Times Quick Cryptic No 2652 by Alex

Solving time: 8:03

I found this to be a medium-paced challenge from Alex with a nice mix of clues, though I did initially think it might be anagram-heavy with 10a, 12a and 14a all being such. However, there was only one other which was the clever 2d.

I also liked the IKEA-like 18a as well as 21a for its use of MASTERY for ‘control’.

What was your impression of this puzzle?

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

1 Following direction to banquet (5)
FEAST – F (Following) EAST (direction)

I have seen ‘f’ as an abbreviation for ‘following’ before but do not know from where it derives.

Checking sources, it appears that a lower case single ‘f’ is allowed when ‘following’ is a genealogical term, and an upper case single ‘F’ when ‘following’ is used regarding infertility.

Any alternatives?

7 Abandoned cat in Split (9)

Slight misdirection from Split’s capital letter, but without it, the clue would be nonsense.

9 Bird has years in channel (5)
GULLYGULL (Bird) Y (years)
10 Tips sauce spilling into speciality galactic travel wear (9)
SPACESUIT – Anagram [spilling] of TIPS SAUCE
11 Beast the solver heard (3)
EWE – Homophone [heard] of YOU (the solver – from the setters point of view)
12 Unusual dictionary missing “Y” in index (9)
INDICATOR – Anagram [Unusual] of DICTIONARY [missing “Y”]
14 Tzar rages about astronomer (9)
STARGAZER – Anagram [about] of TZAR RAGES
16 Animal pack (3)
RAM – Double definition
18 Fires again as rule before it ends heartlessly (9)
REIGNITES – REIGN (rule) before IT then E{nd}S [heartlessly i.e. take out the middle letters]
20 Put out partly like Victoria (5)
EVICT – Hidden [partly] in “like Victoria”
21 Priory in control, holding on (9)
MONASTERY – MASTERY (control) containing [holding] ON
22 Modelled wearing shiny fabric (5)
SATIN – SAT (Modelled) IN (wearing)
1 Number diagram (6)
FIGURE – Double definition

A FIGURE can be “a diagram or illustrative drawing, especially in a book or magazine”.

2 Loan literati lively literary device (12)

COD for me due to the ALLITERATION in the clue itself.

ALLITERATION is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words e.g. “Bob brought the box of bricks to the basement”.

3 Go with con, arriving at meeting (8)
TRYSTING – TRY (Go) with STING (con)

Wasn’t sure whether ‘arriving at’ is part of the surface or the definition. Perhaps depends on whether ‘meeting’ is a verb or a noun here i.e.

‘arriving at (surface)’ + ‘meeting (verb)’


‘arriving (verb) at meeting (noun)’.


4 Placed within popular hospital room (6)
INWARD – IN (popular) WARD (hospital room)
5 Actuaries oddly missing fix (4)
CURE – Remove the odd letters [oddly missing] of Actuaries
6 Some parrot I detested upset journalist (6)
EDITOR – Hidden [Some] in “parrot I detested” and reversed [upset]
8 Set off worktop feature (12)
COUNTERPOINT – COUNTER (worktop) POINT (feature)

Both COUNTERPOINT and ‘Set off’ mean “serve as decorative embellishment to something”.

In musical terms, this refers to a technique where counterpoint notes are offset against the cantus firmus (the basic melody of a polyphonic composition) notes, and is characterised by syncopation where the strong beats of the of the cantus firmus are tied over to the weak beats of the counterpoint.

13 Short, positive response returned by son shows respect (8)
CURTSEYS – CURT (Short) SEY (positive response is YES which is reversed [returned]) by S (son)

Originally not exclusively feminine, CURTSEY is a variant of ‘courtesy’ i.e. “an expression of respect” dating back to the 1540s. The specific “bending the knee and lowering the body as a gesture of respect” is from 1570s.

14 Economize with second wave (6)
SCRIMP – (second) CRIMP (wave)

Wondering why the definition is written with a ‘z’ rather than an ‘s’ – British paper and all that – I expect it was originally written with a ‘z’ in British English and is still valid in some archaic form – someone may care to elaborate?

15 Spot woman’s instrument (6)
ZITHER – ZIT (Spot) HER (woman’s)

ZIT is 1960s US teenager slang for an acne pimple.

17 Spoil number for creature (6)
MARTEN – MAR (Spoil) TEN (random number)

MARTENs are solitary, omnivorous, weasel-like mammals, meeting only to breed in late spring or early summer. Litters of up to five blind and nearly hairless kits are born in early spring. They are weaned after around two months, and leave the mother to fend for themselves at about three to four months of age.

19 Prying thus back in New York (4)
NOSY – SO (thus) reversed [back] gives OS – insert [in] into NY (New York)

91 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2652 by Alex”

  1. I had no idea why COUNTERPOINT was correct, but I couldn’t fit anything else so I was pleased to see it was all green (as was the rest of the grid).

  2. Totally blocked by the animals today. I never heard of the OUNCE (Collins tells me it’s a snow leopard) and I have vaguely heard of the MARTEN.

    I can play the Vietnamese zither – it’s kind of like a Japanese Koto or the Chinese Guzheng, so I managed that one. Not many instruments start with ‘z’ I’m sure.

    I found COUNTERPOINT tricky but the rest very straight forward!

    1. Ounce is tricky to remember but what helped me was an explanation I read that it comes from a misunderstanding of the old French Lonce (similar derivation to lynx) being L’ Once… so think Lynx L’ounce and it might stick!

      1. Ahaha oh no

        I went back and checked – I didn’t finish that one so I must have just skipped that clue

        I’m shamed into remembering it now

  3. 14:40. RENOUNCED was my COD. I didn’t know POINT as feature. I didn’t like index and INDICATOR both sharing IND nor INWARD and within both sharing IN. Mike, what does “when ‘following’ is used regarding infertility mean”?

  4. No problems, other than time. I liked the ALLITERATION clue. (Alliteration is the main characteristic of Anglo-Saxon poetry.) 7:36.

  5. 8.23 after a slow start, nothing entered until EWE and INDICATOR halfway down. In fact I didn’t fill in the NW until I’d been right round the grid, ending with FEAST, GULLY and FIGURE. Good to see the EDITOR getting his due respect once again instead of doing humble duty as what we Australians would call an abbrevo. Words like CURTSEYS and SCRIMP held me up because I had kind of forgotten they existed. CsOD, for their construction, to TRYSTING and RENOUNCED. Thanks to Alex and Mike.

  6. The explanation for the-ize ending in 14dn can be found here.

    13 minutes. I found this quite hard but it was enjoyable. I was put off for a while by 14ac expecting the anagram be the name of an astronomer I never heard of, so it was some relief when checkers arrived and led me neatly to the simple STARGAZER.

    I think most usually the abbreviation f = following is used in text to mean ‘following page’.

    CURTSEY was my LOI.

      1. Isn’t there, though, a set style guide for these crosswords? Like there would surely be for The Times? If not, might we expect an IZE ending to appear in an answer?

        1. I’m not posting as an authority on this, but from memory I think that both endings can appear in clues and answers. Obviously there shouldn’t be clues where either ending could fit, so S/Z should be a checker or indicated by some other means in the clue such as wordplay or anagrist.

          1. I was more surprised by the Z in Tzar. Obviously necessary for the anagram to work, but a more unusual spelling I would suggest than Zs in -ize words.

            1. I agree, and I’m a little disconcerted to discover we are in an ‘anything goes’ environment regarding spelling. As I said, The Times would have a style guide, all proper newspapers do, and most say the spelling listed first in their nominated dictionary is the one they use unless they list specific exceptions. I note Jack’s point but it strikes me that if we can use IZE in a clue, or TZAR on the grid, a setter may choose to select an unchecked IZE suffix and we’ll all get the dreaded pink square. (Said as a former sub-editor and known pedant…)

              1. I can’t say I’m aware aware of an ‘anything goes’ attitude to spelling used in puzzles. If setters and puzzle editors are doing their job, valid spellings are listed in one or more of the nominated dictionaries. For The Times that means Collins or the Oxford Dictionary of English with occasional forays into Chambers.

                On specifics for today ‘Tzar’ is all three dictionaries as an alternative to ‘Tsar’ and ‘Czar’, and ‘recognize’ is the first spelling in all three with ‘recognise’ as an alternative.

                As I mentioned above, the situation of an unchecked choice between ‘-ise’ and ‘-ize’ should never arise without there being an alternative means of identifying the required spelling via wordplay. If speed solvers choose to biff answers without fully understanding the workings of the clue they do so at their own peril, but if speed is their main concern they may deem that’s it’s worth cutting corners and taking the risk.

                I understand what you say about the house-style of newspapers and I’m sure The Times has one for its news and other copy but it would seem to me to be rather restrictive to require setters of word games to comply with these whatever they are, so nominated dictionaries are their prime source of reference.

                1. Well nominated dictionaries are always the prime source of reference, but as I said if a setter uses (as an answer) ‘economize’ with the Z unchecked we’ll all be mostly done for. Of course we don’t want to restrict setters to the rigidities of house style at every point but I would have thought there would be some agreement on the basics. To put it another way, the fundamental rule applize…and on that bombshell it’s bedtime here in Oz

                  1. Sorry to labour the point, Lyndsay, but since ‘economize’ is the first choice spelling in Collins, the Oxford Dictionary of English and Chambers, I don’t understand why we would all mostly be done for.

                    If the crucial letter is unchecked one needs to examine the wordplay in the clue. If there’s no indication there I would agree you that there might be a problem, but that would be down to a defective clue not being picked up by the crossword editor. It simply shouldn’t happen, but there would be no reason to assume that ‘-ise’ was any more valid than ‘-ize’ or vice versa.

                    I wish you a good night.

    1. I wasn’t going to wade in on this, but my 1968 edition of Fowler has plenty to say on the subject. I believe The Times, OUP and Americans use -IZE but modern British style is -ISE. I guess we shall just have to cope.

  7. 18:41 with too long spent on the beasts RAM, MARTEN and EWE. Commiserations to Tina, Ounce is a crossword-only word, “snow leopard” is the usual form for this rare creature.

    Got in a mess with COURTEOUS/CURTSEYS and all combinations in between. And TRYSTING was an unlikely looking word.


    1. Feel your pain with courteous and did try the dictionary to see if curteous was an alternative!

  8. After a stonking start to the week I was brought back down to earth this morning, upping stumps at 30 minutes with three unsolved (FIGURE, GULLY and EWE). In retrospect none of these was hard so I’m kicking myself down here in Dorsetshire.
    My QC Quotient for the week has therefore plummeted from 98 down to 89 in the space of one puzzle. Undeterred I shall bounce back tomorrow with fresh resolve to try to retrieve the situation.
    This was a fair puzzle, however, with lovely clues like RENOUNCED, (that normally elusive snow leopard that keeps showing its face in here), and CURTSEYS with a couple of nice anagrams chucked in for good measure. COD for me was ZITHER.
    Thank you Alex and Mike.

  9. We were all done at 25.59, typical for an Alex. Lost time after seeing the z and w, so thinking pangram. Biffed Eject for the j rather than evict which held up the SE. Also not helped by having rat as the pack animal (rat pack)🙄

    Have no memory of the snow leopard so couldn’t parse that at all, maybe this is the first time we’ve seen it?

    Also liked alliteration especially as Mrs RH saw it immediately I had written out the letters.

    Thanks Alex and Mike

    PS today’s concise in the iPad was especially tricky – it’s only showing the clue for 1 across 🙈

      1. So much so that it is now my go to feline if I can’t work out how a clue with cats in it works

  10. DNF after 25m due to being stumped by COUNTERPOINT and RENOUNCED, even with the checkers.

    I now vaguely recall OUNCE coming up before, but when trying to conjure up cat references today, OUNCE did not materialise – I wonder why…

    The rest was put to bed in decent time.

    Happy Wednesday. Pi

  11. 9:41 … I feel like I may have turned a corner, as I felt I got through that quickly, despite some toughies in there. Was a bit panicky when I got down to my last three of REIGNITING, SCRIMP and MONASTERY need a word economise/wave to get the starting checkers for the other two. Thankfully it came and I bunged them in without parsing.

    1. I think you’ve turned several corners lately- could be the running aiding better oxygen flow to brain!

  12. For those wondering OUNCE came up just last month on 18th March in Teazel’s QC #4626. In the NW of the grid

    Large cat formerly seen round university (5)

  13. A fast start in the NW but slowed down at the end in the SE. My main problems were missing the hidden for EVICT, RAM (for some unknown reason) and MARTEN where I was looking for a 5 letter word for spoil followed by ‘n’ for number.
    I only got COUNTERPOINT from the wordplay as I was unaware of the musical meaning.
    Finished in 7.57 which, strangely, is identical to my time yesterday.
    Thanks to Mike

  14. After an appalling start to the week with typos in both QC and 15×15 on both Monday and Tuesday, I finally succeeded in getting a pink-free solution this morning, but I didn’t enjoy it much.

    TIME 5:03

  15. Started quickly and looked set to miss joining the usual select pals in the club until I ground to a halt in the SE. Skipped past Rat to find RAM then spent an age to spot POINT for feature and the reasonably clued SATIN as LOI. COD RENOUNCED.
    Found my usual corner seat and tucked into a coffee and petit pain to study the Register of departed notables. Nice to see sunshine and spring flowers in the garden before rushing to work.
    Thanks Mike and Alex

  16. 5:19. Nice one Alex. I liked the juxtaposition of EWE and RAM. As reported in confirmation in Mick Hodgkin’s Newsletter on Saturday and repeated by Jackkt as a comment on Saturday’s QC, Alex’s real name is Victoria. Good to see her sign her name in this puzzle. Thanks Alex and Mike.

    1. She might struggle over time to get as many self-references into her puzzle as Oink does!

  17. A puzzle of two halves for me – the NW corner went in almost as fast as I could enter the answers, but then I slowed markedly with the in retrospect simple Ram/Marten pair being my L2I and pushing me out to 12 minutes.

    Several animals making an appearance, Ewe, Ounce and Gull on top of my last two, but not enough perhaps for a theme.

    Many thanks Mike for the blog

  18. Brains are odd things. Read ‘ends heartlessly’ understood it perfectly and decided that clued EN. What made CURTSEYS very hard indeed. Finally unravelled three seconds ahead of the SCC only to find I’d self-centredly entered ‘eye’ for EWE, suspecting it was a word for beast the setter knew and I didn’t. Good puzzle mucked up by me. A fourth pink square of the week and definitely not a typo. Rats.

  19. Brains are odd things. Read ‘ends heartlessly’ understood it perfectly and decided that clued EN. That made CURTSEYS very hard indeed. Finally unravelled three seconds ahead of the SCC only to find I’d self-centredly entered ‘eye’ for EWE, suspecting it was a word for beast the setter knew and I didn’t. Good puzzle mucked up by me. A fourth pink square of the week and definitely not a typo. Rats.

  20. 8:51

    Plenty of thought required but no major hold ups.

    Very enjoyable, thanks Alex and Mike

  21. 10:23
    After seeing Z and Y, I was looking for a pangram, so assumed the cat in 7a would be a QUEEN . Only after considering whether RENQUEEND was a word did I finally think of our old friend the OUNCE.

    Thanks Alex and Mike

  22. I seem to be at odds with most of the solvers who have commented so far. I was very slow to start with FOI SPACESUIT but then things got going and I moved swiftly round the grid. The two clues that held me up the longest were INDICATOR (despite seeing the anagram fodder) and LOI MONASTERY. 7:28 and a red letter day.

    1. Your daughter’s done very well – HSF are an excellent firm, one of my favourites to work with. And she’ll be able to afford a lovely retirement home for you when the time comes!

  23. Mostly fine, but I forgot cat=ounce. Once I recalled that though, the last few fell into place including COUNTERPOINT. Around average time again, and more or less in line with QUITCH.

    LOI was EVICT – well hidden from me at least! I really liked the alliterative clue for ALLITERATION.

    Alex/Victoria also sets Quiptics and cryptics as Carpathian for the Guardian (also as Vigo for the Independent, though I have never done an Independent puzzle as there is only so much time available to me). In fact I think she set the most recent quiptic on Monday, which was around this kind of level as well.


    1. FWIW Quiptic is now available on Saturday along with The Guardian’s new 11x11QC which is aimed at beginners (but still has a couple of toughies for them!)

      1. Thanks ND – I hadn’t spotted that.

        The 11×11 should be an excellent starting point for someone totally new to these.

  24. I was quite pleased to finish this well inside target at 8.10, as it seemed a good deal harder in solving than my time suggests. I so very nearly tripped up however with the fairly straightforward answer at 11ac, where I initially dashed in EYE and then moved on. Fortunately on this occasion I had a quick last minute check and rectified the error. I had my fingers crossed for COUNTERPOINT as I wasn’t convinced that Point would suffice for feature.

  25. 21 mins…

    A good test today – but still enjoyable. In fact, I think I had more trouble with Mike’s musical explanation of “Counterpoint” 😀 which somewhat frazzled my brain first thing in the morning.

    I’m guessing it’s a pangram with all the “Z’s”, “W’s” and “Y’s”, but I’ll have to go back and check.

    FOI – 1ac “Feast”
    LOI – 1dn “Figure”
    COD – 8dn “Counterpoint”

    Thanks as usual!

  26. Found that mediumish and to be honest a little bit pedestrian compared to Alex’s usual offerings. COD to POI GULLY, very good. Took a trawl to see LOI FIGURE; I find that I either get double definitions straight away or have a real wrestle. All done in reggo 08:34 for 1.1K and an OK Day.

    Many thanks Alex and Mike.


  27. 10 minutes for me, with several not fully parsed including LOI COUNTERPOINT.
    Nothing particularly held me up and have seen plenty of ounces in puzzles.
    Interesting discussion about ise/ize.
    One of my pet issues is advisor/adviser.

  28. A real mix of the straightforward and the confusing! NW corner came quickly, LOI CURTSEYS, which was obvious only after trying various possibilities. COD COUNTERPOINT, musical clues are always appreciated. INWARD still doesn’t make sense as “placed within”. Just under 10 minutes so a good start to the day.

    1. INWARD unsettled me partly because of “withIN” as definition. It was on my mind that a couple of months ago I DNFed with inward when it should have been onward. But a second look at the clue suggested there really didn’t seem to be any alternative when faced with “popular hospital room”.

  29. I found this really quite difficult, and had to hop around the grid trying to build up enough crossers to have a stab at some of the unknowns. In fact, I needed a second sitting to finish off the SW corner thanks to wrong end issues with Monastery. I’m also a bit surprised no one so far has commented on Trysting – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it written down before today. Invariant

    1. I thought of the 1960’s song Trysting the Night Away by Sam Cooke but research shows it was actually “Twistin'”.

  30. Well, I was VERY off wavelength and it took ages to progress after the easy ones like 1a FEAST and 10a SPACESUIT. But things slowly started to click and I speeded up a bit. However I cheated for 7a RENOUNCED despite having all the checkers; I think the brain had died by then and I wanted to move on.

  31. Found this to be on the tough side with RENOUNCED, COUNTERPOINT , CURTSEYS and MONASTERY the culprits. OUNCE should be banned!

  32. Technical DNF as I needed inspiration from the CCD for Gull and Point.
    Pretty difficult I thought, even with two sittings. Probably missed the train altogether.
    Was surprised by the spelling of CURTSEYS, but I see it is an alternative.
    Biffed RENOUNCED forgetting the snow leopard yet again.
    Thanks for much needed blog, Mike.

  33. Struggled to see LOI EVICT. I congratulated myself on spotting a hidden straight away yesterday – that’ll teach me. Couldn’t parse COUNTERPOINT and still a little unsure. Everything else went in easily enough. Informative blog (thanks Mike) and interesting link from Jack re: ize/ise. This discussion has come up before but I must admit I’d forgotten the specifics. Thanks to Alex.

  34. 27:33

    How tastes differ! I thought it was a tiptop solving experience. Who could resist the clue for 2D, but 10A, 12A, 3D, 6D (I am not a fan of talking birds either!) were all very pleasing. Medium difficulty for a happy start to the day.

    Thank you to Alex and Mike.

  35. Mostly pretty straightforward but I was held up for a long time by RENOUNCED and COUNTERPOINT. In fact I had to use an aid to solve the latter, despite having the first 7 letters. I’m not convinced by feature=point although I dare say it’s in the usual references. Anyway, those last two cost me probably 6 or more minutes of my 22 minute solve. Could do better!

    FOI – 1ac FEAST
    COD – 15dn ZITHER. Also liked TRYSTING.

    Thanks to Alex and Mike

  36. 6.45 A few glasses of goon last night have left me with a spiteful headache so I’m surprised at the speedy time. SCRIMP was LOI. Thanks Mike and Alex.

  37. Plenty to enjoy but a dnf thanks to RENOUNCE and COUNTERPOINT.
    Kicking myself as I made a note last time that Cat can be Ounce. But even with the initial C in place I don’t think I would have solved Counterpoint which was toughly clued.

  38. I found this fairly tricky and again had to make several passes to get crossing letters before things started to gel. FEAST was FOI, COUNTERPOINT was POI and RENOUNCED was LOI. 7:57. Thanks Alex and Mike.

  39. Started slowly today and never really caught up, below par at 15:17 though thankfully 2 minutes faster than yesterday. Unlike many, it seems, we weren’t substantially delayed by the animals but EVICT took some seeing and I think we should have got SATIN sooner than we did because it felt like a clue that has come up before. Interesting reference on ize / ise, though not having a grounding in Greek I can’t see myself being able to remember which verb takes which ending under the Oxford scheme. Thanks to Alex and Mike for the puzzle and blog and to jackkt for the reference.

  40. After slow start I was heading for a 25 min finish but beaten by Renounced and Counterpoint. Like many others cross with myself for not thinking of ounce. Which even in my limited experience has been used before. Otherwise enjoyed solving this one. Thx Alex and Mike

  41. The doors of the SCC opened for me as I reached the five-to-go point and I was quite happily eyeing a mid-20s finishing time. Unfortunately, all five of those clues (RAM, MARTEN, EVICT, SATIN and the POINT bit of COUNTERPOINT) were interdependent, down in the far SE corner.

    Much alphabet-trawling and brain-wracking later, I finally crossed the line in 37 minutes. And I never did see EVICT (my LOI) as a hidden.

    As I write, Mrs R has whizzed through all but two of the clues, …. but those two (RAM and MARTEN) are among the same seat that nearly thwarted me.

    Many thanks to Alex and Mike H.

    P.S. Mrs R has just finished in 31 minutes.

  42. Nice to see at least one setter is female! Now I’m intrigued to know which one is from New Zealand, and which one is American (Beck perhaps?).
    I shall search out the programme on BBC Sounds – sounds interesting. BTW I am currently dipping in and out of Two Girls, One on Each Knee by Alan Connor – most entertaining, and to be recommended if you haven’t read it before, although particularly suited to Guardian solvers, I suspect!
    I thought this was a nice, neat puzzle, and looked for a theme, as I think Alex has given us them in the past, but couldn’t see anything today. All done and dusted in 8:06.
    FOI Feast LOI Counterpoint COD Alliteration
    Thanks Alex and Mike for the informative blog

  43. found this one tough but got there in the end.
    Some biffing required
    system says that I have said this before 🤔

  44. 43:19

    Yes, 43! A very strange puzzle. I raced through the left hand side thinking a sub 10 might be on the card but found the right all but impossible. Couldn’t figure out why INWARD meant placed and was stuck on COUNTERPOINT and LOI RENOUNCED forever. DNK ounce was a cat.


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