Times Quick Cryptic No 644 by Hawthorn Friday, 26 August 2016

Posted on Categories Quick Cryptic
This is a fine Friday QC offering from our esteemed Puzzles editor, an excellent start to the Bank Holiday weekend. Although finished in just under eleven minutes, I found more and more to comment on while writing the blog. Definitely fewer than usual of the sometimes very obvious anagram indicators – just consider the various ways here of indicating an anagram (mixture of letters): playing, grotesquely, nuts, disguised, dodgy, around… Plus some very fine ‘surfaces’ – first or literal readings of the clues, which can mislead, or perhaps allude to the answer.


7. Ruffian who loses head playing in goal (8)

HOOLIGAN Definition is ‘ruffian’ – WHO loses head = HO + anagram (playing) of ‘in goal’.

8. I governed Middle Eastern state (4)

IRAN ‘governed’ = ran. ‘Emir’ was the first word to spring to mind, but I resisted the temptation to biff (bang in from definition).

9. Stick advertisement in this place (6)

ADHERE advertisement = AD + ‘in this place’ = HERE, definition is ‘stick’. This one may be becoming a chestnut, am pretty sure we had it recently.

10. Make amends an hour after midday (5)

ATONE – ‘an hour after midday’ is one o’clock, i.e. AT ONE, ATONE means to make amends. The fine novel Atonement by Ian McEwan shows that attempts to make amends can be tortuous.

11. Gobble some treats (3)

EAT- Gobble = EAT, some treats = EAT, contained in the phrase

12. Where one might find glove available (2,4)

ON HAND – definition is ‘available’, and you might find a glove on a hand, or more likely in a lost property office or sock drawer.

14. Coating of luxuriant hair receding — then finally none left (6)

ENAMEL – the coating is ENAMEL, as on teeth or older baths. ‘Luxuriant hair’ is MANE, receding means backwards. ‘Finally none’ indicates the last letter of none – E, and ‘left’ = L. A brilliant clue, in that it reads very sensibly, like many in this puzzle. The key word for me was ‘receding’, which triggers thoughts of words or parts of phrases going backwards.

16. Thirsty person, perhaps, drinks River Test! (3,3)

DRY RUN – the definition is ‘Test’. The ‘thirsty person’ is a DRY’UN, containing (drinks) R for River

18. Shameful broadcast observed and performed (6)

SORDID – definition is ‘Shameful’. ‘Broadcast’ indicates a homophone/sounds like, so ‘observed’ = SAW = SOR. ‘Performed’ = DID. Hence SOR + DID. This was my LOI (last one in).

19. Answer point as appropriate (3)

APT – all abbreviations, A for answer, PT for point. ‘Appropriate’ is a useful word in crosswords as it can also mean ‘steal’.

20. Classical writer’s hero grotesquely seizing head of Medusa (5)

HOMER – the ‘classical writer’ is HOMER, who allegedly wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, although they’re more likely products of a committee. ‘Hero grotesquely’ indicates an anagram of ‘hero’, HOER, seizing (including) the head of Medusa, M. This wonderful clue contains very fine potential misdirection. Taking, wrongly, ‘Classical writer’s hero’ as the definition we could think of Perseus who took the Gorgon Medusa’s head (even if we can’t remember the details, the statues and paintings may be half-remembered, and the whole image is ‘grotesque’). Hint: If you ever see an apostrophe in a cryptic clue, ask yourself whether it is possessive (belonging to the ‘writer’ in this case) or short for, for example, ‘writer is’. Plus see 1d below.

21. Vegetable right next to a plate (6)

RADISH – Right (R), next to ‘a plate’ = A DISH. A radish is definitely a vegetable, so no need for discussion about fruit, legumes or tubers, unless…why is it never cooked?

23. Toil endlessly to produce smile (4)

GRIND – this is GRIND (toil) endlessly, without its last letter. Not sure that a grin is quite a smile. On the other hand, if you try to smile and do not fully succeed, you can end up with a stupid-looking grin, so maybe that’s the point.

24. Disregard past appearance (8)

OVERLOOK – ‘Past’ = OVER, ‘appearance’ = LOOK, and if you OVERLOOK something, you disregard it. Worth noting that this is only one of the two common uses of OVERLOOK, which can mean (1) to see, then ignore, or decide to forget, as in this clue, or (2) to not see at all.


1. Hermit accepting university teacher’s become capital fellow (8)

LONDONER – definition is ‘capital fellow’, in this case someone from London, the capital of England. ‘Hermit’ is LONER, including (‘accepting’) DON ‘university teacher’. Having until recently been a teacher/lecturer in a Millennium University, I was never, ever, referred to as a don. Note particularly in this clue that the ‘s is short for ‘has’. See above at 20 ac.

2. Lose nuts and fruit (4)

SLOE – from which a type of gin can be made. Definition is ‘fruit’. ‘Lose nuts’ indicates an anagram (‘nuts’) of ‘Lose’ = SLOE

3. A truncated Green Day set (6)

AGREED – definition is ‘set’ = AGREED. A + GREE (truncated Green) + D (day). I am not familiar with the works of Green Day, who I believe are, or were, a band. ‘Set’ has the largest number of definitions of any word in the English language, but in this case the misdirection refers to the (list of) songs played during a live performance.

4. Con man disguised in dodgy tie (6)

INMATE – definition is CON, short for convict, the present (or past) inmate of a prison. ‘Man disguised in dodgy tie’ indicates an anagram (disguised) of MAN in an anagram (dodgy) of TIE. Fans of Orange is the New Black will know that the women prisoners are all called ‘inmate’ by the guards.

5. Reptile is around rocks (8)

DINOSAUR – a dinosaur was a reptile, although there was no-one around to call them that. ‘Rocks’ indicates an anagram of ‘is around’. The clue nicely conjures up images of lizards scuttling over rocky terrain.

6. Prepared venison, for example (4)

GAME – possibly the most difficult clue, as the checkers only give the vowels, and short answers are in my opinion usually more difficult than long ones. If one is GAME, one is ready, prepared, for something. Venison still counts as ‘game’, i.e. hunted meat, but is more likely to be farmed nowadays.

13. I’m puncturing a friend’s spleen (8)

ACRIMONY – ‘spleen’ = acrimony, possibly from the belief that the emotion was centred in the bodily organ. IM (disregarding the apostrophe) is in (puncturing) A CRONY, where a crony is a friend – although I think the word ‘crony’ has negative connotations.

15. European campaign issue (8)

EMISSION – an ‘issue’ is something that issues, in this case, EMISSION, made up of E (European) and MISSION (campaign). Also, note, EMISSIONS (CfCs, diesel, nuclear) tend to indeed be European campaign issues, so this may possibly be what some call an ‘&lit’ clue.

17. Slender tip of Neolithic projectile (6)

NARROW – N (tip, first letter, of Neolithic) + ARROW (projectile), ‘slender’ is the definition. And the tip of an arrow or stone knife is narrower than the rest.

18. Road from outskirts of Stockport lined with oak, perhaps (6)
STREET – ‘outskirts of Stockport’ = ST, first and last letters, lined with (i.e. has inside), TREE (oak, perhaps). A street is a road, a road is not necessarily a street… hang on, what about Watling Street?

20. Feather duster harbours group of creatures (4)

HERD – The ‘group of creatures’ is a HERD, the phrase ‘Feather duster’ contains the word: {featHER Duster}

22. Artist brought up one boy (4)

DALI – being a down clue, ‘brought up’ indicates reversing words for ‘one boy’ i.e. I LAD. How many artists have four letters? GOYA, MIRO, HALS….

I am definitely enjoying this blogging, and all comments are most welcome.

18 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 644 by Hawthorn Friday, 26 August 2016”

  1. Congrats on your most comprehensive blog, Rob. I was somewhat troubled during the solve because I kept hitting on clues where the answers were not obvious on first reading so I swiftly abandoned them and moved on elsewhere in search of easier pickings trusting that on returning to them later once a checker or two had been added the answers would come more readily to mind. Additionally one of the answers that had occurred to me (MADE at 6dn) only worked as a definition, not as wordplay, so was probably incorrect and this unsettled me as I continued solving.

    I completed the grid in my target 10 minutes but was not satisfied with MADE so I spent as long again doing a mental alphabet search before coming up with GAME. I think the clue is fair enough (as the dictionaries confirm) although I now remember on a previous occasion venison was classified as “game” and this was the subject of discussion and dissent in some of the ranks.

    Edited at 2016-08-26 05:25 am (UTC)

  2. Thanks indeed for this blog. I thought dry’un was a bit tenuous and like the venison clue a bit unnecessary. In my view there’s plenty of scope for cleverness without courting controversy!
  3. A fine crossword with some interesting challenges, but ultimately too hard for me with 14a and 18a unanswered. .I should have got mane so am cross about 14a. Brilliant clue for 18a but I would never have got it even if I had twigged I was looking for a homophone.
  4. Good blog, Rob – thanks. A bit harder than average, I think and I see I’m not the only one who thought so. I don’t cook radishes either… nor lettuce or cucumber, but they’re all vegetables to me. 7:41.
  5. Another DNF after an hour cut-off (5d, 14ac). That makes two on the trot, but with a completed 15×15 in between. Very odd. Invariant
  6. Didn’t like 18ac. ‘Sor’ is not a homophone for ‘saw’ outside SE England!
  7. Difficult puzzle requiring various aids to complete. Thanks for the excellent informative blog. Didn’t like “dry’un” as a word and took a long time to recognise “rocks” as an anagrind.
    1. This sort of thing will crop up occasionally and the two elements of the clue need to be separated. So thirsty = dry, and person = ‘un or one, perhaps more familiar in expressions such as “a good ‘un” meaning a good person.
  8. Found this one quite tough. Failed on 6d, tried made, and 18a. Needed help to get 14a, our worst effort for quite some time. Thanks for blog and to setter for stretching our brains. Elin and Ian.
  9. Some really easy entry-level clues lulled me into a false sense of security.
    A growing number were of the “I’ll come back to that one” type; this is my normal experience when trying to solve the Saturday cryptic.
    After about 30 minutes I had to down tools with about 6 clues outstanding. On my second look I got Dinosaur (COD for me) having earlier failed to see the anagram. The rest followed -last two were 16a and 13d. Excellent test. David

  10. Like David I thought this was an interesting combination of the easy and the difficult. No idea how long this took me today but it was two sittings with a lot of time staring blankly at my last 2 in – 16a (unparsed) and 13d. Also couldn’t parse 14a.
    Thanks for the excellent blog Rob – most informative
  11. This was a very good puzzle indeed, one that brings one back to earth just as I was starting to get cocky and think I can knock these QCs off in 20 minutes. Went off to umpire cricket on the world’s most beautiful ground (Getty’s) and returned to see the answers to 10 ac and 5 down. Then the final gaps started to get filled in. Had to cheat (Crossword Solver) to get ’emission’. No problem or complaint with ‘game’ or ‘dry run’, but ‘enamel’ was most satisfying to work out. DM

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