Times Quick Cryptic No 2640 by Joker

Solving time: 7:09

Although this has a troublesome-looking portcullis-style grid, this felt like a slightly friendlier Joker puzzle – I finished a minute faster than my average time against them. Though there have been 29 different setters since I started blogging the QC, Joker puzzles account for a sixth of my blogs.

There is a nice spread of clues in this grid – I counted three full or partial anagrams, three double definitions, as well as the usual array of plug this into that, attach that onto this, or Ikea-style build-an-answer clues such as 1d. Notably, none of the definitions appear to be particularly cryptic. My guess is a Quitch value perhaps around the high 80s….

What did you make of it?

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

7 Misfortunes with pelt around part of eg the Malverns? (8)
HILLSIDEILLS (Misfortunes) with HIDE (pelt) around

Definition by example

8 OAPs working cleaning bar (4)
SOAP – Anagram [working] of OAPS
9 Chap home after market (6)
MARTININ (home) after MART (market)

Random chap’s name which should be easy enough to deduce.

10 Viewed spoken part of stage work (5)
SCENE – Homophone [spoken] of SEEN (Viewed)
11 Sheep trapped in sewer (3)
EWE – Hidden [trapped] in sEWEr

Is there an easier hidden than this one?

12 Influence of Fulham’s first player (6)
FACTOR – First letter of F{ulham} ACTOR (player)

Though the wordplay is clear enough, I am not quite sure how ‘influence’ and ‘factor’ are synonymous. Any illumination or example sentence would be welcome…

14 Character of landlord (6)
LETTER – Double definition with a linking word for surface
16 Birds flying around last of the rubbish (6)
DEBRIS – Anagram of BIRDS around last letter of {th}E

DEBRIS is defined as an “accumulation of loose matter or rubbish from some destructive operation or process”. It comes from an obsolete French verb debriser meaning “to break down, crush” which in turn is from the Late Latin brisare.

18 Children initially requiring publisher? (6)
ISSUERISSUE (Children) then first letter [initially] of R{equiring}

Not sure why there is a question mark at the end of the clue.

19 Bird cage (3)
PEN – Double def – a PEN is a lady swan
20 Instrument in chamber orchestra initially (5)
CELLOCELL (chamber) then first letter [initially] of O{rchestra}

CELLO is derived from the ending of the Italian violoncello. Being the second largest stringed instrument of the violin family (after the double bass), the name “violoncello” contains both an augmentative “-on[e]” (“big”) and a diminutive “-cello” (“little”). Thus a CELLO is effectively a “little big viola”.

By the turn of the 20th century, it had become common to shorten the name to ‘cello, with the apostrophe indicating the missing stem, but it is now customary to use “cello” without apostrophe as the full designation.

21 Fruit dull inside as well (6)
TOMATOMAT (dull) inside TOO (as well)

The TOMATO was introduced into Europe from the New World and by 1550 was regularly consumed in Italy but grown only as ornamental plants elsewhere. An encyclopedia of 1753 described it as “a fruit eaten either stewed or raw by the Spaniards and Italians and by the Jew families of England.”

In the U.S. it was not commonly eaten until after c. 1830.

The name derives from the Nahuatl (Aztecan) word tomatl (“the swelling fruit”). The older English name for it, and the usual one before mid-C18 was love-apple.

23 What could be bridge diversion (4)
GAME – Double definition
24 Slips perhaps in heather by North American lake (8)
LINGERIELING (heather) by ERIE (North American lake)

From mid-C19 French, LINGERIE means “linen goods, things made of linen” though similar to other French establishments ending -erie (e.g. boulangerie, patisserie etc), originally meant “laundry room, linen shop”. Originally introduced into English as a euphemism for then-scandalous under-linen….

1 Victoria area rave in church building (8)
VICARAGEVIC (Victoria) A (area) RAGE (rave)

VIC is the common abbreviation for, amongst other things, Victoria state in south-eastern Australia. It is the second-smallest state, but with more than 6.7 million people is the second-most-populated state (after New South Wales), and the most densely populated state in Australia at 29.5 people per square km.

2 Idiot about item in auction (4)
CLOTC (about i.e. circa) LOT (item in auction)
3 Champion with secret (6)
WINNERW (with) INNER (secret)
4 Carnivore and wife having vegans’ meal regularly (6)
WEASELW (wife) then vEgAnS‘ mEaL ‘regularly’ i.e. alternate letters
5 A call for help about finest insulating material (8)
ASBESTOSA SOS (call for help) about BEST (finest)

ASBESTOS, which was first used in the 1600s, ultimately derives from the Ancient Greek ἄσβεστος, meaning “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable”.

6 Small mature herb (4)
SAGES (Small) AGE (mature)

SAGE (Salvia officinalis) is derived originally from the Latin salvia, from salvus “healthy”. It was so called for the healing or preserving qualities attributed to it – sage was used to keep teeth clean and relieve sore gums, and also, boiled in water to make a drink to alleviate arthritis.

13 Stream in The Queen — sensational story (8)
THRILLERRILL (Stream) in THE R (Queen i.e. Regina)
15 Very exciting vote in central Jericho (8)
ELECTRICELECT (vote in) then the middle letters [central] of JeRICho
17 Generously treated pilots after a crash (6)
SPOILT – Anagram [after a crash] of PILOTS
18 Purpose of home with temporary accommodation (6)
INTENTIN (home) with TENT (temporary accommodation)
20 Tin containing unknown colour (4)
CYANCAN (Tin) containing Y (unknown)

CYAN is a “greenish-blue color,” short for cyan blue (1879), from Greek kyanos “dark blue, dark blue enamel, lapis lazuli”

22 This person has alien encounter (4)
MEETME (This person) ET (alien)

‘has’ appears to be just for surface reading of the clue.


85 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2640 by Joker”

  1. 1A HILLSIDE really was definition by example with both eg and a ? and it was also my LOI. My grandfather lived in Malvern when he retired so I’m familiar with the hills. Around 20m for me while doing some other things. Thanks for our classical education for the day with all the Latin and Greek.

  2. Unlike Mike I found this quite tough, especially in the NW, and wasn’t helped by having a careless ISSUEs which took some tracking down at the end. Finished in 16.02. LOI was FACTOR (I am similarly dubious about the def) and HILLSIDE, DEBRIS and VICARAGE took a lot of work. Sitting here in Victoria you would have thought I’d get Vic straight away, but I assumed it was a reference to a part of London which got me nowhere.

  3. 12:48. HILLSIDE was LOI. I thought market giving MART was a little too simple as the two words share four LETTERs. Interesting to learn more about SAGE, CELLO, TOMATO, ASBESTOS, CYAN, and LINGERIE- thanks!

  4. There was a school-child story that tomatoes were thought to be poisonous (they’re in the nightshade family), and that George Washington’s cook was bribed to poison him. A nice ragu with plenty of tomatoes was prepared, the cook snuck out of camp and reported “job done”, and the next thing you know Times cryptic solvers need to be as familiar with places like Erie as they are with places like the Malverns. Thanks, MH, nice blog.

  5. 12 minutes with FACTOR and VICARAGE (inevitably intersecting answers) as my last two in. I was going to say I never heard of VIC as an abbreviation for Victoria, but then I thought of ‘The Old Vic’, one of London’s most famous theatres, and of course ‘The Queen Vic’, the pub featured in Eastenders.

  6. Q: Why did you buy the low quality product?
    A: Obviously, cost was an influence/factor!

    Thanks for all the interesting background!

    One quibble with the setter perhaps: 23ac seems to me to be the same definition twice. Do others agree?

      1. You are either being too generous or very diplomatic! I thought it was a dreadful clue, the worst I can recall for a long time. Bridge as a game is fair enough, but Game = diversion is weak even without being the same meaning, the surface is poor and to leave -A-E as the checkers compounds matters even more. There are over 150 common English words that fit that pattern and I have to say I selected Game with considerable lack of confidence or enthusiasm.

        1. I’m with you and others on GAME, which I flung in with a shrug. Otherwise it seemed a pleasant enough stroll.

          FOI SOAP
          LOI ELECTRIC
          COD LINGERIE
          TIME 3:48

    1. I failed to finish because of GAME. Couldn’t get there with two alphabet trawls so awarding it a GR. SPOILT an otherwise excellent QC.

  7. 14:38 here. Thanks for the parsing of “vote in central Jericho”: I was looking for a word meaning vote (or an X) inside RIC or ERICH. That gets my COD, for beating me comprehensively.

    Thanks to Mike and Joker.

  8. All green in around 23 minutes, which is about average for me these days. After a speedy start I was eventually held up by VICARAGE, GAME and THRILLER. I especially liked ISSUER and LINGERIE.
    Many thanks to Mike and to Joker, who’s QCs I always enjoy.

  9. Had to do an alphabet trawl on both the first and third letter, got to Z both times and then just stared at it until GAME arrived – needed some willpower not to bung in ‘fate’ on the strength of “what could be” and the need to get going. A whopping seven on the first pass of acrosses on the way an 11m finish but I’ve inexplicably got a P in ASpESTOS (doesn’t change the pronuncation much and I always find it hard to proof the down clues). First non-typo DNF for a while.

    1. I was also very tempted by FATE, although I didn’t think GAME was much better when I saw it.

  10. Thought I might be on for a rare sub 5 minute solve having started with SOAP and worked round the grid clockwise. However I hit a wall with GAME (alpha trawl), VICARAGE and HILLSIDE remaining, which almost doubled my time, eventually finishing in 7.04. COD to ELECTRIC.
    Thanks to Mike

  11. Slow again today, but all green in 30. Don’t really know why it took so long.

    I’ve never seen MAT as dull – I always through it was MATT.

    Happy Wednesday all. Pi

    1. I wondered about that too. Collins does list “dull” for “mat” as the 8th sense in British English, but under “matt” it says this – “LANGUAGE NOTE: The spellings matte in British English, and matte or mat in American English are also used.”

  12. I didn’t pick that as a Joker while solving (still can’t see the setter on a phone …); I think he was bowling underarm today. But the horrid grid, plus LOI GAME being checked as -A-E (158 possible words apparently 🙄), meant that the finish wasn’t much faster than usual. COD to ELECTRIC, very good.

    All done in 07:16 for a Pretty Good Day.

    Many thanks Joker and Mike for the informative blog. Must boil some sage over the weekend to see if it works.


    1. We must use the same app! We trawled those 158 too but the penny didn’t drop on any of them to start with

      1. I solved it without aids, but was so irritated by the weakness of the clue that after solving and submitting I thought I’d check how many words fitted those checkers! My irritation increased …

        Even when I’d thought of GAME I continued my trawl because it seemed like such a feeble answer. I was half expecting the DPS.

        1. See my comment above, and you are now excused from the suggestion that you were being overly diplomatic. A simply awful clue …

          1. GAME can, of course, be a synonym for “lame” (though seldom seen these days) and that seems quite apt.

      2. My home-made cheating machine has only 144 solutions. I add words pretty much daily, so I expect it will catch up.

    2. I use an iphone. If i hold it horizontally the setters name and number appear. Does that work for you?

  13. Absolute definition of breeze blocked today! FOI and COD soap got us going through an enjoyable puzzle with some lovely clues until we got to LOI 23a with 21 mins on the clock. After resorting to solver app, thesaurus and dictionary it was at 35.11 when Mrs RH pulled game out of the ether, phew!!

    Thanks Joker and Mike for the interesting snippets

  14. 5:04 and just over my target again. I took a while to see HILLSIDE making VICARAGE my LOI. I had no problem with GAME – it’s the surface reading that makes the clue and the first definition is a DBE not a direct definition. Thanks Mike and Joker.

  15. Just under 14 1/2 minutes with most answers coming pretty slowly. I’m glad I saw GAME quickly; I’ve done enough of those _A_E alphabet trawls to know how frustrating they can be, especially as an LOI.

    Favourites were ELECTRIC and the misleading def for LINGERIE.

    Thanks to Joker and Mike

  16. Relatively straightforward today from Joker.

    LOI seems to have been FACTOR for no specific reason, I wasn’t hampered too badly by the portcullis, I liked ELECTRIC best.


    1. Found this difficult. Resorted to blog for Hillside which gave me the checkers for Vicarage and Winner. But many others did not come to me as well. Liked Tomato although I always thought Mat was a double t?

  17. 11:59 (The Lord Rhys sees off an invasion of Deheubarth by five English earls)

    A fast start, slowed down at the end. I spent ages on my LOI, VICARAGE.

    I had forgotten that a PEN is a swan, and read it as bird=prison=penitentiary. I agree with all the comments about GAME.

    Thanks Mike and Joker

  18. A tip of the hat to anyone who started with my loi, 7ac Hillside. I kicked off my clockwise solve with Soap and cleaned up (😉) the LHS, but the RHS proved to be much more more stubborn. Naturally, I never thought an experienced setter like Joker would stoop to a simple Vic for Victoria, when the postcode (SWI apparently, as all you London solvers already knew) opens up so many possibilities. . . Suffice to say that the 30min post is becoming a welcoming sight this week, but I see ITTT was long gone today. CoD to the sneaky, C-less, Issuer at 18ac. Invariant

  19. I laboured through this in similarly slow fashion to yesterday’s Izetti, which I enjoyed more. I struggled to see Joker’s parsing on too many – my fault not his – so progress was somewhat stilted.
    I was sure 21A must include AND, so tried to make almond work for some time. Funnily enough, it didn’t. Liked SOAP, but shuddered at ASBESTOS, the removal of which has bedevilled our recent building works. Maybe that traumatic trigger was to blame for my struggles down the grid. Or not.
    Anyhow, like the building work, all finished eventually, albeit more slowly than I hoped.

  20. I found this a somewhat odd puzzle, very mixed. Some quite straightforward clues, some real headscratchers (Hillside my LOI for example – the definition seems intentionally obscure) and one clue I and several others have already commented on as, er, “weak”.

    Difficult to grade it therefore; my 15 minute completion would suggest it was towards the challenging end, but really that reflects a relatively straightforward puzzle with a few not-at-all-straightforward clues thrown in.

    Many thanks Mike for the blog

  21. Funny: no one comments on the (surely?) obscurity of CYAN which NHO. So I stared at C-AN, tried X, Y and Z and none looked any more promising than any other. Otherwise, all green except HILLSIDE which was simply too difficult even though obviously I tried playing with HILLS. No problem (sorry) with GAME which fell in even before the crossers.

    1. I am guessing you have never had the need to buy a cartridge for a colour printer? While cyan may once have a been a pretty obscure colour, it is common now as one of the three colours (along with magenta and yellow) that most colour printers use.

      1. Thank you: you’re absolutely right. That explains a lot. No, my black-and-white toner costs a princely sum as it is, without splashing out even further for colour. My GK of colours is based on childhood stamp collecting where such as carmine, cerise, sienna and vermilion are common, but no stamp catalogue ever mentions cyan.

        1. Indeed, those Stanley Gibbons colours are poetry: ultramarine, vermillion, olive, sepia, buff and plum.

          1. From my childhood paintbox, I still remember burnt umber, forest green, rose madder, and – my favourite – crimson lake. Such evocative names 😊

        2. I take my empty colour cartridges to a chap who obligingly fills them up with ink(including cyan), for half the price, but I’m not supposed to tell anybody

        3. I wonder how many of us learned from their ZX Spectrum in the early 80s that CYAN even was a colour? I certainly did 👍

          1. I think, in my case, it was when colour TVs came out in the early 70s
            PS I know you’re average is better than 30mins, but we were both there yesterday, and I was hoping to ‘bump into you’ again today. . .

  22. 8 minutes for most of this including GAME which I did not object to.
    A further 8 minutes to crack the NW. HILLSIDE was LOI. Trying to justify Dolt made me feel a clot.
    The inks in my printer always include CYAN which is how I know it. I’m jealous of anyone who doesn’t have to buy such things, cost a fortune.

  23. 09:41

    Nice puzzle. Only question mark was game, but not that bad a clue. Maybe pheasant diversion?
    “Worst clue of the year” is off the mark, see Izetti (1578) for the required standard:
    Crew said something at Chiswick in boat race (4) EYOT

    Main puzzle is also Joker (I think) and worth a go, snitch at 82 so not easy but not too difficult.

    CsOD & LOsI: Hillside, electric, Lingerie.

    1. I’m flummoxed – how does that EYOT clue work?(or I guess not work if it’s really bad).

      1. Crew said = sounds like eight (crew) = AYOT = definition (something at Chiswick in boat race).

    2. It’s the old story – one person’s obscurity is another’s GK. Eyot (or ait) is no problem to someone like me who grew up in the Thames Valley and whose family were enthusiastic rowers!

  24. 7:55

    Another clockwise solve from FOI SOAP. Very quick for me until the NW, finishing, like many here, with 1, 7 and LOI ‘must be’ FACTOR.

    Nice blog, thanks.

  25. Just drifted over the five minute mark, so near enough to my target to make me happy.
    Sorry to go against the tide, but I agree with Johninterred with regards to GAME, no problems with it as per his explanation.
    Thanks Mike for the cracking analysis, I really enjoy the additional commentary.

  26. I found this quite straightforward, and have no issue with GAME as a diversion. FOI SOAP which led to the NE sector quickly completed. HILLSIDE took a few minutes, trying to find a fit for a synonym of “misfortunes”. Once that was in LOI VICARAGE.

  27. 29 minutes (awful for an ‘easier’ one on the QUITCH!).

    Another day when my limitations were ruthlessly exposed. I’m very near the bottom of the class again, so another blow to my self-esteem. I could say I wasn’t on the wavelength, but that’s really just an excuse for not being very good. It makes me want to scream when I see how easy it was for so many other solvers. The sad reality is that I am once again going backwards and that is just no fun. I shall carry on in the faint hope that one day things will improve.

    80 minutes for the week so far!

    Thanks for the blog Mike.

    1. Little bit harsh. I thought you were going to set a personal target? e.g. complete in 30 mins.
      That is what you compare yourself to. There is no point me trying to compete with mohn/verlaine (2 mins average) as my average is 12 mins. So either:

      Just stick to trying to complete and enjoy and forget times.
      Compare to a personal doable target (say 40 mins which you beat today, Snitch is 89 so not easy, just easier)
      Compare to a multiple of a fast solver (so for me 5 Verlaines is good!)
      Stop doing the crossword if it doesn’t make you happy.

  28. Definitely hard for us giving up at 28 minutes where couldn’t see game or electric. Agree that game an odd clue.Enjoyable nonetheless.

  29. 10.29

    Flew through this until completely breezeblocked by DEBRIS and LOI VICARAGE where I wanted RANT, V for Victoria, CE for church..basically everything apart from the correct definition and w/p.

    Is a vicarage a church building or just a building, sometimes near a church? Not a subtlety that seems to have caused anyone else a problem!

    1. I had similar thoughts about VICARAGE having come up with it eventually as my LOI. It’s not a church building that came readily to mind, but I think it qualifies as such as vicarages are traditionally buildings that are owned by the Church.

    2. A vicarage is a building constructed by the church authorities for the housing of a vicar, or in the days when there were ‘livings’, was possibly erected by the vicar for his personal residence, or had gifted to him by a local benefactor. The fact that any vicarage of the lavish construction of previous centuries (when a vicar was a person of note) has since been sold into private hands is neither here nor there.

  30. I agree entirely with the dismal GAME clue. The rest fairly straightforard for a Joker puzzle – I normally struggle with them.

  31. I was definitely on the Jokers wavelength today finishing in 6.08. I think this must be my best time for a Joker offering which usually takes me at least half as long again. My only holdup was with my last two, where CYAN was slower coming to me than it should have been, but my LOI GAME was tough to get for all the reasons outlined above. I was relieved to see it was right as I had my doubts.

  32. I completed successfully but felt dissatisfied at the end. Too many dubious and/or tenuous clues. Not the best puzzle we have seen from this setter (or any other really)

  33. I never got into a flow with this one. Took ages to see HILLSIDE. I had to forgo my usual tactic of acrosses then downs. I wasn’t really held up much but it felt like a slow solve. CLOT was FOI and ELECTRIC was LOI. Surpised to come under my target. 8:13. Thanks Joker and Mike.

  34. 20:51, hello Club members, any pastries left?

    GAME was last one in, and a “shrugee” — a clue that was shrugged over on entering.

  35. Though I found this one to be quite rough, it certainly was on the gentler side of Joker. I also found it far more enjoyable than yesterday’s QC.

    Like many others I just threw GAME in, having no idea how game related to diversion. That seems rather obscure to me.

    I could not get the answer to 7a. Fortunately Pumpa knew it and was able to throw me a couple of extra clues, resulting in the answer dawning on me.


    My verdict: 👍
    Pumpa’s verdict: 🎣

  36. Complete within 30 min target, ELECTRIC last one in, kept looking for an‘X’ as a vote which seemed to tie in with exciting – (exceptional or excelling), wandered around loosing time.

  37. Nicely ramped puzzle – words flew into the ne corner and then I slowed down rapidly. Eventually crawled across the line with “electric” some half an hour later.

  38. 11.02 I was slow to spot the anagrams. Several of the longer answers – ELECTRIC, VICARAGE and LOI THRILLER – would only succumb to guessing and working backwards. I didn’t mind GAME but I was also dubious about MAT for dull. Thanks Mike and Joker.

  39. After our difficulty yesterday we did find this one very much easier, with 9:10 being within shouting distance of a PR. Once we had the checkers GAME went more or less straight in, though at the same time thinking it seemed a pretty weak clue. LOI HILLSIDE even though we’d considered ILLS at first sight. COD to LINGERIE which had me struggling to make FAILINGS work at first. Thanks, all.

  40. A very poor day for me. I had to use an aid to get to ELECTRIC (no idea why with hindsight) and found I had written ‘issues’ at 18ac. My progress was slow anyway – somewhere north of 20 minutes – and I never felt I had a foothold from which everything else would flow. In fact nothing flowed at all. I had no trouble with GAME though, which I saw immediately! Well there’s always tomorrow.

    FOI – 9ac MARTIN
    LOI – DNF but would have been ELECTRIC
    COD – 24ac LINGERIE

    Thanks to Joker and Mike

  41. Just under 23 minutes with GAME missing and a fat finger in my own name. I must lean on the buttons too much. Give me a proper keyboard any day

  42. No particular hold-ups for a sub-20 solve, with last one in VICARAGE, as I was slow to equate Victoria with VIC, and HILLSIDE also held me up a bit. Funnily enough the chap’s name required a bit of thinking, having rejected Justin. Shouldn’t have done, since my partner is MARTIN. Thanks to Joker and Mike for a fun blog and for parsing CELLO for me.

  43. At 18 minutes I thought I was almost done, but it took until 24:02 to work out CLOT, HILLSIDE, and DEBRIS (why? I was just too lazy to turn on the anagrammotor!) I had the wrong end of the clue for HILLSIDE for a long time. I had no problem with GAME, but kind of thought “really, is that all?” and moved on. I was a bit verklempt by the “bridge diversion” in the surface, having lived through too many of those lately. At least I’m alive! (I do think these unexpected emotional reactions based on one’s particular life history can throw a solve off course.)

    I should have seen LINGERIE more quickly since ERIE is where everyone but me is going to see the eclipse. But I didn’t expect to see it in a Times puzzle.

    Thanks Mike for the entertaining blog (and for teaching me what a PEN is) and Joker for the entertaining puzzle.

  44. 36:29

    Well I didn’t find that friendly. Downright hostile in fact. The RHS went in ok but nearly the entire left of the grid was blank as my target 20 minutes rolled round. The construction of 7ac threw me and took forever to figure out HILLSIDE. That unlocked the NW but I still struggled to get over the line with THRILLER, was looking for lie as the sensational story within another word. LOI GAME.

  45. A very late post, as we have been to the funeral of a very dear friend today. He was a dedicated cruciverbalist who did the Times 15×15 every day, and won a few prizes over the years. He also loved compiling crosswords for his family.
    So I wasn’t really very focused when I did this, but it took somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.
    FOI Scene LOI Hillside COD Electric, but I also liked the simplicity of PEN.
    Thanks Joker and Mike – another fascinating blog 😊

  46. Defeated by GAME. Thought of it as a possibility but couldn’t see why. COD – THRILLER.

  47. Dnf…

    Struggled with 12ac “Factor” and 23ac “Game”.

    FOI – 2dn “Clot”
    LOI – Dnf
    COD – 24ac “Lingerie”

    Thanks as usual!


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