Times Quick Cryptic No 2489 by Mara

There are lots of friendly clues in this Quick Cryptic from Mara today, although the term at 18A may be unfamiliar to those of you who have never played Bridge. LOI for me was 2D when I belatedly realised the sign was of the Zodiac. All done in under my target time at 4:53. A nice puzzle. Thank-you Mara. How did you all get on?

Fortnightly Weekend Quick Cryptic. This time it is Phil’s turn to provide the extra weekend entertainment. You can find the crossword here. If you are interested in trying our previous offerings you can find an index to all 86 here.

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, {deletions} and [] other indicators.

8 Just erected, one side (7)
UPRIGHTUP (erected) RIGHT (one side).
9 Tom is awfully wet (5)
MOIST – (Tom is)* [awfully].
10 Hold last of cattle, beef (5)
GRIPEGRIP (hold) and last letter of cattlE
11 Trailblazer investing figure in seaside structure (7)
PIONEERONE (figure) in PIER (seaside structure).
12 Give up the role, as tricky (4,5)
LOSE HEART – (the role as)* [tricky]. Neat surface.
14 Some jacaranda, showy tree (3)
ASH – Hidden in jacarandA SHowy.
16 Without weight? That’s amazing! (3)
WOWW/O (without) W (weight).
18 Child needs formal outfit for clubs, say (5,4)
MINOR SUITMINOR (child) SUIT (formal outfit). In bridge Spades and Hearts are called the Major suits and Diamonds and Clubs the Minor suits.
21 Red mark allowed (7)
SCARLETSCAR (mark) LET (allowed).
22 Arabs reconstructed Iraqi city (5)
BASRA – (Arabs)* [reconstructed]. The surface may well be true. Basra was shelled heavily by Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.
23 Great deal to draw (5)
LOTTOLOT (great deal) TO.
24 Hollow bay in which battered can found (7)
CONCAVE – (can)* [battered] in COVE (bay).
1 Plug a humble, small residence (8)
BUNGALOWBUNG (plug) A LOW (humble).
2 Sign with inclusion of a thousand large groups (6)
ARMIESM (a thousand in Roman numerals) in ARIES (sign of the Zodiac).
3 Initially on gargantuan rock, enormous giant (4)
OGRE – First letters of On Gargantuan Rock Enormous.
4 Posh new patio, heaven (6)
UTOPIAU (posh) (patio)* [new].
5 International trader, I am to take on carrier (8)
IMPORTERI’M (I am) PORTER (carrier).
6 Pictures soldiers put up swiped by American investigators (6)
CINEMA – MEN [put up] -> NEM, in CIA (American investigators).
7 Prison commotion (4)
STIR – Double definition.
13 Musical in Milan, hot dancing (8)
HAMILTON – (Milan hot)* [dancing].
15 Possible boiler trouble (3,5)
HOT WATER – Double definition, the first a cryptic hint referring  to hot water as something that might boil.
17 Large amount, halibut ultimately consumed by whale at sea (6)
WEALTH – Last letter of halibuT in (whale)* [at sea].
19 See it once transformed (6)
NOTICE – (it once)* [transformed].
20 Knock off Austen novel (6)
UNSEAT – (Austen)* [novel].
21 Fish essence, did you say? (4)
SOLE – Sounds like SOUL (essence).
22 First of bassists with musical group (4)
BAND – First letter of Bassists AND (with). “With” for “and” rather than just being a link word between definition and wordplay is a setter’s trick to watch out for.

102 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2489 by Mara”

  1. 14:07. WOW and ARMIES held me up the longest while CINEMA was my favourite. I guessed we wouldn’t be looking for a novel by Jane Austen and have learned by now to always look to see if “with”could lead to “and”.

  2. A straightforward, fun puzzle from Mara, 7.39 for me. No real probs but like both John and Curryowen I failed to see ARMIES for a bit too long, as I did with UPRIGHT and LOSE HEART. I haven’t read More’s work but as I understand it UTOPIA and heaven are two different places. As I also understand it More’s Utopia is not a place in which many of us would choose to live. FOI MOIST, LOI ARMIES. Many good QC surfaces, especially for the many anagrams.

  3. Sluggish today. I biffed CINEMA, never parsed it. An MER at UTOPIA, for reasons LindsayO gives (I’ve never read it either, never will). 6:55.

  4. 13 minutes, missing my target again after 3 days of achieving it. I found the RH easy but struggled LH.

    Both Utopia (also utopia) and heaven can be used figuratively to describe an ideal place, situation or state of mind, whatever Sir Thomas More’s original intentions.

  5. Read A Man for All Seasons at school and liked it so UTOPIA went straight in without question. Held up at the end by BAND so I clearly still haven’t learned CO’s ‘with lesson’ and CONCAVE where I was trying to do what needed to be done only with ‘cove’ not ‘cave’ – that letter made all the difference. Also held up by HAMILTON, solved even as I was moaning to myself about obscure musicals and then had to admit it’s really pretty famous. All green a shade under 15.

    EDIT: I was right all along about cove – just couldn’t juggle the letters in my head! Should have past the intro to the hints – sorry John!

    1. Yes and Kudos to Mara in choosing a newer musical (HAMILTON), it’s often EVITA which came out in the 1970s

      1. I wonder what the dividing factors are that makes one show a musical and another opera. Evita is clearly considers a musical, as is Hamilton. I know Andrew Lloyd-Webber did once say that Phantom of the Opera was as close to an opera as he could write – almost all libretto not spoken word, huge stage and scenes, grand scale, tragic story. But it is never given that accolade. It cannot just be age or date of writing.

        1. Quite so. ‘Nixon in China’, for example, is described as an opera and John Adams, the composer, is still with us. I’m sure there are other examples. Perhaps it depends who performs it?

  6. Felt like I made heavy weather of this – struggling in particular with some fairly straightforward anagrams – WEALTH, UNSEAT and NOTICE all put up more resistance than they should.
    I also spent some time wondering how to get ‘a’ and ‘m’ into aries for ARMIES, had to dredge MINOR from the depths and had a similar experience to Mendesest WRT HAMILTON.
    Despite all that I managed to finish under target in 9.25.
    Thanks to John

  7. The 3 a.m. insomni-solve strikes again. I should learn to just read a book instead. The bits of me that were vaguely awake meandered through this in 31 minutes. ARMIES was tough at the start, as was CONCAVE at the end, and the answers in between mostly didn’t exactly leap out. But I made it to the SCC nice and early before the crowds built up.

    1. As a retiree I have lots of time on my hands so am usually content to move fairly deliberately through these puzzles. I would drop in to the SCC more often but all I hear of there are croissants. Do they ever do a full English- or even just a bacon butty?

        1. Well that’s good to know. Thanks for prompt reply- your department seems to be run along very professional lines.

          1. I’m doing some slow-roast pork for dinner on Sunday. Maybe I should provide the leftovers to the SCC Catering department for pulled-pork sandwiches. I don’t do escargots though.

            1. Close enough to a bacon butty for me-I’m there. I assume since connected to a non-profit the SCC Catering Department’s prices will be reasonable.

  8. Took a while – 13 minutes. Wasn’t comfortable with cave=bay for CONCAVE – cove, yes. The other hold-ups were the crossing UNSEAT (clever misdirection) and ARMIES. As the time flew by, I must have been enjoying myself.

    1. But it is cove=bay with an anagram of CAN in.. I’m not sure what you’re uncomfortable with.

  9. I’ve been doing these for several years now and suspect, like some others do, that on average they are getting harder. Not finishing at all has been a rare occurrence, but I’ve had two in a week now.
    I was finally defeated by the NE corner, again, and found the clueing very obscure. It took over 40 minutes to complete, including the corrections – which also take much longer on this clunky new app.
    Not a great way to end the week.
    I hope you all did better and that you all have a great weekend.
    Thanks John for your efforts.

    1. Please forgive my curiosity, and explain how your rules work. “I was finally defeated by…”, you say, which to me sounds like “I passed on…” or “I was stumped by…” – but you go on to say you did complete it (even though in “over 40 minutes”). So what did “finally defeated” mean? Thank you!

      1. Sorry to be less than clear. Basically I completed all but ARMIES, UTOPIA and UPRIGHT so I completed the grid by biffing random letters between those I’d already got. That gave me several pink squares, since they were likely incorrect, and I then worked them out one by one until the answers became more apparent. That way I got a time, as I eventually completed the whole puzzle. It’s a convoluted way of doing it but 99.9% of the time it allows me to see the whole puzzle completed.
        Hope that’s clearer than mud!

        1. Thank you – I think I’m beginning to understand. You mean the online version (which I’ve never seen) allows you trial and error while the clock continues to tick? There’s a whole online world out there of which I have limited comprehension….

          1. Yes, I’ve had the online version of The Times for some years. I much prefer it now. It’s a lot cheaper and it arrives on my iPad every morning before I’m up, wherever I am in the world.
            Next week, for example, I’ll be submitting my thoughts from North Carolina.

            1. … whereas I’ll be submitting my thoughts from Christchurch (not NZ) again – midweek, at least. Enjoy your trip, ITTT!

              1. Oh what a shame I won’t be here. We could’ve chewed the QC cud over a flat white in Saxon Square. Have a nice visit 👍

  10. 9.19 including a spell check so finally all green.
    LOI hamilton.
    Liked hot water and utopia, COD Unseat.

  11. Finished it! And reckon I shaved 10-15 minutes off my usual hour, all parsed, no problems. Agree, jackkt, RH half easier than LH. Thank you, Mara, for a friendly puzzle – especially as it’s Friday. FOI PIONEER, COD WOW, LOI WEALTH.
    Thank you, John: I’d vaguely heard of MINOR SUITS and guessed these included clubs, in which case presumably spades are major; but why are hearts also major, please?
    Thank you – all – for your kind and full explanations (below). I’m afraid my card-playing activities are limited to an addiction to Racing Demon!

    1. In bridge scoring you get 30 points per trick over 6 tricks that you bid and make in the major suits (spades and hearts) but only 20 points per trick for the minor suits (diamonds and clubs). To “make game” (and get the game bonus points) you have to score 100+ points, so a successful contract of 4 hearts or spades (i.e. 10 of the 13 tricks) gets you game with 120 points, but you need to bid and make 5 diamonds or clubs (i.e. 11 of the 13 tricks) to reach game and 100 points. Major and Minor suits are a shorthand way of distinguishing between the suits with different scores per trick.

      1. Just to complete John’s excellent discourse on basic scoring in bridge, it is also possible to bid a No Trumps contract (NT). The first trick in NT over 6 scores 40 points, with additional tricks scoring 30, so in NT it is possible to achieve ‘game’ by bidding and making 3NT, 9 tricks (40 + 30 + 30).

      2. Thanks, John. Your excellent summary explains perfectly why I never made much headway in Bridge. That and a ‘wipe-clean’ memory for the cards played after every hand. Whist is my limit…. 🙄 John.

  12. 12:29 Not too bad, especially as done while walking around the Airport, trying to get it done before take-off.

    Held up by UPRIGHT/ARMIES, trying to get an unlikely K=thousand in there.


      1. Landed now. I had hoped to get a time of 12:15 so I could bang in a date I knew. But that ARMIES took just too long.

        At the Battle of Waterloo: “I wonder where Napoleon is keeping his ARMIES”?
        Wellington: inside his sleevies

  13. 12:25 (birth of Thomas Aquinas)

    Held up by 6d, as I spent ages thinking that it might involve moving the G and I in IMAGES. Needed all the checkers before the penny finally dropped about CIA.

    Enjoyed HAMILTON. Nice to have a recent musical rather than Cats and Evita.

    LTI were LOTTO and SOLE.

    Thanks Mara and John

  14. Not an easy grid but a fairly straightforward puzzle.
    No hold-ups for me until I got to CONCAVE which I had just about parsed as I did LOI HOT WATER.
    10 minutes today.

  15. Some hiccups but I completed this whilst rushing to pack for home. Over target but not by much. LOI ARMIES (tricky, I thought).
    I’ll get round to doing yesterday’s QC when I get home… **
    Thanks to both. John M.
    ** I enjoyed Myles’s QC from yesterday. It took me a couple of minutes over target but it was an enjoyable and fairly testing solve.

    1. Hi Ian, do you stop when you can’t do any more (e.g at 18).
      On the 15×15 if its hard and I get stuck, I sometimes check the blog to see what is the definition for a clue , or just cheat and look at the answer, and then see if I can carry on.
      Once you have more checkers its easier to finish.

      1. Difficult to “check the blog” for just one answer – aren’t you bound to “see” others out of the involuntary corner of your eye? I never look at the blog until I’ve come to a definite stop.

        1. For me when I was learning, it was better to cheat on one (or two if you see another), than to just go straight to the blog, helps confidence as well.

          1. Thank you – I knew that – I found Dan Word some months before I discovered this blog – but as you know, Dan Word (like so many others) is infuriating in that it doesn’t give you any reasoning. It’s of no interest merely knowing the answer if you’ve still no idea what the derivation is. So I soon gave that up.

  16. 16:55
    FOI: 9ac MOIST, I also struggled with the NE corner taking a long time to see my COD: 1dn BUNGALOW and even longer to see LOI: 2dn ARMIES.
    Thanks to Mara and John

  17. Yuck – anagrams, thousands of them, which I couldn’t see, or so my notepad says, with circles of letters for HAMILTON, LOSE HEART, WEALTH (!).

    All of which slowed me down. I’m not sure a BUNGALOW is necessarily a small residence, but that’s just me griping because that was another delay!


  18. I was definitely not at the races today finishing in a tardy 14.55. My problems were in the se corner and with MINOR SUIT, and although I’ve never played bridge I know of the terminology. Once solved I was really scratching my head to think why I found today so tough. Just one of those brain fog days I guess.
    After starting the week promisingly, both today and yesterday were slow days taking my weekly total to 51.30. This gives a daily average of 10.18 which is only a little outside target, so all in all not too bad I suppose.

  19. Mainly straightforward, but took a while to see GRIPE and especially ARMIES. An entertaining puzzle.

  20. A most pleasant end to the week, all done in 9 minutes with only LOI Armies stopping it being quite a bit quicker. “Thousand” can be both K and M, and I always forget “Sign” can be one of the Zodiac signs (as indeed can House).

    Many thanks to John for the blog, and looking forward to Phil’s Saturday Special.

  21. A fairly straightforward solve, but another trip via the SCC thanks to my last pair: Gripe and Armies. Both answers left me wondering why I hadn’t seen them sooner, but such is life. Cinema was another that needed help from the crossers, but a nice parse. CoD to 24ac, Concave, for the surface. Invariant

  22. I more or less bludgeoned my way through this, and my effort lacked any real structure. My COD reminds me of my stumbling attempts to play bridge with my late first wife against friends. It’s a great game for triggering arguments – they would have theirs in situ, whilst we would wait to get home. I decided to take up a more restful pastime after a year or so, and plumped for Scrabble.

    TIME 4:09

    1. Bridge is one of those games where I was in mild competition with the opponents but at all-out war with my partner!

      1. Oh dear Cedric – your partner is the only person on your side (even though it doesn’t always seems like that!)

        1. Back in the early 1980s when I was researching at the Cranfield University (as it is now), I had a regular lunchtime bridge game with my playing partner Dave and an Egyptian married couple who were fellow researchers. Leila was a much better player than Tariq, but somehow all their disasters were deemed to be her fault. I’ve yet to manage to convince my wife to take up the game, but it’s maybe just as well she doesn’t want to.

          1. My problem is that Mrs S is a very good player and I am … not. It was not always thus – we actually met at a bridge club when, both being without partners for the evening, the club secretary put us together as being two singletons of about the same standard – but over the intervening 35 years she has played often and continues to get better, and I play seldom and get worse. But we differ from your Egyptian couple in that on the rare occasions we do partner each other, we both know that any failings are almost always down entirely to me!

  23. Took a while to see ARMIES and LOSE HEART, but once I had the H, HAMILTON fell into place. UPRIGHT was FOI and SOLE was LOI. 7:11. Thanks Mara and John.

  24. Completed and parsed in 18 minutes, although it probably should have been faster. Not sure where I spent the time although I did briefly start reviewing Jane Austen’s works until the penny dropped. Also struggled with 6dn, wondering if ‘cisera’ was a word (it’s been a heavy week!).

    FOI – 9ac MOIST
    LOI – 6dn CINEMA
    COD – 18ac MINOR SUIT

    Thanks to Mara and John

  25. The Quitch says this is easier than yesterday’s – not for me, guv! Got rather hung up on my last two, BAND and ARMIES in that order. Finally remembered that “with” = “and” (so sneaky …) and after randomly trying a K, and M and a G in the blanks in -R-I-S finally had the PDM for ARMIES. Phew.

    BUNGALOW is a splendid word, a reminder of the fact that the Empire bestowed on us linguistic as well as material riches. My OED tells me both that it comes from the Gujarati “bangalo” and also that its first usage in English was 1676, which I found amazingly early.

    All done in 09:11 for 1.3K and a Respectable Day. Many thanks Mara and John.


    1. Didn’t know there was a snitch for the QC, so thanks! I was 3 minutes faster today than yesterday so was easier for me.

  26. I felt I should have been quicker on this one, but completed eventually. Slowed by LOsI ARMIES (unparsed – did not think of Zodiac!) and GRIPE.
    Started in SE and worked upwards, though UPRIGHT was an early solve. PDM with BUNGALOW helped.
    Liked MINOR SUIT (am bridge player too), HOT WATER, IMPORTER, LOTTO.
    Thanks vm, John.

  27. After a few weeks when the crossword club in the Times live app on my iPad gave up working properly I’ve now deleted and re-installed the app and, hurrah, letters now appear where I typed them! And I had a reasonable day with a 15:18 finish. Onwards and upwards. Thanks John and Mara.

  28. 6.18

    Decent time after yesterday’s struggles. Had exactly the same thought as Mr H on BUNGALOW but as my first checker was the W it was rapidly bungalowed in.

    Thanks Mara and John

  29. Completed but struggled to do so, needing the cat to help me with three clues.

    I didn’t see anybody mention anything about 15d, but I thought that was an absolute shoddy clue. Hot/water = possible boiler? No, that’s awful. Sorry Mara, but I really did not like that clue at all. It’s a school report comment for you: must try harder!

    Other than that I did enjoy this QC.

    21d kept me puzzled for a while. I kept thinking of homophone of “scent”, but didn’t think there was a fish called sent.

    Didn’t know thousand could be M. Learned something new.

    1. There are only 7 letters used in Roman numerals. I’m surprised that M has passed you by until today.

    2. TBH I thought “possible boiler” was a bit of a stretch, but it makes for a good surface. That minor gripe pales into insignificance compared to a clue in another crossword somewhere else yesterday where “AI at 1 across” has to be parsed as [artificial] (I at A (1) across)* to give a rather obscure herb as an answer (6,4). Bonkers!

      1. Yes, I sat staring at that one for ages, with all the crossers in place and just gave up in the end; wouldn’t have had a hope.

  30. 6:22

    No real issues except for bunging in a dodgy ALLOT at 23a on first pass – didn’t initially notice that both HAMILTON and WEALTH changed some of the letters so for a long moment I was trying to solve 21d with S_A_ – got there in the end.

    Thanks Mara and John

  31. I found this easier than yesterday. FOI MOIST then jumped about the grid until LOI ARMIES. Encountered similar problems to others in trying to insert k or m and belatedly recognising need for the right kind of sign. DNK MINOR SUIT but had to be (thanks for detailed explanations – will just file under ‘bridge’ for now!). Liked CONCAVE. Many thanks Mara.

  32. 10.43 Pretty quick for me, even with CINEMA, GRIPE and ARMIES slowing me down at the end. When I can’t make sense of a Mara clue I check if it’s an anagram and it very often is. Thanks to Mara and John.

  33. very enjoyable solve with my son, who is learning the art of QC. Therfore no time but much appreciation of some clever clues. The discussion on Bridge in the blog is also very helpful! we did not get ARMIES having failed to see the alternative definition of ‘sign’. But an excellent training QC with lots of clue types and some easy, some harder. Thanks Mara!

  34. SOLE destroying! I had just three clues still to solve after 25 minutes (quite fast for me), but then sat staring at __A_L_T, __L_ and _I_A_A for 35+ minutes before making any further progress. In the end I got two of them, but not the third, so it has to go down as a 64-minute DNF on my spreadsheet.

    SCARLET: I got the LET bit straight away, but simply could not think of any other words that fitted for ‘red’ (which I was convinced would be a type of wine) or ‘mark’.

    SOLE: I found SILD and EELS to fit the space, but SOLE didn’t arrive until after I had the S from SCARLET.

    CINEMA: I got the meaning of ‘put up’, but soldiers were RE to me (not MEN) and I never did think of CIA for ‘American investigators’.

    A horrible end to an awkward week, which included two efforts of an hour or more. Best forgotten, I think!

    Mrs Random also had a tough time at the end, but she did at least cross the line successfully. She was held up for 10-15 minutes by GRIPE and ARMIES (her LOI). I think her time was somewhere in the 30’s, which is about as long as she is prepared to give these QCs before her patience runs out.

    Many thanks to Mara (through gritted teeth) and John. Roll on next week is what I say.

    1. Your perseverance is an inspiration to us all! When the clock hits 30 minutes I just look up the answers.

      1. Thankyou for saying so, DearHector. Trouble is, I regard it more as idiocy or foolishness and I wish I could just walk away from it.

  35. 9 1/2 minutes. Progressed steadily but was happy to have the wordplay and checked N for MINOR SUIT; I can never remember which is which. I am impressed by the knowledge of bridge displayed by some of our posters which only serves to convince me I wouldn’t get past first base in the unlikely event I ever tried to learn the game.

    Of the not so friendly clues, I enjoyed working out the parsing for CINEMA.

    Thanks to Mara and John

  36. 21 mins…

    Annoyingly frustrated by 10ac “Gripe” and 2dn “Armies” which must have added at least 5 minutes.

    The rest of it though was very enjoyable.

    FOI – 3dn “Ogre”
    LOI – 2dn “Armies”
    COD – 10ac “Gripe”

    Thanks as usual!

  37. Sneaky solve at work, so only a brief post.

    Ignored the clock as full concentration impossible with background noise, but very enjoyable nevertheless.

    Great blog John.

    Have a good weekend everyone.

    1. Well done GA. Ignoring the clock, a good thing – mine is usually scrolled off the page. Occasionally see it and when I reached about 10mins with only half grid done and beginning to lose heart, I switched goals to just achieving a finish and it taking as long as necessary. Have a good weekend buddy 👍

  38. Thanks to Johninterred for explaining the parsing of 2d (missed the zodiac sign), 18a (not my game but it rang a faint bell), 13d (not up on such things) but letter-searching eventually got me the right answers.
    FOI 9a moist
    LOI 2d armies
    COD 1d bungalow

  39. Could have done without it being Mara after struggling massively on one of their oldies yesterday (#82 – 1July2014) which I came back to this morning and finally finished in a total of around 1hr15.

    This was smoother with a 21:13 completion albeit there was a moment where I was beginning to … lose heart. Anagrams are fine when there’s checkers but I’m generally struggling with them at the moment. Once again tempted by the non-existent fish Sent/Scent until LOTTO arrived. Thought HOT-WATER which was LbOI was very weak on the “possible boiler” front but again it’s obvious if you can just come up with the answer off the back of HOT… which I couldn’t for too long.

    So 2nd fastest week ever at 1hr31 but once again a failure to clean sweep 🙄 A corrected DNF yesterday due to a homophone word I’ve never seen on Myles’ unenjoyable QC which seemed to be littered with the same Inspire-then-parse issue as HOT-WATER 🤷‍♂️

    1. Pity about yesterday but a good week overall for you, with some impressive times. 👏👏👏

      Can’t say I enjoyed Myles’ offering either. One for the very experienced solvers.

  40. 19:57

    Two musicals in one crossword is two too many. Never did parse BAND. The top half flew in but really struggled with the bottom.

  41. 8:41 today. Much better than my DNF courtesy of Myles yesterday 😅 In fact, a mixed week with mostly sub-10 minutes solves apart from that.
    I can see why people thought HOT WATER was a bit iffy and indeed anticipated some comments, but I decided that I really liked it.
    FOI Moist LOI Minor suit COD Hot water did make me smile
    Thanks Mara and John

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