Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1391

A toughie this week with a fair few exotic solutions peppering the grid. It took a while but I got there in the end. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

Before we get there, some housekeeping in time-honoured fashion. If you’ve got a recent puzzle for which you are missing a few solutions then my Just For Fun page might interest you. Likewise, if you’re a fan of horror fiction, my Reviews page might have a few things to tickle your fancy. I’ll have a review of Best New Horror 8 coming shortly. Ish.

Right then, here we go. Till next week, TTFN!


Across clues

1. Average sound quality got with older player (10)

Answer: MIDFIELDER (i.e. a positional “player” in some field games). Solution is MID-FI (i.e. “average sound quality”, a play on how high-fidelity audio is often shortened to “hi-fi”) followed by ELDER (i.e. “older”).

6. Parades truth about state (5,7)

Answer: UTTAR PRADESH (i.e. a “state” in Northern India). “About” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PARADES TRUTH. This clue kicks off an Arabic and Indian mini-theme that seems dotted throughout the puzzle. See how many you can spot!

14. Keenly observant, she prayed all over the place (5-4)

Answer: SHARP-EYED (i.e. “keenly observant”). “All over the place” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SHE PRAYED.

15. Arab digger, maybe, with no time for gardening tool (5)

Answer: ROWEL, which is a small spiked wheel found on a spur (i.e. “Arab digger, maybe” – Arab being a breed of horse in this case, but chalk one for the mini-theme too). Solution is TROWEL (i.e. “gardening tool”) with the T removed (indicated by “with no time for…” – T being a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

16. What can be good with a cuppa – getting universal vote? (7)

Answer: GATEAUX. Solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) followed by A TEA (i.e. “a cuppa”), then U (a recognised abbreviation of “universal” used in film certification) and finally X (i.e. how you cast your “vote” – not that it counts for much these days, maddeningly). Within the context of the clue, you might enjoy a bit of gateaux with a cuppa. Not me. Bourbon Creams forever!

17. Terribly casual orator, no pro, is one using voice to great effect (10,7)

Answer: COLORATURA SOPRANO (i.e. “one using voice to great effect”). “Terribly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CASUAL ORATOR NO PRO. I got the “soprano” bit fairly easily but had to root through a few books for the rest.

18. Saw race where India obliterates English (5)

Answer: SPIED (i.e. “saw”). Solution is SPEED (i.e. “race”) with the first I (“India” in the phonetic alphabet – continuing the mini-theme) replacing or “obliterating” E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”).

19. Where bells may be ringing to raise spirits? (7)

Answer: INSPIRE (i.e. “to raise spirits”). Solution also satisfies “where bells may be ringing”, i.e. IN SPIRE. A clue that scans really well. I like it.

21. The old country gentleman working at court (6)

Answer: YEOMAN (i.e. “gentleman working at court”). Solution is YE (i.e. “the old”, as in a ye olde form of “the” – a similar trick was used last week using YE for “you”, but with no “old” indicator, which was bloody sneaky – I was consequently wiser to it this time around) followed by OMAN (i.e. “country” – in keeping with the puzzle’s mini-theme).

22. Spirit of large Latin female appearing in a Roman church (8)

Answer: ARMAGNAC (i.e. “[alcoholic] spirit”). Solution is MAGNA (i.e. “large Latin female” – the male equivalent being “magnus”) placed or “appearing in” A and RC (i.e. “a Roman church”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Roman Catholic), like so: A-R(MAGNA)C.

24. Little error allowed in what musician might play (7)

Answer: TRIPLET, which, in this case, and according to my Chambers, is “a group of three notes occupying the time of two, indicated by a slur and the figure 3”. Got all that? Good. Anyway, “what musician might play”. Solution is TRIP (i.e. “little error”) followed by LET (i.e. “allowed” – the tense is a little iffy taken in isolation but works a little better in context of the clue).

26. Suspicious bringing back Diana on a criminal charge? (8)

Answer: PARANOID (i.e. “suspicious”). Solution is DI (i.e. shortened form of “Diana”) followed by ON, then A, then RAP (i.e. “criminal charge”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “bringing back”), like so: PAR-A-NO-ID.

27. Stomach bananas – month old – on the turn (6)

Answer: OMASUM (i.e. “stomach” – specifically the third stomach of a cow. Also called the psalterium or manyplies because they’re clearly more memorable). Solution is MUSA (a variety of “banana”) followed by M and O (recognised abbreviations of “month” and “old” respectively), and the whole then reversed (indicated by “on the turn”), like so: O-M-ASUM. Needless to say, not being a veterinarian, I had to get this from the wordplay and a fair rummage of my Chambers.

30. Answer separate item with correspondence (11)

Answer: COUNTERPART (i.e. “with correspondence”, as in an equivalent or corresponding person or thing – a bit weak, but it just about works). Solution is COUNTER (i.e. “answer”) followed by PART (i.e. “separate item”).

32. Music surprise with official record (4,3,4)

Answer: ROCK AND ROLL (i.e. “music”). Solution is ROCK (i.e. “[to] surprise”) followed by AND (i.e. “with”) and then ROLL (i.e. “official record”, e.g. the electoral roll).

33. Being disapproving is losing value when I can’t be seen (11)

Answer: DEPRECATING (i.e. “being disapproving”). Solution is DEPRECIATING (i.e. “losing value”) with the first I removed (indicated by “when I can’t be seen”).

35. Try nice chop cooked using a little rocket? (11)

Answer: PYROTECHNIC (i.e. “rocket”). “Cooked” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TRY NICE CHOP. A clue that scans really well.

37. Herb’s missing society conference (6)

Answer: PARLEY (i.e. “conference”). Solution is PARSLEY (i.e. “herb”) with the S removed (indicated by “missing society” – S being a recognised abbreviation of “society”).

38. Church has to gauge years used for churchyard? (8)

Answer: CEMETERY (i.e. “churchyard”). Solution is CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England) followed by METER (i.e. “gauge”) and Y (a recognised abbreviation of “year”).

39. Speaking is a habit that’s lost nowadays (7)

Answer: DICTION (i.e. “speaking”). Solution is ADDICTION (i.e. “habit”) with the AD removed (indicated by “that’s lost nowadays”, AD standing for Anno Domini). Another clue that scans really well.

42. Proposal to confine dying criminal (8)

Answer: OFFENDER (i.e. “criminal”). Solution is OFFER (i.e. “proposal”) wrapped around or “confining”) END (i.e. final or “dying”), like so: OFF(END)ER.

44. Unknown person in crazy area that has banned unknowns (6)

Answer: ANYONE (i.e. “unknown person”). Solution is ZANY (i.e. “crazy”) and ZONE (i.e. “area”) both with the Z removed (indicated by “that has banned unknowns” – setters love using “unknown” to represent X, Y or Z in their solutions), like so: ANY-ONE. A bit of a clumsy one this, for me.

46. Large creature seen in stream in Indian state (7)

Answer: GORILLA (i.e. “large creature”). Solution is RILL (i.e. “stream” – further proof following my comment last week that there were sometimes too many names for things) placed “in” GOA (i.e. “Indian state” – kerching for the mini-theme), like so: GO(RILL)A.

48. Having a bite free on account (5)

Answer: ACRID (i.e. “having a bite”). Solution is RID (i.e. “[to] free [oneself of]”) placed beside or “on” AC (a recognised abbreviation of “account”), like so: AC-RID.

49. What upsets us – even carbonating red wine? (8,9)

Answer: CABERNET SAUVIGNON (i.e. “red wine”). “What upsets” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of US EVEN CARBONATING.

51. One man keeps a house somewhere in the US (7)

Answer: IDAHOAN (i.e. “somewhere in the US” – a bit weak, this. It feels like the setter panel-beat this clue into shape to make it work). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) followed by DAN (i.e. “man”, shortened form of Daniel) which is wrapped around or “keeping” A and HO (a recognised abbreviation of “house”), like so: I-D(A-HO)AN.

52. Read this page in correct order? (5)

Answer: RECTO, which, in publisher-speak, is the right-hand page of an open book (i.e. “this page” – the Times Jumbo Cryptic puzzle is published each week in the Saturday Review supplement and always occupies the penultimate page, and therefore a right-hand page). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: COR(RECT O)RDER. Crossword nerds will know The Times collects many of these puzzles in an annual book a couple of years after their original publication. I wonder if this particular puzzle will make it in, because the clues in those books are published on the left-hand page…

53. Relating to issuing musical title with backing (9)

Answer: EMANATIVE (i.e. “relating to issuing”). Solution is EVITA (i.e. “musical”) and NAME (i.e. “title”) both reversed (indicated by “with backing”), like so: EMAN-ATIVE.

54. Race annoyed America, perhaps (5-7)

Answer: CROSS-COUNTRY. Solution satisfies “race” and “annoyed country, perhaps”.

55. Part of team abandoned player (6,4)

Answer: INSIDE LEFT (i.e. a positional “player” in some field games). Solution is IN SIDE (i.e. “part of team”, as in someone who is in a side) followed by LEFT (i.e. “abandoned”). A nice bit of symmetry by the setter between this and MIDFIELDER. I like it.

Down clues

1. A comic’s this upsetting, taking pleasure in hurt (11)

Answer: MASOCHISTIC (i.e. “taking pleasure in hurt”). “Upsetting” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A COMIC’S THIS.

2. Speak slowly to bring out learner (5)

Answer: DRAWL (i.e. “speak slowly”). Solution is DRAW (i.e. “to bring out”) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”).

3. Disclose current key Liberal objective (9)

Answer: IMPARTIAL (i.e. “[to be] objective”). Solution is IMPART (i.e. “disclose”) followed by I (a recognised abbreviation of an electrical “current”) then A (i.e. “[musical] key”) and then L (a recognised abbreviation of “Liberal”). A clue that scans rather well.

4. Baby’s gear still coming in behind schedule (7)

Answer: LAYETTE (i.e. “baby’s gear”). Solution is YET (i.e. “still”) placed or “coming in” LATE (i.e. “behind schedule”) like so: LA(YET)TE. One I got through the wordplay, if I’m honest.

5. Old tree lay with heart gone (7)

Answer: ELDERLY (i.e. “old”). Solution is ELDER (i.e. “tree”) followed by LY (i.e. “lay with heart gone”, i.e. the word LAY with the middle letter removed).

7. Leather maker about to have place for environmental adviser (4,7)

Answer: TOWN PLANNER (i.e. “environmental advisor”). Solution is TANNER (i.e. “leather maker”) which is placed “about”) OWN (i.e. “to have”) and PL (a recognised abbreviation of “place”), like so: T(OWN-PL)ANNER.

8. Solvent, see, found in a stout? (6)

Answer: AFLOAT (i.e. “solvent”, as in being debt-free). Solution is LO (i.e. “see”, as in “lo and behold”) placed in A and FAT (i.e. “stout”), like so: A-F(LO)AT.

9. What offers a lot of openings in council that’s under limit (8)

Answer: PEGBOARD, which is a wooden block covered in holes used to help keep score in games such as cribbage (i.e. “what offers a lot of openings”). Solution is BOARD (i.e. “council”) which is placed “under” PEG (i.e. “[to] limit”), this being a down clue, like so: PEG-BOARD.

10. Remedy sorting out most acid pains (13)

Answer: ANTISPASMODIC (i.e. “remedy”). “Sorting out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MOST ACID PAINS. Another clue that scans really well.

11. Dodge row about alternative vote that’s turned up (7)

Answer: EVASION (i.e. “dodge”). Solution NOISE (i.e. “row”, as in an argument) placed “about” AV (a recognised abbreviation of “alternative vote”) and the whole then reversed (indicated by “that’s turned up” – this being a down clue), like so: E(VA)SION.

12. Hard day cutting leather climber’s item up in a high base (11)

Answer: HEXADECIMAL (i.e. “[numerical] base [16]” – computer types will be familiar with base 16, i.e. the numbers 1-9 and the letters A-F which represent the numbers 1 through 16. Most other people will usually see these numbers when their computer buggers over and produces an error code). Bloody hell, what a convoluted mess this was! It took a while to decode this one, but my solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in pencil grading) with D (a recognised abbreviation of “day”) placed in or “cutting” LAM (i.e. “leather”, as in to hit something) and ICE AXE (i.e. “climber’s item”) which have been reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue), like so: H-(EXA-(D)-ECI)-MAL. Good grief, I’m off for a lie down after that one.

13. Revolutionary target endlessly at risk to Conservative informer (10)

Answer: ARISTOCRAT (i.e. “revolutionary target” – an unusual description. I’m fairly certain few aristocrats will have “revolutionary target” on their business cards, but fair enough). Solution is A and RIS (i.e. “endlessly at risk”, i.e. the words “at” and “risk” with the final letters removed) followed by TO, then C (a recognised abbreviation of “Conservative”) and RAT (i.e. “informer”), like so: A-RIS-TO-C-RAT.

20. Mostly fleece garment for a winter sportsman? (3-6)

Answer: SKI JUMPER (i.e. “winter sportsman”). Solution is SKI (i.e. “mostly fleece”, i.e. the word SKIN with the last letter removed – another weak one for me. If you were to skin an animal, you’d have its pelt rather than its fleece, wouldn’t you?) followed by JUMPER (i.e. “garment”).

23. Go wrong, getting very muddy around steep cliff (8)

Answer: MISCARRY (i.e. “go wrong” – another rather jarring description from the setter). Solution is MIRY (i.e. “very muddy”) wrapped “around” SCAR (i.e. “steep cliff”), like so: MI(SCAR)RY.

25. Skill used to cut bronze material (6)

Answer: TARTAN (i.e. “material”). Solution is ART (i.e. “skill”) placed in or “cutting” TAN (i.e. “bronze”), like so: T(ART)AN.

26. Hypocrite under pressure – he’s grabbing a pay increase (8)

Answer: PHARISEE, an over-adherent religious type obsessed with its rules. The word also means “hypocrite”. A new one on me, but I like it. Solution is P (a recognised abbreviation of “pressure”) followed by HE once it has been wrapped around or “grabbed” A RISE (i.e. “a pay increase”), like so: P-H(A-RISE)E.

28. Flyer showing cost of cutlery item? (9)

Answer: SPOONBILL (i.e. “flyer”, as in a bird). Solution also satisfies “cost of cutlery item”, as in a SPOON BILL.

29. Did season put girl and boy together? (6)

Answer: SALTED (i.e. “did season”). Solution is SAL (a “girl”, short for Sally) and TED (a “boy”, short for Edward) “put together”.

31. One understands what sweets the very poor might afford? (3,5,5)

Answer: THE PENNY DROPS. Solution satisfies “one understands” and “what sweets the very poor might afford”.

33. Alcoholic sinks an Arab account (11)

Answer: DISPOMANIAC (i.e. “alcoholic”). Solution is DIPS (i.e. “sinks”) followed by OMANI (i.e. “an Arab” – kerching the mini-theme again) and AC (a recognised abbreviation of “account”).

34. Avocado, perhaps, and it’s said, more disgusting fruit he sells (11)

Answer: GREENGROCER. Solution is GREEN (i.e. “avocado, perhaps”) followed by GROCER, a homophone of GROSSER (indicated by “it’s said, more disgusting”). In the context of the clue, a GREENGROCER would often sell avocados.

35. Men phone, after stumbling on incident (10)

Answer: PHENOMENON (i.e. “incident”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “after stumbling”) of MEN PHONE followed by ON, like so: PHENOMEN-ON.

36. Quite happy to include area in motorway control (11)

Answer: CONTAINMENT (i.e. “control”). Solution is CONTENT (i.e. “quite happy”) wrapped around or “including” A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”), IN and M (ditto “motorway”), like so: CONT(A-IN-M)ENT.

40. Eat garlic cooked, but this is not good in a pie (9)

Answer: CARTILAGE. “Cooked” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of EAT GARLIC. Within the context of the clue, cartilage isn’t good if found in a pie.

41. Notable C given out in operatic style (3,5)

Answer: BEL CANTO (i.e. “operatic style”). “Given out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NOTABLE C. One I got through the wordplay, if I’m honest.

43. Extreme ridicule over confused mix-up (7)

Answer: FARRAGO (i.e. “confused mix-up”). Solution is FAR (i.e. “extreme”) followed by RAG (i.e. “[to] ridicule”) and O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket).

45. Maidstone finally trailing Orient (7)

Answer: EASTERN (i.e. “Orient”). Solution is E (i.e. “Maidstone finally”, i.e. the last letter of “Maidstone”) followed by ASTERN (i.e. “trailing”).

46. Nearly squash foreign friend’s tropical fish (7)

Answer: GOURAMI (i.e. “tropical fish” – did a Google Image search – yup, it’s a fish). Solution is GOURD (i.e. “squash”, as in a big fleshy fruit) with the last letter removed (indicated by “nearly”) and then followed by AMI (i.e. “foreign friend” – “ami” is French for “friend”). Score one for the Bradford’s here.

47. Honour no queen over Shakespearean king (6)

Answer: OBERON, “king” of the fairies in “Shakespeare’s” A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Solution is OBE (i.e. “honour”, specifically the Order of the British Empire) followed by NO and R (a recognised abbreviation of Regina, being Latin for “queen”) both reversed (indicated by “over”), like so: OBE-(R-ON).

50. Rogue losing head about one innocent (5)

Answer: NAÏVE (i.e. “innocent”). Solution is KNAVE (i.e. “rogue”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “losing head”) and wrapped “about” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: NA(I)VE.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1390

What a strange one this was! I was doing rather well for about two-thirds of it, only for the brakes to be pulled and for me to find the remainder leavened with a load of bastard-hard solutions. It was almost as if two setters had compiled the puzzle. (Rubs imaginary chin.)

Anyway, I got there in the end… I think. Either way, you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. This doesn’t represent my best week, I warn you, thanks mostly to my nostrils converting my fatty tissue and vital organs into snot and hosing it out at an alarming rate. Consequently, crabbiness and occasional swears lie ahead for those with a strong constitution.

Before we get to all that, as ever, a little housekeeping. You can find solutions to previous Times Jumbo Cryptics on my Just For Fun page, which you might find useful. If books are your thing, then my Reviews page might be of interest, particularly if you’re a fan of horror.

Right. On with the show. I’m off to snort bleach and to dump this laptop in a bucket of disinfectant for a week.

Yours, in man-flu – LP

With thanks to Chris in the comments for the correction. – LP


Across clues

1. Mark places of learning installing area for oriental tree (9)

Answer: MACADAMIA (i.e. “tree”). A faller at the first, it seems. My solution, for what it’s worth, is M (a recognised abbreviation of “mark”, the former currency of Germany) followed by ACADEMIES (i.e. “places of learning”), with the final letters ES (I’m guessing ES represents “oriental” as in a recognised abbreviation of “Eastern”, but my Chambers doesn’t support this) replaced by A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”).
[EDIT: A big thank you to Chris in the comments for the clarification and correction. I was on the right lines, but not quite there. The annoying thing is I’d looked this one up in my Chambers while writing the original post, and still didn’t spot I’d spelled the solution incorrectly. Told you I was ill! – LP]

6. For sale, non-uniform prison tankard (4,3)

Answer: TOBY JUG (i.e. “tankard”). Solution is TO BUY (i.e. “for sale”) with the U removed (indicated by “non-uniform” – U being “uniform” in the phonetic alphabet) and then followed by JUG (i.e. a slang term for “prison” – it’s in the dictionary, but I can’t recall ever seeing its use), like so: TO-BY-JUG.

10. Collect fool’s confession (5)

Answer: AMASS (i.e. “collect”). Solution is AM ASS (i.e. “fool’s confession”, as in “I am an ass”).

13. One recommends a screen to protect duke (7)

Answer: ADVISOR (i.e. “one recommends”). Solution is A VISOR (i.e. “a screen”) wrapped around or “protecting” D (a recognised abbreviation of “duke”), like so: A-(D)-VISOR.

14. In the air? Not initially – on the ground (5)

Answer: LYING (i.e. “on the ground”). Solution is FLYING (i.e. “in the air”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “not initially”).

15. Impossible to improve without billions? That’s not acceptable from restaurant (9)

Answer: UNEATABLE (i.e. “that’s not acceptable from restaurant”). Solution is UNBEATABLE (i.e. “impossible to improve”) with the first B removed (indicated by “without billions” – B being a recognised abbreviation of “billions”).

16. Make difficulties and honk when respirator wasn’t adjusted (5,1,7,2,3,5)

Answer: THROW A SPANNER IN THE WORKS (i.e. “make difficulties”). “Adjusted” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HONK WHEN RESPIRATOR WASN’T. A repeated solution from only a few months ago. Ho hum.

17. Enlarge muscle; fail to keep it (6)

Answer: DILATE (i.e. “enlarge”). Solution is LAT (short form of latissimus dorsi, a “muscle” in the lower back) “kept” inside of DIE (i.e. “fail”), like so: DI(LAT)E.

18. Haggle about a shilling, and finally buy instrument (8)

Answer: PSALTERY (i.e. “instrument” – did a Google Image search… then had to do a You Tube search… pretty cool, but it looks a bugger to play. I’ll stick to air guitar, thanks.) Solution is PALTER (i.e. “haggle” – a new one on me, but I rather like it) wrapped “about” S (a recognised abbreviation of “shilling”) and then followed by Y (i.e. “finally buy”, i.e. the last letter of “buy”), like so: P(S)ALTER-Y.

19. Given to burner regularly, short fat strips (7)

Answer: UNROBES (i.e. “strips”). Solution is UNR (i.e. “burner regularly”, i.e. every other letter of BURNER) followed by OBESE (i.e. “fat”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “short”), like so: UNR-OBES.

22. Unfair comment about DNA pioneer ending in court (3,7)

Answer: NOT CRICKET (i.e. “unfair”). Solution is NOTE (i.e. “comment”) placed about Francis CRICK (i.e. “DNA pioneer”) and then followed by T (i.e. “ending in court”, i.e. the last letter of “court”), like so: NOT(CRICK)E-T.

23. Look, I escaped, flying in ever-changing patterns (12)

Answer: KALEIDOSCOPE (i.e. “in ever-changing patterns” – I don’t want to come over all Grammar Nazi, but doesn’t this phrasing lead to “kaleidoscopic“?). “Flying” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LOOK I ESCAPED.

27. Steer half of relatives into charity (5)

Answer: OXFAM (i.e. “charity”). Solution is OX (i.e. “steer”) followed by FAM (i.e. “half of relatives”, i.e. the first half of the word FAMILY).

29. Partly undressed, losing one’s head? (7)

Answer: TOPLESS. Solution satisfies “partly undressed” and “losing one’s head”.

30. Party indoors with whiskey for starter a disadvantage (8)

Answer: DOWNSIDE (i.e. “disadvantage”). Solution is DO (i.e. “party”) followed by INSIDE (i.e. “indoors”) with the initial letter or “starter” I replaced with W (i.e. “whiskey” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: DO-WNSIDE.

32. Exercises joint that doesn’t allow one to lug cargo across (8)

Answer: TRANSHIP (i.e. “lug cargo across”). Solution is TRAINS HIP (i.e. “exercises joint”) with the first I removed (indicated by “that doesn’t allow [Roman numeral] one”).

34. Live, introducing choir to rock and roll (7)

Answer: BRIOCHE (i.e. “[bread] roll”). Solution is BE (i.e. “[to] live”) wrapped around or “introducing” an anagram (indicated by “to rock”) of CHOIR, like so: B(RIOCH)E.

36. Pressure in water channel rose fast (5)

Answer: LEAPT (i.e. “rose fast”). Solution is P (a recognised abbreviation of “pressure”) placed “in” LEAT (i.e. “water channel” – proof that there are sometimes too many words for things), like so: LEA(P)T.

39. Writer’s sporting portmanteau covering cape (6,6)

Answer: TRUMAN CAPOTE (i.e. “writer”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “sporting”… a bit weak) of PORTMANTEAU, which is wrapped around or “covering” C (a recognised abbreviation of “cape”, as in Cape Cod etc), like so: TRUMAN(C)APOTE.

41. Lead actors in play concerning priests (10)

Answer: SACERDOTAL (i.e. “concerning priests”). “In play” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LEAD ACTORS. One I got more through brute force on the anagram than any ecumenical knowledge.

44. Shy, but entice into pub (7)

Answer: INDRAWN (i.e. “shy”). Solution is DRAW (i.e. “entice”) placed “into” INN (i.e. “pub”), like so: IN(DRAW)N.

46. Trumpet that fleece is off? (4-4)

Answer: RAM’S-HORN (i.e. “trumpet” made from… well, a ram’s horn). Solution is also RAM SHORN (i.e. “fleece is off”).

48. Look good with weapon (6)

Answer: GLANCE (i.e. “look”). Solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) followed by LANCE (i.e. “weapon”).

50. Enormous company of mounted soldiers heard of in Arabian saga (3,8,3,3,6)

Answer: THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (i.e. “Arabian saga”). For the most part of solving this grid, I had this written in as ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS because… well, that’s what it is, isn’t it? Only when I finally solved 38d did I realise the setter was playing silly buggers. Anyway, “heard of” indicates a homophone is at play here, in this case THE THOUSAND AND ONE KNIGHTS (i.e. “enormous company of mounted soldiers”). Shite, in a word.

53. Satisfying answer, using gas for cooking (9)

Answer: ASSUAGING (i.e. “satisfying”). Solution is A (a recognised abbreviation of “answer”, as in Q&A) followed by an anagram (indicated by “for cooking”) of USING GAS, like so: A-SSUAGING.

54. A Nevada city shortly acquires a stadium (5)

Answer: ARENA (i.e. “stadium”). Solution is A followed by RENO (i.e. “Nevada city”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “shortly”) and followed by another A, like so: A-REN-A. Not great.

55. In orchestra, you are heard with a plucked instrument (7)

Answer: BANDURA (i.e. “plucked instrument” – and off we go again to a Google Image search… and a You Tube search… really cool, this, a bit like a board-backed harp, but it must be a right sod to tune. Anyway…) Solution is BAND (i.e. “orchestra”) followed by UR (i.e. “you are heard”, as in the pronunciations of U (“you”) and R (“are”)) and then A. A clue that scans rather well.

56. Pair failing to thwart special occasion (5)

Answer: EVENT (i.e. “special occasion”). Okay here’s one I’m really shaky on, but I can’t see anything else in the clue that fits the letters E_E_T. I reckon, given this setter’s penchant for removing letters from words to derive solutions, and given how “thwart” can be taken to mean “to cross the path of”, that there is a synonym of “pair” removed from (i.e. “failing to thwart”) a larger word meaning “special” in order to derive EVENT, e.g. E(___)VENT, or EV(___)ENT, or EVE(___)NT, etc. I can’t think of one at the moment, as my head is still mostly filled with snot as I type this. Maybe sleeping on it will spark something.
[EDIT: Thanks to Rod in the comments for helping out on this one. Solution is PREVENT (i.e. “thwart”) with PR (a recognised abbreviation of “pair”) removed.]
[FURTHER EDIT: Gab in the comments suggests an alternative solution to this which hinges on “pair” being EVEN on a roulette table, and T being a reduction of the word “thwart”. (“Failing” could be said to be a shortcoming.) Thanks, Gab!]

57. Half-past ten? Ridiculous, we snort (3-4)

Answer: NOR-WEST (i.e. “half-past ten”, which is north-west on the compass). “Ridiculous” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WE SNORT.

58. Account book held page for dining room extension (5,4)

Answer: TABLE-LEAF, which is an extension to a table-top (i.e. “dining room extension”). Here’s another that tripped me up. I’m seeing “account” as TAB, and LEAF as “page”, but after that my brain jumps ship on me.
[EDIT: Thanks to Rod and Clive in the comments for both clarifying this one. The solution is TALE (i.e. “account”) wrapped around or “holding” B (a recognised abbreviation of “book”) and then followed by LEAF (i.e. “page”), like so: TA(B)LE-LEAF.]

Down clues

1. Implied insect’s introduction? (5)

Answer: MEANT (i.e. “implied”). Solution is also ME ANT (i.e. “insect’s introduction”). I actually laughed when I got this. I’ll always be a sucker for bad puns.

2. Fielder not apparently engaged on field catches hit eventually, having to run far (5,1,3,2,6)

Answer: COVER A LOT OF GROUND (i.e. “having to run far”). Solution is COVER (i.e. a “fielder” in cricket) followed by ALOOF (i.e. “not apparently engaged”) and GROUND (i.e. “field”) which are wrapped around or “catching” T (i.e. “hit eventually”, i.e. the last letter of “hit”), like so: COVER-ALO(T)OF-GROUND.

3. Ruin server, dropping one in dirty liquid (9)

Answer: DISHWATER (i.e. “dirty liquid”). Solution is DISH (i.e. “ruin”, informally) followed by WAITER (i.e. “server”) with the I removed (indicated by “dropping [Roman numeral] one”), like so: DISH-WATER.

4. Miserable doctor was promoted (6)

Answer: MOROSE (i.e. “miserable”). Solution is MO (i.e. “doctor”, specifically a Medical Officer) followed by ROSE (i.e. “promoted”).

5. Complete success of worker not yet in the chimney? (1,5,5)

Answer: A CLEAN SWEEP. Solution satisfies “complete success” and “worker not yet in the chimney”. Another that made me smile when I got it.

6. Shape of kitchen item (8)

Answer: TRIANGLE (i.e. “shape”). I don’t quite get the “kitchen item” angle, if I’m honest. A lazy look on Google suggests “the kitchen triangle” to be some kind of design ethos that’s rather useless for those whose kitchens measure 7ft by 12ft – to pick an example entirely at random. Either way, it doesn’t sound terribly “item”-ish. Right now, whatever it is, it can’t cure the common cold, so I don’t really give a shit. Moving on…
[EDIT: Jeremy added a comment to my About page that nails this one. The clue is playing on how the percussion section of an orchestra is sometimes informally referred to as the “kitchen”, so the triangle could be said to be a “kitchen item”. Thanks, Jeremy!]

7. Actor grand in part of stage role finally (7)

Answer: Dirk BOGARDE (i.e. “actor”). Good grief this took some getting. The trouble with a clue like “actor” is that there are literally tens of fucking thousands of them, even the dead ones. Luckily, I blew my nose and found the answer written in the shredded bog roll folded in my hands. No, really. Anyway, solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “grand”, often used to describe thousands of pounds) placed “in” BOARD (i.e. “part of stage”, as in treading the boards) and then followed by E (i.e. “role finally”, i.e. the last letter of “role”), like so: BO(G)ARD-E. For all this annoyed the hell out of me for much of the puzzle, I’ll admit it did feel pretty good when I finally nailed it.

8. Where lovers meet in play? (8,3)

Answer: JOURNEY’S END, a 1928 “play” by R. C. Sherriff. “Where lovers meet” refers to a quote from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “Journeys end in lovers meeting”. One of those where I got the clue from the intersecting letters rather than any “proper” cultural knowledge.

9. Uranium in hydrogen compound? Want to bet on it? (9)

Answer: GREYHOUND (i.e. “want to bet on it?”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “compound”) of HYDROGEN and U (chemical symbol of “uranium”). A clue that scans rather well.

10. Pacifist soldier perhaps I advise to conceal name (7)

Answer: ANTIWAR (i.e. “pacifist”). Solution is ANT (i.e. “soldier perhaps” – other ants are available) followed by I and then WARN (i.e. “advise”) with the N removed (indicated by “to conceal name” – N being a recognised abbreviation of “name”), like so: ANT-I-WAR.

11. Light resin (5)

Answer: AMBER. Solution satisfies “light”, as in the middle of a set of traffic lights, and “resin”. A good clue, this.

12. Measures I back shortly for one who hated Cinderella (10)

Answer: STEPSISTER (i.e. “one who hated Cinderella”). Solution is STEPS (i.e. “measures”) followed by I and then STERN (i.e. “back” of a ship) which has the final letter removed (indicated by “shortly”), like so: STEPS-I-STER.

17. I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue team full of news (5)

Answer: DUNNO (i.e. “I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue”). Solution is DUO (i.e. “team”) which is “filled with” N and N (each a recognised abbreviation of “new”, the plural being “news” – sneaky, isn’t it?), like so: DU(N-N)O. A good clue that scans rather well.

20. American woman finding actors for audience in Art Deco building (12,5)

Answer: BROADCASTING HOUSE (i.e. “Art Deco building” home of the BBC). Solution is BROAD (i.e. “American woman”) followed by CASTING (i.e. “finding actors”) and HOUSE (i.e. “audience” of a theatre).

21. Corner of Yorkshire offering strong drink (6)

Answer: SCOTCH (i.e. “strong drink”). Solution also refers to Scotch “Corner”, a motorway junction “of Yorkshire” well known to motorists bombing it up and down the A1.

24. Attack Christmas revelry, needing to lose weight (6)

Answer: ASSAIL (i.e. “attack”). Solution is WASSAIL (i.e. “Christmas revelry” – I remembered this from a recent puzzle) with the W removed (indicated by “needing to lose weight” – W being a recognised abbreviation of “weight”).

25. Girl, one bound up in rope fibre (5)

Answer: SISAL (i.e. “rope fibre” made from the leaves of a Mexica agave – another I remembered, this time from a puzzle from the end of last year). Solution is LASS (i.e. “girl”) with I (Roman numeral “one”) “bound” inside of it, and the whole then reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue), like so: S(I)SAL.

26. You Tube’s about to lose European sort of agreement (3-3)

Answer: YES-BUT (i.e. “sort of agreement”). Another I’m shaky on. My guess is we’re dealing with an anagram (indicated by “about”) of YOU TUBE’S, once it has “lost” OU – but quite what makes this “European” is anyone’s guess. I’m open to alternative solutions!
[EDIT: Thanks to several commenters for their input on this tricky bugger. Solution is YE (i.e. “you”) followed by TUBES once it has been reversed (indicated by “about”) and the E removed (indicated by “to lose European” – E being a recognised abbreviation of “European”), like so: YE-SBUT. Thanks, everyone!]

28. Special food not able initially to support fellow (5)

Answer: MANNA (i.e. “special food” miraculously provided for the Israelites in the wilderness, if you go in for Bible stuff). Solution is NA (i.e. “not able initially”, i.e. the first letters of “not” and “able”) placed beneath or “supporting” MAN (i.e. “fellow”) – this being a down clue – like so: MAN-N-A.

31. One greeting little childless person (6)

Answer: WEEPER, which is a hired mourner (i.e. “one greeting”). Not a profession that I’d choose for myself. Anyway, solution is WEE (i.e. “little”) followed by PER (i.e. “childless person”, i.e. the word PERSON with the SON removed).

33. Perhaps briefly disturbed by rage: his work sends him up the wall (11)

Answer: PAPERHANGER (i.e. “his work sends him up the wall”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “disturbed”) of PERHAPS once it has had its last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and then followed by ANGER (i.e. “rage”), like so: PAPERH-ANGER.

35. Seer vainly involved with actor (11)

Answer: CLAIRVOYANT (i.e. “seer”). “Involved” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of VAINLY and ACTOR.

37. Movement of water across lake in wavy line (5)

Answer: TILDE (i.e. “wavy line”, specifically the ~ you see over some letters of foreign words). Solution is TIDE (i.e. “movement of water”) wrapped around or placed “across” L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”), like so: TI(L)DE.

38. Revelatory performance by band interrupted by drinks (10)

Answer: STRIPTEASE (i.e. “revelatory performance”). Solution is STRIPE (i.e. “band”) wrapped around or “interrupted by” TEAS (i.e. “drinks”), like so: STRIP(TEAS)E.

40. Old officer, badly neurotic, back from expedition (9)

Answer: CENTURION (i.e. “old officer” of Ancient Rome). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “badly”) of NEUROTIC followed by N (i.e. “back from expedition”, i.e. the last letter of “expedition”), like so: CENTURIO-N.

42. Virtually exhausted in social function, a waste of time (9)

Answer: DALLIANCE (i.e. “waste of time”). Solution is ALL IN (i.e. “exhausted”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “virtually”) and placed “in” DANCE (i.e. “social function”), like so: D(ALL-I)ANCE.

43. Part of leg that is way the most glossy (8)

Answer: SHINIEST (i.e. “the most glossy”). Solution is SHIN (i.e. “part of leg”) followed by IE (i.e. “that is”, i.e. … well, “i.e.”) and ST (i.e. “way”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “street”), like so: SHIN-IE-ST.

45. Essentially a danger when river moves south (2,5)

Answer: AT HEART (i.e. “essentially”). Solution is A THREAT (i.e. “a danger”) with the R (a recognised abbreviation of “river”) moved down or “south” a couple of notches – this being a down clue.

47. Intervene, having no time to ponder at length (7)

Answer: MEDIATE (i.e. “intervene”). Solution is MEDITATE (i.e. “ponder at length”) with the first T removed (indicated by “having no time” – T being a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

49. Rower’s newly-washed hairstyle? (3-3)

Answer: WET-BOB, which is, according to my Chambers: “at Eton, a boy who goes in for rowing during the summer term”. Meh. I went to a comprehensive which has since been pulled down, so ya-boo to all that elitist bollocks. Anyway, before I invoke class war, the solution satisfies “rower” and “newly-washed hairstyle”.

51. Follow, to make certain of downing resistance (5)

Answer: ENSUE (i.e. “follow”). Solution is ENSURE (i.e. “to make certain of”) once the R (a recognised abbreviation of “resistance”) is removed or “downed” – an odd choice of word by the setter, there. Could just be me.

52. No way out of town for employees (5)

Answer: STAFF (i.e. “employees”). Solution is STAFFORD (i.e. “town”) from which is removed (indicated by “out of”) the O (i.e. “no”, as in nothing or zero) and RD (a recognised abbreviation of “road”, i.e. “way”).

Review: Best New Horror 7

(If you would like to read reviews of the previous Best New Horror books, jump over to my Reviews page for links.)

After the rather slim volume 6 comes a significantly chunkier entry in Stephen Jones’s Best New Horror series. While previous entries had been a tad uneven in terms of quality, volume 7 is pretty good throughout, with only a handful of stories I’d skip through on a reread. As you will see below, a number of stories suffer from weak or unsatisfying endings, but these are often due to the ending being overshadowed an interesting premise or strong opening. So, predictably, this is another 4/5 from me.

Best New Horror 7 comprises twenty-five stories and a poem which mark the best horror shorts published during 1995, and runs as follows:

Also collected in MacLeod’s “Voyages by Starlight”

Tirkiluk – Ian R. MacLeod (3/5 – Science Officer Seymour takes a stint manning an Arctic weather station. As winter takes hold, he finds a scavenger nearby. Her name is Tirkiluk and she is an outcast from a nearby eskimo settlement. When Seymour discovers Tirkiluk is heavily pregnant, he lets her stay with him in the rather cramped confines of his hut. Things go south, however, when Seymour accidentally starts a fire that endangers all their lives. This was okay, but the diary format of the story made me feel little more than a witness to a sequence of events, which robbed the story of emotional impact. Also, unless I missed a paragraph somewhere, no reason was given or intimated for Seymour’s decline. Was it supernatural? Was Seymour merely going a bit doolally? It’s as if the story says, “Ehhhh, who cares? Move along, please.” So I will.)

Also collected in Fowler’s “Uncut”

The Most Boring Woman In The World – Christopher Fowler (4/5 – The ever-reliable Fowler scores another winner. If you only know Fowler through his Bryant & May books, then stop right now and seek out a collection or two of his short fiction. You won’t be disappointed. Anyway, here a housewife tells us of her crushingly boring existence, and how she’s having to perk things up here and there to keep herself from going mad. She starts out with little acts of rebellion, but then oh my do things escalate! As a side note, it’s an interesting editorial choice of Jones to open Best New Horror 7 with a story that keeps the reader at arm’s length in Tirkiluk, and then juxtapose it with one that directly engages the reader. I’m not saying it works perfectly, it’s just… interesting.)

Also collected in Hodge’s “The Convulsion Factory”

Extinctions In Paradise – Brian Hodge (4/5 – Hodge follows up his excellent The Alchemy Of The Throat (featured in Best New Horror 6) with a very good story which sees Robert, a former journalist, trying to rebuild his life in Mexico following the horrific loss of his wife and children. Now in his adopted homeland, Robert has a new family of sorts in the numerous street kids who scrape a living in and around the neighbourhood. His kindness stands him in good stead too, because it seems these kids have developed a novel – some would say murderous – way to survive on the streets. Dammit, this story was so close to being another 5/5 for Hodge, but was let down by a final act that felt a little tacked on and created a jarring sense of “Whaaaaaaaa…?!!?”. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean. The fact Hodge specifically mentions in his introduction how he came to write those last few pages suggests he knew this and was trying to justify it in some way.)

Also collected in Tuttle’s “Ghosts and Other Lovers”

Food Man – Lisa Tuttle (4/5 – An anorexic teenager hides food under her bed, much preferring to live with the stench of rotting food in her room than to risk putting on weight. Things take a turn for the bizarre when, late one night, a figure emerges out from under her bed. It’s a man, made of food! So what’s a girl to do? Get jiggy with it, of course! If the premise sounds too far-fetched, don’t worry – you are not alone. But let’s cut the author some slack and pretend the girl’s parents and brother are ardent 120-a-day smokers of Woodbines whose sense of smell died long ago, and that, in psychosis, food can be seen to coalesce into the shape of a man and… er… rise up, so to speak. Even so, I would love to know what was in Tuttle’s head when she wrote this. “Okay, yeah, I’ve got this girl, right, and… er… she… er… well, she gets fucked by a man made of food.” Most bizarre of all is that she makes this ludicrous story work, and manages to steer things toward a spine-tingling climax, if you’ll forgive the expression. Pretty impressive, all said.)

Also collected in MMS’s “More Tomorrow and Other Stories”

More Tomorrow – Michael Marshall Smith (5/5 – An IT contractor gets chummy with a young colleague, Jeanette, but finds his chances of romance gutter and die when he meets her boyfriend. Straight away our man knows something is off, and his suspicions are all but confirmed when he finds a recent image of Jeanette posted online, then another, and another. Each image is more revealing and more disturbing than the last, and each image is cheered on by a nameless, faceless audience. MMS absolutely nails it in this British Fantasy Award winner; a story that puts an arm over your shoulder, has a laugh and a joke with you and then stabs you in the gut. This story also perfectly illustrates how we have always had a dark side to the internet, as we have had with any creative technology. Finally, as this story was written shortly before the advent of search engines and web browsers, there’s also a certain nostalgic quality for ageing nerds to enjoy. Ah, the days!)

Also collected in Campbell’s “Ghosts & Grisly Things”

Going Under – Ramsey Campbell (2/5 – Steve Blythe is queueing for a rare chance to walk through the Mersey Tunnels, along with half of Merseyside it seems. Blythe is one of those fellas who is welded to his mobile phone, much to the annoyance of everyone around him. (This was 1995, kids. People were weird back then.) He is undergoing an acrimonious divorce and is keen for his new squeeze to post off the latest maintenance payment to his ex in order to avoid a legal bollocking. But Val isn’t picking up his calls. Blythe only ever gets his answerphone. When he is harangued and pressed into entering the tunnel by his fellow walkers, Blythe finds he has a more urgent need to make a phone call. Good grief, even after a second read this was a chore to get through. Nearly everything about this story got up my nose, from the hopelessly over-engineered premise and how teeth-grindingly overwritten it was, through to the largely fake, annoying and unfunny characters. At times I swear I was reading a Fat Slags cartoon. Surprisingly, despite all this, Going Under isn’t a total bust. Campbell succeeds in creating a sweaty sense of claustrophobia once the story gets going, but that’s about all to commend it. This is one of those stories you suspect only got published because of the name behind it, and only made it into this book due to a spot of cronyism.)

Also collected in Smeds’s “Embracing the Starlight”

Survivor – Dave Smeds (4/5 – It’s 1967 and Troy Chesley is due to return to Vietnam for another tour of duty. He gets a tattoo to commemorate this and asks the artist to draw him a seriously ripped unicorn. Yes, a unicorn. The artist agrees, but only if Troy has the tattoo over his heart. When Troy returns to the conflict he finds his tattoo is somehow keeping him from harm, but at what cost? This is a really good story that explores a few interesting themes, from living someone else’s life to the effects of time-dilation on Troy and those around him, and just when you start wondering where Smeds is going with all this, he pulls out a superb ending. Recommended.)

The Stones – Patrick Thompson (4/5 – Neil and Jane are holidaying in Cornwall, attempting to locate sites of ancient standing stones. While Cornwall is very nice and all, it seems Jane isn’t getting much of a mystical tingle from anything they’ve found so far. An old man they meet suggests a nearby beach, but there doesn’t seem to be much there, least of all anything living. Now why would that be? This was a story I was looking forward to re-reading for these extended reviews of Best New Horror because, when I’d read it originally, and despite enjoying the pleasingly chill Aickmanesque atmosphere it generated, there was something about the story that didn’t quite click. A second read happily sorted all that out. On the evidence of this story, I might have to seek out a couple of dark comedy thrillers he later wrote, Seeing The Wires and Execution Plan – assuming it’s the same bloke.)

Back Of Beyond – Cherry Wilder (3/5 – The Mandevilles are tempted out of retirement to help Mary Boyd, a wealthy woman who is desperate to locate her missing son. Vivien Mandeville is a sensitive, capable of reading an incredible amount of detail and history from the objects she handles. Her husband, Albert, acts as her straight-man. When the Mandevilles reach the Boyd residence, they find themselves stalked from afar, and are given an ominous warning by an old Aboriginal to let sleeping dogs lie. This was okay, with Wilder creating a great double act in the Mandevilles, but the ending disappointed.)

A Hundred Little Wicked Witches – Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 – Jack sees witches everywhere. They judge him, criticise him, mock him. When they are not expressing seemingly every aspect of his life, they are controlling it. When Jack meets Marsha, he is astonished to find that she wants to get to know him and seems willing look past all the witches he sees. But can he? This is a playful short from SRT “witches” spoiled only by an ending that felt abrupt and overly harsh.)

The Finger Of Halugra – Manly Wade Wellman (4/5 – You might wonder how a posthumous entry from an author who had passed away nearly a decade earlier could make it into a book called Best New Horror, but who cares about such trifling technicalities when the story is this good? The improbably named Sugg Harpole is hired by an unsavoury sort called The Greek to locate and retrieve the titular finger. The statue of Halugra is to be found somewhere up in the mountains, and the neighbouring Native Americans believe its finger has remarkable healing qualities. Turns out it does, but it seems the statue is rather attached to it. While this story was predictable, it was also a lot of fun, reading like an old horror comic strip from a bygone age.)

Also collected in Lamsley’s “Conference with the Dead”

The Toddler – Terry Lamsley (4/5 – Haddon Hall is a place with a dark history. Centuries ago the monstrous Sir Rufford De Quintz resided there and took delight in abusing the staff in every terrible way. He sired a daughter by one of the young maids and, unusually for De Quintz, he let the child live. The toddler was subsequently tolerated but despised throughout the house. Fast forward to 1995 and Myra Cooper is spearheading the renovation of Haddon Hall. She is called to investigate a gruesome discovery bricked up in one of the walls. This was another winner from Lamsley, who is somehow able to document the most horrific things with an astonishing lightness of touch. This was the mirror opposite of his previous entry, Blade and Bone (Best New Horror 6) in that the build-up throughout this story was terrific, but was let down by the ending.)

Also collected in Gallagher’s “Out of his Mind”

Not Here, Not Now – Stephen Gallagher (4/5 – A quick in-and-out from Gallagher which sees a hit-and-run driver get his comeuppance in a suitably ironic way. There’s no messing about with this one.)








Also collected in Ligotti’s “The Nightmare Factory”

The Bungalow House – Thomas Ligotti (4/5 – A return to form for Ligotti in a Stoker-nominated story where a man is enchanted by an installation at his local grotty art gallery. The artwork takes the form of an audio recording describing in striking detail a dream of the artist in which he is trapped inside an unlit bungalow house in the dead of night while all kinds of weird and horrible vermin lie dead or dying at his feet. The imagery the recording creates in our man is so vivid that he simply must know more about the artist responsible, as much as it may bother Dahla, the gallery’s owner. The prose is as lush and the plot is as weird as ever. The story is perhaps let down by two things: first, Dahla’s character often spills over caricature and into parody; second, I saw the twist coming. Still a good read, though.)

Cradle – Alan Brennert (4/5 – Marguerite wants to have a baby, but her vampirism has made her sterile. She uses the wealth she has accrued over the years (and years and years) to hire a surrogate, Sondra, and a team of doctors to handle all the fiddly DNA-imprinting science stuff necessary for the pregnancy to be viable. (Who knew?) The pregnancy starts out normally, but, once junior develops a heartbeat, Sondra finds that her body is having a hard time keeping up with the little bugger’s needs. This is an interesting what-if story, but I suspect the ending will divide opinion between those who consider it a neat twist on vampire myth and those who will groan and move on. I’m in the “neat twist” camp, for what it’s worth.)

Also collected in Rice’s “The Idol of the Flies”

The Sixth Dog – Jane Rice (3/5 – A veterinarian is creeped out by the Clanton brothers living next door. The Clantons mostly keep to themselves, which creates fertile ground for the town’s rumourmongers. Bizarrely, it is suggested the brothers are attempting to create something that could replace food. Our man isn’t convinced about that. All he knows is that the Clantons are dwindling one by one, and the burial plots out the back of their house are increasing in number. This was okay, but it’s one of those stories where the protagonist is almost entirely passive, which made him a hard person to get behind. There were other niggles too, but are probably down to my personal taste, such as dialog written as it is spoken (which I find rarely works), quirkiness replacing humour rather than complementing it, etc.)

Also collected in Dowling’s “The Man Who Lost Red”

Scaring The Train – Terry Dowling (3/5 – It’s 1962 and Paul and Max spend their school holidays creating and executing ever more elaborate stunts to scare the living crap out of train drivers. They observe the fruits of their endeavours each time from a safe enough distance to avoid detection. After a particularly daring prank, the pair witness a man examining the offending trackside area. The man homes in on their position with uncanny speed and precision and offers them a wave. Paul and Max are spooked by this but decide to press on with their most daring stunt yet – a final hurrah before the school holidays are through. Big mistake. This was okay, but the first half of the story – concerning events in Paul and Max’s childhood – rather outshines the second half, where they return to their old stomping ground some years later.)

Also collected in Sutton’s “Clinically Dead & Other Tales of the Supernatural”

La Serenissima – David Sutton (4/5 – Euphrosyne and Polyhymnia are identical twins who have been trusted in Venice to the care of their guardians, the Fortescues – their parents being much too rich to be bothering with such piffling inconveniences as parenthood. Polyhymnia is horrified to find Rudolf Fortescue laying a hand on Euphrosyne in a most inappropriate manner and is further appalled to see not only Miranda Fortescue turning a blind eye to it, but also that Euphrosyne is quite enjoying Rudolph’s attentions. To top it all, things are not as they seem in this crumbling and rotting Venice, and a clue to it all may be found in a painting called La Serenissima. This is a very nicely written story, a significant improvement on Sutton’s previous entry, Those of Rhenea (Best New Horror 2). Euphrosyne and Polyhymnia are engaging characters, identical twins yet polar opposites, and we get a good sense of the sights, sounds and smells of Venice and its grotty underbelly. And yet, in keeping with several stories in this volume, it’s the ending that disappoints, feeling a tad throwaway. Worth a look, all the same.)

Also collected in Partridge’s “The Man with the Barbed Wire Fists”

The Bars On Satan’s Jailhouse – Norman Partridge (4/5 – Partridge serves up a bizarre and meaty slab of Wild West gothic in a tale which sees a Chinese girl, Lie, being sold by her father to a brutal and notorious criminal, Midas Gerlach. Midas’s ranch sits within a large amount of land, and he isn’t above slaughtering any government officials who come sniffing around his patch. Lie is being delivered to Midas courtesy of a large black man wearing strange boots made of fur, bone and razor-sharp teeth. It doesn’t turn out well for either of them. Perhaps both Lie and her courier should have heeded the warnings of the strange gun-toting coyote-man they met along the way. This weird western nabbed an International Horror Critics Guild Award back in the day. It’s grubby and clearly off its nut, but certainly worth a read. If you liked this, check out Partridge’s Guignoir (Best New Horror 3), which is another gritty treat of his.)

Also collected in VanderMeer’s “Secret Life”

The Bone-Carver’s Tale – Jeff VanderMeer (3/5 – Sajit is an ageing bone-carver of great renown who is captivated by the music of a serunai player he hears drifting from a nearby village. The serunai player is a woman called Prei Chen, and the two accomplished artists finally meet when Prei seeks Sajit at his home. But Sajit finds the artist pales against the beauty of her art and so sends Prei away in tears. It is a decision he comes to regret. This was okay – VanderMeer really knows his stuff when it comes to Southeast Asian history – but the richness and sense of place he gives this story is undermined by its linearity. This may have been intentional, an attempt to give it an ancient legend vibe, but this also meant the story didn’t grab me quite as much as I’d hoped it would.)

Also collected in Gaiman’s “Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions”

Queen Of Knives – Neil Gaiman (3/5 – In this poem, a child and his grandparents attend a variety show. The star act is a magician, and Grandad, thinking he knows it all, attempts to explain (often incorrectly) how each trick is done. For his next trick the magician picks Grandma from the crowd and rolls out a large cabinet. Once Grandma is secured inside the cabinet, out come the knives. This does the business but doesn’t cover any new ground.

Also, if poems
with seemingly random line
breaks leave you cold and bemused,
this probably isn’t going to turn you a-


Also collected in McAuley’s “The Invisible Country”

The True History Of Dr Pretorius – Paul J. McAuley (3/5 – Larry Cochrane is a celebrated journalist of the “attack dog” variety, and he’s got the notorious Dr Pretorius in his sights. Cochrane knows Pretorius possesses the secret to near-immortality and is determined to coerce it from him, no matter what it takes. The only problem is Pretorius seems quite comfortable admitting to the misdeeds of his past – well, most of them anyway. This was okay, but not as good as The Temptation of Dr Stein, McAuley’s previous Pretorius story from Best New Horror 6. It’s hard to know what McAuley was trying to achieve here. I’m willing to believe he’s merely having a lot of fun with the mad scientist genre, but by name-dropping nearly every fictional mad scientist in literature as either a friend or understudy of Pretorius, the story comes across a bit “me too”. Cochrane is also too much of a bad guy, bordering on pantomime at times.)

The Grey Madonna – Graham Masterton (4/5 – Shades of Don’t Look Now abound as Dean, a wealthy American tourist, returns to Bruges three years after his wife, Karen, was found dead there with a broken neck. A sole witness recalls how Karen was arguing with a nun shortly before her death, and that the nun was wearing a light grey habit at the time. Dean is determined to track down the nun. He finds he doesn’t have far to look. While predictable, this still delivered a satisfying tingle down the spine.)

Loop – Douglas E. Winter (4/5 – In this International Horror Critics Guild Award winner we observe legal eagle and keen dick-flick enthusiast Delacorte’s growing obsession for a porn actress. Initially he sees her only briefly at the end of a looped movie in a pay-as-you-go porn booth. As her porn career takes off, so does Delacorte’s and he spunks a lot of time and money collecting everything she has starred in. Every last bit of it. This was good, comfortably the author’s best story in Best New Horror, but you’ll probably spend the first three-quarters of this wondering when Winter is going to get his hands out of his pants and get on with telling the story. Also, the regular switching between second and third person is a flimsy attempt to make the reader feel complicit in Delacorte’s hairy-palmed hobby. Sorry, Doug, you’re on your own there.)

The Hunger And Ecstasy Of Vampires – Brian Stableford (3/5 – Edward Copplestone is an ageing adventurer who gathers an eccentric gaggle of real-life and fictional nineteenth century minds to hear and perchance discuss an in-depth account of his latest expedition: a drug-induced step… INTO THE FUTUUUUUURRRRE!!! Across three separate visions, Copplestone recounts increasingly advanced and fantastic futures, but they are all based upon one uncomfortable fact: that it’s vampires that take civilisation forward, not mankind. Which is music to the ears of a certain Count Lugard in attendance. This short novel is comfortably the longest story in the book, but it doesn’t quite earn its page count. It’s not a bad story by any means. I liked a good chunk of what it was trying to do, but the moment each guest – and I mean each and every one of them – began rubbing their chin and offering their take upon what they had heard, that was about the moment I began wishing the story would end. Interestingly, this story looks to have fallen victim to an extension of copyright periods in the UK during the mid-90s, in that every mention of a certain consulting detective and sidekick in the story had to be shown as S******k H***** and Doctor W*****. (Their names are intact in the issues of Interzone that featured this story originally.) Hats off to Jones for keeping this in the book, though, when it would have been a lot easier to drop it.)

Lacuna – Nicolas Royle (4/5 – After a 30-odd-thousand-word monster, we close the book on a one-pager, and a rare thing indeed: a mood piece that works, and not only that but one told in the second person! If you’ve ever missed an hour or two while in the house or have ever sensed there’s someone “other” keeping you company, then this one is for you.)

And so we reach the end of another Best New Horror review. Thanks for reading! If you are tempted by any of the stories then you should be able to find a second-hand copy of Best New Horror 7 on the interwebs without too much trouble. Alternatively, most eBook outlets will have a crisp, digital copy awaiting your purchase. The cover images in the above review will take you over to Goodreads, where you might find further avenues to explore.

Thanks again for reading. I’ll see you later for a whizz through book 8.


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1389

In a word, UGH! I think it’s safe to say I didn’t get on with this one. This is a setter that I’ll never quite get, with several tells that rub me the wrong way. Still, I persevered and got there in the end. You can find my completed grid below along with (occasionally caustic) explanations where I have them.

As ever, some housekeeping before we begin: if you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s left you baffled, then you might find my Just For Fun page useful. If horror fiction is your thing, then my Reviews page has a few tasty morsels for you. I’ll put up another review shortly for Best New Horror 7, as it’s been a while.

Right, I won’t keep you any longer. Onto the solution. I hope you find it helpful!


Across clues

1. Like an old maid with unserviceable cooker (6)

Answer: PRIMUS, a brand-named “cooker”. Solution is PRIM (i.e. “like an old maid”) followed by US (a recognised abbreviation of “unserviceable”). It never sits right when a setter chucks a product name in their grid. Yes, this one is in the dictionary, but still…

5. Scraps a few words in speech (7)

Answer: AFFRAYS (i.e. “scraps”). “In speech” indicates the solution is a homophone of A PHRASE (i.e. “a few words”).

9. Check canine? (8)

Answer: DOGTOOTH. I’m taking issue with this one, but let’s play along with the setter for a second. The clue supposedly riffs on how the solution is both a broken “check” pattern used in some tweeds, as well as a “canine” tooth. Trouble is, my Chambers has this as DOGSTOOTH (houndstooth is another such pattern). It has entirely different definitions for DOGTOOTH. I’m assuming dictionaries differ on this, so there’s only one way to solve this situation… FIGHT!!!!

13. Dreadfully crude cuts in Manchester, due to conditions (5,3,13)

Answer: UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES (i.e. “due to conditions”). “Dreadfully” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CRUDE CUTS IN MANCHESTER.

14. Bombardment on town primarily, then country (8)

Answer: THAILAND (i.e. “country”). Solution is HAIL (i.e. “bombardment”) placed “on” or after T (i.e. “town primarily”, i.e. the first letter of “town”) and followed by AND (i.e. “then”), like so: T-HAIL-AND. Not a classic.

15. Part of mechanism leaking fluid (7)

Answer: LINKAGE (i.e. “part of mechanism”). “Fluid” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LEAKING. A clue that scans rather well.

16. Co-ordinated report of high water? (4,2)

Answer: TIED IN (i.e. “co-ordinated”). “Report of” indicates the solution is a homophone of TIDE IN (i.e. “high water”).

17. A close relative cutting exercise, so it seems (10)

Answer: APPARENTLY (i.e. “so it seems”). Solution is A followed by PARENT (i.e. “close relative”) which is placed in or “cutting” PLY (i.e. “[to] exercise”), like so: A-P(PARENT)LY.

20. Eastern weapon for shooting a politician revealed in correspondence (12)

Answer: EPISOLATORY (i.e. “revealed in correspondence”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “Eastern”) followed by PISTOL (i.e. “weapon for shooting”) and then A TORY (i.e. “a politician”). Another clue that scans rather well.

23. Hat requiring some dagger-like pins (4)

Answer: KEPI (i.e. “hat” – think of old photos of French army types and there you are. Don’t worry, I didn’t know it either.) “Some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: DAGGER-LI(KE PI)NS.

24. Diplomatic prison guard briefly incarcerated by regime (8)

Answer: DISCREET (i.e. “diplomatic”). Solution is SCREW (i.e. “prison guard”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and placed into or “incarcerated by” DIET (i.e. “regime”), like so: DI(SCRE)ET. Another clue that scans rather well.

26. Two locals, the first in California to find mineral (8)

Answer: CINNABAR (i.e. “mineral” – another one for which I had to fall back on my Bradford’s, given that there are hundreds of minerals to choose from). Solution is INN and BAR (i.e. “two locals”, as in public houses). “The first in California” indicates that INN is placed inside of CA (a recognised abbreviation of the US state), like so: C(INN)A-BAR.

29. Tam-o-Shanter’s super-hot pepper? (6,6)

Answer: SCOTCH BONNET. Solution satisfies “Tam-o-Shanter” (a traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men) and “super-hot pepper”. Another hat-related solution. There’s more to come, folks.

30. Break forth and flee Forces in disarray (10)

Answer: EFFLORESCE (i.e. “break forth”). “In disarray” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FLEE FORCES. Cool word. I like it.

32. Take off over area of grassland and bush (4,6)

Answer: MOCK ORANGE (i.e. “bush”). Solution is MOCK (i.e. “take off”, as in to make an impression of someone) followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket) and RANGE (i.e. “grassland”). A solution repeated from a few months ago, one hopes not from the same setter.

34. Enthusiastic supporters boost government’s morale? (12)

Answer: CHEERLEADERS (i.e. “enthusiastic supporters”). Solution also satisfies “boost government’s morale”, as in to CHEER LEADERS.

36. US psychiatrist that is ultimately seen amid top rankers (8)

Answer: ALIENTIST (i.e. “US psychiatrist”). Solution is IE (i.e. “that is”, i.e. umm… “i.e.”) and N (i.e. “ultimately seen”, i.e. the last letter of “seen”) placed “amid” A-LIST (i.e. “top rankers”), like so: A-L(IE-N)IST.

38. Cake covering when swathed in sauce (8)

Answer: SOLIDIFY (i.e. “[to] cake”). Solution is LID (i.e. “covering”) and IF (i.e. “when”) both placed or “swathed in” SOY (i.e. “sauce”), like so: SO(LID-IF)Y.

39. Eleven motorists cross about origin of journey (4)

Answer: AJAX (i.e. “eleven”, as in a football team, particularly the Dutch Champions League semi-finalists). Solution is AA (i.e. “motorists”, specifically the Automobile Association) and X (i.e. “cross”) placed “about” J (i.e. “origin of journey”, i.e. the first letter of “journey”), like so: A(J)A-X.

41. Because airport’s close, our home proved extremely expensive (4,3,5)

Answer: COST THE EARTH (i.e. “extremely expensive”). Solution is COS (i.e. “because”) followed by T (i.e. “airport’s close”, i.e. the last letter of “airport”) and then THE EARTH (i.e. “our home”).

43. Doctor chips in, say, for his colleagues? (10)

Answer: PHYSICIANS. “[To] doctor” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CHIPS IN SAY. Within the context of the clue, physicians could be “colleagues” of a doctor. A rather well-played clue.

44. When one lacks power, there’s no resistance in assault (6)

Answer: OUTAGE (i.e. “when one lacks power”). Solution is OUTRAGE (i.e. “assault”) with the R removed (indicated by “no resistance” – R being a recognised abbreviation of “resistance” used in physics.)

46. An attempt on record broken by any number in the past (4,3)

Answer: LONG AGO (i.e. “in the past”). Solution is A GO (i.e. “an attempt”) placed “on” or after LOG (i.e. “record”) which is wrapped around or “broken by” N (i.e. “any number”), like so: LO(N)G-A-GO.

48. Disorganised gaggle regularly roaming harbours (8)

Answer: STRAGGLY (i.e. “disorganised”). Solution is GGL (i.e. “gaggle regularly”, i.e. every other letter of GAGGLE) which is placed in or being “harboured” by STRAY (i.e. “roaming”), like so: STRA(GGL)Y.

50. Seize the chance to linger canal-side? Without warning of course (4,4,2,3,8)

Answer: TAKE TIME BY THE FORELOCK (i.e. “seize the chance” – it’s in the dictionary, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard the phrase. Consequently, this was one of the clues that took aaaaaaages to get). Solution is TAKE TIME BY THE LOCK (i.e. “to linger canal-side”) placed around or “without” FORE (i.e. “warning of [golf] course”).

51. Pest controller ceaselessly campaigning? (8)

Answer: WARFARIN, which is a widely prescribed anticoagulant that also acts as a kind of rat poison (i.e. “pest controller”). Solution is WARFARING (i.e. “campaigning”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “ceaselessly”).

52. Customer from the States coming in closer? (3,4)

Answer: END USER (i.e. “customer”). Solution is US (i.e. “the States”) placed “in” ENDER (i.e. “closer”), like so: END(US)ER.

53. Overcoming strong smell, I’m going back inside (6)

Answer: TAMING (i.e. “overcoming”). Solution is TANG (i.e. “strong smell”) with IM reversed (indicated by “going back”) and placed “inside”, like so: TA(MI)NG.

Down clues

2. Uneven grating below par (5)

Answer: ROUGH. Unless my vocabulary deceives me (which happens more than I care to let on) this triple-whammy solution satisfies “uneven”, “grating” and “[feeling] below par”.

3. Singer from capital appended to unbalanced schedule (11)

Answer: MADRIGALIST (i.e. “singer”). This took some getting, but the solution is RIGA (i.e. “capital” city of Latvia) added between or “appended to” MAD (i.e. “unbalanced”) and LIST (i.e. “schedule”), like so: MAD-RIGA-LIST.

4. Talk of banker, fired, having additional liabilities (8)

Answer: SURTAXED (i.e. “having additional liabilities”). Solution is SURT (i.e. “talk of banker”, i.e. a homophone of CERT, as in “a dead cert” – I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: setters, please stop using made-up words as homophones!) followed by AXED (i.e. “fired [from job]”).

5. Did long account on hard press chief (5)

Answer: ACHED (i.e. “did long [for]”). Solution is AC (a recognised abbreviation of “account”) followed by H (ditto “hard”, as used in grading pencils) and ED (i.e. “press chief”, as in an oft-used abbreviation of “editor”).

6. Memory possibly defective, Charlie admitted (7)

Answer: FACULTY (i.e. “memory”). Solution is FAULTY (i.e. “possibly defective”) which is wrapped around or “admitting” C (“Charlie” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: FA(C)ULTY.

7. Energy packed FBI agents, in absolute terms (11)

Answer: ARRANGEMENT (i.e. “terms”). Another that took some getting. Solution is G-MEN (i.e. “FBI agents”) wrapped around or “packing” E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”), which is itself wrapped “in” ARRANT (i.e. “absolute”), like so: ARRAN(G(E)MEN)T.

8. Very much America’s March man? (5)

Answer: John Philipe SOUSA, US composer known best for his military music (i.e. “America’s march man” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). One of his most famous compositions was The Liberty Bell, used as the theme to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Solution is SO (i.e. “very much”) followed by USA (i.e. “America”). A rather cool clue.

9. Depict spy hilariously out of humour (9)

Answer: DYSPEPTIC (i.e. “out of humour”). “Hilariously” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DEPICT SPY.

10. 19th century president’s allowance (5)

Answer: GRANT. Solution satisfies “19th century [US] president” – specifically Ulysses S. Grant – and “allowance”.

11. Arrange theatre score? Just about? (11)

Answer: ORCHESTRATE (i.e. “arrange”). Solution is an anagram (indicated itself by “arrange”) of THEATRE and SCORE once the last letter of “score” has been removed (indicated by “just about”). A comparatively easy get, but I liked this one.

12. More crusty deposit raised bank (7)

Answer: TESTIER (i.e. “more crusty”). Solution is SET (i.e. “[to] deposit”) reversed (indicated by “raised”, this being a down clue) and followed by TIER (i.e. “bank”), like so: TES-TIER.

18. Coach supports gym, limiting runs in early years (9)

Answer: PRESCHOOL (i.e. “early years”). Solution is SCHOOL (i.e. “[to] coach”) preceded by or “supporting” – again, this being a down clue – PE (i.e. “gym”, specifically Physical Education) once it has been wrapped around or “limiting” R (a recognised abbreviation of “runs” used in several ball games), like so: P(R)E-SCHOOL.

19. Hat in good condition obscuring male ears? (7)

Answer: TRICORN (i.e. “hat” – a bit of a mini-theme for the puzzle, it seems). Thanks to the editor of the Times Saturday Review – in which the Times Jumbo Cryptic is published – for putting the answer on the front cover for their Poldark feature. Anyway, the solution is TRIM (i.e. “in good condition”) with the M removed (indicated by “obscuring male” – M being a recognised abbreviation of “male”) and then followed by CORN (i.e. “ears”, as in ears of corn), like so: TRI-CORN.

21. Winning entailed galloping astride horse (2,3,4)

Answer: IN THE LEAD (i.e. “winning”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “galloping”) of ENTAILED wrapped around or “astride” H (a recognised abbreviation of “horse”), like so: INT(H)ELEAD.

22. Outsider welcomes teacher being in capital (8)

Answer: LONDONER (i.e. “being in capital”). Solution is LONER (i.e. “outsider”) placed around or “welcoming” DON (i.e. “teacher”), like so: LON(DON)ER.

25. Criminal retreats with engineer’s coat – could it add to the charge? (9)

Answer: CONDENSER, which can be a type of capacitor (i.e. “could it add to the [electrical] charge”). Solution is CON (i.e. “criminal”) followed by DENS (i.e. “retreats”, as in man-caves) and ER (i.e. “engineer’s coat”, i.e. the first and last letters of “engineer”).

27. Establish a spot to house country’s first queen (9)

Answer: ASCERTAIN (i.e. “establish”). Solution is A STAIN (i.e. “a spot”) wrapped around or “housing” C (i.e. “country’s first”, i.e. the first letter of “country”) and ER (i.e. “queen”, specifically Elizabeth Regina), like so: A-S(C-ER)TAIN.

28. Correct delivery is taken in by ruler without delay (8)

Answer: SHARPISH (i.e. “without delay”). Solution is RP (i.e. “correct delivery”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Received Pronunciation, or – in English – saying your shit all proper, like) and IS, which are both “taken in by” SHAH (i.e. “ruler”), like so: SHA(RP-IS)H.

31. Light horse-drawn carriage: a crawler? (7)

Answer: FIREFLY (i.e. “a crawler” – is it though? Is it really? I guess the setter is riffing on creepy crawlies here, but really? A crawler? Really? Hang on, let me check my Chambers in case I’m missing some obscure definition… (riffles pages…) Nope. Thought not. Really, setter? Firefly? A crawler? Are you sure about that? A crawler? Really? Hang on, let me check for obscure references to Joss Whedon’s short-lived TV series…) – [snip] – Solution is FIRE (i.e. “light”) followed by FLY (i.e. “horse-drawn carriage”). An excellent clue, this. Best of the year so far. Five stars.

33. Follow detailed instruction to avoid crossing railway line (4,5,2)

Answer: KEEP TRACK OF (i.e. “follow”). Solution also satisfies “instruction to avoid crossing railway line”, i.e. to KEEP TRACK[SIDE] OF. Not a classic.

34. Harsh complaint impassioned with king’s intervention (11)

Answer: COLDHEARTED (i.e. “harsh”). Solution is COLD (i.e. “complaint”, as in illness) followed by HEATED (i.e. “impassioned”) wrapped around or “intervened” by R (a recognised abbreviation of “king”, specifically the Latin word Rex), like so: COLD-HEA(R)TED.

35. Scene of life class, maybe, where guests are entertained? (7,4)

Answer: DRAWING ROOM. Solution satisfies “scene of life class, maybe” – as in where you get to draw people with no clothes on (the sitter, not you) – and “where guests are entertained”. Note my use of “sitter” there, for I had this down as SITTING ROOM for most of the time. Needless to say, it didn’t help. A good clue, all the same.

37. Dad instructed staff, introducing Higher Education (3,3,3)

Answer: THE OLD MAN (i.e. “Dad”). Solution is TOLD (i.e. “instructed”) and MAN (i.e. “staff”) which are wrapped around or “introducing” HE (a recognised abbreviation of “Higher Education”), like so: T(HE)OLD-MAN.

40. Strongest church beset by strife, suffering (8)

Answer: FIERCEST (i.e. “strongest”). Solution is CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England) placed in or “beset by” an anagram (indicated by “suffering”) of STRIFE, like so: FIER(CE)ST.

42. Top of oak stake tipped prime cactus (7)

Answer: OPUNTIA, better known as a prickly pear (i.e. “cactus”). Score another one for my Bradford’s, here, as you can fit my knowledge of cactuseseses on the… well, the spine of a cactus, I guess. Solution is O (i.e. “top of oak”, i.e. the first letter of “oak”) followed by PUNT (i.e. “[betting] stake tipped”) and AI (i.e. “prime”, as in something that is A1).

43. Use IT perhaps to handle move in train (7)

Answer: PROCESS. Solution satisfies “use IT perhaps to handle” – as in processing data – and “move in train” – as in a procession.

45. When territorial guards submit? (5)

Answer: ENTER (i.e. “submit”). “Guards” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: WH(EN TER)RITORIAL.

47. Lord’s swipe – one bye conceded (5)

Answer: NOBLE (i.e. “lord”). Solution is NOBBLE (i.e. “swipe”, as in to steal rather than to inhibit something) with one of the Bs removed (indicated by “one bye conceded”, B being a recognised abbreviation for a “bye” – a run awarded in cricket scored without the ball being struck by the batsman).

48. Thoroughly clean comb (5)

Answer: SCOUR. Solution satisfies “thoroughly clean” and “[to] comb [through]”.

49. Compare Liberal president with nation’s leader (5)

Answer: LIKEN (i.e. “compare”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “Liberal”) followed by IKE (i.e. “president”, specifically Dwight D. Eisenhower, nicknamed “Ike”) and then N (i.e. “nation’s leader”, i.e. the first letter of “nation”).

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1388

A medium-strength puzzle this week, and another good one which allowed fairly steady progression. Well, at least until I hit TELEOST, anyway. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

As ever, some housekeeping before we jump in. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s a little gappy then my Just For Fun page might help you out. If horror fiction is your thing then my Reviews page has a few treats for you, old and new. All being well, I’ll have a review of Best New Horror 7 up shortly. (Ish.)

And so to the answers. See you later.


Across clues

1. Lose concentration in shoot-out? (6,3)

Answer: SWITCH OFF (i.e. “lose concentration”). I’ve no idea what the setter is on about regarding “shoot-out”, though. Good start, isn’t it?

6. Defendant, doomed, right to escape (7)

Answer: ACCUSED (i.e. “defendant”). Solution is ACCURSED (i.e. “doomed”) with the R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) removed.

10. Hard to leave immaculate social group (5)

Answer: CASTE (i.e. “social group”). Solution is CHASTE (i.e. “immaculate”) with the H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in grading pencils) removed.

13. Possible cause of tears involving religious view (7)

Answer: OPINION (i.e. “view”). Solution is ONION (i.e. “possible cause of tears”) wrapped around or “involving” PI (a recognised abbreviation of pious, i.e. “religious” – I’m a little wiser to the setter’s use of this now), like so: O(PI)NION.

14. Canvas covers feel bad (7)

Answer: TOPSAIL (i.e. “canvas”). Solution is TOPS (i.e. “covers”) followed by AIL (i.e. “feel bad”).

15. Worker breaking into strongbox for capital (5,2)

Answer: SANTA FE (i.e. “capital” of the US state of New Mexico). Solution is ANT (i.e. “worker”) “breaking into” SAFE (i.e. “strongbox”), like so: S(ANT)AFE.

16. Acknowledge agreement not deleted – nothing is chopped (4,2,3,6,4)

Answer: SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE (i.e. “acknowledge agreement”). “Chopped” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NOT DELETED NOTHING IS. Sounds like Facebook’s motto.

17. Successful song delivers beat (3)

Answer: HIT. Solution satisfies “successful song” and “delivers beat”.

18. Fugitive away from home turf endlessly (6)

Answer: OUTLAW (i.e. “fugitive”). Solution is OUT (i.e. “away from home”) followed by LAWN (i.e. “turf”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “endlessly”).

20. Clandestine romance just beyond alpha female (6)

Answer: AFFAIR (i.e. “clandestine romance”). Solution is FAIR (i.e. “just”) placed after or “beyond” A (“alpha” in the phonetic alphabet) and F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”), like so: A-F-FAIR.

21. One to harass soldiers between peaks (9)

Answer: TORMENTOR (i.e. “one to harass”). Solution is MEN (i.e. “soldiers”) placed “between” TOR and TOR (i.e. “peaks”), like so: TOR-MEN-TOR.

23. Need publication to probe writer’s bad spelling? (5,5)

Answer: BLACK MAGIC (i.e. “bad spelling”). Solution is LACK (i.e. “need”) and MAG (i.e. “publication”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “magazine”) placed in or “probing” BIC (i.e. “writer”, as in the brand of pen), like so: B(LACK-MAG)IC. A clue that scans rather well.

25. Brown backed one catalogued as a certain politician? (11)

Answer: NATIONALIST (i.e. “a certain politician”). Solution is TAN (i.e. “brown”) reversed (indicated by “backed”) and followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and ON A LIST (i.e. “catalogued”), like so: NAT-I-ON-A-LIST.

29. 20 a regret when curtailed (5)

Answer: AMOUR (i.e. “affair”, from 20a). Solution is A then MOURN (i.e. “regret”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “curtailed”).

30. Father rebuffed in joint expressing contempt (8)

Answer: DERISIVE (i.e. “expressing contempt”). Solution is SIRE (i.e. “[to] father”) reversed (indicated by “rebuffed”) and placed “in” DIVE (i.e. “joint”, both slang terms for a bar), like so: D(ERIS)IVE.

31. Building workers dividing 13 (8)

Answer: TENEMENT (i.e. “building”). Solution is MEN (i.e. “workers” – clearly not an equal opportunities employer…) placed in or “dividing” TENET (i.e. belief or “opinion”, from 13a), like so: TENE(MEN)T.

34. Made effort to have additional layer wrapped around (8)

Answer: BOTHERED (i.e. “made effort”). Solution is OTHER (i.e. “additional”) with BED (i.e. “layer”, as in something you lie on) “wrapped around” it, like so: B(OTHER)ED.

36. Scaremonger having a large weapon is finally shot (8)

Answer: ALARMIST (i.e. “scaremonger”). Solution is A followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”), then ARM (i.e. “weapon”), then IS and T (i.e. “finally shot”, i.e. the last letter of “shot”), like so: A-L-ARM-IS-T.

37. Stagehand beginning to eat beef (5)

Answer: GRIPE (i.e. “[to] beef”). Solution is GRIP (i.e. “stagehand”) followed by E (i.e. “beginning to eat”, i.e. the first letter of “eat”).

39. Nothing takes care of bulging waistline (4,7)

Answer: LOVE HANDLES (i.e. “bulging waistline”). Solution is LOVE (i.e. “nothing”, as in a zero score in tennis) followed by HANDLES (i.e. “takes care of”).

41. Expert boarding last tube reveals outcome (3,7)

Answer: END PRODUCT (i.e. “outcome”). Solution is PRO (i.e. “expert”) placed in or “boarding” END (i.e. “last”) and DUCT (i.e. “tube”), like so: END-(PRO)-DUCT. This took a while despite having all the intersecting letters. Having only the even letters of a word (in this case _R_D_C_) can be a pain in the arse sometimes.

43. Rising from piano, concedes right to play (9)

Answer: CRESCENDO (i.e. “rising from piano” – piano in this context meaning “quiet” rather than the musical instrument). “To play” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CONCEDES and R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”).

45. Retired shooter to acquire a little bit of wisdom? (6)

Answer: NUGGET (i.e. “a little bit of wisdom”). Solution is GUN (i.e. “shooter”) reversed (indicated by “retired”) and followed by GET (i.e. “to acquire”), like so: NUG-GET.

47. Brilliant to find outdated inside information (6)

Answer: GOLDEN (i.e. “brilliant”). Solution is OLD (i.e. “outdated”) placed “inside” GEN (i.e. “information”), like so: G(OLD)EN.

49. Narrowly defeat Dickensian hero (3)

Answer: PIP. Solution satisfies “narrowly defeat” and “Dickensian hero”, specifically from Dickens’s Great Expectations.

50. Air Force mistreated some recruits perhaps (11,8)

Answer: ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE (i.e. “air force” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). “Mistreated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SOME RECRUITS PERHAPS. A really well-worked clue.

52. Limb damaged when trapped in the sewer cover? (7)

Answer: THIMBLE (i.e. “sewer cover” – sewer in this case being one who sews). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “damaged”) of LIMB placed or “trapped in” THE, like so: TH(IMBL)E.

53. Native American artist parking in two areas by house (7)

Answer: ARAPAHO (i.e. “Native American”). Solution is RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) and P (a recognised abbreviation of “parking”) placed “in” or between A and A (i.e. “two areas” – A being a recognised abbreviation of “area”) and followed by HO (ditto “house”), like so: A-(RA-P)-A-HO. I have Ian Dury and The Blockheads to largely thank for that one.

54. Gent entertains false female ousted in burlesque (4-3)

Answer: TAKE-OFF (i.e. “burlesque”). Solution is TOFF (i.e. “gent”) wrapped around or “entertaining” FAKE (i.e. “false”) with the F removed (indicated by “female ousted” – F being a recognised abbreviation of “female”), like so: T(AKE)OFF.

55. Dead right – but not right now! (5)

Answer: LATER (i.e. “not right now”). Solution is LATE (i.e. “dead”) followed by R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”).

56. Co-operation from offender, reportedly heartless guy (7)

Answer: SYNERGY (i.e. “co-operation”). Solution is SYNER (i.e. “offender, reportedly”, i.e. a homophone of “sinner” – again I must boo and tut as another non-word is used as a homophone) followed by GY (i.e. “heartless guy”, i.e. GUY with the middle letter removed).

57. Hard-skinned alien creature returns, then departs (9)

Answer: LAMINATED (i.e. “hard-skinned”). Solution is ET (i.e. “alien”, specifically an Extra Terrestrial) and ANIMAL (i.e. “creature”) both reversed (indicated by “returns”) and followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “departs”), like so: (LAMINA-TE)-D.

Down clues

1. Present aboard ship, tool that’s for Arctic walker? (8)

Answer: SNOWSHOE (i.e. “Arctic walker”). Solution is NOW (i.e. “present”) placed in or “aboard” SS (i.e. “ship”, specifically a recognised abbreviation for a steamship) and then followed by HOE (i.e. “tool”), like so: S(NOW)S-HOE.

2. Freezing bonus? (5)

Answer: ICING. Solution satisfies “freezing” and “bonus”, as in the well-known phrase “the icing on the cake”.

3. Greek character one to exaggerate as fortune-teller (11)

Answer: CHIROMANCER (i.e. “fortune-teller”). Solution is CHI (i.e. “Greek character”, specifically the twenty-second letter of the Greek alphabet) followed by ROMANCER (i.e. “one to exaggerate”). It’s such a good word that I’m surprised we don’t use it more.

4. Crackers are not highly decorated (6)

Answer: ORNATE (i.e. “highly decorated”). “Crackers” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ARE NOT.

5. Pop star for example showing authority (6,6)

Answer: FATHER FIGURE (i.e. “authority”). Solution is FATHER (i.e. “pop”) followed by FIGURE (i.e. “star [for example]” – think of it as something like a pentangle than a heavenly body).

6. Start to accept representative house god in ancient vessel (7)

Answer: AMPHORA (i.e. “ancient vessel”). Solution is A (i.e. “start to accept”, i.e. the first letter of “accept”) followed by MP (i.e. “representative”, specifically a Member of Parliament), then HO (a recognised abbreviation of “house”) and RA (i.e. ancient Egyptian sun “god”), like so: A-MP-HO-RA.

7. Full references provided in CV? (7,3,5)

Answer: CHAPTER AND VERSE (i.e. “full”). Solution riffs on how the letters “CV” are recognised abbreviations or “references” of chapter and verse. An excellent clue that scans beautifully.

8. Thus salt diet recreated using only chips? (5-5)

Answer: SOLID-STATE (i.e. “using only chips” – refers to solid-state data storage, which use microchips as opposed to magnetic disks). Solution is SO (i.e. “thus”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “recreated”) of SALT DIET, like so: SO-LIDSTATE.

9. Vagrant snatching current file (7)

Answer: DOSSIER (i.e. “file”). Solution is DOSSER (i.e. “vagrant”) wrapped around or “snatching” I (a recognised abbreviation of an electric “current” used in physics), like so: DOSS(I)ER.

10. Allied with Italian, twice scoffed about first lady (11)

Answer: CONFEDERATE (i.e. “allied”). Solution is CON (i.e. “with Italian”, i.e. the Italian for “with”) followed by FED and ATE (i.e. “scoffed twice”) which is placed “about” ER (i.e. “first lady”, as in the Queen, or Elizabeth Regina), like so: CON-FED-(ER)-ATE.

11. Wind up eating this at Ship and get sozzled (9)

Answer: SPAGHETTI (i.e. “wind up eating” – referring to how you’d twist the stuff on your fork before giving up, shoving what you can in your mouth and slurping the rest down, splattering tomato sauce everywhere. No? Just me then…) “Sozzled” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AT SHIP and GET.

12. Flat race doesn’t need a versatile horse (7)

Answer: EVENTER (i.e. “versatile horse”). Solution is EVEN (i.e. “flat”) followed by TEAR (i.e. “race”, as in to tear about the place) with the A removed (indicated by “doesn’t need a”), like so: EVEN-TER.

19. Cat in river gets bony fish (7)

Answer: TELEOST (i.e. “bony fish” – no, me neither. Score one for my Bradfords for its lengthy list of fish). Solution is LEO (i.e. “cat” – referring to the sign of the zodiac, being a lion) placed in TEST (i.e. a “river” in Hampshire – I wonder if, during last year’s prolonged heat wave, it suffered a “dry run”. Geddit? No? Just me again then…), like so: TE(LEO)ST. I liked the clue somewhat more than the solution.

22. Little lad swallowing fly (8)

Answer: SMIDGEON (i.e. “little” – there are a few variant forms of the word “smidgen” it transpires). Solution is SON (i.e. “lad”) wrapped around or “swallowing” MIDGE (i.e. “fly”), like so: S(MIDGE)ON.

24. Satanic Hitler’s scheme finally dashed unrealistic hopes (7,2,3,3)

Answer: CASTLES IN THE AIR (i.e. “unrealistic hopes”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “dashed”) of SATANIC HITLERS and E (i.e. “scheme finally”, i.e. the last letter of “scheme”). Good lord, this took me ages to spot, despite having scribbled “___ in the air” early on in the puzzle.

26. Approach open river (8)

Answer: OVERTURE (i.e. “approach” – an overture being the beginning of something, typically a musical composition). Solution is OVERT (i.e. “open”) followed by URE (i.e. a “river” in North Yorkshire).

27. Bond introduced to frustrate the racketeers (6)

Answer: TETHER (i.e. “bond”). “Introduced to” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: FRUSTRA(TE THE R)ACKETEERS.

28. Skip school – no time to run away (6)

Answer: GAMBOL (i.e. “skip”). Solution is GAM (i.e. a “school” of whales, another sneaky bit of wordplay I was wise to this time around) followed by BOLT (i.e. “to run away”) with the T removed (indicated by “no time”, T being a recognised abbreviation of “time”), like so: GAM-BOL.

32. Showed one short bloke embracing another (7)

Answer: EVINCED (i.e. “showed”). Solution is VINCE (i.e. “one short bloke”, i.e. a shortened form of Vincent) placed in or being “embraced” by ED (i.e. “another”, as in another shortened man’s name, this time Edward), like so: E(VINCE)D.

33. Centre for education? (6,6)

Answer: MIDDLE SCHOOL. Solution riffs on how “centre” can mean both a place and the middle of something. You get the idea.

35. Room for reflection? (4,7)

Answer: ECHO CHAMBER. Solution sneakily riffs on how echoing is a “reflection” of soundwaves. Again, you get the idea.

37. Forlorn setter maybe up for drink at noon (11)

Answer: GODFORSAKEN (i.e. “forlorn”). Solution is DOG (i.e. “setter maybe”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and followed by FOR, then SAKE (i.e. “drink”) and N (a recognised abbreviation of “noon”), like so: GOD-FOR-SAKE-N.

38. Processing for labs to do in criminal evidence? (10)

Answer: BLOODSTAIN (i.e. “criminal evidence”). “Processing for” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LABS TO DO IN. Another clue that scans rather well.

40. Opinion given in tussle with fielder (9)

Answer: VIEWPOINT (i.e. “opinion”). Solution is VIE (i.e. “tussle”), followed by W (a recognised abbreviation of “with”) and then POINT (i.e. a “fielder” in cricket).

42. Malnourished when working to FBI agent? (8)

Answer: UNDERFED (i.e. “malnourished”). Solution is UNDER (i.e. “working to”) followed by FED (i.e. “FBI agent”).

43. Pass round an enclosure for animal fights in Roman temple (7)

Answer: CAPITOL (i.e. “Roman temple”). Solution is COL (i.e. a mountain “pass”) placed “round” A PIT (i.e. “an enclosure for animal fights”), like so: C(A-PIT)OL.

44. God’s contact book? (7)

Answer: NUMBERS, a “book” of the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish Torah. Solution riffs on how this could also be a phone book. Once again, I’m sure you get the idea.

46. Good monarch married, even one in a republic (7)

Answer: GERMANY (i.e. “republic”). Solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) followed by ER (i.e. “monarch”, specifically Elizabeth Regina), then M (a recognised abbreviation of “married”) and then ANY (i.e. “even”, I guess, though I can’t visualise a sentence where you’d substitute one for the other – maybe I need to sleep on it), like so: G-ER-M-ANY.

48. Note to be used in concert until proper arrangement is made (3,3)

Answer: PER TEM, which is a shortened form of the Latin “pro tempore”, meaning “for the time being” (i.e. “until proper arrangement is made”). Solution is TE (i.e. “note” in the do-ray-me scale) placed “in” PROM (i.e. “concert”), like so: PRO(TE)M.

51. Submarine about to disintegrate (1-4)

Answer: U-BOAT (i.e. “submarine”). “To disintegrate” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ABOUT.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1387

A toughie this week, with a number of weird and wacky solutions peppering the grid. As mentioned in previous posts, though, I don’t mind toughies so long as I’m camped out in a dictionary and not an atlas or past issues of The Lancet. So a good puzzle, all told, despite its chewiness.

You’ll find my completed grid below with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful. If you have an old grid that’s showing a few gaps then my Just For Fun page might also help you out. I’m also working my way through Stephen Jones’s Best New Horror series – because, hell, why not? – reviews of which you can find on my Reviews page. A review of book seven will be coming soon, all being well.

Alrighty then, let’s get on with the show.


Across clues

1. Fail to reawaken love (4,2,7)

Answer: COME TO NOTHING (i.e. “fail”). Solution is COME TO (i.e. “reawaken”) followed by NOTHING (i.e. “love” in tennis).

8. Paper first soaked in petrol for American mechanics (9)

Answer: GARAGISTS (i.e. “mechanics”). Solution is RAG (i.e. “[news]paper”) and IST (i.e. “first” – the I representing 1) surrounded by or “soaked in” GAS (i.e. “petrol for American”, as in a short form of “gasoline”), like so: GA(RAG-IST)S. It’s in the dictionary, yes, but it sounds like the kind of thing someone would say when they can’t think of the word “mechanic”.

13. Hard to charge VAT and give credit (5)

Answer: THANK (i.e. “to give credit”). Solution is TANK (i.e. “vat” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) which is surrounding or being “charged” by H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard”), like so: T(H)ANK.

14. Obscure article by foolish judge (9)

Answer: ADUMBRATE (i.e. to overshadow or “obscure”). Solution is A (i.e. “article”) followed “by” DUMB (i.e. “foolish”) and RATE (i.e. “[to] judge”).

15. Cooler, almost frozen, in accordance with regulation (7)

Answer: CANONIC (i.e. “in accordance with regulation”). Solution is CAN (i.e. “cooler” – both slang terms for a jail cell) followed by ON ICE (i.e. “frozen”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “almost”), like so: CAN-ON-IC.

16. Specially conceived arrival times on international train and airline (4-4,4)

Answer: TEST-TUBE BABY (i.e. “specially conceived arrival”). Solution is BY (i.e. “times”, as in “multiplied by”) which is placed after TEST (i.e. “international [cricket match]”), TUBE (i.e. “train”) and BA (i.e. “airline”, specifically British Airways), like so: TEST-TUBE-BA-BY.

17. An acknowledgement old car is showing age (4,6)

Answer: ANNO DOMINI (i.e. “age”). Solution is AN followed by NOD (i.e. “acknowledgement”), then O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and MINI (i.e. “car”). A clue that scans rather well.

18. Port placed by bread for knocking back (6)

Answer: NANTES (i.e. a French “port”). Solution is SET (i.e. “placed”) followed “by” NAN (i.e. “bread”, specifically an alternative spelling of “naan” also seen later in 34a) and both reversed (indicated by “knocking back”), like so: NAN-TES.

19. Harmless and in NI wise to vote Conservative (8)

Answer: NONTOXIC (i.e. “harmless”). Solution is NI wrapped around ONTO (i.e. “wise to”) and X (i.e. “vote”) and then followed by C (a recognised abbreviation of “Conservative”), like so: N(ONTO-X)I-C.

21. Reckons detective sergeant in court is after promotion (4,2)

Answer: ADDS UP (i.e. “reckons”). Solution is DS (a recognised abbreviation of “detective sergeant”) and UP (i.e. “in court”, as in “up in front of the judge”) both placed “after” AD (i.e. “promotion”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “advertisement”), like so: AD-DS-UP.

24. Crosses from island – vintage craft initially makes fast crossing (10)

Answer: CRUCIFIXES (i.e. “crosses”). I reckon the solution comprises CRU (i.e. “vintage [champagne]”), C (i.e. “craft initially”, as in the first letter of “craft”), I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”) and FIXES (i.e. “makes fast”), like so: CRU-C-I-FIXES. I can’t see how this all scans in the clue, however, and it leaves “crossing” rather redundant, so I might not have that right.
[EDIT: Having slept on it, I can now see how this one scans. “Crossing” indicates the assorted elements making up the latter half of the clue are wrapped around I (i.e. “island”), like so: CRU-C-(I)-FIXES. Phew! – LP]

26. Cheat: They don’t or I’d explode! (2,3,5,2)

Answer: DO THE DIRTY ON (i.e. “cheat”). “Explode” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of THEY DONT OR ID.

29. Film balloonist: we understand what makes that difficult? (4)

Answer: Phileas FOGG (i.e. “balloonist” of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days). Within the context of the clue, it would be difficult to film Fogg through fog. Something like that, anyway. Not a classic.

30. Leave person with king, one nipping outside (8)

Answer: BREXITER (i.e. “leave person”, as in someone who voted for Britain to exit the European Union). Solution is REX (Latin for “king”) surrounded by or having “outside” BITER (i.e. “one nipping”), like so: B(REX)ITER. Hmm. I wasn’t aware this had made it into the dictionary already. I hope they’ve expanded the definitions for “gammon” as well, as that particular nom de guerre has rather passed me by.

31. What’s needed for radio broadcasts to flourish: musicians (8)

Answer: WAVEBAND (i.e. “what’s needed for radio broadcasts”). Solution is WAVE (i.e. “to flourish” – think of this more in terms of flourishing a weapon rather than doing well) followed by BAND (i.e. “musicians”).

34. Note carefully studied after taking in an Indian menu item (3,5)

Answer: NAN BREAD (i.e. “Indian menu item” – can be spelled “nan” or “naan”). Solution is NB (i.e. “note carefully”, short for the Latin “nota bene”) and READ (i.e. “studied”) which “takes in” AN, like so: N(AN)B-READ.

35. Rather stiff after exercising, sip these (8)

Answer: STEEPISH (i.e. “rather stiff”). “After exercising” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SIP THESE.

36. Fine as wine from cask tastes, with flipping body! (4)

Answer: OKAY (i.e. “fine”). Solution is OAKY (i.e. “as wine from cask tastes”) with the middle two letters reversed (indicated by “with flipping body”).

39. Occasionally hiding ring in each cushion (5,2,5)

Answer: EVERY SO OFTEN (i.e. “occasionally”). Solution is EVERY (i.e. “each”) and SOFTEN (i.e. “cushion”) wrapped around or “hiding” O (i.e. “ring”), like so: EVERY-S(O)OFTEN.

40. Scrap request from airy London criminal (3,3,4)

Answer: ANY OLD IRON (i.e. “scrap request”). “Criminal” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AIRY LONDON. A clue that scans rather well.

43. Not flat when bound (6)

Answer: ASLOPE (i.e. “not flat”). Solution is AS (i.e. “when”) and LOPE (i.e. “[to] bound”).

44. Flies heavenward, as owls do with puss moving about (8)

Answer: UPSHOOTS (i.e. “flies heavenwards”). Solution is HOOT (i.e. “as owls do”) surrounded by (indicated by “about”) an anagram (indicated by “moving”) of PUSS, like so: UPS(HOOT)S. Another rather well-worked clue.

45. Far from fresh aniseed drink: time for a second? (4,2)

Answer: PAST IT (i.e. “far from fresh”). Solution is PASTIS (i.e. “aniseed drink” – a new one on me) with the final S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) swapped for a T (ditto “time”). Another good clue!

49. Garden pest munched all around reserve valve in channel (10)

Answer: SLUICEGATE (i.e. “valve in channel”). Solution is SLUG (i.e. “garden pest” – tsk, don’t I know it. My poor chillies!) and ATE (i.e. “munched”) placed “around” ICE (i.e. “reserve”, as in having an icy nature), like so: SLU(ICE)G-ATE.

51. The press the object of such false adulation? (8,4)

Answer: CUPBOARD LOVE, which, according to my Chambers, is a “hypocritical show of affection for material gain” (i.e. “false adulation”). Fair enough. I can’t see how this relates to the rest of the clue, however. Anyone?
[EDIT: A big thank you to Lee in the comments for shedding some light on this one. – LP]

53. Local taxi company in time (7)

Answer: AUBERGE (i.e. an inn or “local” – also my favourite song by Chris Rea, because you needed to know that). Solution is UBER (i.e. “taxi company”) placed “in” AGE (i.e. “time”), like so: A(UBER)GE.

54. Six pitied for forging uncorroborated statement (4,5)

Answer: IPSE DIXIT, which is Latin for “he himself said it” (i.e. “uncorroborated statement”). “For forging” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SIX PITIED. Latin not being my first language, I had to fall back on the rather obvious wordplay and a fair amount of thumbing through my Chambers to find the solution.

55. Palm lacerated after spinning bottles (5)

Answer: ARECA (i.e. “palm” – one for the botanists out there). “Bottles” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “spinning” indicates the solution has been reversed, like so: L(ACERA)TED. I loved the clue a lot more than I did the solution.

56. Fur-coated drag specialist, say, about to pass quickly through Oscar party (6,3)

Answer: ESKIMO DOG (i.e. “fur-coated drag specialist”, given they pull sledges). Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) wrapped “about” SKIM (i.e. “pass quickly through”), O (“Oscar” in the phonetic alphabet) and DO (i.e. “party”), like so: E(SKIM-O-DO)G.

57. Newspaper returned private style guide for players (4,9)

Answer: TIME SIGNATURE (i.e. “guide for [music] players”). Solution is TIMES (i.e. “newspaper”) followed by GI (i.e. “private” of the US Army) which is reversed (indicated by “returned”) and then itself followed by NATURE (i.e. “style”), like so: TIMES-IG-NATURE.

Down clues

1. Senseless, not moving pet trembling in coat (9)

Answer: CATATONIC (i.e. “senseless, not moving”). Solution is CAT (i.e. “pet”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “trembling”) of IN COAT, like so: CAT-ATONIC.

2. Imaginary body of peacekeepers pursuing method (4,3)

Answer: MEAN SUN, which is “an imaginary sun moving uniformly in the equator, it’s position giving mean time” (i.e. “imaginary body”). Solution is MEANS (i.e. “method”) being “pursued” by UN (i.e. “peacekeepers”, specifically the United Nations). Another nod to my Chambers, though the wordplay made it fairly easy to deduce.

3. Maybe go for a constitutional approach with article and broadcast (4,3,3)

Answer: TAKE THE AIR (i.e. “maybe go for a constitutional”). Solution is TAKE (i.e. “approach”) followed by THE (i.e. “article”) and AIR (i.e. “broadcast”).

4. Close bank up in the city (6)

Answer: NEARBY (i.e. “close”). Solution is BRAE (i.e. a Scots word for a “[river]bank”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and placed “in” NY (i.e. “city”, specifically New York), like so: N(EARB)Y.

5. As dictionary perhaps facilitating digital access? (5-7)

Answer: THUMB-INDEXED (i.e. “as dictionary perhaps”, as in those notches cut into the block of pages – I’ve known them well this week…). Solution riffs on how THUMB and INDEX are “digits” of one’s hand. You get the idea.

6. Drinking in admission of corruption, right away (8)

Answer: IMBIBING (i.e. “drinking”). Solution is I’M BRIBING (i.e. “admission of corruption”) with the R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) removed (indicated by “away”).

7. Ugly dame wanting tips to become alluring (4)

Answer: GLAM (i.e. “alluring”). “Wanting tips” indicates the solution is derived by removing the first and last letters of UGLY DAME.

8. Briefing, ultimately lengthier, could give us something to go on (5,5)

Answer: GREEN LIGHT (i.e. “something to go on”). Solution is G (i.e. “briefing, ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “briefing”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “could be”) of LENGTHIER, like so: G-REENLIGHT.

9. Minister having somewhere to play rock (6)

Answer: RECTOR (i.e. “minister”). Solution is REC (i.e. “somewhere to play”, short for “recreation area”) followed by TOR (i.e. “rock”).

10. One for the p(l)ot? (9,3)

Answer: GUNPOWDER TEA. No, me neither. I do rather like the clue, however, which riffs on the Gunpowder Plot which did for Guy Fawkes and chums, and the tea “pot” you’d steep said gunpowder tea.

11. Mount rising in Aleutian island (5)

Answer: SINAI (i.e. “mount”, as featured in all your favourite holy books). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “rising” indicates the solution is reversed, this being a down clue, like so: ALEUT(IAN IS)LAND.

12. Time for a speech, pithy, in separate ways, and light (2,8,3)

Answer: ST CRISPIN’S DAY. Solution refers to a scene from Shakespeare’s Henry V in which the titular king gives a speech on St Crispin’s Day. Don’t worry, I don’t do Shakespeare much either. Anyway, the solution, as best as I can make it, is ST and INS (both “ways”, the former a recognised abbreviation of “street”) “separating” CRISP (i.e. terse or “pithy”) and then followed by DAY (i.e. “light”), like so: ST-CRISP-INS-DAY. Not a classic.

20. Motored east, after calibrating this? (8)

Answer: ODOMETER, which measures the distance travelled by a wheeled vehicle. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “after calibrating”) of MOTORED and E (a recognised abbreviation of “east”). Within the context of the clue, you might well motor after calibrating the odometer, getting the car back in the driveway just before the guy from webuyanycar.com turns up. You get the idea.

22. One taking flight from Scottish island runs across sailor (9)

Answer: SKYJACKER (i.e. a hijacker or “one taking flight”). Solution is SKYE (i.e. “Scottish island”) and R (a recognised abbreviation of “runs” used in a number of ball games) wrapped around or “across” JACK (i.e. one of many words meaning “sailor”), like so: SKY(JACK)E-R.

23. Long distance runner, first in race, over the moon with congratulations (3,5)

Answer: RIO BRAVO (i.e. “long distance runner”, as in the Spanish name for the Rio Grande river forming part of the Mexico-United States border). Solution is R (i.e. “first in race”, i.e. the first letter of “race”) followed by or placed “over” IO (i.e. “moon” of Jupiter) and followed by BRAVO (i.e. “congratulations”).

25. Not “nice”, cutting head off strong-smelling fish (9)

Answer: UNGENTEEL (i.e. “not ‘nice’”). Solution is PUNGENT (i.e. “strong-smelling”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “cutting head off”) and EEL (i.e. “fish”), like so: UNGENT-EEL.

27. Part of prison project following suggestion one’s abandoned (5,3)

Answer: DEATH ROW (i.e. “part of prison”). I’m not 100% on this one, but my solution is THROW (i.e. “project”) which “follows” DE-A (i.e. “suggestion one’s abandoned” – I guess we’re riffing on how the prefix “de-” indicates something that’s being removed, and how “a” can be “one”), like so: DE-A-THROW. Not a clue I’m keen on.

28. Exit this awfully low place? (8)

Answer: SIXTIETH (i.e. “low place”). “Awfully” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of EXIT THIS.

29. Fan’s weakening when involved in hard work! (9,4)

Answer: FINNEGAN’S WAKE, a notorious “hard work” by Irish writer James Joyce. “When involved” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FANS WEAKENING. A really well-worked clue, this.

32. Diagram by fellow’s firstly plotting treatment that’s shocking and unusual (1-3,8)

Answer: X-RAY SPECTRUM (i.e. “diagram” – rather than typing in a block of explanatory text, just trust me on this). Solution is X (i.e. “by” as in the multiplication symbol) followed by RAY’S (i.e. “fellow’s”), then P (i.e. “firstly plotting”, i.e. the first letter of “plotting”), then ECT (i.e. “treatment that’s shocking”, specifically Electroconvulsive Therapy), and finally RUM (i.e. “unusual”), like so: X-RAYS-P-ECT-RUM. Bloody hell…

33. Evidence given here: intelligence heads having fight to stop it (7,5)

Answer: WITNESS BOXES (i.e. “evidence given here”). Solution is WIT (i.e. “intelligence”) and NESSES (i.e. “heads”, as in the geographical feature) surrounding or being “stopped” by BOX (i.e. “fight”), like so: WIT-NESS(BOX)ES.

37. Discouraging start, playing golf (3-7)

Answer: OFF-PUTTING (i.e. “discouraging”). Solution is OFF (i.e. “start”) followed by PUTTING (i.e. “playing golf”).

38. Journalist battles female associated with hunt for period items (10)

Answer: EDWARDIANA (i.e. “period items”). Solution is ED (i.e. “journalist”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “editor”), followed by WAR (i.e. a series of “battles”) and DIANA (i.e. “female [Roman goddess] associated with hunt”).

41. Scot’s wild, maybe, cornering cardinal in cathedral (5,4)

Answer: NOTRE DAME (i.e. “cathedral”). Solution is NO TAME (i.e. “Scot’s wild, maybe” – “no” being a Scots form of “not”) surrounding or “cornering” RED (i.e. “cardinal”), like so: NO-T(RED)AME. A repeated solution from a couple of weeks ago. I can only assume there must have been something in the news recently. (Rubs chin.)

42. Brother, not silent presumably, sounding abrasive (8)

Answer: CORUNDUM (i.e. an “abrasive” mineral). Solution is COR (i.e. “brother” – both taken to be exclamations) followed by UNDUM (i.e. “not silent presumably, sounding”, i.e. a homophone of “undumb” – I really wish setters would stop using non-existent words as homophones). Not a classic. I’ll admit part of this solution came from Skyrim. It rather has its hooks in me at the moment. Again.

46. French writer, still with regiment, put on a uniform (7)

Answer: Henry David THOREAU. This may very well not be correct, as this particular Hank was a Yank, not French. Still, here goes. My solution is THO (i.e. “still”, as in a shortened form of “though”) followed by RE (i.e. “regiment”, specifically the Royal Engineers), then A and finally U (i.e. “uniform” – not an abbreviation explicitly recognised in my Chambers, but is used in the initials UBR – Uniform Business Rate), like so: THO-RE-A-U. Yuck, in a word.
[EDIT: Lee comes to the rescue again in the comments, clarifying the U. Thanks, Lee! – LP]

47. Was fitting answer being given to pig? (6)

Answer: AGREED (i.e. “was fitting”). Solution is A (recognised abbreviation of “answer”, as in Q&A) followed by GREED (i.e. “being given to pig”, or, slightly rephrased, a pig that is given to being greedy).

48. Scruffy kid chasing game (6)

Answer: RAGTAG (i.e. “scruffy”). Solution is RAG (i.e. “[to] kid”) followed by TAG (i.e. “chasing game”).

50. Asian unknown to live in this country (5)

Answer: UZBEK (i.e. “Asian” citizen of Uzbekistan). Solution is Z (i.e. “unknown” – setters like referring to X, Y or Z in their solutions as unknowns) and BE (i.e. “to live”) placed “in” UK (i.e. “this country”, The Times being a newspaper of the United Kingdom), like so: U(Z-BE)K.

52. Here’s a secret spy’s oddly concealed, by the way (4)

Answer: PSST (i.e. “here’s a secret” – okay, it’s in the dictionary, but still…). Solution is PS (i.e. “spy’s oddly concealed”, i.e. the odd letters removed from SPY’S) followed “by” ST (i.e. “the way”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “street”), like so: PS-ST.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1386

Blimey, the puns were strong with this one, weren’t they? Having had some distance now from solving the puzzle, I can appreciate how well a number of clues played out, but it didn’t feel that way at the time! For some reason it took me as long to solve the top-left-hand corner as it did the rest of the grid. Never mind, I got there in the end.

You can find my completed grid below, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful. A spot of housekeeping before we begin, in time-honoured fashion. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword for which you have a few gaps, then you might find my Just For Fun page of use. If you have a soft spot for reading horror fiction then there are a few tasty morsels in my Reviews page that might interest you. I’m currently working my way through the entire run of Best New Horror. Still a few books to go!

Anyway, let’s crack on, shall we?


Across clues

1. Head of Sixth leaving teacher in class to teach wrongly? (9)

Answer: MISINFORM (i.e. “to teach wrongly”). Solution is MISS (i.e. “teacher”) with an S removed (indicated by “Head of Sixth leaving”, i.e. the first letter of “Sixth”), then followed by IN and then FORM (i.e. “class”), like so: MIS-IN-FORM. One of a number of clues that scan rather well.

6. Fat cat running courses (7)

Answer: CROESUS, a very rich man, after the King of Lydia, it says here (i.e. “fat cat”). “Running” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of COURSES. Not one I’m familiar with. Luckily the wordplay was a tad more obvious than the solution.

10. Passage in tabloid is rejected (5)

Answer: SINUS (i.e. “passage”). Solution is SUN (i.e. “tabloid”) and IS both reversed (indicated by “rejected”), like so: SI-NUS.

13. Information not available about what constitutes place of punishment (7)

Answer: GEHENNA, which, to quote my Chambers, is “the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, in which the Israelites sacrificed their children to Moloch, and to which, at a later time, the refuse of the city was conveyed to be burned; hence hell” (i.e. “place of punishment”). Solution is GEN (i.e. “information”) and N/A (a recognised abbreviation of “not available”) placed “about” EH (i.e. “what”, as in “I beg your pardon?”), like so: G(EH)EN-NA. How times change. Nowadays, hell is that scary little shit off the AA adverts murdering Proud Mary every ten minutes. Maybe that’s just me.

14. Block digital protection (5)

Answer: STALL. Solution satisfies “block” and “digital protection” – a stall being a covering for a finger. You’ll sometimes see sporty types wear them to protect their pinkies.

15. A criminal catching disease being loaded (9)

Answer: AFFLUENCE (i.e. being rich or “loaded”). Solution is A then FENCE (i.e. “criminal”, as in one who deals in stolen goods) which is wrapped around or “catching” FLU (i.e. “disease”), like so: A-F(FLU)ENCE.

16. TV ad that’ll cause some to switch over to the other side (5,9,9)

Answer: PARTY POLITICAL BROADCAST. Clue plays on how “switch over to the other side” can mean changing TV channels or switching political allegiances. A clue that rather chimed with your politically-disaffected correspondent.

17. Bird having ring ouzel’s head and eagle’s tail (6)

Answer: HOOPOE (i.e. “bird” – did a Google Image search – it looks like the kind of thing I’d have doodled when I was eight years old, i.e. a bit bonkers.) Solution is HOOP (i.e. “ring”) followed by O (i.e. “ouzel’s head”, i.e. the first letter of “ouzel”) and E (i.e. “eagle’s tail”, i.e. the last letter of “eagle”).

18. Device giving go-ahead for soldiers to penetrate area that’s been shelled (3,5)

Answer: EGG TIMER. Clue plays on how “soldiers” can also mean strips of bread used to dunk into soft-boiled eggs, and how “shell” can refer to both artillery and the outer casing of an egg. You get the idea.

19. Paint a pack of hounds with vermin cut off (7)

Answer: ACRYLIC (i.e. “paint”). Solution is A then CRY (i.e. “pack of hounds”) and LICE (i.e. “vermin” – the term applies to insects as well as small animals) with the last letter removed (indicated by “cut off”), like so: A-CRY-LIC.

22. Scruffy pair? Mend it and press (5,5)

Answer: PRINT MEDIA (i.e. “[the] press”). “Scruffy” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PAIR MEND IT. This took me way longer than it ought to, despite seeing early doors that this was going to be an anagram. I struggled even when I had all the intersecting letters completed. Sometimes I just don’t see ’em.

23. No right to get Chemistry, say, without one’s submission (12)

Answer: ACQUIESCENCE (i.e. “submission”). Solution is ACQUIRE (i.e. “to get”) with the R removed (indicated by “no right”, R being a recognised abbreviation of “right”) and then followed by SCIENCE (i.e. “Chemistry, perhaps”) with the I removed (indicated by “without [Roman numeral] one”), like so: ACQUIE-SCENCE.

27. Waste from metal symbolically rendered (5)

Answer: OFFAL (i.e. “waste”). Solution is OFF (i.e. “from”, as in “that scary little shit off the AA adverts”) followed by AL (i.e. “metal symbolically”, specifically the chemical symbol for aluminium).

29. Mobile or mikes for bugging (7)

Answer: IRKSOME (i.e. “bugging”). “Mobile” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OR MIKES. Another seemingly obvious anagram that took me longer than it should.

30. Not initially fleeced, smaller lamb will be (8)

Answer: HORNLESS (i.e. “lamb will be”). Solution is SHORN (i.e. “fleeced”) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “not initially”) and then followed by LESS (i.e. “smaller”).

32. Idle fellow entertaining religious scholar with his belief system (8)

Answer: BUDDHISM (i.e. “belief system”). Solution is BUM (i.e. “idle fellow”) wrapped around or “entertaining” DD (i.e. “religious scholar”, specifically a Divinitatis Doctor, or Doctor of Divinity – we’ve seen this in a few Times clues now) and HIS, like so: BU(DD-HIS)M.

34. A racehorse with energy in first place, one hears (7)

Answer: EARDRUM (i.e. “one hears”). Solution is A and RED RUM (i.e. “racehorse”) with the E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”) moved to “first place”, i.e. E-A-RD-RUM.

36. Cleo cut short halfway through snake’s embrace (5)

Answer: CLASP (i.e. “embrace”). Solution is CL (i.e. “Cleo cut short halfway through”) followed by ASP (i.e. “snake”). A rather well-worked clue.

39. Not a landowner – one with under a dozen workers? (6,6)

Answer: TENANT FARMER, as in one who rents a farm (i.e. “not a landowner”). Solution plays on how “workers” can be ants, and with less than a dozen of them this could make our farmer a TEN ANT FARMER.

41. Artist’s endless row with journalist ultimately in newspapers (10)

Answer: SCULPTRESS (i.e. “artist”). Solution is SCULL (i.e. “row [a boat]”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “endless”) and followed by T (i.e. “journalist ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “journalist”) once it has been placed “in” PRESS (i.e. “newspapers”), like so: SCUL-P(T)RESS.

44. Potter receiving stick for Black going down? (3,4)

Answer: CUE BALL (i.e. “potter”). Within the context of the clue, a CUE BALL would be struck by the cue – i.e. “receiving stick” – in order for the “black [ball] going down”. You get the idea.

46. Sap parasites returning to infest wood, edges chewed off (8)

Answer: IMBECILE (i.e. “sap”). Solution is LICE (i.e. “parasites”) reversed (indicated by “returning”) and “infesting” or placed inside TIMBER (i.e. “wood”) with the first and last letters removed (indicated by “edges chewed off”), like so: IMB(ECIL)E. Another clue that scans rather well.

48. No longer healthy to produce emissions (6)

Answer: EXHALE (i.e. “to produce emissions”). “No longer healthy” can be read as EX-HALE (as in “hale and hearty”).

50. Web firm resolved perverse incentive to rid content of art (8,7,8)

Answer: INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER (i.e. “web firm” – techie pedants may want to chip in here). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “resolved”) of PERVERSE INCENTIVE TO RID which is then followed by R (i.e. “content of art”, i.e. the middle letter of “art”).

53. Pony tour down to exclude beginners? That’ll be without me! (2,4,3)

Answer: ON YOUR OWN (i.e. “that’ll be without me”). “Exclude beginners” indicates the solution can be derived by removing the initial letters of PONY TOUR DOWN.

54. Useless writer held back by sex (5)

Answer: INEPT (i.e. “useless”). Solution is PEN (i.e. “writer”) reversed and contained within (indicated by “held back by”) IT (i.e. “sex”, as in “doing it”, “having it off”, “at it like knives” and so forth), like so: I(NEP)T.

55. Append final note – one of these? (7)

Answer: ADDENDA. Solution is ADD (i.e. “append”) followed by END (i.e. “final”) and A (i.e. “[musical] note”). Within the context of the clue, addenda could comprise appended final notes. A nice bit of recursion there.

56. Quaint end of old cloth (5)

Answer: TWEED (i.e. “cloth”). Solution is TWEE (i.e. “quaint”) followed by D (i.e. “end of old”, i.e. the last letter of “old”).

57. Unconscious after drink having to leave society? (4,3)

Answer: DROP OUT (i.e. “to leave society”). Solution is OUT (i.e. “unconscious”) placed “after” DROP (i.e. “drink”).

58. Soldier to change sides twice (6,3)

Answer: DESERT RAT (i.e. “soldier” – you can check why from the last time it appeared a fortnight ago). Solution riffs on how DESERT and RAT are both words meaning “to change sides”. A good clue, despite how recently the solution has been repeated.

Down clues

1. Study of foolish character on horse (3,2)

Answer: MUG UP (i.e. “[to] study” – not one I’m familiar with, but it’s there in the dictionary). Solution is MUG (i.e. “foolish character”) followed by UP (i.e. “on horse”).

2. Swingball in one’s backyard? (6,2,9)

Answer: SPHERE OF INFLUENCE, which is “any region where one nation has a dominant influence”. Taking influence to mean “swing” and sphere to mean “ball”, I guess that means said region is “one’s backyard”. I can’t decide whether I like this clue or whether it’s too smug for its own good.

3. Over-protective, vigorously criticise butter (5,4)

Answer: NANNY GOAT (i.e. “butter”, as in a thing that headbutts – I audibly groaned when this finally clicked. A few swear words may have slipped out too.) Solution is NANNY (i.e. “over-protective”) followed by [have a…] GO AT (i.e. “vigorously criticise”).

4. Speaker setting out opposing sides of argument between two alternatives (6)

Answer: ORATOR (i.e. “speaker”). Solution is AT (i.e. “opposing sides of argument”, i.e. the first and last letters of “argument”) placed “between” OR and OR (i.e. “two alternatives”), like so: OR-AT-OR. Another clue that scans really well.

5. Very old relative’s problem with web page? (7,4)

Answer: MISSING LINK. Solution satisfies “problem with web page” and “very old relative”, assuming we weren’t dumped on this planet by aliens, of course. (Orders tinfoil hat.)

6. Things once drawn from events worse than Boston tea party? (8)

Answer: CHARIOTS (i.e. “things once [horse-]drawn”). “Boston tea party” refers to a moment leading to the American Revolution, when dastardly Brits had a load of their tea dumped into Boston harbour by angry Americans in protest at having no hand in deciding the laws governing them. A dust-up ensued, which an aspiring punsmith could describe as CHA RIOTS. Another that had me groaning when it finally clicked.

7. Give bribe, perhaps, for source of cosmetic ingredient (3,4)

Answer: OIL PALM. Solution satisfies “give bribe, perhaps” and “source of cosmetic ingredient”, specifically palm oil, weirdly enough.

8. Nasty smell between cliff and unpleasant seaside resort (11)

Answer: SCARBOROUGH (i.e. “seaside resort”). Solution is BO (i.e. “nasty smell”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “body odour”) placed “between” SCAR (another name for a “cliff”) and ROUGH (i.e. “unpleasant”), like so: SCAR-BO-ROUGH. A bit of a mean clue, all said!

9. Stifle vocal county rowing team (9)

Answer: SUFFOCATE (i.e. “stifle”). “Vocal” indicates the solution is a homophone of SUFFOLK (i.e. “county”) and EIGHT (i.e. “rowing team”).

10. Vibration from milk production centre, quiet at first (7)

Answer: SHUDDER (i.e. “vibration”). Solution is UDDER (i.e. “milk production centre”) with SH (i.e. “quiet”) placed “at first”, like so: SH-UDDER.

11. Killer policeman in Jamaica is hiding (5)

Answer: NINJA (i.e. “killer”). “Is hiding” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: POLICEMA(N IN JA)MAICA.

12. Departs after show with rings round the eyes? (10)

Answer: SPECTACLED (i.e. “with rings round the eyes”). Solution is SPECTACLE (i.e. “show”) with D (a recognised abbreviation of “departs”) placed “after” it.

17. Fruit on Italian flower, one that’s large and fleshy (5)

Answer: HIPPO (i.e. “one that’s large and fleshy”). Solution is HIP (i.e. “fruit”, specifically a rosehip) followed by PO (i.e. “Italian flower”, specifically the River Po). I was wise to the punning by this point.

20. Outside design contractor secures head, up-and-coming Frenchman with pull (9,8)

Answer: LANDSCAPE GARDENER (i.e. “outside design contractor”). Solution is LANDS (i.e. “secures”) followed by CAPE (i.e. “head”, as in the geographical feature) then RENE (i.e. “Frenchman”) and DRAG (i.e. “pull”) both reversed (indicated by “up-and-coming”, this being a down clue), like so: LANDS-CAPE-GARD-ENER. Another recent repeat, it seems.

21. House of stone in India (6)

Answer: GEMINI (i.e. “house” – signs of the zodiac are also called “houses”). Solution is GEM (i.e. “stone”) followed by IN and then I (“India” in the phonetic alphabet).

24. Fruit for woman to shout about (6)

Answer: CHERRY (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is HER (i.e. “woman”) with CRY (i.e. “shout”) placed “about” like so: C(HER)RY.

25. Mostly hit it off, embracing love in gut reaction (5)

Answer: COLIC (i.e. “gut reaction”). Solution is CLICK (i.e. “hit it off”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and wrapped around or “embracing” O (i.e. “love”, being a zero score in tennis), like so: C(O)LIC.

26. Leave me out of summons, to be consistent (6)

Answer: COHERE (i.e. “to be consistent”). Solution is COME HERE (i.e. “summons”) with ME removed (indicated by “leave me out”).

28. Young man being featured regularly in Loaded (5)

Answer: LADEN (i.e. “loaded”). Solution is LAD (i.e. “young man”) followed by every other letter (indicated by “regularly”) of BEING, like so: LAD-EN.

31. Run, walk, walk (6)

Answer: RAMBLE (i.e. “walk”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in ball games) followed by AMBLE (i.e. “walk”).

33. Mounted strike, getting unexpected rise – enthusiastic about gains via union (7,4)

Answer: MARRIES INTO (i.e. “gains via union”). Solution is RAM (i.e. “strike”) reversed (indicated by “mounted”, this being a down clue) followed by an anagram (indicated by “unexpected”) of RISE and then followed by INTO (i.e. “enthusiastic about”), like so: MAR-RIES-INTO. Another clue that scans really well.

35. Remembered to gather in grass (11)

Answer: RECOLLECTED (i.e. “remembered”). Solution is COLLECT (i.e. “to gather”) placed “in” REED (i.e. “grass”), like so: RE(COLLECT)ED.

37. Group of friends sit around smoking in van (5)

Answer: POSSE (i.e. “group of friends”). Solution is POSE (i.e. to “sit” for an artist) placed “around” S (i.e. “smoking in van”, i.e. the first letter of “smoking” – “van” in this case is a recognised abbreviation of “vanguard”, i.e. “at the front”), like so: PO(S)SE.

38. Don’t give up project to introduce computers (5,2,3)

Answer: STICK IT OUT (i.e. “don’t give up”). Solution is STICK OUT (i.e. “project”) wrapped around or “introducing” IT (i.e. “computers”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Information Technology), like so: STICK-(IT)-OUT.

40. Deception of one pretending to be criminal? (9)

Answer: FALSEHOOD. Solution satisfies “deception” and “one pretending to be criminal”, i.e. a FALSE HOOD.

42. Socialist, the first character to get cross at elevating one cheating exchequer (3,6)

Answer: TAX EVADER (i.e. “one cheating exchequer”). Solution is RED (i.e. “socialist”) followed by A (i.e. “the first character” or first letter of the alphabet) then VEX (i.e. “to get cross”) and AT, all reversed (indicated by “elevated”, this being a down clue), like so: TA-XEV-A-DER. Another clue that scans really well.

43. Wrong blood group supplied to crash in West End? (8)

Answer: OCCIDENT (i.e. “in West End” – Occident refers to the West). I’ve chewed over this one for hours, and all throughout the production of this blog post, and only now does it finally fall into place! The solution is ACCIDENT (i.e. “crash”) with the initial A (a “blood group”) swapped for O (another “blood group”). Seems so simple now I’ve written it down.

45. A good circuit – but you won’t be able to move after running it! (7)

Answer: AGROUND (i.e. “you won’t be able to move after running it”). Solution is A then G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) and finally ROUND (i.e. “circuit”).

47. Our Brit cooking that’s eaten in Mexico (7)

Answer: BURRITO (i.e. “that’s eaten in Mexico”). “Cooking” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OUR BRIT. I think I’ve got John Scalzi’s Twitter feed to largely thank for this one.

49. Wetland thoroughfares (6)

Answer: BROADS. Solution satisfies “wetlands” (greetings from Norfolk!) and “thoroughfares”, i.e. B-ROADS.

51. Your old setter, one going to pot? (5)

Answer: THYME (i.e. “one [plant] going to pot”). Solution is THY (i.e. “your old”, i.e. ye olde “your”) followed by ME (i.e. “setter”, as in the one who set the puzzle).

52. Tripe keeping when cooked a certain way (5)

Answer: ROAST (i.e. “cooked in a certain way”). Solution is ROT (i.e. “tripe”, as in something that’s rubbish) wrapped around or “keeping” AS (i.e. “when”), like so: RO(AS)T.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1385

A easier time of it this week. A rule of thumb I tend to use when judging the difficulty of these things is comparing how long they take for me to solve against how long it takes for me to type up their solutions. Often the easier puzzles take longer to type up.

Anyway, useless information aside, you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope they help.

As ever, some housekeeping before we begin. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic for which you are missing a few answers then my Just For Fun page might help you. Leavening these crossword posts is the occasional book review. If horror is your thing, then my Reviews page might appeal.

Right, on with the show. I’ll see you around. Time to grab a bite to eat before the footie.


Across clues

1. Break even in other school at first (9)

Answer: ELEVENSES (i.e. “break”). Solution is EVEN placed “in” ELSE (i.e. “other”) and then followed by S (i.e. “school at first”), like so: EL(EVEN)SE-S.

6. Old fogey’s current article into flak and slander (5-2-3-3)

Answer: STICK IN THE MUD (i.e. “old fogey”). Solution is IN (i.e. “current”) and THE (i.e. “article”) placed between or “into” STICK (i.e. “flak”, as in “taking stick from someone”) “and” MUD (i.e. “slander”), like so: STICK-(IN-THE)-MUD.

13. Girl in Ginsberg poem a male spurned (5)

Answer: ERICA (i.e. “girl”). Solution is AMERICA (i.e. “Ginsberg poem”) with the A and M removed from the beginning (indicated by “a male spurned” – M being a recognised abbreviation of “male”).

14. Follow ark in travels? It’s possible but unlikely (3,3,1,4)

Answer: FOR ALL I KNOW (i.e. “it’s possible but unlikely”). “Travels” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FOLLOW ARK IN.

15. British working with American commission (5)

Answer: BONUS (i.e. “commission”). Solution is B (a recognised abbreviation of “British”) followed by ON (i.e. “working”) and US (i.e. “American”).

16. One may appear in September morns to have changed somewhat (7,4)

Answer: HARVEST MOON (i.e. “one may appear in September”). “Changed somewhat” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MORNS TO HAVE.

17. In my case, stand at the front for hymn (5,4,2)

Answer: ABIDE WITH ME (i.e. “hymn”). Solution is WITH ME (i.e. “in my case”) with ABIDE (i.e. to bear or “stand”) placed “at the front”.

18. Figure Greek character right to interrupt repast (7)

Answer: NUMERAL (i.e. “figure”). Solution is NU (i.e. “Greek character”, specifically the thirteenth letter of the Greek alphabet) followed by R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) once it has been placed in or “interrupting” MEAL (i.e. “repast”), like so: NU-ME(R)AL.

20. Retired professors from Cambridge ultimately deserve one (7)

Answer: EMERITI (i.e. “retired professors”). Solution is E (i.e. “Cambridge ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “Cambridge”) followed by MERIT (i.e. “deserve”) and I (Roman numeral “one”).

21. Court at the end presented with motive for crime (7)

Answer: TREASON (i.e. “crime”). Solution is T (i.e. “court at the end”, i.e. the last letter of “court”) followed by REASON (i.e. “motive”).

23. Two honourable guys employing singular valet (10,9)

Answer: GENTLEMAN’S GENTLEMAN (i.e. “valet”). Solution is GENTLEMAN twice (i.e. “two honourable guys”) “employing” or surrounding S (a recognised abbreviation of “singular”), like so: GENTLEMAN-(S)-GENTLEMAN.

27. Primate’s practical joke judge ignored (3)

Answer: APE (i.e. “primate”). Solution is JAPE (i.e. “practical joke”) with the initial J removed (indicated by “judge ignored” – J being a recognised abbreviation of “judge”).

28. Belief unacceptable across India (6)

Answer: NOTION (i.e. “belief”). Solution is NOT ON (i.e. “unacceptable”) surrounding or placed “across” I (“India” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: NOT-(I)-ON.

29. Passage which includes short argument (6)

Answer: THROAT (i.e. “passage”). Solution is THAT (i.e. “which”) wrapped around or “including” ROW (i.e. “argument”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “short”), like so: TH(RO)AT.

31. Female worker getting help, we hear, for a Walter Mitty type? (9)

Answer: FANTASIST (i.e. “Walter Mitty type”). Solution is F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) followed by ANT (i.e. “worker”) and ASIST (i.e. “help, we hear”, i.e. a homophone of “assist” – I’ve said this before, I know, but this is cheap of the setter. In my view, said homophone should exist in the dictionary. (Rages impotently at the sky.))

34. Old soldiers work after hours in place employing cheap labour (9)

Answer: SWEATSHOP (i.e. “place employing cheap labour”). Solution is SWEATS (i.e. an “old” slang word for “soldiers”) followed by OP (i.e. “work”, short for “operation”) once it has been placed “after” H (a recognised abbreviation of “hours”) like so: SWEATS-(H)-OP.

35. Notorious bar, mostly clean (6)

Answer: PUBLIC (i.e. “notorious”). Solution is PUB (i.e. “bar”) followed by LICK (i.e. “[to] clean”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “mostly”).

36. Gluttonous type in car fed by girl (6)

Answer: GANNET (i.e. “gluttonous type”). Solution is GT (i.e. “car”, short for Gran Turismo) placed around or “fed by” ANNE (i.e. “girl”), like so: G(ANNE)T.

39. Eggs in surplus, according to report (3)

Answer: OVA (i.e. “eggs”). “According to report” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of OVER (i.e. “in surplus”).

40. What’s required to play Poohsticks, a prior issue now resolved? (5,5,3,6)

Answer: WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE. Solution satisfies “what’s required to play Poohsticks” and “a prior issue now resolved”.

42. Girl in that place sat endlessly (7)

Answer: THERESA (i.e. “girl”). Solution is THERE (i.e. “in that place”) followed by SAT with the last letter removed (indicated by “endlessly”).

43. Passionate us after a second run out (7)

Answer: AMOROUS (i.e. “passionate”). Solution is US placed “after” A then MO (i.e. “second”, as in “just a mo, please”) then RO (a recognised abbreviation of “run out” used in some ball games), like so: A-MO-RO-US.

45. Backache? Penny must leave plant (7)

Answer: LUMBAGO (i.e. “backache”). Solution is PLUMBAGO (i.e. “plant”) with the P removed (indicated by “penny must leave”, P being a recognised abbreviation for “penny”). A weird case of me getting the clue from the solution.

47. Sodium, for instance, contaminated a lake at mill (6,5)

Answer: ALKALI METAL (i.e. “sodium, for instance”). “Contaminated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A LAKE AT MILL. A clue that scans rather well.

49. Charles Pooter’s kid? One not easily deceived (7,4)

Answer: NOBODY’S FOOL (i.e. “one not easily deceived”). Solution is NOBODY’S (i.e. “Charles Pooter’s” – Pooter being the main character of George and Weedon Grossmith’s comic novel of 1892 The Diary of a Nobody. No, me neither) followed by FOOL (i.e. “[to] kid”). Another one where I got the clue from the solution.

51. Wee drink ahead of a play (5)

Answer: DRAMA (i.e. “play”). Solution is DRAM (i.e. “wee drink” – no, not that kind of… never mind) followed by A.

52. Notice character in establishment, heading off (11)

Answer: RESIGNATION (i.e. “[handing in one’s] notice”). Solution is SIGN (i.e. “character”) placed “in” CREATION (i.e. “establishment”) once the first letter has been removed (indicated by “heading off”), like so: RE(SIGN)ATION.

53. Girl taking in Italian show (5)

Answer: EVITA (i.e. “show”). Solution is EVA (i.e. “girl”) “taking in” IT (a recognised abbreviation of “Italian”), like so: EV(IT)A.

54. Jazzman liked long tune, syncopated (4,9)

Answer: DUKE ELLINGTON (i.e. “jazzman”). “Syncopated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LIKED LONG TUNE.

55. Greek takes off with illegally obtained ammunition (9)

Answer: GRAPESHOT (i.e. “ammunition”). Solution is GR (a recognised abbreviation of “Greek”) followed by APES (i.e. imitates or “takes off”) and HOT (i.e. “illegally obtained”).

Down clues

1. Rifle one always to remember? Good French one (8,3)

Answer: ELEPHANT GUN (i.e. “rifle”). Solution is ELEPHANT (i.e. “one always to remember”, as in the old phrase “an elephant never forgets”) followed by G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) and UN (i.e. “French [for] one”).

2. English farm animals causing witty comment (7)

Solution: EPIGRAM (i.e. “witty comment”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) followed by PIG and RAM (i.e. “farm animals”).

3. Delete article in Irish Gaelic (5)

Answer: ERASE (i.e. “delete”). Solution is ERSE (i.e. “Irish Gaelic”) with A (i.e. “article”) placed “inside”, like so: ER(A)SE.

4. Playmates stupidly hiding fine lighter of mine? (6,4)

Answer: SAFETY LAMP (i.e. “lighter of mine”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “stupidly”) of PLAYMATES placed around or “hiding” F (a recognised abbreviation of “fine”), like so: SA(F)ETYLAMP.

5. Skinflint’s self-esteem evil goblins lifted (7)

Answer: SCROOGE (i.e. “skinflint”). Solution is EGO (i.e. “self-esteem”) and ORCS (i.e. “evil goblins”) all reversed (indicated by “lifted”, this being a down clue), like so: SCRO-OGE.

6. Breakaway movement Preston girl re-formed at university (8,5)

Answer: SPLINTER GROUP (i.e. “breakaway movement”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “re-formed”) of PRESTON GIRL followed by UP (which, among its many meanings, is “in residence at school or college”, i.e. “at university”).

7. Check, having lost top copy (9)

Answer: IMITATION (i.e. “copy”). Solution is LIMITATION (i.e. “check”) with its first letter removed (indicated by “lost top”).

8. Tackle aboard in fine revolutionary raft (3-4)

Answer: KON-TIKI (i.e. “raft” – The Kon-Tiki expedition was a 1947 journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean). This took some getting, but the solution is KIT (i.e. “tackle”) placed “aboard” or inside of IN and then followed by OK (i.e. “fine”, as in okay). The whole is reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”), like so: KO-N(TIK)I.

9. Proof, after novel, a collection of religious books (3,9)

Answer: NEW TESTAMENT (i.e. “a collection of religious books”). Solution is TESTAMENT (i.e. “proof”) placed “after” NEW (i.e. “novel”).

10. Male bishop on Rhode Island, churchman from the Western Isles (9)

Answer: HEBRIDEAN (i.e. “from the Western Isles”). Solution is HE (i.e. “male”) followed by B (a recognised abbreviation of “bishop”) then RI (ditto “Rhode Island”) and DEAN (i.e. “churchman”).

11. Insect found round north in May, perhaps (5)

Answer: MONTH (i.e. “May, perhaps”). Solution is MOTH (i.e. “insect”) placed “round” N (a recognised abbreviation of “north”), like so: MO(N)TH.

12. Faulty cistern – mend showing perspicacity (11)

Answer: DISCERNMENT (i.e. “perspicacity”). “Faulty” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CISTERN MEND.

19. Order abroad to get discount (4,3)

Answer: RULE OUT (i.e. “[to] discount”). Solution is RULE (i.e. “order”) followed by OUT (i.e. “abroad”).

22. “Posted”, one working inside said (9)

Answer: STATIONED (i.e. “posted”). Solution is I (Roman numeral “one”) followed by ON (i.e. “working”) both placed “inside” STATED (i.e. “said”), like so: STAT(I-ON)ED.

24. No wine to be taken into flat in sacred building (5,4)

Answer: NOTRE DAME (i.e. “sacred building”). Solution is NO then RED (i.e. “wine”) which is “taken into” TAME (i.e. “flat”) like so: NO-T(RED)AME.

25. Number on old piano penned by that woman, a definite loser (2-5)

Answer: NO-HOPER (i.e. “a definite loser”). Solution is NO (a recognised abbreviation of “number”) followed by O (ditto “old”) and P (ditto “piano”) once they have been “penned by” HER (i.e. “that woman”), like so: NO-H(O-P)ER.

26. Socialist supporter quit first? (7)

Answer: LEFTIST (i.e. “socialist supporter”). Solution is LEFT (i.e. “quit”) and IST (i.e. “first” – I representing 1).

30. I overlook South African city chart placed on stack (5,8)

Answer: TABLE MOUNTAIN (i.e. “I overlook South African city” – in this case Cape Town). Solution is TABLE (i.e. “chart”) “placed on” top of MOUNTAIN (i.e. “stack”), this being a down clue.

32. “An Indian city attracting millions” – sort of clue (7)

Answer: ANAGRAM (i.e. “sort of [cryptic crossword] clue”). Solution is AN followed by AGRA (i.e. “Indian city”) and M (a recognised abbreviation of “millions”).

33. Warmth, ideal I suspect for a butterfly (5,7)

Answer: WHITE ADMIRAL. “Suspect” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WARMTH IDEAL I. Not being terribly up on my lepidopterology, I was quite pleased to quickly see ADMIRAL in the letters of the clue. The rest easily followed from there.

34. Style of writing supported by editor in need of more staff (5-6)

Answer: SHORT-HANDED (i.e. “in need of more staff”). Solution is SHORTHAND (i.e. “style of writing”) followed by ED (a recognised abbreviation of “editor”).

37. Boxing belt – another lost (3,5,3)

Answer: THE NOBLE ART (i.e. “boxing”). “Lost” indicates anagram. Solution is a rather fitting anagram of BELT ANOTHER.

38. Drug two Italian girls? (10)

Answer: BELLADONNA. Solution satisfies “drug”, belladonna is also known as deadly nightshade, a toxin with hallucinogenic effects, and “two Italian girls”, as in BELLA and DONNA.

40. Length of most of car, and weight (tail end, then rest) (9)

Answer: WHEELBASE (i.e. “length of most of car”, as in the distance between the front and rear axles of a motor vehicle). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “weight”) followed by HEEL (i.e. “tail end”) and BASE (i.e. “[to] rest” – a bit weak, but that’s my take on it). Not a classic.

41. What may shine in darkness covering one shimmering lake? (4,5)

Answer: NEON LIGHT (i.e. “what may shine”). Solution is NIGHT (i.e. “darkness”) wrapped around or “covering” an anagram (indicated by “shimmering”) of ONE and L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”), like so: N(EON-L)IGHT.

43. Skilled worker is wearing plaid, though hatless (7)

Answer: ARTISAN (i.e. “skilled worker”). Solution is IS placed in or “wearing” TARTAN (i.e. “plaid”) once its initial letter has been removed (indicated by “hatless”), like so: ART(IS)AN.

44. Maybe brother is upset over ostentatious jewellery (7)

Answer: SIBLING (i.e. “maybe brother”). Solution is IS reversed (indicated by “upset”, this being a down clue) and followed by BLING (i.e. “ostentatious jewellery”), like so: SI-BLING.

46. Get rid of blood group O? I succeeded in large hospital (7)

Answer: ABOLISH (i.e. “get rid of”). Solution is AB (i.e. “blood group”) and O followed by I and S (a recognised abbreviation of “succeeded”) placed between or “in” L (ditto “large”) and H (ditto “hospital”), like so: AB-O-L-(I-S)-H. Convoluted? Yes, but I rather liked it.

48. Gift in bag a private secretary overlooked (5)

Answer: KNACK (i.e. “gift”, as in having a knack for some activity). Solution is KNAPSACK (i.e. “bag”) once the middle A P and S letters have been removed (indicated by “a private secretary overlooked” – PS being a recognised abbreviation of “private secretary”).

50. Part of play watched in the auditorium (5)

Answer: SCENE (i.e. “part of play”). “In the auditorium” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of SEEN (i.e. “watched”).

Review: Best New Horror 6

Seems a bit harsh having “R. Campbell” on the tombstone!

(If you would like a run through the stories found in the first five books of the series, jump over to my Reviews page.)

This sixth entry sees a slimmer volume for the Best New Horror series, and showcases twenty-one stories and a poem, all published during 1994. To be honest the book could have been even slimmer. Like the previous volume, Best New Horror 6 is an uneven read with a number of underwhelming stories littering the first half of the book. Get through that lot and you’ll find the latter half significantly better, evidenced by a glut of award-winners and nominees. Taken as a whole, this makes for a fairly solid 4/5.

This was the first book in the series that was solely edited by Stephen Jones following Ramsey Campbell’s departure. Don’t think you’ve seen the last of Campbell, though, as his stories go on to feature in this and all but one of the next 22 books!

So let’s jump in. The stories you’ll find in Best New Horror 6 are as follows:

Also collected in Watt-Evans’s “Hazmat and Other Toxic Stories”

Dead Babies – Lawrence Watt-Evans (3/5 – Allie’s waters have broken and her husband, Bill, is rushing her to hospital. The baby isn’t hanging around, however, and it soon dawns on Bill that they will never reach the hospital in time. He decides a more sensible idea would be to make a short detour to Dr Everett’s house. They are answered by Dr Everett’s sister, Laura, who ushers them into a small parlour-like room. Everett arrives and sends Bill and Laura out into the hallway while he tends to Allie. As Bill paces the hall he cannot help but notice a dreadful smell in the house, seemingly coming from a nearby room, but he doesn’t question it. When he hears Allie’s anguished screams, Bill finds their worst fears have been realised. But that is only the beginning of the nightmare. This short helping of American gothic was okay, but it goes in the direction you’d expect from one scene to the next. That said, there are some nice touches here and there. The story is told from Bill’s point of view and Watt-Evans does a great job of humanising him with an affectionate Deep South twang.)

Also collected in Ellison’s “Slippage”

Sensible City – Harlan Ellison (4/5 – Gropp is a police lieutenant facing a lengthy prison sentence following the brutal deaths of several inmates at the internment facility he ran. He’s as guilty as all Hell too, thanks to his favourite pastime of smacking prisoners’ heads along the bars of their cells until they pass out. Knowing he’s going down, Gropp jumps bail with his right-hand-man-mountain Mickey Rizzo, who also has blood on his hands. They hightail it in a car with Mickey at the wheel. After a while they find themselves on an unfamiliar Interstate route with no idea where they are or where they are headed. A town called Obedience presents itself in the near distance, a town with an ominous green tinge in the sky. This was a fun short; like a weird mix of The Ant Hill Mob (with Gropp as Clyde and Mickey as Dum Dum) and the old Creepy and Eerie comics of the 60s.)

Also collected in Lamsley’s “Conference with the Dead”

Blade and Bone – Terry Lamsley (4/5 – Ogden is on his bike, taking in and reporting upon the sights of the Peak District for the benefit of his laid-up wife, Poppy. A freak downpour on his travels forces Ogden to urgently seek shelter amid a line of boarded-up houses. Assuming the area to be uninhabited, he smashes open the door of a nearby outhouse. As he barges his way in, Ogden has the uncanny feeling of something brushing past him. Could he have accidentally released something from the outhouse? And if so, what? This was another strong showing from Lamsley, whose Two Returns in Best New Horror 5 was a highlight. This story takes a while to get going but oh my does the ending deliver!)

Also collected in Partridge’s “The Man with the Barbed-Wire Fists”

Harvest – Norman Partridge (3/5 – Raphael lives alone in C-Town. His children are dead. His wife is gone. Everyone else in C-Town has either died or fled. The trees are blackened, the river poisoned. The sounds of a weeping woman float through the empty streets. She is La Llarona, the very personification of all that ills C-Town, and she is keen for Raphael to taste her gruesome, fleshy fruit. When Raphael is visited by a succession of people all keen for him to move away from the area, a tragic and significantly more mundane explanation presents itself. But can Raphael accept it? I liked this sad and sombre story up until the ending, which tries to get away without answering anything. I griped first time around that this was weak and it suggested Partridge didn’t know how to finish the story; a feeling that is sadly undiminished following a second reading.)

Sometimes, In The Rain – Charles Grant (4/5 – Len is an old man given to sitting out on the porch in the middle of winter, watching shapes emerge and dissolve in the rain. His younger sister, Gracie, lives with him. Originally this was to help Len around the house, but these days she’s there more to bicker and complain and fuss. In order to escape her, Len goes out drinking with his friend (and Gracie’s ex-husband), the magnificently named Youngman Stevens. But Youngman is widower with a troubled soul. He is prone to seeing his recently deceased wife Edith in a nearby park. When Len staggers home after another night on the sauce, he catches a glimpse of Edith too. Of Grant’s appearances in Best New Horror, this Stoker-nominated novelette was perhaps his most straightforward story. Nevertheless, it’s wonderfully written, cannily observed and a nice little chiller to boot.)

Ménage à Trois – Richard Christian Matheson (2/5 – A couple get it on. Repeatedly. With a knife. Of course! This short sequence of vignettes was originally published in an anthology of erotic horror called Little Deaths, and clearly the attempt was to evoke a Barkeresque ooh-yeah-baby-cut-me-there-mmm-yeah-peel-my-skin kind of thing, but to be honest it’s about as sexy as finding blood in your stool. I’ve given it one extra star, though, for its unintended comedy value. “Ghastly red licorice” indeed.)

Also collected in Lane’s “The Lost District and Other Stories”

Like Shattered Stone – Joel Lane (4/5 – Peter is a sculptor who suddenly finds he’s creating amazing work while asleep. One morning he wakes up in his studio, naked, tool in hand (stop it), finding he has rendered in granite an extraordinarily vivid forearm of a child reaching up out of the stone. It’s all very nice, but it’s a world away from the smashed-up cars and burnt-out buildings he was intending to sculpt. He wakes up another morning to find a young girl’s head cut from another block of stone. Whatever could any of this mean? Later, one evening, while cutting through a side street to Soho Road, Peter spots a dark sealed-up building. The walls of said building aren’t brick, however. They look somewhat like granite. This was a weirdly playful curiosity from Lane, couched, as ever, in bleak reportage from the Black Country. Echoes of this story can be heard in My Stone Desire, his British Fantasy Award-winning story of 2008.)

Black Sun – Douglas E. Winter (2/5 – In this International Horror Critics Award-winning story we follow an unnamed stranger as he is accompanied by a man called Hagopian through short scenes of post-nuclear holocaust and the slow death of the world. Hagopian has hired the stranger to undertake a horrific mass killing in the neon city, seemingly unaware of his assassin’s true self. Much of this mood piece is open to interpretation, and your enjoyment of it will hinge on how much work you are willing to put into reading it. As I’ve mentioned a few times in these reviews, I have to be in the right frame of mind. I was originally less than enamoured with this story, stating that I’d be happy to live out my days never having to read it again. Well, having read it a second time – as I have with several stories so far in these extended reviews of Best New Horror – I found a story that still exhausted my patience, though it did improve slightly. I’ve upped the score a tad, but I wouldn’t count on a third reading.)

Also collected in Harrison’s “Things That Never Happen”

Isobel Avens Returns To Stepney In The Spring – M. John Harrison (3/5 – In a story that flicks between past and present we follow Mick “China” Rose as he builds up a courier firm servicing a number of medical research companies across Europe. During these halcyon days he falls heavily for the titular Isobel, a waitress who yearns to fly like a bird. Cut to the present day and Isobel seems to have found one such research company that can help her fly, but with distressing, life-changing consequences. I wasn’t keen on this Dr Moreau-esque story the first time around, thanks mostly to the incredibly irritating Avens. Seriously, if she’d exclaimed “China!” one more time I’d have reached into the story and wrung her bloody neck. It’s damn near every other word she says. She even says it to help Harrison break up a few overly long paragraphs. <CynicModeDeactivated> Amazingly, despite everything running against it, Harrison manages to turn this story around in the latter third. For book nerds out there, Harrison later took this story, added Choe Ashton from Anima (his story in Best New Horror 4) and turned it into the British Fantasy Award nominated novel Signs Of Life. I’ll pass, thanks.)

The Dead Orchards – Ian MacLeod (5/5 – Caitlin is a poor girl who finds herself the centre of a rich old man’s attention. He is struck by her astonishing beauty, which is undimmed by her impoverished appearance. He begs her to come visit him, promising her money, a life of pampering and luxury and more besides. Caitlin agrees but is wary. She recalls how her mother disappeared one night long ago when lured to these grounds. She has every right to be wary too, for her host possesses a cruel streak a mile wide and the wealth to feed it. He also has a secret enchanted well tucked away in the bowels of the house. Those who drink of its waters fall into a catatonic state, a quality of which the old man has taken murderous advantage time and again. This was MacLeod’s third appearance in Best New Horror, with each story better than the last. The Dead Orchards is an excellent read; a full-blooded and handsomely written horror story that is chock-full of gothic imagery and which leads to a very satisfying ending. Job done!)

Also collected in Massie’s “Shadow Dreams”

What Happened When Mosby Paulson Had Her Painting Reproduced On The Cover Of The Phone Book – Elizabeth Massie (5/5 – From one excellent story to another. In What Happened… we follow Elliott, a tragic young boy whose wellbeing, confidence and schooling is being routinely destroyed by his dying mother. She is quick to browbeat Elliott, to lay on the emotional blackmail, to do anything to get her own way. Her cold-hearted selfishness has stripped the boy of any sense of ambition, effectively reducing him to her personal dogsbody. One morning Elliott opens the mail and sees a classmate’s painting on the cover of the phone book, which makes him realise how much of his potential he is wasting. He used to get good grades. His artwork was often praised by his teachers. Now look at him. But what can he do to improve his lot? This is a sad story made all the more heartbreaking by the fact Massie drew on her experience as a teacher to write it.)

Also collected in Campbell’s “Ghosts & Grisly Things”

The Alternative – Ramsey Campbell (3/5 – Highton returns home one evening to his wife and two kids. Home is a cramped two-bedroom flat in a grotty, run-down estate. Both Highton and his wife, Valerie, have to sleep in the sitting room to give their teenage daughter and junkie son separate rooms. But something weird happens when Highton goes to sleep. When he wakes, he is a successful accountant with a model family and all the trappings of a comfortable lifestyle. So which life is real and which one is the dream? This was okay, but I couldn’t quite shake the notion that Campbell was trying too hard. The Alternative chimes false as a result. List five things you’d expect to find in a stereotypical well-to-do household or rough council estate during the mid-90s and the chances are most of them will show up in this story.)

Also collected in “Masters of the Weird Tale: Karl Edward Wagner”

In The Middle Of A Snow Dream – Karl Edward Wagner (3/5 – Niane Liddell is an exotic dancer with a drug habit and the mental scars of a hard life. She’s had a few brushes with death, the latter brought about through a Demerol overdose. She is sent to a retreat for recovering addicts, but something about the place feels a little off. It seems her fellow patients have all had near-death experiences too. Coincidence? This was one of Wagner’s final stories before he died at the age of 48, and it left me wondering whether this was truly the finished article. The pacing of the story is uneven to say the least. Wagner spends time building up interesting characters in Niane and her fellow exotic dancer girlfriend Navonna, but the moment they both enter the retreat it seems he cannot wait to throw monsters at them and finish the story. Not great, sadly.)

Also collected in McAuley’s “Invisible Country”

The Temptation Of Dr Stein – Paul J. McAuley (4/5 – In an alternative history where Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions have helped transform Florence into a world power, Henry Gorrall and his sometime unofficial assistant Dr Stein investigate the body of a young girl pulled from the Grand Canal. Her body is sent to the city hospital for examination accompanied by two guards. When the guards are mortally attacked and the girl’s body fails to arrive, Gorrall is furious. It seems the girl has been stolen by bodysnatchers. Events take a chilling turn when the girl is subsequently found in the company of a sideshow charlatan calling himself Dr Pretorious. Remarkably, the girl is alive… after a fashion. I didn’t come to this story with high hopes if I’m honest, despite it bagging a British Fantasy Award. While I don’t mind stories set in alternative universes, it didn’t feel right for a horror story for some reason. I needn’t have worried. McAuley wisely keeps the alternate reality stuff squarely in the background and focuses instead on characters, plot and excellent writing. Definitely worth a read.)

Also collected in Kilworth’s “Moby Jack and Other Tall Tales”

Wayang Kulit – Garry Kilworth (4/5 – A man is enjoying the rustic delights of Bali when he is handed an invitation to attend a wayang kulit – a sacred shadow puppet play. He attends the show and is suitably impressed with the skill and artistry on display. Later, while nobody is around, he examines the assorted puppets in the booth, unaware of his shadow falling against the screen. One of the shadow puppets moves, seemingly settling into place, its shadow meeting his. Our man soon senses a growing pain in his shoulders and comes to realise the shadow play isn’t quite finished. I really liked Kilworth’s Inside The Walled City, which was a highlight of Best New Horror 2, and this story is every bit as good.)

The Scent Of Vinegar – Robert Bloch (4/5 – Greg Kolmer is a young man who is keen to locate Kitty Earnshaw’s place. Hers was a fabled house of ill repute from cinema’s golden era, believed to be lost to the years somewhere up in the Hollywood hills. Greg is convinced he will find his fortune there, a treasure trove of dirt on the leading men of the age. Instead what he finds is a golden girl lying in one of the rooms; a girl with sharp teeth who, bizarrely, is able to detach her head from her shoulders. This Stoker-winning story from the author of Psycho is a fun read with a wonderfully satisfying ending.)

The Homecoming – Nicholas Royle (4/5 – Daniela returns to Romania, her homeland, following Ceausescu’s bloody downfall. Upon arriving there she has a feeling that the nightmare isn’t quite over. Bucharest is a wreck, yes, but other than that the city still seems brimming with informers and secret police. Strange dreams and uncomfortable truths come to light when Daniela attempts to find her brother. This World Fantasy Award-nominated story previously appeared in Jones’ Shadows Over Innsmouth anthology, but thankfully this is one of those rare occasions where an author dips his toes lightly into Lovecraft territory and produces superior work. True, the tired Lovecraftian trope of a perpetually fearful protagonist is given an airing here, but the quality of the story makes up for it.)

Also collected in Landis’s “Impact Parameter and Other Quantum Realities”

The Singular Habits Of Wasps – Geoffrey A. Landis (5/5 – There are a few 5-star stories in this volume but this has the beating of them all. In The Singular Habits of Wasps Landis presents an astonishingly good Sherlock Holmes story, albeit perhaps not one for the purists! Doctor Watson is worried for Holmes. The famous detective has recently returned from investigating the disappearance of a mortally wounded farm hand and is exhibiting behaviour that is odd, even for him. With each nightly disappearance of Holmes it seems a lady of the night ends up slaughtered. Holmes couldn’t be the notorious Jack The Ripper, could he? Remember: when you have eliminated the impossible, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth.)

Also collected in MMS’s “More Tomorrow and Other Stories”

To Receive Is Better – Michael Marshall Smith (4/5 – Jack is a man on the run, hiding on a subway train, desperate to avoid drawing attention to himself. But the cards are stacked against him, for Jack has never known the outside world. To make matters worse, he is missing an eye, some fingers and a leg. He has spent his whole life being kept in a tunnel, with all the other “spares” like him. Needless to say, Jack is a more than a little pissed at his lot and is going to do something about it. This World Fantasy Award-nominated story was originally published in another of Jones’s many anthologies, The Mammoth Book Of Frankenstein, and it’s typically brilliant of MMS to find an intriguing twist on the Frankenstein story. He would later take this story and turn it into his second novel, Spares, which I might have to seek out.)

Also collected in Hodge’s “Lies & Ugliness”

The Alchemy Of The Throat – Brian Hodge (5/5 – In this sumptuous Stoker-nominated novelette we follow a modern-day castrato soprano, Giovanni Petrelli, in the months following his auction from a shady conservatory. This is a world in which castrati are still produced, albeit in utter secrecy, and the prices fetched by the most talented castrati are eyewatering. (The ones who don’t make the grade “mysteriously” disappear.) Giovanni is purchased by an incredibly wealthy man called Julius, and is soon put to the task of singing for him. During the many years of his training, Giovanni has heard all the horror stories of his trade, of how the androgynous beauty of the castrati often land them in the beds of their patrons. He is understandably wary of Julius, wondering how long it will be before he too falls foul of his patron’s lusty hands. But it seems Julius is content for Giovanni to merely sing for him. Julius’s debauched friends, on the other hand, are another matter – as Giovanni is about to find out in full. This is a superb story, real genre-elevating stuff. There have been a few erotic horror stories in this and previous volumes of Best New Horror, but Hodge shows them all how it’s done. Unmissable, though you might need some smelling salts while reading it.)

Also collected in Newman’s “Famous Monsters”

Out Of The Night, When The Full Moon Is Bright – Kim Newman (5/5 – This World Fantasy Award-nominated novella sees another mash-up from Newman, his third in as many books. Red Reign, in Best New Horror 4, was a brilliant story which took in Dracula and pretty much everyone of note, both real and fictional, from the Victorian era. The Big Fish, from Best New Horror 5, however, was a largely unsuccessful attempt to shoehorn Chandler into Lovecraft’s universe. This time around Newman clearly thought, “The Legend of Zorro, WITH WEREWOLVES!” And do you know what? He’s only gone and pulled it off. In one half of a dual narrative, we follow a young black novelist, Stuart Finn, as he endures a ride-around from hell courtesy of the LAPD. The whole city is a powder keg, its citizens brazenly taking pot-shots at the police, its gangs seemingly massacring rivals with impunity. Finn is here to develop a screenplay based on a successful novel of his, transplanting it from the UK to the US, but will he survive long enough to do so? On the flipside of the story we follow Diego as he embraces his newfound lycanthropy and cuts a murderously righteous path through a cruel, fledgling America, slaughtering any wrongdoers he senses, carving his zig-zag-zig calling card on each and every one of them. How the two narratives tie together, you’ll have to read for yourself, needless to say it’s very well done. It’s not all wine and roses, however. There is a whiff of stale and faintly Verhoevenian near-futurism to overlook here and there, but do so and you’ll find this a satisfying and bloodthirsty romp. Tuck in!)

Lovers – Esther M. Friesner (4/5 – A young woman awaits her sweetheart who has gone to war. She sends him a letter, promising him her heart, but then finds her love for him wanes in favour of another. Come her wedding day, an unexpected guest arrives, a little worse for wear, letter in hand. An unbroken four-page poem didn’t appeal to me, if I’m honest, but then poetry is often what you make it. Once I’d gotten the cadence down I couldn’t help reading this with the voice of Vincent Price in my head, which worked wonders! (Yes, I’m weird.) Lovers evoked a nice chill down the spine and made for a good closer.)

And so we come to the end of another monster review of Best New Horror. If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading! I hope there were a few stories here that tickled your fancy. You shouldn’t have too hard a job tracking down a second-hand copy of this book on eBay or AbeBooks should you fancy a read. Failing that, the eBook version is available to purchase across most platforms. The book covers above will each link to their respective Goodreads pages, which may provide you with other avenues to explore.

I’ll be back with a review of book 7 in a wee while. Do join me, won’t you? Till then, TTFN!


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1384

After making something of a Henry Halls of Saturday’s puzzle, it’s nice to quickly cleanse the palate with another Times Jumbo Cryptic! It took me a little while to find an entry point (in this case GRACE-AND-FAVOUR, weirdly) but once I had a few filled in it was reasonably steady progress to the end. Though this was another grid guilty of repeating a recent clue, it was a good puzzle overall.

Anyhoo, some housekeeping as ever. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic for which you’d like a solution then my Just For Fun page could be just the ticket. If you’re a horror reader then my Reviews page might have something that appeals.

And so to my completed grid. You’ll find explanations of my solutions below where I have them. I hope you find them useful. TTFN!


Across clues

1. Engineer endlessly longing to be cloaked in obscurity (9)

Answer: MACHINIST (i.e. “engineer”). Solution is ACHING (i.e. “longing”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “endlessly”) “cloaked in” MIST (i.e. “obscurity”), like so: M(ACHIN)IST.

6. Is drink placed in old hat wasted? (10)

Answer: DISSIPATED (i.e. “wasted”). Solution is IS and SIP (i.e. “drink”) “placed in” DATED (i.e. “old hat”), like so: D(IS-SIP)ATED.

12. Startle artilleryman, heading off before end-of-war celebrations (7)

Answer: UNNERVE (i.e. “startle”). Solution is GUNNER (i.e. “artilleryman”) with its first letter removed (indicated by “heading off”) and followed by VE (i.e. “end-of-war celebrations”, specifically Victory in Europe, or VE day), like so: UNNER-VE.

13. Nice way of describing of a hedonist? (3,6)

Answer: BON VIVANT (i.e. “hedonist”). “Nice”, being a city in France, indicates the solution is a French phrase.

14. I brought in copies done over in shade of brown (5)

Answer: SEPIA (i.e. “shade of brown”). Solution is APES (i.e. “copies”) reversed (indicated by “done over”) and “bringing in” I, like so: SEP(I)A.

16. Secret plans for monasteries under maritime directions? (6,6)

Answer: SEALED ORDERS (i.e. “maritime directions”). Solution riffs on how SEALED is another word for “secret” and how ORDERS is another word for “monasteries”.

17. Non-participant, beginning to watch everyone, beginning to feel less prominent (10)

Answer: WALLFLOWER (i.e. “non-participant”). Solution is W (i.e. “beginning to watch”, i.e. the first letter of “watch”) followed by ALL (i.e. “everyone”) then F (i.e. “beginning to feel”, i.e. the first letter of “feel”) and finally LOWER (i.e. “less prominent”). A clue that scans really well.

19. As adept with pen as with sword? (5,2,3,4)

Answer: QUICK ON THE DRAW. Solution riffs on differing meanings of the word “draw”: how can draw with a pen, and how one draws their sword. You get the idea.

22. Appropriate to involve Times, sure to revise regular items (8)

Answer: FIXTURES (i.e. “regular items”). Solution is FIT (i.e. “appropriate”) “involving” X (i.e. “Times”, as in the multiplication symbol) and then followed by an anagram (indicated by “to revise”) of SURE, like so: FI(X)T-URES.

24. Suppose administrator seizing power will want end to unrest (6)

Answer: EXPECT (i.e. “suppose”). Solution is EXEC (i.e. “administrator”, short for executive or executor) “seizing” P (a recognised abbreviation of “power”) and then followed by T (i.e. “end to unrest”, i.e. the last letter of “unrest”), like so: EX(P)EC-T.

25. Dairy product down? Something said to produce a smile (4,6)

Answer: BLUE CHEESE (i.e. “dairy product”). Solution is BLUE (i.e. “down”) followed by CHEESE (i.e. “something said [to photographer] to produce a smile”).

26. Much enthusiasm about brother finding wild horse (5)

Answer: ZEBRA (i.e. “wild horse”). Solution is ZEAL (i.e. “enthusiasm”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “much”, as in not quite all) and then placed “about” BR (a recognised abbreviation of “brother”), like so: ZE(BR)A.

29. Perhaps, the Opposition article backed by Frenchman (4)

Answer: THEM (i.e. “perhaps, the Opposition”, as in “them and us”). Solution is THE (i.e. “article”) “backed by” M (i.e. “Frenchman”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “monsieur”). This was the last clue I solved and took a bit of mulling over. Well played.

30. Puritan accepting new money, making an impression (8)

Answer: PRINTING (i.e. “making an impression” – impression in this case being a single printing of a book). Solution is PRIG (i.e. “puritan”) wrapped around or “accepting” N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) and TIN (i.e. a slang term for “money”), like so: PRI(N-TIN)G.

32. Function hosting a performance offering little amusement (9)

Answer: SATURNINE (i.e. “offering little amusement”). Solution is SINE (i.e. “function”, as in one of the six trigonometric functions in mathematics) “hosting” A and TURN (i.e. “performance”), like so: S(A-TURN)INE.

34. The same may be represented in dialect (9)

Answer: IDENTICAL (i.e. “the same”). “May be represented” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IN DIALECT.

35. Atmospheric phenomenon? Study source of turbulence and fume (8)

Answer: CONTRAIL, short for a condensation trail, sometimes used to draw large penises in the sky (i.e. “atmospheric phenomenon” – I’m taking this to mean “something that can be observed in the sky” rather than anything more exotic). Solution is CON (an archaic word meaning “study” often used by setters) followed by T (i.e. “source of turbulence”, i.e. the first letter of “turbulence”) and then RAIL (i.e. “[to] fume”).

36. Tree? China has millions (4)

Answer: PALM (i.e. “tree”). Solution is PAL (i.e. “China”, as in the Cockney rhyming slang “china plate – mate” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) followed by M (a recognised abbreviation of “millions”).

39. Sign of error in new rate for special edition of paper (5)

Answer: EXTRA (i.e. “special edition of paper”, as in “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”). Solution is X (i.e. “sign of error”, as in crossing something out) placed “in” an anagram (indicated by “new”) of RATE, like so: E(X)TRA.

40. Article in verse including record in sorry state (10)

Answer: APOLOGETIC (i.e. “in sorry state”). Solution is A (i.e. “article”) followed by POETIC (i.e. “in verse”) which is wrapped around or “including” LOG (i.e. “record”), like so: A-PO(LOG)ETIC. While this clue doesn’t scan particularly well, I did rather like the “in sorry state” bit.

42. Remarkable note penned by prisoner is handed over (6)

Answer: SIGNAL (i.e. “remarkable” – I get it, but I can’t think of a decent sentence where you’d use one rather than the other). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “note”) placed in or “penned by” LAG (i.e. “prisoner”) and IS which have been reversed (indicated by “handed over”), like so: SI-G(N)AL.

44. Sporting contest: plan to finish early or late in the day (8)

Answer: EVENTIDE (i.e. “late in the day”). Solution is EVENT (i.e. “sporting contest”) followed by IDEA (i.e. “plan”) which has its final letter removed (indicated by “to finish early”), like so: EVENT-IDE. I rather liked this one.

46. Action subsequently engaging lawyers to succeed in arbitration? (6,1,7)

Answer: STRIKE A BARGAIN (i.e. “arbitration”). Solution is STRIKE (i.e. “action”) followed by A BAR GAIN (i.e. “lawyers to succeed” – the legal profession is sometimes referred to as the Bar). Sound familiar? That’s because this solution also appeared in last week’s puzzle. Not only that, but it also appeared in virtually the same position on the grid! Come on, ed!

48. Very annoyed: silver reduced into small pieces retaining only 40% of value (10)

Answer: AGGRAVATED (i.e. “very annoyed”, albeit informally lest we aggravate the pedants). Solution is AG (chemical symbol of “silver”) followed by GRATED (i.e. “reduced into small pieces”) which is wrapped around or “retaining” VA (i.e. “40% of value”, specifically the first two letters), like so: AG-GRA(VA)TED.

49. Erotica? Men with it possibly showing some speed in response (8,4)

Answer: REACTION TIME (i.e. “showing some speed in response”). “Possibly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of EROTICA MEN and IT.

53. Blame hard to be accepted by group of thinkers? (5)

Answer: THANK (i.e. “[to] blame”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used to grade pencils) placed in or being “accepted by” TANK (i.e. “group of thinkers”, as in a think tank), like so: T(H)ANK.

54. Public official: origins linked to male in Arab state (9)

Answer: OMBUDSMAN (i.e. “public official”). Solution is BUDS (i.e. “origins”) followed by M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”) placed “in” OMAN (i.e. “Arab state”), like so: OM(BUDS-M)AN.

55. I name support from near the coast (7)

Answer: INSHORE (i.e. “near the coast”). Solution is I then N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”) followed by SHORE [up…] (i.e. “support”).

56. I agree: positive response seen in territory in the past (10)

Answer: YESTERYEAR (i.e. “in the past”). Solution is YES (i.e. “I agree”) followed by YEA (i.e. “positive response”) once it has been placed “in” TERR (a recognised abbreviation of “Territory”), like so: YES-TER(YEA)R.

57. Prepared with a line about study describing many office jobs? (9)

Answer: SEDENTARY (i.e. “describing many office jobs”, meaning lots of sitting down). Solution is SET (i.e. “prepared”) followed by A and RY (i.e. “line”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “railway”), all wrapped “about” DEN (i.e. “study [room]”), like so: SE(DEN)T-A-RY.

Down clues

1. Fellow, one with a passion (5)

Answer: MANIA (i.e. “passion”). Solution is MAN (i.e. “fellow”) followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and A.

2. Take control of stimulus – something footballer takes (6,4)

Answer: CORNER KICK (i.e. “something footballer takes”). Solution is CORNER (i.e. “take control of”) and KICK (i.e. “stimulus”).

3. Reserve to move briskly, feeling the cold (3-5)

Answer: ICE-BOUND (i.e. “feeling the cold” – a bit weak this, in my less-than-humble opinion. Ask the crews of HMSs Erebus and Terror and they might have given you a different perspective). Solution is ICE (i.e. “reserve”, as in having an icy nature) followed by BOUND (i.e. “to move briskly”).

4. Plant grew tall, avoiding cold lake (5)

Answer: IMBED (i.e. “[to] plant”). Solution is CLIMBED (i.e. “grew tall”) with the C (a recognised abbreviation of “cold”) and L (ditto “lake”) removed (indicated by “avoiding”).

5. Town in Kent has fashionable people cross (9)

Answer: TONBRIDGE (i.e. “town in Kent”). Solution is TON (i.e. “fashionable people” – setters quite often like to use this in their clues. It’s in the dictionary, though I still haven’t seen a sentence using it. Anyway…) followed by BRIDGE (i.e. “[to] cross”).

6. Daughter, not fully mature, weak character (4)

Answer: DRIP (i.e. “weak character”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) followed by RIPE (i.e. “mature”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “not fully”), like so: D-RIP.

7. Pretending to have support of a new religious figure (6)

Answer: SHAMAN (i.e. “religious figure”). Solution is SHAM (i.e. “pretending”) followed by or “having support of” – this being a down clue – A and N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”).

8. “Elitist leaning” may represent us (14)

Answer: INTELLIGENTSIA. “May represent us” indicates anagram. Solution is a rather fitting anagram of ELITIST LEANING. Within the context of the solution, the intelligentsia may well represent this. Very good, this. Best clue we’ve had for a couple of months.

9. More than one sailor loves to carry an instrument in the coldest temperature (8,4)

Answer: ABSOLUTE ZERO (i.e. “the coldest temperature”). Solution is ABS (i.e. “more than one sailor”, specifically Able Seaman made plural) followed by O and ZERO (i.e. “loves”, both plays on how “love” is zero in tennis) “carrying” LUTE (i.e. “[musical] instrument”), like so: ABS-O-(LUTE)-ZERO.

10. Enable soldiers to turn up, bearing military captive (7)

Answer: EMPOWER (i.e. “enable”). Solution is REME (i.e. “soldiers”, specifically the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) reversed (indicated by “to turn up”, this being a down clue) and wrapped around or “bearing” POW (i.e. “military captive”, specifically a Prisoner Of War), like so: EM(POW)ER.

11. Later question beginning to engage some number in smaller group (10)

Answer: SUBSEQUENT (i.e. “later”). Solution is QU (a recognised abbreviation of “question”) followed by E (i.e. “beginning to engage”, i.e. the first letter of “engage”) and N (i.e. “some [variable] number”) all placed “in” SUBSET (i.e. “smaller group”), like so: SUBSE(QU-E-N)T.

15. Love coming in fast – the stuff of jets and rockets (9)

Answer: AEROSPACE (i.e. “the stuff of jets and rockets”). Solution is EROS (the god of “love”) “coming into” APACE (i.e. “fast”), like so: A(EROS)PACE.

18. Source of disease: head about to keep note (8)

Answer: PATHOGEN (i.e. “source of disease”). This took a while to get, but the solution is PATE (i.e. “head”) placed “about” HOG (i.e. “to keep”) and followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “note”), like so: PAT(HOG)E-N.

20. Instrument in Apollo lander: I’m restrained about that (9)

Answer: IMPLEMENT (i.e. “instrument”). Solution is I’M PENT (i.e. “I’m restrained”) placed “about” LEM (i.e. “Apollo Lander”, specifically a Lunar Excursion Module), like so: IM-P(LEM)ENT. Yes, I looked up “LEM”.

21. Hold hard – young chap has fallen badly in between (4,6)

Answer: HALF NELSON (i.e. “[wrestling] hold”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” covered earlier) and SON (i.e. “young chap” – a bit of a stretch, this) with an anagram (indicated by “badly”) of FALLEN placed “in between”, like so: H-(ALFNEL)-SON.

23. China’s problem with crime (3,7)

Answer: TEA SERVICE (i.e. “china” – again, ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is TEASER (i.e. “problem”) followed by VICE (i.e. “crime”).

27. National symbol? Scots own up after it’s found in refuse (9)

Answer: BRITANNIA (i.e. “national symbol”). Another that took some getting, but the solution is AIN (i.e. “Scots own”, i.e. Scottish form of the word “own”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and placed “after” IT once it has been put “in” BRAN (the coarser part or “refuse” of anything), like so: BR(IT)AN-NIA.

28. Opener to meal with taste, left out as expression of sovereign’s thanks (5-3-6)

Answer: GRACE-AND-FAVOUR, which is “of a residence belonging to the British sovereign and granted rent-free to a person of importance” (i.e. “sovereign’s thanks”). So there you go. Solution is GRACE (i.e. “opener to meal”) then AND (i.e. the “with” bit) and FLAVOUR (i.e. “taste”) with the L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) removed (indicated by “left out”).

31. Isle of Grain not entirely undeveloped (8)

Answer: INCHOATE (i.e. “underdeveloped”). Solution is INCH (a Scottish or Gaelic word for “island” often used by setters) followed by OATEN (i.e. “of grain”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “not entirely”), like so: INCH-OATE.

33. Sailor following Channel, and French providing restriction (12)

Answer: STRAITJACKET (i.e. “restriction”). Solution is JACK (one of several words meaning “sailor”) placed after or “following” STRAIT (i.e. “channel”) and itself followed by ET (i.e. “and French”, i.e. the French for “and”), like so: STRAIT-JACK-ET.

34. One cricket side taking article into practice area? That’s awkward (9)

Answer: INELEGANT (i.e. “awkward”). Solution is I (Roman numeral “one”) then LEG (i.e. “cricket side”) and AN (i.e. “article”) “taken into” NET (i.e. “practice area” used in cricket and other ball games), like so: I-NE(LEG-AN)T.

37. Paper upset about delay identifying shirker (10)

Answer: MALINGERER (i.e. “shirker”). Solution is REAM (i.e. “paper”) reversed (indicated by “upset”, this being a down clue) and placed “about” LINGER (i.e. “delay”), like so: MA(LINGER)ER.

38. End up accepting witches I found in Pacific islands (10)

Answer: MICRONESIA (i.e. “Pacific islands”). Solution is AIM (i.e. “end”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and placed around or “accepting” CRONES (i.e. “witches”) and I, like so: MI(CRONES-I)A.

41. Outermost layer is primed to disintegrate after input of energy (9)

Answer: EPIDERMIS (i.e. “outermost layer”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “to disintegrate”) of IS PRIMED “after input of” E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”), like so: EPID(E)RMIS.

43. Help is turning up after former schoolmate gets stuck on Northern rock (8)

Answer: OBSIDIAN (i.e. “rock”). Solution is AID (i.e. “help”) and IS reversed (indicated by “turning up”, this being a down clue) and placed after OB (i.e. “former schoolmate”, specifically an Old Boy). The whole is then followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “northern”), like so: OB-(SI-DIA)-N.

45. Go wild after English impress deeply (7)

Answer: ENGRAVE (i.e. “impress deeply”). Solution is RAVE (i.e. “go wild”) placed “after” ENG (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: ENG-RAVE.

47. Weak grouse sent skyward ends in trivial chase (6)

Answer: FEEBLE (i.e. “weak”). Solution is BEEF (i.e. “grouse”, as in a complaint) reversed (indicated by “sent skywards”, this being a down clue) and followed by LE (i.e. “ends in trivial chase”, i.e. the last letters of “trivial” and “chase”), like so: FEEB-L-E.

50. Punished, or preserved half-heartedly (5)

Answer: CANED (i.e. “published”). Solution is CANNED (i.e. “preserved”) with one of its middle Ns removed (indicated by “half-heartedly”).

51. Club comedy, ultimately satire (5)

Answer: IRONY (i.e. “satire”). Solution is IRON (i.e. “[golf] club”) followed by Y (i.e. “comedy, ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “comedy”).

52. IT expert losing top in German river (4)

Answer: ODER (i.e. “German river”). Solution is CODER (i.e. “IT expert”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “losing top”). One I had to look up, if I’m honest.