Times Quick Cryptic No 2642 by Mara

A crossword for anagram fans from Mara today, with 7 full anagrams and one part-anagram clue. It seems like too many to me, but they are all good clues. It took me 5:38 so above target but not too far from my average time. My COD was 18D for the amusing surface. Thank-you Mara. How did you all get on?

Fortnightly Weekend Quick Cryptic.  This time it is my turn to provide the extra weekend entertainment. You can find the crossword, entitled “X squared”  here.  Can you spot the Nina? If you are interested in trying our previous offerings you can find an index to all 100 here.

SAVE THE DATESaturday 15th June at The George, Borough High St from 12 noon.  After we had such fun with a summer get-together last year, attended by some TimesforTheTimes old hands, bloggers and commenters, we thought we would have another one. Read about last year’s here.

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, {deletions} and [] other indicators.

1 Remove accompanying tie (8)
WITHDRAWWITH (accompanying) DRAW (tie).
5 Flower in hair I see (4)
IRIS – Hidden in haIR ISee.
8 Obscene imperial measure (5)
GROSS – Double definition. I did wonder about the second definition, but being a dozen  dozens it’s clearly not a decimal quantity.
9 Affair of party of S Africans in Italian city (7)
ROMANCEANC (African National Congress; S African political party) in ROME (Italian city).
11 Side by side, kiss twice? (4,3,4)
13 Districts around northern stadia (6)
ARENASN (northern) in AREAS (regions)
14 Don’t stop transmitting semaphore signals in jug (6)
FLAGONFLAG (transmit semaphore signals) ON (carry on; don’t stop)
17 Comic hating smart stooge (8,3)
STRAIGHT MAN – (hating smart)* [comic]. Nice surface.
20 Are inclined to enter knockout competition to make a lot of money (5,2)
CLEAN UPLEAN (are inclined) in CUP (knockout competition).
21 Doctor tries second test (5)
RESIT – (tries)* [doctor]. Another nice anagram surface.
22 Some obstacle, a sticking point (4)
EAST – Another hidden. This time in obstaclE A STicking.
23 NY hotels refurbished in an inconspicuous manner (2,3,3)
ON THE SLY – (NY hotels)* [refurbished].
1 Regular payment heading for worker on time (4)
WAGE – First letter of Worker, AGE (time).
2 Whip messing up recount (7)
TROUNCE – (recount)* [messing up]. More shambles in the House of Commons. Lol.
3 Impious act remarkably considerate! (11)
DESECRATION – (considerate)* [remarkably].
4 A comprehensive in another country (6)
ABROADA, BROAD (comprehensive).
6 Sweep sounded out bottom of flue (5)
RANGERANG (sounded out), last letter of fluE. Nicely deceptive surface.
7 Communication technologies ultimately coming to the summit? (8)
SPEAKING – Last letter of technologieS, PEAKING coming to the summit). You have to separate “communication technologies” to get the definition. I didn’t at first and bunged in SPEAKERS without testing the wordplay, which held me up later.
10 Moderate month for Eliot’s work (11)
MIDDLEMARCHMIDDLE (moderate) MARCH (month). I’ve neither read the book nor watched the costume drama. Have I missed much?
12 Butcher provides service with care, surprisingly (8)
MASSACREMASS (church service) (care)* [surprisingly].
15 See and sign new book (7)
GENESIS – (see, sign)* [new].
16 Maestro cut in (6)
CHOPINCHOP (cut) IN. Frédéric Chopin was a distinguished performer not just a composer, hence a maestro.
18 Flightless birds share a dog’s dinner (5)
RHEAS – (share)* [dog’s dinner]. Nice anagrind and lovely surface.
19 Visit state, taking in first of temples (4)
STAY – First letter of Temples in SAY (state).

87 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2642 by Mara”

  1. I wasn’t really up to it today, so just filled in clues here and there. Thanks to all that wished me a smooth recovery

    I also wrote in SPEAKERS then wondered if there was was some FLAGON/PITCHER vessel in England I hadn’t heard of before correcting the error

    Is that South African political party well known?!

    Today I learnt that I have been confusing Middlemarch by Eliot with Middlesex by Eugenides for the past twenty or so years. I cannot imagine the books are very similar.

    1. First, my apologies for not wishing you well yesterday. Best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery!

      The ANC is best known as the party of Nelson Mandela.

      1. Oh gosh pls don’t apologise!

        Nelson makes it very reasonable that people would know that then. I’ll try to commit it to memory.

    2. Get well soon, Tina! First the tooth, now the procedure 😫 The only upside i can imagine is that it usually rains if you go camping in Victoria over Easter, so hopefully you missed out on that!

      1. It was glorious weather 🙁 one of the reasons my health got so bad was because my kids were having such a good time I thought it’d be a shame if we went home and maybe I could sleep off the pain

        Spoiler: I could not

    3. Joining all the others with get well soon messages, Tina 💐 Sounds like you had a rough time.

    4. Best wishes Tina 🌷🌼🌺🌻

      (Can’t believe you’ve never heard of the ANC. They were all over the news when you were about 10 years old!)

  2. 18:18. I had most trouble with ABROAD and RANGE. COD to FLAGON. I read MIDDLEMARCH at university and although I think I enjoyed it at the time I can’t remember a thing about it now. Henry James, Margaret Drabble, John Fowles have a similar effect on me-seems like great writing at the time but no lasting impact.

    1. I too finished with ABROAD/RANGE – not the most obvious of defs.

      Chalking up my April victory early. I can relax knowing my work is done 🤪

  3. Enjoyable puzzle by Mara which I completed at a pleasant amble, finishing in 13.59 let’s say 14. There were no major hold-ups, some clever anagrams and many fine surfaces to appreciate for those of us taking the scenic route. I too started with speakers and at MIDDLEMARCH (no John, you have not) I was delayed by concentrating on the wrong Eliot. FOI WITHDRAW, LOsI GENESIS and FLAGON.

  4. Unusually for Mara this a was a tricky one, but I eventually came in all green in around 35 minutes – so a very satisfying 1 hour 25 minutes under my target time.
    As there were so many anagrams I had to resort to writing some of them down, which speeded things up a little, but it was Very Hard Work. One of the toughest in a long time, for me at least if not for the boys at the front.
    So I end the week with another victory and my self belief a little restored.
    AGE, DESECRATION and CHOPIN, (who’s normally lovely Raindrop Prelude I happened to be massacring on the piano just last night while Mrs ITTT was out with her tennis coach), slowed me down the most. There were no real stand out clues for me this morning but I did like ROMANCE.
    Thanks to Mara and John.

    1. I reckon you’ve improved enough to bring that target time down to 1hr55, maybe even stretch yourself with 1hr50…

  5. An unusually early start fortified by hot brews led us to a, for us, very pleasing sub-30. FOI WITHDRAW started us off nicely and but for a bit of a pause to get LOI ABROAD might well have set a PB. For once, no grizzles from us about tenuous or arcane combinations… An enjoyable start to the day, thank you Mara.

  6. A very similar experience to LindsayO’s – 12 minutes, no real hold-ups, much to enjoy. I spent most time puzzling over Straight man, as at first I thought the anagrist was “comic hating” with the indicator being “smart”, before the S checker from Massacre put me right.

    Many thanks John for the blog

  7. 11 minutes. I had an attack of the usual “NW-itis” so I took far longer than I should have to get WITHDRAW and WAGE. RANGE didn’t immediately come to mind for ‘Sweep’ and I too was thinking of the wrong ‘Eliot’ for 10d which was my LOI. Favourite was the not so obvious def for the now simple looking RESIT.

    Thanks to John and Mara

  8. No major dramas and much to enjoy. Started with IRIS and finished with ABROAD, where I spent short time wondering what country would fit with those checkers, in 7.22.
    Thanks to John

  9. My actual FOI was “withhold” and backing out the latter half, plus the last three letters of “speakers” stopped me from breaking the 4 minute barrier.

    FOI (correctly) IRIS
    TIME 4:10

  10. Just outside the SCC when I finished, albeit whilst mildly distracted by breakfast and watching the bird feeder – could easily have knocked off, ooh, 30 seconds if I had concentrated.
    Anyhow, an enjoyable selection of anagrams wrapped in other clues, nice surfaces everywhere. 18D gets my vote.. I too assumed the wrong Eliot initially, so needed some crossers before the PDM.
    I was going to put “a nice end to the week” then realised I have the double delight of the Saturday QC, and our esteemed blogger’s Nina puzzle to look forward to. Hurrah!

  11. For some reason I had Withhold for 1 across so I was left puzzling over 3 down and 4 down. 3 down was easy once I corrected. 4 down I needed a thesaurus for a comprehensive synonym – been a long week !

  12. 10:07 (Æthelred the Unready pays Danegeld of 36000 pounds of silver)

    Wasted time on 10d running through everything from the Wasteland to Cats before realising I had the wrong Eliot.
    MASSACRE and EAST were my last two in.

    Thanks John and Mara

      1. I followed in your tracks at about half speed, thinking alluding to TSE in April was clever, hah!

        I meant in simjt’s tracks. I’m not fit to use the internet.

        1. As you’ll see below we were all on the same tracks … and I too had the April thought, and even tried to work out something based on the cruellest month!

    1. And I don’t think over the many centuries since those Danish bullies have shown the slightest inclination to return any of that silver.

  13. I was absolutely nowhere on that, merrily going up every garden path laid by Mara. Had the wrong Eliot in mind and before checkers (I was doing the downs first) cycled through Prufrock, Wasteland, Agonistes, Quartets, Ash Wednesday … nothing would work but I kept trying! Failed to remember that RHEAS have an H in them and so missed the anagram first pass, needed checkers for STRAIGHT MAN (where were you today, Anagram Hat?), failed to spot GENESIS was an anagram and was running through the Zodiac, hadn’t come across the ANC device before so was trying to work in DO/SA … basically I was all over the shop. Mara 1 – 0 Templar.

    COD to LOI FLAGON. Collapsed over the line in 13:46 for a Terrible Day. Excellent puzzle and blog, many thanks Mara and John.


    1. I like the concept of an Anagram Hat. I envisage a mad Heath Robinson amalgam of topper, boater, fedora etc, incorporating a bow and a bunch of cherries as trimmings, all somehow forming a (semi) coherent whole. Any milliners amongst the blogging community?!

  14. Very enjoyable QC. Particularly liked the surfaces of 17A and 18D. There was a very good BBC Middlemarch with Juliet Aubrey and Rufus Sewell which encouraged me to read the book (a bit wordy and not my favourite GE). Hope you’re feeling much better Tina. Thanks John for good blog.

  15. I failed to fall into any of the traps set by Mara, but my LOI RANGE did take some headscratching as I wanted to parse it.

    I liked FLAGON.


  16. All green in 23 mins, so happy with that. Took a while to see RANGE and ABROAD – not sure why. I was another to have bunged in WITHHOLD rather than WITHDRAW, which made DESECRATION hard to see until the penny dropped.

    Happy Friday, all. And get well soon, Tina. Sounds like you’ve had a rough ride.


  17. Enjoyable. Finished with NECK AND NECK and WITHDRAW. A bit slow there. FOI IRIS.
    Liked SPEAKING, FLAGON, MIDDLEMARCH, among others. Studied the latter at A Level – a lot of the characters annoyed me at the time. Must have missed the TV version because I would certainly have remembered Rufus Sewell. Later: I see it was 1994 so we were abroad. I also see it is still available on iPlayer.
    Thanks vm for blog, John.

  18. I feel for poor Mara as his offering yesterday in The Grauniad (where he sets as ‘Paul’) was not well received by many at Fifteensquared. Haters of dodgy homophones, puns and themed puzzles with lots of cross-references would be advised to steer well clear. I kind of enjoyed it but in a masochistic sort of way!

  19. Fairly speedy with this one today crossing the line in 8.43. Lost a little bit of time checking the spelling of DESECRATION which turned out to be worthwhile, as in my haste the second E had become an A. I loved the clue for RHEAS, and don’t recall seeing ‘dogs dinner’ being used as an anagram indicator before.
    My total time for the week was 42.16, giving me a daily average of 8.28. So all in all a pretty good week.

  20. 7:56

    Feline kerfuffles notwithstanding (twice causing me to pause, deal with the issue then re-compose myself), I found this to be in the medium range of QCs (the Quitch bears this out, currently 97). Had to write out the letters of DESECRATION and finished up at the start i.e. with GENESIS.

    Thanks John and Mara

  21. 10 minutes for me and a smooth, quick solve.
    LOI DESECRATION held me up a bit as I had assumed it would start DIS…
    Good clues, a nice QC; COD to FLAGON.

  22. 9:58

    Held up NE with ABROAD, ROMANCE and LOI RANGE. Too long looking for a country.

    Thanks all.

  23. Couldn’t do this one at all. Got both the long downs, plus seven, and that was it.
    NHO STRAIGHT MAN (context?) or RHEA.
    Thank you both (below) but all this means absolutely nothing to me – NHO “comedy duo”, NHO Abbott nor Costello, never watched any such thing. Oh well, merely means there’s a great hole in my GK!
    I think the reason why I never watch these things is that (like many on the “spectrum”) I never, ever see the jokes, so it’s pointless.

  24. Not on Mara’s wavelength today and really needed to persevere. With hindsight, not sure why I created so many problems for myself 🤪
    STRAIGHT MAN, RANGE and MASSACRE held me up for ages. LOI CHOPIN (doh). Couldn’t parse RHEAS so left it out initially. COD ROMANCE – this was a ‘what on earth is this about?!’ surface, so very rewarding to solve. Many thanks John and Mara.

  25. Not too sure what happened today. I started well, with 1d/1ac and fairly rattled off the top third of the grid (including Speaking), but for some reason I just couldn’t see Neck and Neck 🙄, had no idea what the Flagon clue was driving at, and to cap it all choose the wrong anagrist for Straight Man. Gave up in disgust (with myself) after 20mins, but picked it up again an hour later and managed to crawl to the finish line, albeit well north of 30mins. This has been a strange week. Invariant

    1. Glad you think it’s been a strange week as well Invariant. After today’s puzzle (which I at least completed), I started to wonder whether I’d totally lost it.

      1. I think I’ve had one good time and four shockers, so not my best week. No idea what I would have thought if I was new to this game (or perhaps I do!) Invariant

  26. Easy in parts, decidedly chewy in other areas. It took me 18 minutes with all parsed except STRAIGHT MAN which was biffed from the checkers. I had to write out the anagram at 3dn and even then it took me a long time to see DESECRATION. It was however the key to unlocking the NW which up to then had been mostly empty.

    FOI – 5ac IRIS
    LOI – 1ac WITHDRAW
    COD – 14ac FLAGON. Also liked NECK AND NECK

    Thanks to Mara and John

  27. Apart from FOI, WAGE, it took me a while to get going. First thought for 1a, WITHHOLD, didn’t yield any danglers, so I left it out until I got TROUNCE and then thought of DRAW. Once again I had to hop around the grid to get crossers to help me along. Eventually ABROAD was LOI and I just exceeded my target time. 10:18. Thanks Mara and John.

  28. A Much Better Day! I got completely stuck on SCREWY yesterday and DNF the biggie either, but today I did this in 9:38, and I finished the 15×15 too, admittedly in nearly an hour.
    Without giving anything away, I see there are a couple of clues in both crosswords today that could be related – could it be the same setter?
    I thought this was a typically neat Mara crossword – always lots of white space around his clues!.
    FOI Iris LOI Abroad COD Straight man
    Thanks Mara and John

  29. About on par overall at 13:19 but held up by the remaining three in the NENW corner, especially LOI ABROAD which seemed so obvious once we’d seen it. COD FLAGON. Thanks, Mara and J.

  30. I didn’t notice how many anagrams there were but I did try to make one of ‘impious act’ to make a word meaning considerate….it looked the right amount of letters. MIDDLEMARCH needed all of the checkers. Strange, having looked up the notable works by George Eliot I know most of the titles but have not read/viewed any of them. My penultimate solve was ABROAD (could only find Angola as a named country with 6 letters) and my LOI GENESIS…one of the few bible books I am familiar with. A regulation 8:19 for an OK start to the weekend.

  31. 7.07

    Also wanted RISE to begin with.

    Is Middlemarch worth a read? Yes. Is it one of the greatest books in English literature. Not sure. But it’s certainly interesting as was the author of course

    Thanks John and Mara

  32. 34 mins…

    Not sure what’s going on this week – really struggling with a lot of the puzzles, to the point where I was wondering if my ability was in a downward slide. To be fair, I have this internal debate on a regular basis, but my stats are definitely not improving.

    FOI – 1dn “Wage”
    LOI – 18dn “Rheas”
    COD – 7dn “Speaking”

    Thanks as usual!

  33. 13:48 here, which I’m pleased with. No major hold-ups or quibbles, other than thinking of the wrong Eliot until the crossing M_R_H at the end made MARCH inevitable.

    Thanks to Mara and John.

  34. 17:58 – slow start with just WAGE, IRIS and AND going in in the top half until I got to ARENAS, FLAGON. Tried to put “dodos” in until I thought of RHEAS and wasn’t that impressed by the “dog’s dinner” anagrind then added EAST, ON-THE-SLY and STAY to finish off the first pass.

    Pleased to unravel DESOCRATION off just the D and A. Whereas I couldn’t get GENESIS even when spotted the G. Like others, finished with ROMANCE, RANGE, ABROAD. My mind has a complete panic when asked to name cities in foreign countries so Rome didn’t spring to mind.

    While my time was about average for Mara this year, I thought this was tougher than his usual offerings. Some difficult definitions and hard to spot anagrams in places. So all in all, pleased with that.

    Just scraping under 1hr39 for the standard week with 5/5 completions – 4 SCC escapes and just the Izetti blotting my copybook at 34+ mins. I’d like to get the sub2 full week but I suspect we have a Felix coming at us tomorrow.

    1. Well done 👍

      You’ve ground me into the dust with your performances. Your improvement is remarkable.

  35. 16:28, quick by my standard, and much enjoyed the many good surfaces.

    Had to slowly pick my way through considerate -> DESECRATION, ticking off letters mentally, looking at crossers, and just as the penny dropped, the phone rang! The person from Porlock could not be put off and I was on tenterhooks trying to deal and remember the answer too. LOI MASSACRE, not that it was hard but it reminded me of a particularly gruesome clue I solved recently for the same word, and it seems that put me off.

    Middlemarch is a great book, but you have to love long books where not much “happens”. I don’t agree that the issues it treats are no longer ours.

    Thank you John and Mara!

  36. We put withheld for 1ac which caused a number of problems. Normally anagrams are a stronger point but we were slow in identifying some today.

  37. 30:17

    And so ends possibly my slowest fully completed week ever. Monday was good but over target every day since.

    Really guessed LOI RANGE and had the wrong Eliot (TS rather than George) in mind which held me up in the middle. Hopefully faster next week.

  38. 24:31, which is only a minute or two slower than yesterday’s but felt much harder. RANGE seems a bit unkind. Anyway, thank you as always for the blog!

  39. Somewhere around 30 minutes for us. We are in Spain for a week with a friend and did bits of this this around a pleasant evening with a nice white Rioja and some chat.

    Can’t understand why we couldn’t see Wage until the end, such an obvious answer!

    Also put in withhold to start with and for once I had the right author over Mrs RH who went off down the Eliot track.

    Sorry to hear of your woes Tina, hope you are well on the mend

    Thanks Mara and John

  40. Don’t read (or, if you do, don’t say you weren’t warned).

    29 awful minutes.

    I’m in a poor state of mind and have absolutely nothing positive to say. After butchering the Quintagram (2/5), I came here for another lesson in how bad I am at cryptic crosswords.

    I floundered around and missed most of the anagram indicators. It was a thoroughly depressing slog, every minute making me more and more convinced that this is a sophisticated game that I lack the tools to play. My brain just doesn’t have the capacity to do this to a standard which I consider to be acceptable. Looking back, this QC wasn’t that hard (lots of anagrams and hiddens), so why did I make such a meal of it? How could I not see MIDDLEMARCH much sooner?

    My times for the week are:
    17 mins
    34 mins
    29 mins
    22 mins
    29 mins
    Total – 2 hours, 11 mins

    Another weekend of self-reproach awaits. I’m embarrassed to be so bad when others are now street ahead of me. The whole point of this is to learn and get better, whereas I fail to learn and get worse. I can’t enjoy it if I am unable to see any improvement.

    I’m a paper-only solver, so you won’t need to put up with my moaning tomorrow!

    Thanks for the blog John.

    1. Great times this week, Mr A! Only 2hrs 11 mins, so nearly twice as fast as me.
      For the record, this week’s fare has had me beavering away for a total of 3hrs 59 mins – 15, 50, 55, 81, 38.
      N.B. I also solve exclusively on paper and I print out Saturday’s QC to enable me to do so.

      1. Thanks Mr R. Perhaps I was a little hard on myself.

        I hope things go better for you next week🤞🤞

        It’s been a strange week. I could easily have had a couple of hour-long solves, as there were times when I became completely stumped. I was fortunate that, at least once, a semi-guess unlocked the door.

    2. Oh dear.

      You don’t sound like you’re fully focused when solving. We all have moments where doubt steps in, see my comment above about when challenged to think of a city in Italy. You have to spot that in yourself, reset and working through what you do know.

      In my experience, you would do well just to rip through the rest of the month without paying attention to the clock, whether you solve successfully and just quitting when you’ve hit a block. A period where you deliberately fail would allow your brain to rebuild its confidence by resetting all these ideas you have about where you’re at. Because you’re currently like a guy who hit a hole-in-one at golf and now even pars and birdies on every hole are dissatisfying.

      1. Thanks New Driver. I appreciate you taking the time to give me your advice.

        What I struggle to deal with is the fact that there are days when I can achieve a sub-20 quite easily and days when I am absolutely nowhere. I know that happens to everyone now and then, but I’ve had a lot of trouble with it lately. Up until the last 2 weeks, I’ve often done comparatively well on some tough ones, and messed up the easy ones.

        I also find it impossible to keep in my head all the abbreviations, word play indicators etc. The abbreviations part is getting better, but the same can’t be said for the word play. I’m at the stage where I see what I think is word play, but often turns out to be me getting completely the wrong end of the stick. It happens every time I try the Quintagram.

        I’ll take your advice on board and try to be a bit more positive (and realistic). I still think my weekly target is well within my compass, if only I wasn’t so fixated on improving. I’m too much of a perfectionist for my own good.

  41. I generally find Mara one of the more generous setters, but he was clearly not in that mood today. 38 minutes for me, which is bang on my overall median performance since I started nearly 4 years ago, but several minutes slower than my current median.

    I was particularly stuck on RANGE (my LOI) and was not at all sure it was correct even when I’d found it.

    Thanks to Mara and John.

  42. I was in the groove with this today, starting straight in with WITHDRAW. Liked NECK AND NECK and FLAGON. Only uncertain was LOI RANGE which I entered with some trepidation and glad to see all green in 22 minutes.
    Thanks Mara and John

  43. 11.37 Very late to this having been away. I immediately thought of RANGE as something you might find at the bottom of a flue, but I couldn’t parse it. Thanks John and Mara.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *