Times Quick Cryptic No 2403 by Pedro – not such tip-top editing!

12 minutes to solve, but there are a few editing problems with this puzzle from Pedro which took me a while to unravel.  Apart from the issue with the clue for 4d (see below), at least in the version of the puzzle that I solved and blogged (on-line app on an iPad), the answers for 4d and 21d appear to have been substituted for each other, meaning that pink squares were shown erroneously when the obvious answers were submitted.  Hopefully these errors were fixed in your version.


  • Consequence of eating? Eat faster, possibly, acquiring temperature (10)

AFTERTASTE – Anagram (possibly) of [EATFASTER] and T (acquiring T{emperature}).

8  Accident is hard to be located in plan (6)

MISHAP – IS H{ard} inside (located in) MAP (plan).

Small earthquake setting European city right back (6)

TREMOR – ROME (European city) and RT (right) all reversed (back).

10  Group of countries stop broadcast on radio (4)

BLOC – Homophone clue (on radio) – sounds like BLOCk (stop).

11  Comic writer making Port Said look ridiculous (8)

PARODIST – Anagram (made to look ridiculous) of [PORT SAID].

12  Certainly taken aback about most of calm positive image? (6)

SMILEY – YES (certainly) reversed (taken aback) and containing (about) MILd (calm, mostly – drop the last letter).

14  Disrespectful comment concealed in Berlin’s ultimatum (6)

INSULT – Hidden (concealed) word in [berl}INS ULT{imatum).

16  Rebuilt terminal is part of transport system (8)

TRAMLINE – Anagram (rebuilt) of [TERMINAL].

18  Millions reserve computer peripherals (4)

MICE – M[illions} and ICE {reserve, i.e. put on ice).

20  Pretentious chap returned excellent type of tree (6)

BONSAI – SNOB (pretentious chap) reversed (returned) and AI (excellent).

21  One paying to stay carrying article into part of camp (6)

TENANT – AN (article) inside TENT (part of camp).

22  Studies naval crime cabal? (10)

CONSPIRACY – CONS (studies) and PIRACY (naval crime).


2  French not so good making this decorative item (5)

FRILL – FR{ench} and ILL (not so good).

3  Chalet I redecorated on a principled basis (7)

ETHICAL – Anagram (redecorated) of [CHALET I].

Dump suggestion, after reflecting (3)

TIP – The answer is TIP, which can be a dump or a suggestion, but if reflected gives PIT which can also be a dump, but I’m not sure quite what is going on here with the either unnecessary or redundant ‘after reflecting’.  If the clue were just ‘Dump suggestion’ it would be a perfectly reasonable and straightforward double definition, but the addition of the last two words of the clue make it a nonsense.

5  Gloomy planet in East (9)

SATURNINE – SATURN (planet) and IN E{ast}.  I’m not sure I could have defined SATURNINE if asked, but I was aware of it as a word, just not sure how to use it.

Correct edition probed by fellows (5)

EMEND – ED{ition} containing (probed by) MEN (fellows).

7  “Extra large” to swamp “small”?  Just a bit (6)

MORSEL – MORE (extra) and L{arge} outside (to swamp) S{mall}.

11  Doctor chap is in surgery, finally working (9)

PHYSICIAN – Anagram (working) of [CHAP IS IN] and Y ({surger}Y finally).

13  Vegetable damage leading to argument (6)

MARROW – MAR (damage) and ROW (argument).

15  Discussion group remains in disorder (7)

SEMINAR – Anagram (in disorder) of [REMAINS].

17  Notes openings for many University students in commerce (5)

MUSIC – Initial letters (openings for) Many University Students In Commerce.

19  Pessimist showing limits to civility, not entirely pleasant (5)

CYNIC – C{ivilit}Y (limits) and NICe (not entirely pleasant).

21  Leading trophy lifted (3)

TOP – POT (trophy) reversed (lifted).  The answer is unambiguously TOP, but this was deemed wrong in comparison with the ‘staff’ answer in the app.

55 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2403 by Pedro – not such tip-top editing!”

    1. UPDATE

      Now confirmed that the published newspaper has ‘Dump suggestion (3)’ as the clue at 4dn.


      The online answers in the grid seem to have been corrected now in Puzzles and the Club, but the extraneous piece of clue at 4dn (after reflecting) has not been removed to bring it in line with the published newspaper clue.

      UPDATE 10:15 BST:

      Everything now amended and RR has posted apologies in the Club forum.

  1. 17:03. I spent most of the time on SMILEY. I only knew of the term with “face” added to it and though I guessed the yes reversed I couldn’t see the shortened mild for calm inside it. TIP and TOP were wrong when I solved too. I wondered if there was something clever I missed telling us to switch them but ,no, just a mistake, I guess.

  2. I was pink on TIP and TOP like everyone else. Also held up at the end by SMILEY since even though I figured it was something in YES, I still couldn’t see it.

  3. I too was undone by TIP and TOP being the wrong way around, so consequently No Time Given. Otherwise I’d have been all green, albeit in quite a slow time as I got bogged down with SMILEY and MORSEL.
    Today I especially enjoyed CONSPIRACY and PARODIST.
    Despite English Lang being one of my two O Levels I thought that EMEND started with an ‘A’, however it had to be an ‘E’, given the end of AFTERTASTE.
    Not the best start to the day, but hey – someone seems to have switched on summer suddenly and it’s another glorious morning in Dorsetshire, so I will rejoice in that. 🌞

  4. Same TIP TOP swap issue but more concerned on the parsing of the “tip” clue which could only lead to PIT ?? Agree with TheRotter’s “nonsense” evaluation.

    Shame as it left a disappointing 1AC.

    Ho hum, it happens, so thanks still to Pedro and Rotter.

  5. 11 minutes for the correct answers to the clues as set and I’d have been bang on my target 10 minutes had I not been distracted by the extraneous piece of wordplay at 3dn. Fortunately I don’t solve or submit online so the transposition of two clues or answers didn’t affect me.

    Re 18ac, I was taught when the computer mouse arrived that the plural is ‘mouses’, and Collins confirms this in a special note on usage, however it qualifies this by saying ‘mouses’ can be used, suggesting that ‘mice’ is perhaps more common these days.

  6. I don’t believe that the PIT/TIP/TOP arrangement is a series of errors. I thought that there may be a Nina. Maybe I am a CYNIC into CONSPIRACY or is it, in fact, a MISHAP?

  7. After all the typos I’ve had lately I’m not going to be too hard on The Times my two undeserved pink squares. My biggest hold up was SATURNINE because ‘satellite’ fitted and although wrong seemed almost right – and in turn made me slow to PARODIST as the L meant ‘look’ would have to be anagrammed. Plus I was looking for a specific author – Amis or Sharpe or the like, only with eight letters. Really liked MARROW – just appealed to me. Spent a few moments on TIP but since I had MISHAP and eventually AFTERTASTE it seemed inevitable. As green as anyone and among the first into the SCC at 20.06.

  8. 13 minutes. Surprised about the TIP TOP affair, but I’m counting it as solved even if the computer doesn’t agree.

    I don’t know why looking back on it, but I found this one quite difficult, maybe because I initially entered PIT at 4d and so thought that 1a mustn’t be an anagram. A few uncommon words in SATURNINE (which I always mix up with “sanguine”) and the crossing PARODIST, but both fairly clued. Held up longest by SMILEY.

    Thanks to TheRotter and Pedro

  9. Horrible sinking feeling when the puzzle came back with 2 pink squares so was relieved to see that it was an editing error.
    The puzzle felt tricky in places. LOI SMILEY took a while as I was trying to fit ‘cal’ into it which almost looked possible. Spent time looking at the wrong end of the clue for the definition for PHYSICIAN and only saw what was going on after resorting to pen and paper.
    Particularly enjoyed the word play for CONSPIRACY and crossed the line in 9.28.
    Thanks to Rotter

  10. DNF. My FOI was the “obvious”, but wrong, Pit, being Tip after reflecting. That made 1A not an anagram, and also made Mishap impossible. So I looked elsewhere, started bottom right, really queried Mice (for me the plural of computer mouse is computer mouses), obviously got Top “wrong” too, couldn’t see Smiley (to have to find a word substitute, ie Mild for Calm, and then dock a letter was by this stage too much for the little grey cells), and then with NE corner still to be tackled, gave up. Not so much DNF as lost interest in this careless and charmless puzzle.

    Feeble, perhaps, but my defence is that I do these puzzles for fun and this wasn’t. Congratulations to those with more backbone than me, commiserations to all who had unmerited pink squares, chapeau to Rotter for a very fine blog in the circumstances and no further comment for setter and editor!

  11. They’d fixed the TIP/TOP issue by the time I came to submit (08:27 BST). The clue at 4dn was still a nonsense, though. I wrote first TIP, then PIT, then decided to see if I could solve 8a to sort it out. Fortunately I could, so MISHAP went in followed by TIP.

    Six anagrams, five of which went straight in but the sixth (AFTERTASTE) became my LOI – I was determined to work “fat” into it. This probably sprang to mind as a “consequence of eating” because I ate an enormous amount of excellent Chinese food in Covent Garden last night and my waistband is creaking.

    All green in 08:39 and since the leaderboard shows me a couple of places above Kevin this must be a sub-K and thus a Red Letter Day. Huzzah!

    Many thanks Pedro and Rotter.


  12. Difficult. Struggled to get going at all (FOI TREMOR) and after an hour still failed on five. “Most of calm” = MIL is a step too far for me (though like others, I did expect something in YES reversed). Like Plett11 (above) I was trying “cal” which could have given 13 carrot (cf. Poison Wyvern below). NHO “studies” = CONS; how does that work, please? Also failed to see BONSAI, MUSIC (ashamed at that), PHYSICIAN. Much learning to be done there….. 10a: might I suggest “on radio” was superfluous?

    1. CON and STUDY are standard Crosswordland fare. My Chambers gives as the third definition of CON ‘to know, to learn, to study…’.

      I agree that the ‘on radio’ could be seen as redundant, with ‘broadcast’ acting as homophone indicator, but it didn’t occur to me at the time of solving.

      1. Thank you for that, also for your excellent and essential blog. I just looked in my Collins; (a) it says Archaic, and (b) used especially in the phrase “to con by rote” – I’ve NHO that either. But I suppose “archaic” is all fair game in Crosswordland. Thanks.

  13. Enjoyed this in the main but I do have a minor gripe and a question . My gripe is that for me calm does not readily suggest mild in 12a, and for a quickie we normally use most of the given letters . My question relates to what may be an urban myth – I was led to believe that the the plural for a computer mouse is mouses rather than mice – is that so?

    1. The same point about MICE v MOUSES has been made a couple of times above, and I’m not sure about the answer. I do know that I worked in the IT industry from the 1970s until retirement, when I finished as Director of IT Procurement for a major Russell Group university. If I had been expecting a delivery of 500 peripherals for research computers, I would have asked ‘where are my MICE?’ not MOUSES. Perhaps it is an urban myth.

      On edit, on your first comment – mild sea, calm sea.

  14. Another one I didn’t really get on with. Unless of course my grey cells are declining, which is quite possible. Actually, looking down, I had to write out 4 of the anagrams, and that slows things down.

    I had to correct PIT to TIP once I got MISHAP, and I see there was some error. I liked CONSPIRACY and PHYSICIAN. MER for a QC at SMILEY – I’d not raise an eyebrow in the 15×15, but I suppose the QC is meant to be an introduction to cryptic clue types, so maybe I can put that eyebrow back down. LOI was AFTERTASTE – one of the ones I had to write out, and although an aftertaste is undoubtedly a consequence of eating, it’s not one that sprang to mind.


  15. 12:13 (1213 King John agrees Treaty of Dover, making England a Papal Fiefdom)

    In common with everyone else, confused by 4d, putting PIT, until the checkers forced me to turn it into TIP. No pink squares at the end, so it looks like one problem has been fixed.

    Thanks Rotter for the blog.

  16. I seem to be one of the few who had no problem with 4dn, TIP went straight in with no qualms. A perfectly reasonable clue in my opinion. I also had the advantage of solving out of the paper version, so no issues with the transposed clues.
    I thought it was quite tough today, and I was dodging around to get a foothold. I eventually crossed the line in 11.24, and although outside of my target, I’m relatively happy with that.

    1. If you were solving on paper, Andy, you wouldn’t have had an issue as the 3-letter answers and the clue at 4dn were correct. The problem others had was that having written TIP as the answer at 4dn based on the two definitions whilst ignoring the extraneous part of the clue (after reflecting) their efforts were rejected as incorrect because the answer loaded to the website was TOP.

  17. After about 15 min (mostly spent on 4d!) and only four clues solved, I decided to ignore “after reflecting” and suddenly everything started to fall into place and I completed in 28:27. I found SMILEY, but didn’t get MILd so needed the blog for that. FOI ETHICAL, LOI MUSIC. COD TIP, for all the wrong reasons! At least the length of time it took me meant the TIP/TOP error had been corrected and I was all green. Small mercies. Thanks Pedro and Rotter.

  18. I too always thought that the plural of mouse was mouses when talking computers. In fact in my university course the professor berated one student, when he called them mice, by saying that is only used by amateurs. However a really nice crossword from Pedro this morning.

  19. My iPad still gives me errors for TIP/TOP. A real struggle today. DNF SMILEY – tricky for a QC. Plugged away but didn’t enjoy that much for some reason. Thanks for blog – much needed today!

  20. They’d fixed the clue for 21d when I came to the puzzle, although 4d was still nonsense. With the crossers it had to be TIP though. Anyway all done in 7:21. An enjoyable puzzle otherwise. Thanks Pedro and Rotter.

  21. DNE (Did Not Enjoy) from me due to the CALM/MILD switch, then to be followed by the excision of the final letter. That seems very obscure, but I’m a total noob to all of this. DNF as a result.

  22. DNF for me with two incorrect answers, though not 4d or 21d (both of which I actually answered correctly, despite the clues being the original I corrected ones.)

    I put Carrot for 13d. 🤣

  23. Needed a few crossers (including 4d) before I could sort out the letter order for Aftertaste, but a paper solve spared me any confusion. After that, a steady solve with just the odd clue, here and there, to keep me interested in between anagrams. For the third time this week, delays with my loi, 4d Smiley (not a very apt description, in both senses), nudged me into the SCC. I could almost begin to suspect a 22ac. Invariant

  24. 10:21

    No problems with the clueing by the time I did this online. Though I didn’t think I was especially slow (though was slow to see BLOC, ETHICAL and TIP), found I’d already hit 9 minutes by the time I attempted LOI SMILEY – even with the pencilled in backwards YES, I wasn’t sure what to enter as the final letter – took a punt on I as the only letter that would make any sense. Ho hum – tomorrow’s another day.

    Thanks Pedro and Rotter

  25. I benefitted from a late start so no TIP-TOP issues here. FOI AFTERTASTE, struggled with the anagram fodder to get PHYSICIAN, confess to not knowing that SATURNINE is a word for gloomy and finished with SMILEY and then BONSAI in 8:18.

  26. 15:57. No SMILEY from me today, I’m afraid. I often find myself struggling with Pedro’s puzzles. So it was another plod and the same problem as everyone else at 4d. As I solve on paper, there was no risk of an actual pink square so 21d didn’t cause me so many problems. I never did get to grips with MORSEL – thanks Rotter for the explanation. Absolutely obvious now! I smiled ruefully at the surface for PHYSICIAN as I’ve been waiting for nearly 18 months for a hospital appointment, finally got one a few weeks ago, made some holiday arrangements around it, and – yes – it was cancelled a couple of days ago. That has cost me an extra £250 on a holiday cottage, so I’m not a happy bunny 😠
    FOI Tremor LOI Morsel
    Thanks Pedro and Rotter

    BTW The concert last night was lovely – it was in a beautiful little medieval church near Market Bosworth. If you get a chance to see Richard Durrant (great guitarist) do seize it. He’s in Somerset and Devon over the next few days. Thanks to SRC for the recommendation.

    1. Glad you enjoyed Richard’s concert. He gets a beautiful tone out of his 5,000 years old piece of oak. We intend to toddle down to his Pollinator cafe for a coffee early tomorrow morning.
      P.S. I have only just finished Pedro’s QC, as I spent most of yesterday all wired up in A&E. Recovered now, BTW.

  27. After a break for village good works (mops brow), I was so busy worrying about SATURNINE and AFTERTASTE (PDMs) that I forgot I had not solved 12a, not helped by guessing Carrot instead of MARROW.
    Does CYNIC mean Pessimist? Hm.
    Liked CONSPIRACY, MISHAP, TENANT. No prob with TIP/TOP, on paper.
    I don’t particularly equate Saturnine with gloomy, though liked the parsing. More tall, dark, moody and cynical, but gloomy is in the dictionary.
    Thanks for much needed blog, Rotter.

  28. 19 mins…

    No issues on the Tip Top front as I solve using the paper edition. I didn’t think this was too bad from Pedro, with a fair chunk of my time used up on 12ac “Smiley”.

    FOI – 4dn “Tip”
    LOI – 12ac “Smiley”
    COD – 22ac “Conspiracy”

    Thanks as usual!

  29. The late worm gets a clean grid. But 1hr 7 reflects lots of work interruptions.
    So I guess around 15 mins, held up by frill, smiley, and LOI/COD physician.

  30. DNF.
    Missed 2 clues. The culprit was 12 Across. This was a very poor and unfair clue which unsurprisingly I failed to get ! 12 Across :

    12 Certainly taken aback about most of calm positive image? (6)
    SMILEY – YES (certainly) reversed (taken aback) and containing (about) MILd (calm, mostly – drop the last letter).

    Bit of a jump from calm to mild , almost impossible for most people given that the answer
    “SMILEY” is so meaningless.

    SMILEY does not mean positive image to me ! Is it even a proper word ?

    With clues like this one not many people stand a chance of finishing correctly, apart from the small group of experts who seem to love this sort of obscure rubbish.

    1. A SMILEY is a combination of letters in computing that look like a smiling face, like this : – ) when viewed from the side (I had to insert spaces as the software substitutes the characters as the actual emoticon). It later transformed into the early emoticons, like this 🙂. A smiley really is a ‘positive image’, in that it is an image with a positive message. Unfortunately, these days, it is more often associated with the less positive activity of drug-taking.

  31. 19.18 I wanted “certainly taken aback about most of calm” to be SCALEY, but it didn’t make any sense. CARROT for the vegetable then fitted but didn’t make any sense either. I eventually figured them out and finished up with TOP and TENANT, both of which should have gone straight in. A poor day.

    1. We think alike; I too battled with both SCALEY and CARROT for ages. Afraid I rather agree with Dunlop65 that “mostly calm” to MIL was verging on the unreasonable given that SMILEY is such an obscure word for “positive image”.

    2. I was another with SCALEY and CARROT despite them not making sense. Too hard for me I’m afraid.

  32. 18 minutes today, all parsed. Solving on paper so no problems with tip/top/pit/pot. A tricky puzzle imo with some slightly (for a QC) obscure clueing. I wasn’t sure about the mice/mouses point but it had to be. I also had a MER at CYNIC which doesn’t equate to pessimistic in my book. Also toyed with scaley at 12 ac but couldn’t make any sense of it.

    FOI – 9ac TREMOR
    LOI – 12ac SMILEY
    COD – 22ac CONSPIRACY. Also liked the surface for 16ac TRAMLINE

  33. All the issues were fixed by the time I came to this, except that 12ac is still a poor clue. Bunged in the last “I” with a shrug as it least made a word. All done in 19:15, just failing to qualify for the SCC.

  34. Just avoided the SCC with 19:50 on what I thought was a very good QC – seemed chewy at first, but it all revealed itself in due course and nothing unfair or too obscure, although I must confess I had no idea that cabal meant CONSPIRACY. LOI was FRILL, COD to TREMOR. Thanks Pedro and Rotter.

  35. I came to this late in the evening and was surprised to get a double error message on completion. I believe my completed grid was correct and am surprised at such poor editing, as rotter makes clear. I haven’t read all the comments above but I am relieved to find I am not alone.
    I can’t be bothered to see if I would have got it ‘right’ (at this late hour – 8 pm) if I had done it using the ‘new’ Times app instead of then old one. Is the old app not worth a correction??
    A fiasco. It makes one realise just how carefully the puzzles are put together normally and how good the proof-reading usually is. John M.

  36. Glad I wasn’t the only one who got little pleasure from this. Finished in about 30 mins. Very few write ins for a QC and just a lot of hard clues, 12ac and 7dn in particular.

    Thanks for the blog Rotter. Always a joy to read your blog, whatever experience I have had with the actual puzzle. 😊

    1. Hey GA – thought of you yesterday when I heard Dundee Utd were in action last night and trying to save their season. Commiserations 😕

      Mixed week so far on QC with corrected DNFs on Monday / Weds due to silly mistakes but a total time of 1hr20 exactly so far. I’m sure the Editor has something difficult in reserve for the Friday slot 🤷‍♂️

      1. Good to hear from you!

        I’m afraid Dundee U have had a dreadful season. It started so well, with a home victory against Alkmaar in the lesser European competition (can’t remember it’s proper name), but then went to pot with a huge defeat (7-0 if I recall) in Holland. Add to that a 9-0 drubbing by Celtic and a few changes of manager, and it has been awful. There is a very thin chance of making the relegation playoff game, but that is about as likely as me being asked to become a TFTT blogger! It’s exactly 40 years since Dundee U won the Scottish Premier League title. Those were the glory days!

        I was pleased to see Bournemouth survive. Seems like a well run club with sensible owners and a good local fan base. Pity there aren’t more teams like that.

        Sounds like you’ve had a decent-ish week on the QC front. Your time is certainly impressive. I think we’ve had a couple of tough ones already this week, so fingers crossed tomorrow is reasonably kind (although I suspect a WURM).


        1. Turns out we were both right about Friday 🤣

          Had a quick look back through your week. Seems your Monday was a disaster getting breezeblocked after 8mins. Like you, I momentarily put UNIT but changed it to KNIT when I couldn’t quite parse. I took about 25-mins but accidentally had RAMP instead of ROMP which was more down to having started to type 1A into the Down clue and not correcting it.

          Another bad one for you today but our Tuesday and Weds were similar. I consider you to be a much better solver than me and without your long, busy days I feel you’d be flying them. Last week, some great days and more of those this week. Hang in there 👍

  37. Are you sure that TIP and TOP are in the wrong places? It stumped me for a while, but then I read it as TOP being ‘lifted’ to the top, and TIP ‘reflecting’ down to the bottom by the AFTER in AFTERTASTE. .

    Possibly overthinking it.

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