think of astrophysics without thinking of Brian May, who has surely the best first sentence on his Wikipedia page:

    “Sir Brian Harold May CBE (born 19 July 1947) is an English musician and astrophysicist.“

  37. Fairly quick when considering interruptions. 5d caused us most trouble, epicentre.

  38. Astonishmentness! The anguish of having a silver medal performance (13 mins) on Tuesday being snatched away by an inadvertent error was well and truly sent packing by a PB today – 11 minutes. My pencil was on fire.

    Not a lot to say about the clues, other than I realised whilst reading Rotter’s blog that I hadn’t fully parsed everything (e.g. EPICENTRE). However, I didn’t really doubt any of the solutions as I went along.

    I am visiting my parents today and my father’s favourite tipple is whisky and dry ginger, so I will celebrate by joining him this evening.

    Many thanks to Trelawney and Rotter.

    1. 👏👏👏 🍷🍷🍷Maybe more a glass of red than a whisky and ginger, but cheers anyway!

  39. Back on the wavelength today for a straightforward puzzle. Very enjoyable too. Liked page turner/plain sailing/eyewitness.
    FOI 1d Plain Sailing
    LOI 16d Follow
    COD 1d Plain Sailing

  40. 10:53 – new PB. Old one was also a Trelawney. Might have been sub-10 if I could have thought of SAILING to go with PLAIN as needed it for ANNEX and NATURAL (another obscure music one 🙄 after yesterday) and having to get the pen and paper out for ASTROPHYSICS.

      1. Unfortunately not. I just sort of shrugged upon completing it rather than feeling any sense of elation or joy 😒 I need to get the lightbox out as it’s weeks since we had a decent run of sunny days and I’m wondering if SAD is taking over and creating this uncharacteristic pessimism.

        1. Sorry to hear that. Hopefully the lighter evenings will help. I’m sure that we are due a spell of ☀️. The weather in Yorkshire has been pretty ghastly for weeks, but hopefully the Easter weekend will bring something better.

        2. Congrats on swell time,LP, but sorry about your down mood. Trust April can bring you some more. sunshine.

    1. New PB – hooray! I hope the sun comes out and cheers you up soon even if this didn’t ☀️

  41. MER for the definition of EPICENTRE, which as anyone into seismology knows, is not the actual focal point of a quake, but where it is manifested on the surface.

  42. I never thought that I would be disappointed with an escape from the SCC, but took ages to fathom 1ac and stupidly put PLANE instead of PLAIN for 1dn. It was a while before I realised my error. My turn to feel thick today as this silly mistake and a few puzzles over the long anagrams kept me from a really good time. Somewhere around 17 mins but should have been less. When will I remember that artist does not always mean RA? Cross at missing out on a chance for a PB.

    Thanks for the blog Rotter.

    1. I understand your crossness – sometimes it’s what you miss out on that matters more 🤔

      Nonetheless congrats on your 2nd(?) SCC escape of the week. A long way off where you were at the end of last week, you have regained your mojo.

      1. Thanks L-Plates. I feel much better about things this week. 3rd SCC escape, so delighted with that. Hoping for a good finish to the week tomorrow. 😊

        1. Gosh you two! How are we going to boost your self esteem? You’ve both had a great day today 👍Here’s to happiness tomorrow 😊

  43. Another late posting! 6:49. I thought there were some lovely clues here – it might have been relatively easy, but it was very entertaining.
    FOI Alien LOI Eyewitness COD Dromedary – a lovely clue, although Astrophysics came a close second.
    Many thanks Trelawney and Rotter

  44. 15:25

    Delayed by putting PLANE and only saw the mistake when I got NIGHTMARE.

Comments are closed.