Times Quick Cryptic No 2503 by Marty – Where’s the Theme?

This was fast for me for a Marty at 11 minutes, and then I spent ages looking for a theme that I am sure must be there, but thus far has eluded me.  We know Marty is partial to a theme, but they can be very obtuse and specific (the last I remember was based on the works of a fringe popular music combo (Half Man Half Biscuit) and included the unlikely pairings of piccalilli with shin-pads, and Joy Division with Oven Gloves).  I think it was Verlaine himself who finally cracked the mysteries of the theme – maybe he can help here.

Please let me know how you got on, and if you spot anything.


  • Rubbish lad can cite by chance  (10)

ACCIDENTAL – Anagram (rubbish) of [LAD CAN CITE].

8  Flash diner finally tucking into some beef? (6)

STREAK – {dine}R finally, inside (tucking into) STEAK (some beef).

9  Centrepiece of magazine: a field and a flower (6)

AZALEA – {mag}AZ{ine} (centrepiece of) and A LEA (a field).

10  Live west of a neighbourhood (4)

AREA ARE (live) and A.  West is a position indicator, ARE being to the left (west) of the A.  ARE in this case being the second person singular of the present indicative of the verb to be (live).

11  Ready to enter class bringing tape (8)

CASSETTESET (ready) inside (to enter) CASTE (class).

12  Fabric from bed not put back (6)

COTTONCOT (bed) and NOT reversed (put back).

14  Junkie put on island by court (6)

ADDICTADD (put on) and I{sland} followed by CT (CourT).

16  Support team that’s bottom (8)

BACKSIDE BACK (support) and SIDE (team).

18  Lover consuming large tart (4)

FLAN FAN (lover) containing (consuming) L{arge}.

20  Party time following second supply of drug (6)

DOSAGEDO (party) and AGE (time) following (after) S{econd}.

21  Minor problem with husband in charge of trophy (6)

HICCUPH{usband} I{n} C{harge} and CUP (trophy).  HICCUP can also be spelled HICCOUGH when it is also pronounced HICCUP – strange language, English!

22  Lots of distinctive characteristics: one impression one matches (10)

IDENTITIES I (one) DENT (impression) I (one) TIES (matches, as in cup TIES / matches).  We had TIES = matches last week.


Provide family pet with little hesitation (5)

CATERCAT (family pet) and ER (little hesitation).

3  Popular old stage turn is not quite on the mark (7)

INEXACTIN (popular) and EX ACT (old stage turn).

4  Appearing regularly, hen like a large deer (3)

ELK – Alternate letters (appearing regularly) of hEn LiKe.

Maybe turn to French trains: one’s missing, delayed! (9)

TRANSLATE TRA{i}NS (one’s missing indicates to drop the I) and LATE (delayed).

6  Some in Geneva elected to return for holiday (5)

LEAVE – Reversed (to return) hidden (some in) in {gen}EVA EL{ected}.

Eleven of Glasgow’s clubs, etc I left drunk (6)

CELTIC – Anagram of [C{lubs} ETC I L{eft}].  The definition is slightly cryptic, referring to CELTIC Football Club, one of Glasgow’s major football teams (eleven players on the field in football, at least most of the time).

11  Arthropod that could make decent pie! (9)

CENTIPEDE – Anagram (could make) of [DECENT PIE].  The ARTHROPODa is a major division of the animal kingdom, with segmented bodies and jointed appendages, like the centipedes.

13  Alternatively, register brought up for the Speaker (6)

ORATOR OR (alternatively) and ROTA (register) reversed (brought up, in this down clue).

15  Skilful, grasping old company’s shortfall (7)

DEFICITDEFT (skilful) containing (grasping) ICI (old company).  ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) was a large chemical company in Britain, that became defunct in 2008.

17  What’s needed to open vehicle, some say, a shade military (5)

KHAKI – Homophone clue (some say) – sounds like CAR KEY.  KHAKI is a cloth of khaki colour (shade) used to make some military uniforms, and is associated primarily with the Army.

19  Keen expert outside but losing head (5)

ACUTEACE (expert) containing (outside) {b}UT (losing head).

21  Greeting, over time, success (3)

HIT HI (greeting) over T{ime}.

53 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2503 by Marty – Where’s the Theme?”

  1. 12:50. I thought some version of coincident was going to fill 1 across until I noticed LAD CAN CITE had no O and only one I. AZALEA, ADDICT, DEFICIT and IDENTITIES were favourites.

  2. 7.35. For some reason ACCIDENTAL leapt out at me instantly from ‘lad can cite’ so I was off to a flyer. Held up by TRANSLATE, AREA and DOSAGE, and LOsI CENTIPEDE and IDENTITIES. Thanks Rotter and Marty, I can’t see a theme either but I never can.

  3. 9 minutes. Nice puzzle, but I ask myself is a ‘rota’ a ‘register? (13dn). A rota involves a shift pattern, whereas a register is a list of names used to record attendance.

    Marty is our esteemed Crossword Editor in one of his many guises who has used this name for 21 QC puzzles since April 2014. Of these I have only 3 quite recent ones recorded as containing a theme or Nina but there may have been more that we failed to notice because we weren’t looking for one. Rotter has already mentioned the obscure theme, but the other two were more straightforward, based around the TV shows Trumpton and Dad’s Army respectively. I haven’t been able to find anything today.

    1. Both the Chambers and the Roget’s Thesaurus give register as a synonym for rota, so I think it is fair game in a cryptic crossword clue.

  4. I’ve looked for a theme or pattern after finishing within my target, but if it’s there it’s certainly not obvious.

    After two passes I had no checkers in 18A, but soon enough I solved it from scratch, biffed ACUTE (parsed quickly afterwards), and then my LOI jumped out and bit me.

    TIME 4:28

  5. Fairly straightforward today. Had no idea what type of creature an arthropod was so waited for a couple of checkers to point me in the right direction and wanted to put ‘oco’ in the middle of DEFICIT but other than that a smooth solve.
    Started with ACCIDENTAL and finished with DOSAGE in 6.43. I’m rubbish at spotting themes so look forward to finding out about it later.
    Thanks to Rotter

  6. A flyer today starting with 1A straight out of the box which is always a good sign.
    No holdups for a puzzle that met the label of a QCC for me, finishing in a rarely equalled 12.25 and no passes. COD KHAKI because it made me smile. Off to London, just as well I don’t have time to relax in the SCC.
    Thanks Marty and Rotter

  7. I haven’t tackled today’s QC yet, but regarding the debate about QCs getting harder…

    I am typing this on the train, having just completed puzzle 28 in the QC Crossword Book 1. My inability to complete a QC is legendary, but I completed puzzle 28 in just under half an hour. Here’s the best part though: it’s an Izetti!

    I think this could be proof that – if not all QCs – Izetti’s offerings are getting harder.

    1. So, logically (!) given your progress, if you continue working through from #28, by the time you are up to the current #2500+ you should be as fast as Kevin, Busman and the like 😁

    2. I found the same with that Izetti puzzle. Somebody on this forum recently said that they reckoned book 1 to be much easier than current offerings, and later crossword books. At the time, I was making heavy weather, working my way through book 8, so thought I’d give myself a break and purchased book 1. Although not a complete breeze, it is markedly more accessible. Even Izettis, as you say.

  8. Pretty straightforward for me today.

    Liked KHAKI but I’m rather partial to homophone clues.

    Thank you Marty and Rotter.

    Time: 7:33

  9. 12:15 (1215 King John signs the Magna Carta)

    Stopped the clock bang on this well known date, after a pause for a shower and coffee with the last two empty. Then BACKSIDE and ORATOR dropped, for a good time. I had been stuck on supporter=TEE, maybe the shower de-addled my brain.

    This felt like a puzzle where most of the crossers were common letters, IDENTITIES being an example. Not so many nine letter words made up entirely of Scrabble one point letters.

    If my JavaScript programming were better, I’d come up with a script to give a “scrabble score” for a grid, to indicate its preponderance of common vs rare letters.

    COD 11A CENTIPEDE, nice anagram and surface. Not a nice recipe, though.

  10. 9:39 but with one pink square. I typed 15d as DEFECIT, which makes no sense as ECI was not an old company as far as I am aware.

    Thanks Marty and Rotter

  11. Yep, a very good puzzle indeed. Perhaps the platonic ideal of a Times Quick Cryptic. Good surfaces, wide range of cluing devices, nothing obscure, but with enough heft to make one think.

    Well, it would have been had I not spoiled it by fat-fingering ALALEA…, though it’s not even a fat finger – L is miles from Z. I’m not counting it as a DNF on my records though, as I knew the answer & parsed it, and wouldn’t have made the error if writing it down.


  12. I got fixated on trying (and failing) to remember ALEATORIC for by chance: fortunately such music tends to be full of ACCIDENTALs. It made for a slow start and a 10.41 finish.
    I most liked the clue for TRANSLATE: a clever definition and smooth wordplay.
    I tried putting ACCIDENTAL IDENTITIES into Google: it turns out they are a thing, but unless out fine setter is a COTTON ADDICT or believes himself to be an AZALEA, I doubt it’s a theme!

    1. I did the same thing when looking for a theme, with the same result (unsurprisingly). I tried a few other unlikely combinations too, maybe we’re looking for a theme that isn’t there.

  13. I enjoyed my nearly 17 mins of solving time, with no particular problems but a good level of thoughtprovokingness.
    I rarely spot themes and today is no exception, although there seem to be more double letters than usual, which may but probably won’t be a thing.
    A QC to delight the masses, I would think.

  14. Managed in one sitting today. It always a joy to get 1A in first off.

    Was put off my brekkie by the arthropod that could make a decent pie.

    Nor did I like the idea of a junkie being put on an island by a court, better to send the pushers there.

    Laughed out loud when I worked out how to support the team that was bottom.

    So thanks Marty and Rotter

  15. Like Rotter, I finished in 11 minutes looking for a theme.
    An enjoyable puzzle.

  16. Enjoyable puzzle. Favourite was 17d KHAKI thanks Marty

    thanks TheRotter for the blog – I can’t find a bio for you on the site?

  17. Stared at this for half an hour without being able to do a single one – nearly threw in the towel and declared it a DNS (did not start). However, at last DOSAGE became apparent, then ADDICT (Nina?!), then it was an amazing acceleration to all green (and all parsed) in only a further 25 minutes or so. COD TRANSLATE, LOI FLAN (liberated by POI DEFICIT). Thank you, Marty, for an hour of extremes!

    1. I have sometimes been lauded for persevering when others would have long since given up, but you’repatience and stickability today knocks anything I miggt have done in the past into a cocked hat. Well done Martinu – an astonishing effort, given your horrific start.

      1. You are so kind, Mr Random – thank you for your encouragement. By the way, do you know my all-time favourite film (and book by James Hilton), Random Harvest? It starts with a lovely quote from German Intelligence in the War, which picked up this essential information: “Bombs fell at Random”.

  18. 6.23

    Wot Hopkinb said.

    And like Jumeau I did rather like the chestnutty shade of KHAKI as a smile is a smile however many times it’s been round the block.

    Thanks TR and Marty

          1. I’ve snuck a little ahead on these things but he’s rather fleeter of foot when it comes to running, and, horror of horrors, he’s some way ahead in our Fantasy Football league. As for Wordle, Chess and all those other delightful pursuits, score draw I’d say

          1. Lithuanian in fact, from where my wife hails. It doesn’t immediately look like it but the root (dv) is the same as the words beginning with d or t in most Romance languages. Dvyn- rather than our twin. As many may know Lithuanian is the European language with the closest ties to the original Indo-European Sanskrit (or something like that – don’t quote me!)

  19. A bit more of a test than yesterdays QC but I still managed to finish just inside target at 9.24. I biffed LEADER at 9ac but finally corrected it when TRANSLATE fell into place. A fair test today which was just about par for the QC.

  20. On form today with a 7½ minute solve, no problems except the thought of a centipede pie rather turned my stomach. Not a fan of eating insects, of any description – and I have in my time tried several! (But then we eat prawns, which are not hugely different from caterpillars …)

    Many thanks to Rotter for the blog

  21. Very fast then fell at the last. Had to reveal KHAKI (COD) which gave me BACKSIDE. If these are chestnuts, I don’t remember them, but did enjoy them along with IDENTITIES (a bit slow there too as I had spelt CENTIPEDE wrong), HICCUP, AZALEA, TRANSLATE.
    Thanks vm, Rotter. I cd not parse CASSETTE.

  22. I got CATER, ELK, LEAVE and INEXACT before chancing on 1a. Steady progress found me puzzling over LOI, AZALEA for a while before the penny dropped. I have one outside my front door too. 7:18. Thanks Marty and Rotter.

  23. Was flying through this, unusually having had no yips in the NW, but hit the buffers in the SW for a change. Last two in (ORATOR and DOSAGE) held out for a very long time, and I share Jack’s doubts over the cluing of “rota” as “register”.

    Hey ho, got there in the end for 09:28, 1.5K and an Unremarkable Day. I did like BACKSIDE and KHAKI.

    Many thanks Marty and Rotter.


  24. Straightforward solve today. FOI ACCIDENTAL, LOI ACUTE. KHAKI made me smile. Didn’t realise this was a chestnut though. Will be fully prepared next time. Very enjoyable but I realise I do prefer those QCs where there is at least one clue that I find really challenging, even if it eludes me completely. I suspect this puts me firmly in the minority though. Anyway, much to like. Thanks Marty and Rotter.

    1. I quite agree, and I quite like to have one word that is new to me, so long as not too archaic.

  25. 6:02

    Pretty fast today – no problems with the anagrams – liked AZALEA – though I can’t see an obvious theme, I did note that the 5 letters IDENT in the top row are in the same positions on the bottom row but probably just a coinkydink.

    Thanks Marty and Rotter

  26. 18:42 Foggy brain and a poor performance.
    Poor spelling of kahki and centipeed didn’t help, but translate was the catalyst to finish off.
    COD centipede.

  27. All green in 15 but with the top half going in fast and the bottom half taking quite a while. Found it a bit hard to concentrate today – could be all the Lemsip – and never did parse Khaki. It does sound like car key though!

  28. Back to my old average today, both in time (33 minutes) and pattern (~40% of the time spent on my last 4 clues).

    I was very pleased to get ACCIDENTAL and some of its dependents early on, but the middle of the grid remained largely blank for some considerable time.

    The four that held me up at the end were TRANSLATE/AZALEA and ORATOR/COTTON. ORATOR was the real stumbling block, because I didn’t understand the clue and I had tipTON written in faintly as the fabric (pit for bed, reversed). Finding a suitable (even any) word to fit I_A_O_ proved impossible, of course.

    Many thanks to Marty and Rotter.

  29. Enjoyed this, mainly because I didn’t have too many problems with it. Finished up on 13 minutes, all parsed. Started slowly – not much in the top half – but accelerated to the finish for a very satisfactory day.

    FOI – 9ac AZALEA
    LOI – 11ac CASSETTE

    Thanks to Marty and Rotter

  30. I’ve recently changed tack. To stop wasting my life away, hitting my head against a brick wall, I now set a time limit of 20 minutes, and I try to complete as many clues as possible. I’ll still measure my hit rate over time, but I’m finding this approach much more enjoyable. A DNF is almost inevitable, but obscure and arcane clues/words aren’t quite so bothersome, as long as there are only one or two, and I can still track progress.

    1. Why not set it to 30 mins? I know everyone is different, but I’m often in that 20 to 30 minute bracket and usually the last few drop in during those injury time minutes (or Fergie time depending on your alliegance)

  31. 16:06
    Very pleased to be under my 20min target time again.
    ACCIDENTAL went in off the bat, but I felt a flutter of panic when none of the other across clues followed. Solving a healthy number of downs allayed my fears and BACKSIDE made me smile. An enjoyable solve.
    COD: 17dn KHAKI
    Thanks Rotter and Marty

  32. 22 mins…

    Really enjoyed this and quite a few clues made me smile. Main hold up was 9ac “Azalea” (originally thought it was “Amazon”) and 7dn “Celtic” which I thought was a bit clunky.

    Liked 11ac “Cassette” and 5dn “Translate”.

    FOI – 1ac “Accidental”
    LOI – 9ac “Azalea”
    COD – 22ac “Identities”

    Thanks as usual!

  33. 12:15

    No problems today. A slightly slower lower half kept me over 10 minutes. LOI DOSAGE.

  34. A very annoying 21 mins after making some daft errors. No excuse for being in SCC today as this was straightforward.

    Thanks for the blog Rotter.

  35. DNF I am afraid. I find Marty’s puzzles a bit too convoluted, but I will always attempt them in the forlorn hope that I will complete one. All the puzzles seem to be getting harder

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