Times Quick Cryptic No 2700 by Pedro

Solving time: 10:01

At times, this felt like walking through sludge – It really did test my mettle. All in all, the torment turned into a bit of a nightmare leaving me feeling pretty offal, though my heartbeat is hammering a shade more evenly now. Perhaps I should check-in to rehab for crossword addiction?

I often find Pedro a tougher cookie than the other setters, and this was no exception. I did get off to a reasonable start, but found myself bogged down after a couple of minutes. I fully expect though, that for some of you, this was a mere stroll in the park…

Let me know how you found it.

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

1 Newspaper feature in support of statuary? (6)
COLUMN – Double definition, the second mildly cryptic – statues may be supported by COLUMNs
4 Region in South Africa — or region of ancient Greece (6)
SPARTAPART (Region) inserted into SA (South Africa)
8 Flashy military pilots getting suspicious cut (7)
RAFFISHRAF (military pilots) with FISH{y} (suspicious without its final letter [cut])

Back in the late 18th century, RAFFISH meant “disreputable, vulgar,” and was derived from raff “people, usually of a lower sort” (1670s), which itself was probably from the mid-14th century rif and raf meaning “everyone, everything, one and all”.

Riffraff (from 1540s) is related i.e. “refuse, scum, or rabble of a community”. Similarly, in the 15th century, a group of young men or boys could be termed “a raffle of knaves”.

These days, according to Collins Cobuild, RAFFISH people and places are not very respectable, but are attractive and stylish in spite of this.

10 Protection US soldier provided in the main, after retreating (5)
AEGIS –  GI (US soldier) in the SEA (main), which is reversed [after retreating]

We had this answer and definition just last Thursday so no doubt this will be a write-in for everybody 😉

11 That fellow in pub backed treatment for alcoholism? (5)
REHABHE (That fellow) in BAR (pub) all reversed [backed]

Question mark at the end here denotes a definition by example i.e. it is one of many treatments available (which may or may not work)

12 Current measuring device encountered in more than half of America (7)
AMMETERMET (encountered) in AMER [more than half [the letters] of America]

‘O’ Level physics from forty-odd years ago, comes in useful sometimes!

13 Right name, possibly, for traumatic experience (9)
NIGHTMARE – Anagram [possibly] of RIGHT NAME
17 Stick seen behind a little creature in stream? (7)
TADPOLEPOLE (Stick) behind TAD (a little)

Another DBE denoted by ?

19 Item of music, quiet, on the radio (5)
PIECE – Homophone [on the radio] of PEACE (quiet)

I am not expecting any argument that these two words are pronounced identically 🙂

20 Cheese — French, originally — in legal case (5)
BRIEFBRIE (Cheese) then first letter of [originally] F{rench} (French [originally i.e. first letter]

In both British and US law, a BRIEF is a written statement of the facts and legal points supporting one side of a case, for presentation to a court.

21 Left-winger taken aback about blokes in distress (7)
TORMENTTROT (Left-winger) reversed [taken aback] about MEN (blokes)
22 Still likely to be gutted on a regular basis (6)
EVENLYEVEN (Still) L{ikel}Y to be gutted i.e. remove all except the end letters
23 Small toboggan circling start of deep mud (6)
SLUDGES (Small) LUGE (toboggan) circling start of i.e. around the first letter of D{eep}

A LUGE is a small one- or two-person sled on which one sleds face-up and feet-first.

Were you looking for a SLEDGE, SLED or SLEIGH here too? Nice misdirection by Pedro…

1 Copper not common in poison (6)
CURARECU (Copper – chemical symbol) RARE (not common)

CURARE is a bitter, resinous substance obtained from the bark and stems of some South American plants. It is traditionally used by some Indian peoples to poison their arrows and blowpipe darts, with the purpose of paralysing their prey.
2 Socialist Worker sales campaign? Car from abroad appears? (4-4,5)
LEFT-HAND DRIVELEFT (Socialist) HAND (Worker) DRIVE (sales campaign)

In the UK, we generally use right-hand drive vehicles. Many (the majority of?) cars from abroad (relative to the UK) would be LEFT-HAND DRIVE – the question mark suggests that there are exceptions…

3 Bloke picked up claim to find a lot of correspondence (7)
MAILBAG – Homophone [picked up] of MALE (bloke) would be MAIL, then BAG (claim)
5 Item from Biblical book son held in part of hand (5)
PSALMS (son) in PALM (part of hand)

A PSALM is a “sacred poem or song,” especially one expressing praise and thanksgiving. Originally, in both Latin psalmus and Greek psalmos, the meaning was “performance on stringed instrument; a plucking of the harp”.

After some hesitation, the pedantic PS spelling has prevailed in English, as it has in many neighbouring languages (German, French, etc.), but English is almost alone in not pronouncing the P….

6 Title for bishop, just left-wing, never confused internally (5,8)
RIGHT REVEREND RIGHT (just) RED (left-wing) with an anagram [confused] of NEVER inserted [internally]
7 Claim a strand of hair twisted up (6)
ASSERTA with TRESS (a strand of hair) reversed [twisted up]
9 Sign of life and courage on patrol (9)
HEARTBEATHEART (courage) on BEAT (patrol)

The ‘on’ is apposite here, this being a down clue.

14 Computer program modified real clothing (7)
APPARELAPP (Computer program) then anagram [modified] of REAL

From Old French apareillier “prepare, make (someone) ready, dress (oneself)”. Compare with modern French habiller “to dress”, which originally meant “prepare, arrange”.

15 Out-of-date about book and unlikely to change? (6)
STABLESTALE (Out-of-date) about B (book)
16 Married? Agree to lose initial spirit (6)
METTLEM (Married) then SETTLE (Agree) losing its initial letter

METTLE is a variant spelling of ‘metal’ from the 1580s. Both forms of the word were used interchangeably (by Shakespeare and others) in both the literal sense, and in the figurative sense of “stuff of which a person is made, one’s physical or moral constitution”, and more specifically “ardent masculine temperament, spirit, courage”. The spellings diverged in the 18th century, this form taking the figurative sense.

This was my LOI.

18 Liver and kidneys, say, not available, entirely running short (5)
OFFALOFF (not available) ALL (entirely) without its last letter [running short]

OFFAL, meaning “waste parts, refuse”, especially the waste meat and entrails of a bird or animal used as food, was around in the 14th century. The notion is that which is allowed to ‘fall off’ the butcher’s block as being of little use. Compare with Middle Dutch afval and German abfall both meaning “waste, rubbish”.


69 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2700 by Pedro”

  1. 10:23. METTLE was my LOI as I was distracted by FETTLE for no good reason. Like Mike I thought first of sleigh/sled/sledge before LUGE popped into the brain. RAFFISH and TORMENT were favourites.

  2. This felt like a walk in the park, until I saw I was already past my 6 minute target with several clues to go. 7:35.

  3. 10 minutes. Time lost because early on with the NW segment complete other than 8ac I tried to fill it by reading the clue to 4ac which I was unable to solve because I was looking at the wrong checkers. Crazy! Once I had recovered from that things progressed smoothly until the grid was completed.

    I took the question mark at 11ac to indicate a DBE on the grounds that alcoholism is only one of many conditions that can be treated by REHAB rather than REHAB being one of many treatments available for alcoholism.

    I took 17ac as a DBE because a stream is only one place you may find a TADPOLE. All the tadpoles I went fishing for were in ponds.

  4. 9:50
    SLUDGE is a great clue, as noted, with all those other words ( esp Sledge ) for misdirection.

    My FOI, CURARE was also a NHO, that’s not common.

    COD SPARTA “region in South America”

    1. Curarist is a regular blogger here. I suspect he would be sad to lose one of the tools of the trade when sending his charges to sleep.

  5. Not much to show for my first run through of acrosses but downs were kinder and I build from the bottom. Needed the F from RAFFISH to get LEFT-HAND DRIVE and that opened things up allowing an all green finish in a surprisingly speedy 9.40 after the same sledge/SLUDGE tussle as others.

  6. Mettle was LOI taking us out to a nice 21.06, and all parsed.

    Enjoyed lots of clues on the way, COD to left-hand drive. Certainly no complaints here that piece and peace are pronounced the same but a MER that peace = quiet. If that’s the case why do we want peace AND quiet??

    Thanks Pedro for the entertainment and Mike for the interesting blog.

  7. I think I may have discovered a new dance rhythm to go with Quick, Quick, Slow – on this puzzle it was Quick, Quick, Crash. All done bar 16D in about 8 minutes and then a DNF. It appears I never knew that one spells METTLE like that, as I thought it was metal (as in “he showed his metal/he showed some steel”). So I concede to Pedro today.

    Many thanks Mike for the blog

  8. After a slow start, not helped by reading ‘statuary’ as ‘statutory’ in 1a, I actually found this quite gentle. I managed to avoid the temptation to biff ‘sledge’ and particularly enjoyed TADPOLE.
    Started with AEGIS, thanks to it’s recent appearance, and finished with METTLE in 6.44.
    Thanks to Mike

  9. Not quite as slow as usual, 17:30 and only biffed RIGHT REVEREND as I didn’t bother to unravel REVEREND. Enjoyed SLUDGE and LOI METTLE. Pleased to see AEGIS, familiar to me in the guise of the USA’s ABMD, Anti Ballistic Missile Defense program which was born out of abandonment of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), designed to put a cordon of nuclear warheads around the earth. And on that happy note, good day to all.
    Thanks Pedro and Mike

  10. 21A & a 13A! Another annoying DNF as I was not on my mettle, couldn’t work out 16D other than it probably started with M…. Otherwise enjoyed it. Nice to see AEGIS again so soon!

  11. “Homophone [picked up] of MALE (bloke) would be MAIL, then BAG (claim)”

    I thought LIAM was the bloke written upwards as a down clue?

    1. Luckily, it doesn’t matter how you arrived at the correct answer! It does indeed work both ways.

  12. Started slowly, spent a good minute over my LOI (I was relieved to find it wasn’t just me), but I flew through the intervening parts in around 3 minutes.

    TIME 4:49

  13. I managed a fairly quick time (less than 10 minutes) but only by writing things in which seemed obvious. How does even work for still? Even so surely??? thanks all!

    1. As in the phrases ‘even more’ or ‘even less’, for instance, where you could just as well transpose ‘still’.

  14. Joined at the hip as ever with Plett, I too found that straightforward and finished faster than yesterday. Funny old game, Saint.

    NHO AMMETER and tried for a bit to get AMP in there. Also took a wee while to see SLUDGE. Great to see Zeus’s shield back again!

    COD to TADPOLE; all done in 07:17 for a Red Letter Day. Great blog Mike, lots learned! Many thanks Pedro.


  15. Hard not to put in SLeDGE – COD. I travelled down the RHS first but was forced to leave 16dn for later. Then the rest filled up. So back to 16 – which then took a minute to be happy with how it all worked. Maybe that’s a joint cod. Pretty quick in the end at 8:41. Thanks for the blog.

  16. I found this very easy and finished in 6:20. Just my LOI SLUDGE went in very hesitantly as I had never heard of LUGE but decided the answer had to mean mud. I finished all but PIECE, METTLE and SLUDGE in 5 minutes in fact, so without them I would have hit a personal record…

  17. Nothing too difficult but also nothing too easy, which had the result for me, like Kevin, of thinking I was on for a decent time but coming home in a distinctly average 11:25.

    I think METTLE has to be the epitome of the LOI, as I struggled to see it even with all the checkers present. Nice to pick up some blogger etymology in the form of CURARE, had never been curious enough to look that one up.

    Enjoyed that the SLUDGE clue made your crossword short synonym knowledge work against you, and have to say that S + LUGE would not have been my third or even fourth thought, so glad that the biff occurred to me early.

  18. I found it straightforward, with everything going in in good order. Lots to like. SLUDGE probably COD, METTLE LOI.

    Unfortunately, when I entered REHAB, my poorly coordinated paws mashed the G instead of the H, to give me REGAB and LEFT GAND DRIVE and 2 errors.

    4:07 but DNF.

  19. I didn’t think this was too bad for a Pedro, starting with 1d and then getting quite a few more on my first pass through. A bit of a struggle towards the end though, with Tadpole, Evenly and loi Mettle. Gave up on the idea of a sub-20 to have another think about the parsing of Sledge, as I couldn’t see (for all the) Mud. Sludge eventually came through as a delayed pdm. CoD to 7d, Assert, for the follow-the-clue surprise. Invariant

  20. Well I thought I’d finished it, but CNP several (claim = BAG?) so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that two were wrong: biffed sETTLE but do see how METTLE works, and SLeDGE (always forget LUGE). It had to be CURARE, but NHO it. Thanks for the instructive blog.

  21. Failed on METTLE, too many distractions here this morning.
    Otherwise OK once I got going. FOI REHAB.
    I think of the Army Air Corps as military pilots but RAFFISH it had to be.
    Liked LH DRIVE, SPARTA, COLUMN, SLUDGE, among others.
    Thanks vm, Mike.

  22. A good test today from Pedro, and I failed to beat my target finishing in 11.16. I would probably just have made it except for METTLE which took a while, but allowed me to get my LOI which was PIECE. I initially fell for the trap by hastily putting in SLEDGE, but fortunately returned to it prior to stopping the clock, and managed to correctly parse SLUDGE.

  23. In between as to difficulty? Quite a few write-ins, but SE corner really tricky – encouraging that many found the same! Thanks as ever.

  24. 9:08

    Tricky but enjoyable.

    FOI CURARE, LOI COLUMN, as I too read statutory on first pass and left it.


    Thanks Pedro and Mike

  25. DNF, defeated by METTLE. Had to look up CURARE (NHO). Found this puzzle very difficult, needing the checkers to have a guess several times.

  26. DNF

    Mettle (unaware of alternate spelling)
    Assert (NHO tress)
    Aegis (unaware of Main meaning sea?)


  27. I must be on a roll because this QC didn’t put up too much resistance. I did hesitate over a few clues such as RAFxxxx, MAILxxx, xxxPOLE but not for long. No problem with METTLE and I remembered Templar’s anecdote about AEGIS last week. Completed from CURARE to EVENLY in 6:07

  28. Another nice morning pastime, many thanks Pedro.
    Particularly enjoyed the blog today, Mike. Always enjoy reading them but all the extra information included today made it especially interesting: thank you!

  29. A quick stroll in the park for me today. From my limited experience of the Quickie, I seem to get on well with Pedro and found this very straightforward, with no unknowns except CURARE, which looked feasible and was generously clued. Started at the top left and worked around anti-clockwise, finishing with SPARTA. I liked SLUDGE and METTLE. I do hope Curarist’s job is not poisoning people! Thanks Pedro and Mike.

    1. I think you may find he is/was in the business of putting people to sleep (and waking them up again).

  30. 6.34 DNF. A quick solve marred by a silly typo in AAPAREL. I did the same thing in the concise crossword today, also for the first time in months. Gah! SLUDGE nearly caught me out and I parsed METTLE after the event. Thanks Mike and Pedro.

  31. Gracious! what’s happening to me? Another DNF, saw METTLE but didn’t put it in because I couldn’t see how to parse it. Now that I do see it I’m baffled as to why I was baffled. Maybe the question mark threw me off. Rule 1: ignore capitalization and punctuation, except for question marks. Oops, sometimes ignore question marks too. Trawling threw up a lot of words, mettle, settle, seethe, gertie, bertie, bestie, centre, pestle and on and on. Gave up after 10 minutes on one clue.

    The rest went very smoothly so an entertaining non-solve. AMMETER was unknown to me; didn’t know BAG=claim either. Tempted by SLeDGE but thought twice, thankfully. CsOD TADPOLE (cute), LEFT-HAND DRIVE (chuckled).

    Oh Mike! 🤣 🤣 🤣

    Thanks Pedro.

    1. Bad luck, very annoying for you.

      Your experience with MEDDLE is the kind of thing that I do on a regular basis, so I really can imagine how you feel.

  32. Finished correctly in 55 minutes.
    Fair puzzle. (As in that quote from Monty Python: “he was a cruel man but fair. He did not want to nail my head to the coffee table. I had to insist”.)

  33. Very pleased to finish in just 22 minutes, which is fast for me, especially after a slow and unproductive first pass through the Across clues. Fortunately, the Downs fell more easily and I was able then to build on the checkers that came available.

    I was lucky to biff the two long Down clues, LEFT HAND DRIVE and RIGHT REVEREND, without having to parse them fully. The lower half of the grid proved slightly more difficult and my LOI was EVENLY.

    Many thanks to Pedro and Mike H.

    1. Oh! I didn’t notice until reading your comment that we have LEFT HAND DRIVE down the left, RIGHT REVEREND on the right, and HEARTBEAT down the middle. Cute! Also COLUMN and EVENLY (top and bottom left), maybe related.

      BRIEF TORMENT might even describe my experience trying to see METTLE 🙂

  34. 18 mins…

    I nearly wrote “Sledge” for 23ac and “Menthe” for 16dn, but could see both didn’t fit. However, I never did get my head around the parsing of 6dn “Right Reverend” until I read the blog.

    Overall, a nice offering from Pedro.

    FOI – 1dn “Curare”
    LOI – 16dn “Mettle”
    COD – 2dn “Left Hand Drive”

    Thanks as usual!

  35. Was slow to get going on this one with FOI 20A, but bit by bit got there.

    Helps that after a while of doing these you’ve come across words like CURARE before which you’ve hopefully not encountered IRL.

    Was held up by addressing the Bish as RIGHT REVERAND for which I have no excuse.

    I also fell into the SLUDGE!

    Thanks Pedro and Mike

  36. 12:22. I was never really on top of this one and was close to missing METTLE until it suddenly came to me. I liked SLUDGE, almost an onomatopoeia. As pointed out by several commenters above, it was generous of Pedro to acknowledge one of our distinguished Friday QC bloggers at 1d.

    Thanks to Mike for the educational blog and to Pedro

  37. Not even bothering. I don’t understand 1a. What is a statuary? Why start with such an obscure word. Gold award for putting people off.

    1. I always like to start with 1ac/d as well, but I couldn’t see 1ac today until I had some crossers in place. You can always move on and come back later – C*l*m*/Column/statue/statuary worked for me.

  38. I settled for sledge, so will be on my mettle for sludge next time: those errors apart, an entertaining solve in 15 minutes or so. Curare features in one of the Tintin books so with cu for copper, leapt off the page. The cheesy legal case was fun, and aegis returned days after its last appearance! Excellent blog – thanks Mike and Pedro

  39. 11:44 here, reasonably speedy for me. LOI – like everyone else – was METTLE, but no-one else has mentioned toying with MEZCAL as the spirit beginning with ME, at least until the crossers ruled it out.

    Thanks to Pedro & Mike.

  40. Too hard for me. I went fast for the first many I got but was completely stumped by 4 of the clues.
    For example I don’t think of tadpoles as living in streams (they may do) but I always see them in ponds. So I got nowhere near that one and never would have. I guess that sort of basic assumption is a problem. And Mettle just leaves me cold even after reading the very good blog explanation. Against that Mrs Oystercat was sub 10. Which she nearly always is. So perhaps I am just not very good at this.

    But I don’t really care because I have fun trying.

  41. I find Pedro challenging but got there eventually. Took ages to see METTLE. Thanks for entertaining blog.

  42. Late to this one after a pleasant lunch meeting with retired colleagues from Burroughs/Sperry/Unisys in Malton. Lovely day for a trip across the North York Moors! Managed to arrive on time despite waking up at 10:30 to find a diary reminder on my phone for the 12 noon meeting! Surprisingly, whizzed through the puzzle from COLUMN to EVENLY in 5:28. Thanks Pedro and Mike.

  43. 30ish min finish as interrupted by long phone call. Which I think helped me look at the more confusing clues afresh. Proud to have finished this interesting and tricky puzzle. Thanks Mike and Pedro

  44. 20 minutes.

    19 clues went in first time and I was flying. I got held up on the next 4, but was still on for a good time. Then I got held up by METTLE for 7-8 minutes.

    Yes, I know that is good for the most part, but ending up in the SCC after such a start is depressing. Too often I cannot ‘close the deal’.


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