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QC 1285 by Teazel

I think this is the third blog in a row that I have come up against Teazel, and I also seem to remember that my first ever blog was on one of his puzzles. So he feels like an old friend now and today's puzzle is probably the most lively one I have ever blogged (from him or anybody). Full of entertaining clues, including a couple of clever misdirections as well as two clues that I found a bit questionable as you will read. I really enjoyed it, so many thanks for a 10-minute (medium difficulty) work-out. It really was great fun.

FOI was 5A I believe, and my LOI was the lovely 22A, which was also my COD on a day when there were several good candidates. Coming in close behind were 8A, 16A, 20A, 3D and 9D.

As an aside, a few weeks ago I referred to CID (I think) as an acronym. Kevin (I believe it was him) rapped my knuckles on the basis that an acronym has to be pronounced in general usage as a word rather than as a series of letters, as in UNESCO, or NASA, or FIFA. I acknowledged his comment and owned up to loose usage as that was my understanding as well. However I heard on the radio the other day the string of letters 'MTCSA' referred to as an acronym in a comedy programme. In fact, in that context it was set up as a self-referential joke as the letters stand for 'Mysterious and Therefore Cool-Sounding Acronym'. So I thought I would check up on it in the dictionary and it seems after all that an acronym is simply a string of initial letters, whether it can be pronouced as a word or not.

So having straightened that out I deployed my own acronym, the NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter), which yielded no results.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can manage.

1 Things people are going to say? (8)
GOODBYES - cryptic definition. GOODBYES are what people who are going (i.e. leaving) will say. I don't think the syntax quite works, but it is such a neat idea that I feel it would be churlish to complain.
5 London statue painful to put back (4)
EROS - SORE backwards ('put back').
8 Persevering, even if difficult terrain (13)
THOROUGHGOING - can be rewritten as THO' (even if) ROUGH GOING (difficult terrain).
10 Edged forward, with hooter? (5)
NOSED - hooter = slang for nose. Reminds me of a dear friend now departed who had a very big nose. I once mentioned to someone that he had passed my room and "put his nose round the door", to which the reply was "not all of it, surely?"
11 A little European larva (7)
TADPOLE - nice bit of misdirection here if you only had the last checker 'E', as I did, in which case you might have started looking for a 6-letter word meaning 'little', onto which you could tack E for European. As it is the parsing is TAD (a little) + POLE (European).
12 Profit from one number by country-and-western singer (4,2)
CASH IN - I (one) + N (number) 'by' CASH (late lamented C&W singer Johnny). I never cared for his music much until he started producing some very thoughtful stuff towards the end of his life, most notably for me an excellent cover of Nick Cave's 'The Mercy Seat'.
13 Compete to block drunkard in Russian council (6)
SOVIET - VIE (compete) 'blocking' SOT (drunkard).
16 Popular, Castro, but no Christian (7)
INFIDEL - IN (popular) + FIDEL (Castro, the late Prime Minister and latterly President of Cuba). OK, the defiintion is 'no Christian', but it could equally well be 'Christian', as the word INFIDEL is also used by Muslims to describe non-Muslims.
18 Fit in curve round lake (5)
BLEND - BEND (curve) 'round' L (lake).
20 Person consulted appearing uninterested in listening (8,5)
SOUNDING BOARD - if you are listening to the words SOUNDING BOARD you could hear them as SOUNDING BORED (appearing uninterested).
21 Crazy food for squirrel (4)
NUTS - double definition.
22 Drink beginning to befuddle Dame Edna (8)
BEVERAGE - a lovely misdirection. The first thing any self-respecting solver would do here would be to pick out 'befuddle' as an anagrind and attempt to apply it to DAME EDNA as anagrist. This even remains feasible after you have all the vowels as checkers and then you are left with the unpromising Scrabble selection of D, M, D, N. At this point the light should dawn as you realise that Dame Edna's surname is Everage, and if you take B (the 'beginning to' Befuddle) and put it in front you get BEVERAGE.
1 Board work harmoniously (3,2)
GET ON - double definition.
2 Players sit: boos break out (7)
OBOISTS - straight anagram ('break out') of SIT BOOS.
3 No puritan, keen on American women? (5-6)
BROAD-MINDED - BROAD is American slang for a woman. If you are keen on American women, therefore, you might always have them on your mind, and so might be said to be BROAD-MINDED.
4 Crews have no head for heights (6)
EIGHTS - take the 'head' off Heights and you have EIGHTS (rowing crews).
6 One impaled on terrible horn — its? (5)
RHINO - the definition is 'ITS?', as the horn on which one is impaled could be that of a RHINO. This is another clue where I don't think the syntax quite works. I (one) 'impaled' on an anagram ('terrible') of HORN. Except that to my mind it is the 'terrible horn' that is impaled on 'one', given that it is the I that goes right into the middle of RHNO rather than the other way round.
7 Section of, say, people in street (7)
SEGMENT - EG (say) + MEN (people) in ST (street).
9 I obliged Ben to arrange feature of hotel room (6,5)
GIDEON BIBLE - a lovely little anagram (of I OBLIGED BEN ('to arrange')) and pleasing definition. Is it still the case in these godless times that the Gideon Society manage to sneak a bible into every hotel room? I must look for one and check next time I'm in a hotel.
12 Edges into study, bright red (7)
CRIMSON - RIMS (edges) in CON (study).
14 President to refuse to allow a Japanese art form (7)
IKEBANA - the two most common presidential visitors to Crossword Land are probably ABE (Abraham Lincoln) and IKE (Dwight D Eisenhower). Here we have IKE (president) + BAN (to refuse to allow) + A = IKEBANA, the Japanese art of flower arrangement (in case you didn't know).
15 With power thrust forward and fall precipitously (6)
PLUNGE - P (power) + LUNGE (thrust forward).
17 Quickly grabbing uniform for opera (5)
FAUST - FAST (quickly) 'grabbing' U (uniform).
19 Avoid Santa Fe Trail city (5)
DODGE - double definition, the second one being Dodge City in Kansas.

QC 1275 by Teazel

I am afraid I am still very tied up with sorting mother out after her fall, but have now thankfully got her installed back home with appropriate care.

I am not even finding time for the 15x15 at the moment which grieves me greatly.

Bare bones stats therefore today.

Time: no idea. Done in odd minutes between sorting out carers and talking to various agencies on the telephone, but it felt like a very straightforward puzzle. Could easily have been a PB under better circumstances. As it is, thank you Teazel for a puzzle that provided a few minutes of welcome respite from less pleasant tasks.

FOI was 1A as you would expect in a puzzle of this sort. Same for LOI 22D.

As I did not feel any clue stood out in terms of difficulty I choose 15D as as my COD as being the neatest clue on show.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it as simply as I can manage.

NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) revealed nothing.

1 I had energy put into slim lamp (9)
SIDELIGHT - I'D (I had) + E (energy) 'put into' SLIGHT (slim).
6 Make meal shortly for Bill’s companion? (3)
COO - COOk (make meal) 'shortly', i.e. with the end chopped off. This gives 'Bill's companion', but perhaps the definition needs a bit of explanation to those of a younger age? Certainly 'to bill and coo' was a phrase I heard from my parents' era although I don't think it was ever used in anger (or in love for that matter) by me or my contemporaries when growing up. I believe it comes from the behaviour of doves, who join their bills (i.e. 'bill') when pairing off, and of course they also make the cooing sound ('coo'). So two people sitting together and kissing would be said to be 'billing and cooing' like doves even though the noises that they made might have been quite different from those that doves make. In time the phrase came to be applied more generally to the activities of lovers doing the sorts of things that they do when getting to know each other properly (after having been formally introduced, naturally).
8 Recipe for stubborn creature finally changed (7)
FORMULA - FOR + MULA (MULE, a stubborn creature, 'finally changed').
9 Keep away from a big gap? (5)
AVOID - A + VOID (big gap).
10 I send teen off in order to become competent (4,4,4)
FIND ONES FEET - straight anagram of I SEND TEEN OFF ('in order').
12 Point at which we cried (4)
WEPT - WE + PT (point).
13 Bob’s aspiration? (4)
HOPE - cryptic definition, Bob HOPE being a famous American comedian, now deceased and therefore the proud possessor of a Golden Entry Ticket to the great Crossword Land Theme Park in the sky.
17 Free latte was remarkably a universal provision (7,5)
WELFARE STATE - straight anagram of FREE LATTE WAS ('remarkably').
20 Pack of something jammy perhaps — love to tuck in (5)
TAROT - TART (something jammy 'perhaps', as alternative forms of tart are available), with O (love) 'tucked in'.
21 Charity event, collecting old clothes? (3,4)
RAG WEEK - RAG WEEK is a traditional student charitable event, and I suppose conceivably the participants could spend the week collecting RAGS (old clothes) for their favourite charities. So I see this as a straightforward cryptic definition.
23 Bricklayer’s tool to take in hand, not large (3)
HOD - HOLD (to take in hand) with the L removed (not large).
24 Communist design to attract alien, from here? (3,6)
RED PLANET - RED (communist) + PLAN (design) + ET (extra-terrestrial = alien).
1 Furniture up till now not quite complete (4)
SOFA - remove the last letter ('not quite complete') from SO FAr (up till now).
2 Little rodents in sleeping area freeze (7)
DORMICE - DORM (sleeping area) + ICE (freeze).
3 Look at university for boy (3)
LOU - LO (look [at] (in the bibilcal sense: "And Lo! They were sore afraid..." etc.)) + U (university).
4 Knotty old lady? (6)
GRANNY - In the Boy Scouts if you messed up your reef knot (a very secure knot) you would probably end up with a GRANNY knot (a very insecure knot that would likely slip and allow your companion to fall to a horrible death down whatever bottomless ravine you were trying to negotiate, resulting no doubt in a severe reprimand from Akela). So a straightforward cryptic definition.
5 Statement of the obvious? It settles the matter (5,4)
THATS THAT - Well, THAT IS, undeniably, THAT, and it does indeed settle the matetr.
6 Near a hundred are defeated (5)
CLOSE - C (100 in Latin numbers) + LOSE (are defeated).
7 Toy did move about, a curious thing (6)
ODDITY - straight anagram of TOY DID ('move about').
11 Heartless drive on farm vehicle that runs one down (9)
DETRACTOR - pluck out the heart from DrivE and then add the most obvious farm vehicle (i.e. not the combine harvester). DE + TRACTOR.
14 Sound of tiny feet — new example (7)
PATTERN - somehow, tiny feet always PATTER don't they? + N (new) gives PATTERN.
15 Tic could be this regularly? (6)
TWITCH - a nice little &lit. If you TWITCH regularly, you have a TIC. But if you take 'regular' letters from TwItCh you also have 'TIC'.
16 Notice adverse traffic light and lose temper (3,3)
SEE RED - SEE (notice) + RED (adverse traffic light).
18 Ruled out being tempted (5)
LURED - straight definition of RULED ('out') = LURED.
19 Take off small outfit (4)
SKIT - S (small) + KIT (outfit). Take-off in the sense of a humorous piece.
22 Hair preparation used by Nigella (3)
GEL - hidden word: NiGELla. Hopefully not used while she's cooking or you might get more than a hair in your soup. Oh, but I suppose it can't be THAT Nigella, as she hasn't yet earned her Golden Ticket to the Crossword Land Theme Park has she?

QC 1265 by Teazel

Thank you for all the good wishes for my mother who is still recovering in hospital after her New Year fall. Once again I am writing this in a hurry before going to keep up my end of the family visiting effort, so it will necessarily be brief.

I was breezing along nicely until I hit CARLISLE, which stumped me for a couple of minutes. Strange, because I normally do hit Carlisle in reality annnually while travelling up to Scotland (although I have not been to the Gathering mentioned in the commentary at 18D for many a year). You might think therefore that it would spring naturally to my mind as one of the most obvious clues, but unfortunatley not today. I can only put it down to distraction from knowing that I have to finish this as quickly as possible before racing down to St George's Tooting to perform my filial duties. Unfortunately the helipad facilities are not available to me although the comings and goings of the air ambulance provide an interesting occasional distraction through the window by my mother's bed.

My FOI was the straightforward anagram at 1A and my LOI was 8A as alluded to above. I thought that although the clues were for the most part straightforward (nearly all definitions or anagrams of one sort or another) there were several neat and natural surfaces. I liked the CAMOUFLAGE/GUACAMOLE link, and I liked 'Sporty Spice' who made an anonymous appearance at 3D, but in the end I have chosen 22A as my COD. Many thanks to Teazel for an entertaining Monday morning cup of tea.

Briefly switching on my NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) yielded no results.

Definitions are underlined and everything elese is explained just as I see it as simply as I can manage.

1 Great crime, yet minor, in some way (8)
ENORMITY - a straight anagram to kick off with: YET MINOR 'in some way' = ENORMITY.
5 Time to secure such a hotel room? (4)
TWIN - T (time) + WIN (secure).
8 Stocking material on vehicle for city (8)
CARLISLE - CAR (vehicle) + LISLE (stocking material).
9 They look east, certainly (4)
EYES - E (east) + YES (certainly)
11 Relative is a pawnbroker (5)
UNCLE - indeed he is. In the heyday of pawnbroking (whenever that was), if your straitened circumstances unfortunately led you into the arms of the guy with three golden balls (shades of George Lazenby in O.H.M.S.S.), then your euphemistic explanation might be that you were going to visit your 'uncle' to touch him for a loan.
12 Eloquent person with year in chapel (7)
ORATORY - ORATOR (eloquent person) + Y (year). Chapel as for example the Brompton Oratory just down the road from me near the museums.
13 Station us in school (6)
EUSTON - US 'in' ETON, Crossword Land's favourite school.
15 Look, try force twice to end session (3,3)
LOG OFF - LO (look, in the biblical sense) + GO (try, as in "'ave a go 'Arry") + F + F (force twice).
18 Is adolescent able to eat here? (7)
CANTEEN - &lit: CAN TEEN ('is adolescent able') to eat here (in the CANTEEN).
19 Ruffle little stream after opening of fishing (5)
FRILL - RILL (little stream) after F (opening of Fishing). Reminds me of my father who, although not a religious man, requested on his death bed: 1. that his body should be buried and 2. that we should sing 'By Cool Siloam's Shady Rill' at his funeral, both of which wishes we duly respected.
21 Exuberance in Brazil’s first city (4)
BRIO - B (Brazil's first) + RIO (city).
22 Profanity of son becoming tedious (8)
SWEARING - S (son) + WEARING (becoming tedious).
23 To be very angry is the fashion (4)
RAGE - double definition. Fashion as in 'all the rage'.
24 Congenial diner fly worried (8)
FRIENDLY - straight anagram: DINER FLY 'worried' = FRIENDLY.
1 Sweat, drinking small quantity in bar (7)
EXCLUDE - EXUDE (sweat) 'drinking' CL (centilitre, a small quantity).
2 Who’s rich, hiding someone at Elsinore? (5)
OSRIC - hidden word: whO'S RICh. Osric is a minor character in Shakespear'e Hamlet which takes place at Elsinore Castle in Denmark.
3 Girl finished tidy bit of bowling (6,4)
MAIDEN OVER - MAIDEN (girl) + OVER (finished). In cricket, a 'maiden over' is a spell of six balls from a single bowler in which the batsman fails to score any runs. In the score book this will appear as six dots like the 'six' face of a die. Often in cricket parlance a bowler is said to be 'tidy' if the batsmen find it difficult to score runs off his bowling. Hence a maiden over is indeed a 'tidy bit of bowling'. Pronounal and nounal apologies to any female cricketers out there. Please take no offence. None was intended.
4 High (ouch!) in fat (6)
TALLOW - TALL (high) + OW (ouch!).
6 Route one should follow? Excellent (3,2,2)
WAY TO GO - double definition to my mind, although the question mark may suggest that the first definition is meant to be cryptic. In my eyes the question mark is just a device to make the surface a bit smoother, although alternative opinions will no doubt be available.
7 A street in New York is unpleasant (5)
NASTY - A + ST (a street) 'in' NY (New York).
10 One way to hide fluorine, in mashed guacamole (10)
CAMOUFLAGE - anagram of GUACAMOLE ('mashed') with F (chemical symbol for fluorine, the ninth element in the Periodic Table) mixed in there as well.
14 After moral offence, monarch is collapsing (7)
SINKING - SIN (moral offence) + KING (monarch).
16 Everyone intervenes between female and male — who takes the blame? (4,3)
FALL GUY - F (female) + GUY (male) with ALL (everyone) in the middle ('intervening').
17 Write this in! (6)
ANSWER - Hmm. OK, that's what I've done...
18 Brace specially, to toss this? (5)
CABER - anagram of BRACE gives CABER, a big, heavy tree trunk that is 'tossed' in a celebrated competition in Highland Games meetings in Scotland, the most famous example of which is probably the annual Braemar Gathering.
20 Old walls may be so, I contended (5)
IVIED - I + VIED (I contended).

QC 1255 by Hurley - Bookends Theme

Doctor! Doctor! I feel like a pair of bookends!

Punchlines on a postcard please. Or a posted comment will do.

It's just that I have realised (I suppose it is pretty obvious really) that having done my first ever blog on Monday 1st January, I am now also doing my final one of the year on Monday 31st December. Which sort of makes me feel like a pair of bookends to 2018.

I wish I had time to sit and try and dream up a punchline myself but I haven't. I am afraid that this blog is being written in very rushed and chaotic circumstances as my mother has just had another fall and I've had to oversee her admission to hospital and the looking after of her dog and the updating of the family as to her condition etc etc so necessarily this is being squeezed into a few multitasking minutes. I therefore have no reliable record of my time although it definitely felt on the easy side, with quite a few anagrams and at least two hidden words slipping into position without any trouble at all.

So many thanks to Hurley for providing a puzzle that was not too difficult for me to blog on this day wheh I really don't have a lot of time to devote to it. FOI was 7A because it sort of jumped out to me as a straight write-in, even though 3A was not far behind. I believe in fact that the solve was so smooth and went so according to plan that the LOI was 21D just as God intended. COD is difficult as none of the clues held me up for very long, and none of them quite had the ideal combination of smooth surface with neat device, but I think I'll go with 3A. I also liked 1D for the neat internal definition of 'LENT', but as referred to above the surface felt a bit strained and unconvincing to me.

Expecting some possible external trimmings on this last day of the year, I did deploy my NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) but unfortunately it didn't bleep at all.

Hope you all had an excellent Christmas and don't take the foot off the gas until early on Tuesday morning! A happy and enjoyable New Year to all!

Definitions are underlined, and everything else is explained just as I see it as simply as I can manage.

3 Gauche — after time play fewer roles? (8)
TACTLESS - T (time) + ACT LESS (play fewer roles). Not like Michael Caine then if you have been listening to his autobiography "Blowing The Bloody Doors Off" on the radio recently. A wonderfully felicitous title in my humble opinion.
7 Given food — or a hat! (6)
FEDORA - pretty much what it says: FED (given food) + OR + A.
8 Warning doctor in front of Northern Ireland Conservative (8)
MONITORY - MO (Medical Officer (an army doctor)) + NI (Northern Ireland) + TORY (Conservative).
9 Supporting daughter, means to cross river (4)
FORD - FOR (supporting) + D (daughter). 'Means' here is in the sense of 'way'.
10 Regret trick, sending out son (3)
RUE - RUSE (trick) minus ('sending out') S (son).
11 Describing part of car raised unexpectedly in northeast (8)
NEARSIDE - EARSID = anagram of RAISED ('unexpectedly') in NE (northeast). Might have been a neat twist if it had appeared in the NE corner of the crossword, but in fact it is in the NW.
13 Republican one backed in Nevada city (4)
RENO - geography was my worst subject at school and geography clues are therefore amongst those that I fear most in crosswords. No problem with this one though as even I have heard of it. R (Republican) + ENO (ONE 'backed').
15 Finally gets sweet juice from part of plant (4)
STEM - take the last letters ('finally') of getS sweeT juicE froM.
17 Before game, referring to male in plot (8)
PREMATCH - RE (referring to) + M (male), placed in PATCH (plot).
19 President’s gamble, ignoring odds (3)
ABE - ABE (Abraham Lincoln) is probably the most frequent presidential visitor to Crossword Land. Ignore the odd letters of gAmBlE and there he is.
22 Small brick carrier in trainers? (4)
SHOD - S (small) + HOD (brick carrier). There is a question mark at the endof the definition as alternative varieties of footwear are available.
23 Substitute with good reputation (8)
STANDING - STAND IN (substitute) + G (good).
24 Like carrier not in correct path (6)
ASTRAY - AS (like) + TRAY (carrier).
25 Purveyor of nonsense botched weld: drat! (8)
TWADDLER - straight anagram ('botched') of WELD DRAT.
1 Suggestive of embarrassed-looking love, provided for time (8)
REDOLENT - RED (embarrased-looking) + O (love) + LENT (provided for [a] time).
2 End row for a change? That’s amazing! (6)
WONDER - straight anagram of END ROW.
3 Part of operetta, mediocre, uninspiring (4)
TAME - hidden word: operetTA MEdiocre.
4 Building material firm, new, supported by Greek island (8)
CONCRETE - CO (firm: in Crossword Land no distinction is made between the technically separate legal entities of a Co. (company) and a firm (partnership), although I do know people who use the terms interchangeably in the real world as well so maybe it's just my anal legal background kicking in) + N (new) + CRETE (Greek island).
5 Reformer left university over article? Right (6)
LUTHER - L (left) + U (university) 'over' (in this down clue) THE ((definite) article) + R (right).
6 Island story’s beginning with Biblical boat (4)
SARK - more geography. But luckily another place I have heard of. S (Story's beginning) + ARK (Biblical boat).
12 Referring to British measures, air mile, pint at first changed ... (8)
IMPERIAL - straight anagram ('changed') of AIR MILE + P (Pint 'at first'). Stones, pounds, ounces, hundredweight, tons (as opposed to tonnes), furlongs, rods, chains and perches and also grains, scruples and gills and a lot of other lovely words besides were all part of our lamented (but thankfully not entirely late as yet) Imperial weights and measures system.
14 ... inch also, recollected guy (8)
NICHOLAS - straight anagram of INCH ALSO ('recollected').
16 Girl received by Managing Director supplied with staff (6)
MANNED - ANNE (girl) 'received' by MD (Managing Director).
18 When classes show items worth having (6)
ASSETS - AS (when) + SETS (classes).
20 Difficult situation in street our group brought up (4)
STEW - ST (street) + EW (WE (our group) reversed, i.e. 'brought up' in this down clue).
21 In bag, a recommended seaweed product (4)
AGAR - hidden word: bAG A Recommended. A type of jelly derived from seaweed and much-used as a neutral culture medium in microbiology and also as a thickener in certain foodstuffs (but hopefully not both at the same time).

QC 1245 by Izetti

Oh dear, I think I made a bit of a meal of this one. Managed it in 10 minutes but I feel as though I should have been posting a PB down around the 6-minute mark. All the clues were going in pretty easily and then I snagged on the final 3 or 4, with every one turning out to be a smack on the head job. I think it was just my speed vertigo (referred to several months ago in this blog) that slowed me down. Sometimes when I think I'm going well (by my own standards) and that a good time might be coming up my brain freezes. I'm sure it happens with a lot of people, and I am also sure that it is something that will disappear with experience and practice.

But hey! Many thanks to Izetti for a challenge that proved for me to be tougher than at first appeared. It was fun, with 1A going in straight off the bat. 5D was my LOI in spite of the fact that I could feel in my bones that SAILOR was the definition and that the Henry we were talking about was the eighth one, but the cogs didn't mesh immediately so I moved on and came back to it later. Foolish child. I am also ashamed of not getting 19A straight off, chemist that I am, and I think that my COD has to be that or the aforesaid 5D, with 19A pinching it for the smoother surface and clever definition.

Deploying my NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) yielded no results.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as it appears to me in the simplest language I can muster.

1 Enjoyable experience of a big swimmer from a previous era? (1,5,2,1,4)
A WHALE OF A TIME - A WHALE (big swimmer) + OF A TIME (from a previous era - as when we describe a film or book or similar work that seems a bit dated as being 'very much OF ITS TIME').
8 A knight with additional decoration somewhere in Northern Ireland (6)
ANTRIM - A + N (knight as abbreviated in chess) + TRIM (additional decoration) gives the northern Irish county.
9 Hesitation about time of abstinence? Back down (6)
RELENT - RE (hesitation (ER) reversed (about)) + LENT (time of abstinence). As when I asked somebody the other day if they were ready for Christmas and they told me "No, we're giving it up for Lent".
10 Gloomy, having eaten hard fish (4)
SHAD - SAD (gloomy) having 'eaten' H (hard).
11 Any number in peculiar top hats and skimpy female attire (3,5)
HOT PANTS - N (any number (algebra)) 'in' HOT PATS: an anagram ('peculiar') of TOP HATS.
12 What sounds like common bird sound (5)
CHEEP - homophone for CHEAP (common).
13 Old car not starting creates fury (5)
ANGER - an old car is a BANGER, and if it doesn't start it becomes ANGER.
15 Pair to perform at front of one church in rehearsal (8)
PRACTICE - PR (pair) + ACT (to perform) + I (one) + CE (church (of England)).
17 Boy comes to end of the big book (4)
TOME - TOM (boy) + E (end of thE).
19 I? I love to eat (6)
IODINE - can you see the underlining? It's very small isn't it? I is the chemical symbol for iodine, element number 53 in the periodic table. I + O (love) + DINE (to eat) = IODINE.
20 Pussy is crossing avenue — caution! (6)
CAVEAT - CAT (pussy) 'crossing' AVE (avenue).
21 Insincere toad sadly thinking of no one else? (13)
INCONSIDERATE - straight anagram of INSINCERE TOAD. I really liked this because it worked so well on the surface and in the solution. I even considered it as a COD, but for all its smooth surface it was in the end a pretty straightforward anagram.
2 Female just on the scene, turning up with honoured companion (5)
WENCH - NEW (just on the scene) 'turning up' (i.e. reversed in this down clue) gives WEN. Add on CH (Companion of Honour, therefore 'honured companion') gives the solution.
3 Shorten a span (7)
ABRIDGE - A + BRIDGE (span).
4 Wood used in model-making (3)
ELM - hidden word: modEL Making.
5 Sailor Henry's was a Spanish Catherine (5,4)
FIRST MATE - Henry VIII's first mate was Catherine of Aragon, a 'Spanish Catherine'.
6 A US lot losing heart unfortunately in Oklahoman city (5)
TULSA - anagram of A + US + LT (LoT 'losing heart').
7 Bloke receiving Communion finally in church (7)
MINSTER - MISTER (bloke) 'receiving' N (CommunioN finally).
11 Joy has to keep quiet and languishes (9)
HAPPINESS - to solve this HAS must 'keep' (i.e. hold inside) P (quiet) and PINES (languishes) giving HAPPINESS.
12 Vehicle with nothing on? That's funny! (7)
CARTOON - CART (vehicle) + O (nothing) + ON.
14 Manage to communicate, that's clear (3,4)
GET OVER - double definition. As in getting a point over and getting over a hurdle.
16 Cloth seen in porch in Oxford (5)
CHINO - another hidden word: porCH IN Oxford.
18 This writer has a set of religious books planned (5)
MEANT - ME (this writer) + A + NT (New Testament, a set of religious books).
20 Hero in police department (3)
CID - as in El Cid. I think originally 'Cid' meant 'Lord'. But I think this became his nickname and how he was known eventually, and he became quite a battlefield hero. So I think in the end Cid equates happily to hero. Almost a double definition except CID in the police sense is an acronym not an actual word.

QC 1235 by Breadman

Still not fully back to doing quickies on a daily basis although I have done a few since my last blog. Perhaps this contributed to my completing this in about 9 minutes, as it 'felt' a bit more difficult than that. There were quite a few clues that I thought were tricky but luckily I seemed to be on the right wavelength for them. The result was that several clues that I think I would have normally been consciously piecing together became straight write-ins. Many thanks to Breadman as this gave me a very welcome Monday-morning sense of achievement (no doubt soon to evaporate when the comments start and I realise that everybody else found it easier than I did).

I think I have blogged a Breadman once before and in my ignorance on that occasion I speculated that it might have been his first contribution. Those who know all about these things corrected me though and I now know that he has been contributing for some years although very infrequently.

I think my FOI could have been 1A, but for some reason I started reading the clues at random today rather than starting at the beginning which is most unlike me. In the event I think it was 10A. LOI was, I believe, 15D. There were many clues to like so it is difficult to pick a COD, but I'm going to go for 12A simply because it gave me the greatest 'kick' when I solved it. I'm just such an adrenalin junkie, me.

Deploying my recently fitted NATRAF (Nina And Theme Radar And Filter) on the finished grid yielded... absolutely nothing. But at least I remembered to give it a go. Having said that, perhaps there is somebody out there with a more powerful model who will be able to turn something up. After all, they say that if you look hard enough you can find patterns in anything.

Definitions are underlined, and my thought processes in arriving at the answers are explained just as they occurred to me in the simplest language that I have at my command.

1 Hide criminal Alec deviously (7)
CONCEAL - CON (criminal, as in CONvict) + anagram ('deviously') of ALEC = CEAL.
5 Unknown eight in German vessel on water (5)
YACHT - OK here we go back to school. First lesson: algebra. Unknown quantities in algebraic equations are generally x, y and z. Here we have Y. Second lesson: basic German (counting): eins, zwei, drei, vier, funf, sechs, sieben, ACHT!
8 Basic pool area — blokes converse endlessly (11)
FUNDAMENTAL - FUND (pool) + A (area) + MEN (blokes) + TAL (TALk = converse 'endlessly')
10 Whale heads for ocean reef, cruising around (4)
ORCA - first letters of (heads for) Ocean Reef Cruising Around.
11 Divided pears messily consumed (8)
SEPARATE - anagram of PEARS = SEPAR ('messily') + ATE (consumed).
12 Holiday entertainment reps, at first, comparatively pure (6)
WHITER - possibly a difficult one for the inexperienced. WHIT is short for WHITSUN or WHITSUNDAY, being the Anglican church holiday commemorating Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ's disciples and they started speaking in tongues (glossolalia) and casting out demons and doing all sorts of other crazy things. Probably now mostly remembered in the public consciousness for Philip Larkin's poem (and collection of poems) The Whitsun Weddings. At the time Whitsun was seen as a particularly propitious time for weddings, and Larkin describes a train journey that he makes at Whitsun which coincides with some wedding parties. Apparently the actual train journey that Larkin visualises in his poem never took place, but his description is so vivid that for me this only magnifies my admiration for the man's art. If you haven't read it it is worth it: https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/whitsun-weddings.  Oops, sorry, the rest of the clue: initial letters of Entertainment Reps ('at first') added on to WHIT gives WHITER.
14 Prize relating to hospital section (6)
REWARD - RE (relating to) + WARD (hospital section).
16 Perhaps rocker broadcast after March, strangely (8)
ARMCHAIR - anagram of MARCH = ARMCH ('strangely') + AIR (broadcast).
18 Edge inside church (4)
INCH - IN (inside) + CH (church).
20 I'm clearly circling island in a fretful manner (11)
IMPATIENTLY - IM (I'm) + PATENTLY (clearly) 'circling' I (island).
22 Problems in Bundestag growing (5)
AGGRO - hidden word: BundestAG GROwing.
23 Male spy, a reddish colour (7)
MAGENTA - M (male) + AGENT (spy) + A.
2 Present topless chest (5)
OFFER - take the top off a COFFER (chest) in this down clue and there you have it.
3 Meeting politician with diplomacy (7)
CONTACT - CON (politician (CONservative)) + TACT (diplomacy).
4 It's a cooker, whichever way you look (3)
AGA - I don't need to explain that an AGA is a type of cooker do I? As in AGA SAGA? And that it is a very short palindrome?
6 Rising schedule restricts club player (5)
ACTOR - another clue that uses the up and down geometry of the down clue. ROTA (schedule) 'rising', and 'restricting' C (club, as in the card suit, particularly in Bridge).
7 Belt for tools, stupidly lost, grabbed by that lady (7)
HOLSTER - anagaram of LOST = OLST ('stupidly') 'grabbed by' HER (that lady).
9 Ruler backing representative in Italian city (7)
EMPEROR - REP (representative) in ROME (Italian city) all written backwards (backing).
11 Taverns manipulated menial person (7)
SERVANT - striaght anagram of TAVERNS ('manipulated').
13 Husband supplying weapons causing damage (7)
HARMING - H (husband) + ARMING (supplying weapons).
15 Pipe Len's half-finished after game of cards (7)
WHISTLE - WHIST (game of cards) + LE (LEN half finished, i.e. the end of LEN is EN, and only half of that is included).
17 Playfully dance and run below headland (5)
CAPER - again the geography of the down clue comes into play: R (run) 'below' CAPE (headland).
19 Loud call by priest emptied underground chapel (5)
CRYPT - CRY (loud call) by PT (PriesT 'emptied', i.e. without the middle letters).
21 Cheese knocking out female Greek character (3)
ETA - FETA (cheese) 'knocking out' F (female) gives the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet.

QC 1225 by Teazel

I am still not following the quickie on a daily basis, so I don't know the current state of the debate on how difficult people are finding the puzzles at present. All I can say is that having gone through this without any problems I think we are back to a level at which the most inexperienced of solvers can dive in without any fear of sharks. Or even jellyfish.

Many thanks to Teazel for some very entertaining clues. As I say, I didn't find anything very difficult about them so my COD is chosen more on pleasing narrative surface than tricksiness. There were two or three contenders for the crown but in the end I went for the clever cryptic definition at 3D. FOI was 1A as expected in a puzzle of this level of difficulty, and LOI was, also appropriately, 17D simply because it was the last clue that I read, having completed all the others before getting to it.

Definitions are underlined, and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I have at my command.

1 Jerkiest sort of water sportsman? (3,5)
JET SKIER - anagram ('sort of') of JERKIEST.
5 Musical work starting off piano, ultimately strident (4)
OPUS - initial letters ('starting') of Off Piano Ultimately Strident.
8 Accepting pound, deliver ointment (5)
SALVE - SAVE (deliver, as in "deliver us from evil") 'accepting' L (pound).
9 Spend a long time in corridor (7)
PASSAGE - PASS (spend) + AGE (a long time).
11 Minor go-cart crashing in speedy competition (5-6)
MOTOR-RACING - anagram ('crashing') of MINOR GO CART.
13 Kingdoms concerned with charity (6)
REALMS - RE (concerned with) + ALMS (charity).
14 Grail oddly found on mountain in area of Asia (6)
BENGAL - BEN (mountain, as in Ben Nevis) + the odd letters of GrAiL
16 Pulverised stump: is it level with the garden? (6,5)
GROUND FLOOR - what I call a one and two halves definition. GROUND (pulverised) + STUMP (floor, as in 'I was stumped/floored by that clue') gives the floor of a building that is level with the garden.
18 Deed you say was worrying? Get going (7)
ACTUATE - ACT (deed) + U (sounds like you, therefore 'you say') + ATE (was worrying, as in 'my inability to finish the crossword really ATE at me').
19 A devil or two (5)
DEUCE - double definition. DEUCE as in the two of a suit of cards, or the lowest possible score when rollling a pair of dice, and also as in the mild oath used when superstitiously afraid of calling the Devil by name, as in "where the DEUCE/DEVIL did he go to?". It is suggested that the usage came from the fact that two was the lowest score in both gaming instances above, and therefore represented bad luck which in turn was the work of the Devil. When researching the background for this comment I also found a suggestion that there was a connection between 'deuce' and 'deus' (Latin for 'god'). I found this very interesting but I must admit that the theological implications are beyond me.
20 Thanks, thanks, and goodbye (2-2)
TA-TA - do you really need an explanation?
21 Moving to fridge or bin (3,3,2)
GET RID OF - anagram ('moving') of TO FRIDGE.
1 It’s only fair (4)
JUST - double definition.
2 Please confide: I’ve had that problem too (4,2,5,2)
TELL ME ABOUT IT - double definition again.
3 Inability to stop taking offence (11)
KLEPTOMANIA - cryptic definition. A 'taking offence' could be stealing. And an inability to stop stealing is KLEPTOMANIA.
4 Send abroad from old harbour (6)
EXPORT - EX (old) + PORT (harbour).
6 Enjoying golf, cheating on partner (7,6)
PLAYING AROUND - if you are enjoying golf, you might be PLAYING A ROUND, although as a player myself I might object that just PLAYING A ROUND is not necessarily synonymous with enjoyment! What was Mark Twain said? A good walk spoiled? (Well apparently he didn't actually say that and it's just one of those amazingly common misattributions. That's one of the things I love about crosswords. You're always picking up incidental snippets like that. Oh, and by the way, I would never make the objection above in reality, because I always do enjoy my round of golf, however badly I may play!).
7 Evil hypnotist’s son leaving to reform (8)
SVENGALI - S (son) + anagram of LEAVING ('to reform'). The original SVENGALI is a character in the novel Trilby by George du Maurier.
10 One carrying section of plough is part-owner of company (11)
SHAREHOLDER - a lovely mental image. Part of a plough is a SHARE (as in the book of Isaiah: "and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks"), so if you 'carry a section of a plough' you might be a SHAREHOLDER..
12 Expecting initially positive ruling (8)
PREGNANT - P (initial letter of Positive) + REGNANT (ruling).
15 Exhausted, using energy on fine charity event (6)
EFFETE - E (energy) + F (fine) + FETE (charity event).
17 Charge raised to support British meat (4)
BEEF - FEE written backwards (i.e. 'raised' in this down clue) 'supporting' B (British).

QC 1215 by Felix

Well here I am blogging at you, not, as predicted in my last blog two weeks ago, from New York after a cruise down from Canada, but instead from the majestic streets of Hammersmith as per usual. A family illness sadly caused us to abort our holiday, so instead of soaking up North American culture for a couple of weeks I find myself collating receipts and medical reports to support an insurance claim, which I calculate should occupy a similar amount of my time. (Sorry, that's just me being grumpy. It'll probably only take me a day.)

Partly as a result of that, and partly just because it's been the way my crossword life has been going the last few weeks, I am writing this from a very limited viewpoint. If you have been reading my recent fortnightly posts you will realise that I have been doing the 15 x 15 as regularly as ever, but that I have only been looking at the quickie on my appointed blog days. And it so happens that on my last two blogs I have have encountered what you might call 'quickie stiffies' (stop sniggering there at the back.). I have written the blogs on these days thinking that dementia is setting in and that my mental faculties are rapidly deteriorating, only to find from the comments that everybody else has found them difficult too, and that I am in fact providing a more useful service than normal, with several people being genuinely grateful that I have been able to shine some light into their darkness (for which, of course, I am in my own turn grateful).

So once again, this is the first quickie I have done since my last blog two weeks ago, and I would say it is a return to normal standards. Medium difficulty, with no fewer than six pretty straightforward anagrams that I can count on a quick read-through and at least two fairly obvious double definitions, with two or three slightly more difficult clues to push me up to the 10-minute mark. Overall I found the clues pleasant and witty and I am grateful to Felix for taking me on a nostalgic tour of some of my youthful enthusiasms (such as T S Eliot and topology). Great fun.

And before signing off perhaps I could just give my personal comment on the 'stiffies' mentioned above. There were a lot of comments on the blog complaining that they were too hard for quickies, but personally I disagree. I found them genuinely enjoyable. I am sorry if they put some people off, but equally well I am sure that there were some people who are working up to the 15 x 15 who found them a very valuable stepping stone. You can't have a 'standard difficulty' every day for either the quickie or the 15 x 15, you can only have a range of difficulty with any single crossword falling either side of the mean. In terms of the 15 x 15, we tend to talk of 'Monday' and 'Friday' puzzles, and when we encounter a particularly elegant example we all stand back and applaud. I felt similarly with those last two quickie puzzles because they show how far you can go with that format (and to be honest I am sure that if the setters really tried they could go a lot further). There have been some people commenting on the blog asking if we can 'flag up' when there is an 'easy' 15 x 15 that the inexperienced population can have a go at. Such people could presumably also regard a 'difficult' 13 x 13 as a similar scale of challenge.

Inevitably, there will be easy and difficult 13 x 13s, and the same for 15 x 15s. Together they form a spectral ladder which the novice can aspire to climb until they reach a level at which they can look down and regard a successful daily 15 x 15 solve as a formality rather than an occasional cause for celebration.

It remains for me to say:

FOI 1A, as it should be. A nice welcoming anagram to kick off with.

LOI 14D (I think).

COD? I think I will go for 15A. An elegant mechanism that took me drifting gently down the Thames with my beloved Mr Eliot to finish up (as I see it) on Margate Sands. Even though this location is mentioned earlier in the poem and not specifically referred to in this final part it seems likely to me that this was his intended final destination.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can lay my mental mitts on.

1 Catamaran ordered to transport grand historic document (5,5)
MAGNA CARTA - anagram of CATAMARAN with G (grand) 'transported' (i.e. put inside).
8 Farm building containing old cut of beef (5)
BARON - BARN (farm building) 'containing' O (old) gives BARON (a double sirloin).
9 Girl’s tunic boy picked up by mistake (3,4)
GYM SLIP - GYM sounds like JIM, so if you heard someone saying GYM you might instead 'pick up' JIM. Put this 'by' SLIP (mistake) and there can be no mistake.
10 A French work put forward without being challenged (9)
UNOPPOSED - UN (French indefinite article) + OP (opus, work) + POSED (put forward).
12 Syrupy stuff, mostly wholesome (3)
GOO - GOO is 'mostly' GOOd (wholesome).
13 Small pieces of coal, loose (5)
SLACK - double definition.
15 The two letters often associated with Lowry’s estate (5)
LANDS - L(aurence) S(tephen) Lowry was the guy who painted the 'matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs', and is almost always referred to as 'L S' Lowry. Thus L AND S are the 'two letters often associated with Lowry'. Put them closer together and you have LANDS, a mostly archaic term for a person's estate, as in The Waste Land by T(homas) S(tearns) Eliot (coincidentally another guy who is most commonly referred to by his initials):

"I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?"
17 Rag and bone (3)
RIB - another double definition.
18 Remedy nun concocted in historic English meadow (9)
RUNNYMEDE - straight anagram of REMEDY NUN.
20 Kit out for short film recording (7)
PROVIDE - PRO (for) + VIDE ('short' VIDEo).
21 One hundred and fifty live in part of Ireland (5)
CLARE - CL (Roman 150) + ARE (if to be is to live, then in the second person YOU ARE can mean YOU LIVE). I suppose the meaning is most powerfully illustrated in the biblical quote where Yahweh proclaims his name by saying "Before Abraham was, I AM".
22 Look after sea eagles, small, being kind (10)
TENDERNESS - TEND (look after) + ERNES (sea eagles) + S (small).
1 I miss pub: sort that’s put out special ribbons? (6,6)
MOBIUS STRIPS - straight anagram of I MISS PUB SORT gives these topological curiosities. A Mobius strip is a band which has only one surface. If you want some fun you can make one yourself by taking a strip of paper and putting a single twist into it before gluing it into a band. You can then draw a line from any starting point and follow all the way round the strip back to the starting point and realise that your line has passed through the whole surface of the strip thus demonstrating that the structure has only one surface. Then if you cut the strip down the middle, that is, along the line that you have just drawn, instead of ending up with two strips as you might expect, you get just one larger strip. Even more strangely (or maybe less strangely, depending on what sort of scale of strangeness you are using) if you then cut that resulting strip down the middle you do now end up with two strips, but they are linked together as in a paper decoration chain.
2 Actress filling sugar bowls and cigar boxes (5)
GARBO - hidden word: ciGAR BOxes.
3 Girl’s warning oddly ignored (3)
ANN - take wArNiNg and ignore the odd letters...
4 An uncannily grim, upsetting story, that’s initially impressive (6)
AUGUST - ... and now take all the initial letters (initially): An Uncannily Grim Upsetting Story That's.
5 Male deity unexpectedly requiring a pause in operation? (4-5)
TIME-DELAY - another straight anagram of MALE DEITY ('unexpectedly').
6 Keep signalling vessel (6)
FLAGON - if you keep signalling with a flag, you might be said to 'FLAG ON'.
7 Luther’s prose adapted for stuffy artisans? (12)
UPHOLSTERERS - straight anagram of LUTHER'S PROSE ('adapted').
11 Metal rod, old penny and diamonds for gambling game (5,4)
POKER DICE - POKER (metal rod) + D (denarius: an old penny as in pounds, shillings and pence (l. s. d.) in the days before the decimal scourge washed ashore) + ICE (diamonds). (NB no BREXIT opinion is being expressed here, just a simple nostalgic fondness for the eccentric old British monetary system).
14 England”: book penned by a famous author (6)
ALBION - B (book) 'penned by' A LION (a famous author). A lion in the modern sense can be any sort of celebrity but was much more likely to refer to an author back in the days when literature was king. Albion is a romantic name for old England (when everybody used to reckon in pounds, shillings and pence, see above).
16 Nude DA, wandering around like a zombie? (6)
UNDEAD - straight anagram of NUDE DA.
19 Dodge publicity, going in the night before (5)
EVADE - AD (publicity) 'going in' EVE (the night before, as in Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve).
21 Vehicle that’s about right (3)
CAR - CA (circa, about) + R (right).

QC 1205 by Joker

Still suffering from my QC withdrawal symptoms (if indeed they exist and are not simply dimwittedness symptoms - see last blog from me), although I do believe that the QCs are getting harder. Nevertheless, that is how I like them, so many thanks to Joker, who produced at least three clues here that stumped me for longer than usual and contributed to another 12-minute time for me. Great fun.

1A set the tone. It was my FOI, but not in the usual way. It did not come immediately to me, but with the above thoughts spinning round my head I spent several extra seconds thinking it through and rejecting the more obvious sorts of 'tree'. What with my recent experience I was thinking "Surely a tree is just a tree - or is it? Ah yes, but how many different types of tree are there?".

And so it went on. Yes, of course, there were plenty of the usual QC write-ins, but a good number of others that made me stop and think longer than usual. Whether justifiably or not I will discover when you all add your own comments. 12A held me up a long time, and my LOI was 17D, although looking back I can't really see why it was that as it definitely seems easier in retrospect than some of the others. Difficult to choose a COD but I will go for 7D (even though this was one of the write-ins for me) because of the smooth surface and mechanism. 16A also deserves a mention for the same reasons although again I happened to be on the right wavelength for this.

The next time I do this I will be on holiday in Canada and the USA, so please expect nothing more from me than FOI, LOI, COD and a brief comment on ease or difficulty.

Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained as simply as I can just as I see it.

1 Old chestnut caught by a lot of another tree (6)
CLICHE - C ('caught', as in the abbreviation for being 'out' by that method in Cricket) + LICHEe ('a lot of' another tree, viz LICHEE, the chinese tree from which cometh the fruit of the same name). These used to be a fairly inevitable dessert accompaniment to a Chinese meal back in the early 70s when they were exotic and new. Children and adolescents (as I was then) used to love them for their ghoulish resemblance in colour and presumed texture to human eyeballs. Interesting to see a step up in the obscurity of the type of tree that grows in QC crossword land, where we are more used to seeing ASHes, ELMs, YEWs and other more obvious (to home-grown eyeballs anyway) varieties.
4 A quick look outside hotel for dustbin in New York (6)
ASHCAN - A + SCAN (quick look) 'outside' H (hotel in most of the phonetic alphabets generally in use).
8 Old wine they do fancy with very fixed views (4-2-3-4)
DYED-IN-THE-WOOL - straight anagram ('fancy') of OLD WINE THEY DO.
10 Insinuate plainly where son has gone (5)
IMPLY - SIMPLY minus the S ('when son has gone').
11 Silver mesh installed in second generator (7)
MAGNETO - AG (silver, from the Periodic Table symbol Ag for argentum, meaning silver in Latin) + NET (mesh) 'in' MO (a second, as in "wait a mo(ment)").
12 Expensive retaining mine that’s very steep (11)
PRECIPITOUS - PRECIOUS 'retaining' PIT (mine).
16 Mean to assert seniority (7)
AVERAGE - AVER (assert) + AGE (seniority).
17 Certain about good rise (5)
SURGE - SURE (certain) 'about' G (good).
18 What’s immoral parking by local politician (4,9)
VICE PRESIDENT - VICE (something immoral) + P (parking) + RESIDENT (local).
19 Mounted equipment to limit noise (6)
RIDING - RIG (equipment) 'limiting' DIN (noise).
20 Cut sound made by detector (6)
CENSOR - homophone for SENSOR (detector).
1 Taxi driver has change of heart as driver’s assistant? (6)
CADDIE - CABBIE (taxi driver) with his 'heart' (two central letters) changed gives CADDIE, cryptically an assistant to a 'driver', as a golfer hits many different types of shots, of which some are 'drives' (the first shots on the longer holes). Perhaps at this point I could quickly mention in passing the comment made on the ALBATROSS that appeared in the 15 x 15 the other day. I saw that the blogger, quite rightly in my view, queried the definition as being a 'shot' (as I remember it) and suggested rather that it was a series of shots. Well yes, that is normally how it is, because it is actually a score of 3 under the par for a hole. So the usual way of doing that (I say usual, but it is in fact an extremely rare occurrence, rarer in fact than a hole in one) is to finish a hole that is a par 5 in 2 shots. But another way of doing it would be to hit a hole in one on a par 4. And in that case the albatross would in fact be just a single shot.

While I am at it, perhaps I could blow the trumpet for my son (as he certainly would not do it for himself) who became a 'scratch' (0 handicap) golfer recently, and who hit an albatross once while playing with a friend and his brother and me. On the 565-yard par 5 17th at his local course he hit his drive what must have been about 320 yards, then stepped up and holed his 235-yard 3-wood second. As I said, that is rarer than a hole in one, and I was very privileged to have been there at the time as even just to witness an albatross is probably rarer than a hole in one!
2 Precede nine with XI in mix-up, being new to the job (13)
INEXPERIENCED - straight anagram again ('in mix-up') of PRECEDE NINE + XI.
3 Uncovered fire in dry grass is rather alarming (5)
HAIRY - IR ('uncovered' fIRe) 'in' HAY (dry grass).
5 Cunning dexterity of small and large rowing team (7)
SLEIGHT - S (small) + L (large) + EIGHT ('rowing team').
6 Shut parts of town as restricted area (5,8)
CLOSE QUARTERS - CLOSE (shut) + QUARTERS (parts of town, probably heard more on the continent such as in French quartieres. Apologies for my French spelling as the blog keyboard doesn't seem to know how to do a grave accent).
7 Hold one in high position in Westminster (6)
NELSON - cryptic definition. A NELSON (either HALF or FULL) is a 'hold' in wrestling. And of course there is a tall column somewhere in Westminster atop which stands a statue of Admiral Lord Horatio NELSON.
9 Hunter, perhaps still following herb, reportedly (9)
TIMEPIECE - double homophone ('reportedly') for PIECE (sounds like PEACE = STILL) 'following' TIME (sounds like THYME = HERB). Unusually in a QC I am finding myself feeling as though I ought to explain some defnitions as well. A hunter is a type of pocket watch. A 'full' hunter has a cover over the face, and a 'half' hunter has a hole in the cover so that you can see the time without having to open the cover, a distinct advantage when you are trying to HUNT on horseback, (hence the name) and would rather not have to distract your attention from the upcoming low tree branch in order to open the cover on your watch to find out when you should be home for your tea.
13 Climber’s aid is a disadvantage round slope (7)
CRAMPON - CON (diasadvantage, as in 'pros and cons') 'round' RAMP (slope). Do I have to explain this definition as well? An attachment to a climbing boot to make climbing easier and less hazardous?
14 Be undecided about India’s suspension of rights (6)
WAIVER - WAVER (be undecided) 'about' I (India, again in phonetic alphabets, but also I think just as a straight abbreviation used for the country (similar to UK or USA)).
15 Delicious drink? About time in local (6)
NECTAR - C (about) + T (time) 'in' NEAR (local).
17 Sleep’s upset on English lace? (5)
SPIKE - KIP'S (sleep's) 'upset' (upside down) 'on' E (English) in this down clue. Definition is LACE in the sense of to 'SPIKE' a drink, as in: "I later found out that she had spiked my tequila with Rohypnol, barbiturates and ayahuasca, which might have been why I felt a little unsteady on my feet". Sorry, that was a completely gratuitous unscripted example of the use of the verb in question, but I just felt like signing off with a bang.

QC 1195 by Hurley

Right, I really liked this puzzle, and found a lot of the clues entertaining and challenging. Unfortunately it shows in my time which was uncomfortably near the 12-minute mark.

Oh I can make excuses. Chief among them being that I haven't even looked at a Quickie since I blogged my last one because if you remember I was having a wobble around the 15x15 at the time and was feeling a bit jaded about the whole prospect of crosswords generally. Well, that has passed, but I still haven't got back into the daily routine of doing the Quickie as well. Nevertheless, if I'm doing the 15x15 every day then to my logic I ought to be able to pick up the Quickie, give it some bread, pat it on the head and put it to bed more quickly than I did today, no matter how long it's been. But I didn't. Maybe I was rusty. Maybe it takes time to get back into the rhythm of the Quickie. But I think that's just making excuses. I just don't think I was up to it. How about the rest of you?

But as I say, I enjoyed it and admired a lot of the clues. Thank you and well done Hurley. FOI was 5A (as with so many of the clues today 1A was not far from my mind but on the first pass was somehow just beyond my reach). LOI I think was 14D. Difficult to choose a COD because I liked so many of them, but I'd probably go for 1A itself. Great to see an &lit. in the Quickie, and stuck up there boldly at the top of the table as well.

Definitions are underlined in italics and everything else is explained as simply as possible just as I see it.

1 Name initially used in memoirs wrongly? (8)
MISNOMER - N (name initially) 'used in' an anagram of MEMOIRS ('wrongly') gives MISNOMER, the whole of the clue then acting as a definition of the answer, giving us a rare & lit. clue for a quickie (and in the first clue no less).
5 Judge is French — that’s funny (4)
JEST - J (judge) + EST ('is' in French).
9 Portion, slim, reduced, provided by church (5)
SLICE - reduce SLIM by cutting off its end, add on CE for the Church of England and there you have your portion served up in front of you.
10 One might betray characteristic worry, oddly overlooked (7)
TRAITOR - TRAIT (characteristic) + OR (wOrRy with the odd letters 'overlooked').
11 Flier, ace, associated with this country (3)
AUK - A (ace) plus UK (this country).
12 Talk about troubled teen — be understood (9)
PENETRATE - PRATE is one of those words often used in Crossword Land and not so much anywhere else. Put it 'about' an anagram of TEEN ('troubled') and this clue can easily 'be understood'.
13 A case for frail boat not starting in the water (6)
AFLOAT - A + FL (the 'case' of FraiL) + OAT (boat not starting).
15 Claimant legally keeping cloak (6)
MANTLE - hidden word: claiMANT LEgally.
17 Son currently at Southern headland finding wintry scene (9)
SNOWSCAPE - S (son) + NOW (currently) + S (southern) + CAPE (headland).
19 Drunk very tiresome at start (3)
SOT - SO (very) + T (Tiresome 'at start').
20 Oregon provided diamonds for opening (7)
ORIFICE - OR (Oregon) + IF (provided) + ICE (diamonds).
21 Senseless idea not alerting new entrants first of all (5)
INANE - the initial letters ('first of all') of Idea Not Alerting New Entrants.
22 Cricket score, good — a step up! (4)
RUNG - RUN (a score in cricket) + G (good).
23 One readily deceived a mate? Yes, sadly (4,4)
EASY MEAT - anagram of A MATE YES ('sadly').
1 Mother’s vehicle, a thing of beauty? (7)
MASCARA - MA'S (mother's) + CAR (vehicle) + A.
2 Pong from black liquid at bottom of street (5)
STINK - INK (black liquid, although in my experience you can have other colours) at the bottom of (i.e. underneath in this down clue) ST (street).
3 Maintaining advantage, open main push possibly (3-9)
ONE-UPMANSHIP - straight anagram ('possibly') of OPEN MAIN PUSH.
4 We hear school’s taken in (5)
EATEN - homophone for Crossword Land's favourite educational establishment, ETON.
6 Additional court clip (7)
EXTRACT - EXTRA (additional) + CT (court).
7 Ultimately elegant Celtic language, neat and concise (5)
TERSE - T ('ultimately' eleganT) + ERSE (Celtic language).
8 Potentially catalyst, like this US capital (4,4,4)
SALT LAKE CITY - another straight anagram ('potentially') of CATALYST LIKE.
14 Lot divided by a fellow’s language (7)
LAOTIAN - LOT 'divided by' A gives LAOT. Add on a IAN (a fellow) and there you have it.
16 Implore centre attendant a bit (7)
ENTREAT - hidden word: cENTRE ATtendant.
17 Society with little money for track (5)
SPOOR - S (society) + POOR (with little money). At first I had this as S + CENT (litttle money) giving SCENT which was perfectly plausible. Had I written in ORIFICE when I first thought of it at 20A then I would not have been delayed by this but as it was my reticence meant that my mind started thinking illogically of EDIFICE when I came back to 20A (although somehow still retaining the idea of ORIFICE without actually writing it straight in, and looking back it is only because of the chime with ORIFICE that EDIFICE jumped into my mind anyway even though it has nothing to do with the definition). Nice bit of potential misdirection there but easily avoidable if you solve the clues in the correct order!
18 Where to contest article about North America (5)
ARENA - A ((indefinite) article) + RE (about) + NA (North America).
19 Criticize schedule (5)
SLATE - double definition.