Times Quick Cryptic No 2548 by Trelawney

A couple of trickier things going on in a very good example of a QC.

I missed out on a good half of the acrosses on the first pass but the downs were more helpful and I finished up in 7:28 with no major hold-ups. No real obscurities but several things needed a bit of teasing out so I’d put this pretty close to 100 on the Quitch. [Edit: it’s currently around the mid-80s, so it seems my wavelength has been rather miscalibrated this week.] Much enjoyed – many thanks to Trelawney!

Anagram indicators in italics.

1 Small dishes of baked pasta (5)
4 More masculine   merchant (7)
BUTCHER -double definition
8 Kitchen implement alas put in a stew (7)
SPATULA – ALAS PUT in a stew
9 Fake swamp near America (5)
BOGUS – BOG (swamp) near US (America)
10 Dim seabird flying around wedding participant (10)
14 Arctic homes initially interest grand ladies and gents (6)
IGLOOS – I G (“initially” Interest Grand) LOOS (ladies and gents)
15 Crazy to discard small piece of fruit (6)
BANANA – BANANAS (crazy) to discard S(mall)
17 Flier featuring chess piece and chess player, we hear? (10)
KINGFISHER – KING (chess piece) and FISHER we hear the same as [Bobby] Fischer (chess player)
20 Complain and drink, reportedly (5)
WHINE – or WINE (drink) “reportedly”
22 Teach Europeans to hide old gold coin (7)
EDUCATE – E and E are our plural Europeans, hiding DUCAT (old gold coin)
23 Dairy product initially of great help in tent (7)
YOGHURT – O G H (“initially” Of Great Help) in YURT (tent)
24 Sat around hugging old partner in US state (5)
TEXAS – TAS = Sat “around”/reversed, hugging EX (old partner)
1 Try out some concrete structures (4)
TEST – “some” concreTE STructures
2 Last bit is removed from aircraft design (4)
PLAN – lass bit removed from PLANe (aircraft)
3 Fuddy-duddy leaving to prepare for a fight (6,3)
SQUARE OFF – SQUARE (fuddy-duddy) OFF (leaving, as in “I’m off”)
4 Cereal with extremely dry liquor (6)
BRANDY – BRAN (cereal) with DY (“extremely” DrY)
5 Bath however is upside down (3)
TUB – BUT (however) “upside down”
6 Scottish celebration to monopolise mother? On the contrary! (8)
HOGMANAY – HOG (monopolise) MA (Mother) NAY (on the contrary)
7 Leftover lira used carelessly (8)
11 Astronaut’s gear made from second rate diamonds, say (9)
SPACESUIT – S(econd) PACE (rate) SUIT (diamonds, say, in cards)
12 Stars kind to plug Sinatra classic? (5,3)
MILKY WAY – ILK (kind) to plug MY WAY (Sinatra classic)
13 Uproar when wearing gaudy jewellery that’s very bright (8)
BLINDING – DIN (uproar)when wearing BLING (gaudy jewellery)
16 Clumsily enacts mountaineering objective (6)
18 Revolutionary starts to make another red xylophone (4)
MARX – “starts” to Make Another Red Xylophone
19 Place where officers eat   pickle (4)
MESS – double definition
21 Bird stuck in the mud (3)
EMU – “stuck in” thE MUd

108 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2548 by Trelawney”

  1. 14:05

    I found that easier than yesterday’s. The only tricky one for me really was HOGMANAY because I NHO it but the crossers plus the wordplay made it clear

    BUTCHER also took me a while but once in was obvious.

    Kingfishers are among my favourite birds. Their oversized head/beak and plump bodies are very appealing – kookaburras are my fave of all.

    1. I used today’s puzzle to start teaching my 11yo son about cryptic crosswords and all he had to say was ‘so… Are there any words that *don’t* mean ‘anagram’?!!!’

      1. When I started doing the QC I made a list of all the words I encountered that were being used as anagram indicators. I stopped bothering when the list reached 100 words …

      2. Good to see an 11-year-old boy showing an interest in cryptic crosswords. They’ll go along way to develop his critical reasoning skills.

        I do know what he means with his comment about anagram indicators. 🤣

      3. I love it! Very perceptive… with an attitude like that he’ll be setting Mephistos before his teens are out!

    2. When I visited cousins in Melbourne, there seemed to be a lot of Scottish connections so I’d have thought that ‘Hogmanay’ would be a thing there?

  2. Nothing to scare the proverbials; currently, with 15 times in, the SNITCH is at 88. I biffed SPACESUIT & KINGFISHER, parsed post-submission. 5:44.

  3. 9:06. I was slow to parse HOGMANAY as I first could only see MAN AY instead of MA NAY. Likewise with BLINDING the BLING on the outside was obvious but it seemed to enclose either IND or NDI. Aha, there’s a third possibility. Bobby Fischer! Memories of driving across Canada in the summer of 1972 with two pals in a beat-up Volkswagen van and buying newspapers every evening to see the latest Fischer-Spassky result and then going over the moves in a tavern.

    1. So I’m one of those people who know nothing about the world that existed before my time and I just looked up Fischer/Spassky and goodness that with the cold war backdrop would have been something. Carlsen/Nakamura doesn’t seem to have the same ring.

      1. Netflix will probably have “Searching for Bobby Fisher” or “Bobby Fischer against the World”. He’s an interesting character.

  4. KINGFISHER and BLINDING prevented me from an extremely rare sub-10 minute solve, but 13:18 is still a very fast time for me. Not sure why they held me up wither, except I struggled to remember any chess players’ names.

  5. Nice QC, 6.48, thank you Trelawney. And thanks to roly for explaining what was going on with HOGMANAY. Liked MILKY WAY and BLINDING most.

  6. 8:02. At last a QC which was pretty smooth sailing, even if I only half-parsed a few, eg BRIDESMAID which I put in from def and crossers and HOGMANAY. I liked the appearance of our two feathered friends, even if only one could be clued as a ‘flier’.

    I wonder if 9a is political comment masquerading as a clue; surely not in The Times.

    Thanks to Trelawney and roly

    1. It’s taken until now for the world to discover, thanks to The Stable Genius, that U.S. spells Us. Heaven help us if he finds out what B.O.G spells.

  7. 8 minutes, and the first QC I’ve solved within my old target of 10 minutes since Wednesday of last week – but then again the whole point of extending my target to 15 minutes was to give myself more time to appreciate the puzzles whilst solving, so I haven’t been constantly hurrying myself along.

    Quite a lot of things associated with food here, but all coincidental I imagine.

  8. Beaten by BANANA as I foolishly assumed the S had to come off the start. Fool. A bad week all round for me on the quickie

    I liked the puzzle a great deal.

    Thanks Trelawney and Roly.

  9. A much better solve for me, meaning I might be allowed out of the corridor and back into the classroom to work today. All green in 14:11, which these days is a good time.
    No real stand out clues although EDUCATE, my LOI, slowed me down at the end and ASCENT took a little while. KINGFISHER and YOGHURT raised a twitch of a smile to my grizzled lips. But this was a very nice puzzle, as I usually expect from Trelawney so thanks to him or her for getting me back on track after my dismal 0/3 up to yesterday.
    Thanks too to Roly.

  10. “Normal” grid, tick. Good setter who knows what a QC should be, tick. Got out of bed on right side for a change, tick. Result – fast time (for me) of just under 8 minutes, puzzle very much enjoyed, day starts well.

    This was a welcome relief after a run of more challenging puzzles/grids. Blinding the only holdup as although Bling was clear, I was slow to see DIN as the inserted uproar.

    Many thanks Roly for the blog

  11. It’s interesting how differently QC solvers see clues. I raced through this, really happy that each clue seemed obvious. It was a good one for Tina to introduce crosswords to her son. Thanks Trelawney for a very satisfying QC, and Roly for the blog.

  12. 8:27. Æthelstan of East Anglia defeats Ludeca of Mercia.

    Enjoyable crossword. No real hold ups. LOI was ASCENT.

    Thanks Roly and Trelawney

  13. Felt that I made heavy weather of this with minor hold ups all over the grid and a misplaced anagram hat didn’t help matters.
    Started with BRIDESMAID and finished with MILKY WAY in a just under average 7.45.
    Thanks to Roly for the blog and Trelawney for a well pitched puzzle.

  14. 5:26. LOI BLINDING took a while to see for some reason. Neat QC. Thanks Trelawney and Roly.

  15. Yes, this is surely what a QC should be all about – thank you, Trelawney. Only a tiny MER: surely ASCENT is not the objective, which is the summit. Mrs M says “to prepare for a fight” is to SQUARE UP (not OFF); what’s the general view here?
    Oh. If I’m simply wrong, apologies for wasting your time.

    1. Agree about it being a QC.
      Disagree – “an ascent of the Matterhorn is our objective”

      Good to see you still plugging away Martinů 👍

    2. They’re both right, but only one fitted!


      square off
      in British English
      (intr, adverb)
      to assume a posture of offence or defence, as in boxing

      square up
      in British English
      VERB (adverb)
      4. (transitive; foll by to)
      to adopt a position of readiness to fight (an opponent)

  16. After three days of 51mins, 58mins, 1hr15 … this was a godsend at 12min30.

    DNF because I put BLINkING – just couldn’t summon up the D or parse the eventual answer – so many ways to slot BLING around it. Also held up by TAPAS, PLAN, SQUARE-OFF.

    Not a superfast solve but Trelawney avoiding all the things that have made it a drudge recently. Biffable through common place definitions.

    1. I reached the all-done-but-not-happy-with-BLINkING stage after 19 minutes. 19 minutes later I thought of BLINDING.

      1. Well done for sticking with it … it’s funny how I could summon up the patience over the past three days – but today I just bunged in the K after a cursory test of the BLAN, BLEN, BLIN, BLON, BLUN possibilities. I think I may even have tested the N-ING possibilities but breezed by it.

        Ref: your later question – I suspect it wasn’t obvious because of pronounciation – bline-ding vs blin-king

    2. I too got hung up on BLINKING. Had to shake myself, point out that KIN is not an uproar, and trawl through the alphabet, forwards, luckily, to get DIN.

      A miracle happened today. This is probably my 10th QC, and I did it in 13:42. Previous best was 27 minutes!

      1. Well done on near halving your PB 💪 I have usually found Trelawney’s puzzles high accessible – I think my 1st year PB was one of his. It took me around six months to get out of the SCC from when I started two years ago.

        1. Thank you! Also the sun is shining today here in Steel City, another miracle given the time of year! Doing the happy dance today.

  17. Thank goodness for a gentle one the morning after the Chambers Christmas party. Bleuuggh. Plus a sluggish morning meant catching a train after 9am = cheaper tickets = train rammed with snot-nosed children.

    Anyway, bimbled my way through that and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of great surfaces and COD could have gone to TAPAS, EDUCATE, BLINDING or MILKY WAY. Top stuff.

    All done in 07:23 for 1.4K (nice to have you back, Kevin) and a Good Day.

    Many thanks roly and the Squire.


  18. 12 mins…and 4 of those were for 3dn “Square Off” which just stared at me blankly until I did a rapid alphabet trawl.

    FOI – 1ac “Tapas”
    LOI – 3dn “Square Off”
    COD – 12dn “Milky Way”

    Thanks as usual!

  19. Wizzed through about half of this and then got a bit bogged down on 3D and 13d. Still beat my PB by a few seconds, but continue to try to break the 25 min mark!

    Thanks trewlawney and rolytoly

    1. Well done on your PB Nuthatch 💪 Keep plugging away and it will come. I took me six months to break out of the SCC having achieved a 24-min PB in my first month. A year ago, I didn’t think I would be able to regularly get sub-15s. Now I’ve had four sub-10s in my second year of solving.

  20. Roly – thank-you for the blog 👍

    You seem to have a typo in your explanation of TEXAS

    After further review there are some really good clues … “dim seabird” … “alas put in a stew”. Surfaces that mean something, biffable defs, constructable answers.

  21. 8:48
    Vikings conquer Bordeaux

    Finally a good train solve, already typing this blog by Surbiton. Was perfect QC, and a good entry-level for children of solvers.

    Liked KINGFISHER: clever juxtaposition of two chess words. LOI BLINDING where I was tempted by BLINGING, not sure it’s really a verb, but should be.


  22. A welcome return to normality, with a proper grid and clues more fitting to a QC. I thought I was zooming through, but I stopped to enjoy a few of Trelawney’s teasers along the way and ended up squeaking a sub-20, with loi the Square part of 3d (and I’m almost a founder member 😉). It’s quite difficult to pick a CoD from a very strong field, but I think Milky Way just pips Butcher et al. Invariant

  23. Nicer grid, steady solve, a day out of the SCC. Almost felt too painless after some of the recent tussles!

  24. 8.40, which seems to be normal for me. I liked the so-macho BUTCHER and the chestnutty but ever amusing IGLOOS, reminding us all that a snow house without the proper facilities is just an IG.

  25. A much more approachable puzzle from Trelawny today. A steady solve with no holdups. A pleasant change!

  26. A much more enjoyable puzzle. Admit I looked up uproar to get Din and hence BLINDING. Otherwise a steady solve. Liked BUTCHER, BANANA, KINGFISHER (a biff), SQUARE OFF.
    Square is a 1950s word, though.
    FOsI NW corner which was an encouraging start.

    Thanks vm, Roly.
    Almost better from Covid, though next doors’ builders’ ban’uh getting on my nerves.

  27. Just under 10 minutes and I can’t see why I had to circle round to complete the NW last. Spacesuit jumped out as COD for the word play.

  28. Quite a lot easier for me today. FOI TAPAS, HOGMANAY and IGLOOS write ins and LOsI KINGFISHER and BLINDING in 6:52. COD to MILKY WAY

  29. A speedy 6.10 for me and no real holdups to speak of. Having said that I did misread the clue at 12dn as ‘Stars kind to plug Santa classic’, and I pondered for a short while trying to recall Slade or Shakin Stevens Christmas classics! Clearly Christmas has got to me early this year. Ho Ho Ho…..

  30. If one does a word map of the comments so far the words that stand out are words like “approachable”, “enjoyable”, “proper QC”,”A good QC”, “normal;” and so on. And there is barely a single grumble or complaint. Again one asks, does the puzzles editor read these comments? And if so, will our setters be gently asked to bear in mind that the puzzles are there for enjoyment and that they are in the business of entertaining the paying customers? It cannot be beyond them to construct a first class puzzle that nevertheless adheres to the Q in QC – the Saturday Special trio do so without fail every fortnight.


    1. Agreed, although I’m OK with the occasional stinker. What I don’t like are extended runs of real toughies.

  31. 17 minutes all parsed for me today, although it seemed quicker while I was actually doing it. I was held up for a while by KINGFISHER where I was initially convinced the word would end in ‘..wite’. It wasn’t until 12dn fell giving me the initial k that the answer became obvious. Enjoyable.

    FOI – 1ac TAPAS
    LOI – 13dn BLINDING
    COD – 4ac BUTCHER. I also very much liked the dim seabird!

    Thanks to Trelawney and Rolytoly

  32. Another gentle one. I must admit I really enjoyed wrestling with the harder ones earlier in the week, so feel a tad short-changed today. From other comments I realise I am squarely in the minority here! Liked MILKY WAY and KINGFISHER best. Many thanks all.

  33. Lovely QC! Completed with right amount of puzzlement. So a smug grin albeit in the SCC for me.

    Thanks so much Trelawney and Roly

  34. Very careless from me today, submitted at 22:40 but put in “SCURRY OFF” and “PAPAYA” without really parsing the clues properly. Other than that, this was pitched at the perfect level for me, thanks both!

  35. 1st time commenting because I just had to say a big Yesss and many thanks to Trelawney and Roly! A proper QC for a change, I might even start trying to do them again now 🙂

  36. 20:36 – A PB for me! Not what most would call fast, but I’m pretty pleased. These clues seemed to click with me more than usual, or maybe doing it earlier in the day suits me better.


    1. Dear Sir XR,
      I’m still one who calls anything under 30 minutes “fast” and I’m sure there are plenty of others out there who think the same. Congratulations today! Next target is to escape the SCC.

    2. A BLINDINGly good result! Despite the stern TEST you came in with a PLAN, didn’t make a MESS of it, or have any BOGUS answers. Top MARX!

      I’ll go now before I BUTCHER any more clues…

  37. Hooray! Trelawney didn’t choose a portcullis grid and he gave us a true QC.

    I didn’t get started until IGLOOS half-way down the grid, and EDUCATE and TEXAS were my only other successes among the Across clues. However, the Downs proved much more productive and I really accelerated …… until the 18-minute mark, when I hit the buffers with only _L_N_I_G to solve.

    BLING for ‘gaudy jewellery’ came almost immediately, but DIN for ‘Uproar’ never came at all. In fact, despite finding BLINkING before being sucked into the SCC, I somehow managed to skirt around the correct answer for a further 20 minutes before seeing the light. Even then, I couldn’t see where ‘Uproar’ came from (I could only see IND or NDI, but not DIN). Can anyone explain what’s going on (or not going on) in the brain when one repeatedly misses something so obvious? So, instead of a sub-20, my time in the end was 38 minutes. Deflation!

    Mrs Random polished it off in just 15 minutes but, weirdly, she also never saw DIN for ‘Uproar’. In fact, she very nearly went with BLINgING. Oh no! Whatever is wrong with my brain may be catching. I hope, for her sake, that I’m wrong.

    Manythanks to Trelawney and Roly.

    1. It’s murder when you latch onto a word that fits the crossers but doesn’t quite seem to parse. I initially thought of Emulate for 22ac, and toyed with the idea that if people could learn new skills by copying others, it was only a short step to link teach with emulate. Those whom the gods etc

  38. 14.35 The halving is over. This was mostly straightforward but I typed HOGMANEY and then spent five minutes trying to think of any fruit that fit the checkers. Got there eventually. MILKY WAY was very good. Thanks Roly and Trelawney.

  39. A nice QC today with just the right level of cluing.

    I always like it when I get the first clue of the QC immediately. I first learned of tapas as a “part 4” Navy medic. I came top of the class and got first choice of where I wanted to be stationed post training. I chose Gibraltar.

    13d took me the longest to solve.

    No help from the cat needed today.

  40. 8.28 I broke my QC record by more than a minute! Either this was easy, or I’m getting better.

  41. 6:27

    Trelawney is one of our friendlier setters and I felt that I should probably have been faster but was doing this at the same time as running a program at work which I was keeping half an eye on. Didn’t think much of SQUARE OFF as a definition of ‘prepare to fight’ – wondered if this is more American than English – SQUARE UP seems more familiar to me (in the UK). As for Cedric, thought of BLINDING for 13d but with several possibilities for which letters made up the BLING, the DIN took several long moments of introspection and self-doubt to finally leap out and make itself known.

    Thanks Roly and Trelawney

  42. Well, what a relief!

    Scraped in at 19:59 today, but it would have been a lot faster except for BLINDING which in the end I just biffed because I kept parsing it as BLindING and couldn’t work out what the IND was doing. Had to read the blog to realise I’d got the wrong end!

    Otherwise this was a great puzzle, thanks to Roly and Trelawney.

  43. No particular problems with this one, although I did hold off putting OFF after SQUARE as I haven’t come across the expression rather than SQUARE UP. TEST was FOI and it took a moment to see LOI, BLINDING. 7:52. Thanks Trelawney and Roly.

  44. Agree with Cedric entirely as usual.
    GCHQ Christmas puzzle out today and may be enjoyed by people here (haven’t tried the last code yet, but others are quite approachable).
    Thanks to all!

  45. 12:30 today fully parsed, which may or may not be a PB, I have lost track. The grid seemed helpful with lots of short words and helpful crossers. Nice to get a quick one for a change but we wouldn’t want them all to be this easy would we?

    1. I would absolutely like them to all be this easy. I can always step up to the 15×15 if I want to struggle for an hour. Horses, courses blah, blah blah …

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