Times Quick Cryptic No 2537 by Mara

Solving time: 6:57

Fairly gentle midweek fare from Mara containing a balanced mix of clues. I was temporarily held up only by my LOI 10a which required all of the checkers to think of it.

Expecting the SCC to have a few empty chairs today…

Let me know how you got on…

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

1 Game where striker put on trial (4,5)
TEST MATCHMATCH (striker) put on TEST (trial)
6 Selfishly keep pig (3)
HOG – Double definition
8 Sailor runs into sea with little hesitation (7)
MARINERR (runs i.e. cricket notation) into MAIN (sea) with ER (little hesitation)
9 Pierce fine material, threading first of needles through (5)
LANCE – Insertion [threading] of first letter of N{eedles} into [through] LACE (fine material)
10 Nothing going on? (8,4)
BIRTHDAY SUIT – Mildly cryptic definition signalled by the question mark.

If you are wearing your BIRTHDAY SUIT i.e. what you were wearing at the moment you were born, then you have nothing on.

My LOI – I needed all of the checkers to get this.

12 Fundraising event in Tenerife, terrible (4)
FÊTE – Hidden [in] in Tenerife, terrible
13 Ostensibly round balls, spheres primarily? (4)
ORBS – First letters [primarily] of O{stensibly} R{ound} B{alls}, S{pheres}

I believe this is what those in the know call an &lit (short for ‘and literally’).

The TftT glossary (see the link in the menu on the right) says “With an &lit clue the entire clue consists of the wordplay and is designed to be read literally to give the definition.”

17 Wonderful, inspirational action? (12)
BREATHTAKING – Double definition, the second being semi-cryptic (signalled by the question mark) as the act of inspiration is to inhale i.e. take a breath.
20 A wizard after Potter’s head, fast (5)
APACEA then ACE (wizard) after P [Potter’s head i.e. the first letter of]
21 Stealing tablet, turn grey (7)
PILLAGEPILL (tablet) AGE (turn grey)
23 Clear trap (3)
NET – Double definition, the first being tax-related e.g. ‘Bob made £1000 clear of tax’ is the same as ‘Bob made £1000 net of tax’.
24 Fault is admitted by outsiders in team for bombings etc (9)
TERRORISMERROR (Fault) IS inserted into [admitted by] outsiders in T{ea}M i.e. the first and last letters
1 Trained first of teaching assistants, yours truly (4)
TAMET{eaching} A{ssistants} [first letters of] then ME (yours truly)
2 Fish I snared, all at sea (7)
SARDINE – Anagram [all at sea] of I SNARED
3 Soldiers in part of regiment (3)
MEN – Hidden [in part of] in regiment
4 String of invective from one in job (6)
TIRADEI (one) in TRADE (job)
5 Evergreen, white plant (9)
HOLLYHOCKHOLLY (Evergreen tree) HOCK (white i.e. German wine)
6 Possible Indian hiding in bush in Dunstable (5)
HINDU – Hidden in [hiding in] bush in Dunstable
7 Leader in government has moved to the slum area (6)
GHETTO – First letter of [Leader in] G{overnment} then anagram [has moved] of TO THE
11 Tricky matter: ten for hospital care (9)
TREATMENT – Anagram [Tricky] of MATTER TEN
14 Girl, one going after boy from South Asia (7)
BENGALIGAL (Girl) I (one) after BEN (random boy)
15 Get boat out at home (6)
OBTAIN – Anagram [out] of BOAT then IN (at home)
16 State of insensibility in chaotic US port (6)
STUPOR – Anagram [chaotic] of US PORT
18 Former gesture, completely accurate (5)
EXACTEX (Former) ACT (gesture)
19 Light timber (4)
BEAM – Double definition
22 Sign initials on line, entering office (3)
LEO – Initials i.e. first letters of L{ine} E{ntering} O{ffice}

84 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2537 by Mara”

  1. This would have been a PB but it ended up being a DNF because I had HOLLY_O_K and I just didn’t know the name of the plant nor any four letter words that would fit and mean ‘white’ 😭

    The rest I completed in 11 minutes. Lots of initial letters and hiddens and anagrams which were easy. I like it when the letters are just given to us.
    The two cryptic long ones had to wait til the end.

    But much easier than the last few even if I DNF

    1. Unlucky Tina, but well done on completing the rest so quickly.

      You may wish to avoid my comment – another horror show for me.

  2. At 11.19 I found this more of a struggle than Mike did, the last few (HOLLYHOCK, TIRADE and BIRTHDAY SUIT) taking about a third of that time. No shortage of anagrams, hiddens and whatever you call those ones made up of the first letters of several words in the clue. A mostly enjoyable puzzle from Mara, but if there is an opposite to COD I would like to nominate whatever it was that resulted in BIRTHDAY SUIT.

  3. 10:31. All clues behaved nicely, my only holdups were seeing HOCK=white, TAME =trained, and ACE=wizard. I also pondered Burma and Bhutan before I hit on BENGAL.

  4. Struggled with this one, didn’t get BREATHTAKING (too big a leap from clue to answer for me to get), HOLLYHOCK (couldn’t link HOCK to white) or BIRTHDAY SUIT (which doesn’t even seem like a clue to me, it’s just beyond vague, surely not solvable without crossing letters?). Probably wasted 20 minutes on these clues.
    The rest went in fairly quickly at least, but it’s still a DNF.

    1. I solved it without any crossing letters on my first pass through the acrosses. It seemed an obvious reference to being naked, and after “nudist camp” was too short I just tried to think of other phrases.

  5. All green in 10 with a rare sub-10 thwarted by BIRTHDAY SUIT. I don’t know what the ‘going’ in the clue is doing and I spent too long trying trying to find appropriate words to fit _U_T. Ashamed to say I needed the blog to parse GHETTO. Two days on the train have given me space for two crosswords per day this week and most unusally the Telegraph has been well ahead of the QC on both days for my enjoyment -today would have been stiff competition but I’ll never know as I’m in the car today. Good one.

  6. 14 minutes. BENGALI was my LOI as I needed all the checkers to bring it to mind. The clue suggested that two random names may be involved, which was rather disconcerting, but it turned out that only one was required.

  7. My second visit (by 29 seconds) to the SCC this week with that _I_T_D_Y_U_T taking about six minutes at the end. Like many cryptic defs, clever when you see it, frustrating when you don’t. The word ‘plant’ in a clue usually sends me into a state of panic but I managed to see HOLLYHOCK early, so I’ll go for that as COD.

    Thanks to Mike and Mara

  8. I had BIRTHDAY SUIT easily enough (saw right off that had tto do with nudity), with a couple of checkers, but I can see why so many solvers didn’t care for it. Conversely, I was sure 7d was GHETTO once I had the G, but couldn’t figure out why; it was an embarrassingly long time before the scales fell my eyes. 7:35.

  9. Well I’m pleased to report that, unlike the Acropolis, this old ruin hasn’t quite lost its marbles yet and managed to complete this one without too much trouble in around 22 minutes. Like some others BIRTHDAY SUIT held me up at the end otherwise I’d have been sub SCC. So that makes 1/3 for me this week so far.
    Apart from TEST MATCH and TIRADE there were no real stand out clues for me, but it was a QC very nicely pitched at my sort of level.
    Thanks to Mara and Mike for their efforts.

  10. Unlike our blogger I thought this was hard, and it took me 14 minutes, well over my average for Mara. Birthday suit was a poor clue IMO – I needed all the checkers and still don’t see what “going” is doing in the clue. I needed the blog to explain Clear = Net and how Breathtaking worked, and Hock as a white wine had to be dredged out of the memory bank – it was my father’s favourite but I haven’t heard the wine called that for perhaps 40 years. So far from plain sailing.

    Many thanks Mike for the blog, but I doubt the SCC will be quite as empty as you think!

    1. If one has nothing going on, i.e. one dons no clothes, one is in one’s BIRTHDAY SUIT. I agree that ‘nothing on’ works to define the same thing, but I think the clue is better with the addition of GOING. Faced with simply ‘nothing on’ as a clue, I would have spent time looking for a double def under Rotter’s first law – two word clues are invariably double definitions.

      1. Thank you Rotter. I think I can now see Mara’s logic. But I remain pretty unconvinced: “going on” is an action, and for example I have “nothing going on” at the moment – because I am already fully dressed.

        I often find that a question mark at the end of a clue means the setter knows it’s not one of his best and he’s asking for a bit of tolerance. Well, Mara is a very good setter and has earned his share of tolerance in spades – but this does not make this particular clue any better than “weak” in my view. And from the number of other people who have mentioned it as causing them difficulties or being their LOI or requiring all the checkers, I don’t think I am entirely alone.

  11. Solve of two halves for me.
    Started off at a cracking pace but ground to a halt and had to painstakingly eke out the last few answers – HOLLYHOCK, BIRTHDAY SUIT, BREATHTAKING and LOI BEAM being particularly stubborn.
    Finished in 9.42.
    Thanks to Mike

  12. Oh dear. I found this tough and DNF after 30 mins of effort. I couldn’t get TERRORISM or BEAM, and completely missed the ostensibly obvious ORBS. At least it’s sunny out. ☀️

      1. I did! 🤗
        I’m surprised that it appeared again so soon, but I saw the big cat 🦁 coming this time and bagged him!

        Edit: Not implying that I’m a fan of big game hunting, btw. 😬

  13. 6:47 (Hilda of Whitby becomes a nun)

    The first half of the across clues went straight in, and I thought I was on for a clean sweep, but BREATHTAKING, APACE, PILLAGE and NET resisted until I had the checkers in place. LOI was BEAM.

    Thanks Mara and Mike

  14. First below average time for a while.

    I saw no problem with BIRTHDAY SUIT. Didn’t quite make the leap from HOCK to white but I didn’t see what else the answer could be and moved on, but clear enough on explanation (thanks Mike). TREATMENT and then APACE were last two in.


  15. Top half seemed a lot easier than the bottom, but I was on wavelength and none of it really held me up apart from APACE (where I stubbornly tried to believe that PAACE was a word for a while – A + ACE after P … well it made sense at the time …) and the last two of PILLAGE/BENGALI (where like Jack I was looking for two names for a while).

    So all green in 07:17 for a sub-K and a Red Letter Day, yippee.

    Many thanks Mike (especially for explaining why hock = white) and Mara.


  16. I needed all the checkers to get my LOI BIRTHDAY SUIT. Could see clearly what the clue was driving at but maybe not one of Mara’s best.
    11 minutes.
    COD to OBTAIN.

  17. I join the others here who struggled with HOCK for white. HOLLYHOCK was my penultimate solve. I also had to return for TREATMENT several times. My LOI, BIRTHDAY SUIT, required a PDM. 7:59 for a very good day. Thanks Mike. I needed the blog today for HOCK.

  18. DNF. I think I was the only blogger to stumble over GHETTO. Just couldn’t see anything other than G plus a synonym for “has moved to”. Was also very slow on BIRTHDAY SUIT. Was tracking sub 10 before those two, even stopping for a shower didn’t give any enlightenment.


  19. I thought this was a lot tougher than our blogger rated it, although I did squeeze in under target at 9.40. I was held up especially by the two long across clues BREATHTAKING and finally my LOI BIRTHDAY SUIT. Both were very fairly clued so perhaps I shouldn’t have made such heavy weather of them. The clue at 6ac had me glancing up to the setters name to see if I had mistakenly read Mara for Oink.

  20. Not that easy in parts, but finished and enjoyed. Held up by COD BREATHTAKING, and before that HOLLYHOCK.
    Liked TEST MATCH, BIRTHDAY SUIT, PILLAGE, among others.
    Many thanks, Mike.

  21. I didn’t find it easy and took 18 minutes, but all completed in the end. No problems with HOLLYHOCK or BIRTHDAY SUIT, my holdups were last three in, TERRORISM, LEO and BEAM. For LEO, I somehow missed the word ‘sign’ when reading the clue. I missed yesterday’s puzzle completely as I was busy all day, but I’ll try to take a look at it now.

  22. 6.18

    BIRTHDAY SUIT needed all the checkers but I quite like the clue and there were some other good ones in this puzzle.

    I don’t always immediately think “wine” when I see red and white in a clue but I’m getting better and it certainly helped here

    Thanks Mara and Mike

  23. I got lucky with Birthday Suit because it came up in a bigger cryptic recently and i had ?u?t for the second word. Some clever clues today – much to enjoy for me. About 10 mins btw Thanks Mara and Mike!

  24. I thought this much more difficult than Mike did. BIRTHDAY SUIT, HOLLYHOCK, BREATHTAKING all needed all checkers and a lot of thought to get. Yet another “sign” today.

  25. On the slightly harder side for us at 20 minutes. LOI birthday suit but enjoyed it when the penny dropped.
    Quite a few setters seem to like putting in a porcine clue – to tease us?

  26. Found this easier than QCs of late and moved steadily through the grid. Lazily entered ‘terrorise’ before TERRORISM which frustrated LOI BEAM for a while. Otherwise all very straightforward today. COD to BREATHTAKING – fantastic surface. Many thanks all.

  27. Consistency is my watchword this week as I finished this in 17 minutes, the same time as both Monday’s and Tuesday’s. That would rate it medium level for me – certainly not easy. However as I often struggle with Mara’s puzzles I’ll consider it a good day. Needed Mike’s blog to parse GHETTO and took ages to realise 11dn – TREATMENT – was an anagram – I kept trying to insert an X in there somewhere.

    FOI – 12ac FETE
    COD – 6dn HINDU, just for the mental picture it conjured up.

    Thanks to Mara and Mike

  28. A brisk start that should have produced at least a sub-20, but my last three (Birthday Suit, Hollyhock and Bengali) pushed me out to nearly 25 mins. I needed all the checkers for the first one, but still thought it was a good clue. On the other hand, Hock for white was just an embarrassing oversight for someone like me who enjoys wine. Loi Bengali took as long as the other two, thanks to thinking just B for boy was really poor (sorry, Mara) and then looking for a five letter girl’s name. CoD, by a country mile, to 17ac, Breathtaking. Invariant

  29. Average time for me at 18 mins. I also struggled with BIRTHDAY SUIT, my LOI, but overall I think the clue is fair enough although it could have been better. My suggestion is ‘Nothing worn on big occasion’ which would have been a combination &lit and double definition.
    COD to BREATHTAKING for the wonderful use of ‘inspriational’. I paused to appreciate that for a while. I also liked GHETTO which was very clever.
    Didn’t we have LEO yesterday or the day before? Odd how that keeps happening.
    Thanks Mike for the blog.

  30. First one I have finished this week! Very enjoyable. COD Birthday suit – LOI Beam. Are all ‘beams’ made of wood?

  31. Dnf…

    Just couldn’t get 5dn “Hollyhock”. Obviously my own lack of knowledge around plants, but I tried every combination with Holly and it wouldn’t come (as well as anything to do with “white” – as usual forgot about wines).

    Having a bit of a shocker towards the end of the year. Looked at my completion rate for this quarter and it’s only 58%, which compared to 75% over previous years is slightly worrying.

    FOI – 6ac “Hog”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 17ac “Breathtaking”

    Thanks as usual!

  32. Like others, I thought BIRTHDAY SUIT was a bit vague, and although I thought of it fairly quickly, I didn’t enter it until I had some crossers. TEST MATCH was FOI and HOLLYHOCK brought up the rear. 7:56. Thanks Mara and Mike.

  33. A DNF for me as I just didn’t think of birthday suit. The cat helped me with 5d and 17a, but he went out through the cat door before I could finish.

    Enjoyable QC though.

    1. Glad the cat’s back. Though he does seem to stray from his filial/feline duties. A stern word may be in order!

  34. Felt slow going but turned out to be completion in a fraction over 20 mins.

    Birthday suit was a bit of a stretch, I thought.

    All enjoyable stuff and great fun.


  35. I found this harder than yesterday’s puzzle which I completed just before this one comfortably within my target time. Today’s puzzle took me a couple of minutes over my target and into the SCC.

    Found the same difficult as several others – the long answers and also BENGALI (didn’t help that I read South Africa for South Asia) and PILLAGE.

    Thanks to Mara and Mike

  36. Is there no end to my utter incompetence? Evidently not. Another nightmare day in QC land.

    Got more clues than ever before on first pass and then the shutters came down.

    I finished in a truly appalling 34 minutes, struggling with HOLLYHOCK. BREATHTAKING and BIRTHDAY SUIT. 34 mins is nowhere near good enough on a day when most others evidently found it easy. Only a 90 on the snitch, so it was easy and I am simply a bad solver.

    I don’t understand how I can be flying along and then I just come to a shuddering halt, like a total beginner. Actually I do understand. It’s because I am thoroughly inept. I simply cannot improve, no matter how hard I try.

    I also made a total mess of the Quintagram, getting just two clues.

    Our blogger forgot about me when he suggested the SCC would be largely empty. Nothing is going right for me and I cannot get any kind of satisfaction from these dreadful performances. I am going backwards at a fast rate of knots and there appears to be no way to arrest the decline. I’m even beginning to think that I am starting to lose my mental faculties.

    My target of 5 solves in 2 hours is now just a pipe dream. I’ll be lucky to achieve 5 solves in three hours this week.

    Back for more suffering tomorrow.

    Thanks for the blog.

    1. Believe me Gary, even the best solvers have those mental block moments where everything is going well and then it just isn’t. Sometimes it’s best to just forget about the time and enjoy the challenge.

      If I get stuck for too long, I deliberately switch off for a while, make a drink, feed the cat or whatever. When I come back to the crossword, I often find that something has reset and some of the answers come to mind easily opening up some new avenues.

      Every day can be a school day where you learn something new (a definition, a piece of wordplay) which will help one day in the future.

      Good luck

    2. Well done for finishing, Gary. I have been enjoying Quick Cryptics for over two years now, having never made a serious attempt at any sort of cryptic crosswords before, and I have only the vaguest idea of how long I take to complete one. I reckon that trying to complete a crossword as quickly as possible is similar to trying to eat a slice of chocolate cake as quickly as possible – yeah, you can take that approach if you like, but why would you?

    3. is very rare I manage to finish one so I’m impressed with your performance. Don’t beat yourself up. I normally start off well and then get tied up. I still come back each day for more though. Good luck for tomorrow!

      1. Thanks everyone for your kind comments. I need to stop beating myself up and dampen down my competitive spirit. I’ve never come across anything as difficult as the QC but I am determined to persist. One day I’ll get there.

  37. Us SCC regulars don’t duck out that easily, Mike. Admittedly it was all going very well down to the clued nude, which was LOI by a long way, and with a long wait. Below that was somewhat harder and then that obvious afterwards answer.
    Liked BREATHTAKING although that also resisted for a while.

  38. I planted hollyhocks in my garden for the first time this year and they did very well. That green-fingered knowledge helped me to a completion in 8:24.

    Delayed for a minute or so at the end by BIRTHDAY SUIT which I liked.

    Nice puzzle. Thanks Mara and Mike

  39. 11.40 TEST MATCH went straight in but the other long answers were all slow to arrive and BIRTHDAY SUIT took several minutes at the end. A nice puzzle though. Thanks Mike and Mara.

  40. 16:47. Only had three after a first pass through the acrosses, but fortunately the downs were more tractable. Pencilled BIRTHDAY SUIT in, and then when all the crossers were right, inked it in with a shrug. LOI PILLAGE, where I saw the tablet but was fixated on “turn grey” being a reversal of an unknown 3-letter shade of grey. Ho hum.

    Thanks to Mara and Mike.

  41. Another dnf. Didn’t get BIRTHDAY SUIT, APACE, OBTAIN or BREATHTAKING.
    Liked TEST MATCH though.
    Thanks both.

  42. Another DNF because of BIRTHDAY SUIT. I do wonder whether some had seen (roughly) that clue / answer before. To me the clue was meaningless / hopeless / uninformative. There was certainly nothing going on in my brain for that clue 😄

    1. Some of us have – I think this is at least the third time Mara alone has got his/her birthday suit out of the wardrobe for our entrainment (either as a clue or an answer). Still didn’t actually help me solve it though, like many other here!

  43. No problems with HOCK; as a child, Maynard’s Wine Gums had “HOCK” labelled on the oblong shaped sweets!

    1. Oh my! They did! childhood memories triggered! It’s there in the boxed wine section always but I can’t get past the name….

  44. DNF

    All done in 20 minutes apart from BIRTHDAY SUIT which, despite a further 10 minutes thinking failed to come.

  45. Fairly traightforward for the most part, although I didn’t find it the most enthralling of crosswords tbh.
    8:28. FOI Hog LOI Beam
    I like holly, I like white wine and I like hollyhocks, so that is my COD!
    Thanks Mara and Mike

    BTW Although I haven’t been posting much recently, I do check in every day, and it’s so nice to see some new names 😊Welcome one and all!

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