Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1409

And now for this week’s Jumbo Cryptic. Probably on a par difficulty-wise with puzzle 1408 last week, with another bunch of grid-fill-friendly exotics for solvers to contend with. In all, though, another decent puzzle.

You’ll find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful. If you have a previous Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s giving you bother then seek ye my Just For Fun page where you’ll find solutions to puzzles going back a year or so. While I’ve got you here, if you dig on book reviews, then I have a page just for that too. Finally, if I can tempt you into a short story, here’s one I made earlier.

Anyway, enough yakking. Time for the answers, right? Till next time, tara.


Across clues

1. Absurd, flaky stuff occurring during depression (7)

Answer: COMICAL (i.e. “absurd”). Solution is MICA (i.e. “flaky stuff” – I’ll take their word for it) placed in or “during” COL (i.e. a geographic “depression”), like so: CO(MICA)L.

5. Almost fanatic, I’d arranged Palestinian uprising (8)

Answer: INTIFADA, a “Palestinian uprising” that took place between 1987 to 1993. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “arranged”) of FANATI (i.e. “almost fanatic”, i.e. the word FANATIC with the last letter removed) and I’D. One of those needing a smidgen of brute force from my Chambers once I’d gotten a few intersecting letters.

9. Maybe friend sharing a ride connected with a joint (6)

Answer: CARPAL (i.e. “connected with a joint”). When read as CAR PAL the solution also satisfies “friend sharing a ride”.

13. Flustered, Mum heartlessly bent my ear, with alarm splitting eardrum (8,8)

Answer: TYMPANIC MEMBRANE, another name for the “eardrum”. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “flustered”) of MM (i.e. “Mum heartlessly”, i.e. the word MUM with the middle letter removed) and BENT MY EAR, all wrapped around or being “split” by PANIC (i.e. “alarm”), like so: TYM(PANIC)MEMBRANE.

14. Strongly urge taking year off, like at home (6)

Answer: ENJOIN (i.e. “strongly urge”). Solution is ENJOY (i.e. “like”) with the Y removed (indicated by “taking year off” – y being a recognised abbreviation of “year”) and followed by IN (i.e. “at home”), like so: ENJO-IN.

16. Large? Hardly one place you could fit in! (8)

Answer: LILLIPUT, from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, in which everything was tiny. Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) followed by ILL (i.e. “hardly” – a little weak but does work) then I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and PUT (i.e. “place”), like so: L-ILL-I-PUT. Cleverly worked.

17. Hamlet’s location half-forgotten over piece of land (4)

Answer: ISLE (i.e. “piece of land”). Solution is ELSINORE (i.e. “[Shakespeare’s] Hamlet’s location”) with the latter half lopped off (indicated by “half-forgotten”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “over”).

18. Exceeded budget, restricted on sets of bowls? (9)

Answer: OVERSPENT (i.e. “exceeded budget”). Solution is PENT (i.e. “restricted”) placed “on” or after OVERS (i.e. “sets of bowls” – referring to overs of cricket), like so: OVERS-PENT.

20. Transitory things in the sound of FM age? (8)

Answer: EPHEMERA (i.e. “transitory things”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “sound of”) of the letters F and M, i.e. EPH and EM, followed by ERA (i.e. “age”).

21. Stone me, once having settled in illegal state (11)

Answer: CRIMINALITY (i.e. “illegal state”). Solution is CRIMINY (i.e. an exclamatory “stone me”. “Once” hints that this has rather gone the same way as “gorblimeyguvnah”, “thequeenmumgawwblessah” and “eesgottashoo’ah”), wrapped around ALIT (i.e. to have “settled”), like so: CRIMIN(ALIT)Y.

24. Sailors and soldiers in a spot getting decoration (9)

Answer: ADORNMENT (i.e. “decoration”). Solution is RN (i.e. “sailors”, specifically the Royal Navy) and MEN (i.e. “soldiers”) placed “in” A DOT (i.e. “a spot”), like so: A-DO(RN-MEN)T.

25. Most of the time you’ll see batter going runny (8)

Answer: THINNING (i.e. “going runny”). Solution is THE with its last letter removed (indicated by “most of”) and followed by INNING (i.e. “time you’ll see [ball game] batter”), like so: TH-INNING.

26. Attack every other occupant of Emmanuel’s (4)

Answer: MAUL (i.e. “attack”). “Every other occupant of…” indicates the solution can be derived by taking every other letter of EMMANUEL’S.

29. Sore point? Get over it and be less hurtful! (4,7)

Answer: PAIN BARRIER (i.e. “sore point”). Clue riffs on how barriers are something you need to “get over”. You get the idea.

31. Character that has a hand in controlling? (5,6)

Answer: GLOVE PUPPET. Another riffy clue, this time one that plays on how glove puppets are characters controlled by a hand shoved up their bottom. (Add proctologist joke here.)

33. High hill-dweller reserved copy (11)

Answer: ANTICYCLONE (i.e. “high” – I had to reread this one a bunch of times to make sure I hadn’t missed something. High? That’s it, setter? High?! By that logic, can clouds be adequately described as “high” as well? This seems one where the setter’s desire to produce a clue that scans has trumped everything else.) Solution is ANT (i.e. “hill-dweller”) followed by ICY (i.e. “reserve”) and CLONE (i.e. “copy”).

36. Overseas version of Brexit could be going unannounced (6,5)

Answer: FRENCH LEAVE, which is to “go unannounced”. Solution also satisfies “overseas version of Brexit”.

38. Food to fold (4)

Answer: TUCK. Solution satisfies “food” (sometimes also referred to as “tucker” in the land Down Under) and “to fold”.

39. Restaurant with nothing sent back, nothing cut, one initially assumes (8)

Answer: PIZZERIA (i.e. “restaurant”). Solution is ZIP (i.e. “nothing”) reversed (indicated by “sent back”) and followed by ZERO (i.e. “nothing”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “cut”), then I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and A (i.e. “initially assumes”, i.e. the first letter of “assumes”), like so: PIZ-ZER-I-A. Nicely worked, even if it doesn’t scan as well as some other clues.

41. Fine example of wicket in grass that is extremely close (9)

Answer: SHOWPIECE (i.e. “fine example”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “wicket” used in cricket) placed “in” SHOP (i.e. “[to] grass [on someone]”) and followed by IE (i.e. “that is”, i.e. … well, i.e.!) and CE (i.e. “extremely close”, i.e. the first and last letters of “close”), like so: SHO(W)P-IE-CE.

44. Respected, sanctimonious, keeping out of acting work when name is forgotten (11)

Answer: PRESTIGIOUS (i.e. “respected”). Solution is PIOUS (i.e. “sanctimonious”) wrapped around or “keeping” RESTING (i.e. “out of acting work”) once the N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”) has been removed (indicated by “is forgotten”), like so: P(RESTIG)IOUS.

45. Suggestion so popular avoiding universal changes (8)

Answer: PROPOSAL (i.e. “suggestion”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “changes”) of SO POPULAR once the U (a recognised abbreviation of “universal” used in film classifications) has been removed (indicated by “avoiding”).

48. Being English, Anglicans must accept explanation of a Roman numeral (9)

Answer: EXISTENCE (i.e. “being”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and CE (i.e. “Anglicans”, specifically the Church of England) wrapped around or “accepting” X IS TEN (i.e. “explanation of a Roman numeral”), like so: E-(X-IS-TEN)-CE. Another clue that’s nicely worked, despite not scanning as well as other clues.

49. Every area Chicago encloses (4)

Answer: EACH (i.e. “every”). “Encloses” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: AR(EA CH)ICAGO.

50. After bed, look and notice Santa’s presents, say? (8)

Answer: SACKLOAD (i.e. “Santa’s presents, say”). Solution is SACK (i.e. “bed”, as in hitting the sack) followed by LO (i.e. “look”, as in lo and behold) and AD (i.e. “notice”, as in a shortened form of advertisement).

52. Co-ordinated defence system to follow incomplete letter (3,3)

Answer: TAI CHI (i.e. “co-ordinated defence system”). Solution is TAIL (i.e. “to follow”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “incomplete”) and followed by CHI (i.e. “letter”, specifically the twenty-second letter of the Greek alphabet), like so: TAI-CHI.

53. Range of face-to-face animosity? (8,8)

Answer: SPITTING DISTANCE. Another riffy clue. This one plays on how spitting in someone’s face expresses hostility. You get the idea.

54. Is brave enough to admit having no answers? Smart! (6)

Answer: DRESSY (i.e. “smart”). Solution is DARES SAY (i.e. “is brave enough to admit”) with all the As removed (indicated by “having no answers” – a being a recognised abbreviation of “answers”, as in Q&A).

55. French EU cost involved a sweetener (8)

Answer: FRUCTOSE (i.e. “sweetener”). Solution is FR (country code of “France”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “involved”) of EU COST, like so: FR-UCTOSE.

56. Consumable product of melting numismatist’s prize? (7)

Answer: RAREBIT (i.e. “consumable product of melting” – essentially cheese on toast). When the solution is read as RARE BIT, it also satisfies “numismatist’s prize” – a numismatist is a collector of coins and medals and a bit is another word for a coin.

Down clues

1. Follower of W Churchill’s not completely taken stock (6)

Answer: CATTLE (i.e. “stock”). Solution is C ATTLEE (i.e. “follower of W Churchill”, i.e. Clement Attlee, who followed Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of the UK – note how the setter has used the form Initial Surname, hence C ATTLEE) with the last letter removed (indicated by “not completely”).

2. Unclear pronouncement shortened headland near Swansea (6)

Answer: MUMBLE (i.e. “unclear pronouncement”). Solution is MUMBLES (i.e. “headland near Swansea”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “shortened”). One of those “type ‘mumbles’ into Google and see what happens” moments.

3. Russian singer retaining trio and three duos from silent English performer (9)

Answer: Feodor CHALIAPIN (i.e. “Russian singer”. No, me neither. Chalk this one to my Bradfords. Its existence there suggests CHALIAPIN has been a pet solution for a few setters over the years). I can’t get a fix on exactly what the setter has done here. The solution shares letters with CHARLIE CHAPLIN (i.e. “silent English performer”) and “retaining…from” could suggest the removal of certain letters, but how said letters RECHL can be broken into a “trio and three duos” is beyond my ken. Moving on.
[EDIT: A big thank you to Mark in the comments for shedding light on this one. The “trio and three duos” refer to the sets of letters “retained” within CHARLIE CHAPLIN that make up CHALIAPIN, like so CHARLIE CHAPLIN. Ugh. No, setter. Just no. – LP]

4. Learner that is about certain we’re not getting finished things to don in spare time (11)

Answer: LEISUREWEAR (i.e. “things to don in spare time”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”) followed by IE (i.e. “that is”, as seen in 41a) reversed (indicated by “about”), then SURE (i.e. “certain”) and WE ARE (i.e. expanded form of “we’re”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “not getting finished”), like so: L-EI-SURE-WE-AR. A bit of a convoluted mess.

5. Doctrines from current texts (4)

Answer: ISMS (i.e. “doctrines”). Solution is I (a recognised symbol for electrical “current”) followed by SMS (i.e. “texts” – given SMS is a set of initials, shouldn’t this be SMSS? SMSES? SMSESESES?).

6. Marinates hot stews after removing one Scotch bonnet (3-1-7)

Answer: TAM-O-SHANTER (i.e. “Scotch bonnet”, referring to an item of Scottish headwear). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “stews”) of MARINATES HOT once the I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) has been removed (indicated by “removing”). An easier get than it perhaps ought to have been, having been used relatively recently.

7. Manage to cover run with persistent pain taking effect over distance (3-8)

Answer: FAR-REACHING (i.e. “taking effect over distance”). Solution is FARE (i.e. “manage”, as in how one fared) wrapped around or “covering” R (a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in a number of ball games) and followed by ACHING (i.e. “persistent pain”, like so: FA(R)RE-ACHING.

8. Pester fellow Scotsman from Tayside city (9)

Answer: DUNDONIAN, a citizen of Dundee (i.e. “from Tayside city”). Solution is DUN (i.e. “pester” – one of its alternative meanings) followed by DON (i.e. “fellow”) and IAN (i.e. “Scotsman” – setters do love using this bit of wordplay, don’t they?).

10. One forgets source of electricity in mains supply, alternating current (8)

Answer: AMNESIAC (i.e. “one forgets”). Solution is E (i.e. “source of electricity”, i.e. the first letter of “electricity”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “supply”, the adverb form of “supple” as opposed to a supply of something – sneaky, eh?) of MAINS and then followed by AC (a recognised abbreviation of “alternating current”), like so: AMN(E)SI-AC.

11. Words for letters that keep Romeo and Juliet apart (8,8)

Answer: PHONETIC ALPHABET (i.e. “words for letters”). Solution riffs on how Romeo and Juliet are entries in the phonetic alphabet, representing R and J respectively. Said letters are, alphabetically speaking, a distance “apart”.

12. Line on limits of election got helpfully extended (7)

Answer: LENGTHY (i.e. “extended”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “line”) followed by the “limits” or first and last letters of ELECTION, GOT and HEALTHY. Another sneaky one. I like it.

15. Challenging behaviour to get rid of husband-to-be, apparently (8)

Answer: DEFIANCE (i.e. “challenging behaviour”). When read as DE-FIANCE, the solution also satisfies “to get rid of husband-to-be, apparently”.

19. Report of addition to forest: be aware it’s difficult to detect (8)

Answer: NEUTRINO (i.e. “it’s difficult to detect”). “Report of” indicates the solution comprises homophones of NEW TREE (i.e. “addition to forest”) and KNOW (i.e. “be aware”).

22. Singular design stops heater burning bush (3,5)

Answer: GAS PLANT, which is a plant whose oil exudes flammable gas. Hence “burning bush”. The panda of the plant world, anyone? Anyway, the rather convoluted solution for this one is S (a recognised abbreviation of “singular”) and PLAN (i.e. “design”) placed in or “stopping” GAT (i.e. “heater” – both words for a gun. Reading all those Chandler, Hammett and Spillane novels years ago clearly had a positive effect on me), like so: GA(S-PLAN)T.

23. Overall treatment has limited choices in being operated on (8,8)

Answer: HOLISTIC MEDICINE (i.e. “overall treatment”). “Being operated on” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LIMITED CHOICES IN.

27. Inflamed at fringes, the communist possibly had kittens (8)

Answer: LITTERED (i.e. “possibly had kittens” – the possibly bit hints that other species produce litters). Solution is LIT (i.e. “inflamed”) followed by the first and last letters (indicated by “at fringes”) of THE and then RED (i.e. “communist”), like so: LIT-TE-RED.

28. Roll off us, roll out of odd parts (4)

Answer: FURL (i.e. “furl”). “Out of odd parts” indicates the solution is derived by removing the odd letters from OFF US ROLL.

30. Prolific scorer from Hearts supporting defender mostly (4)

Answer: Johann Sebastian BACH (i.e. “prolific [music] scorer”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hearts” used in card games – ignore the misleading capitalisation) which is placed beneath or “supporting” – this being a down clue – BACK (i.e. a “defender” in some field sports) once its final letter has been removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: BAC-H.

32. Starts dance where engagement doesn’t require entering union (4,4)

Answer: OPEN SHOP (i.e. “where [employment] engagement doesn’t require entering union”). Solution is OPENS (i.e. “starts”) followed by HOP (i.e. “dance” – ask your great grandparents, kids).

34. Slavish campanologist primarily doing his job? (8)

Answer: CRINGING (i.e. “slavish”). Solution is C (i.e. “campanologist primarily”, i.e. the first letter of “campanologist”) followed by RINGING (i.e. “doing his job” – a campanologist is a bell-ringer).

35. Lacking community spirit, warped or cut pieces (11)

Answer: EUROSCEPTIC (i.e. “lacking community spirit”, riffing on the European Community, now European Union). “Warped” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OR CUT PIECES.

36. Chilled coffee or cold tea run up into sherry? (11)

Answer: FRAPPUCCINO (i.e. “chilled coffee”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “cold”), CUPPA (i.e. “tea”) and R (a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in some ball games) which are all reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue) and placed “into” FINO (i.e. a kind of “sherry”), like so: F(R-APPUC-C)INO. Rather well worked.

37. Confectioner not the first to copy fizz on part of wedding cake? (11)

Answer: CHOCOLATIER (i.e. “confectioner”). Solution is ECHO (i.e. “copy”) with its first letter removed (indicated by “not the first to…”) and followed by COLA (i.e. “fizz”) and TIER (i.e. “part of wedding cake”), like so: CHO-COLA-TIER.

40. Who displays captives without humanity? (9)

Answer: ZOOKEEPER. Solution riffs on how animals are captives of zoos, and how us ‘orrible lot stand outside or “without” their cages. A really good clue.

42. Mischievous person is important for apostle’s higher ecstasy (9)

Answer: PRANKSTER (i.e. “mischievous person”). “For” indicates the solution is derived by substituting the first or “higher” – this being a down clue – E (a recognised abbreviation of “ecstasy”) of PETER (i.e. “apostle”) with RANKS (i.e. “is important”, as in “he wanks as high as anybody in Wome”), like so: P(E)TER => P(RANKS)TER.

43. Uncontrollable laughter produced by sewers? (8)

Answer: STITCHES. Solution satisfies “uncontrollable laughter” and “produced by sewers”.

44. Excuse to spread out like a kilt (7)

Answer: PLEATED (i.e. “like a kilt”). Solution is PLEA (i.e. “excuse”) followed by TED (i.e. “spread” – a laborious one if I have this right, but this refers to a TED spread, which, according to my Chambers, is “a measure of the difference between the value of three-month US Treasury bills and three-month Eurodollar futures contracts”. So there you go.)

46. Socialise with the exalted King out of Aga’s control? (6)

Answer: HOBNOB (i.e. “socialise”). Solution is HOB KNOB (i.e. “Aga’s control”) with the K (a recognised abbreviation of “king”) removed (indicated by “out of”). “Exalted” seems weirdly redundant, so there might be more to it than that.
[EDIT: Thanks to Iain in the comments for clarifying this one. The solution satisfies “socialise with the exalted”, not just “socialise”. Though this is undoubtedly the setter’s intended meaning, it’s not a definition that is wholly backed up by my Chambers, I guess the reason being it would render phrases such as “hobnobbing with the stars” a tad redundant. Other dictionaries may differ on this. – LP]

47. Commercial outlet in run-up to Christmas (6)

Answer: ADVENT (i.e. “run-up to Christmas” – soon advent calendars will have 54 windows rather than 24, mark my words! (Shakes seaweed portentously.)) Solution is AD (i.e. “commercial”) followed by VENT (i.e. “outlet”). A clue that scans rather well.

51. Turn over French article to look for eroticism? (4)

Answer: OGLE (i.e. “look for eroticism”). Solution is GO (i.e. a “turn”) reversed (indicated by “over” – this being a down clue) and followed by LE (i.e. “French article”, i.e. the French masculine word for “the” – articles tend to be words like a, an or the), like so: OG-LE.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1408

And so to last week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic. A big thank you to my spies for securing a copy for me while I was on hols. It means more to me than you might think, as this post marks an unbroken run of solutions spanning a whole year. Not bad considering it was done mainly as a means of getting blogging again!

Anyway, before I start welling up and you all stare uncomfortably at your shoes, let’s get right to it. This puzzle saw a cranking up in difficulty, though I’d hesitate awarding it stinker status. There were more exotics to contend with, but most of them were gettable thanks to gentler wordplay. Another good one, in my less-than-humble opinion.

Before we jump in (okay, I lied about getting right to it, don’t @ me) a spot of housekeeping. If you have a gappy Times Jumbo Cryptic from the last year, then you might be able to plug a few of those gaps using my Just For Fun page. If book reviews are your thing, then I have a bunch on my Reviews page gathering dust. (Makes mental note to get back to those.) If you’d like something from me other than crosswords, then how about a short story? No? Well, it was worth a try. To the answers then!

Till the next one, TTFN.


Across clues

1. Charge female leaving continent for Central American state (5,4)

Answer: COSTA RICA (i.e. “Central American state”). Solution is COST (i.e. “charge”) followed by AFRICA (i.e. “continent”) once the F has been removed (indicated by “female leaving” – f being a recognised abbreviation of “female”), like so: COST-ARICA.

6. Cooking vessel leading Tory moderates rejected (7)

Answer: STEWPOT (i.e. “cooking vessel”). Solution is TOP (i.e. “leading”) followed by WETS (i.e. “Tory moderates” – a new one on me, but it’s there in the dictionary). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “rejected”), like so: STEW-POT.

10. Coin once used in area covered by tube (5)

Answer: DUCAT (i.e. “coin once used” across several European countries). Solution is A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”) placed in or “covered by” DUCT (i.e. “tube”), like so: DUC(A)T.

13. Vague: not centrally accepted by universities in decades (7)

Answer: TENUOUS (i.e. “vague”). Solution is O (i.e. “not centrally”, i.e. the middle letter of “not”) placed between two Us (recognised abbreviation of “university” – note the plural in the clue), which itself is placed in TENS (i.e. “decades”), like so: TEN(U(O)U)S.

14. Sloth: one installed in new terrain right away (7)

Answer: INERTIA (i.e. “sloth”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “new”) of TERRAIN once one of the Rs has been removed (indicated by “right away” – r being a recognised abbreviation of “right”), like so: INERT(I)A.

15. Report of part played by cleaner making pickled herring (7)

Answer: ROLLMOP (i.e. “picked herring”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “report of”) of ROLE (i.e. “part played”) followed by MOP (i.e. “cleaner”), like so: ROLL-MOP.

16. Moment of crisis: time to get a bargain takeaway! (4,3,5,3,4)

Answer: WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN. Solution satisfies “moment of crisis” and “time to get a bargain takeaway”.

17. Regularly used bandbox? That spells trouble (3)

Answer: ADO (i.e. “trouble”). “Regularly” indicates the solution is derived by taking every other letter of BANDBOX.

18. Site of watering hole found by gazelle at last (6)

Answer: LOCALE (i.e. “site”). Solution is LOCAL (i.e. “watering hole”, both describing public houses) followed by E (i.e. “gazelle at last”, i.e. the last letter of “gazelle”).

20. In Asia, badger European prompted to enter trade union (6)

Answer: TELEDU (i.e. “in Asia, badger” – did a Google Image search. Looks like Pepe Le Pew’s portly uncle.) Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and LED (i.e. “prompted”) placed in or “entering” TU (a recognised abbreviation of “trade union”), like so: T(E-LED)U. Needless to say, this was one gotten from the wordplay and a brute force of my Chambers.

21. Like some legends making us turn a hair somehow (9)

Answer: ARTHURIAN (i.e. “like some legends”). “Somehow” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TURN A HAIR.

23. Suspension in short choral work penned by old lady (10)

Answer: MORATORIUM (i.e. “suspension”). Solution is ORATORIO (i.e. “choral work”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “short”) and placed in or “penned by” MUM (i.e. “old lady”), like so: M(ORATORI)UM.

25. Colourful flags incorporating eastern songbird (4,7)

Answer: REED BUNTING (i.e. “songbird” – off to Google Images again. Ahhhhhh, cute!) Solution is RED BUNTING (i.e. “colourful flags”) wrapped around or “incorporating” E (a recognised abbreviation of “eastern”) like so: RE(E)D-BUNTING.

29. Knowledgeable about binding Rachmaninoff’s first prelude (5)

Answer: INTRO (i.e. “prelude”). Solution is INTO (i.e. “knowledgeable about”) wrapped around or “binding” R (i.e. “Rachmaninoff’s first”, i.e. the first letter of “Rachmaninoff”), like so: INT(R)O.

30. Carry out rifle mostly used in races (8)

Answer: TRANSACT (i.e. “carry out”). Solution is RANSACK (i.e. “[to] rifle”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and placed “in” TT (i.e. “races”, specifically the ones held on the Isle of Man), like so: T(RANSAC)T.

31. Contractor initially put down additional pipe (8)

Answer: CLAYMORE (i.e. “pipe” – not supported by my Chambers, this. I guess the reference is to an explosive, e.g. pipe bomb, but this is a bit like saying an alarm clock or a bag of nails are also explosives. (Shows yellow card to setter.)). Solution is C (i.e. “contractor initially”, i.e. the first letter of “contractor”) followed by LAY (i.e. “put down”) and MORE (i.e. “additional”).

34. Quiet desire to embrace soldiers – like Kate in the play! (8)

Answer: SHREWISH (i.e. “like Kate in the play” – a reference to a character in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew). Solution is SH (i.e. “quiet”) and WISH (i.e. “desire”) wrapped around or “embracing” RE (i.e. “soldiers”, specifically the Royal Engineers of the British Army), like so: SH-(RE)-WISH.

36. Leak finally exposes depredation (8)

Answer: SPILLAGE (i.e. “leak”). Solution is S (i.e. “finally exposes”, i.e. the last letter of “exposes”) followed by PILLAGE (i.e. “depredation”).

37. Music from old film about Connecticut (5)

Answer: OCTET (i.e. “music”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and ET (i.e. “film”, specifically ET: The Extra Terrestrial) placed “about” CT (a recognised abbreviation of the state of “Connecticut”), like so: O-(CT)-ET.

39. Racing official – practical Greek character, might one say? (11)

Answer: HANDICAPPER (i.e. “racing official”). Solution comprises homophones (indicated by “might one say”) of HANDY (i.e. “practical”) and KAPPA (i.e. “Greek character”, specifically the tenth letter of the Greek alphabet).

41. Recurring passage girl found in trio or variation (10)

Answer: RITORNELLO (i.e. “recurring passage” – one that’s not fully supported by my Chambers (no explicit mention is made of “recurring”) but is backed by Wikipedia). Solution is NELL (i.e. “girl”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “variation”) of TRIO OR, like so: RITOR(NELL)O. One gotten from the wordplay once I had a number of intersection letters filled in.

43. Caring mostly for leading lady entering part of theatre (9)

Answer: FOSTERAGE (i.e. “caring”). Solution is FOR with its last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and followed by ER (i.e. “leading lady”, specifically Elizabeth Regina) once it has been placed in or “entering” STAGE (i.e. “part of theatre”), like so: FO-ST(ER)AGE.

45. Suspicion about a cut of meat (6)

Answer: HAUNCH (i.e. “cut of meat”). Solution is HUNCH (i.e. “suspicion”) which is wrapped “about” A, like so: H(A)UNCH.

47. Stabbing pain, for example, recalled by Remus, perhaps? (6)

Answer: TWINGE (i.e. “stabbing pain, for example” – though backed up by the dictionary, I don’t think I’ve ever used “twinge” to describe a stabbing pain. Not when there are more descriptive terms like “bastard agony”…) Solution is EG (i.e. “for example”) reversed (indicated by “recalled”) and placed after or “by” TWIN (i.e. “Remus, perhaps”, as in Romulus and Remus), like so: TWIN-GE.

49. Hawaiian garland certain to be dislodged by rest (3)

Answer: LEI (i.e. “Hawaiian garland”). Solution is LEISURE (i.e. “rest”) with the SURE (i.e. “certain”) removed (indicated by “to be dislodged”).

50. Be completely correct? A carpenter might do it (3,3,4,2,3,4)

Answer: HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD. Solution satisfies “be completely correct” and “a carpenter might do it”.

52. Reportedly no German device for identifying skittle (7)

Answer: NINEPIN (i.e. “skittle”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “reportedly”) of NEIN (i.e. “no [in] German”) followed by PIN (i.e. “device for identifying”, specifically a Personal Identification Number – “device” in this case being a means of getting something done rather than a physical object), like so: NINE-PIN.

53. Layer of skin Wyatt used to wrap film? (7)

Answer: EPICARP (i.e. “layer of skin” – I had this tentatively pencilled in as EARFLAP for a while, which didn’t help matters). Solution is EARP (i.e. “Wyatt”) “wrapped” around PIC (i.e. “film”, i.e. a shortened form of “picture”), like so: E(PIC)ARP.

54. Eg, Bleriot, beginning to ascend by way of rocky peak (7)

Answer: AVIATOR (i.e. “eg, Bleriot”). Solution is A (i.e. “beginning to ascend”, i.e. the first letter of “ascend”) followed by VIA (i.e. “by way of”) and TOR (i.e. “rocky peak”).

55. Poach second duck (5)

Answer: STEAL (i.e. “poach”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) followed by TEAL (i.e. “duck”).

56. Close relative gripped by woman’s stonework (7)

Answer: MASONRY (i.e. “stonework”). Solution is SON (i.e. “close relative”) placed in or “gripped by” MARY (i.e. “woman”), like so: MA(SON)RY.

57. Combine current charge for accommodating sheep (9)

Answer: INTEGRATE (i.e. “combine”). Solution is IN (i.e. “current”) and RATE (i.e. “charge”) wrapped around or “accommodating” TEG (i.e. “sheep”, specifically one in its second year (pats Chambers)), like so: IN-(TEG)-RATE.

Down clues

1. Sleeping places originally welcomed by elderly sheep (8)

Answer: COTSWOLD (i.e. “sheep” – another one). Solution is COTS (i.e. “sleeping places”) followed by W (i.e. “originally welcomed”, i.e. the first letter of “welcomed”) and OLD (i.e. “elderly”).

2. Slightly burn first bit of grub served in function (5)

Answer: SINGE (i.e. “slightly burn”). Solution is G (i.e. “first bit of grub”, i.e. the first letter of “grub”) placed or “served in” SINE (i.e. “[trigonometric] function”), like so: SIN(G)E.

3. A drink a day, up to the time of a party? (11)

Answer: AMONTILLADO (i.e. “a drink”). Solution is A followed by MON (i.e. “day”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Monday), then TILL (i.e. “up to the time of”), then A and DO (i.e. “party”), like so: A-MON-TILL-A-DO.

4. Brought out children to meet duke (6)

Answer: ISSUED (i.e. “brought out”). Solution is ISSUE (i.e. “children”) followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “duke”).

5. The art I claim is flawed, like the science of numbers? (12)

Answer: ARITHMETICAL (i.e. “like the science of numbers”). “Is flawed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of THE ART I CLAIM.

6. Action taken by the French to adopt English church feature (7)

Answer: STEEPLE (i.e. “church feature”). Solution is STEP (i.e. “action taken”) and LE (i.e. “the French”, i.e. the masculine form of “the” in French) wrapped around or “adopting” E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: STE(E)P-LE.

7. Old city in additional circular sadly not on the course (15)

Answer: EXTRACURRICULAR (i.e. “not on the course”). Solution is EXTRA (i.e. “additional”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “sadly”) of CIRCULAR, which is wrapped around RU (i.e. “old city”), like so: EXTRA-C(UR)RICULAR.

8. European wearing heart stimulator, a conciliatory type (10)

Answer: PEACEMAKER (i.e. “a conciliatory type”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) placed in or “wearing” PACEMAKER (i.e. “heart stimulator”), like so: P(E)ACEMAKER.

9. Clothing of all those present? (7)

Answer: TURNOUT. Solution satisfies “clothing” when read as TURN OUT, and “all those present”.

10. Wrongdoing in Paris that disturbs Cindy and Len badly (11)

Answer: DELINQUENCY (i.e. “wrongdoing”). Solution is QUE (i.e. “in French that”, i.e. the French for “that”) which is placed in or “disturbs” an anagram (indicated by “badly”) of CINDY and LEN, like so: DELIN(QUE)NCY.

11. River vessel, one to south of the Italian bell towers (9)

Answer: CAMPANILI (i.e. “bell towers”). Solution is CAM (i.e. “[Cambridgeshire] river”) followed by PAN (i.e. “vessel”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) once it has been placed after or “to the south of” – this being a down clue – IL (i.e. “the Italian”, i.e. the Italian for “the”), like so: CAM-PAN-IL-I. Another one gotten purely from the wordplay.

12. Storm caused by magnate changing key to quiet hotel (7)

Answer: TYPHOON (i.e. “storm”). Solution is TYCOON (i.e. “magnate”) with the C (i.e. “[musical] key”) “changing” into P (a recognised abbreviation of “piano”, which is “quiet” in musical lingo) and H (“hotel” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: TY(C)OON => TY(P-H)OON.

19. Smallholder creditor meets with greater frequency? (7)

Answer: CROFTER (i.e. “smallholder”). Solution is CR (a recognised abbreviation of “creditor”) followed by OFTER (i.e. “with greater frequency” – not a proper word, which is why the setter has jokily added a question mark). I’m not keen, but there you go.

22. Hardy character in firm backing an Italian noblewoman (8)

Answer: CONTESSA (i.e. “Italian noblewoman”). Solution is TESS (i.e. “Hardy character”, specifically the titular character from Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles) placed in CO (a recognised abbreviation of a company or “firm”) and AN, the latter reversed (indicated by “backing”), like so: CO-N(TESS)A.

24. False impression given by intelligence agency’s arrest (15)

Answer: MISAPPREHENSION (i.e. “false impression”). When read as MI’S APPREHENSION, the clue also satisfies “intelligence agency’s arrest” (MI standing for “military intelligence”).

26. Wickedly bribe odd characters in lorry to deliver fruit (8)

Answer: BILBERRY (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “wickedly”) of BRIBE and LRY (i.e. “odd characters in lorry”, i.e. every other letter of LORRY).

27. Astride horse, arrive at depressed area (6)

Answer: GHETTO (i.e. “depressed area”). Solution is GET TO (i.e. “arrive at”) which is wrapped around or “astride” H (a recognised abbreviation of “horse”), like so: G(H)ETTO.

28. Vulgarised art in Christopher’s church (6)

Answer: KITSCH (i.e. “vulgarised art”). Solution is KIT’S (i.e. shortened form of “Christopher’s”) followed by CH (a recognised abbreviation of “church”).

32. Bunting British dramatist draped round US city (7)

Answer: ORTOLAN (i.e. “bunting” – a new one on me, especially the fact it’s often edible!). Solution is Joe ORTON (i.e. “British dramatist”) wrapped or “draped around” LA (i.e. “US city”, specifically Los Angeles… (looks out at Mordor the British weather and sighs wistfully)), like so: ORTO(LA)N.

33. Done deed, one secured by stout crony skipping church (4,8)

Answer: FAIT ACCOMPLI (i.e. “done deed”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in or “secured by” FAT ACCOMPLICE (i.e. “stout crony”) once the trailing CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England) has been removed (indicating by “skipping”), like so: FA(I)T-ACCOMPLI.

35. The place which oddly disfigured part of London? (11)

Answer: WHITECHAPEL (i.e. “part of London”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “disfigured”) of THE PLACE and the “odd” letters of WHICH.

37. Arrogant about quarters in projecting part of house (11)

Answer: OVERWEENING (i.e. “arrogant”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “about”) followed by EEN (i.e. “quarters” – I’m taking this to mean a collection of compass points: East, East and North) which has been placed “in” WING (i.e. “projecting part of house”), like so: OVER-W(EEN)ING.

38. Lost for words, having no oration to deliver? (10)

Answer: SPEECHLESS. Solution satisfies “lost for words” and “having no oration to deliver”.

40. Ignorance playing havoc with nice scene (9)

Answer: NESCIENCE (i.e. “ignorance”). “Playing havoc with” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NICE SCENE. This was another one I’d initially gotten wrong, writing INSCIENCE lightly in the grid. While this also means “ignorance”, it wasn’t an anagram of NICE SCENE. I blame the jetlag (…looks to camera…)

42. Policeman with information runs in titled woman (8)

Answer: GENDARME, a French “policeman”. Solution is GEN (i.e. “information”) followed by R (a recognised abbreviation of “runs” used in some ball games) once it has been placed “in” DAME (i.e. “titled woman”), like so: GEN-DA(R)ME.

43. Shavings one chucks outside (7)

Answer: FILINGS (i.e. “shavings”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) with FLINGS (i.e. “chucks”) placed “outside”, like so: F(I)LINGS.

44. Leader of men supporting Roman general? It means the opposite (7)

Answer: ANTONYM (i.e. “it means the opposite”). Solution is M (i.e. “leader of men”, i.e. the first letter of “men”) placed beneath or “supporting” – this being a down clue – Mark ANTONY (i.e. “Roman general”), like so: ANTONY-M.

46. Like some local authorities initially acclaimed in college test (7)

Answer: UNITARY (i.e. “like some local authorities”). Solution is A (i.e. “initially acclaimed”, i.e. the first letter of “acclaimed”) placed “in” UNI (i.e. “college”, specifically a shortened form of university) and TRY (i.e. “test”), like so: UNI-T(A)RY.

48. Set about securing uniform for royal house (6)

Answer: STUART (i.e. “royal house” which gave us a bunch of King Jameses, among others). Solution is START (i.e. “set about”) wrapped around or “securing” U (“uniform” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: ST(U)ART.

51. Possibly wide doorway one missed at Burlington House (5)

Answer: EXTRA (i.e. “possibly wide”, referring to how extra runs can be awarded in cricket wide balls being bowled.). Solution is EXIT (i.e. “doorway”) with the I removed (indicated by “[Roman numeral] one missed”), and followed by RA (short for the Royal Academy, who are housed “at Burlington House”), like so: EXT-RA.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1407

Back again! After ten days spent soaking up the glorious and cloudless Angeleño weather, not to mention attending this year’s World Fantasy Convention and blissfully avoiding anything and everything to do with B**xit (seriously, the US news media barely gave a shit about UK politics – even when the election was called), it’s… uh… well, it’s something to be back in Blighty. Very much something. Still, at least there’s no threat of wildfires breaking out here anytime soon.

Anyway, before I start getting my holiday snaps out, I’ve a bit of catching up to do. Here’s my completed grid for Oct 26’s Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword. It wasn’t quite the stinker that was feared, but still a good puzzle all the same. You can find explanations of my solutions below where I have them. My spies kindly secured puzzle 1408 for me while I was away, so I should have something for that in due course.

A spot of housekeeping before we tuck in. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic showing a few gaps, then my Just For Fun page could be just the thing. If you like reading the odd book review then check out my Reviews page. Fancy a short story instead? I’ve got you covered.

Right, let’s get after it…

(…with apologies to CNN’s Chris Cuomo for nicking his catchphrase)


Across clues

1. Person in surgery admitting green look (5)

Answer: DECOR (i.e. the “look” of something). Solution is DR (i.e. “person in surgery”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “doctor”) wrapped around or “admitting” ECO (i.e. “green”), like so: D(ECO)R.

4. Old lady hosting male Spanish virgin is a stickler for rules (10)

Answer: GRAMMARIAN (i.e. “stickler for rules”). Solution is GRAN (i.e. “old lady”) wrapped around or “hosting” M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”) and MARIA (i.e. “virgin”, specifically the Latin form of Mary, as seen in Ave Maria), like so: GRA(M-MARIA)N.

9. Pure drug snorted by class (6)

Answer: CHASTE (i.e. “pure”). Solution is CASTE (i.e. “class”) wrapped around or “snorting” H (i.e. “drug”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “heroin”), like so: C(H)ASTE.

14. Bird to make slow progress on animal feed (9)

Answer: CHAFFINCH (i.e. “bird”). Solution is INCH (i.e. “to make slow progress”) placed after or “on” CHAFF (i.e. “animal feed”), like so: CHAFF-INCH.

15. At sea, crew has complete order (6,7)

Answer: SEARCH WARRANT (i.e. “order”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “at sea”) of CREW HAS followed by ARRANT (i.e. out-and-out or “complete”), like so: SEARCH-ARRANT.

16. Grenade thrown in defensive position (2,5)

Answer: EN GARDE (i.e. “defensive position”). “Thrown” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of GRENADE.

17. Dairy product in case monarch eats dessert (9)

Answer: LEICESTER (i.e. “dairy product”, as in the cheeeeeeese, Gromit). Solution is LEST (i.e. “in case”) and ER (i.e. “monarch”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Elizabeth Regina) wrapped around or “eating” ICE (i.e. “dessert”), like so: LE(ICE)ST-ER.

18. Small like a youngster? (5)

Answer: TEENY. Solution satisfies “small” and “like a youngster”.

19. Disallow gossip about people in dodgy country (6,8)

Answer: BANANA REPUBLIC (i.e. “dodgy country”). Solution is BAN (i.e. “disallow”) followed by ANA (i.e. “gossip”, as in a collection of someone’s table talk or gossip) then RE (i.e. “about” – think the subject headings in email replies) and PUBLIC (i.e. “people”).

22. Mug is picked up? That’s a relief (7)

Answer: SUCCOUR (i.e. “relief”). “Is picked up” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of SUCKER (i.e. “mug”).

25. Head in business doubly cautious in fair event (7,3)

Answer: COCONUT SHY (i.e. “fair event”). Solution is NUT (i.e. “head”) placed “in” between CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”) repeated (indicated by “doubly”) and SHY (i.e. “cautious”), like so: CO-CO-(NUT)-SHY.

27. Soon penning attempt, piece in verse (2,5,2,3)

Answer: AN ESSAY ON MAN, a poem by Alexander Pope (i.e. “verse”). No, me neither. Solution is ANON (i.e. “soon”) wrapped around or “penning” ESSAY (i.e. “[a tentative] attempt”) and followed by MAN (i.e. “[chess] piece”), like so: AN(ESSAY)ON-MAN. One I got from the wordplay, and only once I had all the intersecting letters.

30. Gutless Earl’s clothing as Roman peer (5)

Answer: EQUAL (i.e. one’s “peer”). Solution is EL (i.e. “gutless Earl”, i.e. the word “earl” with its middle letters removed) wrapped around or “clothing” QUA (i.e. “as Roman”, i.e. the Latin for “as”), like so: E(QUA)L.

31. Religious authority perhaps derived from Torah etc. (8)

Answer: THEOCRAT (i.e. “religious authority perhaps”). “Derived from” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TORAH ETC.

32. Gloomy inventor making a bloomer (8)

Answer: BLUEBELL (i.e. “bloomer”). Solution is BLUE (i.e. “gloomy”) followed by Alexander Graham BELL (i.e. “inventor”).

35. Did gas upset attender? (8)

Answer: NATTERED (i.e. “did gas”). “Upset” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ATTENDER.

36. Warning nerd to return and get informed early (8)

Answer: FOREKNOW (i.e. “get informed early”). Solution is FORE (i.e. “warning [from golfer]”) followed by WONK (i.e. “nerd”) which is reversed (indicated by “to return”), like so: FORE-KNOW.

37. I’m off to capture unknown tree creature (5)

Answer: TAYRA (i.e. “tree creature” – did a Google Image search… meh, just a big weasel). Solution is TARA (i.e. “I’m off”) wrapped around or “capturing” Y (i.e. “unknown” – setters love using “unknown” to represent X, Y or Z in their solutions), like so: TA(Y)RA.

39. Stout fellow to carry tip in two empty trays (6,6)

Answer: HUMPTY DUMPTY (i.e. “stout fellow”). Solution is HUMP (i.e. “to carry”) followed by DUMP (i.e. “tip”) once it has been placed “in” between “two” lots of TY (i.e. “empty tray”, i.e. the word “tray” with its middle letters removed), like so: HUMP-TY-(DUMP)-TY.

41. Italian let in to break the ice (10)

Answer: FLORENTINE (i.e. “Italian”). Solution is RENT (i.e. “let”) and IN both placed in or “breaking” FLOE (i.e. “ice”), like so: FLO(RENT-IN)E.

43. Taste butter or jam, pieces needing rearrangement? (7)

Answer: TANGRAM, which is a Chinese block puzzle in which seven flat shapes are slotted together to form a square (i.e. “pieces needing rearrangement”). Solution is TANG (i.e. “taste”) followed by RAM (i.e. “butter or jam” – the former being an animal that butts heads, the latter being to cram something into a small space).

45. Rigid Commander enters not looking good (14)

Answer: UNCOMPROMISING (i.e. “rigid”). Solution is COM (a recognised abbreviation of “commander”) placed in or “entering” UNPROMISING (i.e. “not looking good”) like so: UN(COM)PROMISING.

48. Sub’s back pass with sign of uncertainty (5)

Answer: LOCUM (i.e. “sub”, as in a substitute). Solution is COL (i.e. a mountain “pass”) reversed (indicated by “back”) and followed by UM (i.e. “sign of uncertainty”), like so: LOC-UM.

49. Partners playing in songs, at any rate (9)

Answer: LEASTWAYS (i.e. “at any rate” – I suppose, but I’d argue these are distant cousins of one another). Solution is EAST and W (i.e. “partners playing” a game of bridge – W being a recognised abbreviation of “west”) placed “in” LAYS (i.e. “songs”), like so: L(EAST-W)AYS.

51. School member to scoff after Asian dress is cut short (7)

Answer: SARDINE (i.e. “school member”, as in a school of fish). Solution is DINE (i.e. “to scoff”) placed “after” SARI (i.e. “Asian dress”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “cut short”), like so: SAR-DINE.

53. Someone who treats complaints superficially? (13)

Answer: DERMATOLOGIST. Solution riffs on how something that is superficial can be said to be skin-deep. A dermatologist deals with skin complaints. You get the idea.

54. Caught up in French style, spoke angrily (9)

Answer: ENSNARLED (i.e. “caught up [in]”). Solution is EN (i.e. “in French style”, i.e. the French for “in”) followed by SNARLED (i.e. “spoke angrily”).

55. Give extra source of illumination, in a mess (6)

Answer: ADDLED (i.e. “in a mess”). When read as ADD LED, the solution also satisfies “give extra source of illumination” – LED being a recognised abbreviation of a light-emitting diode.

56. Press employee, a kind person such as myself (10)

Answer: TYPESETTER (i.e. “[newspaper] press employee”). Solution is TYPE (i.e. “a kind”) followed by SETTER (i.e. “person such as myself”, referring to the person setting the crossword).

57. Maybe oral fluency? Ultimately likely to lose it (5)

Answer: TESTY (i.e. “likely to lose it”). Solution is TEST (i.e. “maybe oral”, as opposed to a practical or written test) followed by Y (i.e. “fluency ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “fluency”).

Down clues

1. Summons cut and used in the Vatican? (6)

Answer: DOCKET (i.e. “summons”). Solution is DOCK (i.e. “cut”) followed by ET (i.e. “and used in the Vatican”, i.e. the Italian for “and”).

2. Credit source of story introduced by military operation (6,7)

Answer: CHARGE ACCOUNT (i.e. “credit source”). Solution is ACCOUNT (i.e. “story”) following or being “introduced by” CHARGE (i.e. “military operation”).

3. Point in either direction? (5)

Answer: REFER (i.e. “[to] point”). “In either direction” indicates the solution is a palindrome.

4. Artilleryman uncovered gas plant (7)

Answer: GUNNERA (i.e. “plant” – did a Google Image search… meh, big leaves). Solution is GUNNER (i.e. “artilleryman”) followed by A (former chemical symbol of argon, i.e. “gas”).

5. Suffering cutting pains, incline to show weakness (8,4)

Answer: ACHILLES HEEL (i.e. “weakness”). Solution is ILL (i.e. “suffering”) placed in or “cutting” ACHES (i.e. “pains”) and followed by HEEL (i.e. “incline”), like so: ACH(ILL)ES-HEEL.

6. Gosh! It’s about that Gallic aura (8)

Answer: MYSTIQUE (i.e. “aura”). Solution is an exclamatory MY (i.e. “gosh!”) followed by ITS reversed (indicated by “about”) and then QUE (i.e. “that Gallic”, i.e. the French for “that”), like so: MY-STI-QUE.

7. Sack magistrate in hearing (5)

Answer: REAVE (i.e. to pillage or “sack”). “In hearing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of REEVE, formerly a chief “magistrate” of a district.

8. Cats and mice running around besetting one’s simple existence (10)

Answer: ASCETICISM (i.e. “simple existence”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “running around”) of CATS and MICE, which is wrapped around or “besetting” I’S (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one’s”), like so: ASCETIC(I’S)M.

10. Turning back, some incite rehabilitated dissenter (7)

Answer: HERETIC (i.e. “dissenter”). “Some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “turning back” indicates the solution has been reversed, like so: IN(CITE REH)ABILITATED.

11. Formal setting, say, African set up (9)

Answer: STATEROOM (i.e. “formal setting”). Solution is STATE (i.e. “say”) followed by MOOR (i.e. “African”) reversed (indicated by “set up” – this being a down clue), like so: STATE-ROOM.

12. Door guard after polling (5)

Answer: ENTRY (i.e. “door”). Solution is SENTRY (i.e. “guard”) with its initial letter removed (indicated by “polling” – which is “to cut the hair, horns or tree-top from…” (Chambers)).

13. Performer looking less well, suppressing remark on weight (5,9)

Answer: SWORD SWALLOWER (i.e. “performer”). Solution is SALLOWER (i.e. “looking less well”) wrapped around or “suppressing” WORDS (i.e. “remark”) and W (a recognised abbreviation of “weight”), like so: S(WORDS-W)ALLOWER.

20. Making invalid queen not disheartened about German city (9)

Answer: ANNULMENT (i.e. “making invalid”). Solution is ANNE (i.e. “queen” – other queens are available) and NT (i.e. “not disheartened”, i.e. the word “not” with its middle letter removed) placed “about” ULM (i.e. “German city”) like so: ANN(ULM)E-NT.

21. Course covering mature relationships (8)

Answer: LINKAGES (i.e. “relationships”). Solution is LINKS (i.e. “[golf] course”) wrapped around or “covering” AGE (i.e. “mature”), like so: LINK(AGE)S.

23. Director of music cycle recited songs (10)

Answer: RINGLEADER (i.e. “director”). Solution is RING (i.e. “[Richard Wagner’s] music cycle”) followed by LEADER (i.e. “recited songs”, i.e. a homophone of LIEDER).

24. Protects very popular image (10)

Answer: SCREENSHOT (i.e. “image”). Solution is SCREENS (i.e. “protects”) followed by HOT (i.e. “very popular”).

26. Shabby tent, tailor-made originally (14)

Answer: TATTERDEMALION (i.e. “shabby”). “Originally” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TENT TAILOR-MADE. Brilliant word.

28. Visible figures added nuances (9)

Answer: OVERTONES (i.e. “nuances”). When read as OVERT ONES, the solution also satisfies “visible figures”.

29. A pair of short teachers’ marks for poem? (8)

Answer: ACROSTIC (i.e. “poem”). Solution is A followed by CROSS and TICK (i.e. “teachers’ marks”) once their final letters have been removed (indicated by “short”), like so: A-CROS-TIC.

33. See competitors in Welsh girl’s resting place (7,6)

Answer: ELYSIAN FIELDS, “resting place” of heroes in Greek mythology. A bit of a guess, this, but my solution is ELY (i.e. a diocese or “see”, specifically the Diocese of Ely) followed by FIELD (i.e. “competitors”) once it has been placed “in” SIAN’S (i.e. “Welsh girl’s”), like so: ELY-SIAN(FIELD)’S.

34. Wild fern and its clone in bloom (12)

Answer: INFLORESCENT (i.e. “in bloom”). “Wild” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FERN and ITS CLONE.

38. Doctor in hall, one on the right, walking around (10)

Answer: AMBULATORY (i.e. “walking around”). Solution is MB (i.e. “doctor”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a Medicinae Baccalaureus, or a Bachelor of Medicine) placed “in” AULA (i.e. “hall”, from the Latin) and then followed by TORY (i.e. “one on the right”), like so: A(MB)ULA-TORY.

40. Note about article better with digital enhancement (9)

Answer: MANICURED (i.e. “with digital enhancement”, referring to the digits of one’s hand). Solution is MI (i.e. “note” in the doh-ray-mi style – can be spelled “mi” or “me”) wrapped “about” AN (i.e. “article” – setters often use “article” to represent things like A, AN or THE in their solutions) and followed by CURED (i.e. “better”), like so: M(AN)I-CURED.

42. Let team bowled out prepare to get attacked (8)

Answer: EMBATTLE (i.e. “prepare to get attacked”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “out”) of LET TEAM and B (a recognised abbreviation of “bowled” used in cricket).

44. Ferret, curious and enchanting sort (7)

Answer: RUMMAGE (i.e. “[to] ferret”). Solution is RUM (i.e. “curious”) followed by MAGE (i.e. “enchanting sort”).

46. Wrongly surmise this person acts improperly (7)

Answer: MISUSER (i.e. “this person acts improperly”). “Wrongly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SURMISE.

47. Prime fodder keeping colour up (6)

Answer: HEYDAY (i.e. one’s “prime”). Solution is HAY (i.e. “[animal] fodder”) wrapped around or “keeping” DYE (i.e. “colour”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue), like so: H(EYD)AY.

48. Kingdom once a great place, mostly, to be brought up (5)

Answer: LYDIA (i.e. “kingdom once” – specifically one from the Iron Age, located in western Asia). Solution is A and IDYLL (i.e. “great place”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “up” – again, this being a down clue), like so: LYDI-A. One I got from the wordplay, if I’m honest.

50. Nickel removed from salt for stock (5)

Answer: TRITE (i.e. “stock”). Solution is NITRITE (i.e. “salt”) with the NI (chemical symbol of “nickel”) “removed”.

52. Pan for meat, maybe (5)

Answer: ROAST. Solution satisfies “pan” (i.e. to criticise someone) and “meat, maybe” (e.g. “roast beef” – the “maybe” indicates you can have things like roast vegetables too).

Story: The Last Temptation of Darren Grisley, Destroyer of Us All

No crossword post, folks, as I’m away on hols. All being well, I’ll be back in a week or so. In the meantime, how about a short story, what with it being Halloween and all? – LP

The Last Temptation of Darren Grisley, Destroyer of Us All


I pull out the phone and glaze over the cracked screen. I don’t need to see the words. The ringtone is enough to know it’s Chelle, my ex. I don’t answer her. Instead I cradle the phone in my hands and watch it ring.

Someone harrumphs close by, reminding me I’m not alone. I jab at a tiny button on the side of the phone to lower the volume. The mute switch doesn’t work. Neither do the volume buttons, truth be told, but that doesn’t stop me trying. It’s a wonder the phone still works after the abuse I’ve given it. I’ve always been a bad loser.

The phone continues its demand of me, undeterred. This can only be about one thing. The only thing it’s ever been about since Chelle kicked me out: money. This is hardly the time or the place.

The bus I’m on shudders to a halt. Traffic lights. I look up and notice a number of my fellow passengers are on the brink of stabbing me in both eyes. Further ahead I see the driver flex and relax his hand against the wheel, as if limbering up to pop me one.

“Answer. The Bloody. Phone.” A voice behind me. Probably the harrumpher from before.


I hit ‘Answer’.

“Chelle?” I say evenly. I don’t want to say anything else until I can gauge what kind of mood she is in.

“That money still hasn’t come through, Darren.” Her voice is as volatile as a box of old dynamite.

See? I told you. It’s always about money.

She lets out an angry snort, presumably because I didn’t respond straight away, then: “Joshua starts secondary school next week. You know we need that money.”

“It’s definitely not come through today?”

“Of course it hasn’t,” she hisses. An uncomfortable warmth blossoms across my face with the accusation in her voice.

“Look, let me check my account,” I say. “It’s on an app so I’ll have to call you back.”

“No, wait…”

“I’ll call you right back, Chelle. I promise. I just need to find out what’s happened.”


Her voice has softened and my heart sinks. I don’t want to hear what’s coming, and yet I cannot pull the phone from my ear.

“Are you getting any help?”

A breath catches in my throat. After the mess I’d made of everything during the last three years; once my broken promises had worn thin and my lies and debts had caught up with me; after the slanging matches in the kitchen, the street, the pub and everywhere in between, things have finally come to this: concern. It feels like the tiniest spark of warmth in a snowstorm. The back of my throat tightens. The corners of my mouth tug downwards and my eyelids rim with tears.

“I’ll call you back,” I say, and hang up.


I didn’t call her back.

Instead I sit in a cramped two-bedroomed flat, nesting amid an ageing collection of greasy takeaway tubs and pizza boxes.

The flat belongs to a musclebound firebrand I know called Ray. We used to go to school together. He was big back then too.

I’m looking after the place while he is away on the rigs. I just have to pay the bills and keep the place tidy. This arrangement, I know, is a good thing. When you have been homeless for over a year and have exhausted your friends’ goodwill sleeping on their sofas every night, then anything that keeps you from sleeping on the streets is a good thing. Just don’t anyone dare call me one of the lucky ones.

Ray’s flat sits above a struggling sports bar. He doesn’t have broadband, so I piggyback the bar’s WiFi connection. I think they change the password every week to coax me in for a pint, anything to drum up a bit of business.

I hold my phone close to the laminate floor. I use the feeble signal to check something I already know. The money for Josh hasn’t moved from my account because it wasn’t there in the first place. I had to pay into Ray’s bills account first. Ray always gets paid. That’s the deal. Break the deal and Ray breaks me.

I return my phone to the home screen and its wall of useless apps for Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, BetFred, Betfair, William Hill, Sky Bet and all the rest. The apps still work. They occasionally tease me with alerts of special odds, price boosts and other glamorous offers, but, being bereft of credit, they are all dead to me. The free bets they once so freely offered all dried up about the same time as my cashflow. Funny, that. And yet I cannot delete the apps. I still feel their burn within me. My mind itches at the sight of their icons, colourful invitations to come inside for some harmless knockabout fun. So long as I gamble responsibly, of course – a phrase that now makes me want to puke every time I see it.

The screen suddenly darkens and blurs. The phone rings with the clamour of a 1940’s rotary telephone, its default ringtone. I feel around for the phone’s off button. I don’t want to speak to Chelle, not if she’s so angry with me that she’s used someone else’s mobile to call.

But then I notice the number beyond the splintered screen is mine. Somehow my mobile is calling itself.

I’ve heard of caller IDs being spoofed by scammers, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. I hesitate, unwilling to switch off the phone, but equally unwilling to answer. It’ll be some shitty recorded message, I reason. Some soulless dick in Eastern Europe trying to swindle money from me that I don’t have.

I set the phone down on the coffee table amid a clutch of remote controls and let voicemail handle the call. My stomach gurgles for the hundredth time since I stepped in, so I hunt the last dregs of food from the kitchen, unearthing some macaroni, a squirt of tomato puree and a can of tuna flakes. Tomorrow I’ll be supping the salad cream.

I return to the sofa with a steaming, half-filled bowl of pasta. The moment I sit down my phone springs into life again, thrumming loudly against the wooden coffee table. Once more my number glows beneath the cracked screen, beckoning me to answer. I pick it up and wonder whether it’s possible to block calls coming from my own phone.

Who would call me like this, twice within the space of fifteen minutes? I’m guessing it’s not an auto-dialler. Not unless it has a pitifully short list of numbers to try. At least I’d have the satisfaction of giving a real person some verbal abuse before hanging up on them.

I hit the ‘Answer’ button.

There’s the crumpled sound of wind passing over a microphone. There are hurried footsteps too, as if the caller is running at full pelt. There’s screaming and crying and shouting in the background, and… tearing. Massive, massive tearing. It sounds like someone’s called me from the middle of a mass uprising. Whoever it is, they seem in trouble.

“Hello?” I say. “Who’s that?”

“Don’t…open…!” But the rest is garbled noise.

I nearly drop the phone. The caller is me. Unmistakably me. I’m agitated, stressed, panicked. I shudder as I listen, as if my body heat is leaching through my socks and into the laminate floor.

There’s a scrape of boots against paving stones. My boots. There’s heavy breathing, gasping, fumbling – everything soundtracked by tearing and screaming chaos – and then, at last, my voice again. I’m bellowing into the phone. Distortion. My mouth is too close to the phone, but I can still hear the words.


The tearing sound resumes. It somehow grows louder over the phone. I hear myself screaming at something, my vocal cords tinged with madness, and then… I feel sick. There’s a heavy thump. It sounds as if I’ve been hit by something big, hit hard enough to silence me.

Two soft beeps mark the end of the call.

I sag into the sofa, feeling faint. I look dumbly at the phone like it was the first of its kind and I mine.

What the hell was that all about? Had I just been prank-called? I run through a list of friends for potential candidates, which takes a depressingly short length of time. It doesn’t matter. Whoever was behind the call, how on earth had they gotten my voice? How did they engineer me into those cries and screams and those huge, bizarre tearing sounds? Ignore the app? What was that supposed to mean?

I pace the room. My mind spirals off into increasingly ludicrous explanations. Had someone secretly recorded me? The way I move? The way I breathe? When have I ever said “Ignore the app” like that? Never. So what just happened? Whoever rang, why did they call me? Was someone trying to scare me?

I notice a crack above the sofa, floating in the air, which pulls me from my thoughts.
I lean against the armrest and take a closer look. I thought I was seeing things, but no. Hanging roughly above where I’d been sitting there is a perfectly still hairline crack. I rub my eyes but the crack is still there. I blow at the crack but it does not move. I slowly run my fingers through the middle of it, but the crack remains unbroken.

“What… the… hell?”

The sound of an old car horn makes me jump. I look accusingly at my phone. A text message has arrived from an unknown number. The practiced hand of a serial recipient of junk texts immediately sets into motion its deletion, but then I see two words that turn my blood thick and icy.

New app.

I snap my thumb away as if the screen was alive with electricity. I feel my knees weaken as I read the text message in full.

You have been invited to beta test The Hook, our new app! Ever wished you could call yourself three hours ago? Well now you can! Go to url.me/g6xq14 and download The Hook today!

“Ignore the app,” I mutter to myself.

I sink once more into the sofa, phone in hand, my food now cold and forgotten. I bring up the text message again and let my eyes rest on its teasing blue hyperlink. Nervous energy buzzes through me like the business end of a ten-way accumulator. I hold and re-hold the device, unable to find a comfortable grip.

I surely hadn’t heard a future me just then, had I? A version of me three hours from now? How was that even possible? And through some smartphone app? Seriously? It had to be a set-up, but then how had the hoaxers gotten my voice? Could I be certain it was really me I’d heard?

Then it dawns on me. My attention is drawn to the flat-screen television and the self-satisfied grin of Ray Winstone. It’s an advert for Bet365, which quickly gives way to the opening titles for tonight’s Monday Night Football. Shit, was that why I’d tried to call myself?

My brain is suddenly a storm of activity. Thoughts roar and cascade over one another, plunging into areas of my mind that once made up the old me, the parts I’d spent so long trying to ignore. Oh yes, I can see exactly what’s happened here. It’s seven in the evening. Fast forward three hours and the match will have finished, with the result known along with a hundred and one in-plays.

“Holy shit!”

I glance once more at the text message on my phone. This is no hoax. I’m looking at a gold mine.

Ignore the app!

I cannot. The burning itch of old consumes me again. I return to the home screen of the phone and sweep through pages of betting apps, launching them in turn, digging out my diary of passwords for those I hadn’t used in a while, seeking any bookmaker for whom I may have missed the odd fiver’s credit. There is nothing. My inbox chimes with ‘welcome back’ emails, as if my absence had been through choice.

I scour my memory for any betting sites I haven’t tried, any with a tasty free bet sweetener. But what’s the use? My cards have been cut up, their credit maxed-out, frozen and inaccessible. There is a block on every one of my accounts against every known betting site to stop me spunking away any more money. Payday loan? I’ve had my fair share of them too, but they’re almost impossible for me now that lenders have been forced to background-check everyone.


I take a few deep breaths and force myself to think straight for a moment. Why would I have called myself after a match if I had no means to bet on it? Was I merely proving a point to myself? Even if I was, why on earth had I tried to call halfway through Armageddon?

A cool wave of nausea washes over me as I recall the heavy thump I’d heard. The way it silenced me. I try to block the memory from my mind.

Why had I called? What was the point? Then it clicks. There’s a William Hill just around the corner of McGinty’s pub that doesn’t close till 10pm. I don’t need credit to bet, or a bank account. I just need some folding money.

The only papery things in my wallet are receipts. I leaf through them for my hidden tenner, but I know I’ve already spent it. I’ve enough change in my pockets for a cheap half pint and that’s it. After that I’m officially penniless. So did I put a bet on? If so, how? Tonight’s match is Man City versus Liverpool: first versus second, even this early into the season. With such a low stake I’d win buttons, whatever the result. I must have called myself to simply prove the app worked. It’s not as if I had anything worth selling, save perhaps for a kidney.

Ray, on the other hand…

I look around the lounge and its shelves of books and TV box sets. Maybe I stole something and flogged it down the pub. Ray is still offshore. What the fella doesn’t know won’t hurt him if I replaced whatever I stole using my winnings.

But then really? I’m being reduced to this again? Stealing?

“Ignore the app,” I hear myself saying, then: “Shut up, Gris.”

I blink and an image of Josh flashes before my eyes. Hot shame spreads over me, easing some of the itch. Between us, Chelle and I have next to nothing – certainly not enough to buy everything Josh needs for secondary school – and yet here I am eager to bet again at all costs. Once more I find myself putting my own needs over those of my family and I hate myself anew.

And yet in my hands I hold something that can make everything right again. After years of shitty luck, I’ve finally been handed the break I deserve. But at what cost? My life? It sounded like I’d been hit by a truck in the middle of the Rapture, and all because I hadn’t ignored the app.

Maybe I should sleep on it and get a fresh perspective. I still have a week before Josh starts school again. I don’t need any serious cash until then. I can microwave my tea, watch the match and resist temptation.

My phone rings, a different tone. It’s Harold from the print works, one of my zero-hours.



“Alright, mate. I’ve got a half-mil’ mailing to get out sharpish, and I’m pulling in some troops. I’ve got you anything up to twelve hours if you want them, usual rate, cash in hand. You in?”

I feel the itch subside some more. I glance at the time and figure I can just about survive a twenty-one-hour day. I’d collapse into a heap once I got through the front door again, but at least I’ll have ignored the app and would have a little cash to tide me over.

Some folding money, as it were, and the lack of scrutiny that comes with it.

“Thanks, Harold,” I say. “I’ll be there in an hour.”


It’s seven in the morning when Harold drops me off outside Ray’s flat. My muscles twitch with fatigue and a general lack of food, but my mind is on fire. My phone is out before I’ve kicked off my boots. I hurry into the lounge and lay on the laminate floor, searching for the sports bar’s thready WiFi signal.

Harold had switched the radio over to the match commentary while we worked. Liverpool were stuffing Man City away from home. My mind was boggling over the odds when the sixth goal went in. No wonder I’d tried to call myself. The app – The Hook – I’ve never needed anything so badly.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!”

The connection is no longer there. The bastards in the sports bar have switched off their WiFi overnight. I let my phone clatter onto the floor before I can do anything foolish. The state of the screen is evidence of how destructive my childish outbursts can be.

I take in deep breaths to calm myself. I’m being an idiot again and I know it. I catch a vision of myself, lying on the floor, scowling and frantically jabbing at a phone like some pathetic loser. I force the itch within me to subside. I swallow it down.

So what if I couldn’t download the app right away? What was I going to bet on at seven in the morning? Aussie Rules Football?

“Get a grip, Gris, for Christ’s sake!” I hiss.

The fog surrounding my thoughts thins a little, allowing me to see a way through all of this. I just need to get some shuteye. When I wake again the sports bar will be open and, bingo, I’m back in business.

No, Gris! Ignore it! Ignore the app!

Overwhelmed with exhaustion, I fall asleep on the floor.


I wake with a start and instantly feel my back pull. My phone thrums loudly against the hard floor. The tinny sound of an old telephone echoes around the lounge. I haul myself over to the phone and see my number glowing on the screen again. It’s just gone eleven in the morning.

What the hell do I want at this time of day? No, wait, in three hours’ time? Whatever.

I hit ‘Answer’ and am amazed to hear Josh’s voice.

“Hi, Dad…” he says, and he immediately screams at me. Something awful has just happened. He screams and doesn’t stop. I’m reminded of every one of his nightmares, and how he would shriek in the dark until either Chelle or I looked in on him. It’s a sound I’d hoped never to hear again. I feel my guts twist into a tight knot.

“Josh?” I sit bolt upright, hissing through the pain in my back. “Josh, what’s wrong?”
There’s the sound of tearing again, huge and dominant. My son, still screaming. The phone is in his hand. He’s running hard, soft footfalls on grass. There are faint sounds of others yelling and shouting and crazed dogs barking. I can hear my future self coughing and calling out for him.

“Josh!” I yell into the phone. “Josh, talk to me! What’s happening?”

He can’t hear me. The blasts of wind across the mouthpiece suggest he’s sprinting now.

“Help me, Dad!” I hear him cry. “Please! Help me!”

His screams then fracture into panic and animalistic terror. The tearing all around him is immense.

The phone casing cracks in my hand, I’m crushing it so tight.


“It’s the phone, Dad!” he shrieks. “Don’t…”

The call ends. Two soft beeps.


I pull the phone away and jab at the screen, trying to reconnect the call.


I redial the last caller. Of course it doesn’t work.


I throw the phone into the sofa and scramble across the floor to get as far away from the damned thing as possible.


I sit there for a long time, rigid and tight against the wall, breathing hard, my eyes fixed on the phone. It lies face-down in a nook of cushions, as still as the dead.

That was not a prank. It couldn’t have been. If it was then whoever was behind it had somehow gotten Josh involved and that made me burn inside. What I’d heard was not a put-on. Nobody could ever have acted so scared. No, what I’d heard was a boy – my son – being reduced to nothing but instinct and terror in a matter of seconds. If this was some bastard’s sick idea of a joke, then that must have meant they’d gotten… that they’d somehow gotten Joshua to…

I don’t want to think about it. My stomach spasms.

When I finally draw my attention away from the sofa, I notice a second hairline crack. It’s much longer than the first, starting from a few inches above the floor and running up a couple of feet in a tight curve. It looks like a thin, unbalanced ‘C’ hanging perfectly still in three-dimensional space.

I focus a little above the sofa and catch sight of the first crack. Comparing the two, the second crack seems slightly thicker.

It’s the phone, Dad!

I ignore the cracks in the air and my phone lying on the sofa. I try to focus on one madness at a time.

Why had Josh called me? Obviously it was to say “Hi” but how had that come about? I wasn’t supposed to have him until four at the earliest. I received the call at eleven o’clock in the morning, my time; two o’clock in the afternoon, his. That was, of course, assuming the text message was telling the truth about a three-hour gap. I don’t know what to believe any more.

I focus instead on the facts. I have received two calls from the future: one from myself, which ended badly for me, and one from Josh, which ended badly for him. But I didn’t die following that first call. I managed to resist using the app. So it follows that Josh must do the same.

But how had Josh called me in the first place? He had used my phone, as it was my number that flashed up on the screen. I think back to my state of mind before I’d fallen asleep on the floor. I’d been driven near mad with desire for a WiFi connection I could use so early in the morning. I’d felt the old itch spread across every square inch of me throughout those interminable hours following the match.

In the future I must have downloaded the app as soon as the sports bar had opened. Maybe I had told Josh about it in a bid to make me seem interesting again. Perhaps Josh had badgered me to use it.

And then the tearing and the screaming and the shouting began again.

“Ignore the app,” I mutter to myself.

Then I remember about the Euromillions tonight.


Chelle’s caller ID is displayed on the phone. Above it the time approaches half one in the afternoon. Despite the sunny weather outside, I feel an icy chill collect in my bones. So this is how it happens. I’m about to discover why I get to have Josh a few hours earlier than usual today. I’m probably also about to receive an almighty bollocking from Chelle for not calling her back.

I steady myself and hit ‘Answer’.

“Chelle?” I say as evenly as I can.

“I take it you’ve run out of credit again,” she says. Every word is a railway spike struck deep into the base of my skull.

I am about to tell her about the sixty quid I have in my back pocket – well, forty of it anyway – but she carries on without letting me speak.

“It doesn’t matter. I need you to take Joshua a few hours early.”

“Why? What’s happened?”

“It’s those little shits from the estate. They’re banging on Mum’s door again and chucking stones at her windows. I don’t want Joshua to see me wringing their necks.”

Eleven o’clock my time; two o’clock his.

My skin bunches up into gooseflesh.

“Okay,” I say. “What time should I bring him back?”

“The usual. I still need to head to Lidl.”

“Thank you,” I say, meaning it. “Shall I come round?”

“Hold on, I’ll get him,” she says. “JOSHU-AAAHHH! It’s your Dad! I swear to God, Darren, the sooner they’re back in school the better. Here, he’s on the phone.

“Hi, Dad.”

A bolt of elation courses through me upon hearing his voice again.

“Heya,” I say. “Looking forward to big school?”

“No. Mum says I’ve got to be with you for a few extra hours?”

He doesn’t seem entirely thrilled about the idea, but then who can blame him? I haven’t exactly been Father of the Year.

“Yeah. Nice day for it, though,” I say, trying to sound chipper. “Do you want to do anything in particular?”

“Ally and Yobba are playing footie in the park. I kind of said I’d join them.”

Something clicks in my mind. I see the park. I see people strolling by, enjoying the sun, walking their dogs. Crazed dogs barking. Tearing. I hear my son’s anguished screams.

“Tell you what,” I say. “Why don’t we do something in town, yeah?”

Something far away from the park, from the dogs. Something far away from any free WiFi too, if possible.

Choose something cheap, choose something cheap, choose something cheap…

“Well, the new Marvel movie is still playing at the Odeon,” says Josh. “We could go and see that.”

“You’re the boss.”



If Chelle has murdered any little shits during the last five hours, she’s made a good job of washing the blood off her hands. I count four tenners onto her outstretched palm. At least Josh can go to school without being dressed in rags, or at least for a couple of days per week.

“I rang the bank to see if they could reverse the Direct Debit, but they said no.” The lie forces me to keep my eyes lowered. “I’m getting a few calls for work now, at least. I might get a few more hours’ work tonight.”

Thankfully this is closer to the truth.

She says nothing and so I look her in the eye. Dark rings have formed beneath her eyelids. Faint wrinkles surround her lips. Her face hardens, but I can see her clenching her jaw, trying to maintain the look. I feel a small tugging sensation at the back of my throat and an ache in my chest. After everything we’ve been through, I still love her.

Eventually she speaks: “Are you getting any help?”

“I’m dealing with it, Chelle,” I say. “It’s just taking a while.”

“Where are you now?”

“House-sitting,” I say. After that, probably camping. “I’ll pop round tomorrow if I get any extra money through.”

She nods and folds her arms across her chest, then turns and walks slowly towards her ground floor flat. I notice the darkened crack between Josh’s curtains narrow. When Chelle closes the front door, I start walking.


I slow to a snail’s pace as I near the corner shop. I can’t help it. I see the garish yellow and blue poster in the window.

IT’S OVER £120M!

It’s a quarter past seven. The Euromillions draw takes place in a couple hours’ time. The tills shut in fifteen minutes. I fix the time firmly in my mind. Despite those vile warnings from the future I still find myself craving a phone call.

I’m not so much walking now as loitering, but my phone remains silent. I step inside the shop to waste some more time. I leaf through a poor selection of magazines and a stellar range of puzzle books, but it’s no good. I’m looking more like a shoplifter with each passing minute.

Twenty past seven comes and goes without a call. I smile weakly towards the shopkeeper, then make my excuses and leave.

I should be happy. In avoiding the park, by ignoring the app, I had saved Josh from whatever hell awaited him. I’m still alive too, no longer wiped out by something big and heavy. And, putting the app to one side for a second, I’m starting to earn some money again, even if it is a pittance.

But I’m not happy. My future self hasn’t called, and that gets the conniving, itchy, selfish side of me thinking: “why not?” The future is malleable. It’s mine to change. I’ve proved it. So what’s to stop me from using the app to phone back the winning numbers? My future self is expendable. I just have to resist downloading the app once the call is made. I simply need to sit on my hands back at the flat and watch Lottery HQ make me rich. Whatever hell lay ahead of me needn’t happen as I am always in control of the present.

No sooner does the thought enter my head than my phone starts ringing; the familiar clamouring bells of a rotary telephone. My number glows through the cracked screen. I smile. It seems my future self has gotten the message. I run back towards the corner shop. After a few badly aimed jabs of the finger, I finally manage to hit the ‘Answer’ button.

“…you have to trust me,” I hear myself say. Then the tearing noise begins. Loud hissing soon follows. Screams. Alarms. Then a huge crashing sound and a sickening wet thud. I hear myself cough and choke, eventually managing: “Jesus Christ! No!”

I burst into the shop and scrabble for a slip of paper from the lottery kiosk. I scatter pens everywhere as I try to grab them.

“My God! Oh my God, NO!” I hear myself saying before coughing hoarsely.

“Just read out the numbers, damn it!” I yell into the phone.

There comes the most horrifying, inhuman shriek I have ever heard; a blast of distorted noise that causes me to drop the phone. I manage to get my boot underneath it to cushion the blow. Even with the phone lying on the ground I can still hear its terrifying roar.

But then the noise stops. The screen lights up momentarily with an ‘End of call’ message before going dark again.

“Shit!” I yell. “Shitting, shitting shit!”

I stamp the heel of my boot down hard, only avoiding the phone at the very last minute and jarring my ankle in the process. I swear a lot and at great volume as spikes of agony shoot up my leg.

When I eventually stop raging I am met with a shopkeeper holding a can of pepper spray to my face. Between us in mid-air hangs a jagged black squiggle a couple of millimetres thick. The end of it dips down to the floor where my phone lies.

The digital clock at the back of the shop flicks over to seven thirty-one.


The storm clouds in my head had cleared by the time I’d limped home, allowing me to think rationally again. So what if I didn’t win the lottery tonight? My plan doesn’t need to change, even if some Belgian dentist wins the lot. The jackpot will build again, and it will be mine to claim whenever I wish. I just needed to exercise some patience.

I had let the itch get the better of me again, but this time I don’t feel quite so ashamed. I have something any gambler would give their right arm for: a system I knew worked. If I played my cards right, I could have an infinite line of credit on tap. I could win any game I wanted. In a perverse way, maybe this was exactly the thing I needed to break my addiction. Once the gloss of winning all the time had faded, perhaps I could then move on to something else, like living my life. I could spend more time with Josh. Maybe I could even get back together with Chelle.

Before any of that, however, I clearly needed to get better at calling myself.


My phone sparks into life at around half eight.

“Chelle?” I manage through a mouth full of Chinese food. I wasn’t expecting her.

“Darren? Darren, it’s Joshua,” she says. Her voice is high and wavering. She bursts into tears.

I spit the food into a nearby takeaway tray.

“Chelle? What’s happened? Is Josh alright?”

“He’s been hit,” she says. “A car hit him.”

“Oh my God, Chelle, I’m coming right over.” I leap from the sofa.

“No, we’ll be at the hospital,” she says.

“Okay, I’ll see you there.”

She is suddenly overwhelmed by a mother’s anguish that tears me to pieces for not being there. I’m reaching for my boots when she manages to speak again.

“It’s his head, Darren,” she says. That’s all. She is lost to her grief.

“Don’t worry, Chelle. Everything is going to be alright.”

I pause in the doorway, letting the front door rest against my back. I look over my shoulder and towards the floor of the lounge. I slowly run my thumb along the edge of the phone.

“I promise.”


Chelle explained what happened while we waited in A&E. The little shits from the estate she had chased from her mother’s house in her own unique way had gone and told a few bigger shits who decided to come and do some knocking of their own.

I felt a small flicker of pride when I heard how Josh had followed his mother outside to confront them, but that was quickly snuffed when I heard what happened next. One of the feral bastards had gone for Josh and chased him out into the road.

The driver had slammed on the brakes but couldn’t avoid hitting our son.

For the next however long, Chelle tried to keep Josh conscious until the ambulance came. There was a frightening amount of blood on the road. When Josh’s eyes rolled up and closed, she thought she had lost him.

Either way, dead or alive, it’s bad. I feel like smashing myself in the face. None of this would have happened if I’d kept my stupid vices in check. I’d still have my old job. We’d still have our marriage, our son and our house well away from this hellish side of town, mortgage and all.

The first of the evening’s drunks staggers into A&E. I check the time on my phone. It’s been well over an hour since Josh was admitted. I’m about to enquire at the desk when I hear someone summon us.

The doctor tries to soften the impact of what we are about to see as we ride the elevator to intensive care. She can only spare us a short time with Josh but says it’s important that we see him. She assures us Josh is responding well and that we shouldn’t feel alarmed upon seeing him. A swirling vortex of dread grows within me. No parent should ever have to go through this.

We find our only child lying completely still in a vast, white bed, the top half of his body covered in bandages and tubes and wires. I blanch at the large plastic breather plugging his mouth. Beside him a nurse busies herself checking a hundred and one different monitors. She exchanges an unspoken nod with the doctor.

I feel faint. Chelle covers her mouth and sobs.

“Josh is heavily sedated but conscious,” says the doctor as we rub antibacterial gel into our hands. “It’ll do him a power of good to see you both, but you’ve got to be brave for him. He can’t see you looking upset, okay?”

Chelle nods. I can’t take my eyes off my son. We both rein in our emotions as best we can, but when we enter the room my heart beats harder, pushing more blood into my head, making me feel nauseous and faint once more.

The patches of skin visible beneath the things keeping Josh alive are livid with scrapes and the beginnings of enormous bruises. They seem to cover his left side from shoulder to waist. His upper body, especially his neck, looks swollen but what terrifies me the most are the number of bandages wrapped around his head.

Chelle sits slowly by Josh’s side and gently takes hold of his hand.

“Heya, big guy,” she says. “How are you feeling?”

Josh’s eyes swim in their sockets. They lock onto his mother briefly but he’s fighting a losing battle against whatever sedatives they’ve pumped into him. I feel my throat dry instantly the moment his eyes drift lazily my way and all I can manage is a croak and a weak smile.

He looks lost in there and I feel damned and ashamed. I’ve betrayed the only things left in the world I’ve ever loved and now I look upon what I’ve reduced them to.
I let out a heavy sob. I can’t help it. I ignore the looks from Chelle and the others and reach into my pocket for my phone.

“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t use that in here,” says the nurse.

“Mr Grisley, please, you’ll have to take that elsewhere,” says the doctor. “We have a designated area further down the corridor.”

“Darren!” says Chelle.

“I can make things better again,” I say. The words sound numb and bassy in my head.
The home screen of my phone glows beneath the spider web cracks. The time in the title bar flicks over to ten twenty-seven. I thumb through pages of dead betting apps and find the newest arrival. I dab a finger against the icon for The Hook.

“Sir, please, take that away from here”, says the nurse.

Chelle rises from the chair, hiding her fury from Josh.

I edge nearer the door, my ex-wife closing in on me.

“What the hell do you think you are playing at, Darren?” she hisses. “That’s our son over there. Switch that bloody thing off!”

“I can stop this from happening, Chelle,” I say. My voice is breaking.

The loading screen for The Hook, like its icon, is a stylish but simple design of a quarter-circle with a backwards arrow forming the arc. The loading screen clears to reveal perhaps the simplest app I have ever seen. There are no configurable settings to worry about. There was no need to register, nor did I have to approve any terms and conditions. All there is on the screen is a big red button with the words ‘Hook me up!’ written in the middle.

And so I press it. I hear a muted dial tone and hold the phone to my ear.

“What do you mean you can stop this? How, Darren? How? For God’s sake, it’s already happened!”

“I can put things right, Chelle,” I say. “Please! You have to trust me.”

(c) Paul Collin 2019

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1406

[NOTE: I’ll be away from my laptop next weekend for a couple of weeks. All being well, I’ll be back in the saddle again early-November. Look after the place while I’m gone, will you? – LP]

Another relatively straightforward puzzle this week, though there was a smattering of exotic solutions to keep things a little spicy. It would also appear this week’s setter is the one who has a thing for dead people. (One of the unwritten rules The Times employs in their crosswords is to only allow real people as solutions if they’ve kicked the bucket.) I counted three dead guys lying around, stinking up the place, and another three that were shoehorned into other solutions. The irony wasn’t lost on me, given I’d grumped about precisely this in a comment to last week’s post. Ho and hum.

Anyway, to a spot of housekeeping. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s tripped you up, then you might find my Just For Fun page a handy resource. If you have a passing interest in books, then I’ve a few things on my Reviews page that might interest. Maybe. No promises.

Right then. Here’s my completed grid, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

Till next time,


Across clues

1. About an hour changing motorway (8)

Answer: AUTOBAHN (i.e. a “motorway” in Germany). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “changing”) of ABOUT AN and H (a recognised abbreviation of “hour”).

5. Author on the right put off about vote (6)

Answer: Colin DEXTER, creator of Inspector Morse (i.e. “author” – with apologies to any other deceased authors of his namesake – don’t haunt me). Solution is DETER (i.e. “put off”) placed “about” X (i.e. “vote”), like so: DE(X)TER. Solution also satisfies “on the right”. I’m sinister, which may not surprise anyone.

9. Order to purchase gemstone reportedly for cyborg technology (7)

Answer: BIONICS (i.e. “cyborg technology”). “Reportedly” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of BUY ONYX (i.e. “order to purchase gemstone”).

14. Fiery and extreme English politician in present day (3-8)

Answer: HOT-TEMPERED (i.e. “fiery”). Solution is OTT (i.e. “extreme”, being a recognised abbreviation of “over the top”), E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and MP (i.e. “politician”, specifically a Member of Parliament) placed “in” HERE (i.e. “present”) and finally followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “day”), like so: H(OTT-E-MP)ERE-D.

15. Alas, your pic is spoiled as gannets take food (11)

Answer: RAPACIOUSLY (i.e. “as gannets take food”). “Spoiled” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ALAS YOUR PIC.

16. Europe’s capital resides in wealthy German state (5)

Answer: REICH (i.e. “German state”). Solution is E (i.e. “Europe’s capital”, i.e. the first letter of “European”) placed or “residing in” RICH (i.e. “wealthy”), like so: R(E)ICH.

17. Poisonous mushroom mother’s fed to girl (7)

Answer: AMANITA (i.e. “poisonous mushroom”). Solution is MA (i.e. “mother”) placed in or “fed to” ANITA (i.e. “girl”, as in a girl’s name), like so: A(MA)NITA. I owe this one in part to a frightening number of hours spent gadding about Skyrim. And Skyrim VR.

18. Ireland in round are initially one up on points? (9)

Answer: BALLERINA (i.e. “one up on points”, as in being up on one’s tippy-toes). Solution is ERIN (i.e. “Ireland”, poetically) placed “in” between BALL (i.e. “round” – a bit weak) and A (i.e. “are initially”, i.e. the first letter of “are”), like so: BALL-(ERIN)-A.

19. Rupees southern India discovered in drug island (7)

Answer: CORSICA (i.e. “island”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation of “rupees”), S (ditto “southern”) and I (“India” in the phonetic alphabet) placed or “discovered in” COCA (i.e. “drug”), like so: CO(R-S-I)CA.

20. Perhaps Oscar is number two (6-2-7)

Answer: SECOND-IN-COMMAND (i.e. “number two”). Solution also satisfies “perhaps Oscar”, referring to how O (“Oscar” in the phonetic alphabet) is the second letter of “command”.

22. Not let Anne Dutten out (10)

Answer: UNTENANTED (i.e. “not let”). “Out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ANNE DUTTEN.
[EDIT: Thanks to Mark in the comments for the correction. Solution was UNTENANTED, not UNATTENDED. The grid image was correct, but my brain went wrong when writing up the solutions. Stoopid brain… – LP]

23. Give Spanish noblewoman note (6)

Answer: DONATE (i.e. “give”). Solution is DONA (i.e. “Spanish noblewoman”, the female equivalent of a Don) followed by TE (i.e. “note”, in the doh-ray-me notation).

25. Once more throwing away a win (4)

Answer: GAIN (i.e. “win”). Solution is AGAIN (i.e. “once more”) with the first A removed (indicated by “throwing away a”).

28. Putting longer, I developed a brassy technique (6-8)

Answer: TRIPLE-TONGUING (i.e. “brassy technique”). “Developed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PUTTING LONGER I. Not one to stick into Google. (Right, Mick? 😉 )

30. Ale month shifted alcohol (8)

Answer: METHANOL (i.e. “alcohol”). “Shifted” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ALE MONTH.

32. Soldiers protecting heads of Asian trade mission (8)

Answer: LEGATION (i.e. a diplomatic “mission”). Solution is LEGION (i.e. “soldiers”) wrapped around or “protecting” the “heads” or first letters of “Asian” and “trade”, like so: LEG(A-T)ION.

34. Headless rat in eggs and cheese pastries? Take any remedy (6,2,6)

Answer: CLUTCH AT STRAWS (i.e. “take any remedy”). Solution is AT (i.e. “headless rat”, i.e. the word “rat” with its initial letter removed) placed “in” between CLUTCH (i.e. “eggs”) and STRAWS (i.e. “cheese pastries”), like so: CLUTCH-(AT)-STRAWS.

37. Pint puller needs no help to get froth on liquor (4)

Answer: BARM (i.e. “froth on [fermenting] liquor”). Solution is BARMAID (i.e. “pint puller”) with the AID removed (indicated by “needs no help”). One gotten purely from the wordplay, if I’m honest.

38. Note hint about card game (6)

Answer: ECARTE (i.e. “card game”). Solution is E (i.e. a musical “note”) followed by TRACE (i.e. “hint”) both reversed (indicated by “about”), like so: ECART-E. Another one gotten from the wordplay.

39. 3-D art of changing hands in clock-making (10)

Answer: HOLOGRAPHY (i.e. “3-D art”). Solution is HOROGRAPHY (i.e. “clock-making”) with the R replaced by L (indicated by “changing hands”; R being a recognised abbreviation of “right”, L being “left”).

43. US determination to change inadequate rating (15)

Answer: UNDERESTIMATION (i.e. “inadequate rating”). “To change” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of US DETERMINATION.

45. Vet meeting requirements given time (7)

Answer: INSPECT (i.e. to “vet”). Solution is IN SPEC (i.e. “meeting requirements”, as in being within specification) followed by T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

47. Vandyke perhaps knowing about English illustrator (9)

Answer: Aubrey BEARDSLEY (i.e. “illustrator”). Solution is BEARD (i.e. “Vandyke perhaps”, being a short pointy beard) followed by SLY (i.e. “knowing”) once it has been wrapped around E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: BEARD-SL(E)Y. No, me neither. Another one gotten from the wordplay.

49. Mixture of aluminium in molten rock on the turn (7)

Answer: AMALGAM (i.e. “mixture”). Solution is AL (chemical symbol of “aluminium”) placed “in” MAGMA (i.e. “molten rock”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “on the turn”), like so: AM(AL)GAM.

51. Country concerned with peace after Conservative loss (5)

Answer: REALM (i.e. “country”). Solution is RE (i.e. “concerned with” – think email replies, for example) followed by CALM (i.e. “peace”) with the C removed (indicated by “after Conservative loss” – C being a recognised abbreviation of “Conservative”), like so: RE-ALM.

52. Diplomat needs suit as cover for briefs (7,4)

Answer: ATTACHE CASE (i.e. “cover for briefs”). Solution is ATTACHE (i.e. “diplomat”) followed by CASE (i.e. “suit”). An easier get than it ought to have been, being a recent repeat.

53. Evil American is into careless faker of images (11)

Answer: ILLUSIONIST (i.e. “faker of images”). Solution is ILL (i.e. “evil”) followed by US (i.e. “American”) and an anagram (indicated by “careless”) of IS INTO, like so: ILL-US-IONIST.

54. Sleeping – something not to do around Sandhurst (7)

Answer: DORMANT (i.e. “sleeping”). Solution is DON’T (i.e. “something not to do”) placed “around” RMA (i.e. Royal Military Academy, “Sandhurst” – it’s listed as RMAS in my Chambers, with no separate entry for RMA. Your dictionary may differ.)

55. Dangerous element runs for street in sports venue (6)

Answer: RADIUM (i.e. “dangerous element”). “For” indicates a replacement is afoot. Solution is STADIUM (i.e. “sports venue”) with the ST (a recognised abbreviation of “street”) replaced with R (ditto “runs”, as used in various ball games). Spookily, the last book I’ve read this week is Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing, which is up for a World Fantasy Award next month. The novella is partly about the Radium Girls, who painted radium onto clock faces, tragically unaware of the radiation poisoning until it was much too late. Also, sentient glow-in-the-dark elephants. It’s a good read, incidentally, but takes some getting into. Anyway, moving on…

56. Hardly daunting storing film material (8)

Answer: SCARCELY (i.e. “hardly”). Solution is SCARY (i.e. “daunting”) wrapped around or “storing” CEL (i.e. “film material”), like so: SCAR(CEL)Y.

Down clues

1. Steam haricots with some tongue inside (7)

Answer: AMHARIC, the official language of Ethiopia (i.e. “tongue”). “With some … inside” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: STE(AM HARIC)OTS. One I only got once I had all the intersecting letters filled in, and even then a brute force of my Chambers was needed.

2. All playing on grass put up with half time ice cream (5-6)

Answer: TUTTI-FRUTTI (i.e. “ice cream”). Solution is TUTTI (musical lingo for “all playing”) followed by TURF (i.e. “grass”) reversed (indicated by “put up” – this being a down clue), then TI (i.e. “half time”, i.e. the first half of the word “time”), like so: TUTTI-FRUT-TI.

3. Writer’s from German right, one limited by injunction? (9)

Answer: BRECHTIAN (i.e. “writer’s” – I’m taking this to mean “of Bertolt BRECHT”). Solution is RECHT (i.e. “German right”, i.e. the German for “right”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in or “limited by” BAN (i.e. “injunction”), like so: B(RECHT-I)AN.

4. US comedian’s internal struggle to be eternally optimistic? (4,7,4)

Answer: HOPE AGAINST HOPE. Solution satisfies “US comedian [Bob HOPE]’s internal struggle” and “to be eternally optimistic”). A clue that scans rather well.

6. Ghostly tingling follows tree emitting echo (8)

Answer: ELDRITCH (i.e. “ghostly” – fans of H.P. Lovecraft will be all over this one). Solution is ITCH (i.e. “tingling”) placed after or “following” ELDER (i.e. “tree”) with the second E removed (indicated by “emitting echo” – E is “echo” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: ELDR-ITCH.

7. Orientating car badly in unfamiliar area (5,9)

Answer: TERRA INCOGNITA (i.e. “unfamiliar area”). “Badly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ORIENTATING CAR. Another clue that scans rather well. The solution also begs to be a story title. Really cool.

8. Politician managed to take in English people (10)

Answer: REPUBLICAN (i.e. “politician”). Solution is RAN (i.e. “managed”) wrapped around or “taking in” E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and PUBLIC (i.e. “people”), like so: R(E-PUBLIC)AN. I really ought to start using a recognised abbreviation for “a recognised abbreviation”…

9. Rural bus curtailed – a severe pain (7)

Answer: BUCOLIC (i.e. “rural”). Solution is BUS with the last letter removed (indicated by “curtailed”) and followed by COLIC (i.e. “a severe pain”), like so: BU-COLIC.

10. Old unit containing unknown toxic gas (5)

Answer: OZONE (i.e. “toxic gas”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and ONE (i.e. a “unit”) wrapped around or “containing” Z (i.e. “unknown” – setters love calling the letters X, Y or Z in their solutions “unknowns”), like so: O-(Z)-ONE.

11. Where train stops around one with good reason to get going (11)

Answer: INSTIGATION (i.e. “reason to get going”). Solution is IN STATION (i.e. “where train stops”) placed “around” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”), like so: IN-ST(I-G)ATION.

12. Heavens! NHS bed places going up? (8)

Answer: SKYWARDS (i.e. “going up”). Solution is SKY (i.e. “heavens”) followed by WARDS (i.e. “NHS bed places”, as in hospital wards).

13. Killer beheaded Spanish poet (4)

Answer: ORCA, a “killer” whale. Solution is Federico García LORCA (i.e. “Spanish poet”) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “beheaded”). Chalk one to my Bradfords here. My knowledge of Spanish poets is almost as good as my knowledge of non-Spanish poets.

20. Queen’s put up in Italian city (6)

Answer: SIENNA (i.e. “Italian city”). Solution is ANNE IS (i.e. “queen’s”, read as “queen is”), reversed (indicated by “put up” – this being a down clue), like so: SI-ENNA.

21. Picture reason for dropping coffee? (7)

Answer: MUGSHOT. Solution satisfies “picture” and, when read as MUG [IS] SHOT (i.e. “reason for dropping coffee”).

22. Indescribable hunt hold topless meet (6)

Answer: UNTOLD (i.e. “indescribable”). Solution is derived by removing the initial letters (indicated by “topless”) of HUNT HOLD.

24. The food of love, perhaps with chips? (10,5)

Answer: ELECTRONIC MUSIC. Solution riffs on an oft quoted line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “If music be the food of love, play on”. “Chips”, in context of the solution, represent microchips. You get the idea.

26. Treats cloth on side with a napper as quickly as possible (4,5,5)

Answer: FULL STEAM AHEAD (i.e. “as quickly as possible”). Solution is FULLS (i.e. “treats cloth” – an alternative definition of “full” is to scour and beat woollens) followed by TEAM (i.e. “side”) and A HEAD (i.e. “a napper” – a definition supported by my Chambers), like so: FULLS-TEAM-A-HEAD.

27. Flamboyant wood used in old carriage (6)

Answer: FLASHY (i.e. “flamboyant”). Solution is ASH (i.e. “wood”) placed “in” FLY (i.e. “old carriage”), like so: FL(ASH)Y.

29. The French on watch, perhaps for English martyr (7)

Answer: Hugh LATIMER, one of the Oxford “Martyrs” tried for heresy in the sixteenth century and burnt at the stake. Solution is LA (i.e. “the French”, i.e. the feminine form of the word “the” in French) followed by TIMER (i.e. “watch, perhaps”). Another one gotten from the wordplay.

31. Disconcerted wife in large crowd losing key (6)

Answer: THROWN (i.e. “disconcerted”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”) placed “in” THRONG (i.e. “large crowd”) once the G has been removed (indicated by “losing [musical] key”), like so: THRO(W)N.

33. Piano virtuoso, expert at moving pieces (11)

Answer: GRANDMASTER. Solution, when read as GRAND MASTER, satisfies “piano virtuoso”. Solution also satisfies “expert at moving [chess] pieces”.

35. Amentia treated with hemp drug (11)

Answer: AMPHETAMINE (i.e. “drug”). “Treated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AMENTIA and HEMP.

36. Novel sin – just (6,4)

Answer: VANITY FAIR, a “novel” by William Makepeace Thackery. Solution is VANITY (one of the seven deadly “sins”) followed by FAIR (i.e. “just”).

40. Stock film boxers perhaps avoided? (9)

Answer: RESERVOIR (i.e. “stock”). Solution is RESERVOIR DOGS (i.e. a “film” by Quentin Tarantino) with the DOGS removed (indicated by “boxers perhaps avoided”).
[EDIT: Thanks to Sid in the comments for the typo corrections. Much obliged, Sid! – LP]

41. Store directors chasing award (8)

Answer: CUPBOARD (i.e. “store”). Solution is BOARD (i.e. “directors”) placed after or “chasing” CUP (i.e. “award”), like so: CUP-BOARD.

42. Unfortunately, it is a rum dessert (8)

Answer: TIRAMISU (i.e. “dessert”). “Unfortunately” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IT IS A RUM.

44. Note way to remove fumes making acetone? (7)

Answer: SOLVENT (i.e. “acetone”). Solution SOL (i.e. “note”, in the doh-ray-me style) followed by VENT (i.e. “way to remove fumes”).

46. Grass’s book (7)

Answer: TIMOTHY. Solution satisfies “grass” – as in the flora – and “book” – as in one of the books of the New Testament.

48. Russian’s home in Moscow, yes, before tea (5)

Answer: DACHA (i.e. “Russian’s home”). Solution is DA (i.e. “in Moscow, yes” – as in the Russian word for “yes”) followed by CHA (i.e. “tea”). One I knew, weirdly, though I can’t recall from where.

50. Day record set up for top prize (4)

Answer: GOLD (i.e. “top prize”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “day”) followed by LOG (i.e. “record”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “set up” – this being a down clue), like so: GOL-D.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1405

Another relatively straightforward affair this week, lightly peppered with a few exotics to keep things interesting. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them useful.

Before we get cracking, a spot of housekeeping. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic crossword that has left you jiggered then my Just For Fun page might be of some use. If you dig on book reviews, then I have a bunch on my Reviews page.

To the solutions then. TTFN!


Across clues

1. Successful entertainment bursts out with energy in rush (3,4)

Answer: POP STAR (i.e. “successful entertainer”). Solution is POPS (i.e. “bursts”) followed by TEAR (i.e. “[to] rush”) once the E has been removed (indicated by “out with energy”, E being a recognised abbreviation of “energy”), like so: POPS-TAR.

5. Novel about Churchill’s bunker? (3,6)

Answer: THE WARDEN (i.e. “[Anthony Trollope] novel”). When read as THE WAR DEN, the solution also satisfies “Churchill’s bunker”.

10. House warming’s ending with a fine foxtrot (4)

Answer: GAFF (i.e. “house”). Solution is G (i.e. “warming’s ending”, i.e. the last letter of “warming”) followed by A then F (a recognised abbreviation of “fine”) and F (“foxtrot” in the phonetic alphabet).

14. Put off edited satanic report (13)

Answer: PROCRASTINATE (i.e. “put off”). “Edited” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SATANIC REPORT.

15. Two toys are nearly maximum price (3,6)

Answer: TOP DOLLAR (i.e. “maximum price”). Solution is [spinning] TOP and DOLL (i.e. “two toys”) followed by ARE with its last letter removed (indicated by “nearly”), like so: TOP-DOLL-AR.

16. Outfit with green energy (3-2-3-2)

Answer: GET-UP-AND-GO (i.e. “energy”). Solution is GET-UP (i.e. “outfit”) followed by AND (i.e. “with”) and GO (i.e. “green”, as in traffic lights).

17. No time for sexy poetry after hard alexandrines (6,5)

Answer: HEROIC VERSE (i.e. “alexandrines” – a kind of poem). Solution is EROTIC VERSE (i.e. “sexy poetry”) with the T removed (indicated by “no time for…” – T being a recognised abbreviation of “time”) and the remainder placed “after” H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in grading pencils), like so: H-EROIC-VERSE.

18. Wife aggressively masculine, daughter not born (5)

Answer: DUTCH, which is Cockney rhyming slang for “wife”, supposedly after the Duchess of Fife. No, me neither, but then I had to have “Alans” explained to me in the phrase “calm down, keep your Alans on”. Knickers, in case you were wondering, after Alan Whicker. Anyway, I digress… Solution is BUTCH (i.e. “aggressively masculine” with the D replaced by B (indicated by “daughter not born” – D being a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”; B being a recognised abbreviation of “born”).

19. Hatred of how much senior management take (10)

Answer: EXECRATION (i.e. “hatred”). When read as EXEC RATION, the solution also satisfies “how much senior management [executives, or execs] take”.

21. Sea wall gone extremely rapidly in a storm (6)

Answer: GROYNE (i.e. “sea wall”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “in a storm”) of GONE and RY (i.e. “extremely rapidly”, i.e. the first and last letters of “extremely”).

23. Chief steward brought round tea for customer (9)

Answer: PURCHASER (i.e. “customer”). Solution is PURSER (i.e. “chief steward”) placed “round” CHA (i.e. “tea”), like so: PUR(CHA)SER.

25. Girl half rejecting modern times (5)

Answer: DONNA (i.e. “girl”). Solution is “half” of ANNO DOMINI (i.e. “modern times”) once reversed (indicated by “rejected”) like so: INIMO(D ONNA).

26. Piled up, a sea enveloping a ship (7)

Answer: AMASSED (i.e. “piled up”). Solution is A MED (i.e. “a sea”, specifically the Mediterranean) wrapped around or “enveloping” A SS (i.e. “a ship” – SS is a recognised abbreviation of “steamship” or “screw steamer”), like so: A-M(A-SS)ED.

28. What some loose women had on highly embarrassed landlord? (7,6)

Answer: SCARLET LETTER. Solution satisfies “what some loose women had on” – being “a scarlet-coloured letter A worn by women convicted of adultery in the Puritan communities of New England” (thank you, Chambers) – and “highly embarrassed landlord” – a landlord being one who lets property.

31. Poet’s good book very cheap? (4,5)

Answer: EZRA POUND (i.e. “poet”). Taking EZRA to be one of the books of The Bible, and POUND to be an amount of currency, the solution also satisfies “good book very cheap”.

33. Flag officer goes by state during round of duty (9)

Answer: TRICOLOUR (i.e. three-coloured “flag” e.g. of France). Solution is COL (i.e. “officer”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “colonel”) placed after RI (i.e. “state”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Rhode Island), and both placed in or “during” TOUR (i.e. “round of [military] duty”), like so: T(RI-COL)OUR.

35. Sympathetic as firm friend admits strong agitation (13)

Answer: COMPASSIONATE (i.e. “sympathetic”). Solution is CO (i.e. “firm”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “company”) and MATE (i.e. “friend”) wrapped around or “admitting” PASSION (i.e. “strong agitation”), like so: CO-M(PASSION)ATE.

37. A number working across one’s back for stiffness (7)

Answer: TENSION (i.e. “stiffness”). Solution is TEN (i.e. “a number”) and ON (i.e. “working”) wrapped around or placed “across” I’S (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one’s”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “back”), like so: TEN-(S’I)-ON.

38. Affair takes one out of office work (5)

Answer: FLING (i.e. “affair”). Solution is FILING (i.e. “office work”) with the first I removed (indicated by “takes [Roman numeral] one out of…”).

40. Think about where to move: coast (9)

Answer: FREEWHEEL (i.e. “[to] coast”). Solution is FEEL (i.e. “think”) placed “about” an anagram (indicated by “to move”) of WHERE, like so: F(REEWH)EEL.

42. Lock up enclosure ahead of time (6)

Answer: ENCAGE (i.e. “[to] lock up”). Solution is ENC (a recognised abbreviation of “enclosure” used in formal correspondence) followed by AGE (i.e. “time”).

44. Piles on underclothes one may get down to (5,5)

Answer: “…one may get down to” BRASS TACKS. Solution is STACKS (i.e. “piles”) placed after BRAS (i.e. “underclothes”), like so: BRAS-STACKS.

46. Very much gas around – died (2,3)

Answer: NO END (i.e. “very much”). Solution is NEON (i.e. “gas”) reversed (indicated by “around”) and followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “died”), like so: NOEN-D.

48. One will go for a spin, churning up terrible mud (6,5)

Answer: TUMBLE DRIER (i.e. “one will go for a spin”). “Churning up” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TERRIBLE MUD.

50. Soldier at attention; Marlowe, for example (7,3)

Answer: PRIVATE EYE (i.e. “Marlowe, for example”, as in Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled and immensely readable shamus – seriously, The Big Sleep should be near the top of your TBR pile if you’ve never read it, with Farewell, My Lovely placed underneath it). Solution is PRIVATE (i.e. “solider”) followed by EYE (i.e. “attention”, as in “to have one’s attention”).

52. Angry reaction engulfing small character (9)

Answer: BACKSLASH (i.e. a typographical “character”). Solution is BACKLASH (i.e. “angry reaction”) wrapped around or “engulfing” S (a recognised abbreviation of “small” used in clothing sizes), like so: BACK(S)LASH.

53. Said to have gone out wearing fleece, unlikely to change? (4-2-3-4)

Answer: DYED-IN-THE-WOOL (i.e. “unlikely to change”). “Said” indicates homophone, so the solution could be read as DIED IN THE WOOL, satisfying “to have gone out wearing fleece”.

54. Austen novel’s central characters take a step back for another woman (4)

Answer: ELLA (i.e. “woman” as in a woman’s name – a little disappointing given we’ve already had a name used as a solution, but there you go…) Solution is EMMA (i.e. “Austen’s novel”) with the “central characters” MM replaced by LL (indicated by “take a step back” – L immediately precedes M in the alphabet).

55. Frightfully secretive after short retreat (9)

Answer: HIDEOUSLY (i.e. “frightfully”). Solution is SLY (i.e. “secretive”) placed “after” HIDEOUT (i.e. “retreat”) once the last letter has been removed (indicated by “short”), like so: HIDEOU-SLY.

56. Tried to get help after letter read out (7)

Answer: ESSAYED (i.e. “tried”). “Read out” indicates homophones. Solution is ESS (i.e. “letter”, specifically the letter S) and AID (i.e. “help”) when spoken together.

Down clues

1. Immature creature raised in a year (4)

Answer: PUPA (i.e. “immature creature”). Solution is UP (i.e. “raised”) placed “in” PA (i.e. “a year”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “per annum”), like so: P(UP)A.

2. One in favour of street rioting? (9)

Answer: PROTESTER. Solution is PRO (i.e. “in favour of”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “rioting”) of STREET, like so: PRO-TESTER. Within the context of the clue, a protester could be one in favour of street rioting. I’m sure some are peaceful, though.

3. Story in the Mirror? (7,3,7,5)

Answer: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, a “story” by Lewis Carroll. A “mirror” is also called a looking glass (ignore the misleading capitalisation). You get the idea.

4. Deer’s round bottom, reddish (7)

Answer: ROSEATE (i.e. “reddish”). Solution is ROE (i.e. “deer”) placed “round” SEAT (i.e. “bottom”), like so: RO(SEAT)E.

5. What master mason has leads to serious questioning (5,6)

Answer: THIRD DEGREE. Solution satisfies “what master mason has” – relating to the three degrees or stages of Freemasonry, that of amateur, journeyman and master – and “serious questioning”.

6. Besotted with slinky demeanour (9)

Answer: ENAMOURED (i.e. “besotted”). “Slinky” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DEMEANOUR.

7. Drink at pub for leading character (5)

Answer: ALEPH, which is the first letter of the Phoenician and Hebrew alphabets (pats Chambers). So, “leading character”. Solution is ALE (i.e. “drink”) followed by PH (i.e. “pub”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “public house”). One I got purely from the wordplay, to be honest.

8. Go off outside, denied kiss during tryst (11)

Answer: DETERIORATE (i.e. “go off”). Solution is EXTERIOR (i.e. “outside”) with the X removed (indicated by “denied kiss”) and the remainder placed in or “during” DATE (i.e. “tryst”), like so: D(ETERIOR)ATE. An easier get than it should be, the solution having also appeared in last week’s grid as near as dammit.

9. A need for baby, so sleep with cousin (6)

Answer: NAPKIN (i.e. “a need for baby”). Solution is NAP (i.e. “sleep”) followed by KIN (i.e. “cousin”).

11. Good to move down exhibition hall showing sensitivity (7)

Answer: ALLERGY (i.e. “sensitivity”). Solution is GALLERY (i.e. “exhibition hall”) with the G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) “moved down” a number of notches – this being a down clue.

12. Police perhaps paid to break hunger strike? (5-4)

Answer: FORCE-FEED (i.e. “to break hunger strike”). Solution is FORCE (i.e. “police perhaps”) followed by FEED (i.e. “paid” – a bit weak, but the usage is in the dictionary, so there you go).

13. Having run down, rare warmth envelopes players (13,9)

Answer: WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (i.e. “players”). “Having run” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DOWN RARE WARMTH ENVELOPES. Rather well worked.

18. Start to type one’s newspaper article up, to put by for later (7)

Answer: DEPOSIT (i.e. “to put by for later”). Solution is T (i.e. “start to type”, i.e. the first letter of “type”) followed by I’S (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one’s”) then OP-ED (i.e. “newspaper article”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue), like so: DE-PO-S’I-T.

20. So much French booze leads to furious scene (7)

Answer: TANTRUM (i.e. “furious scene”). Solution is TANT (i.e. “so much French” – “tant” is French for “so” or “so much” – Google Translate kind of backs it up, I guess (shrugs and gets on with life)) followed by RUM (i.e. “booze”).

22. Around part of eye, note the foreign pattern of stitches (4,4)

Answer: FAIR ISLE, a type of knitwear design (i.e. “pattern of stitches”). Solution is FA (i.e. “note”, in the do-ray-me style) and LE (i.e. “the foreign”, as in the French for “the”) placed “around” IRIS (i.e. “part of eye”), like so: FA-(IRIS)-LE. Another I got purely from the wordplay.

24. Arrange fielding position for critical moment of match (3,5)

Answer: SET POINT. Solution satisfies “arrange fielding position” in a game of cricket, and “critical moment of match”, e.g. in tennis.

27. One bowing to audience in Buddhist shrine (5)

Answer: STUPA (i.e. “Buddhist shrine”). “To audience” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of STOOPER (i.e. “one bowing”). Chalk one to my Bradford’s here.

29. Chinese perhaps like Scotsman? (5)

Answer: ASIAN. Solution satisfies “Chinese perhaps” and, when written as AS IAN, “like Scotsman”. Setters do like using “Ian” to mean Scotsman, which I’ve always thought a little weak.

30. Alarms heard when no poisonous gas remains in cans (7)

Answer: TOCSINS (i.e. “alarms” – a new one on me, but it’s there in the dictionary). Solution is O CS (i.e. “no poisonous gas” with O representing zero. Hmm, I’d say CS gas was more of an irritant than poisonous. Yes, I’m splitting hairs. What of it?) placed “in” TINS (i.e. “cans”), like so: T(O-CS)INS.

32. Fought – as road was widened – to be heard? (7)

Answer: DUELLED (i.e. “fought”). “To be heard” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of DUALLED (i.e. “road was widened”, as in a single carriage road being widened to become a dual carriageway).

34. Judge vase one to discard, house being this? (11)

Answer: REFURNISHED. Solution is REF (i.e. “judge”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “referee”) followed by URN (i.e. “vase”) then I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and SHED (i.e. “discard”). Within the context of the clue, you may well discard a vase when refurnishing one’s house.

36. Power to arouse emotion when one collapses fifty and active (11)

Answer: AFFECTIVITY (i.e. “power to arouse emotion”). “Collapses” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FIFTY and ACTIVE.

37. Soprano suppresses a tear regularly, not beyond recovery (9)

Answer: TREATABLE (i.e. “not beyond recovery”). Solution is TREBLE (i.e. “soprano” – it’s in the dictionary, non-musos) wrapped around or “suppressing” A and TA (i.e. “tear regularly”, i.e. every other letter of TEAR), like so: TRE(A-TA)BLE.

39. Obtained work on ship to produce magazine perhaps (2,2,5)

Answer: GO TO PRESS (i.e. “produce magazine perhaps”). Solution is GOT (i.e. “obtained”) followed by OP (i.e. “work”, being a recognised abbreviation of “opus”; also “operation” if you fancy) then RE (i.e. “on”, both taken to mean “about” or “concerning”) and SS (i.e. “ship” – as mentioned before, this is a recognised abbreviation of “steamship” or “screw steamer”), like so: GOT-OP-RE-SS.

41. All energy, extremely desirable at first in youth (9)

Answer: EVERYBODY (i.e. “all”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”) followed by VERY (i.e. “extremely”) and D (i.e. “desirable at first”, i.e. the first letter of “desirable”) once it has been placed “in” BOY (i.e. “youth”), like so: E-VERY-BO(D)Y.

43. Throw speaker’s aid into burner, causing scream? (7)

Answer: COMICAL (i.e. “causing scream [of laughter]”). Solution is MIC (i.e. “speaker’s aid”, being a recognised abbreviation of “microphone”) placed “into” COAL (i.e. “burner”), like so: CO(MIC)AL.

45. To keep off alcohol, mostly locked away port (7)

Answer: SEATTLE (i.e. “port”). Solution is TT (i.e. “off alcohol”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “teetotal”) “kept” in SEALED (i.e. “locked away”) once its last letter has been removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: SEA(TT)LE.

47. Sorcerer initially hated terrible old curse (6)

Answer: SDEATH (i.e. “old curse”, supposedly short for “God’s death” – I love it, but I strongly suspect this wasn’t the first solution the setter put in the grid…). Solution is S (i.e. “sorcerer initially”, i.e. the first letter of “sorcerer”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “terrible”) of HATED, like so: S-DEATH. One of those times where I jumped into the dictionary hoping to see a word – any word! – that began with SD. Happily, there it was.

49. Travelled over for round-up (5)

Answer: RODEO (i.e. “round-up”). Solution is RODE (i.e. “travelled”) followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket).

51. Happy to wander round lake (4)

Answer: GLAD (i.e. “happy”). Solution is GAD (i.e. “to wander”; also one of my favourite words because you needed to know that) placed “round” L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”), like so: G(L)AD.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1404

A gentler puzzle this week – much more my speed! A number of well-constructed clues made for a pleasant grid fill, all told. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them useful.

Before we get stuck in, a spot of housekeeping. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic crossword that’s left you baffled, then you might find my Just For Fun page of some use. Meanwhile, if you have a soft spot for horror stories, I have a bunch of reviews conveniently placed on my Reviews page. I’m (slowly) working my way through Stephen Jones’s Best New Horror anthologies. 10 down, 19 to go…

Anyway, that’s quite enough blathering from me.



Across clues

1. Brightly coloured hat? We hear you are wearing that (5)

Answer: LURID (i.e. “brightly coloured”). Solution is LID (i.e. “hat”) which is wrapped around or “worn by” U and R (i.e. “we hear you are”, i.e. homophones of “you” and “are”), like so: L(U-R)ID.

4. Sound from above? This is missing below (7)

Answer: THUNDER (i.e. “sound from above”). Solution is THIS with the IS removed (indicated by “is missing”) and followed by UNDER (i.e. “below”), like so: TH-UNDER.

8. Husband considered “never good” in retrospect, showing a certain sort of fake concern (9)

Answer: GREENWASH, which is to make an insincere show of concern for the environment (i.e. “fake concern”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”) followed by SAW (i.e. “considered”) then NE’ER (poetic form of “never”) and G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “in retrospect”), like so: G-REEN-WAS-H. A new word on me, but I rather like it.

13. Specialist element said to be backing police investigator (9)

Answer: TECHNICAL (i.e. “specialist”). “Said to be” indicates homophones. Solution is NICAL (homophone of NICKEL, a chemical “element”) placed behind or “backing” TECH (homophone of TEC, a shortened form of detective, i.e. “police investigator”), like so: TECH-NICAL.

14. Team falling apart? That’s very funny (13)

Answer: SIDESPLITTING. Solution satisfies “team falling apart” (when read as SIDE SPLITTING) and “very funny”.

15. Singer thus embracing musical work took off (7)

Answer: SOPRANO (i.e. “singer”). Solution is SO (i.e. “thus”) wrapped around or “embracing” OP (i.e. “musical work”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “opus”) and RAN (i.e. “took off”), like so: S(OP-RAN)O.

16. Numbers in financial documents – one number therein multiplied by five (7)

Answer: AMOUNTS (i.e. “numbers”). Solution is ACCOUNTS (i.e. “financial documents”) with the CC (which is 200 in Roman numerals) replaced by M (which is 1000 in Roman numerals), as indicated by “one number therein multiplied by five”.

17. One that may go through wood in county with endless wonder (7)

Answer: BUCKSAW (i.e. “one that may go through wood”). Solution is BUCKS (i.e. “county”, specifically Buckinghamshire) followed by AWE (i.e. “wonder”) with its final letter removed (indicated by “endless”), like so: BUCKS-AW.

18. Total entertainment – everything being enjoyed by blondes? (3,3,3,2,3,4)

Answer: ALL THE FUN OF THE FAIR. Solution satisfies “total entertainment” and “everything being enjoyed by blondes” – blondes being said to be fair-haired.

21. After victory you initially like a drink in the bar? (4)

Answer: WINY (i.e. “like a drink in the bar”). Solution is WIN (i.e. “victory”) with Y (i.e. “you initially”, i.e. the first letter of “you”) placed “after” it, like so: WIN-Y. Of all the words that could have fitted _I_Y, the setter picked this one?!

23. Criminal ten gaoled, given a stretch (9)

Answer: ELONGATED (i.e. “given a stretch”). “Criminal” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TEN GAOLED.

25. Fierce folk, initially getting into rows (6)

Answer: TIGERS (i.e. “fierce folk”. Also animals, I’ve heard). Solution is G (i.e. “initially getting”) placed “into” TIERS (i.e. “rows”), like so: TI(G)ERS.

26. Move your hips without hesitation – thanks to me? (6)

Answer: PHYSIO. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “move”) of YOUR HIPS once the UR has been removed (indicated by “without hesitation”). Within the context of the clue, physiotherapy could see you move your hips. (The “thanks to me” refers to the solution, not the setter, which threw me a bit.)

28. Agriculturalists at the cutting edge who hope to do well from investments? (12)

Answer: SHAREHOLDERS. The intersecting letters also fit “stakeholders”, who would also “hope to do well from investments”, but I reckon “cutting” indicates a sharing of sorts. (“Edge” seems a redundant word included to make the clue scan better. I could be wrong.) HOLDERS, meanwhile, can be farmer types i.e. “agriculturalists”. You get the idea.
[EDIT: Thanks to Margt and Mick in the comments for shedding some light on this one. The gist of the clue hangs on the concept of ploughshares, being all agricultural n’ all. Ploughs have a “cutting edge” too, which explains the presence of “edge” in the clue. Thanks, both! – LP]

30. One given go-ahead sign, beginning to travel east in splendid emergency vehicle (4,6)

Answer: FIRE ENGINE (i.e. “emergency vehicle”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) followed by GREEN (i.e. “go-ahead sign”) once the G has been placed to the end (indicated by “beginning to travel east” – this being an across clue). Both are then placed in FINE (i.e. “splendid”), like so: F(I-REENG)INE.

33. Verbiage used by fashionable folk in London location (10)

Answer: PADDINGTON (i.e. “London location”). Solution is PADDING (i.e. “verbiage”) followed by TON (i.e. “fashionable folk” – the definition is there in the dictionary, but seldom used. Catnip for crossword setters, then).

34. Mean person who achieves little success as a pickpocket? (5-7)

Answer: PENNY-PINCHER. Solution satisfies “mean person” and “[one] who achieves little success as a pickpocket”.

37. Celebrity and agent in front of truck (6)

Answer: REPUTE (i.e. “celebrity”). Solution is REP (i.e. “agent”, as in a shortened form of “representative”) placed “in front of” UTE (i.e. “truck”, short for “utility vehicle”).

39. Love, very good, had to be seen in one man’s view of religion (6)

Answer: OPIATE (i.e. “one man’s view of religion”, specifically Karl Marx, who considered religion to be the opiate of the people). Solution is O (i.e. “love”, being a zero score in tennis) followed by PI (i.e. “very good”, as in a shortened form of “pious” – setters have used this a few times, so I’m a little wiser to this now) and ATE (i.e. “had”, as in consumed).

40. Original equine measure – from the horse’s mouth? (5-4)

Answer: FIRST-HAND (i.e. “[news] from the horse’s mouth”). Solution is FIRST (i.e. “original”) followed by HAND (i.e. “equine measure”).

42. Country refugee’s claim about what he or she did? (4)

Answer: IRAN (i.e. “country”). When written as I RAN, the solution also satisfies “refugee’s claim about what he or she did”.

43. Re Lent: Christianity constructed basic set of beliefs (6-4,8)

Answer: THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES (i.e. “basic set of beliefs”). “Constructed” indicates anagram. Solution is a rather neat anagram of RE LENT CHRISTIANITY.

46. In saint one recognises someone who prays lyrically? (7)

Answer: INTONER (i.e. “someone who prays lyrically”). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: SA(INT ONE R)ECOGNISES.

47. Combed and scrubbed (7)

Answer: SCOURED. Solution satisfies “combed” and “scrubbed”.

48. Periodical facing difficulty, having nothing that provides spark (7)

Answer: MAGNETO (i.e. “that provides spark” – the prefix magneto- can denote something that is magneto-electric, i.e. something that generates electricity through the use of magnets). Solution is MAG (i.e. “periodical”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “magazine”) followed by NET (i.e. “difficulty” – not the most immediate definition, but it is in the dictionary) and O (i.e. “nothing”).

50. A scholar, I get excited when there’s buried circle? (13)

Answer: ARCHAEOLOGIST. “Excited” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A SCHOLAR I GET, which is wrapped around or “burying” O (i.e. “circle”). Within the context of the clue, an archaeologist may well get excited about finding a buried circle. Something like that.

51. What you may see with photograph of mum and computer? (9)

Answer: MAINFRAME (i.e. “computer”). When written as MA IN FRAME, the solution also satisfies “what you may see with photograph of mum”).

52. Game plan to engage one who’s willing to take high-level risks (4,5)

Answer: TEST PILOT (i.e. “one who’s willing to take high-level risks”; high as in altitude). Solution is TEST (i.e. a “game” of cricket) followed by PLOT (i.e. “plan”) once it is wrapped around or “engaging” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: TEST-P(I)LOT.

53. With worker having little energy, movement is slow (7)

Answer: ANDANTE (i.e. “[musical] movement is slow”). Solution is AND (i.e. “with”) followed by ANT (i.e. “worker”) and E (i.e. “little energy”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “energy”).

54. Very little support given to American city (5)

Answer: TEENY (i.e. “very little”). Solution is TEE (i.e. “support [for golf ball]”) followed by NY (i.e. “American city”, specifically New York).

Down clues

1. Group of dreamers tolerates us working (5-6)

Answer: LOTUS-EATERS (i.e. “group of dreamers [in Greek myth]”). “Working” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TOLERATES US.

3. Sign in with teeth sadly amiss – to see the likes of us? (6,10)

Answer: DENTAL HYGIENISTS. “Amiss” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SIGN IN and TEETH SADLY. Within the context of the clue, you well “see the likes of” a dental hygienist if one’s “teeth [were] sadly amiss”. You get the idea. A clue that scans rather well.

4. Rebuke coming from country bumpkin losing head, interrupting smart gent (4,3)

Answer: TICK OFF (i.e. “rebuke”). Solution is HICK (i.e. “country bumpkin”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “losing head”) and the remainder placed in or “interrupting” TOFF (i.e. “smart gent”), like so: T(ICK)OFF.

5. Without guidance, without merit, without knowledge (9)

Answer: UNLEARNED (i.e. “without knowledge”). Solution is UNLED (i.e. “without guidance”) wrapped around or placed “without” EARN (i.e. “merit”), like so: UNL(EARN)ED. Probably my favourite clue of the puzzle. Very well worked.

6. Unease that could be engendered by sitcom if rude (12)

Answer: DISCOMFITURE (i.e. “unease”). “Engendered by” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SITCOM IF RUDE.

7. Managing school and boosted by success (6,4)

Answer: RIDING HIGH (i.e. “boosted by success”). Solution is RIDING (i.e. “managing”) followed by HIGH (a kind of “school”).

8. Non-English visitors – they may breeze in (5)

Answer: GUSTS (i.e. “they may breeze in”). Solution is GUESTS (i.e. “visitors”) with the E removed (indicated by “non-English”, E being a recognised abbreviation of “English”).

9. From collection of old politician, by chance not complete (2-6)

Answer EX-LIBRIS (i.e. “from collection”). Solution is EX (i.e. “old”) followed by LIB (i.e. “politician”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a Liberal Democrat) and RISK (i.e. “chance”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “not complete”), like so: EX-LIB-RIS.

10. See old books with pleasant binding (6)

Answer: NOTICE (i.e. “see”). Solution is OT (i.e. “old books”, specifically the Old Testament) placed in or “bound” by NICE (i.e. “pleasant”), like so: N(OT)ICE.

11. Like position of sailor maybe, well away from port? (9)

Answer: AMIDSHIPS. Clue riffs on how “port” can refer to the left of a ship. A sailor placed amidships can be said to be “well away from port”. You get the idea.

12. Why each dog must be trained – one included for walkers etc. (7,4)

Answer: HIGHWAY CODE (i.e. “for walkers etc”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “must be trained”) of WHY EACH DOG, which is wrapped around or “including” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”).

19. Man is fat – very many years getting stuffed (7)

Answer: LEONARD (i.e. “man”). Solution is LARD (i.e. “fat”) which is wrapped around or “stuffed” by EON (i.e. “very many years”), like so: L(EON)ARD.

20. Strange female, old, having time in office (7)

Answer: FOREIGN (i.e. “strange”). Solution is F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) followed by O (ditto “old”) and REIGN (i.e. “time in office”).

22. To have low opinion of modern technology? That matters not a bit! (5,7,2,2)

Answer: THINK NOTHING OF IT. Solution satisfies “to have a low opinion of modern technology” – IT being a recognised abbreviation of Information Technology – and “that matters not a bit”.

24. For all that is hard inside, it is hard outside (6)

Answer: THOUGH (i.e. “for all that”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in grading pencils) with TOUGH (i.e. “hard”) placed “outside” of it, like so: T(H)OUGH. Another well-worked clue.

27. One sad little person, boy getting lost (6)

Answer: WEEPER (i.e. “one sad”). Solution is WEE (i.e. “little”) followed by PERSON once the SON has been removed (indicated by “boy getting lost”), like so: WEE-PER.

29. Careless type in drive policeman caught out (7)

Answer: DROPPER (i.e. “careless type”). Solution is DR (a recognised abbreviation of “drive” used in street names) followed by COPPER (i.e. “policeman”) once the C has been removed (indicated by “caught out” – C being a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in a number of ball games), like so: DR-OPPER.

31. Outcast somewhat masculine, from what we hear (7)

Answer: ISHMAEL, who was turfed out into the wilderness by his father Abraham because the Almighty said so. That all-loving Almighty, eh? Anyway, “outcast”. Solution is ISH (i.e. “somewhat”) followed by a homophone (indicated by “from what we hear”) of MALE (i.e. “masculine”), like so: ISH-MAEL. One I got from the wordplay, what with me not being terribly religious n’ all.

32. Terrible English editor getting told off got worse (12)

Answer: DETERIORATED (i.e. “got worse”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “terrible”) of E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and EDITOR, which is then followed by RATED (i.e. “told off” – a sense of the word “rate” is to scold or berate), like so: DETERIO-RATED.

33. Some old company worker quietly interrupts active member (11)

Answer: PARTICIPANT (i.e. “active member”). Solution is PART (i.e. “some”) followed by ICI (i.e. “old company”, specifically Imperial Chemical Industries, which was bought out in 2008) and ANT (i.e. “worker”) which are wrapped around or “interrupted” by P (i.e. “quietly”, being a recognised abbreviation of “piano” in musical lingo), like so: PART-ICI-(P)-ANT.

35. Hellish situation in rescue operation? Find that’s not new (11)

Answer: REDISCOVERY (i.e. “find that’s not new”). Solution is DIS (i.e. “hellish situation”. Dis was “a name for the god Pluto, and hence the infernal world” (Chambers). You’ll also find the fictitious city of Dis, situated across the lower circles of Hell, in Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy) placed “in” RECOVERY (i.e. “rescue operation”), like so: RE(DIS)COVERY.

36. Woman who went up barely making an impression? (4,6)

Answer: LADY GODIVA, a noblewoman who – according to legend – rode naked or “barely” through the streets of Coventry on horseback. You get the idea. There might be something cleverer at play, but I’m not seeing it.

38. Procedures involving amounts charged when only part of play is screened (9)

Answer: PRACTICES (i.e. “procedures”). Solution is PRICES (i.e. “amounts charged”) wrapped around or “screening” ACT (i.e. “part of play”), like so: PR(ACT)ICES.

40. WC, maybe “Gents”, for cricketers (9)

Answer: FIELDSMEN (i.e. “cricketers”). Solution is FIELDS (i.e. “WC, maybe”, referring to 1930s American comedian and actor WC Fields) followed by MEN (i.e. “gents”).

41. Fuel must be cleaner – firm beginning to abandon oil finally (8)

Answer: CHARCOAL (i.e. “fuel”). Solution is CHAR (i.e. “cleaner”) followed by CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”, i.e. “firm”) then A (i.e. “beginning to abandon”, i.e. the first letter of “abandon”) and L (i.e. “oil finally”, i.e. the last letter of “oil”). Another clue that scans really well.

44. A home in the capital offers a sort of lettuce (7)

Answer: ROMAINE (i.e. “sort of lettuce”). Solution is A and IN (i.e. “home”) placed “in” ROME (i.e. a “capital” city), like so: ROM(A-IN)E. Chalk one to my Bradfords here. In terms of lettuce varieties, after “iceberg” I’m goosed.

45. Head of government spots uprising – answer is to make a settlement (6)

Answer: ENCAMP (i.e. “to make a settlement”). Solution is PM (i.e. “head of government”, specifically the Prime Minister) followed by ACNE (i.e. “spots”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “uprising” – this being a down clue), like so: ENCA-MP.

47. Explorer lodging in this cottage (5)

Answer: Robert Falcon SCOTT, popularly known as Scott of the Antarctic. “Lodging” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: THI(S COTT)AGE.

49. Cheer brought by counselling service, right away (5)

Answer: ELATE (i.e. “cheer”). Solution is RELATE (i.e. “counselling service”) with the R removed (indicated by “right away”, R being a recognised abbreviation of “right”).

Review: Best New Horror 10

(Before we jump in, if you would like to read reviews of the previous books in the Best New Horror series, you can find links on my Reviews page.)

Best New Horror 10 collects nineteen horror shorts published during 1998. Sadly this tenth anniversary edition of the series represents one of the weakest entries so far. Despite boasting a number of award winners and nominees in its pages, there are only a few stories that stand out from the pack.

Also, don’t let the cover fool you, vamp fans. There are no Goddam Draculas to be found in this book. What is there goes a little like this:

Also collected in Fowler’s “Personal Demons”

Learning To Let Go – Christopher Fowler (3/5 – Three old friends meet up at the start of a train journey. They drink, they bicker, they tell stories and they invite their fellow travellers to do likewise. Darkness descends and they notice the train slowing to a stop. The heating fails. The lighting too. When they venture outside, it seems their carriage has become uncoupled from the train. Or, having served its useful purpose, did the train simply disappear? This deconstruction of a horror story closes Fowler’s collection Personal Demons and, according to his introduction here, he wrote it as his farewell to the genre. (He’d be back, of course. They always come back…) This heads-up was perhaps key to me enjoying the story more than I would have done had I read it cold. In a way it reminded me of Jonathan Carroll’s The Dead Love You (Best New Horror 2), though, thankfully, Learning To Let Go treats the reader with a little more respect.)

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

The Wedding Present – Neil Gaiman (3/5 – Gordon and Belinda are writing thank you cards for all the wedding presents they’ve received, when they happen across a strange gift in a manilla envelope. It is a single sheet of paper with a delightful description of their wedding day. When they check the document some time later, however, they find the text has changed, now describing a version of their marriage they cannot quite reconcile. This was pretty good, told in Gaiman’s wonderful story-telling way, until the moment you sense you’ve heard it before. Gaiman acknowledges The Picture of Dorian Gray within the story, but it isn’t the get-out-of-jail-free card he perhaps hoped it would be.)


Also collected in Atkins’ “The Wishmaster and Other Stories”

Adventures In Further Education – Peter Atkins (3/5 – Throughout his life, a man keeps count of the number of times he taps a pen against his desk, believing it will at some point sink straight through the surface and unlock the metaphysical secrets of the universe. Which, of course, happens. Fans of flash fiction might get a kick out of this one, being a mere two pages long. I’ve often found the format a tough sell, and this did nothing to win me over.)






Also collected in Koja’s “Extremities”

Bondage – Kathe Koja (3/5 – A couple dip their toes into bondage, taking turns to wear a featureless gimp mask while they’re doing the nasty. Turns out they rather like it. Good for them. Not quite sure where the horror lies in this one, if I’m honest. Answers on a stamp-addressed dildo, please.)

The Keys To D’Espérance – Chaz Brenchley (3/5 – A young war veteran reaches his lowest ebb. He settles his affairs and initiates plans for his suicide, but then receives the keys to a large country pile. Upon arriving there he happens across a large disused bathhouse. In the process of bringing it back into operation, he is brought to recall the tragic circumstances surrounding the fates of those he loved. This is one of those tales that favours mood ahead of Telling The Bloody Story. It gets there in the end, but I nearly didn’t. Probably not one for animal lovers either.)

Also collected in Laws’ “The Midnight Man”

The Song My Sister Sang – Stephen Laws (4/5 – Dean is helping in the aftermath of an oil spill on Tynemouth beach. He spots a seabird struggling in one of the sluices running from a disused open-air swimming pool nearby. It’s a pool that holds tragic memories for Dean, being the place where his little sister drowned as a young girl. Dean finds the pool choking with oil and hundreds of dead birds… and someone seeking his help. Few can match Laws when it comes to building up tension within a story, and there were a couple of terrific scenes here that really set the nerves a-jangling. This story bagged a British Fantasy Award back in the day. I can’t argue with that.)

Also collected in Newman’s “Unforgiveable Stories”

A Victorian Ghost Story – Kim Newman (4/5 – Within the oak-panelled splendour of a gentlemen’s club, members are taking turns to tell ghost stories over cigars and brandy. Ernest Virtue, fresh from making a killing on the Stock Exchange, relates to the gathering a recent and singular experience of his where a regular London pea-souper opened up to reveal a hidden ghostly world. This is a 4/5 from me, but only just. Though enjoyable, thanks largely to Newman’s exquisite writing, the story didn’t really go anywhere, amounting to little more than “a funny thing happened to me on the way to the…”)

Also collected in Rogers’ “Wind Over Heaven and Other Dark Tales”

The Dead Boy At Your Window – Bruce Holland Rogers (4/5 – Ah, this is more like it! Set such pesky things as logic and the real world aside for a moment and enjoy a short, bittersweet, Stoker-winning story of a dead little boy who, in the course of being bullied one day, finds a unique calling between this world and the next. It’s all rather lovely.)

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

Ra*e – Ramsey Campbell (4/5 – Another good showing from Campbell in a novelette that explores the fallout following the rape and murder of a teenage girl, and the rage that builds within the victim’s mother as the police fail to unearth any clues. Campbell assembles a cast of mostly unlikeable characters around the victim, leaving the reader in no doubt where their sympathies should lie. Despite this, and some clunky dialogue, the story still succeeds.)


Also collected in Watt-Evans’s “Hazmat and Other Toxic Stories”

Upstairs – Lawrence Watt-Evans (3/5 – The upstairs neighbours are making an awful racket, so Jack goes up to have a word. It doesn’t end well for him. Another piece of flash fiction that failed to win me over.)


Also collected in Kiernan’s “Two Worlds and In Between”

Postcards From The Prince Of Tides – Caitlín R. Kiernan (3/5 – Three twentysomethings are travelling back from Seattle along Highway 101 when their car breaks down. While Tam seeks to have the car repaired, Lark and Crispin go wandering. They find billboards for a nearby attraction promising wonderful sights of mermaids and sea serpents and more besides. Hoping for use of a phone, Lark and Crispin seek the place out. This was okay, with some great descriptive touches as we visit through each of the Lovecraftian exhibits. The strange geometry at play within the trailer housing all of the beasties was another pleasingly subtle nod. But Kiernan overuses wordwank concatenation to the pointmoment it soswiftbecomes bastarddistracting. On top of that, if I was Tam, I’d have probably drowned both Lark and Crispin in Lake Union and travelled back alone. #MisanthropyYay)

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

Everybody Goes – Michael Marshall Smith (3/5 – Three boys are gadding about in the summer sun, much like how kids used to before Fortnite came along and enslaved them all. Jim keeps catching glimpses of a man watching them from afar. When Jim gets home, the man approaches and introduces himself. This was another readable story from MMS, as they so often are, but this time the payoff was weak.)

Yellow And Red – Tanith Lee (5/5 – Gordon Martyce is a middle-age fuddy-duddy who inherits an old house away from the hustle and bustle of London. His Uncle William was the last occupier of the house, passing away some three months ago. Indeed, it seems the house has been unkind to all the Martyces who have lived there, each suffering and eventually succumbing to ill health. While poring over some old photographs in the house, Gordon accidentally splashes some whisky onto the images, spoiling them with splodges of yellow and red. When Gordon checks the photographs again, he finds a chilling truth developing in those colourful splodges. In her introduction to this story, Lee cites M.R. James as an influence she felt was perhaps only evident to herself. Ehhhhh, no. This is a story that would quickly fill any Jamesean bingo card. It reminded me a little of The Mezzotint, which was no bad thing. Either way, this was an excellent read. Comfortably one of the best stories in the book.)

Also collected in SRT’s “Out of the Dark: A Storybook of Horrors”

What Slips Away – Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 – Taylor is working on home improvements and has been for quite some time. In fact, this near-Sisyphean task has consumed his money, his marriage, every scrap of his time and that of his father and his father’s father before him. Not that anyone would notice. The place still seems an unfinished wreck. It’s a stinking hot summer outside, certainly not the kind of weather to be hefting and humping hardware around the house. Indeed, it seems several of his fellow Do-It-Yourselfers have Overdone-It-Themselves and gone to the great hardware store in the sky. Maybe Taylor should ease up a bit and take stock of things. This is one of SRT’s straighter stories and a good one at that. Any story that uses a murderous shade to reinforce my belief that DIY should be left strictly to the pros gets a thumbs-up from me.)

Also collected in Etchison’s “The Death Artist”

Inside The Cackle Factory – Dennis Etchison (3/5 – Lisa Anne has recently started working at a research firm that gauges the reactions of test audiences to TV programme pilots. It is her job to help shepherd audience members to where they need to be. She tries her best to inveigle herself into the affections of Marty, her manager, impressing him with her knack for thinking up anagrams of TV shows and people’s names. But to what end? Why is Lisa Anne so keen to entrench herself into the company? And why does the company seem to take a heavy-handed approach to any unwelcome outsiders? The answers, frankly, are barely worth the effort. This was nominated for an International Horror Critics Guild award back in the day, but I fail to see the merit. This was one of those stories that seemed panel-beaten to deliver the ending the writer had in mind. In other words, it was as over-engineered as Lisa Anne’s tiresome anagram schtick. Eminently skippable.)

Also collected in Link’s “Pretty Monsters”

The Specialist’s Hat – Kelly Link (3/5 – Claire and Samantha are twins who discover that their babysitter used to live in their big rattly old house. The babysitter professes to know a good deal of the house’s secrets: of its little cubbyholes and hiding places, of its large attic space, and of the creepy teeth-covered Specialist’s Hat that hangs up there, waiting for them. I wanted to like this rather more than I did. The cut-up structure of the story was refreshing, and the little asides into rhyme added to the eerie atmosphere rather nicely, but the nebulous ending was a let-down. That said, this story bagged a World Fantasy Award at the time so we’ll perhaps chalk this up as one that simply wasn’t for me.)

The Boss In The Wall: A Treatise On The House Devil – Avram Davidson & Grania Davis (2/5A Précis On The House Devil may have been a more appropriate subtitle, given that this 70-odd page novella was originally a 600+ page manuscript that Davidson struggled to sell. Sadly, it shows. Worse still, the story has barely survived Davis’s heavy cutting. It’s a shame as the story starts off rather well. We are introduced to a clandestine network of academics who all share a desire to capture, study and understand the revenant-like “Paper-Men” that live in the walls of old houses across the US. We witness an attack on a family by one such creature. And then, for the remaining 60 pages, we are mostly subjected to lots of people stroking their chins and discussing Paper-Men as if they’re all Sir David Bloody Attenborough. Then, three pages before the end, a limp climax is sticky-taped to the whole affair. But the horrors don’t end there. Despite Davis hacking away 85% of the original novel she retains far too many incidental characters, each starved of story-time and whose opinions, comments and actions feel shallow and unearned. Then are there are passages that often read like screenplay outlines, juxtaposed, bizarrely, with lengthy tracts of mostly pointless info-dumping. All of which makes for a frustrating and uneven read. But perhaps the real tragedy here is that The Boss… smacks of a writer having a great idea but never quite figuring out how to turn it into a great story.)

Also collected in Ellison’s “Can & Can’tankerous”

Objects Of Desire In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear – Harlan Ellison (3/5 – Lieutenant Francine Jacobs is investigating the death of an old man and the bizarre circumstances in which he was found: shoeless, his throat cut so severely he was almost beheaded, and surrounded by three supermodels dressed up to the nines, each wailing to the darkening skies. The riddle of the old man’s lack of shoes is soon solved. The fact that he was over a hundred years old, possessed of two sets of organs within his body, both male and female, and was pregnant at the time of his death… well, that might take some explaining. This was okay. Ellison is as readable as ever, and, as you can see, he certainly wasn’t wanting for ideas, but the twist in the tale was weak and unearned, and felt somewhat tacked-on.)

Also collected in Straub’s “Magic Terror”

Mr Clubb And Mr Cuff – Peter Straub (4/5 – Straub closes another volume of Best New Horror with an award-winning novella; one that nabbed a Stoker, an International Horror Critics Guild award and a World Fantasy Award nomination back in the day. So, as you can imagine, it’s pretty bloody good. In Mr Clubb… we visit upon a wealthy businessman as he hires Messrs Clubb and Cuff – Private Detectives Extraordinaire – to punish his wife and lover after receiving evidence of their affair. What our man doesn’t count on are the detectives’ deeply unusual if not downright intrusive and consumptive working methods. Mr Clubb… sees Straub in an unhurried mood. The story is the literary equivalent of a seven course meal followed by a seat by the fire with cognac and fine cigars. Every aspect is given ample time to help flesh out the tale, and Straub brilliantly keeps the reader gripped throughout. Ultimately it’s Straub’s unhurried approach that begins to unsettle you. He makes no secret that Clubb and Cuff are bad men, and it’s clear something awful is going to happen. It must therefore follow that Straub is going to be equally unhurried and expansive in telling us all about it. If I had one quibble it would be with the ending, but then, in a way, it did rather suit the hyperreality of what went before. Either way, Mr Clubb… is definitely worth a read and made for a great closer to the book.)

And that concludes another review of Best New Horror. You should be able to find second-hand copies of the book on eBay, Amazon and the like should you fancy a look. You can also purchase the book on most eBook platforms if you prefer to keep things digital. The book images above will link to their respective pages on Goodreads, should you want to explore an author’s work a little more.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll pop by later for another.


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1403

This week’s puzzle can be summed up in four words: too tenuous, too often.

While the setter seems to have tested every rickety bridge of their thesaurus and explored the most remote definitions of their dictionary in composing the clues to this puzzle, the general overreliance on weak links to get the job done made for an increasingly joyless grind. Putting this post together hasn’t exactly been fun, as you’ll probably detect the longer you read.

Still, at least Max Ernst didn’t appear this time.

Anyway, you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. Be warned: 47d is a pure guess, so if you’ve subscribed to receive these answers via email I’d recommend checking back on this post later in the week in case anything comes to light. [EDIT: The answer to 47d seems correct after all, thanks to a stellar comment from zouzoulap. Huzzah! – LP]

Some housekeeping before we begin. If you have a previous Times Jumbo Cryptic showing a few gaps then you might find my Just For Fun page useful. If you like the odd book review then I have some odd ones here. I’ll put a review of Best New Horror 10 up shortly, if only to banish this puzzle from my sight.

Anyway, that’s quite enough grumping from me. To the answers!


Across clues

1. Maybe Kentish tribe providing sheltered seat for travellers (5)

Answer: SEDAN (i.e. “sheltered seat for travellers”). Solution is SE (i.e. “Maybe Kentish”, referring to how Kent is in the South East of England) followed by DAN (i.e. “tribe” – it’s backed up by my Bradfords, but isn’t clear why. My best guess is that tribes can be deemed classes or divisions of people, and you get dans in martial arts to classify proficiency in their use. Any better suggestions are welcomed. Let’s call this Overly Tenuous Clue #1.)
[EDIT: Thanks to Mick and Flossie in the comments for clarifying DAN as one of the twelve tribes of Israel described in the Hebrew Bible. Time to expand my reference library! – LP]

4. Damning evidence from NZ expert on harmful addiction (7,3)

Answer: SMOKING GUN (i.e. “damning evidence”). Solution is GUN (i.e. “NZ expert” – it’s backed up by my Chambers, but a new one on me) preceded by SMOKING (i.e. “harmful addiction”).

9. A far-reaching current (6)

Answer: ABROAD. Clue riffs on how abroad can mean far-flung or “far-reaching”, and “current” (again, backed up by my Chambers, but I’m struggling to readily work it into a sentence).
[EDIT: Thanks to Clive in the comments for suggesting a better fit for this one, being A followed by BROAD (i.e. “far-reaching”). As mentioned earlier, “current” is one of the letter-visited definitions of “abroad”. – LP]

14. Badly outclassed Democrat quits futile campaign (4,5)

Answer: LOST CAUSE (i.e. “futile campaign”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “badly”) of OUTCLASSED once the D (a recognised abbreviation of “Democrat”) has been removed. A clue that scans rather well.

15. Antipodean version of Harry Potter film? (3,6,2,2)

Answer: THE WIZARD OF OZ. Clue riffs on how OZ is often used to describe Australia (i.e. “Antipodean”) and how “Harry Potter” is a WIZARD. You get the idea. Though both originated in books, I’m guessing the setter has added “film” to the clue because L Frank Baum never wrote a book explicitly called The Wizard of Oz.

16. Fish mostly taken by corporation cart in Revolution (7)

Answer: TUMBRIL (i.e. “cart in [French] Revolution” – they were used to cart prisoners to the guillotine. Also used to carry dung, in case the prisoner’s day wasn’t off to a bad enough start already.) Solution is BRILL (i.e. “fish” – did a Google Image search… Yup. Fish.) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) which is preceded by TUM (i.e. “corporation” – a lesser-used definition of the word, and hence loved by setters, is the large belly of something), like so: TUM-BRIL. A variant spelling of this solution, tumbrel, appeared in a recent puzzle, which didn’t help my decoding efforts. Only a “hang on, let’s just look in Chambers” moment revealed the intended spelling. Ugh!

17. Painter upset almost everyone around arrival time (9)

Answer: PERINATAL, which relates to a period from the seventh month of pregnancy through to the first month of the wee bairn’s life (i.e. “around arrival time”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “upset”) of PAINTER followed by ALL (i.e. “everyone”) with its final letter removed (indicated by “almost”), like so: PERINAT-AL.

18. Silver-grey article that woman wears (5)

Answer: ASHEN (i.e. “silver-grey”). Solution is AN (i.e. “article”) that is wrapped around or “worn” by SHE (i.e. “that woman”), like so: A(SHE)N.

19. Running dodgy affair within walls of prison, evacuating agent (6,8)

Answer: LIQUID PARAFFIN, which can be used as a kind of laxative (i.e. “evacuating agent”). Lovely! Solution is LIQUID (i.e. “running”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “dodgy”) of AFFAIR once it has been placed “within” P and N (i.e. “walls of prison”, i.e. the first and last letters of prison), like so: LIQUID-P(ARAFFI)N.

22. Having mastery over new spinner, given the necessary for protection (2,3,2)

Answer: ON TOP OF (i.e. “having mastery over”). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) and TOP (i.e. “spinner”, as in a spinning top… ask your great-grandparents, kids) placed in or “protected” by OOF (i.e. “the necessary” – informally this can mean cash, and oof is a Yiddish slang word for money), like so: O(N-TOP)OF. I think we can all agree this comfortably qualifies as Overly Tenuous Clue #2.

25. Maintenance shed put up on circuit (10)

Answer: ROUNDHOUSE (i.e. “maintenance shed” – matches a few definitions, but I’ll plump for “an engine house with a turntable” (Chambers)). Solution is HOUSE (i.e. “put up”) preceded by ROUND (i.e. “circuit”).

27. Bread merchant from Germany chosen at random, not having succeeded (5,7)

Answer: MONEY CHANGER (i.e. “bread merchant” – riffing on “bread” being a slang word for “money”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “at random”) of GERMANY CHOSEN once the S (a recognised abbreviation of “succeeded”) has been removed (indicated by “not having…”).

30. One can’t tolerate hot drink, tossing off whiskey (5)

Answer: HATER (i.e. “one can’t tolerate”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hot”) followed by WATER (i.e. “drink”) once the W has been removed (indicated by “tossing off whiskey” – “whiskey” being W in the phonetic alphabet).

31. Exhaust Spooner’s 18 individual (8)

Answer: TAILPIPE (i.e. “exhaust [of a motor vehicle]”). The solution to “18 [across]” is ASHEN. An ashen “individual” would be a PALE TYPE. The spoonerism of this, i.e. swapping the sounds of the initial letters, gets you TAILPIPE. The pernickety side of me would have preferred some kind of homophone indicator here. C-minus, setter. See me.

32. Eponymous royal in danger, having swallowed 100 tablets (8)

Answer: PERICLES (i.e. “eponymous royal” – after some digging around, this seems to refer to the chief magistrate in various ancient Greek city states – the eponymous archon – though if Wikipedia is any guide (I know, I know) Pericles seems only to have been the man behind the man, or, later, a de facto ruler.) Solution is PERIL (i.e. “danger”) which is wrapped around or “swallowing” C (i.e. “[Roman numeral] 100”) and followed by ES (i.e. “tablets”, as in ecstasy pills), like so: PERI(C)L-ES. Is it just me, or does “royal” feel like a poor fit here? I think this qualifies as Overly Tenuous Clue #3.
[EDIT: Thanks to Mick in the comments for suggesting a better fit for this clue. The “royal” element references a Shakespeare play called Pericles, Prince of Tyre. – LP]

35. Dogs as a body featured in writing (8)

Answer: MASTIFFS (i.e. “dogs”). Solution is A STIFF (i.e. “a [dead] body”) placed or “featured in” MS (i.e. “writing”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “manuscript”), like so: M(A-STIFF)S.

36. Further amend register at the last moment (8)

Answer: READJUST (i.e. “further amend”). Solution is READ (i.e. “[to] register”) followed by JUST (i.e. “at the last moment”).

37. Girl from the east making appearance before noon (5)

Answer: MARIA (i.e. “girl”). Solution is AIR (i.e. “appearance”) followed by AM (i.e. “before noon”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “from the east” – this being an across clue), like so: MA-RIA.

39. Confuse Lorna’s boss at the office (2,4,4,2)

Answer: DO ONE’S HEAD IN (i.e. “confuse”). Solution is DOONE’S (i.e. “Lorna’s”, as in Lorna Doone, an 1869 novel by Richard Doddridge Blackmore) followed by HEAD (i.e. “boss”) and IN (i.e. “at the office” – though setters more often use “home” to describe IN, it can also mean “at the office”). A small admission from the setter, do you reckon?

41. Pack in position respecting request to see back (3,1,4,2)

Answer: PUT A STOP TO (i.e. “pack in”). This took some getting, but the solution is PUT (i.e. “position”) followed by AS TO (i.e. “respecting”) and PTO (i.e. “request to see back”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “please turn over”).

43. Ruthless criminal, right to go for his pursuers? (7)

Answer: SLEUTHS. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “criminal”) of RUTHLESS once the R has been removed (indicated by “right to go”, R being a recognised abbreviation of “right”).

45. Advantage when treating possible side-effect of pub brawl (10,4)

Answer: BARGAINING CHIP (i.e. “advantage”). When read as BAR GAINING CHIP it also satisfies “possible side-effect of pub brawl”. It doesn’t really qualify as an Overly Tenuous Clue, perhaps, but nor does it qualify as a great one. Moving on…

48. Like Tom or Charlie, always keeping dry? (5)

Answer: CATTY (i.e. “like tom” – ignore the misleading capitalisation, unless, of course, you’re a fan of Tom and Jerry cartoons). Solution is C (i.e. “Charlie” in the phonetic alphabet) followed by AY (variant form of “aye”, i.e. “always”) once it has been wrapped around or “keeping” TT (i.e. “dry”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “teetotal”), like so: C-A(TT)Y.

49. La Scala habitué typically rebuffed sailor: time to express hesitation? (9)

Answer: OPERAGOER (i.e. “La Scala habitué typically” – La Scala is an opera house in Italy, while habitué is a habitual frequenter). Solution is PO (i.e. “sailor”, specifically a Petty Officer) which is reversed (indicated by “rebuffed”), then followed by ERA (i.e. “time”), then GO (i.e. “express” – not getting anything here, to be honest. They could both tenuously describe something quick, perhaps, but this is as weak as an eighth-pint piss), then ER (i.e. “hesitation”), like so: OP-ERA-GO-ER.
[EDIT: Thanks to Rodney in the comments of my About page for shedding light on this one. “To express hesitation” is to say or GO ER… which is a much better fit – LP]

51. Planet’s orbiting tracks in heavens (5,2)

Answer: GLORY BE (i.e. an exclamatory “heavens!”). Solution is GLOBE (i.e. “planet”) wrapped around or “orbiting” RY (i.e. “tracks”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “railway”), like so: GLO(RY)BE.

53. Call dad in to stop super FA squad (7,6)

Answer: CRYSTAL PALACE (i.e. “FA squad” – FA being Football Association). Solution is CRY (i.e. “call”) followed by PA (i.e. “dad”) once it has been placed “in” STALL (i.e. “to stop”), and then followed by ACE (i.e. “super”), like so: CRY-STAL(PA)L-ACE.

54. Most garrulous companion, one interrupting witness (9)

Answer: CHATTIEST (i.e. “most garrulous”). Solution is CH (i.e. “companion”, specifically a Companion of Honour) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) once it has been placed in or “interrupting” ATTEST (i.e. “witness”), like so: CH-ATT(I)EST.

55. Queen and I fancy one at Ascot, maybe (6)

Answer: EQUINE (i.e. “one at Ascot, maybe”). “Fancy” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of QUEEN and I.

56. Robotic men endlessly stalked round province (10)

Answer: MECHANISED (i.e. “robotic”). Solution is MEN with the last letter removed (indicated by “endlessly”) and followed by CHASED (i.e. “stalked”. Hmm. I’m no huntsman or creepy incel, but if you find you are chasing after something then I’d argue you’ve made a complete Henry Halls of stalking it. I call bullshit on this, so cue Overly Tenuous Clue #4…) once it has been placed “round” NI (i.e. “province”, specifically Northern Ireland), like so: ME-CHA(NI)SED.

57. Pick up, being extremely short of energy (5)

Answer: RALLY (i.e. “pick up”). Solution is REALLY (i.e. “extremely”) once the E has been removed (indicated by “short of energy”, E being a recognised abbreviation of “energy”).

Down clues

1. Prepares portions of peaches (6)

Answer: SPLITS (i.e. “prepares portions”). A lesser-used sense of the word “peach” is to accuse or inform against, or to betray, which represents a split of sorts.

2. Clarifies fluid a bigamist used (13)

Answer: DISAMBIGUATES (i.e. “clarifies”). “Fluid” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A BIGAMIST USED.

3. Subtler comrade initially in control after uprising (5)

Answer: NICER (i.e. “subtler” – both descriptive of something more delicate). Solution is C (i.e. “comrade initially”, i.e. the first letter of “comrade”) placed “in” REIN (i.e. “control”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “after uprising”, this being a down clue), like so: NI(C)ER.

4. Filthy hat with short band on top (7)

Answer: SQUALID (i.e. “filthy”). Solution is LID (i.e. “hat”) preceded by (indicated by “on top”, again this being a down clue) SQUAD (i.e. “band”) once its last letter has been removed (indicated by “short”), like so: SQUA-LID.

5. Person eager to form crew, trying to stay ahead (3-9)

Answer: ONE-UPMANSHIP (i.e. “trying to stay ahead”). Solution is ONE (i.e. “person”) followed by UP (i.e. “eager”, a remote definition of “up” is “with vigour” – a bit weak if I have it right, but then “tenuous” is this week’s watchword) and [to] MAN SHIP (i.e. “to form crew”).
[EDIT: Thanks to Steve in the comments for suggesting a better fit for UP/eager, as demonstrated here… anyone UP for a slightly easier Times Jumbo Cryptic next week? – LP]

6. Swimming trainer introducing wife in twenties or thirties? (8)

Answer: INTERWAR, in this case the period between the two World Wars (i.e. “in [nineteen-]twenties or thirties”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “swimming”) of TRAINER wrapped around or “introducing” W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”), like so: INTER(W)AR.

7. Inexperienced politician (5)

Answer: GREEN. Solution satisfies “inexperienced” and “politician”, as in a member of the Green Party.

8. Chance participant in an Anglo-French engagement? (10)

Answer: UNINTENDED (i.e. “chance”). “Engagement” in this case relates to being engaged to marry one’s INTENDED. “Anglo-French” indicates the engagement would be between an English person and a French person. French for “one” is UN, so the solution could be read as UN INTENDED. You get the idea.

10. Contrary girl coming out quickly obliged to lie (7)

Answer: BEDFAST (i.e. “obliged to lie [in bed]”). Solution is DEB (i.e. “girl”) reversed (indicated by “contrary”, as in the opposite or inverse) and followed by FAST (i.e. “coming out quickly”), like so: BED-FAST.
[EDIT: Rodney added a comment to my About page offering a better explanation for this one. A “girl coming out” would be a debutante, an informal form of which is DEB. This is reversed and then followed by FAST for “quickly”. Thanks, Rodney! – LP]

11. Is dry laundry taken thus ready to wear? (3-3-3)

Answer: OFF-THE-PEG. Solution satisfies “dry laundry taken thus” and “ready to wear”. A recent repeat.

12. Drop off note that twelfth man’s completed? (5)

Answer: DOZEN (i.e. “that twelfth man’s completed” – twelve makes a dozen). Solution is DOZE (i.e. “drop off”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “note”). While I’ve rather whaled on this week’s setter all through this post, I do rather like how DOZEN has been slotted in 12 down.

13. Manchester-based players intent on scoring? (5,9)

Answer: HALLE ORCHESTRA, which are based in Manchester. “Scoring” in this case relating to musical scores, and “players” being musicians. That’s about it, I guess, unless I’ve missed something clever.

20. Ashes here often getting a bad press (5,4)

Answer: UNDER FIRE. Solution satisfies “ashes here often” and “getting a bad press”.

21. They stole to pay for accommodation (8)

Answer: FOOTPADS, an archaic word for a highwayman (i.e. “they stole”). Solution is FOOT (i.e. “to pay for”) followed by PADS (i.e. “accommodation”).

23. Signal the person behind, after warning from driver (10)

Answer: FORESHADOW (i.e. “signal”). Solution is SHADOW (i.e. “the person behind” – again, weak, bordering on overly-tenuous) placed “after” FORE (i.e. “warning from driver”, as in someone teeing off in golf).

24. Ancient Greek, sound as a bell, died in his god’s embrace (10)

Answer: ARCHIMEDES (i.e. an “ancient Greek”). Solution is CHIME (i.e. “sound as a bell”) and D (a recognised abbreviation of “died”) placed “in” ARES (i.e. “his god’s embrace”, Ares being the Greek god of war whose arse you eventually get to roundly kick in the excellent and entirely historically accurate God of War), like so: AR(CHIME-D)ES.

26. Dead dead good? (3,2,4,5)

Answer: OUT OF THIS WORLD. Solution satisfies “dead” and “dead good”.

28. A team order visiting international clubs accepted (9)

Answer: AXIOMATIC (i.e. “accepted”). Solution is A followed by XI (i.e. “team”, XI being eleven expressed in Roman numerals), then OM (i.e. “order”, specifically the Order of Merit), then AT (i.e. “visiting”), then I (a recognised abbreviation of “international”) and finally C (ditto “clubs”, used in card games), like so: A-XI-OM-AT-I-C.

29. Prompter’s page cutting more off (8)

Answer: SPEEDIER (i.e. “prompter”). Solution is P (a recognised abbreviation of “page”) placed in or “cutting” SEEDIER (i.e. “more off”), like so: S(P)EEDIER.

33. Peer can shut up government official (4,5,4)

Answer: LORD PRIVY SEAL (i.e. “government official”, specifically one that has served no function for centuries and yet still attracts a ministerial salary. Nice work if you can get it, eh?). Solution is LORD (i.e. “peer”) followed by PRIVY (i.e. “can”, both taken to mean “toilet”) and SEAL (i.e. “[to] shut up”).

34. Fall over copper, oddly curious going round plant (6,6)

Answer: AUTUMN CROCUS (i.e. “plant”). Solution is AUTUMN (i.e. “fall”) followed by CROS (i.e. “oddly curious”, i.e. the odd letters of CURIOUS) placed or “going round” CU (chemical symbol of “copper”), like so: AUTUMN-CRO(CU)S.

38. Type of rock bun? (6,4)

Answer: MARBLE CAKE (i.e. “bun”). Clue riffs on marble being a “type of rock”. That’s about it, I guess.

40. I’m all attention, blasted voyeur too (4,2,3)

Answer: OVER TO YOU (i.e. “I’m all attention” – it feels weak but works if you think of it in terms of, say, debating or playing a game against someone). “Blasted” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of VOYEUR TOO.

42. Early 17th century Frenchman astride a horse (8)

Answer: JACOBEAN (i.e. “early 17th century”). Solution is JEAN (i.e. “Frenchman”) wrapped around or “astride” A COB (i.e. “a horse”), like so: J(A-COB)EAN.

44. Test the water – with a new costume? (3,2,2)

Answer: TRY IT ON. Solution satisfies “test the water” (taken figuratively not literally) and “test…a new costume”.

46. Scrooge’s raised spirit bore up (7)

Answer: NIGGARD (i.e. a miser or “Scrooge”). Solution is GIN (i.e. “spirit”) reversed (indicated by “raised” – this being a down clue) followed by DRAG (i.e. “bore”, as in someone who is dull) also reversed (indicated by “up” – again, this being a down clue), like so: NIG-GARD.

47. Using the other side of racket, almost efficiently (6)

Answer: NEATLY (i.e. “efficiently”). A pure guess, I’m afraid. I cannot get a fix on this one at all, so it has every chance of being incorrect. Given the umpteen words that fit the letters _E_T_Y, combined with the setter’s tiresome overreliance on tenuous links, this could be anything. GENTLY? DEFTLY perhaps?
[EDIT: A huge thank you to zouzoulap in the comments for shedding light on this one. The solution is NEARLY (i.e. “almost”) with the R replaced by T. This is inferred by “using the other side of racket”, i.e. use the last letter of “racket” instead of the first letter. I don’t recall seeing this kind of wordplay before, but it does fit the tortu(r)ous nature of this week’s puzzle. Even so, bloody hell, setter, have a word… -LP]

48. Pine as base for cold store (5)

Answer: CACHE (i.e. “store”). Solution is ACHE (i.e. “pine”) placed below (indicated by “as base for” – this being a down clue) C (a recognised abbreviation of “cold”), like so: C-ACHE.

50. Humble seaman remains (5)

Answer: ABASH (i.e. to strike with shame or to “humble”). Solution is AB (i.e. “seaman”, specifically Able Bodied) followed by ASH (i.e. “[cremated] remains”).

52. Fox terrier bit armpit (5)

Answer: OXTER (i.e. “armpit” – no, me neither, but it’s in the dictionary). “Bit” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: F(OX TER)RIER.


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1402

A toughie this week, though one whose (manifold) exotics lay just on the right side of annoying. A few mysteries remain – time is getting on as I edit this, and my brain has gone soggy. Also, is it just me or did the setter leave most of the exotics for the down clues? I mean, look at some of them! Sheesh!

Anyway, you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

[EDIT – I’ve updated the grid, changing 31a to ENLISTEES, following John’s helpful explanation in the comments of my ‘About’ page, and 41d to INTERVENE, as this is a much better fit. – LP]

A little housekeeping before we begin, in time-honoured fashion. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s left you baffled then my Just For Fun page could help you. Failing that, hey, about some book reviews? No? Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…

Still no?

Fine. To the answers, then!


Thanks to John in the comments for correcting 31a. – LP


Across clues

1. Accomplices having fun after eleven? (9)

Answer: SIDEKICKS (i.e. “accomplices”). Solution is KICKS (i.e. “fun”) placed “after” SIDE (i.e. “eleven”, as in a football team, among others), like so: SIDE-KICKS.

6. Chose hotel on vacation, purely randomly, as temporary resting place? (4,9)

Answer: HOLY SEPULCHRE, the tomb in which the body of Christ was placed after the crucifixion. (i.e. “temporary resting place”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “randomly”) of CHOSE, HL (i.e. “hotel on vacation”, i.e. the word “hotel” with all of its middle letters removed) and PURELY. One of several clues in this puzzle that scans rather well. Somehow, I’ve managed to get through this blog post resisting all the while adding BATMAN! to the end of HOLY SEPULCHRE. I’ve changed, man, I’ve changed…

13. One who has depression after losing daughter (5)

Answer: OWNER (i.e. “one who has”). Solution is DOWNER (i.e. “depression”) with the D removed (indicated by “losing daughter”, d being a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”).

14. Chin disfigured with gunshot – or something else entirely (2,4,5)

Answer: NO SUCH THING (i.e. “something else entirely”). “Disfigured” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CHIN and GUNSHOT.

15. Preserving agent’s bulletin: it recommends contracting (5)

Answer: NITRE, also known as saltpetre (i.e. “preserving agent”). “Contracting” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: BULLETI(N IT RE)COMMENDS.

16. Declaration when going to part of Sicily, for example (11)

Answer: ARRIVEDERCI, which is Italian for farewell. Incidentally, also Brad Pitt’s best line in Inglourious Basterds. Anyway, “declaration when going to part”. The “of Sicily” indicates the Italian angle. You get the idea.

17. General manager, at first opening in French, is puzzling people (11)

Answer: ENIGMATISTS (i.e. “puzzling people”). Solution is GM (a recognised abbreviation of “general manager”), AT and IST (i.e. “first”, the I representing a 1) placed in or “opening” EN (i.e. “in French”, i.e. the French for “in”) and IS, like so: EN-I(GM-AT-IST)S.

18. Gift of mobile phone, with time exchanged for pounds (7)

Answer: HANDSEL, which is an inaugural “gift”, such as a coin placed in the pocket of a new coat. Solution is HANDSET (i.e. “mobile phone”) with the T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”) replaced by or “exchanged for” L (ditto “pounds”). One I got from the wordplay and a check in my Chambers, if I’m honest. Nice word, though. I like it.

20. Protective gear appropriate for post-holder (7)

Answer: MAILBAG (i.e. “post-holder”). Solution is MAIL (i.e. “protective gear”, as in chain mail) followed by BAG (i.e. “[to] appropriate”).

21. Proceeds awkwardly, stopping for one to turn and look (7)

Answer: GLIMPSE (i.e. “look”). Solution is LIMPS (i.e. “proceeds awkwardly”) placed in or “stopping” EG (i.e. “for one”, as in “for example”) which has been reversed (indicated by “to turn”), like so: G(LIMPS)E.

23. No matter what is drunk with alcohol, emerge healthier (extremely) (4,4,2,4,5)

Answer: COME HELL OR HIGH WATER (i.e. “no matter what”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “drunk”) of WITH ALCOHOL EMERGE and HR (i.e. “healthier (extremely)”, i.e. the first and last letters of “healthier”). A clue I can get on board with.

27. Little friend, we hear, to bear regret (3)

Answer: RUE (i.e. “regret”). “We hear” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of ROO, (i.e. “little friend … to [Pooh] bear”).

28. Occasion to be poorly attended by specialist medical department (6)

Answer: ENTAIL (i.e. “occasion” – a little tenuous, but it’s backed up by my Chambers Thesaurus). Solution is AIL (i.e. “to be poorly”) placed “by” ENT (i.e. “specialist medical department”, specifically Ear Nose and Throat), like so: ENT-AIL.

29. Old African film – and welcome theatre performance (6)

Answer: ETHIOP (i.e. “old African” – it’s tagged in the dictionary as an archaic term). Solution is ET (i.e. “[Spielberg] film”) followed by HI (i.e. “welcome”) and OP (i.e. “theatre performance”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “opus”).
[EDIT: Skeggis in the comments offers an alternative for OP, with “theatre performance” referring to a surgical procedure, which seems a better fit. Thanks, Skeggis! – LP]

31. Recruits ultimately neglectful in returning without shirts (9)

Answer: ENLISTEES (i.e. “recruits”). I haven’t got a Scooby on this one, so watch out. “Ultimately neglectful” could be L, as in its final letter, but after that I’m snookered. Some kip is needed, I reckon.
[EDIT: A big thank you to John in the comments of my ‘About’ page for this one. The answer is ENLISTEES (not ENLISTERS as I’d had it), being L (i.e. “ultimately neglectful”, i.e. the last letter of “neglectful”) being placed in SINE (Latin for “without”, e.g. sine die, meaning “without a day”) which is reversed (indicated by “in returning”) and followed by TEES (i.e. “shirts”), like so: EN(L)IS-TEES. Flippin’ ‘eck, I would never have gotten that one! – LP]

34. Books and a sticker collected by mostly hard-up party organisers (9)

Answer: POLITBURO (i.e. “[Soviet] party organisers”). Solution is LIT (i.e. “books”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “literature”) and BUR (i.e. “sticker”, as in those sticky plant seeds that cling to your clothes – also spelled “burr”) placed in or “collected by” POOR (i.e. “hard-up”) once its last letter has been removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: PO(LIT-BUR)O.

35. Axes absorbing old reference work that’s not remained constant (2-4)

Answer: YO-YOED (i.e. “that’s not remained constant”). Solution is Y and Y (i.e. “axes [of graphs]”) wrapped around or “absorbing” O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and followed by OED (i.e. “reference work”, specifically the Oxford English Dictionary), like so: Y(O)Y-OED.

36. Love early Dad’s Army I see in theatre (3,3)

Answer: OLD VIC (i.e. “[London] theatre”). Solution is O (i.e. “love”, as in a zero score in tennis) followed by LDV (short for Local Defence Volunteers, i.e. “early Dad’s army”), then I and C (i.e. “see”, as in the third letter of the alphabet).

39. Succeed, after going back regularly a bit (3)

Answer: ECU (i.e. “a bit”, as in a coin. Over the years an ecu has been an old French coin as well as a precursor to the euro, as in the European Currency Unit). “Regularly” indicates the solution can be derived by taking every other letter of SUCCEED once it has been reversed (indicated by “going back”), like so: DEECCUS.

40. Fiction by people put out for religious festival (9,2,3,5)

Answer: INVENTION OF THE CROSS, a “religious festival” observed on Star Wars Eve. Solution is INVENTION (i.e. “fiction”) followed by OF THE CROSS (i.e. “people put out”). One I got from the wordplay, to be honest.

42. Threat from deep from one football team, way back (7)

Answer: TSUNAMI (i.e. “threat from deep”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) followed by MAN U (i.e. “football team”, i.e. Manchester United) and ST (i.e. “way”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “street”), all reversed (indicated by “back”), like so: TS-U-NAM-I.

43. Jewish court risked row after hours (4,3)

Answer: BETH DIN (i.e. “Jewish court”). Solution is BET (i.e. “risked”) and DIN (i.e. “row”) once it has been placed “after” H (a recognised abbreviation of “hours”), like so: BET-H-DIN. Chalk one to my Bradfords here. Most everything religious in my brain has been claimed by adaptive memory over the years.

45. Chap coming from game left public house after party (7)

Answer: RUDOLPH (i.e. “chap”, as in a man’s name). Solution is RU (i.e. “game”, specifically Rugby Union), and L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) and PH (ditto “public house”) once they’ve been placed “after” DO (i.e. “party”), like so: RU-DO-L-PH.

47. Place irises all round person in a field (11)

Answer: SPECIALISER (i.e. “person in a field”). “All round” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PLACE IRISES.

49. Which sees gas production at its peak? (6,5)

Answer: SUMMIT TALKS, e.g. those confabs between the G7, the G20, etc, which provide wonderful photo opportunities for those world leaders in attendance, eye-watering bar bills from their entourage and precious little progress for the world in general. Clue riffs on how “gas production” can refer to talking, and how “peak” is another word for “summit”. You get the idea.

51. Immigrant lives west of Southwark area (5)

Answer: ISSEI – off to my Chambers for this one: “a Japanese immigrant in the USA … after 1907, who did not qualify for citizenship until 1952”. So an “immigrant” then. Solution is IS (i.e. “lives”) followed by SEI (i.e. “Southwark area”, i.e. the post code area SE1). Relevant aside: I keep picking up James Ellroy’s Perfidia in Waterstones, especially now he’s followed it up with This Storm – it’s a sure sign I’ll buy them both at some point. Fun fact: my to-be-read pile can now be measured in mid-sized Waterstones stores.

52. State goal of female to acquire son (11)

Answer: NETHERLANDS (i.e. “state”). Solution is NET (i.e. “goal” in various sports) followed by HER (i.e. “of female”), then LAND (i.e. “to acquire”) and S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”).

53. Founder of Academy of Sport, just about closed (5)

Answer: PLATO (i.e. “founder of [the Platonic] Academy”). Solution is PLAY (i.e. “sport”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “just about”) and followed by TO (i.e. “closed”, as in leaving a door closed to), like so: PLA-TO. I’m not 100% here, so I’m open to alternatives.

54. A number of just people isolated? (4,3,6)

Answer: ONLY THE LONELY, a song or musical “number” by Roy Orbison. Solution also satisfies “just people isolated”.

55. Coffee percolator – at last – light and modern! (6-3)

Answer: LATTER-DAY (i.e. “modern”). Solution is LATTE (i.e. “coffee”) followed by R (i.e. “percolator – at last”, i.e. the last letter of “percolator”) and then DAY (i.e. “light”).

Down clues

1. Stand with one outside hospital to make complaint (11)

Answer: STOMACHACHE (i.e. “complaint”). Solution is STOMACH (i.e. to bear or “stand”) followed by ACE (i.e. “one” in  cards) once it has been placed “outside” of H (a recognised abbreviation of “hospital” used on maps), like so: STOMACH-AC(H)E.

2. Nervy conductor in retreat, humming endlessly (7)

Answer: DENDRON (i.e. “nervy conductor”, relating to elements of one’s nervous system). Solution is DEN (i.e. a study or “retreat”) followed by DRONE (i.e. “humming”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “endlessly”), like so: DEN-DRON. Chalk another one to my Bradfords here.

3. Put out verse about Irish dancers (5)

Answer: KIROV Ballet, also known as the Mariinsky Ballet, over yonder in Russia, i.e. “dancers”. Solution is KO (i.e. “put out”, as in to knock out) and V (a recognised abbreviation of “verse”) placed “about” IR (ditto “Irish”), like so: K(IR)O-V. No, me neither. One I got purely from the wordplay and a quick Google to confirm.

4. May a surrealist work fifty years to produce something blooming orange? (6,4)

Answer: CANADA LILY, a plant that produces yellow or orange heads (i.e. “something blooming orange”). Did a Google Image search – ooh, pretty. Solution is CAN (i.e. “may”) followed by A, then DALI (i.e. “surrealist work”, as in an artwork produced by Salvador Dali), then L (i.e. “[Roman numeral] fifty”), then Y (a recognised abbreviation of “years”), like so: CAN-A-DALI-L-Y. Another one gotten purely from the wordplay.

5. Spies, close to cot, strange old rattle (7)

Answer: SISTRUM, “an ancient Egyptian wire rattle used in Isis-worship” (Chambers again.) Solution is SIS (i.e. “spies”, specifically the Secret Intelligence Service, more commonly known as MI6) followed by T (i.e. “close to cot”, i.e. the last letter of “cot”) and RUM (i.e. “strange”). A combination of wordplay and brute-forcing Chambers was needed here.

6. Two hotels, one mythic icon, transformed Asian port (2,3,4,4)

Answer: HO CHI MINH CITY (i.e. “Asian port”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “transformed”) of H, H (i.e. “two hotels”, H being “hotel” in the phonetic alphabet), I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and MYTHIC ICON. An easy get, having appeared before.

7. One dropping paper’s new setters? An error! (9)

Answer: LITTERBUG (i.e. “one dropping papers”). Solution is LITTER (i.e. “new setters” – badgers live in setts, so a litter of badger cubs would be “new setters”) followed by BUG (i.e. “an error”).

8. Hold in position large drink bottles for stealing (7)

Answer: SWIPING (i.e. “stealing”). Solution is PIN (i.e. “hold in position”) placed in or “bottled” by SWIG (i.e. “large drink”), like so: SWI(PIN)G.

9. Irrational general secretary with power and cunning? Unlikely! (4,5,3)

Answer: PIGS MIGHT FLY (i.e. “unlikely”). Solution is PI (an “irrational” number, being one that cannot be expressed as a fraction with an integer numerator and denominator), followed by GS (a recognised abbreviation of “general secretary”), then MIGHT (i.e. “power”) and FLY (i.e. “cunning”, as in being pretty fly (for a white guy)).

10. Going on more trips up Rhine, get beyond lake (9)

Answer: LENGTHIER (i.e. “going on more”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “trips up”) of RHINE GET which is placed after or “beyond” L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”), like so: L-ENGTHIER.

11. African race issue, tough to bring up every so often (5)

Answer: HUTUS (i.e. “African race”). “Every so often” indicates the solution can be derived by taking every other letter of ISSUE TOUGH, once reversed (indicated by “bring up” – this being a down clue), like so: HGUOT EUSSI

12. Quits flat, base for assignment in Rugby (4-7)

Answer: EVEN-STEVENS (i.e. “quits”). Solution is EVEN (i.e. “flat”) followed by T (i.e. “base” – a guess here, but I’m plumping for a recognised abbreviation of “tare”. This goes back to my days helping in my grandparent’s shop, where you would tare or zero the weighing scale once the pan had been placed on it. You could then measure whatever it was you wanted to weigh. (Often sweets.)) once it has been placed or “assigned in” SEVENS (i.e. a variant form of “rugby” – ignore the misleading capitalisation), like so: EVEN-S(T)EVENS.
[EDIT: Thanks to Mark in the comments for pointing out a much more straightforward explanation for T, being the last letter or “base” of the word “assignment”. That’s better! – LP]

19. For old chancellor, that is hard, halfway through his time in office? Erm, no (7)

Answer: Helmut SCHMIDT (i.e. “old [German] chancellor”). Solution is SC (i.e. “that is”, being a recognised abbreviation of the Latin scilicet, meaning “namely” – a new one on me) followed by H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard”) and MIDTERM (i.e. “halfway through his time in office”) once the ERM has been removed (indicated by “erm, no”), like so: SC-H-MIDT. Chalk one to my Bradfords, here, as this guy was a little before my time.

22. OAP, overly disposed to speak French (9)

Answer: PARLEYVOO (i.e. “to speak French”, riffing on the way “parlez-vous” is spoken – yes, it’s in the dictionary! Yes, I was surprised too). “Disposed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OAP OVERLY. One I solved only when I’d gotten most of the intersecting letters.

24. Satisfied large cuts augur badly for popular seventies track (9)

Answer: METALGURU (i.e. “popular seventies track [by T Rex]” – surely this is two words? I’ve checked Google, Spotify, even Wikipedia goddammit, and it’s two words. Yellow card, setter. (Explodes in typical internet nowtrage.)) Solution is MET (i.e. “satisfied”) followed L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) once it has been placed in an anagram (indicated by “badly”) of AUGUR, like so: MET-A(L)GURU.

25. In St Nazaire, where a couple of sailors dated (7)

Answer: OUTWORN (i.e. “dated”). Solution is OU (i.e. “in St Nazaire, where”, i.e. the French for “where”) followed by TWO (i.e. “a couple”) and RN (i.e. “sailors”, specifically the Royal Navy).

26. From which enemy corps have we initially recoiled? (7)

Answer: WHEREOF (i.e. “from which”). Solution is FOE (i.e. “enemy”) followed by RE (i.e. “corps”, specifically the Royal Engineers) and H and W (i.e. “have we initially”, i.e. the first letters of “have” and “we”), which are all reversed (indicated by “recoiled”), like so: W-H-ER-EOF.

30. Where estate maybe would show evidence of early settlement? (3-3-7)

Answer: PAY-AND-DISPLAY. Clue riffs on how an “estate” can be a car, and how you would prominently show a pay-and-display ticket on your car to show you’ve pre-paid a parking charge, i.e. “evidence of early settlement”. I actually groaned when this finally clicked. I like it.

32. Wed Dec 1: records sent up (7)

Answer: SPLICED (i.e. “wed”). Solution is DEC I (i.e. “Dec 1”) and LPS (i.e. “[long-play] records”) all reversed (indicated by “sent up” – this being a down clue), like so: SPL-I-CED.

33. Under this, almost certain to conceal weapon? (12)

Answer: SURVILLANCE. Solution is SURE (i.e. “certain”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “almost”) followed by VEIL (i.e. “to conceal”) and LANCE (i.e. “weapon”). In the context of the solution, under surveillance, you would conceal a weapon rather than flash it about. A clue that scans rather well.

34. Quietly topping others, manned satellite, if you ask me, is most speedy (11)

Answer: PRESTISSIMO (i.e. “most speedy” in musical lingo). Solution is P (i.e. “quietly”, also in musical lingo, being a recognised abbreviation of “piano”) followed by or “topping” (this being a down clue) REST (i.e. “others”), then ISS (i.e. “manned satellite”, specifically the International Space Station) and IMO (i.e. “if you ask me”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “in my opinion”). Musical terms have lately been something of a motif for these puzzles, haven’t they?

37. One doctor may look up to, say, corrupted with riches (4,7)

Answer: CASE HISTORY (i.e. “one doctor may look up”). “Corrupted” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TO SAY and RICHES.

38. My old chair? That’s without doubt in the end the place to be! (5,3,2)

Answer: WHERE IT’S AT (i.e. “the place to be”). Solution is WHERE I SAT (i.e. “my old chair”) wrapped around or placed “without” T (i.e. “doubt in the end”, i.e. the last letter of “doubt”), like so: WHERE-I-(T)-SAT.

40. Creative person from newspaper opposed to blocking film (9)

Answer: IMAGINIST (i.e. “creative person”). Solution is the I (i.e. “newspaper”, launched in the UK in 2010) followed by AGIN (i.e. “opposed to”) once it has been placed in or “blocking” MIST (i.e. “film”), like so: I-M(AGIN)IST.

41. Get involved in a day to celebrate trainee nurses (9)

Answer: INTERVENE (i.e. “get involved”). Another where the setter has lost me, so watch out. Again, perhaps some sleep will help.
[EDIT: I’m changing my answer to INTERVENE (not INTERFERE). My solution is INTERNE (i.e. “trainee”) which is wrapped around or “nursing” VE (i.e. “a day to celebrate”, as in Victory in Europe), like so: INTER(VE)NE. Got there in the end! – LP]

43. Southern African graduates, and nothing but (7)

Answer: BASOTHO, a Bantu people of Lesotho (i.e. “Southern African”). Solution is BAS (i.e. “graduates”, specifically Bachelors of Arts) followed by O (i.e. “nothing”) and THO (i.e. “but”, as in an informal, contracted form of “though”). A little brute force of my Chambers was necessary when I couldn’t panel-beat “Lesotho” into the letters I had. Or the clue, for that matter.

44. In theory plan I’m only partially up for (7)

Answer: NOMINAL (i.e. “in theory”). “Partially” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “up” indicates the solution has been reversed – this being a down clue – like so: P(LAN I’M ON)LY.

46. Old reformist that makes me crack up and blubber (7)

Answer: the LOLLARD movement, which was a pre-Protestant Christian religious movement that existed from the early 14th century to the English Reformation. No, me neither. Adaptive memory, see? Anyway, “old reformist”. Solution is LOL (i.e. “crack up”, as in “laugh out loud”, a popular acronym among interwebbers) followed by LARD (i.e. “blubber”). Another win for the Bradfords, here.

48. Drawing support and comfort first from lover (5)

Answer: EASEL (i.e. “drawing support”). Solution is EASE (i.e. “comfort”) followed by L (i.e. “first from lover”, i.e. the first letter of “lover”).

50. Tent peg found outside gym (5)

Answer: TEPEE (i.e. “tent”). Solution is TEE (i.e. “peg”) placed “outside” of PE (i.e. “gym”, as in Physical Education), like so: TE(PE)E.