Times Quick Cryptic No 2653 by Felix

A lovely puzzle from Felix, pitched a bit towards the gentler end.

I made fairly straight progress through this fun mix of clues, clocking in nicely under par at 5.39. Rather more time spent looking for the theme, which I think I’ve vaguely cottoned on to…

So I think our theme is The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: we have No 1 and LADIES in the second row, AGENCY in the twelfth, and er, SLEUTH in the eighth. The protagonist is Mma PRECIOUS Ramotswe and it’s set in BOTSWANA. But beyond that I’m lost, not having read any of the books or seen the adaptation, so I look forward to seeing if Felix has managed to hide away other bits and pieces.


Very nice with or without the theme – many thanks to Felix!

7 Sounds and smells overwhelming one (6)
NOISES – NOSES (smells) overwhelming I (one)
8 Women having ideals shattered (6)
LADIES – anagram (chattered) of IDEALS
9 Valuable park in very holy surroundings (8)
PRECIOUS – REC (park) in PIOUS (very holy). REC, short for recreation ground, crops up a fair bit.
10 Head of science to take up chair (4)
SEAT – S (“head” of Science) to EAT (take up). I can’t find TAKE UP = EAT in the dictionary (as opposed to just TAKE), but it’s fairly clear what’s meant.
11 Skilful band or society regularly appearing (6)
ADROIT – b A n D  o R  s O c I e T y, “regularly appearing”
13 Information concerning class (5)
GENRE – GEN (information) RE (concerning). GEN, short for “general information”, and synonymous with DOPE, also crops up a fair bit.
14 Reading or writing, perhaps, in each period (3)
ERA – reading and writing are two of the “three Rs”, insert one into EA. (short for EACH)
15 Hence cover for firm (5)
SOLID – SO (hence) LID (cover)
17 Hustle harassed detective (6)
SLEUTH – anagram (harassed) of HUSTLE
19 Wretched person without room (4)
WORM – W/O (without) RM. (room). My LOI: you get so used to WITHOUT meaning either “going outside x“, or simply “losing x“, that you forget its even simpler abbreviation.
20 Land found by swan swimming with boat (8)
BOTSWANA – anagram (swimming) of SWAN with BOAT. Ooh, the giddy coincidental excitement, I’m going there on holiday in a few months! I think I’ll take this as a sign to read the first book in the series.
22 After long time, clubs in New York providing service (6)
AGENCY – after AGE (long time), put C(lubs) in NY (New York)
23 Extremely grasping relations in truth (6)
VERITY – VERY (extremely) grasping IT (relations). It/relations/congress/etc, occasionally less-euphemistically known as SEX.
1 Swine, one who’s uninteresting to listen to (4)
BOAR – we “listen to” the same as BORE (one who’s uninteresting)
2 Old picture used in autopsy chosen (6)
PSYCHO – “used in” autoPSY CHOsen
3 Various roads set to be overhauled (8)
ASSORTED – anagram (to be overhauled) of ROADS SET
4 An advantage, being endlessly luxurious (4)
PLUS – PLUSH (luxurious) “endlessly”
5 Strange youth? Very likely (4-2)
ODDS-ON – ODD (strange) SON (youth)
6 Last month, F Prefect’s friend becoming corrupt! (8)
DECADENT – DEC. (the last month), and F. Prefect from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy has as a friend A. DENT.
12 Remove dogsled I damaged (8)
DISLODGE – anagram (damaged) of DOGSLED I
13 Kaput goes vast heater! (3,5)
GAS STOVE – anagram (kaput) of GOES VAST
16 Bemoan unconvincing religious books (6)
LAMENT – LAME (unconvincing) NT (religious books)
18 Journalist having conflict with duke and king (6)
EDWARD – ED. (journalist)  having WAR (conflict) with D(uke)
20 Accepts Yankee on board public transport (4)
BUYS – Y(ankee) on board BUS (public transport)
21 Do, re, me, fa, so or la? (4)
NOTE – &lit, with the entire clue being both a literal definition and cryptic wordplay: as we are lacking the seventh note of the scale, there is “no  TE”

100 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2653 by Felix”

  1. I didn’t bother to parse DECADENT, and I’m glad I didn’t: I read the book years ago, but I doubt I could have recalled the name (I do remember Zaphod Beeblebrox, though). Unfortunately, I thought of NORM (no room) before reaching W, and thought maybe Norm was like Charlie. So 5:36 WOE.

    1. I did the same. For whatever reason, I have always found it easier to start crosswords from the bottom. I have convinced myself that the setters hide some easier clues there rather than at 1ac. Therefore, with No-Te my FOI, No-Rm followed shortly afterwards.

      I am not sure if others find it easier to start at the bottom?

      1. I start at the first clue and if I can’t get that I’ll go straight to the bottom. I don’t know if it’s a good idea

  2. I had never heard of the three ‘r’ s so thanks for clearing that up, I was very confused.

    I got tricked by a lot of red herrings today, extremely, without etc. Also I was like, ‘the Swan isn’t anagrammed, the Boat is!’ silly me.

    I enjoyed the ODD SON very much as well as the reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide – beloved book it may be, I spent a very long time playing the text based video game of the same name. Absolutely brutal.

    Anyway. I didn’t get WORM. There was a meme a few years back where women would ask their partners ‘would you still love me if I were a worm?’. My husband said yes because at least then I’d be more useful in the garden than I am now 😅

      1. You can still play them on your pc or your browser. I’m sure you weren’t rubbish they were so hard, and before there were internet walk throughs and tutorials for everything!

  3. At my LOI, I fell into the NORM trap and wondered who he was. So one pink square. I too could remember Zaphod Beeblebrox but Arthur Dent took a bit longer to exhume. I’ve seen the NOTE (no te) before, either here or in a Guardian crossword. I thought LADIES was all about toilets, but it is just a plain synonym. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  4. 8:33. I think this is the first time I’ve been able to identify a theme in one of Felix’s puzzles. I read (and enjoyed) several of the books in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series years ago and watched a few episodes of the TV adaptation. I had a vague memory of someone called NOTE, and looking it up now see that he was NOTE Mokoti, Mma Ramotswe’s first husband, who was a bit of a WORM. I liked the way Mma Ramotswe was described as “traditionally built”, perhaps a gentle way of saying she was SOLID.

    V. enjoyable with or without the theme, though same MER at EAT for ‘take up’ at 10a. Good to see a couple of popular culture references in PSYCHO and DECADENT. Favourite was NOTE which looks familiar from somewhere else as Paul says.

    Thanks to Mike and Felix

    On edit: I’ve thanked the wrong blogger as pointed out by Mike below. Sorry about that and thanks of course to roly

    1. Good catch on NOTE! For me too it was the first theme I’ve been able to see. Mma Ramotswe is such good company, I recommend her to all who still haven’t read her. But don’t expect much in the way of plot!

    2. Yes nicely spotted, and that’s interesting background about the characters – I’m going to take Steel City’s warning on board and give it a go.

  5. Thanks Felix, thanks rolytoly. Enjoyable throughout. My COD: 21d. But a question: Isn’t 21D the same kind of clue as the infamous GEGS? Which is to say, that the answer describes the clue in a particular way, but the clue does not contain a definition of the answer. I have no problems with the form myself, but I thought The Times proscribed clues which did not contain definitions. I’m also not sure what the “or” is doing in there. Without the “or”, the given sequence of notes has NO TE, which is fine. But if we treat each note individually, as the “or” implies, then each note is NOT TE. But tiny points, and a great start to the day.

    1. By my reckoning the clue has 6 definitions. Do? (4) = NOTE, ditto the other examples mentioned in the clue. ‘Or’ is there to indicate that any one of them may be the definition, but not all together as then the answer would be ‘notes’. The NO TE device is wordplay. That makes the clue a definition by example which to some is another no-no, but it’s mitigated by the question mark.

  6. I was going along quite nicely but hit the skids badly in the NE, where at 8ac I misread ‘women’ as ‘woman’ so spent ages trying to figure out a woman’s names from the letters in ideals. As for DECADENT, I didn’t realise it was THE last month so toyed with Mar, Ult and even H. And of course got nowhere. Not sure about eat = take up, nor do I associate worm immediately with wretched person. To cap it all off I had a careless BOOR at 1dn so all up a rather disappointing 11.48. Oh I didn’t see the theme either, but I never do even when I’ve heard of them

    1. I did the same with 8a and was quite chuffed when I quickly came up with Iselda – until the rest of the NE made no sense!

      1. That’s not bad! I had a checker that ruled that one out. I wondered about Aldise. It helped when I finally read the clue properly…

  7. 9 minutes Easy enough but I couldn’t have spotted the theme as the books and TV programme are unknown to me.

  8. 11:20, agree, on the gentler side. Yet again a Nina passed me by, how does anyone spot them?

    LOI DECADENT with very niche GK needed for A.Dent. Good though.

    IT=relations/sex is on Merlins pet peeve bingo card. As I often say, the younger set have hundreds of slang terms for IT, and this is not one of them.

    COD ODDSON although NOTE was also a great clue. No complaints about it being non standard form.

    1. I get tired of IT, too; but it’s no more part of my generation (your parents’ generation) than it is of the younger set; ditto for SA. Out of curiosity, could you give me an example or two of the many slang terms for IT currently in use by kids in their 20’s?

      1. I’m told that “Netflix and chill” is not just an invitation to watch a film on the TV

        1. Netflix and chill? I think I prefer ‘it’. Actually, it sounds rather like an updating of ‘Come up and I’ll show you my etchings’.

    2. Idk, I think a teenager might still ask his friend ‘so did you guys do it?’ when wanting to know if his mate had sex or not

      But sure, I await the day I see the word ‘smash’ in a crossword in its stead! 😂

    3. How many of the hundreds of slang terms (of which several are no doubt obscene/regional/not widely known/dated within 2 weeks), are of two or three letters which are useful for constructing a word?

    4. Actually, Merlin, I don’t approve of your somewhat laddish favourite clue, as noted in your Times blogger CV.😯

  9. A pretty straightforward puzzle this morning for me, although I spoiled things by feebly biffing VERITE (fr) and DORM instead of VERITY and WORM. Serves me right I guess. So 2 pinkies to my name to start the day off putting me on a 97.25% success rate so far this week.
    I absolutely loved NO TE, what a brilliant clue! PRECIOUS also made me smile.
    I also learned from (19a) WORM that ‘without’ can translate to ‘wo’ whereas I’ve always thought that it indicated ‘missing’ or ‘outside’.
    I’m on a 97.25% success thus far this week so am creeping back up.
    Many thanks to Roly and Felix.

  10. 8 minutes, with only a minor pause over EAT for take up and IT for relations, both of which seemed strained to me as I was doing the puzzle. LOI Worm, and I’m glad that for once I did the wordsearch backwards as otherwise I too might have thought of Norm.

    Many thanks Roly for the blog

    1. We’ve taken to doing our alphabet trawls across the keyboard in the app so W would have been our second letter – still don’t think we would have come up with worm😗

  11. Really enjoyed this . Some lovely surfaces and got to LOI worm but couldn’t see it. Then disaster, at 18.42 instead of pressing Check to make sure we didn’t have any errors pressed reveal and saw worm. Stared at it for 2 minutes but pretty sure we would have been DNF as couldn’t see it at all.

    Haven’t read the books or seen the series so no Nina spotting here.

    Thanks Rolytoly for parsing of era which passed us by. We did get Dent from HHGTTG but had forgotten Arthur – clever clueing that you need A Dent to go with F Prefect and great misdirection, was never going to see that F = Ford, bravo Felix

  12. Just missed an SCC escape at 21m, being held up by WORM for 3 minutes as I alphatrawled the answer. Otherwise enjoyable.

    Happy Thursday. Pi

  13. A rare sub-1o secured by not parsing ERA but then ruined by putting in BOOR. I knew it wasn’t right but pressed on regardless and then no proofing in the rush for sub-10. Enjoyed this one, smiles raised by ODDS ON and the simplicity of SOLID. A fifth pink square of the week – leaderboard now shows 9 in the last month.

  14. Grrr a typo in DECADENT (also unparsed having never read the book) spoilt what was otherwise a pleasant and fairly gentle solve. I’ve never read or seen the programme re the detective agency so, as usual, the them passed me by.
    Started with NOISES and finished with WORM in 6.52.
    Thanks to rolytoly

  15. I enjoyed this, although the theme was lost on me completely.

    TIME 3:53

  16. 5:48. A little slow being distracted by noises of my kitchen being replastered the other side of the wall from my study. I enjoyed DECADENT and NOTE, I hadn’t heard of the books in the theme so missed it. I wondered, after 6D, if it might be Douglas Adams and the detective agency being Dirk Gently’s, but there wasn’t enough to fit. Thanks Felix and Rolytoly.

  17. Couldn’t parse ERA, or rationalise IT in VERITY and biffed WORM all of which took me into my usual breakfast chair at 24 minutes.
    Thanks Felix and Roly

  18. Looked straight away for a Merlin-IT-harrumph; wasn’t disappointed. Please, dear setters, compose a single clue involving all of IT, ETON and PI: the combustion will power Britain for a month. COD to VERITY for the lolz.

    I was sluggish on this; I’m not good with portcullis grids. Brilliant surface for LADIES. Did anyone else try to make an anagram out of “bemoan”? I did, especially with an M and an N as the checkers. OBMENA felt as though they might be the religious tracts of an obscure sect somewhere. Then I got SOLID, phew.

    Plodded home in 09:30 for 1.7K and a Pedestrian Day. Many thanks Felix and Roly.


    1. For the Merlin Special it needs to include at least one obscure Christian name. We did have Edward today but he seems to have escaped censure as wrath was vented on IT. Could have scored a double blast of ire if the VERITY answer had been clued as a girl’s name!

    2. Yes, I did try to make an anagram out of “bemoan”. Gave up after solving only nine clues today. Found it very difficult.

  19. Fairly straightforward today. Loved the Arthur Dent bit. Verity I just guessed once I had the letters. The bottom left quarter was my last bit.

  20. 19 mins…

    A lovely puzzle pitched nicely. Never did parse 14ac “Era”, but it couldn’t have been anything else and struggled with the “IT” in 23ac “Verity”. From reading the blog, I can see I missed the clever subtlety of 21dn “Note” – and was about to categorise it as another “Police Station” from the other day.

    FOI – 1dn “Boar”
    LOI – 6dn “Decadent”
    COD – 6dn “Decadent”

    Thanks as usual!

  21. Needed Roly’s help to parse ERA, VERITY, WORM and DECADENT, all biffed, but otherwise a straightforward, quick solve.

  22. 18 mins.

    Got stuck on seat, era, verity, gas stove, and LOI decadent which I thought was a poor clue.
    COD note.

  23. DNF. Should have biffed DECADENT but completely mystified by F Prefect.
    Also put Norm.
    Not that easy unless one was in a good anagram mood.
    One of my early solves was BOTSWANA but did not think of the PRECIOUS detective.
    Not as enjoyable as usual but thanks vm, Roly.

  24. Fortunately, the Nina sailed past with barely a ripple to disturb an enjoyable solve that included quite a few pdms. Time spent at the end looking for an alternative to Norm (I needed Lament to get even that far) removed any lingering hopes of sub-20, but at least it produced the right answer. CoD to 6d, Decadent, for prompting HHGTTG memories, a nose ahead of the impressively disguised Botswana. Invariant

  25. Bravo for the Dent Arthur Dent clue: I can almost recite the text by heart. And for NO TE, simpler than, but almost in the class of, the infamous “Land of hope and ___(7)”. Kudos to WORM and BOAR for being heffalump traps.
    Didn’t spot the NINA (I never do, probably because I’m not looking, as they’re rarer in Big Brother) but I have spotted that the first across clue (where else?) includes the No 1.
    Oh, and from the days when the Times was rather less Ximenean and rather more erudite Church of England, the answer is ICHABOD “the glory is departed”, 1 Samuel 4.21. Morse would have got it. Eventually.

  26. Well that’s a first. I actually spotted the NINA before completing the puzzle. I was slowed up by just 3 clues; the parsing of DECADENT which I gave up on, the parsing of ERA which I belatedly got and WORM which needed an alphabet trawl. 8:15

  27. Oh dear, DNF; for some reason I too thought no room (nORM) for 19a Worm. I wasn’t able to find any reason for Norm being any more wretched than anyone else. DOH!

  28. Absolute car crash of 3, count ’em, 3 pink squares! 2 of them were down to a careless typo – GAD STOVE/DLEUTH. However, I had also biffed VERITE, without reading the clue properly, seeing IT and “truth”, so a genuine error there.

    Apart from that and obviously missing the NINA – it was a reasonable puzzle completed in a reasonable time, with WORM LOI and yes Templar – I also looked for religious books = BEMOAN*.


  29. 9:00

    Made heavy weather of this, confusedly thinking I was looking for a woman’s name (rather than a collective name for women) at 8a from __D_E_ with LAIS to bung in, and spending far too long barking up the wrong tree. Slow also on PLUS and PRECIOUS. Didn’t like EAT for take up, but did get WORM as my LOI. Saw it was a Felix and cursorily looked for a theme but have not read the book and missed all of the references.

    Thanks though to both Bletch and ITTT who kindly included me in their thanks (rather than Roly).

    Thanks Roly and Felix

  30. 20:57 … bucking the trend as didn’t really enjoy it. The archaic / more obscure definitions taking away my confidence that it was going to be a successful solve.

    And not helped by 85-year-old neighbour deciding to play with his petrol hedge trimmer as it’s a sunny day and my windows were open. Possibly if I’d not got up to close them, maybe just maybe, I’d have scraped out of the SCC but probably it was only 20seconds lost.

    Got stuck with SEAT/DECADENT and VERITY/NOTE for the last few mins plus WORM (LOI) had been ignored on earlier pass.

    Took a moment mid-solve to look for the NINA and spotted it based on the factors Roly mentions but likewise have never read or seen the adaptations. Probably I should.

    PS Felix on a Thursday? There’s a stinker on its way tomorrow …

  31. The Nina completely passed me by as usual, but I was grateful for a bit of knowledge that Arthur Dent was a character from ‘Hitchhikers’. I didn’t help myself in 3dn by not paying close enough attention to the anagram, and initially putting in RESTORED. It was easily corrected of course once I realised the across clues weren’t working, but in the end I fell at the final fence with NORM without giving a second thought about the use or significance of ‘wretched’. Other than that it was quite a speedy solve for me at 7.08.

  32. 13:50. I’ve read most of Alexander Smith’s Botswana books plus several of his other series mostly set in Edinburgh. Very prolific writer! Still, being Nina-blind, I totally missed what was going on. Didn’t know A. Dent and had trouble figuring out ERA. PRECIOUS was my COD. I think pretty well any English verb can refer to sex if said in a suggestive tone with a slightly raised eyebrow.

  33. Just having a quick scan through, so I may have missed it, but it doesn’t seem as though anyone has yet commented that 10ac SEAT and 19ac WORM make an anagram of Ramotswe – perhaps another little hidden tease…

    1. Yes super spot! Although anagramming separate answers to uncover a theme strikes me as more GCHQ than QC!

  34. For the NINA, I think Felix has done something clever with the ERA clue which is about reading and writing. According to wikipedia, the term of respectful address for a man is RRA

  35. Didn’t find this particularly easy and didn’t see the theme despite having read the books, but then I never look for them. I finished in a somewhat interrupted 20 minutes with three unparsed – PRECIOUS, VERITY and DECADENT. I had no hope of parsing the latter as I’m not familiar with the book and would never have understood IT=relations.

    FOI – 10ac SEAT
    LOI – 19ac WORM
    COD – nothing really stood out for me until I came here and realised I had not noticed the lack of te in the 21dn clue. Excellent and definitely my COD

    Thanks to Felix and Rolytoly

  36. I didn’t know the books or TV series, so was never going to identify the theme. I also biffed DECADENT as I had the crossers and December clinched it. If I had read the rest of the clue, Marvin and co would’ve confirmed the diagnosis. The top half was a clean sweep of acrosses until I reached SLEUTH. WORM and BOTSWANA came after I had some downs in. Missed the clever NO-TE, but NOTE was no trouble. FOI was NOISES, LOI, BOTSWANA. 5:52. Thanks Felix and Roly.

  37. A real mix of the straightforward and the challenging! Arthur Dent and Hitchhiker’s Guide are unknown to me, but DEC led to the answer. COD NOTE, just brilliant thinking on the part of Felix. WORM was a guess as I’m unconvinced that it relates to a wretched person.

  38. Made it home in 24 minutes, so a good day for me. However, it was not a smooth passage at the end. LAMENT and WORM took 6-7 mins minutes of head scratching and alphabet trawling.

    I think we all need SLEUTH-like qualities, just to complete these exasperating cryptic crosswords. I’m more like the bumbling local Bobby than Sherlock or Hercule.

    Thanks to Felix and Roly.

  39. I too was mystified by F Prefect until Pumpa pointed to my HHGttG paperback box set (containing all five books of the “trilogy”. I’ve not read the sixth one and don’t think I will either. Whenever another author tries to pick up the mantle of an original author, they often “IT” it up.). I do feel that the setter could have included the full FORD, without giving too much away.

    I didn’t read 19a correctly. I had -O-M, saw room and immediately put DORM without thinking about it. Silly really as it gave me a pink square.

    Also needed Pumpa’s help with 23a.


    My verdict: enjoyable
    Pumpa’s verdict: not as nice as a Tesco Cat Stick.

    1. I initially felt the F PREFECT clue would have helped to have the expansion but later realised it is written that way to give you A DENT i.e. only use the initial of the forename.

      I reread the ‘trilogy’ back in lockdown. I felt like I knew every word of the early books having read them two or three times plus relistened to the Radio series when it was on a couple of years back. The last couple of books were less familiar. And I agree about not going anywhere near book 6.

  40. Anybody else waste time looking in the dictionary for that archaic word MARADENT meaning corrupt as an answer to 6D? I nearly did before that PDM moment!

    1. I’ve certainly done similar things many a time, and with much more improbable collections of letters – maradent is not only quite a plausible word, but quite a plausible word for corrupt.

  41. 12.55 I found this harder than yesterday’s. It was mostly OK but I couldn’t parse ERA, NOTE and DECADENT, which took several minutes at the end. I knew there was a Latin word meaning last month and I spent some time failing to remember it. LindsayO put me out of my ignorance. Thanks rolytoly and Felix.

  42. Couldn’t parse DECADENT (not au fait with the book at all), VERITY or PRECIOUS and just couldn’t see WORM at all for a wretched person. COD NOTE.

  43. 21:00, a little under par for me, so it must have been very gentle, to allow me time for three(!) alphabet trawls before finding WORM (so, so hung up on NORM) as well as stupidly repeating to myself that PSYCHO is obviously there but it has nothing to do with old pictures!

    Many good surfaces, I especially liked the idealistic women. Thanks roly and Felix!

  44. 5.26

    Love the books though totally missed the theme. Also loved the puzzle the blog the conversation about IT and SA and a couple of great clues (VERITY and NOTE)

    Thanks all

  45. 13:30 here, enjoyed this one a lot. Totally missed the theme, despite having read some of the books. Ah well. COD to DECADENT for the “F Prefect” idea.

    Thanks to Felix and rolytoly.

  46. DNF

    Well that was almost too easy. All done in 10 minutes. But then couldn’t figure out LOI WORM and I assumed NORM was a reference to Norman Bates, the wretched person in psycho.


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