Times Quick Cryptic no 674 by Flamande Friday 7th October 2016

Posted on Categories Quick Cryptic
Front of 1ac, 24. The clock said 7’55”, about average for me, but there are some beauties here. 1d, 11, 18, 24, the excellent 4d and the sublime 3d all make for a very satisfying Friday challenge from Flamande, who may or may not speak the primary distracter in the aforementioned 3d.

The one obscurity is gettable from wordplay; the potato discussion may rumble on; and any UK-centrism is fairly balanced, as noted below. Can I ask that if you put your time up, you say whether it is better than usual or the opposite? And do please comment if you can.


1. Book tough defender on the pitch (8)

HARDBACK – Definition is book, a BACK is a defender in soccer and other games, HARD = TOUGH

5. Search for food? (4)

GRUB – A double definition, GRUB means to dig or search in the dirt, and is also a colloquial word for food.

8. Keep most important article in metal container (8)

MAINTAIN – MAIN = most important, A is the (indefinite) article in TIN = metal container. The word ‘article’ in a clue should trigger thoughts of either THE (definite article) or A (indefinite article). TIN, meanwhile, can be money, metal, element, backward idiot etc. etc.

9. Kitchen equipment from Coventry (4)

OVEN – C{OVEN}TRY – ‘from’ may be the trigger word for such a clue.

11. Girl associated with cider? One’s into wine (5)

ROSIE – From the famous book by Laurie Lee, concerning memories of his childhood, although some may have been embellished. One (I) into wine (ROSE). Clever surface to this clue, but how many other girls would you associate with cider?

12. Train former newspaper employees (7)

EXPRESS – An EXPRESS is a train (in some places and countries anyway; let’s leave aside the differences and avoid discussing infrastructure). EX- = former, PRESS = newspaper employees.

13. Minor rebuff (6)

SLIGHT – SLIGHT as an adjective means minor, SLIGHT as a noun is a rebuff, modern synonyms may be ‘blank’, ‘disrespect’ etc. A double definition.

15. First person to take artillerymen around fleet (6)

ARMADA – definition is ‘fleet’, as in the famous and ill-fated Spanish invasion force of 1688. First person is ADAM, artillery (useful crossword term) is RA for Royal Artillery, part of the British Army. ‘Around’ indicates a reverse, thus ADAM + RA reversed = ARMADA. Adam is the name given to the first person in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. Adam is formed by the Lord God from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7) – the ancient Hebrew word for humanity/man being adam, the word for dust being adamah.

18.Inside country house you’ll see an orchid (7)

VANILLA – V{AN}ILLA, VILLA being a country house (discussions on a postcard please – up here it’s a soccer team), with AN inside. It was news to me that VANILLA is an orchid; the name derives from the Greek for ‘testicle’, from the appearance of the ‘root-tubers’. This gives me a nice segue into 21ac.

19. Bet it’s a long time between start and end of war (5)

WAGER – a WAGER is a bet, a long time is an AGE, start and end of war = W—R

21.Underground root, not right for cylindrical container (4)

TUBE – The clue could be parsed as TUBER (underground root), minus the R (not right) = TUBE (cylindrical container). Or it could be parsed as TUBE (the London Underground (subway/metro) system); TUBE (root = TUBER, without the R); TUBE = cylindrical container – a triplet of indicators. Both parsings are nice, and valid, but only if you accept a TUBER as a root, which it isn’t – this has been the subject of much discussion on these pages.

22. Underwater explorer Edward turned away (8)

DIVERTED – An underwater explorer can be a DIVER (pace Tom Daley); Edward is sometimes shortened to TED. DIVER + TED = DIVERTED = turned away.

23. Head removed from shiny vegetable (4)

LEEK – {S}LEEK = shiny, head removed. Leeks, vegetables possibly similar in taste to onions, associated with Wales (in Henry V, Ancient Pistol is made to eat a raw leek).

24.Certainly not rare words of congratulation (4,4)

WELL DONE – words of congratulation = WELL DONE; in the cooking of meat, this is at the other extreme from ‘rare’. Nice distracters here as could spend a while thinking ‘Certainly not’ is the definition. See 4 down. If you should go to France, and you eat steak, it’s worth knowing the French terms: tartare (raw); bleu (just about sealed); à point (medium or thereabouts, but the French will be impressed as it means ‘just right’); and the Franglais ‘bien cuit’, which can mean ‘thoroughly’ or ‘well cooked’.


1 Sound of funny bone (7)

HUMERUS – Haha, a homophone for humorous, a bone in the upper arm. Incidentally, ‘humorous’ is spelt the same way in British and US English, despite the differences in humo(u)r.

2. Defeats Republican in US manoeuvres (5)

RUINS – R (for Republican) + an anagram (manoeuvres) of ‘in US’. It’s too serious to be flippant about this.

3. Dutch gambler having modest amount of ale? (6,4)

BETTER HALF – Definition is ‘Dutch’ = wife in cockney slang (probably from duchess) = BETTER HALF – jocular or serious term for spouse. BETTER = gambler; HALF = ‘modest amount of ale’, as in half pint. Undoubtedly my COD (clue of the day).

4. Shout about former president’s goodness (6)

CRIKEY – Definition is ‘goodness’ as in the exclamation, a mild oath or expression of surprise, derived from ‘Christ’. cf COR, MY. We have CR{IKE}Y – CRY = shout, about IKE, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th US President 1953-6.

6. Disorganised, I arrive in holiday area (7)

RIVIERA – anagram (Disorganised) of ‘I arrive’.

7. Initially brassed off with students getting extra money (5)

BONUS – ‘extra money’ = BONUS; ‘Initially brassed off’ = BO (first letters of words) + NUS (National Union of Students).

10. We helpers arranged to install a car part (5,5)

SPARE WHEEL – Anagram (arranged) of ‘We helpers’ including (to install) A = SPARE WHEEL.

14. Mean US soldier lifted old coin (7)

IGNOBLE – Definition is ‘mean’. This is a down clue, so ‘US soldier lifted’ is G.I. reversed = IG, + NOBLE, an obsolete gold coin.

16. Reduce size of brigade after reorganisation (7)
ABRIDGE = ‘reduce size of’, anagram (after reorganization) of ‘brigade’. Nice surface to this clue, but ‘reorganisation’ sets off alarm bells.

17. Some brought a gin, especially for N. African stew (6)

TAGINE – Sometimes in crossword land you have to take the wordplay and make a word you’ve never heard of, as in this case for me. Thus we have ‘Some’ (indicating an extract) of BROUGH{T A GIN E}SPECIALLY = TAGINE, a North African/Berber stew named for the pot in which it is cooked, also known as tajine, marqa or maraq. You can buy a posh cast iron tagine (pot) for £140, but it won’t be authentic as they should be made of earthenware.

18. Five Italians, not half lively (5)

VITAL = ‘lively’. V = five in Roman numerals, appropriately + ITAL (Italians not half). If this were clue number 17 I could digress about why Italians believe 17 (XVII) is unlucky.

20. Annoy husband leaving densely populated area (3,2)

GET TO = ‘annoy’; ‘husband leaving’ indicates losing the h for husband from G{H}ETTO, ‘densely populated area’, although the word has much uglier associations.

Whether this blog gets to you or pleases you, please comment – all feedback is most welcome and can help others.

24 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic no 674 by Flamande Friday 7th October 2016”

  1. A very enjoyable solve that occupied me for 9 minutes (1 under my target). I’ve found Flamande a little kinder of late, or maybe I’ve become used to him. His first three puzzles took me way over my target.

    I must have missed or forgotten the discussion about roots and tubers as I was not aware of the controversy. Needless to say the dictionaries have the looser definition covered so any complaints need to go to the lexicographers rather than the setter.

    Edited at 2016-10-07 12:49 am (UTC)

  2. My time suggests it was just on the easier side of average, but I felt while solving that it was just on the harder side of average.

    So let’s call it average.

    Thanks Flamande and Rob.

  3. I can’t remember what slowed me down, other than 4d, my LOI. (Eisenhower, by the way, served 2 terms, so it’s 1953-61.) I biffed ROSIE, with nothing at the time but a vague feeling I knew something about the connection with cider. I only knew of the book and its writer from a 15×15, which prompted me to Google him. 6:22.
  4. Thought I’d cracked this in record time, but got 3dn wrong. Put in bitter half, thinking bitter for ale. Was hoping it was some term connected with the Dutch somehow, but now just realised that would have ignored the gambler part. Gribb.
  5. SNAFU Central seems to have done it again; anyone out there get a reply from the Times people about what’s going on?
      1. Thanks; I already printed the regular, and did the concise on the Times site. Odd that the error message appears when one tries to get the puzzle, but not when one tries to print it–or when one clicks on ‘stats’, to find that the leaderboard is empty.
  6. Loved BITTER HALF (see above).

    This took me 5 minutes which is my usual time. The 15×15 took 30 minutes today. It doesn’t seem 6 times harder but I can never get my time down substantially.

    1. Might try ordering a half of ale this way next time I’m in a pub. See if they understand what I mean.
  7. 71 minutes so quite slow.

    Did half the grid (right side) in about 15 mins. The anagrams helped and I got most of them quickly.

    Then struggled with left side and especially nw corner.

    Enjoyable though.

  8. At 5’29” this was definitely the fastest for a long time for me – I usually pivot around the 10′ mark. Either this was easier than usual or I was right in the zone this morning. I’m hoping the latter.
    Tubers aside, nothing too controversial or too tricky.
    And yes Rob, please digress away about why XVII is unlucky for Italians.
    1. Difficult to credit, but true. Seventeen in Roman numerals is XVII. The Italians anagramatize this to VIXI. In Latin this is ‘I have lived…’, hence a precursor of death. Hence seventeen is unlucky in Italy.
  9. I thought this one was a pleasant stroll in the park, 11 minutes so well below my 20-25 average, and easy easier than yesterday’s DNF.

    I couldn’t parse “crikey”, and still not quite convinced by it meaning goodness, but it fit the words too well to be anything else.

  10. Harder than average I thought. I am not good on bones, and could not get my mind away from ABE for the President. Didn’t spot the cockney wife, and have certainly never heard of TAGINE. However, got there in the end which made it a very pleasing challenge. So thanks to the setter.
  11. This made a very welcome change from the previous QCs this week. Fully parsed in 22 mins, which makes it my 2nd quickest solve. As that one was also Flamande, it might just be that we think alike. 3d ran it close, but my CoD is 24ac, for its surface. By the way Rob, I think there is a sanguine (?) missing from your cooking guide, north of bleu. Excellent blog – bien cuit. Invariant
  12. This was easier than the last two days and I got it done in about 20 minutes, a bit longer than my target.The time taken for me depends on my rather random order of solving. I was making progress in the SE and wanted to put Rejected in for 22d without really thinking of the parsing. That style can lead to hold-ups. Fortunately I knew Tagine and I was back on the right track. LOI was 23a and favourite 4d (quite tricky for a QC). David
  13. I think an excalmation mark after goodness would have sorted 4 down which had me stuck for a long time !
  14. A nice change of pace for me today after a couple of tricky puzzles, completed in 12 minutes – which is about as fast as it gets for me. LOI and COD was 4d but also enjoyed 1d.
  15. I’d say this was on the easy side of average. In fact the RH side was dead easy – less than five minutes – but the LH side contained several posers. Dutch=wife only clicked after I’d finished.
  16. I agree it’s been a tough week but going back to partly left puzzles I have managed OK. Today was definitely easier but still about an hour on and off. I am not good on horticultural clues so needed to research 18a vanilla to be sure of it. LOI 14d ignoble. COD 3D better half. Nice puzzle to work on so thx to Flamande and to our blogger too.
  17. Twelve minutes for me, with BETTER HALF the LOI, after flirting with BITTER, as I so often do. Whereas the 15×15 left me defeated after a couple of hours today. I seem to be at the “unhappy medium” stage. Ah well.
  18. No problem with Crikey having the same meaning as goodness. They are both expressions of suprise.
    Ethel The Frog

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