Times Quick Cryptic No 2507 by Mara

Solving time: 5:41

I made it five, yes FIVE double definitions in this romp through the mind of Mara, who I think tends towards a gentler puzzle. I didn’t think there was anything too tricky (who said the QCs were getting harder?), so am expecting some fast times today.

WOD to 14a and COD to 13d which was both my LOI and my best penny drop.

Let me know how it was for you…

Definitions are underlined in bold italics, {deletions and substitutions are in curly brackets} and [directions in square ones].

1 End with drink for your health (7,2)
BOTTOMS UPBOTTOM (End i.e. rear end, backside) with SUP (drink)

Used to express friendly feelings towards one’s companion(s) before drinking – BOTTOMS UP refers to the BOTTOMS of your glasses pointing UPwards as the drink is tipped into your mouths.

6 One carried by wings of that bird (3)
TIT – wings of T{ha}T [i.e. the outside letters of] carrying I (One)
8 Spiffing icing, for example? (7)
TOPPING – Double definition #1 – Icing being an example of a topping e.g. of a cake

‘Spiffing’ and ‘TOPPING’ (which both mean ‘splendid’) evoke the pre-World War I language used, for instance, by literary ‘idle rich’ characters such as Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster.

9 Singer right one time after reflecting (5)
TENORR (right) ONE T (time) all reversed [after reflecting]
10 Weapon discovered in car, I fled (5)
RIFLE – Hidden in [discovered in] car I fled
12 Shoe found in centre of path, charming object (6)
AMULETMULE (Shoe) found in centre of {p}AT{h}

A MULE is a style of shoe that has no back or constraint around the foot’s heel. MULEs have a history going as far back as Ancient Rome, though they were not popularly worn until the sixteenth-century…

The English word mule —originally written moyle —comes from French, where it has been used since at least 1556.

If you check out the wiki page Mule (shoe) – Wikipedia, you can see a picture of the uncomfortable-looking, high-heeled mules of Catherine The Great.

14 Bold son was foolish ultimately, breaking under pressure (13)
SWASHBUCKLINGS (son) WAS {foolis}H [ultimately i.e. last letter of] then BUCKLING (breaking under pressure)

SWASH comes from the sound of a sword, BUCKLING comes from BUCKLER which is an Old English name for a shield.

16 Price to pay for what bull might do? (6)
CHARGE – Bulls do other stuff as well, such as sleeping, eating grass and visiting china shops, but to CHARGE is probably what bulls are best known for.
17 Part of compadre’s split shift (5)
DRESS – Hidden in [Part of] compadre’s split

The term ‘shift’ derives from the Middle English word ‘schift’ which meant to move or change direction. The dress itself is designed to hang loosely on the body and shift with the wearer’s movements, making it comfortable and easy to wear for long periods of time.

19 Ring class to make speech (5)
ORATEO (Ring) RATE (class)
20 Release drink after twisting nut (7)
UNTWINEWINE (drink) after anagram [twisting] of NUT
22 Listen here! King is brat! (3)
OIKOI (Listen here!) K (King e.g. chess notation)

Collins Online suggests that an OIK may be someone considered to behave in a rude or unacceptable way perhaps typical of a low social class.

OI is a vulgar or working-class pronunciation of “hoy”, a word which someone of that low social class might shout to attract attention…

23 Plant run successfully (9)
SPEEDWELLSPEED (run) WELL (successfully)

The pretty, blue-flowered perennial (aka Veronica) is so named thanks to its ability to root quickly and quickly get out of hand in both lawns and borders.

1 Architectural feature however comes with lock (8)
BUTTRESSBUT (however) comes with TRESS (lock i.e. of hair)

A structure built against a wall to give it stability.

2 Dump piece of advice (3)
TIP – Double definition #2
3 First of oranges, as it happens, green or black fruit (5)
OLIVE – First letter of O{ranges} LIVE (as it happens)
4 Utter genius, an unusual melody on telly, say (9,4)
5 Chance turned to in courage (3,4)
POT LUCKTO reversed [turned] in PLUCK (courage)
6 Pound to soften blow I resented (9)
TENDERISE – Anagram [blow] of I RESENTED
7 Dessert, sharp to the taste (4)
TART – Double definition #3
11 Sudden memory of flamboyant defender (9)
FLASHBACKFLASH (flamboyant) BACK (defender)

FLAMBOYANT is a French word meaning ‘flaming’.

13 Nightmare supporting Spurs — some finish! (8)
EGGSHELLHELL (Nightmare) supporting EGGS (Spurs e.g. ‘eggs on’ is akin to ‘spurs on’). The use of ‘supporting’ is apposite as, being a down clue, HELL appears beneath i.e. is supporting the EGGS above it.

The definition refers to a type of paint finish called EGGSHELL. With a slight sheen or gloss to it, EGGSHELL paint reflects more light than matt paint to produce a low lustre, pulling out more of the paint’s colour and giving the room a soft glow.

15 Thrones designed for some queens and workers? (7)
HORNETS – Anagram [designed] of THRONES
17 Took out old hat (5)
DATED – Double definition #4
18 Game explorer (4)
POLO – Double definition #5 – the explorer being Marco POLO (1254-1324)
21 Wrath in Roman emperor, originally (3)
IRE – First letters of [originally] I{n} R{oman} E{mperor}

55 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2507 by Mara”

  1. 10:45 (1045 Edward the Confessor begins construction of Westminster Abbey

    Not too many problems here. LOI EGGSHELL, which I didn’t really understand, as forgot both the paint colour and “eggs on”. Fortunately not many words would fit.

    I did think that “first of” referred to five words in 3d, which gave OAIGH as a black fruit.

    Got SPEEDWELL via Watership Down, where many of the rabbits are named after plants.

    TOPPING, OIK and BOTTOMS UP all seem like Wooster-isms.


  2. 11:31. FLASHBACK, EGGSHELL, and BOTTOMS UP were favourites. I enjoyed the interesting etymological details in the blog for OIK, SHIFT and SWASHBUCKLING. I had always thought OI was from the town crier’s oyez.

  3. Like everyone so far except the speedy Mike I didn’t find this all that easy, logging 10.50 after a few delays at the end. Late entries included SWASHBUCKLING which hid in plain sight, the NHO SPEEDWELL (thought it was a bike), EGGSHELL which I thought was a colour and the rather clunky UNTWINE. I too appreciated the blog’s etymology and enjoyed this well-pitched QC, thank you Mike and Mara.

  4. Just the other day we had ‘loosestrife’ in a 15×15, and I commented that it seems to show up alternately with ‘speedwell’; and sure enough. 6:01.

  5. 11 minutes again. My LOI, EGGSHELL required a full minute to itself. I’m becoming convinced that I only need to see something in a clue that suggests a knowledge of football may be required (‘Spurs’ in this case) for my brain to go into panic mode and stop functioning, or at least slow down.

    1. My brain does something similar with musical terms and flora – although Speedwell has appeared so often that it’s now firmly lodged in memory banks.

  6. A bit harder than others this week taking me up to 25 minutes with about 5 spent on LOI AMULET. Once I gave up trying AT…. and changed to A….T I had more chance of success, but MULE and shoe were stubbornly elusive and didn’t parse EGGS.
    Thanks Mike and Mara

    1. Speedwell is generally regarded as a weed. However, years ago it overran the lawn of my garden and its blue flowers looked spectacular. And I only mowed it once a year. Win-win! But no matter how hard I try, I’m unable to make it grow in my current garden.

  7. Flew through most of this but hit the buffers with a few remaining. Took ages to spot the anagrams for TENDERISE and HORNETS but my real issues were in the SE with EGGSHELL and LOI UNTWINE, which I was sure I’d NHO but having looked it up in Collins it does ring a vague bell.
    Despite that I managed to finish under target in 8.45 with COD to FLASHBACK.
    Thanks to Mike

  8. Seen off in two straight passes (I typoed yesterday, hence my absence here).

    Many years ago I had a clue (I think it was in a Guardian puzzle) :

    “Girl to run successfully under another name”.

    The alternative name for SPEEDWELL is Veronica.

    TIME 3:33

  9. Tantalizing! Never found a QC so delightfully easy – LH done in about 5 minutes – but slowed down towards the SE, and remained infuriatingly stumped by 13 and 23. No wonder: NHO SPEEDWELL (or rather, ‘fraid the bunny in Watership Down has departed from my memory), and EGGSHELL just about HO if pushed, but simply too difficult (for me) in all its elements. Thank you, Mike.
    I’m curious about this: if spurs = eggs is allowed on the basis that spurs on = eggs on, there are surely other word pairs which work in tandem, but of which the first words have no relation to each other (would thus be unfair) without their vital companion. How about pull off = take off, but pull cannot be said to = take?
    And yet: if everyone else got it, I should just shut up and learn from it – ok!

    1. I was looking for a word meaning to encourage, as the football reference was clearly misdirection, but I only saw “egg” once I had answered the clue from checkers and the definition. I can’t think of how to use EGGS in that context without ON, so I share your misgivings about this.

    2. That’s a good point. What about ‘wind up’ in the sense of ‘how did I wind up in this place?’
      This would allow a setter to use ‘wind’ for ‘end’.
      I can’t think of how you would use this meaning of ‘wind’ without the ‘up.’

    3. I’ve always taken that if you can substitute the word for the other in a sentence then it’s good enough. Although “eggs on” is a typical use, we might also say “L-Plates eggs Martinů on” or “eggs them on” etc, etc. So “eggs on” don’t always have to go directly together”.

      Given spurs is the name of the things used to get horses moving, I wonder whether eggs are literally derived from throwing them at people to get rid of them?!? Honestly don’t know.

      As I say below I’m more interested to understand how run=speed. To me they’re related but not the same and I can’t think of a sentence where they substitute. But perhaps this is what I said previously about we all have our specialist areas which grate when used inaccurately …

      1. Thank you, L-Plates, and I suppose an answer to your second question might be “he runs ahead” = “he speeds ahead”. But on the original one: how do you answer IanV’s very interesting point (just above) about wind and end not being permissibly equivalent?

        1. I guess your suggestion of run=speed works. Although you did have to move to the plural!

          With #5’s point, I think it’s the same rule of substitution … you end up in the place, you wind up there. You need “Up” in both sentences. That said, it would be a tough setter that uses such a specific example to get wind=end

          1. Yes, that’s the point. (But with respect, in your example I didn’t move to the plural, only the third person singular which takes the added S. The first person – I run ahead = I speed ahead – works equally well.)

  10. 10 minutes for this nice puzzle, with all parsed except Eggshell which I got from checkers, then the signposted ending in -HELL, then a word search (a pretty short one as I think Eggshell is the only word that fits), then “ah yes, that’s a type of paint finish” … but I never did see that Eggs = Spurs.

    Speedwell is one of those words that I only know through having done crosswords, but it is worth remembering. And given Mikest’s comment I might look out for it.

    Many thanks to Mike for the blog

    1. About sixty years ago, looking quite fetching in short trousers, I used to sing this hymn quite often at school:

      Daisies are our silver,
      Buttercups our gold:
      This is all the treasure
      We can have or hold.

      Raindrops are our diamonds
      And the morning dew;
      While for shining sapphires
      We’ve the speedwell blue.

      I’ve never knowingly seen the plant.

  11. Hit par with five on the first pass of acrosses but then speeded up before taking a while longer than comfortable to mop up the last few. EGGSHELL in particular had me in a lot of trouble but POLO and CHARGE took their time too. All green in 13.

  12. Medium difficulty puzzle with a sting in the tail from SWASHBUCKLING and EGGSHELL both of which required all the crossers and a lot of head scratching.
    Only a vague memory of Mule for shoe but it surfaced in time.
    40m to finish in two sittings.
    Thanks both.

  13. 9:27 (Æthelstan conquers York, thus uniting England)

    One second longer than yesterday. In contrast to yesterday, this started easily, with the first five across clues going straight in, before slowing down when I struggled to remember MULE as a type of shoe.
    LOI was EGGSHELL, also my COD.

    Thanks Mike and Mara

    1. Good old Aethelstan! He conquered most of England yesterday and finished off the job in York today. He doesn’t hang around. A completer-finisher …. Unlike those Romans in Gaul, who still haven’t brought a certain village (containing Asterix and Obelix) into line.

  14. An entertaining puzzle. SWASHBUCKLING took time to work out and UNTWINE went in tentatively.

  15. 9:53 so under par.
    Some harder clues: tenderise, amulet, untwine, speedwell, and LOI eggshell.

    COD amulet.

  16. Like many others here I raced through until I hit the SE corner. My penultimate solve was SPEEDWELL and then I spent quite a long time looking at the wrong end of the clue at 13d for the definition. Enjoyed the PDM when I did eventually get EGGSHELL. 8:23 so on target.

  17. I was fast until hitting the buffers with TENDERISE and HORNETS, for both of which I simply failed to see the anagram indicator! What a twerp. Those two almost doubled my time and my forehead is bright red from two firm slaps.

    Lovely puzzle, COD to AMULET. All done in 09:45 for 1.6K and a Frustrating Day.

    Many thanks Mike’n’Mara .


  18. Breezed through all except the bottom right. Ended up around average.

    Seeing SWASHBUCKLING unlocked it all in the end. LOI UNTWINE after EGGSHELL.


  19. I was tuned in to Mara today finishing in 8.10. It took me a full two minutes however to solve my final three, starting with EGGSHELL, then getting TENDERISE and finally AMULET. COD for me goes to SWASHBUCKLING, although EGGSHELL ran it close.

  20. 15:25 of which last 2-3mins was spent on the EGGSHELL / SPEEDWELL pairing. Like Jack with football teams, I tend to panic with plants but fortunately came across the latter in my early days when it was clued from a QC back in my early days of 2022.

    While I can see run as connected with speed; I can’t think of a sentence where I’d substitute them. “And here comes Kelvin Kiptum to break Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, he really has speed successfully today” …

    Thought there was some generous clueing, hidden words and easy stuff in just the right places to get some checkers in the grid. Particularly liked FLASHBACK. There were a couple of places I wasn’t sure I’d get out of trouble so perhaps not so easy for the inexperienced. But personally speaking, I enjoyed safely navigating it successfully … or is that well?!

  21. Just over target at 15.20 after being held up at the end by AMULET. Several trickier clues here from Mara, including EGGSHELL and UNTWINE. I make UNTWINE my WOD. Excellent blog Mike, and thanks to Mara.

  22. Like others, I was speeding along well until the SE corner where I was held up by UNTWINE, DATED, SPEEDWELL, and LOI EGGSHELL, where I didn’t take enough notice of the end of the clue. Collins records egg as a verb meaning encourage etc, but says usually followed by On, which is my view. Does anyone simply “egg” ?

  23. No paper at the shop today, had to fight with the PC. But an unusual top-to-bottom solve, only holdup being AMULET where I was looking for AT????.
    Wasn’t quite sure about UNTWINE but it was pretty obvious, not sure why I thought it wasn’t valid for “release”.

  24. Pottered along quite happily until like so many I found LOI EGGSHELL giving me baleful looks. Took ages but got there in the end; about 19 minutes up to that point and the rest of the morning with coffee and biscuits to finish.

  25. Pretty straightforward but held up for far too long on final pair of OIK/POLO which needed alphabetical trawls. At least the SCC was still open when I arrived…after a lovely full English at the Sandwell Cafe this morning on a short hols.

  26. No particular issues today, except that it took me ages to see LOI, TENDERISE. BOTTOMS UP was FOI. 6:39. Thanks Mara and Mike.

  27. After a very fast start (for me, at least) – 5 clues in the first minute and a bit – I settled down to a more steady pace through the middle phase and almost ground to a halt towards the end. Completion time = 30 minutes, which is about average for me these days (barring the recent really tough spell).

    The SE corner nearly did for me, especially as I had no idea that DRESS and shift were synonymous and as I never saw the link between EGGS and spurs. UNTWINE and SPEEDWELL also caused significant problems.

    Many thanks to Mara and Mike H.

    N.B. My “very fast start” (see above) was me solving at my fastest EVER rate – at any point in any crossword. Had I maintained that speed throughout (a fanciful notion, of course), I would have finished in 6-7 minutes. Quite how some here can do/beat/smash that pace (and do so day after day) is a complete mystery to me. Do our speedsters have access to a crosswording equivalent of aerodynamic time-trial bikes, compression swimsuits, carbon fibre rebound running shoes and the like?

    1. Diamond-cut nibs on their pencils and quick flowing ink in their ball point pens is the latest thing I hear.

      There is however a suspicion that many are secretly using PEDs – Personally Edited Dictionaries …

    1. Unlucky Struggler, that unaided solve will come eventually. It’s taken me almost two years to get a point where I’m at. Lots of practice helps!

  28. 14 mins…

    Some good clues here – and I particularly enjoyed 14ac “Swashbuckling”, 1dn “Buttress” and 11dn “Flashback”. However, not sure whether the surface of my COD 13dn now holds truth.

    FOI – 1ac “Bottoms Up”
    LOI – 13dn “Eggshell”
    COD – 13dn “Eggshell”

    Thanks as usual!

  29. A solve of two halves: raced through the left hand side, but then a pause while I dealt with something else. On my return, I found that Mara had sub-contracted the clue setting to someone else. Fortunately Speedwell was a write-in, but I needed a flash of inspiration for Swashbuckling before loi Eggshell would come to mind. Overall, a pleasant enough 17min solve, with CoD to 5d, Pot Luck. Invariant

  30. Was too tired after long walk to solve EGGSHELL and AMULET. That’s my excuse anyway.
    Thanks vm, Mike. Yes, an easy start but then I stuck.

  31. Eggshell, like others, caused problems. Otherwise finished, if slower than we would like.

  32. 16:46, pushed a little over my target by entering UNTWIST for 20a, not spotting that that forced the middle T to do double duty, and so was unlikely to be right. COD AMULET, liked the “charming object” definition.

    Thanks to Mike and Mara.

  33. 22:33
    Missed my 20min target time. Not sure if that’s because it’s my first QC since last Friday and I’m ‘ring rusty’ or…?
    I did well until 13mins in when it felt like I came to an abrupt stop. I’m pleased I persevered – biffing TENDERISE (missed the ‘blow’ signpost to the anagram) which gave me AMULET and then EGGSHELL which led me to SWASHBUCKLING and SPEEDWELL (parsed).
    FOI: 10ac RIFLE
    Thanks to Mike and Mara

  34. Had all but 4 done in 6/7 mins and then, as always, hit the buffers with 20/23ac and 13/17dn.

    17dn is a great example of why I struggle so much with the QC. For ages, I just couldn’t get beyond thinking I was looking for some type of headwear. I get a kind of mental block with certain clues and lose the dexterity to see them in more than one way. I kept telling myself that the answer was ‘derby’, as I had a dim recollection that this was a type of hat (I shall check this after posting).

    I thought EGGSHELL was pushing it a bit and wrote it in with fingers crossed.

    Finished in 18 mins. Frustrated for third day in a row at being unable to finish off a good start. I had more in on the first pass than ever and was harbouring hopes of a sub-10. Then reality took over and I just escaped the SCC. ☹️

    Thanks for the blog.

  35. Raced through most of the acrosses, then slowed down on the downs, and came really unstuck on LOI UNTWINE which required an alphabet trawl. Finished in the SCC on 22:04. Still, better than yesterday’s one letter wrong DNF.

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