Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1372

This was a mercifully gentler affair after last week’s horror show. My aching brain appreciates it! You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

If you have a recent puzzle knocking about for which you’d like the answers, then you might find my Just For Fun page useful. In the meantime, I’ll continue work on my review of Best New Horror 4. (You can see reviews of the first three books in my Reviews page, should you fancy a gander.)

Right then. In the immortal words of Nicolas Cage: “NOT THE BEES!” “Let’s ride”.

LP

Across clues

1. Trip merrily in dance music of the 1990s (7)

Answer: BRITPOP (i.e. “music of the 1990s”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “merrily”) of TRIP placed “in” BOP (i.e. “dance”), like so: B(RITP)OP.

5. Men pulling trains, perhaps? You’ll find them in Scotland (8)

Answer: HEBRIDES. Solution satisfies “men pulling trains, perhaps” (i.e. HE BRIDES, as oxymoronic as it sounds – “trains” being those dirty great back-ends of wedding dresses) and “you’ll find them in Scotland”.

9. Dance spotted in puzzle (6)

Answer: JIGSAW (i.e. “puzzle”). Solution is JIG (i.e. “dance”) followed by SAW (i.e. “spotted”).

13. Talc’s article wanted for such attention, in brief? (6,6,4)

Answer: TENDER LOVING CARE. Solution is TALC with the A – an article – removed (i.e. “talc’s article removed”). This gives you TLC, which is a recognised abbreviation (indicated by “in brief”) of Tender Loving Care (i.e. “attention”).

14. Party politics at sea moving ahead, so all concluding (4,2)

Answer: STAG GO (i.e. “party”). “All concluding” indicates that the solution is derived from the final letters of POLITICS AT SEA MOVING AHEAD SO.

16. Conservative PM once lacking leadership, old Con cross (8)

Answer: ORTHODOX (i.e. “conservative”, as in one’s views). Solution is Lord Frederick NORTH, British Prime Minister 1770-1782 (i.e. “PM once”) with the initial letter removed (i.e. “lacking leadership”), and followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”), DO (to cheat, i.e. “con”) and X (i.e. “cross”), like so: ORTH-O-DO-X.

17. Miles away from a ranch – miles away! (4)

Answer: AFAR (i.e. “miles away”). Solution is A FARM (i.e. “a ranch”) with the M removed (i.e. “miles away”, M being a recognised abbreviation of “miles”).

18. Done in accessing corner in this domestic chore (9)

Answer: HOOVERING (i.e. “domestic chore”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “done”) and IN placed in, or “accessing” HOG (i.e. “[to] corner [something]”), like so: HO(OVER-IN)G.

20. Hunk of sweetmeat? (8)

Answer: BEEFCAKE. Solution satisfies “hunk” and, cryptically, “sweetmeat” (as in a BEEF CAKE).

21. Change about a hundred for a difference (11)

Answer: ALTERCATION (which is to dispute something heatedly, i.e. “a difference”). Solution is C (Roman numeral for “a hundred”) placed in ALTERATION (i.e. “change”), like so: ALTER(C)ATION.

24. Shape central, eg quadrilateral (9)

Answer: RECTANGLE (i.e. “quadrilateral”). “Shape” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CENTRAL EG.

25. Flower, grey lines perhaps round the edge (8)

Answer: PRIMROSE (i.e. “flower”). Solution is PROSE (i.e. “grey lines perhaps” – “prose” can mean non-poetic text, or something that’s boring and grey) placed “round” RIM (i.e. “the edge”), like so: P(RIM)ROSE.

26. A welcome shower? (4)

Answer: HAIL. Solution satisfies “a welcome” and “shower”.

29. Hammer close to a bar for field event? (3,4,4)

Answer: CAR BOOT SALE (i.e. “field event”). “Hammer” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CLOSE TO A BAR.

31. Details causing much head scratching? Then tough! (5-6)

Answer: NITTY-GRITTY (i.e. “details”). Solution is NITTY (i.e. “causing much head scratching”) “then” GRITTY (i.e. “tough”). A solution that appeared a few weeks ago.

33. Greek philosophy derived from pagan theory (11)

Answer: PYTHAGOREAN (i.e. “Greek philosophy”). “Derived from” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PAGAN THEORY.

36. Idle barge, one taking extra work (11)

Answer: MOONLIGHTER (i.e. “one taking extra work”). Solution is MOON (i.e. “[to] idle”) and LIGHTER (i.e. “[a] barge”).

38. Youth centres in Leicestershire and Kent (4)

Answer: TEEN (i.e. “youth”). Solution is derived from the “centres” of LeicesTErshire and KENt.

39. One criticising salesman and traveller (8)

Answer: REPROVER (i.e. “one criticising”). Solution is REP (i.e. “salesman”) followed by ROVER (i.e. “traveller”).

41. Mediator has to try and gamble – little point (2-7)

Answer: GO-BETWEEN (i.e. “mediator”). Solution is GO (i.e. “to try”) then BET (i.e. “gamble”) then WEE (i.e. “little”) and N (i.e. “point”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “north” on a compass), like so: GO-BET-WEE-N.

44. Fire at bird, producing lead (5,1,5)

Answer: BLAZE A TRAIL (i.e. “[to] lead”). Solution is BLAZE (i.e. “fire”) followed by AT and then RAIL (i.e. “bird” – did a Google Image search – meh, random).

45. Possible boiler trouble (3,5)

Answer: HOT WATER. Solution satisfies “possible boiler” (other boiling liquids may be available) and “trouble”.

48. Inspired by crude matter, newspaper producing four-letter word (9)

Answer: TETRAGRAM (i.e. “four-letter word”). Solution is RAG (i.e. “newspaper”) “inspired” into an anagram (indicated by “crude”) of MATTER, like so: TET(RAG)RAM.

49. Author unknown, all works lacking initial (4)

Answer: ANON (i.e. “author unknown”). Solution is CANON (i.e. “all works”) with the first letter removed (i.e. “lacking initial”).

50. Support overwhelming seed in West London contest? (4,4)

Answer: BOAT RACE (i.e. a “West London contest” which will be on in a couple of weeks). Solution is OAT (i.e. “seed”) being “overwhelmed” by BRACE (i.e. “support”), like so: B(OAT)RACE.

52. Backtracking southeast European runs off (6)

Answer: ELOPES (i.e. “runs off”). Solution is SE (a recognised abbreviation of “southeast”) and POLE (i.e. “European”), and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “backtracking”), like so: ELOP-ES.

53. A bigot retired with game of rugby in a mess (2,5,3,6)

Answer: AT SIXES AND SEVENS (i.e. “in a mess”). Solution is A, then SEXIST (i.e. “bigot”) reversed (indicated by “retired”), then followed by AND (i.e. “with”) and SEVENS (i.e. “game of rugby”), like so: A-TSIXES-AND-SEVENS.

54. Never what the bold show (2,4)

Answer: NO FEAR. Solution satisfies an exclamatory “never” that you don’t hear so much these days, and “what the bold show”.

55. Poets, say, in European catalogues (8)

Answer: ELEGISTS (i.e. “poets”). Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) placed “in” E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and LISTS (i.e. “catalogues”), like so: E-L(EG)ISTS.

56. Weary old bowler, perhaps, trapping us (7)

Answer: EXHAUST (i.e. “weary” – though I’d question the tense here). Solution is EX-HAT (i.e. “old bowler, perhaps”) “trapping” US, like so: EX-HA(US)T.

Down clues

1. Base saw British uprising (6)

Answer: BOTTOM (i.e. “base”). Solution is MOTTO (i.e. “saw” – an alternative meaning of “saw” is a saying or phrase) and B (a recognised abbreviation of British) reversed (indicated by “uprising” – this being a down clue), like so: B-OTTOM.

2. Light lifted in fleeting image (6)

Answer: IGNITE. “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “lifted” indicates the solution is reversed, again this being a down clue, like so: FLE(ETING I)MAGE.

3. They happen to see father embracing females only, zero males (9)

Answer: PHENOMENA (i.e. “they happen to [be] see[n]”). Solution is PA (i.e. “father”) “embracing” HEN O MEN (i.e. “females only, zero males” – a bit weak, but you know what I mean), like so: P(HEN-O-MEN)A.

4. Series of cushioned blows? (6,5)

Answer: PILLOW FIGHT. Solution riffs on how one involves fighting with pillows, which, of course, are a kind of cushion. Another clue that featured in a recent puzzle.

5. Queen’s residence, where Welsh corgi ends on covers of Vogue (4)

Answer: HIVE (i.e. “queen [bee]’s residence”). Solution is H and I (i.e. “Welsh corgi ends”, i.e. the last letters of WELSH and CORGI) placed “on” VE (i.e. “covers of Vogue”, i.e. the first and last letters of “vogue”). I rather liked this clue.

6. Censorship withdrawn, intro cut from film perhaps that’s sentimental and sweet (8,3)

Answer: BANOFFEE PIE (i.e. “[a] sweet”). Solution is BAN (i.e. “censorship”) then OFF (i.e. “withdrawn”) then WEEPIE (i.e. “film perhaps that’s sentimental”) with its “intro cut”, like so: BAN-OFF-EEPIE.

7. Existence driving people? (11)

Answer: INCARNATION (i.e. “existence”). “Driving people” also suggests this may be an IN-CAR NATION.

8. Soil brilliant thing for fungus (9)

Answer: EARTHSTAR, a very cool-looking “fungus”. Solution is EARTH (i.e. “soil”) and STAR (i.e. “brilliant thing”).

10. Current fashion to stop river causing a blockage (2,3,3)

Answer: IN THE WAY (i.e. “causing a blockage”). Solution is IN (i.e. “current”) and THE WAY (i.e. “[a] fashion”). Not sure what the “to stop river” bit relates to. If you call a river a “way”, then the solution would satisfy that as well, I guess.

11. Husband, perhaps, provided in Antichrist gone mad! (11,5)

Answer: SIGNIFICANT OTHER (i.e. “husband, perhaps”). Solution is IF (i.e. “provided”, as in “you can do something provided you do something else”) placed “in” an anagram (indicated by “mad”) of ANTICHRIST GONE, like so: SIGN(IF)ICANTOTHER.

12. Villain picked up weapon that’s about right (5,2)

Answer: WRONG UN (i.e. “villain”). I’m not 100% sure, but I reckon the solution might be WON (i.e. “picked up”, albeit rather weakly) and GUN (i.e. “weapon”) placed “about” R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) like so: W(R)ON-GUN.

15. Try out travels around islands popular with holidaymakers (8)

Answer: TOURISTY (i.e. “popular with holiday makers”). Solution is IS (a recognised abbreviation of “islands”) with an anagram (indicated by “travels”) of TRY OUT placed “around” it, like so: TOUR(IS)TY.

19. Material cost is cut (8)

Answer: LACERATE (i.e. “cut”). Solution is LACE (i.e. “material”) and RATE (i.e. “cost”).

22. Mad to split prize (8)

Answer: CRACKPOT (i.e. “mad”). Solution is CRACK (i.e. “to split”) and POT (i.e. “prize”).

23. Frighten – leaving one embarrassingly exposed? (5,3,5,3)

Answer: SCARE THE PANTS OFF (i.e. “frighten”). In the context of the solution, one might well be embarrassingly exposed having had their pants scared off – particularly if one has gone commando.

27. Putting down sheets, fifty certainly sound (8)

Answer: LAYERING (i.e. “putting down sheets”). Solution is L (Roman numeral for “fifty”), then AYE (i.e. an affirmatory “certainly”) and RING (i.e. “sound”).

28. Dress up for game (4)

Answer: BRAG (i.e. “[card] game”). Solution is GARB (i.e. “dress”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue).

30. Nation in love with king, perhaps (4)

Answer: OMAN (i.e. “nation”). Solution is O (i.e. “love”, i.e. a zero score in tennis) followed by MAN (i.e. “king, perhaps”).

32. Ideas, however, tactless in the extreme (8)

Answer: THOUGHTS (i.e. “ideas”). Solution is THOUGH (i.e. “however”) followed by TS (i.e. “tactless in the extreme”, i.e. the first and last letters of “tactless”).

34. Capsize transparent vessel (8)

Answer: OVERTURN (i.e. “capsize”). Solution is OVERT (i.e. “transparent”) followed by URN (i.e. “vessel”).

35. Church body doing little to contain downward acceleration, in self-contemplation (5-6)

Answer: NAVEL-GAZING (i.e. “self-contemplation”). Solution is NAVE (i.e. “church body”) followed by G (i.e. “downward acceleration”, i.e. “g”, a recognised value representing gravity in umpteen physics-based equations) “contained” by LAZING (i.e. “doing little”), like so: NAVE-L(G)AZING.

36. Tramp, prowler doffing cap, is noble (11)

Answer: MARCHIONESS (i.e. “noble”). Solution is MARCH (i.e. “tramp”) followed by LIONESS (i.e. “prowler”) without its initial letter (indicated by “doffing cap”), like so: MARCH-IONESS.

37. After party, artist has to sketch a cross (11)

Answer: LABRADOODLE (i.e. “a cross [breed of dog]”). Solution is LAB (i.e. “party”) with RA (a recognised abbreviation of “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) placed “after” it and then followed by DOODLE (i.e. “sketch”), like so: LAB-RA-DOODLE.

40. The way repairer mends a leotard with marks in it (4,5)

Answer: ROAD METAL, which are broken stones used for roads (i.e. “the way repairer”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “mends”) of A LEOTARD with M (a recognised abbreviation of “marks”, the former currency of Germany) placed “in it”, like so: ROAD(M)ETAL.

42. Ordinal with tenet that’s controversial (9)

Answer: TWENTIETH (i.e. “ordinal”). “Controversial” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WITH TENET.

43. Victory secured by leader, a terrible old Irish statesman (2,6)

Answer: Éamon DE VALERA (i.e. “old Irish statesman”. No, me neither.) Solution is V (a recognised abbreviation of “victory”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “terrible”) of LEADER A, like so: DE(V)ALERA.

44. Freezing point for bird (7)

Answer: BITTERN (i.e. “bird”). Solution is BITTER (i.e. “freezing”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “north”, a “point” on a compass).

46. Opener taking gold – that’s rich! (6)

Answer: GATEAU (i.e. “[a cake] that’s rich”). Solution is GATE (i.e. “opener”) followed by AU (chemical symbol of “gold”).

47. Guy heading for Tianjin in China (3,3)

Answer: TEA SET (i.e. “china” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is TEASE (i.e. “[to] guy”) followed by T (i.e. “heading for Tianjin”, i.e. the first letter of Tianjin).

51. Route I don’t know (4)

Answer: PASS. Solution satisfies “route” and “I don’t know”.

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Review: Best New Horror 3

The cover is a bit naff, yes, but it seems the image was heavily altered prior to publication. Could just be me, though.

After the relative disappointment of Best New Horror 2 compared to the first volume, it’s pleasing to see a noticeable improvement in this third outing. Out go the sci-fi pretenders and bloodless time-wasters of book two to be replaced by some notably darker material – this was the year American Psycho hit the bookshelves, after all. Overall, then, this book scores a fairly solid 4/5.

Best New Horror 3 collects twenty-nine of the best horror shorts published during 1991, and goes a little something like this:

True Love – K. W. Jeter (4/5 – In this pitch-black opener we follow a disturbed woman as she lures a young boy to her house. We discover through frequent flashbacks that she suffered greatly at the hands of her father, satisfying his sexual urges from an early age and weathering his physical and psychological abuse. Now, in her middle-age, her father is little more than a dried-up husk, shut away in a spare bedroom upstairs. It’s a wonder he’s still alive. Perhaps it has something to do with the children his daughter keeps bringing home. This is a story that is unafraid to visit some truly dark places and I was surprised to find it just as horrific on a second readthrough. And yet Jeter never lets the story veer too far into gratuitousness. Instead he infuses the piece with a cold disconnectedness I found almost as unsettling as the plot. In short, this story perfectly sets up the darker tone of this book, though I’d be happy to not read it a third time.)

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

The Same In Any Language – Ramsey Campbell (3/5 – In another of those “dumped on a Greek island” stories – the third in as many books – we find Hugh, a bookish ten-year-old boy, enduring a Greek holiday from hell with his boorish father. All Hugh wants out of the holiday is to explore the uninhabited island of Spinalonga and to soak up its history. All Hugh’s dad wants is to drink, to piss off Johnny Foreigner and to screw around with Kate, his newfound holiday shag. Worse still, as the days roll on, Kate is trying to act more like a mum to Hugh. Eventually the adults accede to Hugh’s request and they all take a boat trip out to Spinalonga – a former leper colony – as the sun sets in the distance. This was okay, with some interesting and believable relationships developing between the characters, but things went awry the moment Campbell tried to spoon in the horror. The moment his characters stepped onto the island was the moment I started seeing the author’s hand at work, nudging his characters along, making them say and do things that felt a little out of whack, as if he was in a hurry to finish. The story soon feels over-engineered, a bit like Hugh’s dad, and isn’t helped by an unfunny joke ending.)

Impermanent Mercies – Kathe Koja (4/5 – Ellis is a photographer with a mercenary streak. He doesn’t care too much for the subjects on the other side of the lens so long as they can score him the perfect shot. For one such picture, Ellis lines up a young boy, Andy, and his dog, True, between a pair of train tracks. Moments later the hound is tragically killed beneath the wheels of a train. Ellis is later horrified to find that the boy has kept the dog’s head in a box. And that the head can talk. This starts off weird and then gets weirder and darker with each passing paragraph. This reminded me somewhat of the deeply strange and disturbing monologues in Chris Morris’s Blue Jam radio series from the late 1990s (several years after this was published, I should add). I loved Blue Jam back then and I really liked this.)

Collected in Brennert’s “Mai Qui and Other Phantoms”, which you’ll do well to find.

Ma Qui – Alan Brennert (4/5 – Collins is an American soldier trying to come to terms with his violent death out in the Vietnamese jungle. He is not the only one. A few of his squad mates haunt the area as well, having met their ends in the same bloody skirmish. The ghosts of the Vietcong also sit among the trees, a number of them weeping. When a recovery chopper arrives to repatriate the remains of his squad mates, Collins suddenly finds himself alone. Convinced the VC has stolen his body, Collins sets out to find it. He encounters the ghost of a fellow soldier suspended helplessly over a nearby river. In rescuing him, Collins learns of the terrible role he now must fulfil in the afterlife. This is a really good and absorbing read which bagged a Nebula award back in the day.)

Originally published in the shared-world anthology “Under the Fang”

The Miracle Mile – Robert R. McCammon (4/5 – In this bleak tale, which was written as a scene-setter for a post-vampire-apocalypse-themed anthology edited by McCammon, we follow a family as they pick their way through a storm-ravaged American wasteland on the way to Perdido Beach. Kyle and Allie have been coming to the beach every year since they’d hitched up together, years before the world went to hell. For their twelve-year-old son, Tommy, summer has always meant a trip to the place. It’s something they’ve always done. But is this particular pilgrimage being undertaken through sheer bloody-mindedness or is there a darker purpose? What happens when you run out of road in a world full of predators? For the most part this story was fairly standard end-of-the-world fare, being competent and readable but hardly ground-breaking. There then came a moment which genuinely had me saying “Whoa!”, which doesn’t happen very often. For that, an extra point.)

Also collected in SRT’s “City Fishing”.

Taking Down The Tree – Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 – Christmas has come and gone for Nick and his family. It’s time for the kids to stop playing with their toys and help their father take down the tree, the cards, the decorations and a whole lot more besides. A short and effective shocker from SRT, and another one that genuinely surprised me on a first read. Good stuff!)

 

 

 

 

 

Also collected in Clegg’s “Lights Out”

Where Flies Are Born – Douglas Clegg (3/5 – Ellen is on the run with her young son, Joey. They are both escaping the violent clutches of Frank: Ellen’s other half and Joey’s father. When their train breaks down and a lengthy delay looks inevitable, Ellen and Joey accept an offer of accommodation from Mama and Papa Neeson. On their way to the Neeson farmhouse the old couple talk of their little ones. Ellen is sceptical, as the Neesons look much too old to have young children. During the night, on the way to the bathroom, Ellen sees one of the little ones in the hallway: a bruised and filthy girl with a large fly crawling over her face. This was okay, with some really creepy imagery, but I didn’t buy into Papa Neeson’s explain-all, nor did I buy into the ending, which felt rather tacked-on.)

Collected in Johnson’s “In The Night In The Dark”

Love, Death and the Maiden – Roger Johnson (3/5 – It’s the late 1930’s and Europe teeters on the brink of war. A man is introduced to a playwright, Margaret, and her attractive assistant, Valerie. For her next work, Margaret wishes to base a play around Elisabeth Bathory and sends Valerie on a trip across an increasingly volatile Eastern Europe to dig up research on the notorious countess. Valerie writes often to our man, describing her travels, but her correspondence soon darkens as her quest develops into a hunt for Bathory’s iron maiden. Though the setup of the story was hopelessly overengineered, once it got going it was a shoo-in for a solid 4/5. Johnson intercuts his story with gruesomely interesting factoids about Bathory’s insane and murderous excess, and the device works surprisingly well. The denouement, however, spoiled it all, coming across as silly and, unfortunately, in a weird way, reminded me of the Fembots from the Austin Powers movies. Not groovy, baby.)

Also collected in Somtow’s “The Pavilion of Frozen Women”

Chui Chai – S. P. Somtow (4/5 – Russell Liebowitz is an oversexed yuppie earning obscene amounts of cash by day and feeding his assorted vices by night. One night in Bangkok (forgive me, I could not resist) he meets up with Dr Stone in Club Pagoda to discuss some business. Stone seeks an investment of several millions of dollars into her medical research programme. Liebowitz is wise to her programme, however, and its notoriety. Stone is equally wise to Liebowitz, knowing exactly how to press his buttons. A beautiful woman takes to the stage of Club Pagoda to perform the titular dance, and our man is hopeless to resist her. Too late, Liebowitz realises he’s been set up. This is quite the mirror opposite of the previous story, in that it was a solid 3/5 until the ending, which was wonderfully bonkers.)

Also collected in Newman’s “Famous Monsters”

The Snow Sculptures of Xanadu – Kim Newman (1/5 – Newman’s encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema and the horror genre is given another airing in this short piece of pseudofiction. Orson Welles rocks up to a dilapidated Xanadu, Charles Foster Kane’s mansion. There he meets Dr Montague and his team of paranormal investigators. After suiting up seemingly for a blizzard, they step inside. That’s about it, really. The vast majority of the “story” is little more than indulgent showboating from Newman as he sets about blurring real life and several fictitious worlds with dizzying abandon. (You might recognise Dr Montague and his team from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, for example.) Cinephiles may get a kick out of this effort, but many others – myself included – will find it the longest four-page story they’d ever read. An argument could be made that this piece – despite its lack of popularity (it was voted one of the worst stories published in Interzone magazine that year) – was necessary, for Newman would soon go on to fuse real life and fictitious worlds with much greater success in later works. More on that in my review of Best New Horror 4.)

Colder Than Hell – Edward Bryant (4/5 – In turn-of-the-century Wyoming, Logan and his wife, Opal, make the best of a bad situation while a long and bitterly cold winter storm rages outside their remote farmhouse. With the blizzard reducing visibility to mere feet, stepping outside for firewood presents a major operation for Logan. Yet Opal seems to have nowhere near as much trouble when it’s her turn. As the storm continues to strengthen so too does Logan’s suspicion of Opal. Was this really the woman he married all those years ago? How can she remain so calm when all hell is breaking loose outside? This was a good story touching on the feelings of an old married couple who were never able to produce children, and how a small germ of resentment spinning from that could develop into something bigger, given the right circumstances – in this case a relentless and oppressive snowstorm. If I had one complaint, it was Bryant’s attempt to hang the horror element of his story on a somewhat artificial-sounding phrase Opal uses whenever Logan sneezes. There are sound historical reasons why people say something like “gesundheit” or “your health” (to ward off disease) or “bless you” (to ward off evil spirits). I can’t imagine why anyone would say “company’s coming”.)

Also collected in Collins’s “Knuckles and Tales”

Raymond – Nancy A. Collins (4/5 – Darryl is intrigued by a new starter in his class: a nervous and scrawny little boy called Raymond. The boy is dropped off by his abusive, man-mountain-like father in a beat-up pickup truck held together “by a length of baling wire, spit, and a prayer”. Raymond doesn’t really engage with the rest of the class and is largely left alone to do his own thing. The boy’s simple nature, bandaged head and gloved hands mark him out for special attention by the school bully, who soon finds to his cost that Raymond has a limit to the abuse he can take. This is a werewolf story (so much is revealed in the editor’s introduction), but one that is ahead of the pack, so to speak.)

Also collected in Grant’s “Scream Quietly”

One Life, In An Hourglass – Charles L. Grant (4/5 – A spot of fan fiction takes us into the world of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. A middle-aged woman named Cora returns to Green Town, the sometime venue of Cooger & Dark’s travelling carnival. Teenage memories of Mr Dark flood Cora’s mind and the plans she had of leaving Green Town with him, and how those plans were thwarted by her mother. But that was then. Cora can feel the carnival returning, and this time she is sure of it. The storm clouds that once foreshadowed the carnival are gathering once more. I’m not usually a fan of stories that come with prerequisites, but this was pretty good, helped by a wonderfully chill ending. It also prompted me to read Bradbury’s novel beforehand, which had been on my to-be-read pile for years.)

Also collected in Morrison’s “Lovely Biscuits”

The Braille Encyclopedia – Grant Morrison (4/5 – Morrison goes all Clive Barker in this Stoker-nominated short as a young blind woman is recruited into a world of sadism and exquisite pain, of abused angels and human books scarred with forbidden knowledge. Dark stuff indeed, but a good read if you have the constitution for it. I bet this is exactly what Louis Braille had in mind back in the 1800’s when he was putting his alphabet together, the grubby bugger.)

 

Also collected in Hand’s “Last Summer at Mars Hill”

The Bacchae – Elizabeth Hand (5/5 – The ozone layer is knackered, and a large-scale project is underway to place mesh-like shielding into orbit to help combat the damage. Everything takes on a sepia tint, which does a lot more than muddy everyone’s vision. Amid mounting stories of women attacking and killing men, Gordon begins to see a threatening change in the women around him, not least in his other half, Olivia. Walking back together from seeing a production of Euripides’ The Bacchae, Olivia seems irritated by everything Gordon says or does. When they are set upon by three male muggers, Gordon is horrified by Olivia’s explosive response. Some (male) readers back in the day passionately decried this as little more than a misandrous gorefest. It is not. Instead this is a smart riff on Euripides’ tragedy, with women all round the world driven to brutal maenadic fervour thanks to a few too many man-made environmental disasters. What results is one of the best stories in the book and reminded me of Raccoona Sheldon (aka Alice Sheldon aka James Tiptree Jnr)’s The Screwfly Solution, but with the genders reversed. The story was republished a few years ago in Nightmare Magazine, and you can read it here: http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/the-bacchae)

Busted In Buttown – David J. Schow (4/5 – A short shocker from Schow which sees Mex, a no-nonsense burglar, escaping the attentions of the LAPD only to find the tables turned on him in an unforeseen and gruesome way. Another winner.)

Subway Story – Russell Flinn (2/5 – A grumpy old fusspot called Whittle harbours a serious grudge against Daniel, a younger work colleague, going so far as to write an incendiary letter to the local newspaper about the youth of today. Yep, that kind of guy. Anyway, when he’s not looking down his nose on society and all within it, Whittle can often be found getting freaked out by the coven of bag ladies hanging around the entrance to his local subway. When Whittle suspects Daniel is following him around outside of work, he leads the lad into the subway. The next morning, Daniel doesn’t show up to work. This was a real curiosity. My original review of this (which I’ve left up on Goodreads) feels like an entirely different story now that I’ve read it a second time. Sadly, this was not to the story’s benefit, as Flinn’s awkward writing style served only to push me further out of his story. (It could be written in character; I haven’t read any other of Flinn’s stuff.) There are still some lovely turns of phrase to be had, but blimey this was a struggle to get through a second time. A rare downgraded score from me.)

Also collected in Ligotti’s “Noctuary”

The Medusa – Thomas Ligotti (4/5 – Lucian Dregler is a man obsessed with all things Medusa: her mythology, her influence on culture throughout the ages, even the question of her very existence. Dregler is called to a club where he is given a fresh Medusan lead to follow by a friend, not realising it’s a hoax. Or is it? This really ought to be a straight 3/5, but once again I’m won over by Ligotti’s writing, especially in the first half of the story. He is sometimes guilty of creating main characters who are too laser-focused on their interests and are prone to over-philosophising about them – as is the case here – but where he absolutely nails it in The Medusa is in the locations. Within the space of a page I wanted to kick back with a large brandy and a newspaper in the aforementioned club, while his description of a bookshop Dregler later visits almost had me never wanting to leave the place.)

Also collected in Lane’s “The Terrible Changes”. Good luck finding a copy.

Power Cut – Joel Lane (4/5 – A politician called Lake escapes the loneliness of his constituency flat and hits the town for a bit of rough. Lake hooks up with a moody fella called Gary and they head back to Gary’s place. It’s a squalid, bare-bones studio flat littered with newspaper cuttings. The cuttings cover the walls too, and Lake makes the horrible mistake of reading them. Joel Lane’s stories were often good but would require a re-read or two to fully appreciate what was going on, for me at least. This earlyish effort is comparatively straightforward, however, and reads like a pleasingly short Robert Aickman story. Good stuff.)

 

 

Moving Out – Nicholas Royle (3/5 – Nick is an arsehole who likes to play pranks on his other half. So much so, it seems, that she eventually moves away – seventy miles away. She refuses Nick’s help, refuses to acknowledge his offer, even his very existence. Now why would she do a thing like that? This was okay – and better than Royle’s previous entries in the Best New Horror series – but two things held it back: 1) I’d guessed what was going on by the end of page one, and 2) Nick really, really is a proper arsehole!)

Also collected in Partridge’s “Bad Intentions”. Love the cover!

Guignoir – Norman Partridge (4/5 – Frank and Larry are twin brothers working a grim carnival attraction called the Death Car: the very vehicle a murderer, Hank Caul, once used to drive his victims to their slaughter. The car is owned by their father, a man with as much business prowess as a bucket of cold piss. When the Death Car’s fortunes start to wane, Pa decides to bring the car back to the town where Caul carried out his horrific murderers, regardless of how the locals may feel about it. The twins witness Pa handing over a suitcase of money – their life savings – over to a few locals in exchange for a smaller briefcase. The old man believes the case contains the skin of Caul, a sure-fire way of reigniting interest in the Death Car. When Pa realises he has been conned, and that Larry hasn’t returned from getting his end away the night before, and that the Death Car has also gone missing… well, that’s enough to get Frank good and mad and out for answers. This was a rollicking, full-blooded story that packed a whole lot of goings-on into its 8000-ish words, but I wonder if it would have worked even better in a longer form.)

Blood Sky – William F. Nolan (4/5 – Ed hits it off with Lorry, a rodeo waitress, and for the first time in his life it feels like he has found true love. Conversation with her is easy, the sex is great and Lorry’s free spirit holds rather a lot of appeal for Ed. It seems they were made for each other. She jacks in her job and they hit the road together, but it doesn’t take long for the cracks to show. Unknown to Lorry, Ed is the notorious Big Sky Strangler, and his past crimes are beginning to catch up with him. As Ed is increasingly reminded of his true nature, the compulsion within him to kill begins to grow again. I liked this a lot, which was helped no end by Nolan’s easy style and the superb characters he creates. The unpleasant nightmares Ed experiences at the beginning of the story are also a real highlight of the piece.)

Ready – David Starkey (no, not the historian) (4/5 – Mike is deeply disturbed by the sounds coming from the flat next door. It sounds like his neighbour is beating a dog, and at length. This goes on night after night until Mike finally snaps and confronts his neighbour, whereupon Mike is invited in to have a go himself. A deliciously dark story, this, though probably not one for animal lovers.)

Also collected in “Walk on the Wild Side: The Best Horror Stories of Karl Edward Wagner Volume 2”

The Slug – Karl Edward Wagner (5/5 – Martine is forced to set aside her sculpting for a moment to hear a sorry story from a fellow creative (and keen alcoholic), Keenan Bauduret. It seems that Keenan made the mistake of letting a fellow writer, Casper Crowley, into his life only to find the man won’t let go of him. Keenan’s creativity stalls, deadlines slip, alcohol mounts, work dries up, and so Keenan feels compelled to take drastic action and wrench his life back. This is an excellent read, helped immeasurably by Wagner’s superb afterword. To quote: “The imaginative is the choice prey of the banal, and uncounted works of excellence have died stillborn thanks to junk phone calls and visits from bored associates.” I’m putting that on my gravestone!)

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

The Dark Land – Michael Marshall Smith (3/5 – Michael is a young man who lives with his parents. One morning, with the house to himself, Michael sets about rearranging his bedroom, tiring himself in the process. When he wakes from a short nap he finds himself trapped in a waking nightmare of creeping wood-panelling, of a kitchen that accumulates filth and rotting rubbish at an alarming rate, and of two unpleasant men in suits who seem super-keen to smash their way in through the back door. The front door offers salvation of sorts. Now, if only Michael could reach it. This was a funny one to score, even after a re-read. MMS absolutely nails that uneasy, shifting, segueing experience of dreaming, and this story is undoubtedly well-written, but The Dark Land feels overlong for what it is and the ending is a bit of a cop-out. Still, the story bagged a British Fantasy Award back in the day, so what do I know?)

Also collected in Etchison’s “The Death Artist”

When They Gave Us Memory – Dennis Etchison (4/5 – A successful actor attempts to reconnect with his parents at their coastal home. He finds the old family home empty, up for sale and in a sorry state of repair. The latter of these strikes him as odd, as his parents had always kept a presentable home. Perhaps they had grown too frail to continue living there. It’s been a while since they last talked, what with his work, his lifestyle and myriad other excuses. He finally finds ma and pa living in a cramped mobile home, where he’s alarmed to find he’s not quite the son they think he is. I liked this story a lot, which is saying something considering the god-sized deus ex machina Etchison employs, and despite my twigging what was going on a little ahead of schedule. Definitely worth checking out.)

Taking Care Of Michael – J. L. Comeau (4/5 – An effective flash fiction shocker as a woman takes care of her disabled brother… badly.)

Also collected in Tessier’s “Ghost Music and Other Tales”

The Dreams Of Dr Ladybank – Thomas Tessier (4/5 – Dr Ian Ladybank finds he can exercise psychic control over two people. One is Snake, a low-ranking biker and wannabe pimp; the husband of one of Ladybank’s patients. The other is a transvestite hooker called Tony, assigned to Ladybank following Tony’s arrest. Ladybank wastes no time in using his newfound power to make both men’s lives a living hell. Matters take a twisted turn when Snake meets up with a hooker called Toni, and tries to coerce her into working for him. This is comfortably the longest story in the book, as long as the three next longest stories combined. Is it worth it? Yes indeed. It’s certainly not afraid to go there, let’s put it that way. But this novella is not without its flaws. Snake is a cookie-cutter badass with some truly cringeworthy dialogue, though maybe this was intentional. My biggest problem, however, lies in Tony. He sure doesn’t talk, act, dress, whore, drive, drink or keep a home like you’d think a sixteen-year-old would. I’ve no idea why Tessier felt the need to make Tony so young, other than an attempt to increase the shock value. Trust me, the story doesn’t need it! Still a good read, all the same.)

Zits – Nina Kiriki Hoffman (2/5 – Another flash fiction shocker as a sexually-abused teenage girl contemplates what to do with the big zit growing inside of her. This didn’t work for me. It seemed to be trying way too hard to be nasty, as if the subject matter wasn’t nasty enough. In their introduction to this story the editors lament the amount of child abuse stories in horror, so it seems bizarre for them to end the book on one.)

Phew! A fair few stories to tuck into there. Well done for getting to the end of this review! If you are tempted to give the book a whirl then PS Publishing can fix you up with a swanky paperback edition, otherwise you should be able to source a second-hand copy or an eBook version somewhere across the World Wide Internets. If you’d like a whizz through the stories found in books one and two, head over to my Reviews page for links.

In the meantime, on with book four!

LP

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1371

After a few relatively easy puzzles I suppose we were due another stinker, and this week’s puzzle certainly warrants the title. Once again we have a setter using the dick move of plugging half a dozen dead people into the grid to help bail themselves out of a tricky spot. Ugh. And don’t even get me started on some of the other solutions. You’ll see what I mean.

This also felt like a “greatest hits” puzzle at times, with several solutions being repeated from recent grids. I appreciate there are several setters of these puzzles behind the scenes but having also seen recent repeats in last week’s puzzle it does feel like an editor fail. I mean, the setters clearly have no means of communicating with one another – for that we would need some kind of massively interconnected network of some description. Hmm… Anyway, world keeps spinning, as they say.

A little bit of housekeeping: if you’d like to see completed (and occasionally bitchy) solutions for recent other Times Jumbo Cryptic puzzles then check out my Just For Fun page. If you’ve a hankering for reviews of decades-old horror short stories (because of course you have – you haven’t come here just to nick my answers have you? 😉 ) then check out my Reviews page. I should have a monster review for Best New Horror 3 along in the next day or two.

Anyhoo, on with the show. Here’s my completed grid, along with solutions where I have them. Enjoy!

LP

Across clues

1. Old dictator to be in one’s part-time army (7)

Answer: Fulgencio BATISTA, US-backed authoritarian ruler of Cuba in the 1950s. Solution is BAT (i.e. “to be in”, i.e. at bat) followed by IS (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one’s”) and TA (i.e. “part-time army”, specifically the Territorial Army). Ugh. A shape of the things to come in this puzzle.

5. Regulated eg, thus – or most inaccurate (8)

Answer: ROUGHEST (i.e. “most inaccurate”). “Regulated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of EG THUS OR.

9. Bones and Sulu, only half accepted by the ship’s crew? (6)

Answer: TARSUS, which is a cluster of “bones” in your foot. Solution is SU (i.e. “Sulu, only half”, specifically the first half) being “accepted by” TARS (i.e. “ship’s crew” – a tar is another word for sailor which is popular with crossword setters), like so: TAR(SU)S.

13. Jumbo’s sound and not forced: that’s music to our ears! (7,9)

Answer: TRUMPET VOLUNTARY (i.e. “music to our ears”). Not a term I was familiar with, I’ll admit. Do a search on YouTube for “Prince of Denmark’s March” for an example of one you might have heard. Anyway, solution is TRUMPET (i.e. “Jumbo’s sound”) followed by VOLUNTARY (i.e. “not forced”).

14. Get back from park, all down? (6)

Answer: RECOUP (i.e. “get back”). Solution is REC (i.e. “park”, short for “recreation area”) followed by O UP (i.e. “all down” – if all are down then we assume zero are up, or O UP).

16. You troublemakers, partly responsible for closing bars! (5)

Answer: OUTRO (i.e. “closing bars [of a tune]”). “Partly” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: Y(OU TRO)UBLEMAKERS.

17. Land to the west excellent – north west? (7)

Answer: ESTONIA (i.e. “land”). This took some figuring, but essentially the solution is AI (i.e. “excellent” – with I representing 1 in A1) followed by NOT SE (i.e. “north west”, as in the opposite of south-east) and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “to the west”, this being an across clue), like so: ES-TON-IA.

18. National reserve network with warning light coming back on? (9)

Answer: ICELANDER (i.e. “national”). Solution is ICE (i.e. “reserve”, as in having an icy nature) then LAN (i.e. “network”, specifically a Local Area Network in computing – ask your parents, kids) and RED (i.e. “warning light”) reversed (indicated by “coming back on”), like so: ICE-LAN-DER.

19. Lots of French who drink fine English whiskey (5,1,3)

Answer: QUITE A FEW (i.e. “lots”). Solution is QUI (i.e. “French who” – the French for “who” is “qui”) followed by TEA (i.e. “drink”) then F (a recognised abbreviation of “fine” used in grading lead pencils) then E (ditto “English”, except for the pencils bit, natch) then W (which is “whiskey” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: QUI-TEA-F-E-W.

21. One might ask caddie to get this put right (4,3)

Answer: IRON OUT. Solution satisfies both “one might ask caddie to get this” and “put right”.

22. Two, having change of heart, bringing about thaw? (2-3)

Answer: DE-ICE (i.e. “bringing about thaw”). Solution is DEUCE (i.e. a “two” in cards or dice) with the middle letter changed to I (i.e. “change of heart)”.

23. Insect with a soft skin, mostly (5)

Answer: APHID (i.e. “insect” – and right sods for my chilli plants they are too). Solution is A, then P (i.e. “soft”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “piano” in musical lingo), then HIDE (i.e. “skin”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: A-P-HID.

25. Psychiatrist, Regional Health Authority chief, hosting old Shakespearean actors (9)

Answer: RORSCHACH (i.e. “psychiatrist” – he of the inkblot test and, a mere four weeks since I last made it official, still everyone’s favourite character in Watchmen. Don’t lie.) Solution is RHA (i.e. the now defunct “Regional Health Authority”) and CH (a recognised abbreviation of “chief”) “hosting” O (ditto “old”) and RSC (i.e. “Shakespearean actors”, specifically the Royal Shakespeare Company), like so: R(O-RSC)HA-CH.

27. Say something cheeky, pinching girlfriend’s drink (3-4)

Answer: EGG FLIP, a “drink” made of ale, wine, spirits or milk, with eggs, sugar, spice etc. Sounds positively vile. Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) and LIP (i.e. “something cheeky”) “pinching” GF (a recognised abbreviation of “girlfriend”), like so: EG-(GF)-LIP.

29. Passes over spare golf pants (9)

Answer: LEAPFROGS (i.e. “passes over”). “Pants” (as in rubbish) indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SPARE GOLF.

31. Be not totally penniless, reportedly, after power failure? (5-4-4)

Answer: MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN (i.e. “failure”). Solution is HAVE BEEN (i.e. “be not totally penniless, reportedly”, i.e. homophone of “have bean”) placed “after” MIGHT (i.e. “power”).

34. Centre of stilton to keep getting softer, cut with harsh sound (6,7)

Answer: MELTON MOWBRAY (i.e. “centre of stilton” – stilton is said to have originated near there). Solution is MELTON (i.e. “keep getting softer” as in “melting”. I could be wrong here as I would have expected a homophone indicator of some description) followed by MOW (i.e. “cut”) and BRAY (i.e. “harsh sound”).

35. Animated character with old coin after cake (9)

Answer: SPONGEBOB SquarePants (i.e. “animated character”). Solution is BOB (i.e. “old coin” as in a slang term for a shilling) placed “after” SPONGE (i.e. “cake”), like so: SPONGE-BOB.

37. Failed to follow suit, minister agreed (7)

Answer: REVOKED (i.e. “failed to follow suit [in a game of cards]”). Solution is REV (i.e. “minister”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “reverend”) followed by OKED (i.e. “agreed”).

39. Picked up something to go with roll, a square cheese (9)

Answer: ROQUEFORT (i.e. “cheese”). Solution is ROQUE (i.e. “picked up something to go with roll”, i.e. a homophone of “rock” as in “rock and roll”) followed by FORT (i.e. “a square” – a weak one, this, unless I’m missing something blindingly obvious.)

42. Daughter, standing, gets knocked back (5)

Answer: DRANK (i.e. “knocked back”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) followed by RANK (i.e. “standing”).

43. City’s matches: one’s been put back (5)

Answer: PARIS (i.e. “city”). Solution is PAIRS (i.e. “matches”) with the I (Roman numeral “one”) “put back” a notch.

45. Plant that’s simple and exotic we adore (7)

Answer: OARWEED, a type of seaweed (i.e. “[a] plant that’s simple”). “Exotic” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WE ADORE.

47. Eccentric went for early bath? (4-5)

Answer: LEFT-FIELD. Solution satisfies both “eccentric” and “went for early bath”.

49. Show where the food’s kept: about time! (9)

Answer: PAGEANTRY (i.e. “show”). Solution is PANTRY (i.e. “where the food’s kept”) placed “about” AGE (i.e. “time”), like so: P(AGE)ANTRY.

50. Recalled hotel late in the day closing early in ME city once (7)

Answer: NINEVEH, which was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia (i.e. “ME city once” – ME being a recognised abbreviation of Middle East). Solution is H (“hotel” in the phonetic alphabet) followed by EVENING (i.e. “late in the day”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “closing early”) and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “recalled”), like so: NINEVE-H.

52. French philosopher’s pained conclusion to testimonial (5)

Answer: Georges SOREL (i.e. “French philosopher” – more dead people!). Solution is SORE (i.e. “pained”) followed by L (i.e. “conclusion to testimonial”, i.e. the last letter of “testimonial”).

54. Complaint viewer has first off is recorded? Correct! (6)

Answer: IRITIS, which is an inflammation of the iris (i.e. “complaint viewer has”). I’d do a Google Image search but… no. Solution is IR (i.e. “first off is recorded”, i.e. the first letters of “is” and “recorded”) followed by IT IS (i.e. “correct”).

55. Fair number to be found in magazine? (6,10)

Answer: BLONDE BOMBSHELLS. One of those slightly airy-fairy solutions which riffs on how fair-haired people are referred to as BLONDE, and how you could store a “number” of BOMBSHELLS in a “magazine”; also, how you may find blonde bombshells in certain magazines. I’m told.

56. The latest, hard, fashionable, Times puzzle setter (6)

Answer: SPHINX, a monster in Greek mythology who proposed riddles to travellers and strangled whoever was unable to solve them. Which sounds a bit mean. Anyway: “puzzle setter”. Solution is SP (i.e. “the latest”, i.e. an abbreviation of “Stop Press” used in newspaper offices, albeit one that doesn’t feature in my Chambers – your dictionary may differ) followed by H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in grading pencils) then IN (i.e. “fashionable”) and X (i.e. “Times”, as in the multiplication symbol), like so: SP-H-IN-X.

57. They make better notes – doesn’t respond to them? (8)

Answer: REMEDIES (i.e. “they make [one] better”). Solution is RE and ME (i.e. “notes” in the do-re-me scale – these are always a bit of a ball-ache as there are so many variant spellings of each one) followed by DIES (i.e. “doesn’t respond to them” – within the context of the solution, if one doesn’t respond to a remedy they could die).

58. Kindly leave the car running after parking, finally (7)

Answer: GERTCHA, a slang contraction of “get out of it you” made famous by Chas and Dave (again, ask your parents, kids). In other words, “kindly leave”. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “running”) of THE CAR placed “after” G (i.e. “parking, finally”, i.e. the last letter of the word “parking”), like so: G-ERTCHA.

Down clues

1. One’s often up in the air, however not turning to shrink (6,5)

Answer: BUTTON QUAIL (i.e. “one’s often up in the air”). Done a Google Image search – aaaaaaaaahhh, cute. Solution is BUT (i.e. “however”) followed by NOT reversed (indicated by “turning”) and then QUAIL (i.e. “to shrink”).

2. Barb’s letter from Kefalonia – not on vacation (5)

Answer: TAUNT (i.e. “barb”). Solution is TAU (i.e. “letter from Kefalonia” – Kefalonia being one of around four billion Greek islands, and tau being the nineteenth letter of the Greek alphabet) followed by NT (i.e. “not on vacation”, i.e. the word “not” with the middle letter removed).

3. Judge has way of sitting after drink (7)

Answer: SUPPOSE (i.e. “[to] judge”).  Solution is POSE (i.e. “way of sitting”) placed “after” SUP (i.e. “drink”), like so: SUP-POSE. For too long I had this down as “Rumpole” until I remembered he was a barrister, not a judge. Don’t worry pole-sitters, I’m sure you’ll get a nod in a future puzzle.

4. Wartime lines repeated do haunt memory of the wounded (6,3,6,5)

Answer: ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH, a poem by Wilfred Owen (i.e. “wartime lines”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “wounded”) of DO and DO (i.e. “repeated do”) and HAUNT MEMORY OF THE.

5. Oarsman to do exercises inside part of church (4-5)

Answer: ROOD-TOWER (i.e. “part of church”, specifically the steeple and tower over the crossing of a church, so now you know). Solution is ROWER (i.e. “oarsman”) with an anagram (indicated by “exercises”) of TO DO placed “inside”, like so: RO(ODTO)WER.

6. What future holds: new and drastic change (1-4)

Answer: U-TURN (i.e. “drastic change”). Solution is the middle letters of FUTURE (i.e. “what future holds”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”), like so: UTUR-N.

7. A certain posturing no longer holds a Spanish artist up (5,4)

Answer: HATHA YOGA (i.e. “a certain posturing”). Solution is HATH (i.e. “no longer holds”, i.e. an archaic variation of the word “has”) followed by A GOYA (i.e. “a Spanish artist”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue), like so: HATH-AYOG-A.

8. Short withered crack masking very good condition of skin (7)

Answer: SERPIGO, which is a spreading skin disease, particularly ringworm, i.e. “condition of skin”. I have literally no idea what the setter is on here, even after having slept on it, so watch out.
[EDIT: A big thank you to Clive in the comments for helping to clear this one up. The solution is SERE (an alternative form of the word “sear”, which is itself a poetic word for dry and “withered”) with its final letter removed (indicated by “short”) and GO (i.e. “[a] crack [at something]”) “masking” PI (i.e. “very good”, an alternative meaning of “pi” is a pious person), like so: SER-(PI)-GO. This was comfortably one of the toughest clues I’ve seen in these puzzles. Still, at least I now know what to call that big rash that covers 75% of my body.]
[FURTHER EDIT: 76% now.]

10. Brother murdered by a doctor turned theologian in France (7)

Answer: Peter ABELARD (i.e. a “theologian in France” from around 900 years ago whose love affair with Héloïse d’Argenteuil became legendary, it says here. Uh-huh, if you say so.) Solution is ABEL (i.e. “brother murdered [by Cain]”) then A then DR (a recognised abbreviation of “doctor”) reversed (indicated by “turned”), like so: ABEL-A-RD.

11. Hummingbird that’s flown high we hear and notice (9)

Answer: SWORDBILL (i.e. a kind of “hummingbird” with a looooooong beak). Solution is SWORD (i.e. “that’s flown high we hear”, i.e. a homophone of “soared”) followed by BILL (i.e. “notice”).

12. A new purpose for developing devastating missile perhaps (11)

Answer: SUPERWEAPON (i.e. “devastating missile perhaps”). “Developing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A NEW PURPOSE.

15. Tell Tom off as a result? (3,3,3,3,2,3,3)

Answer: LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG. Solution satisfies both “tell” and, within the context of the clue, “Tom off as a result”. Another solution repeated from a recent puzzle, this time from the start of the year.

20. Sort of parent, the Spanish patriarch (7)

Answer: ISHMAEL (i.e. “patriarch”). Solution is ISH (i.e. “sort of”) followed by MA (i.e. “parent”) and EL (i.e. “the Spanish”, the Spanish for “the” being “el”). Another recent solution, appearing only a couple of weeks ago.

21. New entrant’s pay ultimately fair (7)

Answer: INCOMER (i.e. “new entrant”). Solution is INCOME (i.e. “pay”) followed by R (i.e. “ultimately fair”, i.e. the last letter of the word “fair”).

24. Take orders from wizard perched on stone (7)

Answer: DEFROCK (i.e. “take orders [away] from [a priest]”). Solution is DEF (i.e. excellent or “wizard”) followed by or “perched on” ROCK (i.e. “stone”).

26. Can’t stand up in corset a hindrance (5)

Answer: HATES (i.e. “can’t stand [something]”). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “up” indicates the solution is reversed, this being a down clue, like so: COR(SET A H)INDRANCE.

28. Old actor appreciated on tours one reflected (7)

Answer: Sir John GIELGUD, luvvie, i.e. “old actor”. Another where the setter has gone off on their own. I get that DUG is “appreciated”, that I is “one” and “reflected” indicates some or all of the elements are reversed, but I can’t visualise the rest so I’m moving on with my life.
[EDIT: Thanks to Grindrod in the comments for the speedy clarification: the solution is G(I)EL-GUD, being DUG then LEG (i.e. “on” in cricket) wrapped around or “touring” I and then the whole lot reversed.]

30. Broadcaster of the truth used to be cut short (5)

Answer: SOWER (i.e. “broadcaster”). Solution is SO (i.e. “of the truth”) followed by WERE (i.e. “used to be”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “cut short”), like so: SO-WER.

32. R-refuse to admit Grace possibly upset county (7)

Answer: GWYNEDD (i.e. “county”). Solution is D-DENY (i.e. “r-refuse”) followed by WG (i.e. “Grace possibly”, specifically the cricketer WG Grace), and then the whole lot reversed (indicated by “upset”) like so: GW-YNED-D.

33. In which host briefly holds British artist? (7)

Answer: EMBRACE. Solution is EMCE (i.e. “host”, i.e. a Master of Ceremonies) “holding” B (a recognised abbreviation of “British”) and RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) like so: EM(B-RA)CE. Within the context of the clue, one may be said to hold someone in an embrace.
[EDIT: On a re-read I’ve realised I missed a bit. “Host briefly” should be EMCEE with the final E removed.]

34. Nursemaid’s extraordinary parsimony, saving pennies (4,7)

Answer: MARY POPPINS (i.e. a fictional “nursemaid”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “extraordinary”) of PARSIMONY wrapped around or “saving” P and P (recognised abbreviations of a couple of “pennies”), like so: MARYPO(P-P)INS.

36. Dessert poor, sadly, containing essence of weakened spirit (5,6)

Answer: BAKED ALASKA (i.e. “dessert”). Solution is BAD (i.e. “poor”) and ALAS (i.e. “sadly”) “containing” KE (i.e. “essence of weakened”, i.e. the middle two letters of the word “weaKEned”) and then followed by KA (i.e. “spirit”), like so: BA(KE)D-ALAS-KA. Not a classic.

38. Through journey is hard, crossing river like the Amazon? (9)

Answer: VIRAGOISH (i.e. “like the amazon” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is VIA (i.e. “through”) then GO (i.e. “[to] journey”), IS and H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard”), all wrapped around or “crossing” R (ditto “river”), like so: VI(R)A-GO-IS-H. This was the last clue I solved and what a fart-on it was.

40. Strange, tailless goat, mostly seen over Eastern China (5,4)

Answer: QUEEN ANNE (i.e. “china” – again, ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is QUEER (i.e. “strange”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “tailless”) and followed by NANNY (i.e. “goat”) also trimmed of it’s last letter (indicated by “mostly”) and finished with E (a recognised abbreviation of “Eastern”), like so: QUEE-NANN-E.

41. Plain clothes police at centre totally in the dark? (9)

Answer: OBLIVIOUS (i.e. “totally in the dark”). Solution is OBVIOUS (i.e. “clear”) which “clothes” LI (i.e. “police at centre”, i.e. the middle two letters of “poLIce”), like so: OB(LI)VIOUS.

44. Stop and figure it out? Not at first (7)

Answer: STATION (i.e. “[train or bus] stop”). Solution is STAT (i.e. “figure”) followed by I O and N (i.e. “it out not at first”, i.e. the first letters of “it”, “out” and “not”) like so: STAT-I-O-N.

46. What would be for Queen Elizabeth I? (5,2)

Answer: ROYAL WE. Within the context of the clue, the Queen would use the Royal We rather than referring to herself as “I”.

48. Champion mater and pater, with Independent Schools Council for a time! (7)

Answer: Bobby FISCHER, former US chess grandmaster (i.e. “champion mater”). Solution is FATHER (i.e. “pater”) with the A and T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”) replaced by ISC (i.e. “Independent Schools Council”).

51. Patches of red and green, last three to turn up (5)

Answer: NAEVI. A naevus is a birthmark, and its plural is “naevi”, i.e. “patches of red”. Solution is NAÏVE (i.e. “green”) with the last three letters reversed (i.e. “last three to turn up”, this being a down clue).

53. Survivor’s ordeal: his CD Ignoring the Odds (5)

Answer: RELIC (i.e. “survivor”). “Ignoring the odds” indicates the solution is derived by removing the odd letters of ORDEAL HIS CD.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1370

I had an easier time with today’s puzzle, hence the rather early post. A couple of good clues and equally good solutions made it a pleasant puzzle to complete. You can find my completed grid below, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

If you have an oldish puzzle knocking about, then I have solutions for the previous twenty or so grids on my Just For Fun page.

My review of Best New Horror 3 is ongoing. It’s proving to be just as much of a monster as my review of book 2. You can jump into them on my Reviews page, if horror fiction is your thing.

And now, food. TTFN!

LP

Across clues

1. Mutton stew from heated container served in churches (10)

Answer: HOTCHPOTCH (i.e. “mutton stew”). Solution is HOT (i.e. “heated”) followed by POT (i.e. “container”) “served in” CH and CH (recognised abbreviations of “church”), like so: HOT-CH-(POT)-CH.

6. Failing in tense Irish leader meeting cricket side (12)

Answer: IMPERFECTION (i.e. “[a] failing”). Solution is IMPERFECT (i.e. “[a grammatical] tense” – unless you are an ardent grammarian you can forgive me for not giving two shits about providing an explanation) followed by I (i.e. “Irish leader”, i.e. the first letter of “Irish”) and ON (i.e. “cricket side” – also known as “leg side”).

14. Muscle that’s required on farm vehicle (9)

Answer: RETRACTOR (i.e. a “muscle” responsible for drawing in parts of the body). Solution is RE (i.e. “that’s required” I guess, but I can’t quite visualise how) followed by TRACTOR (i.e. “farm vehicle”).

15. Very cold, as eels may be, roughly speaking (5)

Answer: GELID. Solution satisfies “very cold” and “as eels may be, roughly speaking” i.e. a rough homophone of “jellied”.

16. Vanity of one replacing conductor finally in Prom? (7)

Answer: CONCEIT (i.e. “vanity”). Solution is CONCERT (i.e. “Prom”) with the R (i.e. “conductor finally”, i.e. the last letter of “conductor”) “replaced” by I (Roman numeral “one”).

17. Situation regarding barrister’s least successful action? (5,4,8)

Answer: WORST CASE SCENARIO. Solution satisfies both “situation” and “barrister’s least successful action”. One that made me smile when I clocked it.

18. Prepared to make money (5)

Answer: READY. Solution satisfies both “prepared” and “money” as in readies.

19. Catastrophic game in old America (7)

Answer: RUINOUS (i.e. “catastrophic”). Solution is RU (i.e. “game”, specifically Rugby Union) followed by IN then O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) then US (i.e. “America”).

21. Incisive magazine once taken by youth leader (6)

Answer: PUNCHY (i.e. “incisive”). Solution is PUNCH (i.e. “magazine”) followed “by” Y (i.e. “youth leader”, i.e. the first letter of “youth”).

22. Nit-picker in Paris who the French resistance provided with books (8)

Answer: QUIBBLER (i.e. “nit-picker”). Solution is QUI (i.e. “in Paris who” – the French for “who” being “qui”), LE (i.e. “the French”, ditto “the” being “le”) and R (a recognised abbreviation of electrical “resistance”) “provided with” B and B (both ditto “books”), like so: QUI-(B-B)-LE-R.

24. Madcap result of strike at end of match? (7)

Answer: HOTHEAD (i.e. “madcap”). Solution satisfies both “madcap” and “result of strike at end of match”.

26. Time to abandon the human condition for ethical conduct (8)

Answer: MORALITY (i.e. “ethical conduct”). Solution is MORTALITY (i.e. “human condition”) with the first T removed (being a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

27. French island you ultimately aren’t going to (6)

Answer: USHANT (i.e. a “French island” with a population of 862. Hey, perhaps my postcode will be a solution in next week’s puzzle.) Solution is U (i.e. “you ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “you”) followed by SHANT, a contraction of “shall not” (i.e. “aren’t going to”). One I thankfully got fairly quickly through the wordplay and a quick Google.

30. Itinerant agent returning, one sad to abandon husband (11)

Answer: PERIPATETIC (i.e. walking about, or “itinerant”). Solution is REP (a recognised abbreviation of “representative”, i.e. “agent”) reversed (indicated by “returning”) and then followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and PATHETIC (i.e. “sad”) with the H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”) removed, like so: PER-I-PATETIC.

32. Study of wrongdoing, or logic, in my broadcast (11)

Answer: CRIMINOLOGY (i.e. “study of wrongdoing”). “Broadcast” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OR LOGIC IN MY.

33. Widespread longing to follow Republican in charge (3-8)

Answer: FAR-REACHING (i.e. “widespread”). Solution is ACHING (i.e. “longing [for]”) “following” FARE (i.e. a fee or “charge”) wrapped around R (a recognised abbreviation of “Republican”), like so: FAR(R)E-ACHING.

35. Edged forward with courage, like some dolphins (6-5)

Answer: BOTTLE-NOSED. Solution satisfies both “edged forward” – i.e. nosed [ahead] – “with courage” – i.e. bottle, and “like some dolphins”.

37. Continue to have part-time soldiers in control (6)

Answer: RETAIN – if a someone retains their championship then they “continue” to be the best. Solution is TA (i.e. “part-time soldiers”, specifically the Territorial Army) placed in REIN (i.e. “control”), like so: RE(TA)IN.

38. In Irish county, loon regularly belted farm animal (8)

Answer: GALLOWAY, a breed of large black hornless cattle (i.e. “farm animal”). Solution is GALWAY (i.e. “Irish county”) wrapped around or “belting” LO (i.e. “loon regularly”, i.e. every other letter of the word LOON), like so: GAL(LO)WAY.

39. Diplomacy originally improving Civil Service procedures (7)

Answer: TACTICS (i.e. “procedures”). Solution is TACT (i.e. “diplomacy”) followed by I (i.e. “originally improving”, i.e. the first letter of “improving”) and CS (short for “Civil Service”).

42. Ill-mannered urchin drunk in Dover from time to time (8)

Answer: IMPOLITE (i.e. “ill-mannered”). Solution is IMP (i.e. “urchin”) followed by LIT (i.e. “drunk”) placed “in” OE (i.e. “Dover from time to time”, i.e. regular letters of DOVER), like so: IMP-O(LIT)E.

44. Growth more than once of old college irrational (6)

Answer: POLYPI (i.e. “growth more than once” – a polypus is a tumour that grows on the mucous membrane (you sometimes hear of singers having to have them removed), and the plural of polypus is polypi). Solution is POLY (i.e. “old college”, i.e. a recognised short form of “polytechnic”) followed by PI (an “irrational” number, being a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction with integer numerator and denominator). A good clue this!

46. Blushing politician touring Borders? (7)

Answer: CRIMSON (i.e. “blushing”). Solution is CON (i.e. “politician”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a member of the Conservative Party) “touring” RIMS (i.e. “borders”), like so: C(RIMS)ON.

48. Stabbing sword held by toughest occupant (5)

Answer: ESTOC (i.e. a short “stabbing sword”. Lovely.) “Held by” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: TOUGH(EST OC)CUPANT. Another one I got mercifully quickly through the wordplay and a quick dip into my Chambers.

49. Settle extortionate charge, using the beak as go-between? (3,7,3,4)

Answer: PAY THROUGH THE NOSE. Solution satisfies both “settle extortionate charge” and, within the context of the solution, “using the beak as go-between”. Another that made me smile when I got it.

51. Immortal Oriental bird beside a lake (7)

Answer: ETERNAL (i.e. “immortal”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “Eastern”, i.e. “Oriental”) followed by TERN (i.e. “bird”) then A and then L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”).

52. Half a dozen mostly supreme sensations (5)

Answer: VIBES (i.e. “sensations”). Solution is VI (i.e. “half a dozen” in Roman numerals) followed by BES (i.e. “mostly supreme”, i.e. the word “best” with the last letter removed).

53. Remove bird dipping into cream (9)

Answer: ELIMINATE (i.e. “remove”). Solution is MINA (i.e. “bird”, a variant spelling of mynah) “dipping into” ELITE (i.e. “cream [of the crop]”), like so: ELI(MINA)TE.

54. Nab treasure finally seen drifting beneath the waves (12)

Answer: SUBTERRANEAN (I’d always considered this to mean “beneath the earth” – a typo perhaps?) Solution is an anagram (indicated by “drifting”) of NAB TREASURE followed by N (i.e. “finally seen”, i.e. the last letter of “seen”).

55. Harsh line adopted by a hospital department (10)

Answer: ASTRINGENT (i.e. “harsh”). Solution is STRING (i.e. “line”) “adopted by” A and ENT (i.e. “hospital department”, specifically Ear Nose and Throat), like so: A-(STRING)-ENT.

Down clues

1. Idolise offender initially imprisoned by female judge? (4-7)

Answer: HERO-WORSHIP (i.e. “idolise”). Solution is O (i.e. “offender initially”, i.e. the first letter of “offender”) “imprisoned by” HER WORSHIP (i.e. “female judge”), like so: HER(O)WORSHIP.

2. Expression of impatience over heartless college teacher (5)

Answer: TUTOR (i.e. “teacher”). Solution is TUT (i.e. “expression of impatience”) placed “over” (this being a down clue) OR (i.e. “heartless college”, i.e. the word “order” with the middle letters removed. There might be an actual college beginning with O and ending in R but I’m not aware of one).

3. Grieving Scottish football team – or English? (9)

Answer: HEARTSORE (i.e. “grieving”). Solution is HEARTS (i.e. “Scottish football team”, specifically Heart of Midlothian) followed by OR and then E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”).

4. Fugitives? The opposite to the spouse’s family, we hope! (7)

Answer: OUTLAWS (i.e. “fugitives”). Solution riffs on this being “the opposite” of in-laws (i.e. “the spouse’s family”).

5. Warning about right to increase distribution of booty (5-2)

Answer: CARVE-UP (i.e. “distribution of booty”). Solution is CAVE (an alternative meaning of this is to beware, i.e. “warning”) placed “about” R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) and followed by UP (i.e. “increase”), like so: CA(R)VE-UP.

7. Habitually dejected, connecting fruit with abdominal pain, say? (11)

Answer: MELANCHOLIC (i.e. “habitually dejected”). “Say” indicates the solution is made up of homophones of “melon” (i.e. “fruit”) and “colic” (i.e. “abdominal pain”).

8. Last to invest, holding fourth of shares (6)

Answer: ENDURE (i.e. “[to] last”). Solution is ENDUE (i.e. “to invest”) “holding” R (i.e. “fourth of shares”, i.e. the fourth letter of “shares”), like so: ENDU(R)E.

9. Dogsbody’s feat in setting up of corporation (8)

Answer: FACTOTUM (i.e. “dogsbody”). Solution is ACT (i.e. “feat”) placed “in” OF reversed (indicated by “setting up”, this being a down clue) and then followed by TUM (an alternative meaning of “corporation” is a belly, especially a pot-belly – a new one on me, but I rather like it), like so: F(ACT)O-TUM.

10. Instrument graduate introduced to old Nicaraguan guerrillas, before long (13)

Answer: CONTRABASSOON (i.e. “instrument”). Solution is BA (i.e. “graduate”, specifically a Bachelor of Arts) “introduced to” CONTRAS (i.e. “old Nicaraguan guerrillas”) and followed by SOON (i.e. “before long”), like so: CONTRA(BA)S-SOON.

11. Face slipping in hostile part of glacier (7)

Answer: ICEFALL (i.e. “part of glacier”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “slipping”) of FACE placed “in” ILL (i.e. “hostile”), like so: I(CEFA)LL.

12. Practical details in Kitty’s rhymes? (5-6)

Answer: NITTY-GRITTY (i.e. “practical details”). Solution riffs on how the words rhyme with Kitty. I wonder if she was a fan of 80s pop sensations, Scritti Politti.

13. Self-absorbed chap possessing energy and money (10)

Answer: EGOCENTRIC (i.e. “self-absorbed”). Solution is ERIC (i.e. “chap”) “possessing” GO (i.e. “energy”) and CENT (i.e. “money”), like so: E(GO-CENT)RIC.

20. Bury hamster, say, across river – and explain (9)

Answer: INTERPRET (i.e. “explain”). Solution is INTER (i.e. “bury”) followed by PET (i.e. “hamster, say”) placed “across” R (a recognised abbreviation of “river”), like so: INTER-P(R)ET.

23. Popularly a TV series, to be completely accurate (8)

Answer: STRICTLY. Solution satisfies “popularly a TV series” i.e. BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, which is informally known as “Strictly”, and “to be completely accurate”, as in strictly speaking.

25. Do what Morse did, failing to get time for female (6)

Answer: DETECT (i.e. “do what [Inspector] Morse did”). Solution is DEFECT (i.e. “failing”) with the F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) replaced by T (ditto “time”).

26. New laic term describing some psalm translations (8)

Answer: METRICAL, which describes a work that consists of verses (i.e. “describing some psalm translations”). “New” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LAIC TERM.

28. Characteristic of auditorium requiring sound judgement (9)

Answer: ACOUSTICS. Solution satisfies “characteristic of auditorium” and “sound judgement”.

29. Little creature retired doctor allowed to go around island (6)

Answer: PIGLET (i.e. “little creature”). Solution is GP (i.e. “doctor”, specifically a General Practitioner) reversed (indicated by “retired”) and “going around” I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”), then followed by LET (i.e. “allowed”), like so: P(I)G-LET.

31. Relaxation of rules applying to linesmen? (6,7)

Answer: POETIC LICENCE. Solution satisfies the clue, with “linesmen” being a cryptic reference to poets.

33. Pardon woman brought up in smithy north of loch (11)

Answer: FORGIVENESS (i.e. “pardon”). Solution is VI (i.e. “woman”, short for Vivienne, I guess) reversed (indicated by “brought up”, this being a down clue) and placed in FORGE (i.e. “smithy”), which is then placed ahead of (i.e. “north of”, again this being a down clue) NESS (i.e. “loch”), like so: FORG(IV)E-NESS.

34. Nice people, even, may suffer such national prejudice (11)

Answer: GALLOPHOBIA, which is a dislike of the French (i.e. “national prejudice”). Solution riffs on how people of Nice, a city on the French Riviera, may also suffer this.

35. Doctor who used bay’s place of ill repute (10)

Answer: BAWDYHOUSE (i.e. “place of ill repute”). “Doctor” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WHO USED BAY. The possessive ‘s is ignored.

36. Dig up French art treasures initially displaying impartiality (11)

Answer: DISINTEREST (i.e. “displaying impartiality”). Solution is DISINTER (i.e. “dig up”) followed by ES (i.e. “French art” – in this case “art” is ye olde for “is”, and the French for “is” is “es”) and T (i.e. “treasures initially”, i.e. the first letter of “treasures”).

40. Standard review by key writer ultimately upset no one (9)

Answer: CRITERION (i.e. “[a] standard”). Solution is CRIT (a recognised informal abbreviation of “criticism”, i.e. “review”) followed “by” E (i.e. “[musical] key”) then R (i.e. “writer ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “writer”) then the reversal (indicated by “upset”) of NO and I (i.e. Roman numeral “one”), like so: CRIT-E-R-I-ON.

41. Dotty drawer’s son, one who takes alcohol regularly (8)

Answer: STIPPLER (i.e. “dotty drawer”, or a pointillist if you’d rather. #ShowingOff). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) followed by TIPPLER (i.e. “one who takes alcohol regularly”).

43. Paperback covering alternative source of flavouring, perhaps (7)

Answer: POTHERB (i.e. “source of flavouring, perhaps”). Solution is PB (a recognised abbreviation of “paperback”) “covering” OTHER (i.e. “alternative”), like so: P(OTHER)B.

45. French painter’s entry (7)

Answer: INGRESS (i.e. “entry”). Solution is Jean-Auguste-Dominique INGRES (i.e. “French painter”, and very good he was too. Check him out.) when considering the ‘s as possessive, i.e. INGRES’S.

46. Start of terrible row after accountant becomes more spiteful (7)

Answer: CATTIER (i.e. “more spiteful”). Solution is T (i.e. “start of terrible”, i.e. the first letter of “terrible”) and TIER (i.e. “row”) placed “after” CA (a recognised abbreviation for a Chartered “Accountant”), like so: CA-T-TIER.

47. Living in woods, son left vehicle outside rear of bothy (6)

Answer: SYLVAN (i.e. “living in woods”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son” again), L (ditto “left”) and VAN (i.e. “vehicle”), placed “outside” of Y (i.e. “rear of bothy”, i.e. the last letter of “bothy”) like so: S-(Y)-L-VAN. I didn’t get this from the old Sylvanian Families range of toys. No, I was much too old for that kind of thing. And a bloke. (Looks to camera.)

50. Decorated knight on board leaving to make a speech (5)

Answer: ORATE (i.e. “to make a speech”). Solution is ORNATE (i.e. “decorated”) with the N (i.e. “knight on board”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “knight” used in chess) removed.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1369

Here’s my completed grid for this week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword. You’ll find explanations of my solutions below where I have them. Despite a handful of weird and wonderful words, this one didn’t take too long for me to complete. I guess I hit lucky on most of the awkward ones.

Right then, on with my review of Best New Horror 3. (Checks imaginary watch.) Or bed. Yes, that’s probably more sensible.

LP

Across clues

1. Entirely at home with Dorothy’s best friend (2,4)

Answer: IN TOTO, which is Latin for “entirely”. Solution is IN (i.e. “at home”) followed by TOTO (i.e. “Dorothy’s best friend” from L Frank Baum’s The Wizard Of Oz).

5. Fancy trousers, back to front and extremely ticklish (7)

Answer: STREWTH, an Aussie version of “fancy [that]”. Solution is TREWS (i.e. a slang term for “trousers”) with the final letter placed first (i.e. “back to front”) and followed by TH (i.e. “extremely ticklish”, i.e. the first and last letters – or extremes – of the word “ticklish”), like so: STREW-TH.

9. Literary marquis (not duke) embracing top adventure (8)

Answer: ESCAPADE (i.e. “adventure”). Solution is DE SADE (i.e. “literary marquis” and famed grubby bugger) with the first D removed (i.e. “not duke” – D being a recognised abbreviation of “duke”) and then “embracing” CAP (i.e. “top”), like so: ES(CAP)ADE.

13. Mathematical statements confusing fifteen old antiquaries (12,9)

Answer: DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS (i.e. “mathematical statements”). “Confusing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FIFTEEN OLD ANTIQUARIES. I rather liked the elegance of differential equations back in my A-level days, but adaptive memory has since seen much of the knowledge overwritten by episodes of Rick and Morty. I can live with that.

14. Shout about rough Australian pots (8)

Answer: CROCKERY (i.e. “pots”). Solution is CRY (i.e. “shout”) placed “about” OCKER (i.e. “rough Australian”), like so: CR(OCKER)Y.

15. Face of incredulity quiet chap, reportedly Abraham’s son (7)

Answer: ISHMAEL (i.e. “Abraham’s son” – there were enough of them, the big stud). Solution is I (i.e. “face of incredulity”, i.e. the first letter of the word “incredulity”) followed by SH (i.e. “quiet”) and MAEL (i.e. “chap, reportedly” – the setter has cheated here in my less-than-humble opinion, as MAEL is not a word (according to my Chambers, at least), which rather disqualifies it as a homophone of “male”. Meanwhile the world keeps spinning.)

16. Dull second mate with primitive instincts (6)

Answer: STUPID (i.e. “dull”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “stupid” [EDIT: or of “second”, even. Thanks to Winston in the comments for the correction.]) followed by TUP (i.e. “[to] mate [sheep]”) and ID, the part of one’s personality said to be responsible for “primitive instincts”.

17. Fellow Estonian perhaps exhaled audibly in shade (6,4)

Answer: COBALT BLUE (i.e. a colour or “shade”). Solution is CO-BALT (i.e. “fellow Estonian perhaps”, “Balt” being a word describing someone from the Baltic provinces) followed by BLUE (i.e. “exhaled audibly”, i.e. a homophone of “blew”).

20. Port in India surrounded by jade, iron ore, bananas (3,2,7)

Answer: RIO DE JANEIRO (i.e. “port”). Solution is I (i.e. “India” in the phonetic alphabet) placed in an anagram (indicated by “bananas”) of JADE IRON ORE, like so: R(I)ODEJANEIRO.

23. Man perhaps lives vacuous life (4)

Answer: ISLE (i.e. “Man perhaps” as in the Isle of Man). Solution is IS (i.e. “lives”) followed by LE (i.e. “vacuous life”, i.e. the word “life” emptied of its middle letters).

24. Use blades, decapitating delightful fish (3,5)

Answer: ICE SKATE (i.e. “use blades”). Solution is NICE (i.e. “delightful”) with the first letter removed (i.e. “decapitated”) and followed by SKATE (i.e. “fish”).

26. Draw on book jacket of “Candide” for entertainment (3,5)

Answer: TAP DANCE (i.e. “entertainment”). Solution is TAP (i.e. “draw on”) followed by DAN (i.e. “book”, specifically a recognised abbreviation for the Book of Daniel in the Bible) and CE (i.e. “jacket of ‘Candide’, i.e. the first and last letters of “Candide”).

29. Pension off screwed up Teresa, a nun (12)

Answer: SUPERANNUATE (i.e. “pension off”). “Screwed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of UP TERESA A NUN.

30. Cut tax allowance after European liberality (10)

Answer: TOLERATION (i.e. “liberality”). Solution is TOLL (i.e. “tax”) with the final letter removed (i.e. “cut”) then followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and RATION (i.e. “allowance”), like so: TOL-E-RATION.

32. Lover ditches the setter behind the main sewer (10)

Answer: SEAMSTRESS (i.e. “sewer”). Solution is MISTRESS (i.e. “lover”) with the I removed (i.e. “ditches the setter”, think about it from the point of the view of the setter) and placed “behind” SEA (one of several meanings of “main”), like so: SEA-MSTRESS.

34. Describe carer ethic as amazing (12)

Answer: CHARACTERISE (i.e. “describe”). “Amazing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CARER ETHIC AS.

36. Toddler wrapped in flag by ace Bulgarian copper (8)

Answer: STOTINKA, which is one hundredth of a Bulgarian lev (i.e. “Bulgarian copper”). Solution is TOT (i.e. “toddler”) “wrapped in” SINK (i.e. “flag”) and followed by A (i.e. an “ace” in playing cards), like so: S(TOT)INK-A. My Chambers came to the rescue here rather than any deep knowledge of the minor denominations of other countries’ currencies. I suspected this would start with STOT, and thankfully there it was.

38. Pub regulars in Lucerne make insinuation (8)

Answer: INNUENDO (i.e. “insinuation”). Solution is INN (i.e. “pub”) followed by the “regular” letters of LUCERNE and then DO (i.e. “[to] make”), like so: INN-UEN-DO. Also my favourite Queen track, because you needed to know that.

39. Ghastly Hanoverian king, first of many (4)

Answer: GRIM (i.e. “ghastly”). Solution is GRI (i.e. “Hanoverian king”, specifically Georgius Rex Imperator – or in English – George, King and Emperor) followed by M (i.e. “first of many”, i.e. the first letter of the word “many”).

41. Polish-Irish writer accepting brother as impartial mediator (6,6)

Answer: HONEST BROKER (i.e. “impartial mediator”). Solution is HONE (i.e. “[to] polish”) followed by Bram STOKER (i.e. “Irish writer”) “accepting” BR (a recognised abbreviation of the title “Brother”) like so: HONE-ST(BR)OKER. This was on the tip of my tongue for ages. I had “broker” but couldn’t for the life of me think what the rest of the solution could be. Eventually I was saved by the wordplay. A good one, this.

43. Awful acts in urban areas after matron sheds clothing (10)

Answer: ATROCITIES (i.e. “awful acts”). Solution is CITIES (i.e. “urban areas”) placed “after” ATRO (i.e. “matron sheds clothing”, i.e. the word “matron” with the first and last letters removed).

44. Oppressive temperature in cupboard (6)

Answer: CLOSET (i.e. “cupboard”). Solution is CLOSE (i.e. “oppressive”, as in humid weather) followed by T (a recognised abbreviation of “temperature”).

46. Spoke highly of lift in Palladium (7)

Answer: PRAISED (i.e. “spoke highly of”). Solution is RAISE (i.e. “lift”) placed “in” PD (chemical symbol of “palladium”), like so: P(RAISE)D.

48. Middle part that fits into socket (8)

Answer: EYEPIECE. Solution satisfies both “middle” – i.e. eye [of a storm] – “part” – i.e. piece, and “fits into socket”.

50. Last words seen by proofreader? (4,4,13)

Answer: QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM. In English this means “which was to be proved”. In the context of the clue, one could say these were the last words seen by a proof reader. Sound familiar? This was also in puzzle 1351 last November. Seems a popular solution among setters.

51. Kind look for Baskerville, perhaps (8)

Answer: TYPEFACE, of which “Baskerville” is one. Solution is TYPE (i.e. “[a] kind”) followed by FACE (i.e. “[to] look”).

52. Beset by strain, Mary’s mum hides here (7)

Answer: TANNERY (i.e. “[animal] hides here”). Solution is TRY (i.e. “strain”) “besetting” Queen ANNE (i.e. “Mary’s mum” – a bit of a guess as none of her children lived for very long, but with The Favourite winning Oscars recently this is what I’m plumping for) like so: T(ANNE)RY.

53. Suppress a retired magistrate in Rome (6)

Answer: AEDILE, an office of the Roman Republic (i.e. “magistrate in Rome”). Solution is ELIDE (i.e. to abridge or “suppress”) followed by A and then the whole lot reversed (indicated by “retired”), like so: A-EDILE. A word I had to look up.

Down clues

2. Lowest point of rebellious playwright after female disappears (5)

Answer: NADIR (i.e. “lowest point”). Solution is Richard Brinsley SHERIDAN (i.e. “playwright”) with the SHE removed (i.e. “after female disappears”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “rebellious”, as in an uprising – this being a down clue).

3. Formal language changing if I lose face (11)

Answer: OFFICIALESE (i.e. “formal language”). “Changing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IF I LOSE FACE.

4. Smashed eggs over non-drinker in brawl (8)

Answer: OMELETTE (i.e. “smashed eggs”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket), then TT (ditto teetotaller, or “non-drinker”) placed “in” MELEE (i.e. “brawl”) like so: O-MELE(TT)E.

5. Disreputable bishop’s office, disturbingly empty (5)

Answer: SEEDY (i.e. “disreputable”). Solution is SEE (i.e. “bishop’s office”) followed by DY (i.e. “disturbingly empty”, i.e. the word “disturbingly” with all the middle letters removed).

6. Row after sailor climbs part of rigging (7)

Answer: RATLINE (i.e. “part of rigging”). Solution is LINE (i.e. “[a] row”) placed “after” TAR (a word for “sailor” rather popular with crossword setters) reversed (indicated by “climbs” – this being a down clue) like so: RAT-LINE.

7. Brave tenor on radio, one unsettled by wind (7,4)

Answer: WEATHER VANE (i.e. “one unsettled by wind”) .Solution is WEATHER (i.e. “brave”) followed by VANE (i.e. “tenor on radio” – i.e. a homophone of “vein” (tenor as in “the general purport or drift of something”)).

8. Why we leave wife with an upset animal (5)

Answer: HYENA (i.e. “animal”). Solution is derived by removing W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”) from WHY and WE, then following it with AN reversed (indicated by “upset”), like so: HY-E-NA.

9. Exuberant cows briefly entering hospital department (9)

Answer: EBULLIENT (i.e. “exuberant”). Solution is BULLIES (i.e. “cows” – to cow someone is to bully them) with the final letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and placed in ENT (i.e. “hospital department”, specifically Ear Nose and Throat), like so: E(BULLIE)NT.

10. Smart girls shunning drug for skin (5)

Answer: CUTIS (i.e. “skin”). Solution is CUTIES (i.e. “smart girls” – yes, the noise you heard there was my skin crawling) with the E (a recognised abbreviation of ecstasy, i.e. “drug”) removed (i.e. “shunned”).

11. Proud, angry words in favour of public transport (11)

Answer: PROTUBERANT. Solution satisfies both “proud” and “angry words in favour of public transport”, i.e. PRO TUBE RANT.

12. Tramp clutching paper documents (7)

Answer: DOSSIER (i.e. “documents”). Solution is DOSSER (i.e. “tramp”) “clutching” I (i.e. “[news]paper”), like so: DOSS(I)ER.

18. Extremely dim old boy sat on the outside eating kippers, say (9)

Answer: OBSCUREST (i.e. “extremely dim”). Solution is OB (a recognised abbreviation of “old boy”) followed by ST (i.e. “sat on the outside”, i.e. the first and last letters of the word “sat”) “eating” CURES (i.e. “[to] kipper”), like so: OB-S(CURES)T.

19. Allow parasites to bite rear of passionate non-smoker (7)

Answer: LICENSE (i.e. “allow”). Solution is LICE (i.e. “parasites”) “biting” E (i.e. “rear of passionate”, i.e. the last letter of the word “passionate”) and NS (a recognised abbreviation of “non-smoker”), like so: LIC(E-NS)E.

21. Make business error, partially backing failed art revolution (9)

Answer: OVERTRADE (i.e. “make business error”). “Partially” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “backing” indicates the solution is reversed, like so: FAIL(ED ART REVO)LUTION.

22. Asks half-cut buccaneer to inhale (8)

Answer: ASPIRATE (i.e. “to breathe”). Solution is AS (i.e. “asks half-cut”, i.e. the first half of the word “asks”) followed by PIRATE (i.e. “buccaneer”).

25. Mates turned up with glue for knockabout comedy (9)

Answer: SLAPSTICK (i.e. “knockabout comedy”). Solution is PALS (i.e. “mates”) reversed (indicated by “turned up” – this being a down clue) and followed by STICK (i.e. “[to] glue”), like so: SLAP-STICK.

27. Mix force and fury in fierce exchange (9)

Answer: CROSSFIRE (i.e. “fierce exchange”). Solution is CROSS (i.e. “mix”) followed by F (a recognised abbreviation of “force”) and IRE (i.e. “fury”).

28. Appallingly trite man, strict disciplinarian (8)

Answer: MARTINET (i.e. “strict disciplinarian”). “Appallingly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TRITE MAN.

31. Hero’s mate is slim, revolutionary communist (7)

Answer: LEANDER. Solution refers to the Greek myth of Hero and Leander, though, if I’m honest, I got this through a fairly obscure game on the Commodore Amiga. You have your methods, I have mine. Solution is LEAN (i.e. “slim”) followed by RED (i.e. “communist”) reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”).

33. Club members awaiting deliveries (7-2-2)

Answer: MOTHERS-TO-BE. Solution riffs on how expectant mothers – i.e. those “awaiting deliveries” – are said to be “members” of the pudding “club”.

34. Carmen snogs vile US politician (11)

Answer: CONGRESSMAN (i.e. “US politician”). “Vile” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CARMEN SNOGS.

35. Just cared, having moral sense (5-6)

Answer: RIGHT-MINDED (i.e. “having moral sense”). Solution is RIGHT (i.e. “just”) followed by MINDED (i.e. “cared”).

37. Originally advising extensive repair work on road in Lancashire? (9)

Answer: AEROPLANE (i.e. “Lancashire [bomber]”). Solution is A, E and R (i.e. “originally advising extensive repair” – i.e. the first letters of “advising”, “extensive” and “repair”) followed by OP (a recognised abbreviation of operation, i.e. “work”) and LANE (i.e. “road”). [EDIT: Should have been “Lancaster” bomber, not Lancashire. Thanks to Winston in the comments for the correction.]

40. Plans novel e-cash ATM (8)

Answer: SCHEMATA (i.e. “plans”). “Novel” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of E CASH ATM.

42. Censure unruly yob grabbing two thirds of fruit (7)

Answer: OBLOQUY (i.e. “censure”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “unruly”) of BOY “grabbing” the first “two thirds of” LOQUAT (i.e. “fruit”), like so: OB(LOQU)Y.

43. Bald men, scratching heads, finally taught me how to cook pasta (2,5)

Answer: AL DENTE (i.e. “how to cook pasta”). Solution is derived by removing the initial letters (indicated by “scratching heads”) of BALD MEN and then following it with the “final” letters of “taught” and “me” like so: ALD-EN-T-E. Another good one, this.

45. Cheers supporting article and letter (5)

Answer: THETA (i.e. “[Greek] letter”). Solution is TA (i.e. thanks, or “cheers”) “supporting” (this being a down clue) THE (i.e. “article”), like so: THE-TA.

47. Initially act upon Morse’s sound assessment (5)

Answer: AUDIT (i.e. “assessment”). Solution is A and U (i.e. “initially act upon”, i.e. the initial letters of “act” and “upon”) followed by DIT (i.e. “Morse {code}’s sound”).

48. Guard neglecting southern gate? (5)

Answer: ENTRY (i.e. “gate”). Solution is SENTRY (i.e. “guard”) removing, or “neglecting”, the S (a recognised abbreviation of “southern”).

49. Arrived on back of doleful quadruped (5)

Answer: CAMEL (i.e. “quadruped”). Solution is CAME (i.e. “arrived”) placed “on [the] back of” L (i.e. “back of doleful”, i.e. the last letter of the word “doleful”).

Review: Best New Horror 2

“Hello, cheeky!”

Best New Horror 2 was published back in 1991 and showcased twenty-eight tales of horror, the supernatural and the weird, all published during the previous year. As with the first volume, this edition was edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell. Interestingly, the original release of this book was stripped of its intended opening story after the publishers got cold feet, fearing that the inclusion of a splatterpunk story would risk the book being pulled from store shelves. The offending story, Roberta Lannes’ Apostate in Denim, was reinstated in PS Publishing’s recent anniversary edition of Best New Horror 2, and is covered below.

Sadly, on the evidence presented in this volume, 1990 was a dry year for quality horror shorts. It’s telling that a number of the stories were pulled from the pages of science fiction publications with only the merest nod to horror. Overall, then, Best New Horror 2 is a straightforward 3/5.

Despite the dip in quality from book one, there are still a few stories that are well worth your time. Here is a rundown of what you can expect to find inside.

Also collected in Lannes’ “The Mirror of Night”

Apostate In Denim – Roberta Lannes (3/5 – A young man called Barry Boag peers through the gaps of Mr Hardesty’s shack, transfixed in a state of sexual excitement as he watches the man cruelly and methodically torture a small boy. When Barry’s voyeurism is eventually discovered by Hardesty, he finds the man quite untroubled by it all. In fact, Hardesty invites Barry around for a more intimate look. This was okay, but it felt as if Lannes was being too eager to shock the reader at times, as if this was the only way to hold their attention. Yes, this is splatterpunk, but, consonant with a number of other works in this subgenre, the shock tactics undermine the story. If I’m honest I found Lannes’ assertion in her introduction (that she did not set out to write a splatterpunk story) got under my skin more than the story itself. Apostate… was published at a time when splatterpunk was all the rage, so don’t give me that.)

The First Time – K. W. Jeter (4/5 – An adolescent boy is invited along on a trip to a Mexican border town with his father, his Uncle Tommy and a few of their friends. It’s a trip the men have taken several times already, often making a weekend of it, and the boy nervously agrees to go along. When they arrive in town, they all crowd into a bar to drink beers and goof off. The boy notices the men disappearing one at a time to a curtained area away from the main bar, returning a short time later reeking of sweat and acting a little differently. When there’s suddenly no room for the boy to sit with his father and his friends, the lad queasily realises he’s up next. This didn’t work for me the first time around as I felt the premise was too far-fetched – I couldn’t accept how the men could keep shtum around the boy regarding the WHAAAAAAA…?!!? that goes on beyond the curtain. Contrary to my initial impressions, however, The First Time did actually improve the second time around.)

Also collected in Straub’s “Houses Without Doors”

A Short Guide To The City – Peter Straub (2/5 – In this mock travelogue we are guided around a nameless north-midwestern city in the US, its districts and demographics, its cultures and landmarks, expressed at times through the flavours and degrees of violence executed therein, and how they may or may not relate to the local Viaduct Killer, whoever he – or they – may be. The literary fireworks in Straub’s long fiction often show he’s an author who is not afraid to experiment. This firework, for me at least, was a dud.)

 

 

Also collected in Massie’s “The Fear Report”

Stephen – Elizabeth Massie (4/5 – Anne is an emotionally and physically scarred woman who volunteers at a rehabilitation centre to help severely disabled patients study and train for life in the outside world. One of her charges, Michael, is a charismatic guy who has no legs, no left arm and whose right arm is missing below the elbow. Michael’s silent roommate, Stephen, has an even tougher time of it. This was one of the better stories in the book and bagged a Stoker Award back in the day along with a World Fantasy Award nomination. I’m not going to go too much into this one as it would rob the story of some of its impact, suffice to say that, me being the sick puppy I am, I couldn’t quite get that scene from Reanimator out of my head while reading this. Also, I couldn’t help but cast Noel Fielding in my head as the titular Stephen, which I fully admit is a bit weird.)

Also collected in Carroll’s “The Panic Hand”

The Dead Love You – Jonathan Carroll (2/5 – Anthea Powell is a woman with a successful career and a heart condition. When she is forced to swerve to avoid hitting a cyclist, she accidentally runs her car into another driver’s vehicle. The owner, an albino by the name of Bruce Beetz, is furious and, after getting short thrift from the police officer handling the incident, Bruce decides to take revenge. When Anthea falls asleep in a hot bath, Bruce leaves a toy car floating in the water. When she wakes one morning she finds a children’s book on her bed called I’M COMING TO GET YOU. Anthea is afraid but also intrigued, for in her dreams she’s discovered Bruce isn’t exactly the guy he makes out to be. A much bigger surprise lies in store for “Bruce”. In my original review of this story, I called it “less a horror story than a fuck-you to the reader”, and, to be honest, after a reread, my opinion of it hasn’t changed. It still reeks of a writer being asked to produce a story for an anthology (which was the case here), picking up some half-finished effort and welding a jarringly different ending to it. This is a bit of a Carroll trope, it seems. I’ll pass on more, thanks.)

Also collected in Ellison’s “Slippage”

Jane Doe #112 – Harlan Ellison (3/5 – Ben Laborde is a man on the run, not from the police but from a small group of translucent people, each of whom were cut off in their prime before they had a chance to live their lives. Tired of being hunted for so long, Ben stops and confronts his pursuers, at which point he learns an unusual truth about himself. When he was on form, Ellison could be a blinding supernova of creativity. This story doesn’t reach those giddy heights, thanks in part to a jarring plot convenience, but there is still more invention on display here than half the other stories in this book put together. Pity it’s not a horror story, really.)

 

 

Also collected in Garton’s “Methods of Madness”

Shock Radio – Ray Garton (4/5The Arthur Colton Jr. Show is a late-night talk radio sensation thanks to its obnoxious and unabashedly right-wing, pro-male, pro-life (and pseudonymous) host. Fronting the show is a man called Andy Craig. He doesn’t share his alter-ego’s views, and is frequently astonished at how his audience and innumerable critics can take Colton seriously. Can’t they see it’s all just an act? Apparently not. The frequent exchanges between Colton and his more rational callers make this an engrossing read, and depressingly demonstrate how little things have changed in the near-thirty years since this was originally published. Though Shock Radio isn’t perfect – Andy isn’t a terribly convincing character, and you’ll likely see the ending coming – I suspect this will be one of the stories in the book that will stick in your mind for a while to come.)

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

The Man Who Drew Cats – Michael Marshall Smith (5/5 – An old man recounts a long, hot summer some years ago when a tall and intense stranger came to the small town of Kingstown. By day Tom would sit out on the town square creating incredibly realistic paintings of animals, keeping the neighbourhood kids rapt as he worked. Come the evening, he would sit and drink with the old boys of town and sometimes open up a little about the tragedies of his past. One day Tom notices one of the children, Billy, is noticeably sadder than the others, and before long he is introduced to the boy’s mother, Mary, and, by extension, her abusive drunk of a husband, Sam. When Tom can no longer stand to witness the effects of Sam’s bloody and bruising violence upon Mary and Billy, the tall and intense stranger acts in the only way he knows how: he paints Sam a picture. This powerful and wonderfully-spun debut from MMS nailed a British Fantasy Award back in the day and is by far and away the best story in Best New Horror 2. Absolutely unmissable. In fact, you should stop reading this and read that instead.)

Also collected in Tem’s “The Ice Downstream and Other Stories”

The Co-op – Melanie Tem (4/5 – In this strange and disturbing slice of life we watch as a young mother, Julie, plays hostess to an assortment of other mothers from around the neighbourhood. As potato salad is messily consumed and as their kids all argue among themselves down in the basement, the group discuss the ups and downs of parenthood. Oh, wait. Did I say “ups”? Sunshine and lollipops this most certainly is not, and the finale will linger long after the reading.)

 

 

 

Also collected in Royle’s “Mortality”

Negatives – Nicolas Royle (3/5 – Brian Linden is driving at night, maintaining a steady seventy on the motorway, bored out of his gourd. He is on the way to meet his other half, Melanie, at a cottage for the weekend. When Brian looks to the passenger seat, he sees Melanie fast asleep beside him. Confused? In order to find out more we wind back a couple of weeks to when Brian’s odd visions began, back when he was made to use an old office computer with a green screen. Though this is a tad dated, a smattering of cool imagery and some neat ideas help make this a better story than Archway (Royle’s entry in book one). The story is guilty of being over-engineered, however, evidenced by a weak ending that doesn’t really work.)

Collected in Ligotti’s “Grimscribe: His Lives and Works”

The Last Feast of Harlequin – Thomas Ligotti (4/5 – In this World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novelette Ligotti turns his hand to a spot of Lovecraft. An academic (and keen clown fanatic) arrives in the remote American town of Mirocaw, eager to learn more about the “Fool’s Feast” that takes place there during the winter solstice. Mirocaw is a strange town set in a bowl whose odd topography makes it seem like the houses overlap one another. The citizens too seem to overlap: alongside people going about their daily lives our man sees several strange and scruffy others vacantly shuffling about the place largely unseen, one of whom bears a noticeable likeness for an old professor of his. Whenever an author dips their toes in Lovecraft they nearly always come a cropper (and I include Lovecraft himself in that). Ligotti wobbles a bit here and there but ultimately turns in a story that manages to retain much of the good stuff found in Lovecraft’s work while at the same time jettisoning an awful lot of the rubbish. In all, a good ‘un, this.)

Also collected in MacLeod’s “Voyages by Starlight”

1/72nd Scale – Ian R. MacLeod (3/5 – A family tries to move on from the eldest son Simon’s accidental death. Younger son David inherits Simon’s room and its effects, including a number of meticulously constructed model aircraft. When David’s father hands him a large model aircraft kit of his own to assemble, David is daunted by the task. It’s the last thing he needs amid the constant reminders from all around that he is not his elder brother and can never hope to be. Spoilers ahoy, folks, but I can’t help it on this occasion. This Nebula-nominated novelette starts off beautifully and then… well… hmm. It may have been better if I could have bought into the premise of a model aeroplane coming to life, attacking David and… (sigh…) still somehow living after being burned to a charred and plasticky crisp. Nope. Sorry. Even after a second read this came across as silly when it really didn’t intend to be.)

Also collected in “Masters of the Weird Tale: Karl Edward Wagner”

Cedar Lane – Karl Edward Wagner (3/5 – In this short and curious what-if, multiple versions of the same man recall their childhood at a house on Cedar Lane, each often smelling the stench of burning leaves or experiencing a sharp agonising pain immediately before… well, to say any more would be to give the game away. Here we have another story that is a hundred parts science fiction infused with a tiny soupçon of horror. Even on its own terms, the story is merely okay. A shame, really, as I rather enjoyed At First Just Ghostly, Wagner’s story in the first book.)

 

 

Also released as its own separate eBook (links to Amazon)

At A Window Facing West – Kim Antieau (3/5 – Maggie is a fearless journalist on vacation in Mexico with her other half, Peter, and his brother, Rich. The holiday has thus far been dictated by what Rich doesn’t want to do, which causes friction between the three of them. After a row with Peter, Maggie is woken from her sleep by a scream from outside. She sees two policemen carrying away a woman who is crying for help, but Maggie feels powerless to do anything. Upon their return from hols, the guilt Maggie feels about the episode eats away at her until she can take it no longer. Compelled to investigate, she returns to Mexico. Bad move. This story shares a few genes with Thomas Tessier’s Blanca, published in the first book, and was okay, but you’ll have probably already guessed the ending.)

Also collected in “The Best Short Stories of Garry Kilworth”

Inside the Walled City – Garry Kilworth (4/5 – A journalist in Hong Kong follows hifalutin cop John Speakman, his guide and two junior police officers into a vast makeshift building called the Walled City. The slum had once teemed with tens of thousands of Hong Kong’s poor, but now it lies empty, awaiting demolition. Speakman’s job is to chase out any stragglers. Once inside, our man grows convinced that Speakman has evil in mind for him, but that’s nothing compared to what the building has in store for them all. This is another one sharing a couple of genes with a story from the first book, this time Laurence Staig’s Closed Circuit, which was set in an inescapable shopping mall. I liked this a lot, even if the characters largely played second fiddle to the real star of the piece, the Walled City itself. Kilworth has a whale of a time describing its fetid and labyrinthine – and lethal – innards. Good gory fun.)

On The Wing – Jean-Daniel Breque (3/5 – Robin is a twelve year old boy who takes a solitary swim at an abandoned quarry. He reflects on two close friends of his, and slowly comes to realise they may not be friends at all. They never seem to come to the quarry any more, and back when they did they would play all kinds of mean tricks on him. When Robin learns that his friends may have taken to visiting the quarry after dark, he sneaks out for a midnight dip, where things take a sinister turn. This was okay, but I found some of the passages clunky (possibly lost in translation). The story also felt rather mechanical, with several scenes existing mostly to set up the next scene rather than to tell a bit more of the story, a bit like a train laying down its own tracks. That said, the ending, however disconnected it felt from the rest of the story, is wonderfully creepy.)

Firebird – J. L. Comeau (4/5 – By day Julianna is part of a tight-knit police team jokingly named “The Nut Squad” on account of the dangerous whack-jobs they so often have to take down. In the evenings she maintains a rigorous ballet regime to help keep her mind and body sharp. By night she is haunted in her sleep by the horrifying events of her first assignment. When, one evening, at the end of their shift, the squad are sent to join other teams at an incident in progress, they are all immediately set on edge. They arrive at a tenement block where a number of officers struggle to hold back a thoroughly freaked-out crowd. When Julianna looks up to one of the upper windows she sees the lunatic from her first assignment – a man she had gunned down and killed. This full-blooded story rattles along at a fair old pace, almost like a Kathryn Bigelow movie from back in the day, and it’s a belter. In the space of 10,000 words you have damn near everything you would get from a novel ten times the length, and Comeau doesn’t pull any punches. Definitely worth a read. In fact, you can read the full thing for free on Comeau’s website: http://www.countgore.com/Firebird.htm)

Also collected in Schow’s “Seeing Red”

Incident on a Rainy Night in Beverly Hills – David J. Schow (4/5 – Jonathan Brill is a wealthy psychiatrist to the stars, taking in a stormy evening from the safety of his study. He is visited upon by a panicked old friend, Haskell Hammer, who begs for shelter not just from the storm outside but the men in white vans too – never a good sign. Haskell soon spins a strange and possibly deluded story of how he got to be in this position; a story of what it really takes to make it in Hollywood. In my original review of this story I said I liked it a lot up until the cheap-ass ending. Weirdly on a second reading the ending felt a little better – if still rather unearned – but I found it was the middle that sagged. It’s still worth a read, either way, scraping a 4/5.)

Also collected in Brite’s “Swamp Foetus”

His Mouth Will Taste Of Wormwood – Poppy Z. Brite (4/5 – Howard and Louis are two young men living in modern-day gothic splendour who devote every living moment seeking something – anything – that can truly satisfy them. From hard drink to strange drugs, from degrading beautiful women to bedding androgynous young men and eventually each other – nothing fills the void. In their pursuit of ever-newer and evermore-debauched experiences they take to robbing graves and raiding mausoleums, acts that eventually draw them closer to what they crave the most. But at what cost? This story has become a modern horror classic since its first publication, and who am I to argue? Brite’s elegant writing and pitch-black humour elevates this above most stories in the book.)

Also collected in Newman’s “The Original Dr Shade and Other Stories”

The Original Dr Shade – Kim Newman (4/5 – Greg Daniels is an illustrator hired to help resurrect the old Dr Shade character for the launch of the Argus, a new hard-right British newspaper. He is introduced to Harry Lipman, an elderly man who last wrote the character back in the 1950s. The men soon hit it off, developing a Dr Shade more suited for the modern era while at the same time honouring the derring-do stories of yesteryear. But Greg and Harry fail to recognise the changing mood of the country. A new fascism is fast taking hold, catalysed by the upcoming launch of the Argus and the seeming resurgence of the original Dr Shade – a brutal and significantly more controversial iteration of the character. Within the first page of this story I knew this was going to be a winner. I loved the British comics scene back in my younger years. If it had panels and speech bubbles, I was all over it. This is a mighty fine and uncompromising read, and definitely one you should seek out.)

Madge – D. F. Lewis (2/5 – In a story barely ten words longer than this mini-review, Lewis sketches out the titular Madge, whose gift of song holds the locals of a fishing village in her thrall. But on this particular storm-laden evening she carries her song into new and unheard verses, crooning of the one she loved. After taking one of the local men to her bed she explains the unsettling purpose of her song. Lewis is remarkable in the field for having comfortably over 1,000 of his stories published, the majority being short shorts like this. I’m not the greatest fan of flash-fiction-length stories, however, as I seldom find them a satisfying read. Despite the quality of the writing, this one didn’t sway me.)

Alive in Venice – Cherry Wilder (3/5 – Following a family misfortune a young teenage girl, Susan, accompanies her brother and sister-in-law on their honeymoon in Venice. She knows enough to give the newlyweds some space, and thus spends a lot of her time in a writing room of the house. A large tapestry hangs in the room, behind which Susan finds a large door. A key hangs on a hook nearby. When a strange series of items are left in the room beneath a decorative ventilator, Susan grows convinced there may be someone behind the door beckoning her through. Wilder’s The House On Cemetery Street was probably the best story in the first book, but here she stumbles. This story was okay, but it felt more like a series of things happening than anything you could get emotionally involved in.)

Also collected in Frost’s “Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories”

Divertimento – Gregory Frost (3/5 – Teenagers Peter and Susanne are brother and sister, with Peter the eldest by a couple of years. Not that you’d believe it, for Susanne looks to be in her eighties while Peter is rocking a mid-forties look. A timebomb had once detonated in the family home, killing their parents in the blast, ageing them to dust in an instant, while also greatly ageing the two siblings. The bomb left behind a unique temporal rift allowing the children to look back through time to witness a previous occupant of the house: one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This story was okay with some really cool ideas, but let’s be honest – it’s another science fiction story that has been crowbarred into a horror anthology on the thinnest of premises.)

Also collected in Wilson’s “The Barrens and Others”

Pelts – F. Paul Wilson (4/5 – A poacher and his son strike it lucky when they find their traps have snared several large raccoons, each possessing the thickest and most luxurious coats they have ever seen. The poachers brutally kill the poor animals still clinging to life before bagging them all up and taking their prizes home. After a hard slog skinning and preparing the pelts, Pa leaves his son to clean up. The lad catches movement in the corner of his eye. Did one of the pelts move just then? In this Stoker-nominated story, F. shows everyone here how horror is done. This is a bloody good read and was made into an episode of Masters of Horror some years later.)

 

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

Those of Rhenea – David Sutton (3/5 – Elizabeth is holidaying in Greece, soaking up the sun and taking in the sights. Though promising herself no romantic entanglements, she finds herself knocking around keen photographer and fellow holidaymaker, Steve Convenient-Infodump. They break away from an island tour of Demos to do their own bit of exploring, but end up missing the boat back to the mainland. Darkness falls, and the two discover why no-one ever stays on Demos overnight. This was okay, but seasoned horror fans will have seen the skeleton of this story in a hundred others before it. The story is so flat that when the horror eventually makes itself known you are almost numb to it.)

 

Also collected in Wolfe’s “Starwater Strains”

Lord of the Land – Gene Wolfe (2/5 – A man known as The Nebraskan rocks up to a rickety farmhouse to chat with an old timer about, among other things, a dark shape the old boy saw once aways down the road; an emanation he calls a soul-sucker. The old timer’s granddaughter, Sarah serves them lemonade as a means to loiter nearby and listen in. Later, when The Nebraskan agrees to stay the night, Sarah passes him a note warning him not to utter a word of the old timer’s stories to her father. This was Wolfe’s tribute to Lovecraft, so it should come as no surprise that he produces inferior work as a result. Originally, this hot mess had me nodding off several times. On a reread, things don’t improve any. The story is uneven to say the least, and hits so many bum notes (dull backgrounding; dialog written as it is spoken, and, of course, Sarah simply has to make a pass at our man) it becomes a real chore to get through – and it’s only 14 pages long. Of course, your mileage may vary, as you can see in a relatively recent discussion of this story on Tor.com: https://www.tor.com/2017/02/22/urban-legends-of-ancient-egypt-gene-wolfes-lord-of-the-land/)

Also collected in SRT’s “The Far Side Of The Lake”

Aquarium – Steve Rasnic Tem (3/5 – Michael is hired by Victor Montgomery to catalogue the chattels of his hotel. As he works through the many artworks and items of furniture, Michael is reminded of the childhood he spent in an orphanage. His mind starts to deteriorate and hints of darker memories begin to surface when Michael finds certain items of furniture with strange and unsettling adornments. This was okay, but I’ve read better from SRT. Here it felt as if he was trying too hard to keep things weird, from a rather unnecessary attempt to wrongfoot the reader about Michael’s age, to how Victor looks more like a baby in a suit the more he talks, to, most obviously, SRT’s frequent attempts to relate things to an aquarium.)

 

Also collected in Wilson’s “The Cleft and Other Odd Tales”

Mister Ice Cold – Gahan Wilson (4/5 – Mister Ice Cold is doing the rounds, the chimes of his ice cream truck sending children into a frenzy with the promise of iced confections to come. While Mister Ice Cold is busy serving the ranks of children queueing outside, a young boy sneaks into his van and makes the mistake of looking in the one compartment Mister Ice Cold never seems to open. Gahan Wilson is a creative polymath; he is perhaps better known as a cartoonist, with a long career contributing to publications such as The New Yorker, but he is also a very good short story writer. Though you could accuse this short short of being a little predictable, you cannot question Wilson’s masterful delivery. Mister Ice Cold has only one line in the story, and it is brilliantly chilling. If you’ll pardon the pun.)

Also collected in Hand’s “Last Summer at Mars Hill”

On The Town Route – Elizabeth Hand (4/5 – Continuing the ice cream theme, this story sees Julie slumming it in her digs, having given up on her studies and seemingly the whole concept of going outside. Her boyfriend, Cass, drags her out to ride along with him in his knackered old ice cream van. Along the route, she watches the urban landscape give way to nature and the houses become more ramshackle. She meets all of Cass’s regulars, including a headstrong young girl called Little Eva, and Maidie and Sam, her somewhat unusual parents. When tragedy strikes on the way back home, Maidie unexpectedly intervenes. I liked this story a lot, even if Julie has little other role than to be our eyes and ears. There’s a slacker vibe to the story that I loved, and Hand creates a wonderful sense of a hazy countryside summer. A really good read, though I would argue Mister Ice Cold would have been a better closer to the book.)

And that wraps up this monster review of Best New Horror 2. Thanks for getting this far! If any of these stories float your boat then PS Publishing offers a chunky 25th Anniversary edition of the book, otherwise it shouldn’t be too hard finding a second-hand copy on the interwebs. You can also find Best New Horror 2 for purchase on most popular eBook platforms.

Till book three, then – TTFN!

LP

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1368

Another Saturday, another Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword! I liked this one, with only one clue jiggering me. You’ll find my completed grid below, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

Before we get to that, a question. The Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword offers a prize each week to a winner drawn from all the correct entries they receive, usually a couple of weeks after publication. I don’t enter my solutions, but others obviously do. A few people have passed comment on previous solutions of mine, with opinion reasonably split between those who would rather I didn’t post these solutions so soon after publication (as it gives subscribers to my blog and anyone hitting my site the opportunity to cheat and a chance to win), and those who are pretty relaxed about it. My view is that the challenge of solving the puzzle trumps the chance of seeing my name in print, and I often see comments online from people wishing The Times and other newspapers would print explanations of their solutions. What do you think? Should I hang fire publishing these solutions until after the competition closes, or would you rather find the answer to those last couple of awkward clues and get on with your week?

Feel free to leave a comment. The comments on my blog are moderated to prevent spamming, but I’ll approve all genuine comments, good or bad, as soon as I can.

Onwards!

LP

P.S. I know I’ve said this the last couple of weeks, but my review of Best New Horror 2 will be published soon, honest guv! I know you can’t wait. Anyway, onwards again!

Across clues

1. Swapping a couple of letters, person traducing editor skived off (10)

Answer: MALINGERED (i.e. “skived off” – one of those words you feel ought to describe something else). Solution is MALIGNER (i.e. “one traducing”) with the G and N swapped around, and then followed by ED (a recognised abbreviation of “editor”), like so: MALINGER-ED.

6. Bank holiday fare stolen, to thwart any number boarding bus (3,5,4)

Answer: HOT CROSS BUNS (i.e. “Bank holiday fare”). Solution is HOT (i.e. “stolen”) followed by CROSS (i.e. “to thwart”) then N (i.e. “any number”) “boarding” BUS, like so: HOT-CROSS-BU(N)S.

14. Player very much at sea, I admitted (7)

Answer: SOLOIST (i.e. “player”). Solution is SO LOST (i.e. “very much at sea”) “admitting” I, like so: SOLO(I)ST.

15. Model agent, fifty one or thereabouts (7)

Answer: REPLICA (i.e. “model”). Solution is REP (a recognised abbreviation of a representative, or an “agent”) followed by LI (i.e. “fifty one” in Roman numerals) and CA (a recognised abbreviation of circa, i.e. “thereabouts”).

16. Risk heading for location where sanctuary may be found (7)

Answer: CHANCEL, which is the eastern part of a church (i.e. “where sanctuary may be found”). Lord help anyone seeking sanctuary from the north, south or west sides, it seems. Solution is CHANCE (i.e. “risk”) followed by L (i.e. “heading for location”, i.e. the first letter of the word “location”).

17. Remained at home east of US city (4)

Answer: LAIN (i.e. “remained”). Solution is IN (i.e. “at home”) placed “east of” LA (i.e. “US city”), like so: LA-IN.

18. Flip through report of summits (6)

Answer: BROWSE. Solution satisfies both “flip through” and “report of summits” i.e. a homophone of “brows”.

20. Blue, westbound river pure at its banks (8)

Answer: CERULEAN (i.e. “blue” – I admit it. I got this from the intro to “Pusher”, one of my favourite X-Files episodes.) Solution is URE (i.e. a “river” in North Yorkshire) reversed (indicated by “westbound”) and placed in CLEAN (i.e. “pure”), like so: C(ERU)LEAN.

24. Owner-occupier’s cover isn’t arranged for movers in many cases (5,11,7)

Answer: CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE (i.e. “movers in many [legal] cases”). “Arranged” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OWNER OCCUPIERS COVER ISNT.

25. Wind, filling out in valleys, takes some time to go (7)

Answer: DAWDLES (i.e. “takes some time to go”). Solution is WD (i.e. “wind, filling out”, i.e. the word “wind” with the middle letters removed) placed “in” DALES (i.e. “valleys”), like so: DA(WD)LES.

26. Laces ten mixed drinks (8)

Answer: ENTWINES (i.e. “laces”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “mixed”) of TEN followed by WINES (i.e. “drinks”), like so: ENT-WINES.

27. Extremely wayward overs after England’s first (4,2)

Answer: EVER SO (i.e. “extremely”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “wayward”) of OVERS placed “after” E (i.e. “England’s first”, i.e. the first letter of “England”), like so: E-VERSO.

29. Possibly switch components specified in house guides (14)

Answer: SEMICONDUCTORS (i.e. “possibly switch components”). Solution is SEMI (i.e. “house”) and CONDUCTORS (i.e. “guides”).

31. Words sent round in Twitter bilingually (8)

Answer: LIBRETTI, which is the plural form of “libretto”, which is the text of an opera, i.e. “words”. “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “round” indicates the word has been reversed, like so: TW(ITTER BIL)INGUALLY.

34. Is dog able, no longer quiet, to be pet? (8)

Answer: CANOODLE (i.e. “to pet”). Solution is CAN POODLE (i.e. “is dog able”) with the P removed (i.e. “no longer quiet” – P is a recognised abbreviation of “piano”, which is “quiet” in musical lingo).

36. Doing survey in street, wishing to restrict parking bays initially, maybe (6-8)

Answer: WINDOW-SHOPPING (i.e. “doing survey in street”). To be honest the setter has me here, so watch out. I can see WISHING in beginning, middle and end of the solution, and I guess PP represents “parking bays”, but I can’t make the leap.

39. Caught in gateway, ensign’s opening fire (6)

Answer: EXCITE (i.e. to “fire”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in cricket and other ball games) placed “in” EXIT (i.e. “gateway”) and then followed by E (i.e. “ensign’s opening”, i.e. the first letter of the word “ensign”), like so: EX(C)IT-E.

41. Believer keen to get instrument to play (4,4)

Answer: JEWS HARP (i.e. “instrument to play”). Solution is JEW (i.e. “believer”) followed by SHARP (i.e. “keen”).

43. Just not grand? (7)

Answer: UPRIGHT. Solution satisfies both “just” and “not grand” (as in grand pianos vs upright pianos).

46. Economic tenet is recalled after wife stops kneaded loaf sinking (3,2,11,7)

Answer: LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS (i.e. “economic tenet”). Solution is RETURNS (i.e. “is recalled”) placed “after” an anagram (indicated by “kneading”) of LOAF wrapped around (i.e. being “stopped” by) W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”) and DIMINISHING (i.e. “sinking”), like so: LA(W)OF-DIMINISHING-RETURNS.

47. Vagrant originally staying in digs (8)

Answer: ROOTLESS (i.e. “vagrant” – I must have had four different answers for this until I finally solved 35d). Solution is S (i.e. “originally staying”, i.e. the first letter of the word “staying”) “staying in” ROOTLES (which is to grub or turn up like a pig, i.e. “digs”), like so: ROOTLE(S)S.

48. Part of marshy estuary shrinking the most? (6)

Answer: SHYEST (i.e. “shrinking the most”). “Part of” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: MAR(SHY EST)UARY.

49. Greek character, a fine singer (4)

Answer: Edith PAIF (i.e. “a fine singer” – go on, admit it, at some point in your life you’ve had a go singing Non Je Ne Regrette Rien while pinching and wiggling your throat. If you haven’t then you were drunk and can’t remember it.) Solution is PI (i.e. “Greek character”) followed by A and F (a recognised abbreviation of “fine”).

53. French city’s local plane transporting German on vacation (7)

Answer: AVIGNON (i.e. “French city” – one I had to look up). Solution is AVION (i.e. “local plane” – the French for “plane”) “transporting” GN (i.e. “German on vacation”, i.e. the word “German” with all its middle letters removed) like so: AVI(GN)ON.

54. Threatening end for Romeo without embracing love (7)

Answer: OMINOUS (i.e. “threatening”). Solution is O (i.e. “end for Romeo”, i.e. the last letter of “Romeo”) followed by MINUS (i.e. “without”) “embracing” O (i.e. “love”, as in the tennis score for nil), like so: O-MIN(O)US.

56. Mineral in concrete roof tile going west (7)

Answer: REALGAR (i.e. “mineral” – a new one on me, not being a keen geologist). Solution is REAL (i.e. “concrete”) followed by RAG (i.e. “roof tile” – one of the variant forms of the word “rag” is “a large rough slate”) reversed (indicated by “going west”, this being an across clue), like so: REAL-GAR.

57. Petition to drop one source of official news (5,7)

Answer: PRESS RELEASE. Solution satisfies “petition” – i.e. press – “to drop” – i.e. release, and “one source of official news”.

58. Carried in liquid that could make tea browner (10)

Answer: WATERBORNE (i.e. “carried in liquid”). “Could make” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TEA BROWNER.

Down clues

1. Mike has qualified for a medal, perhaps unwisely given (9)

Answer: MISPLACED (i.e. “perhaps unwisely given”). Solution is M (i.e. “Mike” in the phonetic alphabet) followed by IS PLACED (i.e. “has qualified for a medal”).

2. Child leader from Kojak’s favourite western state (8,5)

Answer: LOLLIPOP WOMAN (i.e. “child leader”). Solution is LOLLIPOP (i.e. “Kojak’s favourite”) followed by W (a recognised abbreviation of “western”) and OMAN (i.e. “state”).

3. Green area seized by N European briefly given up (4)

Answer: NAIF, an alternative spelling of naïve (i.e. “green”). Not one I was familiar with. Solution is A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”) placed in FIN (i.e. “N European briefly”, i.e. the word “Finn” with the final letter removed) reversed (indicated by “given up”, this being a down clue), like so: N(A)IF.

4. Arrive alone around mid-April showing initiative (14)

Answer:  ENTERPRISINGLY (i.e. “showing initiative”). Solution is ENTER SINGLY (i.e. “arrive alone”) “showing” PRI (i.e. “mid-April”, i.e. the middle three letters of “April”), like so: ENTER-(PRI)-SINGLY.

5. Stray bearer regularly unemployed (3)

Answer: ERR (i.e. to “stray”). “Regularly unemployed” indicates that the solution is derived by removing every other letter of the word BEARER.

7. Old coin gaining appreciation in media? (4)

Answer: OBIT, a recognised short form of obituary, i.e. “appreciation in media”. Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) followed by BIT (i.e. “coin”, e.g. a thrupenny bit).

8. Protected deposed president, last of three in African republic (10)

Answer: CHAPERONED (i.e. “protected”). Solution is Juan PERON (i.e. “deposed president”) and E (i.e. “last of three”, i.e. the last letter of the word “three”) placed “in” CHAD (i.e. “African republic”), like so: CHA(PERON-E)D.

9. Here find students going the right way (2,6)

Answer: ON COURSE. Solution satisfies both “here find students” and “going the right way”.

10. Learner going in rescued runner’s sweater (5-6)

Answer: SLAVE-DRIVER (i.e. “sweater” – think about it). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”) “going in” SAVED (i.e. “rescued”) and followed by RIVER (i.e. “runner” – as in a river running), like so: S(L)AVED-RIVER.

11. Stranger taking up control after unfortunate king beheaded (9)

Answer: UNCANNIER (i.e. “stranger”). I had this solved way before figuring out the wordplay. Solution is DUNCAN (i.e. the “unfortunate king” in Shakespeare’s Macbeth) with the initial letter removed (i.e. “beheaded”) and followed by REIN (i.e. “control”) reversed (indicated by “taken up”, this being a down clue), like so: UNCAN-NIER.

12. Spades of considerable age traded in (4)

Answer: SOLD (i.e. “traded in”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “spades” used in playing cards) followed by OLD (i.e. “of considerable age”).

13. Stimulant nicked? Take it on the chin! (8)

Answer: UPPERCUT. Solution satisfies both “stimulant” – i.e. upper –”nicked” – i.e. cut, and “take it on the chin”.

19. Finished, as restaurant’s dishes should be? (6-2)

Answer: WASHED-UP. Solution satisfies both “finished” and “as restaurant’s dishes should be”.

21. First couple of blokes inside set up bollard together (2,4)

Answer: EN BLOC (i.e. “together”). Solution is BL (i.e. “first couple [of letters] of blokes”) placed “inside” CONE (i.e. “bollard”) reversed (indicated by “set up”, this being a down clue) like so: EN(BL)OC.

22. Son walked, admitting strain that grips runner? (5-3)

Answer: STAIR-ROD, which is a rod that holds a stair carpet in place (i.e. “that grips runner” – I guess a carpet would run if it wasn’t an inanimate object. Hmm…) Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) followed by TROD (i.e. “walked”) “admitting” AIR (i.e. a musical “strain”), like so: S-T(AIR)ROD.

23. Turning left, ruler’s withdrawing (8)

Answer: REVOKING (i.e. “withdrawing”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “left [remaining]”) reversed (indicated by “turning”) and followed by KING (i.e. “ruler”), like so: REVO-KING.

28. Not using book to the fullest extent (7,7)

Answer: WITHOUT RESERVE. Solution (kind of) satisfies “not using book” and “to the fullest extent”.

29. Office worker left for a run on the quiet (8)

Answer: SECRETLY (i.e. “on the quiet”). Solution is SECRETARY (i.e. “office worker”) with the letters AR towards the end of the word (i.e. “a run” – R being a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in various ball games) being replaced by L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”).

30. Disturbed at crisis of great antiquity (8)

Answer: TRIASSIC (i.e. “of great antiquity”). “Disturbed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AT CRISIS.

32. Texas’s top oil worker finally appearing in better index? (7,6)

Answer: TRIGGER FINGER (i.e. “index”). Solution is T (i.e. “Texas’s top”, i.e. the first letter of “Texas”) followed by RIGGER (i.e. “oil worker”), then G (i.e. “finally appearing”, i.e. the last letter of the word “appearing”) placed “in” FINER (i.e. “better”), like so: T-RIGGER-FIN(G)ER.

33. Worthless pony went astray (8)

Answer: TWOPENNY (i.e. “worthless”, with apologies on behalf of the setter to all Pennys out there). “Astray” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PONY WENT.

35. Uniform that’s donned without ties is taboo (3,2,6)

Answer: OUT OF BOUNDS. Solution satisfies “uniform that’s donned without ties” i.e. it does not have bounds, and “taboo”.

37. I must stop litigant getting equal treatment (6)

Answer: PARITY (i.e. “equal treatment”). Solution is PARTY (i.e. a “litigant” in law) being “stopped” by I, like so: PAR(I)TY.

38. As inflexible as Excalibur? (3,2,5)

Answer: SET IN STONE. Solution satisfies “inflexible” and “as Excalibur”.

40. Spineless character, one originally called Ernest by dramatist (9)

Answer: COWARDICE (i.e. “spineless [in] character”). Solution is Noel COWARD (i.e. “dramatist”) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and CE (i.e. “originally called Ernest”, i.e. the first letters of “called” and “Ernest”).

42. Grip had loosened lifting racket (8)

Answer: ADHESION (i.e. “grip”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “loosened”) of HAD followed by NOISE (i.e. “racket”) reversed (indicated by “lifting”, this being a down clue), like so: ADH-ESION.

44. Squad for undertaking civil engineer’s job? (4,5)

Answer: TASK FORCE (i.e. “squad”). Solution is FOR and CE (a recognised abbreviation for a “civil engineer”) “undertaking” (i.e. placed under, this being a down clue) TASK (i.e. “job”), like so: TASK-FOR-CE.

45. Passion in love troubled church (8)

Answer: VIOLENCE (i.e. “passion”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “troubled”) of IN LOVE followed by CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England), like so: VIOLEN-CE.

50. Flyer, a type dominant over the pond (4)

Answer: WASP. Solution satisfies “flyer” and “a type dominant over the pond”, specifically a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a sometimes-derogatory term used to describe the upper crust of American society.

51. Long to see girl (4)

Answer: MISS. Solution satisfies both “long to see” and “girl”.

52. Line of verse in the writer’s book (4)

Answer: IAMB, a prosodic term meaning “a foot (a division of a line of poetry) of two syllables, a short followed by a long, or an unstressed by a stressed”, i.e. “line of verse”. You’re welcome. I can think of less wanky words fitting the letters _A_B, but there you go. Solution is I AM (i.e. “the writer’s” – think of it in terms of “the writer is” from the point of view of the setter) followed by B (a recognised abbreviation of “book”).

55. US state’s half forgotten music (3)

Answer: SKA (i.e. “music”). Solution is ALASKA (i.e. “US state”) with the first “half forgotten”, i.e. removed.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1367

Ah, this is more my speed! After a gruelling couple of puzzles the last couple of weeks we have something a little gentler. Here’s my solution to this week’s puzzle, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

If you have a recent puzzle you are missing a few solutions for then my Just For Fun page might help you. In the meantime, I’m still working on my review of Best New Horror 2 (it’s a biggie). If you’d like a shufti at book one, head yonself here.

And now on with the show…

LP

Across clues

1. Unforeseen problem mostly became wearisome, with outgoing leader booed (9)

Answer: CATCALLED (i.e. “booed”). Solution is CATCH (i.e. “unforeseen problem”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “mostly”) followed by PALLED (i.e. “became wearisome”) with its initial letter removed (i.e. “with outgoing leader”), like so: CATC-ALLED.

6. Result of pig-shooting finally reported in online forum (8,5)

Answer: BULLETIN BOARD, which was an early type of online forum back in the days when there were no web browsers, and, if I recall correctly, they were used mainly to pirate and distribute cracked Amiga games. (Ask your parents, kids.) Anyway, the solution is BULLET IN BOAR (i.e. “result of pig-shooting”) followed by D (i.e. “finally reported”, i.e. the final letter of the word “reported”).

13. Put out something evasive about Times page (5)

Answer: EXPEL (i.e. “put out”). Solution is EEL (i.e. “something evasive”, as in “slippery as an…”) placed “about” X (i.e. “Times”, as in the multiplication sign) and P (a recognised abbreviation of “page”), like so: E(X-P)EL.

14. Cavalry not deployed to arrest one visionary (11)

Answer: CLAIRVOYANT (i.e. “visionary”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “deployed”) of CAVALRY NOT, wrapped around I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: CLA(I)RVOYANT.

15. Loves to embrace a measure of hardness? (5)

Answer: NAILS (i.e. “a measure of hardness”). Solution is NILS (i.e. “loves” being zero scores in tennis) “embracing” A like so: N(A)ILS.

16. Baggage French friend brought back includes section of building (11)

Answer: IMPEDIMENTA (i.e. “baggage”). Solution is AMI (i.e. “French friend”, the French for “friend” being “ami”) reversed (i.e. “brought back”) and “including” PEDIMENT (which is a triangular structure crowning the front of a building, i.e. “section of building”), like so: IM(PEDIMENT)A. Nice word, I like it.

17. Jaunty clarinet air affecting many people (11)

Answer: INTERRACIAL (i.e. “affecting many people”). “Jaunty” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CLARINET AIR.

18. Image formed by etching? Left no copper in it (7)

Answer: LINOCUT, which is “a design cut in relief in linoleum” (i.e. “image formed by etching”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) followed by IT placed around NO and CU (chemical symbol for “copper”), like so: L-I(NO-CU)T.

20. Works function edgy? Not very (7)

Answer: TANNERY (i.e. a “works”). Solution is TAN (i.e. “function”, short for “tangent”, one of the six trigonometric functions of an angle) followed by NERVY (i.e. “edgy”) with the V removed (i.e. “not very” – V being a recognised abbreviation of “very”), like so: TAN-NERY.

21. Puzzles returned unchanged, including snare (7)

Answer: ENIGMAS (i.e. “puzzles”). Solution is the reverse (indicated by “returned”) of SAME (i.e. “unchanged”) “including” GIN (i.e. “snare” – one of umpteen variant definitions of the word “gin”), like so: E(NIG)MAS.

23. Play having significant dealings with love? (4,3,5,7)

Answer: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Solution satisfies both a “play” by William Shakespeare and “have significant dealings with love” – as mentioned earlier, “love” in tennis is a zero score, i.e. nothing.

27. Beer jugs all round at the outset (3)

Answer: JAR (i.e. “beer”, as in having a few jars). “At the outset” indicates we need to take the initial letters of JUGS ALL ROUND.

28. Some latitude is right in subject matter (6)

Answer: TROPIC (i.e. “some latitude”, as in the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) placed “in” TOPIC (i.e. “subject matter”), like so: T(R)OPIC.

29. Kidnap son of course (6)

Answer: SNATCH (i.e. “kidnap”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) and NATCH (i.e. “of course”, as in a slang variation of “naturally”).

31. Appreciate sources of Roman activities in Roman God’s festival (5,4)

Answer: MARDI GRAS (i.e. “festival”). Solution is MARS (i.e. the “Roman God” of war) placed around DIG (i.e. “appreciate”) and the initial letters (or “sources”) of “Roman activities”, like so: MAR(DIG-R-A)S.

34. Northern town, before change, displaying earlier time (9)

Answer: PRESTWICH (i.e. “Northern town”). Solution is PRE (i.e. “before”) and SWITCH with the T promoted a few places (i.e. “displaying earlier time” – T being a recognised abbreviation of “time”), like so: PRE-STWICH.

35. Take stock of troops taking battle west (6)

Answer: REVIEW (i.e. “take stock”). Solution is RE (i.e. “troops”, specifically Royal Engineers) followed by VIE (i.e. “battle”) and W (a recognised abbreviation of “west”).

36. Talk at length about source of recent growth (6)

Answer: SPROUT (i.e. “growth”). Solution is SPOUT (i.e. “talk at length”) placed “about” R (i.e. “source of recent”, i.e. the first letter of the word “recent”), like so: SP(R)OUT.

39. Papers supplied by a musical princess (3)

Answer: Princess IDA, a comic opera by Gilbert & Sullivan. Solution is ID (i.e. “papers”) followed by A.

40. Thinking to crush observatory equipment (10,9)

Answer: REFLECTIVE TELESCOPE. Solution satisfies “observatory equipment” and “thinking” i.e. reflective, and “to crush”, i.e. telescope – think how you’d “crush” a telescopic aerial into place. (Again, kids, ask your parents.)

42. Salesman in European capital recalled title (7)

Answer: EMPEROR (i.e. “title”). Solution is REP (i.e. “salesman”) placed “in” ROME (i.e. “European capital” of Italy) and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “recalled”), like so: EM(PER)OR.

43. Copying, one’s satisfied, picked up by microphone (7)

Answer: MIMETIC (i.e. “copying”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and MET (i.e. “satisfied”) “picked up by” MIC (a recognised abbreviation of “microphone”), like so: M(I-MET)IC.

45. Tests, though without opening locks (7)

Answer: TRESSES (i.e. “locks”, as in hair). Solution is STRESSES (i.e. “tests”) with the initial letter removed (i.e. “though without opening”).

47. The Spanish soccer team, working to block easy victory, lacking ultimate in discipline (4-7)

Answer: SELF-CONTROL (i.e. “discipline”). Solution is EL (i.e. “the Spanish”, the Spanish for “the” being “el”), FC (i.e. “soccer team”, specifically Football Club) and ON (i.e. “working”) placed in STROLL (i.e. “easy victory”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “lacking ultimate”), like so: S(EL-FC-ON)TROL.

49. One million taking security measure, avoiding uranium blast? (11)

Answer: IMPRECATION (i.e. to curse, or a little weakly here, to “blast”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), M (a recognised abbreviation of “million”) and PRECAUTION (i.e. “taking security measure”) with the U (chemical symbol of “uranium”) removed, like so: I-M-PRECATION.

51. “Far in” translated as “further on” in Latin (5)

Answer: INFRA (i.e. “further on” in Latin). “Translated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FAR IN.

52. Ergonomic reforms roused certain wage earners (6,5)

Answer: INCOME GROUP (i.e. “certain wage earners”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “reforms”) of ERGONOMIC followed by UP (i.e. “roused”), like so: INCOMEGRO-UP.

53. Beat bowler initially after return from fielder has missed wicket (5)

Answer: THROB (i.e. “beat”). Solution is B (i.e. “bowler initially”, i.e. the initial letter of the word “bowler”) placed “after” THROW (i.e. “return from fielder”) with W removed (i.e. “has missed wicket” – W being a recognised abbreviation of “wicket” in cricket), like so: THRO-B.

54. No right place to assemble Queen and fashionable set in Yorkshire town (13)

Answer: NORTHALLERTON (i.e. “Yorkshire town”). Solution is NO, then RT (a recognised abbreviation of “right”, as in “the Right Honourable”), then HALL (i.e. “place to assemble”), then ER (i.e. “Queen”, specifically Elizabeth Regina) and finally TON (i.e. “fashionable set” – a variant definition has “ton” as “fashion, or people of fashion”, so there you go).

55. Five getting stuck into easy job? It has its ups and downs (4,5)

Answer: SINE CURVE, which does indeed “have its ups and downs”. Solution is V (i.e. “[Roman numeral] five”) placed in SINECURE (i.e. “easy job”), like so: SINECUR(V)E. I rather liked this one.

Down clues

1. How much you believe you can spend? (6,5)

Answer: CREDIT LIMIT. Solution riffs on “credit” meaning both “a sum placed at a person’s disposal in a bank, up to which they may draw” and “to believe”. Another one I liked.

2. Feature of bowling takes prize money, with a twist (7)

Answer: TOPSPIN, which can be applied to a ball when struck in order to influence its speed and travel. Solution is POT (i.e. “prize money”) reversed (indicated by “with a twist”) and followed by SPIN (i.e. “feature of bowling”), like so: TOP-SPIN.

3. Felt bad, being unsuccessful in ousting leader (5)

Answer: AILED (i.e. “felt bad”). Solution is FAILED (i.e. “being unsuccessful”) with the initial letter removed (i.e. “in ousting leader”).

4. Old dance is crazy subject for discussion (10)

Answer: LOCOMOTION (i.e. an “old dance”, which was brought back into the public consciousness by pop starlet Kylie Minogue back in… kids, go ask your parents again). Solution is LOCO (i.e. which is Spanish for “crazy”) followed by MOTION (i.e. “subject for discussion”).

5. Newspaper, note, blocking detective in police operation (4-3)

Answer: DRAG-NET (i.e. “police operation”). Solution is RAG (i.e. “newspaper”) and N (a recognised abbreviation of “note”) “blocking” DET (ditto “detective”), like so: D(RAG-N)ET.

6. Unearthing bra, slashed? That’s for me! (7-6)

Answer: BARGAIN-HUNTER. Solution riffs on how someone finding, or “unearthing” a bra “slashed” in price would be one. “Slashed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of UNEARTHING BRA.

7. Caledonia in a storm? It’s not precisely warm (9)

Answer: LAODICEAN, which, it says here, is “a person who is lukewarm or half-hearted, especially in religion, like the Christians of Laodicea”, i.e. “it’s not precisely warm”). “In a storm” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CALEDONIA.

8. Demand and get lavatory emptied on the spot (7)

Answer: EXACTLY (i.e. “on the spot”). Solution is EXACT (i.e. “demand”) and LY (i.e. “lavatory emptied”, i.e. the word “lavatory” emptied of all its middle letters).

9. Negotiator, during legal sessions, beginning to edit record (12)

Answer: INTERMEDIARY (i.e. “negotiator”). Solution is IN TERM (i.e. “during legal sessions” – in law, a “term” is a period of sittings) followed by E (i.e. “beginning to edit”, i.e. the first letter of the word “edit”) and DIARY (i.e. “record”).

10. Providing cover for group nearing retirement? (9)

Answer: BANDAGING (i.e. “providing cover”). Solution is BAND (i.e. “group”) and AGING (i.e. “nearing retirement”).

11. Some sibilance picked up in “suspect’s story” (5)

Answer: ALIBI (i.e. “suspect’s story”). “Some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, and “picked up” indicates the solution is reversed – this being a down clue – like so: S(IBILA)NCE.

12. They reveal daughter is accepting second way to resolve trauma? (11)

Answer: DISCLOSURES (i.e. “they reveal”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) followed by IS “accepting” S (ditto “second”, as in the measure of time) and CLOSURE (i.e. “way to resolve trauma”), like so: D-I(S-CLOSURE)S.

19. Church having disturbance involving a former military vehicle (7)

Answer: CHARIOT (i.e. “former military vehicle”). Solution is CH (a recognised abbreviation of “church”) and RIOT (i.e. “disturbance”) “involving” A, like so: CH-(A)-RIOT.

22. Household official overturned difficulty or changed mood (5-4)

Answer: MAJOR DOMO (i.e. “household official”). Solution is JAM (i.e. “difficulty”) reversed (indicated by “overturned”) then followed by OR and an anagram (indicated by “changed”) of “mood”, like so: MAJ-OR-DOMO.

24. Sanctioned interrupting winner? It makes for an unpleasant atmosphere (9)

Answer: CHOKEDAMP, which is a suffocating gas such as carbon dioxide found in mines, i.e. “it makes for an unpleasant atmosphere”. A good word, this, if rather grim. Solution is OKED (i.e. “sanctioned”) “interrupting” CHAMP (i.e. “winner”), like so: CH(OKED)AMP.

25. Sign of imminent death? Refuses to allow reduction in care (7)

Answer: BANSHEE, a female spirit in Irish folklore who wails before a death in the household (i.e. “sign of imminent death”). Solution is BANS (i.e. “refuses to allow”) and HEED (i.e. to “care”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “reduction in…”), like so: BANS-HEE.

26. Satisfied with upset, blight or storm (7)

Answer: TEMPEST (i.e. “storm”). Nice how this solution hangs off of “Much Ado About Nothing”. Anyway, solution is MET (i.e. “satisfied with”) reversed (indicated by “upset”) and followed by PEST (i.e. “blight”), like so: TEM-PEST.

30. Be free, if barely? (4,7,2)

Answer: HAVE NOTHING ON. Solution satisfies both “be free [of things to do]” and “barely”. Yes, this did make me smile.

32. I’m no longer popular – there’s no getting around it (7)

Answer: IMPASSE (i.e. “there’s no getting around it”). Solution is IM followed by PASSE (i.e. “no longer popular”).

33. Dead, and unexpectedly in afterlife? There’s a measure of variation (12)

Answer: DIFFERENTIAL (i.e. “measure of variation”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “dead”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “unexpectedly”) of IN AFTERLIFE.

34. Victorian novel, mostly simple, covered by two N Europeans, one heard (7,4)

Answer: PHINEAS FINN, a novel by Anthony Trollope (i.e. “Victorian novel”). Solution is PHIN and FINN (i.e. “two N Europeans, one heard” – this is a bit of a cheat in my less-than-humble opinion as homophones ought to be words found in the dictionary rather than something that merely sounds the same) “covering” EASY (i.e. “simple”) with the final letter removed (i.e. “mostly”), like so: PHIN-EAS-FINN.

37. Source of this sound giving people away (11)

Answer: TREASONABLE (i.e. “giving people away” – a bit weak, this). Solution is T (i.e. “source of this”, i.e. the first letter of the word “this”) followed by REASONABLE (i.e. “sound”).

38. Company engaging large actor needing a fix for costume (7-3)

Answer: CLOTHES-PIN (i.e. “fix for costume”). Solution is CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”) “engaging” L (ditto “large”) and followed by THESPIAN (i.e. “actor”) with the A removed (i.e. “needing a”), like so: C(L)O-THESPIN.

40. Artist at church, welcoming soldiers and school test creator (9)

Answer: RORSCHACH, inventor of the “ink blot” test (i.e. “test creator”) and probably everybody’s favourite character in Watchmen. Solution is RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) and CH (a recognised abbreviation of “church”) “welcoming” OR (i.e. “soldiers”, specifically the Other Ranks of the army) and SCH (a recognised abbreviation of “school”), like so: R(OR-SCH)A-CH.

41. US magazine was illuminating about one month deadline (4,5)

Answer: TIME LIMIT (i.e. “deadline”). Solution is TIME (i.e. “US magazine”) followed by LIT (i.e. “was illuminating”) wrapped “about” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and M (a recognised abbreviation of “month”), like so: TIME-L(I-M)IT.

43. Length in major road race is something amazing (7)

Answer: MIRACLE (i.e. “something amazing”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “length”) placed “in” MI (i.e. “major road”, i.e. the M1 motorway) and RACE, like so: MI-RAC(L)E.

44. Mostly shy and maybe saying prayers in abundance (7)

Answer: COPIOUS (i.e. “in abundance”). Solution is COY (i.e. “shy”) with the final letter removed (i.e. “mostly”) and followed by PIOUS (i.e. “maybe saying prayers”), like so: CO-PIOUS.

46. One making solution perhaps for troublemaker (7)

Answer: STIRRER. Solution satisfies both “one making solution perhaps” and “troublemaker”.

48. Curtailment of second drink upset prisoner (5)

Answer: LIFER (i.e. “prisoner”). Solution is REFILL (i.e. “second drink”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “curtailment”) and reversed (indicated by “upset”).

50. High level of trainee fliers taking it up (5)

Answer: ATTIC (i.e. a “high level” in a building such as a house). Solution is ATC (i.e. “trainee fliers”, specifically the Air Training Corps) “taking” IT reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue), like so: AT(TI)C.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1366

There are times when you come across a cryptic crossword that makes you wonder why you bother doing them; a puzzle that tries so hard to throw you off the scent with iffy clue construction or an overreliance on places and names, or one that just seems out to piss you off. Last week’s puzzle was a bit like that, but this week?! Forget about it! Let’s put it this way, if I’d chosen these last couple of weeks to chance my arm at a cryptic crossword then I’d have laughed and given the whole thing the middle finger instead. Sheesh!

So, yeah, this was a tough one. If you can endure my frequent bitching then you will find my completed grid below along with explanations of the solutions where I have them.

If you’d like to read something a little less bitchy, however, then I am currently putting together my review of Best New Horror 2 which should follow shortly(ish). If you’re interested, you can find my review of book 1 here or on my Reviews page. If you’ve got a relatively recent jumbo cryptic knocking about for which you’d like the answers, then my “Just For Fun” page might help. (Speech marks added for sarcastic effect.)

Anyway – deep breaths, now – and onwards!

Across clues

1. Members bound to keep to themselves, even? (7)

Answer: HOGTIED, which is where the arms and legs – which can be collectively termed “members” – are tied to prevent any movement (i.e. “members bound”). Solution is HOG (i.e. “keep to themselves”) and TIED (i.e. “even”).

5. Gradually, Post Office couple refusing to serve grasping pensioner (4,1,4)

Answer: POCO A POCO, which is Spanish or Italian for “little by little” (i.e. “gradually”). Here’s the first one where the setter loses me, so be warned. I get that PO is “Post Office” and OAP is “pensioner”, and that “grasping” could suggest OAP is slotted in somewhere, but the rest is a mystery. I’m guessing the solution is intended to be along the lines of PO-C(OAP)OCO, but I can’t visualise how COCO would be “couple refusing to serve”. [UPDATE: Check out the comments to this post where Clive clears this one up. Thanks, Clive!]

10. Undergarment picked up for revel (4)

Answer: BASK (i.e. to “revel” in something). “Picked up” indicates the solution is a homophone of “basque” (i.e. “undergarment”).

14. Groom footballer for award? (3,2,3,5)

Answer: MAN OF THE MATCH. Solution satisfies both “groom” – “match” being another word for “wedding” – and “footballer for award”. I didn’t get this till late on, which is rather embarrassing as I had the footie on in the background all the while!

15. Smart men dressed down – one found in bed? (3,6)

Answer: FLY ORCHID (i.e. “one found in [flower] bed”). Solution is FLY (i.e. “smart”), then OR (i.e. “men”, specifically the Other Ranks of the army), then CHID (i.e. “dressed down” – “chid” is a recognised variant of “chided”).

16. Depleted after too many catches dropped by some cricket girl (10)

Answer: OVERFISHED (i.e. “depleted after too many catches”). Solution is SHED (i.e. “dropped”) placed after OVER (i.e. “some cricket”) and FI (i.e. “girl”, short for Fiona), like so: OVER-FI-SHED.

17. After skirmishing ok – the rest on stretchers (11)

Answer: TENTERHOOKS, which are sharp hooks on frames used to stretch cloth (i.e. “stretchers”). “After skirmishing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OK THE REST ON.

18. With this tweet, mean to be heard? (5)

Answer: CHEEP (i.e. “tweet”). “To be heard” indicates the solution is a homophone of “cheap” (i.e. “mean”).

19. See tailless sloth’s burying its head in squalor (10)

Answer: SLEAZINESS (i.e. “squalor”). Solution is SE (i.e. “see tailless”, i.e. the word “see” with the final letter removed) wrapped around the first letter of LAZINESS (i.e. “sloth”) with the remainder of the word following thereafter, like so: S(L-)E-AZINESS.

21. A month from Quebec to the Alaskan port (6)

Answer: JUNEAU, port and capital of Alaska. Solution is JUNE (i.e. “a month”) followed by AU (i.e. “from Quebec to the” – Quebec being a French speaking area, “to the” in French is “au”).

23. A way to colour match – with pronounced finish (3-3-3)

Answer: TIE-AND-DYE (i.e. “a way to colour”). Solution is TIE (i.e. “match”) followed by AND (i.e. “with”) and DYE (i.e. “pronounced finish”, i.e. a homophone of “die”).

25. Villain’s Irish accent putting off British (5)

Answer: ROGUE (i.e. “villain”). Solution is BROGUE (i.e. “Irish accent”) with the B removed (“B” being a recognised abbreviation of “British”).

26. Peter out of luck at first, if at races (4,3)

Answer: TAIL OFF (i.e. “peter out”). “Races” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OF, L (i.e. “luck at first”, i.e. the first letter of “luck”) and IF AT.

28. Old single guys dig tarts bursting with pizzazz in the East End (5,8)

Answer: ZIGGY STARDUST (i.e. “old single”). “Bursting” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of GUYS DIG TARTS and Z (i.e. “pizzazz in the East End”, i.e. the last letter of “pizzazz” – this being an across clue).

31. After present, left watch for sculptor (9)

Answer: DONATELLO (i.e. “sculptor” – No Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles references here. Except for that one.) Solution is DONATE (i.e. “present”) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) and LO (i.e. “watch”, as in “lo and behold”).

33. In theory, little time to intercept an enemy, presumably (9)

Answer: NOMINALLY (i.e. “in theory”). Solution is NO ALLY (i.e. “an enemy, presumably”) being “intercepted” by MIN (i.e. “little time”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “minute”), like so: NO-(MIN)-ALLY.

35. Baker in a suit (5,2,6)

Answer: QUEEN OF HEARTS. Solution satisfies “in a suit [of cards]” but can I hell figure how this relates to “baker”. [UPDATE: I’m reliably informed by the mysterious She that a Queen of Hearts is a kind of cake, hence “baker”.] [UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: And Clive in the comments even more reliably informs me this was from a famous rhyme. Thanks again, Clive!]

37. She’s example of one backing demise of world body? (7)

Answer: PRONOUN (i.e. the “she” of “she’s [an] example of one”). Solution is PRO (i.e. “backing”) and NO UN (i.e. “demise of world body”, specifically the United Nations).

38. Roughly, American grabs one Ancient jurist (5)

Answer: CAIUS (i.e. “Ancient [Roman] jurist”). Solution is CA (i.e. “roughly”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “circa”) and US (i.e. “American”) “grabbing” I (i.e. Roman numeral “one”), like so: CA-(I)-US. One I got from the wordplay than any real knowledge of classical history.

40. Pressing obsession to contain evil spoken of (9)

Answer: THRONGING (i.e. “pressing”). Solution is THING (i.e. an informal term for a slight “obsession”) “containing” RONG (i.e. “evil spoken of”, i.e. a homophone of “wrong” – the setter just about gets away with this; “rong” does exist in the dictionary but only as an obsolete past tense form of “ring”), like so: TH(RONG)ING.

42. Son in light blue tee, crouching (6)

Answer: ASQUAT (i.e. “crouching”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) placed “in” AQUA (i.e. “light blue”) and followed by T (i.e. “tee”), like so: A(S)QUA-T.

44. Declare capital of Venezuela just the thing for royal assignment? (5,5)

Answer: STATE VISIT (i.e. “royal assignment”). Solution is STATE (i.e. “declare”) followed by V (i.e. “capital [letter] of Venezuela”) and IS IT (i.e. “just the thing”).

46. European champion missing out on gold is put out (5)

Answer: EVICT (i.e. “put out”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) followed by VICTOR (i.e. “champion”) with the OR removed (i.e. “missing out on gold” – “or” is “gold” in heraldry).

48. Confusion resulting from action of forge what’s new? (3,3,2,3)

Answer: THE FOG OF WAR (i.e. “confusion resulting from [military] action”). “New” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OF FORGE WHAT. This took me bloody ages to get but seems so simple now. Touché, setter.

50. That familiar person, embraced by Tokyo, UK, now wholly (3-4-3)

Answer: YOU-KNOW-WHO (i.e. “that familiar person”). “Embraced” indicates the solution is hidden in the solution, like so: TOK(YO UK NOW WHO)LLY.

52. City once through hesitation allowing unknown enemy to enter (9)

Answer: BYZANTIUM, an Ancient Greek colony (i.e. “city once”). Solution is BY (i.e. “through”) and UM (i.e. “hesitation”) “allowing” Z (i.e. “unknown” – setters like using this to represent X, Y or Z in their solutions) and ANTI (i.e. “enemy”), like so: BY-(Z-ANTI)-UM.

53. One providing a flavour of scripture lessons with Irish in school (9,4)

Answer: CORIANDER SEED (i.e. “one providing a flavour”). This took some getting, but the solution is COED (i.e. “school”) wrapped around RI (i.e. “scripture lessons”, specifically Religious Instruction) AND (i.e. “with”) ERSE (“a name sometimes used for Irish Gaelic as opposed to Scottish Gaelic” it says here, i.e. “Irish”), like so: CO(RI-AND-ERSE)ED.

54. Had lilies regularly dropped round for girl (4)

Answer: ELLA (i.e. “girl” – whenever I see a first name used as a solution it suggests a setter struggling to get the job done, evidence of which abounds in this puzzle). “Regularly” indicates the solution is derived by removing every other letter from HAD LILIES. “Round” then indicates those letters should be reversed.

55. Crustacean’s shortened tongue put out, briefly (9)

Answer: LANGOUSTE, a small lobster (i.e. “crustacean”). Solution is LANG (i.e. “shortened tongue”, i.e. the first half of the word “language”) and OUTSE (i.e. “put out, briefly”, i.e. the word “ousted” with the last letter removed).

56. Criticise “daft” clothes? They might (7)

Answer: NUDISTS. Solution is DIS (i.e. “criticise”) being “clothed” by NUTS (i.e. “daft”), like so: NU(DIS)TS. Within the context of the clue, nudists might well criticise clothes as being daft. Another that took a while for me to twig the construction, but is a good ‘un.

Down clues

1. In Ancient Greek, no end of grammar (4)

Answer: HOME (i.e. at home is to be “in”). Solution is HOMER (i.e. “Ancient Greek”) with R removed (i.e. “no end of grammar”, R being the last letter of the word “grammar”).

2. Lady jockey in the news, almost always (9)

Answer: GENEVIEVE (i.e. “lady”). Solution is VIE (i.e. “jockey”) placed “in” GEN (i.e. “news”) and EVE (i.e. “almost always”, i.e. the word “ever” with the last letter removed), like so: GEN-E(VIE)VE.

3. No half measures from lowdown artist, female, and lowdown artist poet (2,3,1,5,2,3,1,5)

Answer: IN FOR A PENNY IN FOR A POUND (i.e. “no half measures”). Solution is INFO (i.e. “lowdown”), RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician), PENNY (i.e. “female”), INFO (i.e. “lowdown” again), RA (i.e. “artist” again) and Ezra POUND (i.e. “poet”).

4. Spanker, maybe, was made to pull up bloomers (7)

Answer: DAHLIAS (i.e. “bloomers”). Solution is SAIL (i.e. “spanker, maybe”, i.e. a sail on the aftermost mast of a ship – I’ll leave any sailor jokes up to you) and HAD (which, I guess, is “was made to pull”, though I can’t figure out what the setter is doing here). “Up” instructs us to reverse the two, this being a down clue, like so: DAH-LIAS.

5. One doing handouts allowed in chap to feed baby (11)

Answer: PAMPHLETEER (i.e. “one doing handouts”). Solution is LET (i.e. “allowed”) placed “in” HE (i.e. “chap”), which is in turn placed in (i.e. “feeding”) PAMPER (i.e. to “baby”), like so: PAMP(H(LET)E)ER.

6. Nice area where young retire in western Europe: endless astonishment (4,5)

Answer: COTE D’AZUR (i.e. “nice area”). Solution is COT (i.e. “where young retire”) followed by EUR (i.e. “western Europe”, i.e. the left-hand half of “Europe” – part of me would argue this should be “northern Europe” given this is a down clue, but whatever…) with DAZ (i.e. “endless astonishment”, i.e. the word “daze” with the last letter removed) placed “in”, like so: COT-E(DAZ)UR. Not a classic clue by any stretch.

7. Dish when warm emits aromas at the outset (5)

Answer: ASHET. What a shitty clue this is. I’m not 100% sure what the setter is playing at here, but my guess is the solution satisfies “dish”  (because an ASHET is one), “when warm” (i.e. AS HET – “het” being a past participle of “hot” – yes, I agree “warm” is not the same as “hot”, unless you are a snowman) and “emits aromas at the outset” which could suggest an anagram, indicated by “emits”, of AS (i.e. the first and last letters of “aromas”) and THE. Ugh, back to setter school with you! [UPDATE: Clive comes to the rescue again in the comments with a faultless explanation. Thanks, Clive!]

8. Switch positions with English girl: promotion wasted (3,4,4)

Answer: OFF ONES HEAD (i.e. “wasted”). Solution is OFF and ON (i.e. “switch positions”), then E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) then SHE (i.e. “girl”) and AD (i.e. “promotion”).

9. It’s a gas using axes to slice melon! (6)

Answer: OXYGEN (i.e. “it’s a gas”). Solution is XY (i.e. the x and y “axes” of a graph) “slicing” OGEN (a kind of “melon”) like so: O(XY)GEN.

11. Pay to have hotel for vacation in Irish town (7)

Answer: ATHLONE (i.e. “Irish town” – a solution I have no regrets in looking up, my knowledge of every single town in the UK and Ireland with populations of less than 30,000 not being all that great.) Solution is ATONE (i.e. “pay”) “having” HL (i.e. “hotel for vacation”, i.e. the word “hotel” with all of its middle letters removed), like so: AT(HL)ONE.

12. Issue pack that’s easily handled (4,5)

Answer: KIDS STUFF (i.e. “that’s easily handled”). Solution is KIDS (i.e. “issue”, a slightly more formal word for sprogs) and STUFF (i.e. to “pack”).

13. Out-of-tune shepherd tenor would ruin opera (7,2,3,10)

Answer: ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD (i.e. “opera”, and one I actually knew too! Don’t ask me to hum it, though.) “Out-of-tone” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SHEPHERD TENOR WOULD RUIN.

18. Native of Channel Islands, note, descending on Japanese school (7)

Answer: CITIZEN (i.e. “native”). Solution is CI (a recognised abbreviation of the “Channel Islands”) followed by TI (i.e. “note” in the do-ray-me stylee) and ZEN (i.e. a “Japanese school” of Buddhism).

20. Skimpy attire Keith gingerly covers up (7)

Answer: NIGHTIE (i.e. “skimpy attire”). “Covers” suggests the solution is hidden in the clue and “up” suggests the solution is reversed, this being a down clue, like so: K(EITH GIN)GERLY.

22. Remain behind brook (5,3)

Answer: STAND FOR (i.e. to “brook”, or to bear or endure). Solution is STAND (i.e. “remain”) and FOR (i.e. to be “behind” something).

24. Journalist’s heading to court on business (8)

Answer: DATELINE (which is a line in a newspaper giving the date and location, i.e. “journalist’s heading”). Solution is DATE (i.e. “to court” someone) and LINE (i.e. “[line of] business”).

27. One staring too long; will he disappear, finally? (5)

Answer: OGLER (i.e. “one staring”). “Finally” indicates the solution is derived by the last letters of TOO LONG WILL HE DISAPPEAR.

29. Patois of old boy one had easily picked up (5)

Answer: GUMBO, which is “a patois spoken by blacks and Creoles in Louisiana, etc”. So there you go. Solution is OB (a recognised abbreviation of “old boy”) and MUG (i.e. “one had easily”) all reversed, indicated by “picked up” – this being a down clue – like so: GUM-BO.

30. Restless energy in reverse kicking action? (7)

Answer: UNQUIET (i.e. “restless”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”) placed in UNQUIT (i.e. “reverse kicking action”, a weak pun on how resuming a habit once kicked would be to “unquit” it), like so: UNQUI(E)T.

32. Hosting plays at time of presentation (2,5)

Answer: ON SIGHT (i.e. “at time of presentation”). “Plays” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HOSTING.

34. Sailor on watch may start to sleep, outrageously (11)

Answer: YACHTSWOMAN (i.e. “sailor”). “Outrageously” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ON WATCH MAY and S (i.e. “start to sleep”, i.e. the first letter of the word “sleep”).

36. Alternative to banger, maybe displaying zip (3,1,7)

Answer: NOT A SAUSAGE. Solution satisfies both “alternative to banger, maybe” and “zip” i.e. nothing.

37. Proposal by board that can be put to bed? (9)

Answer: PLANTABLE (i.e. “that can be put to [flower] bed”). Solution is PLAN (i.e. “proposal”) followed by TABLE (i.e. a “board” or committee).

39. After short taste of Broadway, courts certain opera lovers (9)

Answer: SAVOYARDS (i.e. “opera lovers”). My guess here is the setter is playing on how Broadway is a large parish in the Cotswolds near Stratford-on-AVOn, and that SAVO might be a taste of that, but, frankly, I’m clutching at straws. Anyway, that’s followed by YARDS (i.e. “courts”) to get a word meaning a devotee of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas performed at the Savoy Theatre. Ugh. Moving on… [UPDATE: Check out the comments, where Clive clears this one up admirably.]

41. Flag Nazi’s stolen originally now national property (9)

Answer: IRISHNESS (i.e. “national property”). Solution is IRIS (one of the alternative meanings of “flag” is an iris, or reed grass) followed by Rudolph HESS (i.e. “Nazi”) “stealing” N (i.e. “originally now”, i.e. the first letter of the word “now”) like so: IRIS-H(N)ESS.

43. Bright bird one missed from different late quiz shows (7)

Answer: QUETZAL (i.e. “bright bird” – just done a Google image search and they’re not kidding. Very pretty.) Solution is an anagram (indicated by “different”) of LATE QUIZ once the I has been removed (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one missed from…”).

45. Departs from New Zealand port after time, having found the station? (5,2)

Answer: TUNED IN (i.e. “having found the station”). Solution is DUNEDIN (a “New Zealand port”) with the first D removed (i.e. “departs from”, “d” being a recognised abbreviation of “depart”) and the remainder placed “after” T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”), like so: T-UNEDIN.

47. Cheerful girl, by and large (6)

Answer: JOVIAL (i.e. “cheerful”). Solution is JO (i.e. “girl”) followed by VIA (i.e. “by”) and L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”).

49. No leaves left? Park closed (5)

Answer: RECTO, which is a printing term meaning the right-hand page of an open book. So if you had no pages, or “leaves”, to the left then you would have only those to the right, i.e. “recto”. Solution is REC (a recognised abbreviation of a recreation area or “park”) followed by TO (i.e. of, say, a door in a “closed” or fastened position).

51. The likelihood of only smaller bras being available? (4)

Answer: ODDS (i.e. “likelihood”). Within the context of the clue, the solution plays on the stated lack of large bras, specifically double-D size, i.e. O DDS. Hilarious.

Anyway, thank goodness that’s over with, eh? Till next time (if there is one)!

LP

Review: Best New Horror

The long-running reprint anthology series Best New Horror was launched in 1990 with this book, edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell. It followed the launch of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s successful series Demons & Dreams: The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror a few years earlier, and, in much the same vein, aimed to present a comprehensive overview of the horror genre during the previous year.

This inaugural volume sets the mould for all subsequent entries in the series. It opens with a short summary of the book, movie, magazine and comic book releases during the previous year, as well as an appraisal of the health of the horror genre. (These summaries would soon lengthen with each successive book in the series, sufficient to consistently earn negative reviews from some readers miffed at having 60-80 pages “stolen” from the book they’d just bought. Personally, I don’t mind these summaries, though I agree they make for rather dry reading. I tend to skim over them to reach Jones’s closing comments, which are always worth a read.) This is followed by the main attraction: a line-up of the best horror stories published during the previous year – twenty on this occasion. To round off the book there is a necrology to remember those we lost from the realms of horror fiction, film and all the media in between.

I’ll ignore the opening and closing sections of the book and focus instead on the stories. That’s why we’re here, after all. As any seasoned reader knows, short story anthologies can be something of a curate’s egg, but there are a number of stories here which make Best New Horror worth a read and just about secures a 4/5 score.

These stories were all published in 1989 and run as follows:

Also collected in McCammon’s “Blue World”.

Pin – Robert R McCammon (3/5 – McCammon takes us inside the mind of Joey Shatterley as he psyches himself up to give the world exactly what for in the only way he knows how… by shooting up a local McDonalds. Tsk, nutters, eh? But before he can proceed with this most vital work Joey must first prove himself ready. For that he needs a pin and a certain part of his anatomy… and a whole lot of nerve. A short, sharp shock to open proceedings. Icky, but a bit by-the-numbers.)

 

 

 

 

The House on Cemetery Street – Cherry Wilder (5/5 – Lucy and Joachim are teenage siblings returning to Germany from America shortly after the end of the Second World War. They arrive at their old house and reacquaint themselves with the family elders they had left behind. They are a proud lot despite the relative poverty, tragedy and guilt that had befallen their lives. When Lucy starts seeing a dark-clothed figure among the tombstones of the neighbouring graveyard, it triggers a series of other visions and bizarre noises throughout the house. It seems the house wants rid of its darkest secret. This story takes a while getting there, but the ending will stick in your mind for a long time to come. Probably the best story in the book.)

Also collected in Gallagher’s “Out Of His Mind”

The Horn – Stephen Gallagher (4/5 – Three stranded drivers hunker down in an abandoned roadside recovery hut, sheltering as best they can against an increasingly bitter snowstorm. The snow is thigh-deep outside and rising, the wind is merciless and visibility is almost zero. The phone is out, and the electricity supply soon follows suit. It becomes obvious they cannot remain in the hut, and so one of them agrees to venture out to a jack-knifed road train further up the motorway. From there he will sound a horn for the others to follow. If only it was that simple. I loved reading Gallagher’s stuff when I was in my teens – around the same time that his TV mini-series Chimera was successfully scaring the bejabbers out of me – and he remains immensely readable nearly thirty years on. Good gory fun!)

Breaking Up – Alex Quiroba (4/5 – In this dark and sexually-charged story we closely follow Max Griffin, who is dumped by his girlfriend, Nancy, and whose mind immediately starts to unravel, taking him further and further down a succession of rabbit holes before snapping him back to reality: he slashes Nancy’s throat and watches her struggle to stem the bleeding; he takes his car for a spin and crashes and burns; he attends a porno theatre and unwillingly becomes the main attraction… all ridiculous flights of fantasy, of course. Right? There have been a fair few stories with unreliable main characters or narrators over the years, but this is one of the better ones, helped somewhat by its short running time – it’s in and out before its Cormac-McCarthy-wannabe lack of punctuation begins to annoy.)

Also collected in Campbell’s “Waking Nightmares”

It Helps If You Sing – Ramsey Campbell (3/5 – From the window of his high-rise flat an old man called Bright observes the neighbouring blocks and how they are growing increasingly dark, as if fewer and fewer people are living there. He hears the muffled strains of a hymn here and there, always the same one, playing at different times of the day, sometimes overlapping. When Bright arrives home one day to find two androgynous religious zealots waiting for him by his front door it seems he’s about to discover the truth for himself. This was a disappointing show, sadly. Though there were some nice touches in places, the story was slight and came across as having been written after Campbell had closed the door on the umpteenth Jehovah’s Witness that week.)

Also collected in Staig’s “Dark Toys and Consumer Goods”, though hard to find

Closed Circuit – Laurence Staig (4/5 – In a twisted future (at least from the perspective of 1989) Mrs Anderson and her two young children park up at the Consumer Comfort Shopping Mall in order to get some shopping done. Once inside they find other shoppers in the mall fervently keen – some might say insanely keen – on doing likewise. When the high-pressure selling gets a bit too much for the kids to handle, Mrs Anderson tries to hustle them away without buying anything, which proves a mite trickier than it sounds. There’s a strong whiff of The Twilight Zone about this story… no bad thing in my eyes. Hmm, an inescapable nightmare set in an endlessly huge building… I can’t imagine for a second why this one resonated with me!)

Also collected in SRT’s “City Fishing”.

Carnal House – Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 – Another dark and sexually-charged story which sees a man called Gene receive a phone call from Ruth, an old friend from college. She wants Gene to come over, which he does, like he does every time Ruth calls, leaving his seriously-ill junkie girlfriend, Jennie, once more to fester in front of the TV. Ruth is forever hungry for Gene to make love to her, not for his affection but simply to feel something… it’s been such a long time since she’s felt anything at all. When I first read this I wasn’t overly impressed. I generally like SRT’s work – even when he goes full-weird – but something about this didn’t click. I can only imagine I was tired or not quite paying attention, because the story was noticeably better upon a second read.)

Also collected in Newman’s “The Original Dr Shade and Other Stories”

Twitch Technicolor – Kim Newman (3/5 – Michaelis Monte is an artist who makes a living remixing old movies for his clients, not only colourising them but outright altering entire scenes, updating them with gore enough for modern audiences, even editing in actors who were never in the film to begin with. The wonders of future-modern technology! Monte has been losing staff (and rivals) hand over fist, often in gruesome ways ironic to the movie they were working on. He hasn’t given much thought to why this would be. Perhaps he should. As will often be noted during his appearances in the Best New Horror series, Newman has an oceans-deep knowledge of everything cinema, which is rivalled perhaps only by his enthusiasm for the medium. It’s not for nothing that he co-edits the Necrology section in each book with Jones. But sometimes this can be his undoing, and this, for me, was one of those times. Perhaps the story read better back in 1989 than it does today.)

Also collected in Frost’s “Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories”

Lizaveta – Gregory Frost (3/5 – In the searing heat and amid the brutal pogroms of early-twentieth-century Russia, Lizaveta Ostrov tells a soldier a disturbing tale of her life before becoming a whore. Lizaveta had once been a schoolteacher, and had taken up a post in a small village near the Kazakh border. Her predecessor had done a poor job of educating the children of the village, and had mysteriously left without a word. Given the baleful presence of one particular child in her class, perhaps Lizaveta should have done the same. The build-up of this story is really good, and rather reminded me of one of the stories-within-a-story found in Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, but Frost throws it away at the end. It’s almost as if he couldn’t wait to finish it. A shame.)

Snow Cancellations – Donald R Burleson (4/5 – Jamie listens to the radio as he watches the snow fall outside. He’s nine years old and he’s waiting to see whether school will be cancelled that morning – which obviously happens. When his mother fails to secure a sitter for him, Jamie is entrusted to look after the house while she’s at work. Jamie calls his schoolfriend, Kevin, and together they listen as the snowstorm claims one place after another. A fun read.)

Archway – Nicholas Royle (3/5 – In this unrelenting misery-fest we follow a near-destitute Bella as she loses her job and, not long after that, her marbles. She repeatedly hears laughter from all angles, sees cracks in her walls that seep pure blackness into the room, and, in pretty much every other sentence, she glimpses a menacing figure wearing a grinning white triangular mask. Not the best form to go tackling a labyrinthine social security system then. This seemed less a horror story than a rant about how shitty life was on the breadline in late-80s Britain, and the ending was nasty purely for the sake of it. Not great. Thankfully, Royle’s subsequent entries in the Best New Horror series greatly improve on this first appearance.)

Also collected in Ligotti’s “Noctuary”

The Strange Design of Master Rignolo – Thomas Ligotti (3/5 – Messrs Nolon and Grissul meet one night at a park bench. Grissul is keen to show Nolon a most peculiar and unearthly thing he’s seen in a nearby field. Nolon, on the other hand, is more keen to take Rignolo up on a rare invitation to view the reality-bending artworks the master artist has spent so long perfecting. Little do they suspect the two may be linked. I love reading Ligotti’s work. The dreamlike quality of his writing and the impasto-thick atmosphere he builds; the offbeat characters he creates and the utterly odd situations he places them in – they all mark Ligotti as a true one-off, but this rather slight story left me wanting to like it more than I did.)

…To Feel Another’s Woe – Chet Williamson (3/5 – Adams is an actor auditioning for a production of A Streetcar Named Desire. While he and his fellow New Yorker luvvies await being called, he is warned to stay clear of a fellow hopeful, Sheila Remarque. It seems while her star shines ever-brighter, her previous squeezes have all come away from their relationships with her a shadow of their former selves. This was okay, offering a decent sense of the actor scene, but this deliberately bloodless vampire story didn’t stick in my mind for long, even after a second read.)

Also collected in “The Best of Robert Westall Volume One: Demons and Shadows”

The Last Day of Miss Dorinda Molyneaux – Robert Westall (5/5 – Geoff Ashden is an antiques dealer who also sits on the board of a local school. When the upper-crust Miss Molyneaux applies for the job of teaching the notorious class 4C, Geoff casts the deciding vote to hire her, mainly because he fancies her. Miss Molyneaux soon has class 4C wrapped around her little finger with her practical, unvarnished teaching style. When a school outing to a largely abandoned church results in some unusual graffiti, the schoolchildren are immediately blamed, but the unsettling sight of a bald-headed man loitering in the background suggests all may not be what it seems. Westall was a celebrated children’s author back in the day and it’s no surprise that the schoolchildren here get all the best lines. The Last Day… is genuinely funny, it’s scary when it needs to be, and it closes with the best line I’ve read in years. This is a superb read.)

Also collected in Lumley’s “No Sharks in the Med and Other Stories”

No Sharks In The Med – Brian Lumley (3/5 – Geoff and Gwen are newlyweds holidaying in coastal Greece. They are driven from the airport by a man called Spiros, who is less-than-shy in his affections for Gwen. As the holiday progresses, so too do Spiros’s attempts to wangle himself into Gwen’s pants. When a drunken confrontation sees Spiros go too far, he apologies and offers the newlyweds a trip out on his boat to a small secluded island a few miles from the shore. Nothing wrong with that, right? This comparatively lengthy tale could have made a half-decent mid-80’s Tales of the Unexpected, but I struggle to call it horror.)

 

Also collected in Lewis’s “The Last Balcony”

Mort au Monde – D. F. Lewis (2/5 – David wakes in a state of confusion to find the door to his room open and a sense of searing red eyes watching him. His beloved Marianne sleeps a few occupied rooms further down the hall, and when David checks in on her, her red eyes and a disturbing grunt from elsewhere in the room send him scurrying back to bed. Perhaps the intervening rooms are no longer as quite occupied as he first believed. Lewis was a highly prolific writer at the time, mainly writing hundreds (and hundreds) of moody ambiguous shorts like this. Though this was well-written, I can’t count myself a fan. I have to be in the right frame of mind for things like this, and that doesn’t come around very often.)

Also collected in Tessier’s “Ghost Music and Other Tales”

Blanca – Thomas Tessier (4/5 – A burnt-out American travel writer arrives in the titular (fictitious) region with the express intention to kick back and relax with a Maigret novel or two. This is a region with a heavy police presence, mostly plain-clothed, but he’s comfortable with that. He makes the acquaintance of a local man, Basma, a Lebanese immigrant, who shows him around town. That night our man experiences a vivid dream in which he looks out from his hotel room and witnesses an indiscriminate round-up of terrified citizens by soldiers on horseback. The next night he witnesses the same scene, only fully awake. Is he experiencing a series of timeslips, or is something more sinister going on? This was another story that left me a little flat the first time around but improved on a second read.)

Also collected in “The Best of Ian Watson”

The Eye of the Ayatollah – Ian Watson (3/5 – The Muslim world is in uproar. Death to the Satan-author, they cry, wherever he is hiding! Immediately following the chaotic funeral of the Ayatollah, an injured soldier, Ali, is shocked to find he carries the cleric’s eyeball in his hand, optic nerve and all. Even weirder, the eye is still infused with life. It seems the eye of the Ayatollah retains a keen desire to hunt out the Satan-author. This story was published shortly after the genuinely chaotic funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini and does a good job of conveying the carnage that took place. From then on, however, the story gets a bit too silly to be taken seriously. Perhaps this read better back in 1989 amid the hullaballoo surrounding the publication of The Satanic Verses, but in 2019 it’s a little jarring.)

Also collected in Wagner’s “Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane”

At First Just Ghostly – Karl Edward Wagner (4/5 – Cody Lennox is a best-selling horror author who is visiting Britain partially to attend a writer’s convention, but mainly to drink himself into oblivion. Lennox soon catches up with a few fellow professionals, who ably assist him in this regard. But during this, his latest visit to Blighty, things take a very peculiar turn. Lennox finds calling cards dotted around the place, his luck is in time and again on the fruit machines, and it seems a whole other, seemingly supernatural, side of London seeks his acquaintance – not least a legendary figure calling himself Kane. This novella was nominated for a Stoker award back in the day, and it’s not hard to see why. There is a broad seam of humour running throughout this story which makes it immensely readable. Though this was a Kane story, you don’t need to be too familiar with the character to enjoy it. (I hadn’t read any of Wagner’s Kane stories before this.) The one thing that held the story back is something it genuinely cannot help. Lennox is a thinly-veiled version of Wagner himself, and shares the author’s prodigious capacity for drink. Wagner died five years after this was published, due largely to complications brought about by his alcohol consumption. He was 48 years old. It’s hard to read a character express concern about Lennox’s wellbeing in this story and not feel this was the author’s inner voice speaking. Such a shame.)

Bad News – Richard Laymon (5/5 – When Paul retrieves his morning paper and leaves it lying on the coffee table, the last thing he expects is for a disgusting creature to worm its way out from the folds and to chase him all round the house trying to eat him and his family. For as much as Laymon divides opinion among the horror community – I’m in the “like” camp, for my sins – I’m sure everyone can get behind this one. It’s funny, the horror starts almost immediately, it escalates rapidly and it never, ever lets up! As a closer to the book, this is an absolute scream.)

And that concludes this review of Best New Horror. If any of these stories whet your appetite then you should be able to find a second-hand copy of this book without too much difficultly. If you’d prefer a nice clean copy then PS Publishing offer a swanky 25th Anniversary edition. Finally, if digital is your thing, then you can find Best New Horror for purchase on several popular eBook platforms.

Till the next one – TTFN!

LP