Review: Best New Horror 13

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

And so we reach book 13, a number that is close to my heart! This chunky entry in the Best New Horror series was a book of two halves. For the first couple hundred pages I thought we were on for one of the strongest books in the series, but then the good stories started to peter out. There were no stinkers fouling up the place, but a few of the longer stories were guilty of overstretching themselves. All in all, this book just scrapes a 4/5.

Best New Horror 13 contains twenty-three stories published during 2001 and runs as follows:

Mark of the Beast – Chico Kidd (4/5 – Luis Da Silva is a Portuguese sea-captain cooped up in a sweltering Indian port around the turn of the twentieth century. A deep unease has settled among the townsfolk. Rumour has it that a werewolf is in their midst, slaughtering young and old alike. While Da Silva waits for the necessary palms to be greased that will allow him to set sail again, a shipping agent puts him in touch with an American sailor, Harris, who is looking for work. The two men meet and agree terms. While they await permission to leave port, Harris frets inwardly about how long he’ll be at sea. He wonders how he’ll be able to restrain himself come the next full moon, and whether Captain Da Silva has picked up on his lycanthropy. This was a really good ripping yarn spoiled only by an excess of run-on sentences and the kind of overwriting that makes your teeth itch, for instance:

“Da Silva had already made up his mind not to beat about the bush by skirting around the topic.”

Nnggnnggggnnnn! I suspect this may have been intentional, as if Kidd had adopted a verbose style more becoming of the age, but I wished a strong editor had intervened. This is still very much worth a read, I should stress, thanks to the magnetic Captain Da Silva and his resourceful teenage son, Ze. Another Da Silva story lies in wait at the end of this book.)

Also collected in Fowler’s “The Devil In Me”

Crocodile Lady – Christopher Fowler (4/5 – A teacher returns to the profession after an absence of several years. She is immediately thrown in at the deep end, helping to shepherd a class of young children on a school outing to the London Zoological Gardens. She effortlessly slips back into the role. Her experience lets her quickly identify the usual suspects, from the troublemakers of the class to the quiet boy she’ll need to keep an eye on. As the class’s regular teacher stands around craving cigarettes and scowling openly over her charges, Miss efficiently organises the children into crocodile formation ahead of a chaotic commute through the London Underground. When the quiet kid goes missing at one of the stops, Miss immediately takes it upon herself to track him down. This un-Fowler-like story may have resulted from a previous desire of his to depart the horror scene. It’s good stuff either way, giving us a flavour of what goes on in a schoolteacher’s noggin (courtesy of fellow author and former schoolteacher Joanne Harris, according to the introduction). But where this story really succeeds – and what qualifies its inclusion in a horror anthology – is the queasy sense of panic Fowler creates as crowds of passengers bustle onto the train at each stop, threatening to break up the kids. Good stuff!)

Also collected in Campbell’s “Told By The Dead”

All For Sale – Ramsey Campbell (4/5 – This deliciously mean Venus Flytrap of a story sees three young men having it large in an unnamed Mediterranean town, hitting the bars within seconds of dropping their bags off at their hotel. Barry wakes the next morning with thoughts of a girl he’d met the night before, and a hum of activity outside the hotel room. Looking out the window he finds a market has sprung up below, large enough to occupy the streets. Leaving his mates to their inevitable hangovers, he sets out to explore the market, hoping somebody can direct him to the girl’s hotel. A misunderstanding with one of the stallholders leads to an argument which attracts the attention of the local police. Barry is sent on his way and soon finds himself getting lost in the seemingly endless market. Everything is for sale, from the mundane to the obscene, the legit, the stolen and everything in between. Everyone in town has a stake in the market, it seems. Even the hotel owner. You may wonder at times where Campbell is going with this story but stick with it because the ending is stone-cold brilliant.)

Also collected in McAuley’s “A Very British History”

The Two Dicks – Paul McAuley (4/5 – We’re in an alternative 1974 where Bob Dylan has been killed in his prime, where President Nixon is eyeing a third term in office and where Philip K Dick is incandescent with rage after being asked to sign a pirated copy of The Man in the High Castle. The novel should never have been released but was leaked into the grey market. In the eyes of Dick’s agent, Anthony Emmet, the novel was another of his client’s embarrassing forays into science fiction that should never have been written. Dick wants to nail the fiends who had so flagrantly pirated his work, and soon concludes the only way to do this is by obtaining an FBI badge. He takes it upon himself to not only write a letter requesting such of the President of the United States of America, but also to deliver the letter in person to The White House. To Emmet’s astonishment, Dick’s gambit pays off, and a meeting is pencilled in with POTUS. This was a great read from beginning to end. I get the impression McAuley had a lot of fun putting this story together. The scene in which Dick and Nixon meet, both chaperoned by their respective representatives, is a wonderfully observed slice of comedy. Trouble is it’s not a horror story. Not a single word of it.)

Also collected in Smith’s “Chimerascope”

By Her Hand, She Draws You Down – Douglas Smith (4/5 – Cath and Joe are scraping a living on the coast, moving from one vacation spot to the next. Cath sets up shop with her paper and pencils and draws portraits of passing holidaymakers. Joe meanwhile maintains a constant and thinly veiled dread of her. It’s not that Cath is unskilled in her art that unsettles him. Her portraits are often uncannily lifelike. No, what really creeps Joe is what Cath does with the portraits, when the inhuman hunger possessing her demands to be fed, and what happens to the unfortunate souls she has portrayed. Another good story, this. It’s an interesting slant on the vampire myth which takes a pleasingly dark turn the moment the true dynamic between Cath and Joe is revealed. You might see the ending coming a few pages early, but this is still well worth a look.)

Also collected in Brite’s “The Devil You Know”

O Death, Where Is Thy Spatula? – Poppy Z. Brite (4/5 – Brite pulls on the coroner’s gloves to become his alter ego, Dr Brite: epicure extraordinaire! (Re “his”: Brite identifies as a man, Billy Martin, these days. Back in 2001, he was Poppy Brite. The character of Dr Brite is a woman, and so female pronouns lie ahead…) The good doctor Brite is in awe of restauranteur Devlin Lemon. His dishes send her taste buds into raptures every time, and she is a near-permanent fixture in his restaurant. While examining a recent homicide, Brite realises the gunshot victim before her is Devlin, deceased only hours earlier. Bereft, she refuses to process Devlin’s corpse, instead stuffing him into a mortuary cooler while she considers her next move. While she cannot deny the human tragedy of Devlin’s murder, she feels an equal if not greater tragedy in no longer being able to savour his food, and so a traipse around the voodoo shops of New Orleans beckons. As you may have gathered from the title, this is a story brimming with humour and wit. And food. And body parts. It’s a really good read, and a precursor to a series of dark comedy novels set in the New Orleans restaurant world. Even more books to add to my nascent to-be-read pile, it seems…)

Also collected in Etchison’s “Gotta Kill Them All and Other Stories”

Got To Kill Them All – Dennis Etchison (3/5 – Ray Lowndes is a game show host driving home through Los Angeles after making a quick stop at his local hardware store. With a bag full of murder gear in the back seat of his car and a head full of ideas about his adulterous wife, he slowly ticks over the facts of her infidelity, gameshow style, as he makes slow progress home. He berates someone at a crosswalk after they stop and sit in front of his car. The sitter instantly recognises Ray from the TV and soon talks his way into riding shotgun, in more ways than one. This was okay but didn’t really do it for me. The story was written at a time when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was ruling the gameshow airwaves, and, as the title would suggest, a time when Pokémon was all the rage, but these elements feel like they’ve been shoehorned into the story solely to give it some pizazz. I’m not sure it needed it. Worth a read if you fancy a quick burst of Americana.)

No More A-Roving – Lynda E. Rucker (3/5 – Paul is a seasoned globetrotter who has lost track of Alyssa, a girl with whom he’d been travelling. Believing Alyssa to have moved on to Ireland, he follows suit, eventually heading to The Seagull Hostel out on the coast. He wakes one night to see a dinghy out among the waves. He fears for the safety of whoever is out there, but reasons there’s little he can do, being holed up in a hostel high upon the cliffs. The next day he sees the boat, empty but intact, secured down by the shore. As his stay goes on, Paul notices some of his fellow backpackers have taken to exploring a nearby cliff, sometimes never returning. He thinks nothing much of it, what with them being travellers and all. All that changes when he realises Mrs Ryan, the owner of The Seagull, is wearing the same scarf that Alyssa had worn. This was okay, with Rucker aiming to produce a Robert Aickman-style story (The Hospice springs to mind) and succeeding to some extent thanks to an eclectic bunch of guests. It’s just a shame I didn’t feel much of anything for Paul. Like Alyssa, I too would have left him behind at the earliest opportunity. I appreciate Rucker was trying to portray a person who had grown jaded of travelling, but it felt to me like the guy had never liked travelling in the first place.)

Also collected in “25 Years in the Word Mines – The Best Short Fiction of Graham Joyce”

First, Catch Your Demon – Graham Joyce (4/5 – Joyce gets his writerly oats in an erotically charged story – another of his set in Greece – where a grouchy writer wakes one night to find a bunch of scorpions clinging to the wall above him. He splats a couple of the little buggers but is unable to snuff out a third before it scuttles off into the walls. Wide awake now and baking hot, despite the hour, he steps out to the lakeside near his house to find – can you believe it? – a naked woman. Always happens. The woman’s name is Sasha. She was out swimming in the lake along with her two sisters but has since become separated from them. She stays with our man, exhibiting as much of an interest in his arachnoid houseguests as she has of bonking his brains out. All of which is lovely, but this is a horror story and you can’t go splatting helpless scorpions and expect to get your dick sucked every day. Things inexorably go south for our man the moment Sasha “introduces” him to the hallucinogenic effects of scorpion venom. This is a pretty good read once you’ve coughed and ahemed your way through the shagging. It doesn’t rank among Joyce’s best work, but it’s more accessible than some of his other stories. Worth a look, and perhaps a cold shower afterwards.)

Pump Jack – Donald R. Burleson (3/5 – Cal Withers is driving to the middle of the New Mexico desert, tasked with clearing out Uncle Bill and Aunt Clara’s house now that they’ve passed on. He passes a number of pump jacks on his approach, their metal heads serenely nodding as they scrape the last drops of oil out of the ground. The sight of the pumps doesn’t exactly fill Cal with much peace. He remembers a scary story Uncle Bill would tell when Cal was little, that of a rogue pump jack that stalked the night, preying on naughty children. When Cal gets lost in the pitch-black darkness of the desert, he bumps against the railings of a stilled pump jack that ought not to be there. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? You’d be right, but then Burleson has form when it comes to sprinkling horror dust over the most mundane things. Back in Best New Horror 8, for example, he damn near tied himself in knots trying to make us believe a game of hopscotch was scary. He doesn’t lay on the atmosphere quite as thick this time, thankfully, and even manages to raise a couple of hairs by the end of this tale. But still, silly.)

Outfangthief – Gala Blau (3/5 – Sarah is on the run with her teenage daughter, Laura. She flees a ruthless enforcer, Malcolm Manser, whom she suspects of brutally murdering her husband when he was unable to pay a significant debt. Sarah is keen to place as much distance as possible between Manser and her daughter, knowing the man has a deeply unhealthy interest in the child. In her haste, she pushes her stolen Alfa Romeo too far, crashing it along a country lane. She wakes to find Laura missing and the vestiges of a dreamlike memory that her daughter may have been spirited away to a nearby country house. Meanwhile Manser is hot on their trail, relishing the plans he has for Laura, plans that are far more horrifying than Sarah could ever have feared. Conrad Williams cheekily scores a second story in this book: Blau being a pseudonym of his, and his story City in Aspic appearing a little later. Fun fact: this story was originally published in The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women. 2001 must have been one of those rare years in which so many horror stories by women were being published that some of them had to be written by men pretending to be women. Weird how I don’t remember that… Anyway, the story itself was okay, scoring points for not skimping on the claret and for not being at all protective of any of its characters. A big problem, however, lies in Manser. For the first half Williams absolutely nails him, presenting a nasty piece of work who leaves you genuinely fearful for Sarah and Laura’s safety. And then… well, I can only imagine Williams set this to one side for an evening and watched Snatch because for some ungodly reason Manser suddenly morphs into a fist-bitingly awful cross between Brick Top and whatever character Vinnie Jones played. This might have read better back in 2001, when Guy Ritchie was at the top of his game, but, two decades on, this reeks of a Lock Stock knock-off.)

Also collected in Lane’s “The Lost District”

The Lost District – Joel Lane (4/5 – Lane brings us more from the bleak streets of Birmingham. It’s 1979: a time of change as the governing Labour Party faces losing power to the Tories. Simon is in his fifth and final year of secondary school and is about to undergo a change of his own. He meets a girl, Nicola, sitting on a park bench. She leaves him with a kiss and an offer to show him around her hometown of Clayheath, a marginal area of Birmingham wholly unfamiliar to Simon. It’s a place where nothing changes, where no-one ever visits and where no-one ever leaves. Simon travels to Clayheath, finding Nicola waiting for him. She pops his cherry, which is nice, and a good way to keep him coming back for more. But with each successive visit to Clayheath Simon finds a little more of the area opening up to him: its abandoned buildings, its people and some truly disturbing sights. This was another good read from Lane that packs a lot into its short runtime. For the most part the imagery within the story plays on subconscious fears of teenage pregnancy after Simon has unprotected sex with Nicola. The other theme of the story, that of change, isn’t handled with quite the same artistry. The shock ending, once you think it through, reveals more about Lane’s politics than it does about his central character, which perhaps wasn’t intentional.)

Also collected in Lupoff’s “Visions”

Simeon Dimsby’s Workshop – Richard A. Lupoff (4/5 – Lupoff charts the steady rise of Regis Hardy, a struggling short story writer who eventually finds success and recognition late in life. Regis is quietly committed to his craft, dedicating an hour every morning, lunchtime and evening to writing stories alongside his regular job. He sends stories to various publications and receives rejection slips for his trouble. His wife, Helena, is wholly supportive of Regis’s quest for that first elusive sale. Someday soon, they know he’ll happen across the right combination of words and phrases that will unlock literary greatness. It takes six years for Regis to sell his first story, and he slowly builds his oeuvre from there. When Regis hits retirement age he believes he has enough stories to warrant publication of a collection, something he believes would nicely cap off his literary career. He is contacted by a new firm, Mantigore Press, whose proprietor, Auric Mantigore, is interested in publishing Regis’s collection, and has lined up none other than famed cover artist Simeon Dimsby to create the artwork. Regis is thrilled at the prospect, and in his excitement arranges for Helena and himself to travel across the country to visit upon Mantigore and Dimsby, a hasty act he might live to regret. This is a really good read that acts both as a rallying call to struggling writers to never give up hope, and as a cautionary tale about not jumping into bed with the first publisher that’ll have you. Lupoff was letting off a bit of steam about a number of unprofessional small presses, it seems. Plus ça change in light of the recent furore surrounding ChiZine Publications’ treatment of its authors.)

Also collected in Ligotti’s “Teatro Grottesco”

Our Temporary Supervisor – Thomas Ligotti (3/5 – Ligotti continues a mini-theme of corporate horror (following his book, My Work Is Not Yet Done), this time presenting a tale where workers aren’t so much individuals as citizens of the companies they work for. We follow one such worker as he spends mind-numbing hours every day standing at his assembly block slotting bits of metal together, never knowing their actual function. The supervisor occupies an office at the corner of the shop floor, its frosted glass walls preventing a clear view inside. When the supervisor falls ill, the workers are informed of a temporary replacement, but none of the workers ever see him, only shapes and dark shadows moving behind the glass. When a colleague, Blecher, can take no more of the job our man watches him storm into the corner office and confront the supervisor. Soon Blecher is running screaming from the factory, and is found dead shortly afterwards, an apparent suicide. A replacement for Blecher is transferred in from another factory, a man whose furious work ethic forces everyone to up their game. This is a good read but doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before. Come to this story for another opportunity to rage at the corporate mindset, but stay for the sumptuous writing.)

Whose Ghosts These Are – Charles L. Grant (4/5 – Hugh Cabot is a retired beat cop struggling to fill his days. He visits the Caulberg Luncheonette for a bite to eat and to chat with Lana, a waitress there. Lana and Hugh were once lovers, but that was a long time ago. Lana still feels enough for Hugh to worry whenever he doesn’t show at the diner for a while, especially when the local news is filled with stories of a serial killer on the loose, nicknamed The Ghost. Hugh spends a day visiting the city museum, which is hosting an exhibition entitled The Museum of Horror Presents. He browses a number of glass cases that supposedly house the preserved bodies of murderers. He eventually finds an empty case, simply labelled “The Ghost”. A sick joke from the curators, or could there be something more sinister going on? Grant was known as a master of quiet horror, and this effective little chiller is another quality offering. I’d strongly recommend skipping over Grant’s spoilerific introduction, though.)

Shite Hawks – Muriel Gray (4/5 – Gray detonates most of Best New Horror’s C-bombs for this book and a few more to come in a disturbing and volcanically sweary (and also very good) story centred on a Scottish rubbish tip. A small crew of men tend the tip: the simple-minded Spanner, the gruff foreman Belcher and the youngest member of the crew, The Kid. They bicker and fuss among themselves as they go about their work, but all three are focused on the next Rising. Previous Risings have seen the men getting a small wish of theirs granted, but only in exchange for a living sacrifice. The gulls are long gone, the rats along with them. No tramp or pisshead has tried walking across the tip in a while and, much to Belcher’s fury, someone has repaired a child-sized hole in the fence. The Kid knows why Belcher is so angry about the fence being fixed. The man’s wish is immense, surely much too big for the Rising to grant. And what is left around the tip for them to sacrifice? This is one of those stories that works entirely within its own rules. Immerse yourself in this gritty slice of weirdness, however, and you’ll be rewarded with a mighty fine read. Gray is better known as a broadcaster and journalist, but she also wrote a handful of horror novels in the mid-to-late-90s. The publication of this story heralded a lengthy stretch away from the horror genre, from which she has thankfully returned, contributing the odd story to anthologies such as Horrorology and New Fears (both of which wait patiently in my to-be-read pile). I look forward to reading them.)

Also collected in Chislett’s “In The City Of Ghosts”

Off the Map – Michael Chislett (3/5 – Fletcher is proud of his knowledge of London, believing there to be no stretch of the Big Smoke he has not explored. That is until a friend, Mathews, describes an incredible view of London he’d once enjoyed from a small secluded area tucked up a hill overlooking Mabbs End. It’s a spot that Fletcher cannot place. Could there be a nook he’d missed? One that offered an unrivalled view of London, no less? When our man later finds himself near Mabbs End he soon locates the path Mathews had described. As he takes a twisting route up through interminable backstreets he finds the houses around him getting increasingly taller. He meets a number of people along the way. Some cannot say what lies at the end of the path despite having lived in the area for decades. Others don’t seem to care much for what’s up there at all. When Fletcher finally makes it to the top he finds an entirely different view to that which he was expecting. This story is an object lesson in why you should never waste the reader’s time at the beginning of a story. Valuable pages are spent on dull and largely inconsequential waffle between two old London bores. Who honestly cares about the precise location of Mabbs End? Can we not start the story now, please? Things improve once we’re out and about in London, but, with a good chunk of my goodwill spent by that point, I honestly didn’t care one way or the other what Fletcher would find.)

Also collected in Link’s “Stranger Things Happen”

Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water – Kelly Link (4/5 – Link writes herself and a friend, Jak, into a bizarre story in which the world is in the middle of an invasion by an alien species of blonde women who all smell of Lemon Fresh Joy and look like Sandy Duncan. (Checks Wikipedia. Shrugs.) We glean snippets of the situation through intermittent conversations. How Jak had followed an elevator full of Sandy Duncans up to the top floor of a building, for example, only to find it empty and under construction. Or how a new neighbour Jak once accidentally stalked had forgotten about the whole incident, instead coming on strong, with one thing leading to another, leading to a very strange revelation indeed! This was a lot of fun. Link has a gift for comedy, setting up zingers and dropping them at just the right moment for maximum effect. Even during a re-read I found myself laughing at all the same jokes. Matters are helped by Link’s conversational style, a slacker vibe that makes the story so easy to read it’s like not reading at all. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and certainly not something to recommend to your parents – goodness me, no – but for me this was probably the best story in the book.)

Also collected in Williams’s “One Once, Then Destroy”

City in Aspic – Conrad Williams (3/5 – For Williams’ second story in BNH13 we’re checking in on Massimo as he winds down the Hotel Europa for the winter months. He’s agreed to play caretaker during the off-season but is none too chipper about the arrangement. The hotel was once his birthright but had to be sold to fund his ailing father’s treatment. While on his rounds he finds a ladies glove on the lobby staircase and sets it aside for safekeeping. Later he escapes to a nearby trattoria and catches sight of a one-handed woman through the window. He soon realises her other hand is gloved. He hastens to her location on the off-chance she’d lost the glove he’d found, but is too late to catch her. The next morning Massimo is shaken to learn someone had been murdered in the area during the night, and that the hand of the corpse had been skinned. To say Williams had never been to Venice at the time of writing this story, he does a bang-up job of transporting us there, or at least to a romanticised version of it. Chalk one for atmosphere, then. Now if only Williams had spent the same amount of effort on the story. The plot is a house of cards that expects the reader to accept a number of large contrivances. For instance, we are expected to believe Massimo can dial someone without thinking (no mobile phones here, kids) and be connected to a friend he hasn’t spoken to since his teenage years. Massimo, it should be said, is in his mid-forties. It gets worse. The ending asks us to accept Massimo had not only forgotten the horrible incident during his childhood that sets up the entire story, but had also conveniently erased from memory the friend to whom it happened. Frankly, Bobby Ewing may as well have stepped out of the shower at that point.)

Also collected in Lee’s “Sounds and Furies”

Where All Things Perish – Tanith Lee (3/5 – A chance sighting of dull old Mr Polleto calls to mind an unusual episode in Frederick’s life. He remembers how the old man had once lived in the same quaint English village as Aunt Alice, whom Frederick would often visit. During one such visit Frederick walks past Josebaar Hawkins’s old country pile. The house has been abandoned for a long time, ever since Hawkins was hanged for bricking up his wife in the attic, murdering her. The sight of an attic window, then, seems unusual. Frederick digs a little deeper into the Hawkins place during subsequent visits to his aunt, finding the condition of the house noticeably deteriorating each time, with carpets of ivy peeling away from the walls, and patches of earth emerging where there was once thick vegetation. He spies a ghostly figure standing at the attic window, a catalyst it seems for an accelerated growth of whatever malaise is afflicting the Hawkins house. Lee packs an awful lot of story into this novelette. And backstory. And back-backstory. It borders on explainitis after a while, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing provided there is enough good stuff to keep the reader invested. Sadly, that was not the case here.)

Also collected in “The Two Sams: Ghost Stories”

Struwwelpeter – Glen Hirshberg (3/5In this World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novella we’re in the company of troubled teen genius Peter Andersz. He’s the kind of kid who can ace a half-hour test in five minutes. He’s also a kid who’ll sometimes burn his father’s belongings apropos of nothing. He can be cold and distant to his dwindling circle of friends, occasionally snapping at them. He sometimes backchats his father, swearing at him, calling him Dipshit Dad. When Peter gets like this, Mr Andersz refers to his son as Struwwelpeter (after the German children’s story, Shock-Haired Peter). So, yeah, not a happy household. Peter and his friend, Andrew, head out to old man Paars’ house accompanied by the Mack sisters. Peter is keen to show the Macks a large bell he and Andrew had found hanging in Paars’ garden, dead centre of a large eye motif cut into the grass. The bell, when rung, is said to wake the dead. I can’t say I was bowled over by this one. It’s as if the story doesn’t know what it wants to be. The first half illustrates a killer in the making, then gets bored of all that and becomes a spooky house story instead. The story picks up steam once we get into old man Paars’ house, but far too many pages are spent getting there. Your mileage may vary – it was up for a gong after all – but this won’t be a story I’ll be rushing back to re-read.)

Also collected in Hand’s “Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories”

Cleopatra Brimstone – Elizabeth Hand (3/5Puberty brings about something strange in Janie. Nowhere in her books do they mention the growth of three remarkably long hairs at the inside of each eyebrow. She plucks out the hairs and gets on with her life. At university she studies entomology, specialising in moths and butterflies, and is utterly absorbed in the subject. One night on campus she is attacked and raped while returning to her room, her rapist urging her: “try to escape”. Janie returns home to her parents to recover, where she is soon offered to housesit across the pond in London. She accepts, and swiftly undergoes a butterfly-like transformation of her own. Her eyebrow hairs grow back, now incredibly sensitive, delivering a lightning bolt of pleasure and pain at their touch. Her confidence returns in spades, sufficient to see her get her head shaved and undertake a complete overhaul of her wardrobe. She visits fetish shops to rig the bed with chains and cuffs. She steps out into the night as Cleopatra Brimstone, looking for a man to bring home, to tie to her bed, to urge them: “try to escape”. This novella, like Struwwelpeter, was nominated for a World Fantasy award back in the day, and went on to win an International Horror Critics Guild award for long fiction. Sadly this was another well-regarded story that didn’t really do it for me. There’s good stuff to be had in places, but the story is overlong, focused on a character who wasn’t terribly likeable and lumped with an ending so naff I damn near dropped the book. Again, your mileage may vary.)

Cats and Architecture – Chico Kidd (3/5Jo Da Silva is seeking some writerly inspiration in Venice. Getting nowhere, she steps to the window and looks down on a small piazza outside her apartment. She detects movement in an old building across the way, an apparition at a loosely shuttered window. She shakes it off, blaming a head full of other people’s ghost stories when she ought to be writing her own. She later receives a mysterious phone call, asking: “Are you coming?”, then “If you don’t come to see me, I’ll come to you”. Or was it just a waking dream? When a key is left on her desk, a key she knows will open the building opposite, it seems as if someone, or something, is very keen for her to take a look. There are a few stories in this book which are guilty of trying too hard. The stories tend to be written in service of a cool idea the author had at the outset. Sometimes they get away with it. Other times, the story fails to convince. Guess which category this story falls into. It’s a shame because when Cats and Architecture is able to unshackle itself of all the scene-setting and is finally allowed to flow, it can be pretty absorbing stuff. A scene in which Jo steps into the afters of a summoning ritual, for example, is a gruesome delight. We also get to meet Jo’s (maybe-)ancestor Captain Da Silva during a flashback, and discover how the man lost his eye. You might not get this far, though, after a first half spent making its rather silly premise believable. If you can suspend your disbelief for twenty minutes, give this one a whirl.)

And so ends another monster review of Best New Horror. As with previous volumes of the series, if any of the stories tickle your fancy then you shouldn’t have too much trouble tracking down a second-hand copy on the interwebs. Failing that you can purchase an eBook copy from most outlets for a few quid. As with previous reviews, the book images will take you to their respective pages on Goodreads should you want to explore an author’s work a little deeper.

Thanks for reading! Swing by again for Best New Horror 14, why don’t you?


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1426

A noticeable dip in quality this week. Had to happen at some point. You can find my completed grid for what it’s worth, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. Some are flakier than a le[REDACTED IN THE INTEREST OF GOOD TASTE]ck, so watch out.

Before all that nonsense, some me-time. If you’ve got a Times Jumbo Cryptic that is showing a few gaps then check out my Just For Fun page, where you’ll find posts covering the last 70-odd puzzles. While you’re buggering about the place, take a butchers at my Reviews page. I’m slowly working my way through the Best New Horror series, and will chuck a fresh review on here shortly. There’s even a story of mine knocking around here somewhere, just to show it’s not all crosswords here. (Okay, okay, it’s mostly crosswords.)

Anyway, enough of the guff. To (some of) the answers!


Across clues

1. Regarding meals, grand and rather more than substantial! (13)

Answer: GASTRONOMICAL (i.e. “regarding meals”). Solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “grand”) followed by ASTRONOMICAL (i.e. “rather more than substantial”).

8. Circulating air is linked to expert forecast (9)

Answer: PROGNOSIS (i.e. “forecast”). Solution is SONG (i.e. “air”) reversed (indicated by “circulating”) and IS both placed after (weakly indicated by “linked to”) PRO (i.e. “expert”), like so: PRO-GNOS-IS.

13. Tailor inclined to get behind promotional material (5)

Answer: ADAPT (i.e. “tailor”). Solution is APT (i.e. “inclined”, as in “he was apt to say boo to geese as he was a bit weird like that”) placed “behind” AD (i.e. “promotional material”), like so: AD-APT.

14. Awkward behaviour necessarily limiting fellow (11)

Answer: PERFORMANCE (i.e. “awkward behaviour”). Solution is PERFORCE (i.e. “necessarily”) wrapped around or “limiting” MAN (i.e. “fellow”), like so: PERFOR(MAN)CE. Not a classic.

15. Computer component absorbing programmer’s latest tweet (5)

Answer: CHIRP (i.e. “tweet”). Solution is CHIP (i.e. “computer component”) wrapped around or “absorbing” R (i.e. “programmer’s latest”, i.e. the last letter of “programmer”), like so: CHI(R)P.

16. Equivocal with celebrity heading off to accept major opening in university (9)

Answer: AMBIGUOUS (i.e. “equivocal”). Solution is FAMOUS (i.e. “celebrity”) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “heading off”) and the remainder wrapped around or “accepting” BIG (i.e. “major”) and U (i.e. “opening in university”, i.e. the first letter of “university”), like so: AM(BIG-U)OUS.

17. Rebellion? Show hesitation, deposing leading pair (4)

Answer: TEND. This is a complete guess, I’m afraid. The clue seems to suggest the solution is derived by removing or “deposing” the first two letters or “leading pair” of a six-letter word meaning “show hesitation” which fits the letters **T*N*. The best I’ve got at the moment is EXTEND, but I can’t square TEND with “rebellion”. Also, if the solution was TEND then its proximity to the similar-sounding TENDER IS THE NIGHT would suggest poor grid construction from the setter. So, yeah, this is very likely incorrect. If some kind soul swings by with the proper solution then I’ll update the post, but for now I’m going to get on with my weekend.

18. Criminal bid to secure target (8)

Answer: OFFENDER (i.e. “criminal”). Solution is OFFER (i.e. “bid”) wrapped around or “securing” END (i.e. “target”), like so: OFF(END)ER.

20. Over a year to adopt updated description of some streets? (3-3)

Answer: ONE-WAY (i.e. “description of some streets”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket), A and Y (ditto “year”) wrapped around or “adopting” NEW (i.e. “updated”), like so: O-(NEW)-A-Y.

21. Novel proposal – this thing is dodgy, involving energy (6,2,3,5)

Answer: TENDER IS THE NIGHT (i.e. “novel” by F. Scott Fitzgerald). Solution is TENDER (i.e. “proposal”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “is dodgy”) of THIS THING once it has been wrapped around or “involving” E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”), like so: TENDER-ISTH(E)NIGHT.

24. Payment seeing English name in memorial replaced by Latin (9)

Answer: EMOLUMENT (i.e. “payment”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) followed by MONUMENT (i.e. “memorial”) once the first N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”) has been “replaced by” L (ditto “Latin”), like so: E-MO(N)UMENT => E-MO(L)UMENT.

26. Tinkers reduced thoughtless cries, making no repetition (7)

Answer: RASCALS (i.e. “tinkers”). Solution is RASH (i.e. “thoughtless”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “reduced”) and followed by CALLS (i.e. “cries”) once one of the Ls has been removed (indicated by “making no repetition”), like so: RAS-CALS.

27. Teaching graduate recalled it in a change to account (5)

Answer: DEBIT (i.e. “a change to account”). Solution is BED (i.e. “teaching graduate”, specifically a Bachelor of Education) reversed (indicated by “recalled”) and followed by IT, like so: DEB-IT.

29. A wonderful time with colourful characters? (3-6,3)

Answer: RED-LETTER DAY (i.e. “a wonderful time”). Solution riffs on how red letters can be described as “colourful characters”. A recent repeat.

31. Money went quickly leading to return of extravagant artist (10)

Answer: Jacopo TINTORETTO (i.e. “artist”). Solution is TIN (a slang word for “money”) followed by TORE (i.e. “went quickly”) and OTT (i.e. “extravagant”, i.e. an abbreviation of “over the top”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “return of…”), like so: TIN-TORE-TTO. Chalk one to by Bradfords here, as there have been a few artists over the years.

33. Illuminated slab, though not one to carry representation of constellation (6,4)

Answer: LITTLE BEAR (i.e. “constellation”). Solution is LIT (i.e. “illuminated”) followed by TILE (i.e. “slab”) once the I has been removed (indicated by “though not [Roman numeral] one”), and then BEAR (i.e. “to carry”), like so: LIT-TLE-BEAR.

35. Examination body in good successful result means to get on (8,4)

Answer: BOARDING PASS (i.e. “means to get on” a plane). Solution is BOARD (i.e. “examination body”) followed by IN, then G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) and PASS (i.e. “successful result”).

38. English education requirements including nothing wrong (5)

Answer: ERROR (i.e. “wrong”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) followed by RRR (i.e. “education requirements”, being the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic – the fact only one of those words ever began with an R still bugs the shit out of me today. Yes, I’m weird…) once it is wrapped around or “including” O (i.e. “nothing”), like so: E-RR(O)R.

39. Take clothing off, having kinky fun with popular music (7)

Answer: UNFROCK (i.e. “take clothing off”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “kinky”) of FUN followed by ROCK (i.e. “popular music”), like so: UNF-ROCK.

40. Strategic manœuvring after losing lead to European is a fag (9)

Answer: CIGARETTE (i.e. “fag”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “manœuvring”) of STRAGETIC once the S has been removed (indicated by “after losing head”), and followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”), like so: CIGARETT-E.

42. Participant in trial answers architect after demolition (9,7)

Answer: CHARACTER WITNESS (i.e. “participant in trial”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “after demolition”) of ANSWERS ARCHITECT.

44. What cuts up first bit of coal brought in by coal supplier? (6)

Answer: MINCER (i.e. “what cuts up”). Solution is C (i.e. “first bit of coal”, i.e. the first letter of “coal”) placed “in” MINER (i.e. “coal supplier”), like so: MIN(C)ER.

47. What viola uses, upset at cello getting loud (4,4)

Answer: ALTO CLEF (i.e. “what viola uses”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “upset”) of AT CELLO followed by F (a recognised abbreviation of fortissimo or “loud” in musical lingo), like so: ALTOCLE-F.

49. Pellet or its victim? (4)

Answer: SLUG. Solution satisfies “pellet” and “[pellet’s] victim”.

50. Giving energy to an island marriage (9)

Answer: ANIMATING (i.e. “giving energy to”). Solution is AN, then I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”) and MATING (i.e. “marriage”).

52. Walk miles, getting snared (5)

Answer: TRAMP (i.e. “walk”). Solution is M (a recognised abbreviation of “miles”). “Getting snared” indicates this is placed amid a TRAP, like so: TRA(M)P.

53. Vehicle getting a run in University bus service is blue (11)

Answer: ULTRAMARINE (i.e. “blue”). Solution is TRAM (i.e. “vehicle”), A and R (a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in a number of ball games) all placed “in” U (a recognised abbreviation of “university”) and LINE (i.e. “bus service”), like so: U-L(TRAM-A-R)INE.

54. US lawyer in one US state almost backing another (5)

Answer: IDAHO (i.e. “another [US state]”). Solution is DA (i.e. “US lawyer”, specifically a District Attorney) placed in OHIO (i.e. “US state”) once the last letter has been removed (indicated by “almost”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “backing”), like so: I(DA)HO.

55. Amateur behind nonsense seen by that woman in town (9)

Answer: ROTHERHAM (i.e. “town”). Solution is HAM (i.e. “amateur”) placed “behind” ROT (i.e. “nonsense”) and HER (i.e. “that woman”), like so: ROT-HER-HAM.

56. Sonatina tunes broadcast with no delay (13)

Answer: INSTANTANEOUS (i.e. “with no delay”). “Broadcast” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SONATINA TUNES.

Down clues

1. Hispanic dish about to be introduced to Pacific island with cheer from Spain (9)

Answer: GUACAMOLE (i.e. “Hispanic dish”). Solution is CA (i.e. “about”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “circa”) placed in or “introduced to” GUAM (i.e. “Pacific island”) and then followed by OLE (i.e. “cheer from Spain”), like so: GU(AC)AM-OLE.

2. Feign anger, dismissing one in drag? (7)

Answer: SHAMBLE (i.e. “drag”, as in to move laboriously). Solution is SHAM (i.e. “feign”) followed by BILE (i.e. “anger”) once the I has been removed (indicated by “dismissing [Roman numeral] one”), like so: SHAM-BLE.

3. Upset over our rag including first sight of this photo print (11)

Answer: ROTOGRAVURE (i.e. “photo print”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “upset”) of OVER OUR RAG wrapped around or “including”) T (i.e. “first sight of this”, i.e. the first letter of “this”), like so: RO(T)OGRAVURE. Another nod to my Bradfords. The wordplay was obvious, but so was the fact this was going to be a shitty word I didn’t know. I’ll probably now see this in everything I read for the next three weeks.

4. No pressure in seizing power in uprising in Asian country (6)

Answer: NIPPON (i.e. “Asian country”, i.e. Japan). Solution is NO, P (a recognised abbreviation of “pressure”) and IN all wrapped around or “seizing” P (a recognised abbreviation of “power”), like so: NI-(P)-P-ON.

5. Steersman, confused – one’s not worth following up (5-4)

Answer: MARE’S-NEST, which is “a supposedly worthwhile discovery that turns out to have no real value” (Chambers) (i.e. “one’s not worth following up”). “Confused” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of STEERSMAN.

6. The fool Edward, overlooking the best treat in Devon (7,5)

Answer: CLOTTED CREAM (i.e. “treat in Devon”). Solution is CLOT (i.e. “the fool”) followed by TED (shortened form of “Edward”) both placed above or “overlooking” – this being a down clue – CREAM (i.e. “the best”).

7. Girl holding overturned garden ornament beginning to revive plant (5,5)

Answer: LEMON GRASS (i.e. “plant”). Solution is LASS (i.e. “girl”) wrapped around or “holding” GNOME (i.e. “garden ornament”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “overturned”) and R (i.e. “beginning to revive”, i.e. the first letter of “revive”), like so: L(EMONG-R)ASS.

8. Mount is fraudulent, having no height (4)

Answer: PONY (i.e. a horse or “mount”). Solution is PHONY (i.e. “fraudulent”) with the H removed (indicated by “having no height”, H being a recognised abbreviation of “height”).

9. Unavoidable item yonder? (3,2,5,6)

Answer: ONE OF THOSE THINGS. Solution satisfies “unavoidable” and “item yonder”.

10. Hot in Mediterranean resort? It’s not for everyone (5)

Answer: NICHE (i.e. “it’s not for everyone”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hot”) placed in NICE (i.e. “Mediterranean resort”), like so: NIC(H)E.

11. Party to appreciate after quiet home (7)

Answer: SHINDIG (i.e. “party”). Solution is DIG (i.e. “to appreciate”) placed “after” SH (i.e. “quiet”) and IN (i.e. at “home”), like so: SH-IN-DIG.

12. Our site’s up – it’s running? Keeping fingers crossed, perhaps (13)

Answer: SUPERSTITIOUS (i.e. “keeping fingers crossed, perhaps”). “Running” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OUR SITE’S UP IT’S.

19. French are less sanguine about one garden feature (8)

Answer: ESPALIER (i.e. “garden feature”). Solution is ES (i.e. “French are”, i.e. the French for “are”) followed by PALER (i.e. “less sanguine”) once it has been placed “about” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: ES-PAL(I)ER. One that needed a bit of brute force using my Chambers.

22. Managed to turn up without detective – a low point (5)

Answer: NADIR (i.e. “a low point”). Solution is RAN (i.e. “managed”) reversed (indicated by “to turn up” – this being a down clue) and wrapped around or “without” DI (i.e. “detective”, specifically a Detective Inspector), like so: NA(DI)R.

23. Avoid the issue, something commoner amongst rural constabulary? (4,5,3,4)

Answer: BEAT ABOUT THE BUSH (i.e. “avoid the issue”). Solution riffs on how a constabulary’s patch is called a “beat”. You might find a “bush” on a common. Something like that, anyway. Not a classic.

25. One more mature Democrat brought in support for weaponry? Not initially (7)

Answer: OLDSTER (i.e. “one more mature”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “Democrat”) “brought in” to HOLSTER (i.e. “support for weaponry”) once the initial letter has been removed (indicated by “not initially”), like so: OL(D)STER.

28. Only took in some small feature of film (3,4)

Answer: BIT PART. Solution satisfies “only took in some” and “small feature of film”.

29. Unsettling transport provided by smart car and boat (6-7)

Answer: ROLLER-COASTER (i.e. “unsettling transport”). Solution is ROLLER (i.e. “smart car”, specifically a Rolls Royce) followed by COASTER (i.e. “boat”).

30. Again declare English will invest in service company (8)

Answer: REAFFIRM (i.e. “again declare”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) placed or “invested” in RAF (i.e. “service”, specifically the Royal Air Force) and followed by FIRM (i.e. “company”), like so: R(E)AF-FIRM.

32. It reflects visit on schooner around capital of Greece (7-5)

Answer: LOOKING-GLASS (i.e. “it reflects”). Solution is LOOK IN (i.e. “visit”) and GLASS (i.e. “schooner” – can mean a drinking glass or a boat) placed “around” G (i.e. “capital of Greece”, i.e. the first letter of “Greece”), like so: LOOK-IN-(G)-GLASS.

34. The French artist captures very insectile form (5)

Answer: LARVA (i.e. “insectile form”). Solution is LA (i.e. “the French”, i.e. the French for “the”) and RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) placed around or “capturing” V (a recognised abbreviation of “very”), like so: LA-R(V)A.

36. Some will leave country, one country in process of growth (11)

Answer: GERMINATION (i.e. “process of growth”). Solution is GERMANY (i.e. “country”) with the ANY (i.e. “some”) removed (indicated by “will leave”), and the remainder followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and NATION (i.e. “country”), like so: GERM-I-NATION.

37. Second criticism before I pin up Italian artist (10)

Answer: Amedeo MODIGLIANI (i.e. “Italian artist”). Solution is MO (i.e. “second”, both referring to a short period of time) followed by DIG (i.e. “criticism”, as in a dig in the ribs). These are then followed by and I and NAIL (i.e. “pin”) once they have been reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue), like so: MO-DIG-LIAN-I. Another success for my Bradfords. What’s better than one dead Italian artist in a crossword grid? Two dead Italian artists, of course! Actually, no. No it isn’t, setter.

40. Fellow performer I caught going to a country in the Americas (5,4)

Answer: COSTA RICA (i.e. “country in the Americas”). Solution is CO-STAR (i.e. “fellow performer”) followed by I, then C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in a number of ball games) and A.

41. Outrageous for one holy man to spurn sources of lechery and immorality (9)

Answer: EGREGIOUS (i.e. “outrageous”). Solution is EG (i.e. “for one”, i.e. “e.g.”) followed by RELIGIOUS (i.e. “holy man”) once the L and first I have been removed (indicated by “to spurn sources of lechery and immorality”, i.e. the first letters of “lechery” and “immorality”), like so: EG-REGIOUS.

43. Evoke rising cheers over region (7)

Answer: ATTRACT (i.e. “evoke”). Solution is TA (i.e. “cheers”, both forms of thanks) which is reversed (indicated by “rising” – this being a down clue) and followed by TRACT (i.e. “region”), like so: AT-TRACT.

45. Marx enthralling a head of Government in US city (7)

Answer: CHICAGO (i.e. “US city”). Solution is CHICO, one of The “Marx” Brothers, wrapped around or “enthralling” A and G (i.e. “head of Government”, i.e. the first letter of “Government”), like so: CHIC(A-G)O.

46. Distract pickpocket before start of theft (6)

Answer: DIVERT (i.e. “distract”). Solution is DIVER (i.e. “pickpocket”, as in one who dives in pockets) placed “before” T (i.e. “start of theft”, i.e. the first letter of “theft”), like so: DIVER-T.

48. Taking up spades, manages small wood (5)

Answer: COPSE (i.e. “small wood”). Solution is COPES (i.e. “manages”) with the S (a recognised abbreviation of “spades” used in card games) nudged or “taken up” a notch – this being a down clue.

51. Support couple leaving island, adopting son (4)

Answer: STEM (i.e. “support”). Another guess, I’m afraid. There are a handful of words that fit the letters *T*M, but this seems the most likely. Could also be ITEM for a “couple”, but this seems less likely otherwise “couple” would be the first word of the clue. Again, if someone wanders by shedding light on this clue then I’ll update the post. Until then, I’m outta here.
[EDIT: Back again! Thanks to zouzoulap in the comments for clearing this one up. I was on the right lines, but didn’t really join the dots, to mix my metaphors. The solution is ITEM (i.e. “couple”) with the I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”) replaced by S (ditto “son”), like so: (I)TEM => (S)TEM. Thanks, Z! – LP]

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1425

A pretty good one this week that I’d have cracked a lot sooner had I not written GLISTER when I’d meant GLISTEN. (Shakes head at previous me.) As ever, you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them useful.

Some housekeeping, if you’ll forgive the intrusion. If you’ve got a previous Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s been giving you sleepless nights then you’ll find links to a whole bunch of solutions on my Just For Fun page. While you’re here, I’ve also got a bunch of book reviews to shove under your nose. All being well I’ll have a review of Best New Horror 13 up shortlyish, you lucky, lucky people. If you’d like a half-hour diversion, I’ve also got a story of mine knocking about the place for you. Generous to a fault, me, I know, I know.

Right then, to the answers!

Yours in cruciverbalism,


Across clues

1. Pompous worker chasing two mischievous children in class (4-9)

Answer: SELF-IMPORTANT (i.e. “pompous”). Solution is ANT (i.e. “worker”) placed after or “chasing” ELF and IMP (i.e. “two mischievous children”) once they have been placed “in” SORT (i.e. “class”), like so: S(ELF-IMP)ORT-ANT.

8. Soldier’s one bloodsucker, mostly – like this? (9)

Answer: PARASITIC (i.e. “bloodsucker…like this”). Solution is PARA’S (i.e. “soldier’s”) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and TICK (i.e. “bloodsucker”) once its last letter has been removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: PARA’S-I-TIC.

13. A long letter (5)

Answer: AITCH (i.e. the “letter” H). Solution is A followed by ITCH (i.e. to “long” for).

14. Anger about recurrent motif in press writing (9)

Answer: REPORTAGE (i.e. “press writing”). Solution is RAGE (i.e. “anger”) placed “about” TROPE (i.e. “motif”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “recurrent” – one of the word’s lesser-used meanings), like so: R(EPORT)AGE.

15. Shine, displaying knowledge about series of items (7)

Answer: GLISTEN (i.e. “shine”). Solution is GEN (i.e. “knowledge”) placed “about” LIST (i.e. “series of items”), like so: G(LIST)EN.

16. Man can live ultimately on fish oil (12)

Answer: BRILLIANTINE (i.e. “[hair] oil”). Solution is IAN (i.e. “man”), TIN (i.e. “can”) and E (i.e. “live ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “live”) placed “on” or after BRILL (i.e. “fish”), like so: BRILL-IAN-TIN-E.

17. Exercises calm about time for deadly epidemic (10)

Answer: PESTILENCE (i.e. “deadly epidemic”). Solution is PE (i.e. “exercises”, specifically Physical Education), followed by SILENCE (i.e. “calm”) once it has been placed “about” T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”), like so: PE-S(T)ILENCE.

18. Scoffed about long time to pump in gas (6)

Answer: AERATE (i.e. “to pump in gas”). Solution is ATE (i.e. “scoffed”) placed “about” ERA (i.e. “long time”), like so: A(ERA)TE.

19. Tiny edit affected equation (8)

Answer: IDENTITY (i.e. an “equation” true for all values of the symbols involved (Chambers)). “Affected” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TINY EDIT.

21. Appoint a small board to give public information (6)

Answer: ASSIGN (i.e. “appoint”). Solution is A then S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”) and SIGN (i.e. “board to give public information”).

24. Improbity in the synod is out of order (10)

Answer: DISHONESTY (i.e. “improbity”). “Out of order” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of THE SYNOD IS.

26. Sloshed inebriate outside reception room, forgetting name? (5,2,1,4)

Answer: DRUNK AS A LORD (i.e. “sloshed”). Solution is DRUNKARD (i.e. “inebriate”) wrapped around or “outside” of SALON (i.e. “reception room”) once the N has been removed (indicated by “forgetting name”, N being a recognised abbreviation of “name”), like so: DRUNKA(SALO)RD.

29. Contest unpaid pounds (4)

Answer: DUEL (i.e. “contest”). Solution is DUE (i.e. “unpaid”) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “pounds” of weight).

30. Basil, say, a sentimental lover missing the point? (8)

Answer: AROMATIC (i.e. “basil, say”, as in an aromatic herb). Solution is A ROMANTIC (i.e. “a sentimental lover”) once the N has been removed (indicated by “missing the [compass] point”, N being a recognised abbreviation of “north”).

31. What’s fallen out of second sack (8)

Answer: SPILLAGE (i.e. “what’s fallen out”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) followed by PILLAGE (i.e. “[to] sack”).

34. Relating to courts female emperor overturned thus (8)

Answer: FORENSIC (i.e. “relating to courts”). Solution is F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) followed by NERO (i.e. “emperor”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “overturned”), then followed by SIC (i.e. “thus”), like so: F-OREN-SIC.

35. Broadcast by queen holds nothing about what took her abroad? (8)

Answer: AIRLINER (i.e. “what took her abroad”). Solution is AIR (i.e. “broadcast”) and ER (i.e. “queen”, specifically Elizabeth Regina) wrapped around or “holding” NIL (i.e. “nothing”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “about”), like so: AIR-(LIN)-ER.

36. Desire Shakespeare casually expressed (4)

Answer: WILL. Solution satisfies “desire” and “Shakespeare casually expressed”, being a shortened form of William.

39. English farm animals and cat I’m making upset – briefly amusing (12)

Answer: EPIGRAMMATIC (i.e. “amusing”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) followed by PIG and RAM (i.e. “farm animals”) and an anagram (indicated by “making upset”) of CAT I’M, like so: E-PIG-RAM-MATIC.

40. Relaxed about wet weather that’s rather cold (10)

Answer: RESTRAINED (i.e. “rather cold” in demeanour). Solution is RESTED (i.e. “relaxed”) placed “about” RAIN (i.e. “wet weather”), like so: REST(RAIN)ED.

43. Area of ten by ten in the middle of cemetery (6)

Answer: EXTENT (i.e. “area”). Solution is X (i.e. the first “ten” of the clue) and TEN placed “in” ET (i.e. “the middle of cemetery”, i.e. the middle two letters of “cemetery”), like so: E(X-TEN)T.

44. Act roughly in factory dance (8)

Answer: WORKSHOP (i.e. “act roughly”, as in to work through something by trying stuff out, a bit like sandboxing in computing). Solution is WORKS (i.e. “factory”) followed by HOP (i.e. “dance”).

45. Fool holding gang’s possessions (6)

Answer: ASSETS (i.e. “possessions”). Solution is ASS (i.e. “fool”) wrapped around or “holding” SET (i.e. “gang”), like so: AS(SET)S.

49. Reprimand tons with cheap disposal not having succeeded (7-3)

Answer: TELLING-OFF (i.e. “reprimand”). Solution is T (a recognised abbreviation of “tons”) followed by SELLING OFF (i.e. “cheap disposal”) once the S has been removed (indicated by “not having succeeded”, S being a recognised abbreviation of “succeeded”), like so: T-ELLING-OFF.

51. Stadium boxer swinging, using both left and right (12)

Answer: AMBIDEXTROUS (i.e. “using both left and right” hands). “Swinging” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of STADIUM BOXER. Excellent clue!

53. One cruelly killed a long time after deed (7)

Answer: ACTAEON (i.e. “one cruelly killed” in Greek mythology, when he was turned into a stag and torn to pieces by his frenzied hounds. Lovely.) Solution is A and EON (i.e. “long time”) placed “after” ACT (i.e. “deed”), like so: ACT-A-EON. One gotten from the wordplay.

54. Bolshevik cunning is possessed by worker (9)

Answer: ANARCHIST (i.e. “Bolshevik”). Solution is ARCH (i.e. “cunning”) and IS placed in or “possessed by” ANT (i.e. “worker”), like so: AN(ARCH-IS)T.

55. Like some yoghurt to follow over fruit? (5)

Answer: OLIVE (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is LIVE (i.e. “like some yoghurt”) placed after or “following” O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket), like so: O-LIVE.

56. Turn out upper-class in gallery after literary evening (9)

Answer: EVENTUATE (i.e. “turn out”). Solution is U (a recognised abbreviation of “upper-class”) placed “in” TATE (i.e. “gallery”) and the whole then placed “after” EVEN (i.e. a poetic or “literary [form of] evening”), like so: EVEN-T(U)ATE.

57. Spiritual awakening is nettling he-men, unfortunately (13)

Answer: ENLIGHTENMENT (i.e. “spiritual awakening”). “Unfortunately” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NETTLING HE-MEN.

Down clues

1. Climbing rodents get on ship to leave port? (9)

Answer: STARBOARD (i.e. “to leave port” – a commenter on a previous post made the point that “not port” on a ship needn’t automatically mean “starboard”. You’ve got midships, for example. He wasn’t keen on a clue that tried to get away with this, so I reckon he won’t be too impressed by this one either!) Solution is RATS (i.e. “rodents”) reversed (indicated by “climbing”, this being a down clue) followed by BOARD (i.e. “get on ship”), like so: STAR-BOARD.

2. Religious reformer imprisons one who will fret? (7)

Answer: LUTHIER (i.e. “who will fret” – a luthier is a maker of guitars and lutes, instruments with fretboards). Solution is Martin LUTHER (i.e. “religious reformer”) wrapped around or “imprisoning” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: LUTH(I)ER.

3. Inspiration Henry found in island race (10)

Answer: INHALATION (i.e. “inspiration”, as in to breathe in). Solution is HAL (an alternative form of “Henry”) placed or “found in” I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”) and NATION (i.e. “race”), like so: I-N(HAL)ATION.

4. Hard up, wretched in seclusion (6)

Answer: PURDAH (i.e. “seclusion”). “Wretched” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HARD UP.

5. What’s pirate suffering splitting share being brought home? (12)

Answer: REPATRIATION (i.e. “being brought home”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “suffering”) of PIRATE placed in or “splitting” RATION (i.e. “share”), like so: R(EPATRI)ATION.

6. Deliverer of order arrives carrying cooker (8)

Answer: ARRANGER (i.e. “deliverer of order”). Solution is ARR (a recognised abbreviation of “arrives” seen on timetables) wrapped around or “carrying” RANGE (i.e. “cooker”), like so: AR(RANGE)R.

7. Horses harnessed together: the second is out of energy (4)

Answer: TEAM (i.e. “horses harnessed together”). Solution is STEAM (i.e. “energy”) with the S removed (indicated by “the second is out of…” – S being a recognised abbreviation of “second”).

8. Oddly need priest to get ordained in advance (10)

Answer: PREDESTINE (i.e. “get ordained in advance”). “Oddly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NEED PRIEST.

9. Not quite in line with the latest ideas, okay? (6)

Answer: RIGHTO (i.e. “okay”). Solution is RIGHT ON (i.e. “in line with the latest ideas”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “not quite”).

10. Indecision of foolish girl embracing Henry more than once (12)

Answer: SHILLYSHALLY (i.e. “indecision”). Solution is SILLY (i.e. “foolish”) and SALLY (i.e. “girl”) once they have both (indicated by “more than once”) been wrapped around or “embracing” H (a recognised abbreviation of “Henry”, a unit of measurement that seems to be flavour of the month for setters), like so: S(H)ILLY-S(H)ALLY.

11. Giant bird sank, lacking wings (5)

Answer: TITAN (i.e. “giant”). Solution is TIT (i.e. “bird”) followed by AN (i.e. “sank, lacking wings”, i.e. the word “sank” with the first and last letters removed).

12. Abode ripe for demolition? Felon might hang about here? (9,4)

Answer: CONDEMNED CELL. Solution riffs on how “condemned” can describe a building earmarked for “demolition” as well as a “felon” awaiting execution, punningly referenced by “might hang about here”. You get the idea.

20. Go quickly up, sick over a Spanish omelette (8)

Answer: TORTILLA (i.e. “Spanish omelette”). Solution is TROT (i.e. “go quickly”) reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue) and followed by ILL (i.e. “sick”) and A, like so: TORT-ILL-A.

22. One remedy that has answer for universal solitude (9)

Answer: ISOLATION (i.e. “solitude”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) followed by SOLUTION (i.e. “remedy”) once the U (a recognised abbreviation of “universal” used in film certification) has been replaced by (indicated by “has…for”) A (a recognised abbreviation of “answer”, as in Q&A), like so: I-SOL(U)TION => I-SOL(A)TION

23. Millions lost by metal plant (8)

Answer: GERANIUM (i.e. “plant”). Solution is GERMANIUM (i.e. “metal”) once the middle M has been removed (indicated by “millions lost”, M being a recognised abbreviation of “millions”).

25. Succeeded with fruit as new flavour (9)

Answer: SPEARMINT (i.e. “flavour”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “succeeded”) followed by PEAR (i.e. “fruit”) and MINT (i.e. “as new”).

27. With which Hook starts in the role of buccaneer (8)

Answer: ASPIRATE, which is to pronounce one’s aitches (i.e. “with which Hook starts”). When read as AS PIRATE the solution also satisfies “in the role of buccaneer”.

28. Reptile is back, large one coming in to lie in the sun (8)

Answer: BASILISK (i.e. “reptile”). Solution is IS reversed (indicated by “back”), L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), placed “in” BASK (i.e. “to lie in the sun”), like so: BA(SI-L-I)SK.

29. Distinguish if iron ripped apart with current in time (13)

Answer: DIFFERENTIATE (i.e. “distinguish”). Solution is IF, FE (chemical symbol for “iron”), RENT (i.e. “ripped apart”) and I (a recognised abbreviation of an electrical “current” used in physics) all placed “in” DATE (i.e. “time”), like so: D(IF-FE-RENT-I)ATE.

32. Determined current passing round grid, initially (12)

Answer: INTRANSIGENT (i.e. “determined”). Solution is I (a recognised abbreviation of “current” as we’ve just covered) followed by TRANSIENT (i.e. “passing”) once it has been placed “round” G (i.e. “grid, initially”, i.e. the first letter of “grid”), like so: I-TRANSI(G)ENT.
[EDIT: Thanks to Richard in the comments for correcting this one. “Current” is IN, not I, so the solution is IN-TRANSI(G)ENT. Time was getting on when I wrote this bit! Thanks again, Richard! – LP]

33. Change ringers, inept and full of boldness (12)

Answer: ENTERPRISING (i.e. “full of boldness”). “Change” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of RINGERS INEPT.

37. Came across old uniform cloth for staff in military design (10)

Answer: CAMOUFLAGE (i.e. “military design”). Solution is CAME wrapped around or placed “across” O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”), U (“uniform” in the phonetic alphabet) and FLAG (i.e. “cloth for staff”), like so: CAM(O-U-FLAG)E.

38. Instrument surgeon initially inserted in low spine (6,4)

Answer: BASSET HORN (i.e. “instrument”). Solution is S (i.e. “surgeon initially”, i.e. the first letter of “surgeon”) placed “in” BASE (i.e. “low”) and followed by THORN (i.e. “spine”), like so: BA(S)SE-THORN. One gotten from the wordplay.

41. Cover song about street woman (9)

Answer: DUSTSHEET (i.e. “cover”). Solution is DUET (i.e. “song”) placed “about” ST (a recognised abbreviation of “street”) and SHE (i.e. “woman”), like so: DU(ST-SHE)ET.

42. Caught Michael shaking for addictive drug (8)

Answer: CHEMICAL (i.e. “addictive drug”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in a number of ball games) followed by an anagram (indicated by “shaking”) of MICHAEL, like so: C-HEMICAL.

46. European cause is possibly controversial (7)

Answer: EMOTIVE (i.e. “possibly controversial”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) followed by MOTIVE (i.e. “cause”).

47. As told, look after united country (6)

Answer: UGANDA (i.e. “country”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “as told”) of GANDER (i.e. “look”) placed “after” U (a recognised abbreviation of “united”), like so: U-GANDA.

48. Let It Be holds record for group (6)

Answer: SEPTET (i.e. “group” of seven). Solution is STET (i.e. “let it be” – when you cross something out you didn’t mean to, you’d write STET to show this) wrapped around or “holding” EP (i.e. an Extended Play “record”), like so: S(EP)TET. A clue that scans rather well.

50. Left one article in moving supply (5)

Answer: LITHE (i.e. “moving supply” – supply being the adverb form of “supple”. Sneaky, yes?). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and THE (i.e. “article”).

52. Record finish for a race (4)

Answer: TAPE. Solution satisfies “record”, as in to tape something, and “finish for a race”.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1424

It seems we’re heading towards stinkerdom again with a grid riddled with exotic solutions and a bunch of dead guys, not to mention a handful of overly vague and tenuous clues. Hardly my favourites. Now that the dust has settled, though, I can’t say this one was too bad. We’ve certainly seen worse.

Anyway, before we get all misty-eyed and I pull up a chair to talk some more, let’s get down to why you’ve come here. The answers! You’ll find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them useful.

As ever, a spot of hawking before we jump in. If you’ve got a pesky Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s eluded your grey matter lately then you might find some satisfaction in my Just For Fun page. If you’d like to give an old alter-ego an ego boost, you could do a lot worse than browsing a few book reviews knocking about the place, or, if you’ve got 20 minutes to kill, a short(ish) story of mine.

Anyway, before I start pulling out the family photos and you get all eyeing-the-exits, let’s get down to why you’ve come here.

To the answers!


Across clues

1. Supporters, British, stopping Polish players (5,4)

Answer: BRASS BAND (i.e. “players”). Solution is BRAS (i.e. “supporters”) followed by B (a recognised abbreviation of “British”) once it has been placed in or “stopping” SAND (i.e. “[to] polish”), like so: BRAS-S(B)AND.

6. Minor injury certainly no handicap (7)

Answer: SCRATCH. Solution satisfies “minor injury” and “no handicap” – golf players with no handicap will start from a zero score, i.e. start from scratch. “Certainly” seems a redundant word, so there might be something extra I’ve missed.

10. Elm in court outside a hotel (5)

Answer: WAHOO (i.e. a variety of “elm”, it says here). Solution is WOO (i.e. “[to] court”) wrapped around or placed “outside” of A and H (“hotel” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: W(A-H)OO.

13. Poor parrots: they’ve no more fun! (3,6,4)

Answer: THE PARTY’S OVER (i.e. “no more fun”). “Poor” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PARROTS THEY’VE.

14. Mole dwells across river bank (5,4)

Answer: LIVER SPOT (i.e. “mole” – too tenuous for me. While they are both marks found on the skin, I’d argue moles and liver spots are not the same. You don’t see many kids with liver spots, do you?) Solution is LIVES (i.e. “dwells”) wrapped around or placed “across” R (a recognised abbreviation of “river”) and followed by POT (i.e. “bank”, as in a pot of money), like so: LIVE(R)S-POT. Ho hum.

15. Recalled church matter being out of place (7)

Answer: ECTOPIC, meaning “in an abnormal position” (i.e. “out of place”). Solution is CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England) which is reversed (indicated by “recalled”) followed by TOPIC (i.e. “matter”), like so: EC-TOPIC. One gotten from the wordplay and a brute force of my Chambers.

16. Ring to cancel film (7)

Answer: ANNULET (i.e. “ring”). Solution is ANNUL (i.e. “cancel”) followed by ET (i.e. “film”, specifically ET: The Extra-Terrestrial).

17. Ball game, I sense, doing massive harm (7)

Answer: RUINOUS (i.e. “doing massive harm”). Solution is RU (i.e. “ball game”, specifically Rugby Union) followed by I and then NOUS (i.e. “sense”).

18. New arrangement for writers bears fruit (12)

Answer: STRAWBERRIES (i.e. “fruit”). “New arrangement for” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WRITERS BEARS.

20. Meeting place in New Zealand at first overused, sadly (10)

Answer: RENDEZVOUS (i.e. “meeting place”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “sadly”) of NZ (i.e. “New Zealand at first”) and OVERUSED.

23. Secret miscreant kept from head (5)

Answer: INNER (i.e. “secret”). Solution is SINNER (i.e. “miscreant”) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “kept from head”).

24. Hours in science laboratory being oddly ignored put out Soviet leader (9)

Answer: Konstantin CHERNENKO (i.e. “Soviet leader” immediately before Gorbachev). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hours”) placed “in” CERN (i.e. “science laboratory”, specifically the European Organisation of Nuclear Research. Also the birthplace of the world wide web, thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee) and followed by EN (i.e. “being oddly ignored”, i.e. the word BEING with the odd letters removed) and then KO (i.e. “put out”, as in to knock someone out), like so: C(H)ERN-EN-KO. One gotten from the wordplay.

25. Share personal perspective on what’s expected (7)

Answer: PARTAKE (i.e. “share”). Solution is TAKE (i.e. “personal perspective”) placed after PAR (i.e. “what’s expected”), like so: PAR-TAKE.

26. We cancel short journey to find convenience store (3-4,4)

Answer: ONE-STOP SHOP (i.e. “convenience store”). Solution is ONE STOPS (i.e. “we cancel”) followed by HOP (i.e. “short journey”), like so: ONE-STOPS-HOP.

28. In a way, uproar something we can learn from (11)

Answer: INSTRUCTION (i.e. “something we can learn from”). Solution is IN followed by ST (i.e. “a way”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a “street”) and then RUCTION (i.e. “uproar”).

30. Follower of popular opinion, note, Strasbourg politician with letter (11)

Answer: TIMEPLEASER (i.e. “follower of popular opinion”, often cynically). Solution is TI (i.e. “note”, in the doh-ray-me fashion) followed by MEP (i.e. “Strasbourg politician”, specifically a Member of the European Parliament) and then LEASER (i.e. “letter”, both descriptive of a landlord). Cool word. I like it.

32. Salesman sulks, cross, turning to see waiting journalist? (11)

Answer: DOORSTEPPER (i.e. “[door-to-door] salesman”). Solution is PETS (i.e. “sulks”) and ROOD (i.e. “[Christ’s] cross”) both reversed (indicated by “turning”). That get’s me DOOR-STEP. As for the PER bit, I’m knackered. Anyone know why this would be “to see waiting journalist”?
[EDIT: Thanks to Gareth in the comments for clarifying this one. It turns out I’d misread a clump of definitions in my Chambers, and that a DOORSTEPPER was a “waiting journalist”. Salesman would therefore be a REP, which, when reversed with the others, gets you DOOR-STEP-PER. Thanks, Gareth! – LP]

34. Place for young and old train staff: Home Counties line? (7)

Answer: NURSERY (i.e. “place for young”). Solution is NUR (i.e. “old train staff”, specifically the National Union of Railwaymen, dissolved in 1990) followed by SE (i.e. “home counties”, i.e. the South East of England) and RY (a recognised abbreviation of “railway”, i.e. “line”).

36. Recovering, if diminished: lampoon them endlessly (2,3,4)

Answer: ON THE MEND (i.e. “recovering”). “If diminished” indicates the solution has been hidden in the clue, like so: LAMPO(ON THEM END)LESSLY.

38. Shackles press with these (5)

Answer: IRONS. Solution satisfies “shackles” and “press with these”.

39. One predicting a storm, perhaps, if indeed listened to (7,3)

Answer: WEATHER EYE (i.e. “one predicting a storm, perhaps”). Solution comprises homophones (indicated by “listened to”) of WHETHER (i.e. “if”) and AYE (i.e. “indeed”).

41. Win big game following exclusive article (5,3,4)

Answer: SCOOP THE POOL (i.e. “win big”). Solution is POOL (i.e. “game”) placed after or “following” SCOOP (i.e. “[newspaper] exclusive”) and THE (i.e. “article”). I get the phrase but can’t recall seeing or hearing its use all that often.

45. Appropriate company to tour capitals presenting opera (7)

Answer: NABUCCO (i.e. “opera” by Verdi. No, me neither.) Solution is NAB (i.e. to steal or “appropriate”) and CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”) wrapped around or “touring” UC (i.e. “capitals”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Upper Case), like so: NAB-(UC)-CO. Made. To. Fit.

46. Cunning US president with backing of forty on the left (7)

Answer: FOXLIKE (i.e. “cunning”). Solution is IKE (i.e. nickname of “US president” Dwight Eisenhower) with both OF reversed (indicated by “backing”) and XL (i.e. “[Roman numerals] forty”) placed “on the left” of it, like so: FO-XL-IKE.

47. Moslem doctrine to be poorly interpreted at first (7)

Answer: ISMAILI (i.e. “Moslem”, specifically “one of a sect of Shiite Muslims that recognises Ismail, son of the sixth imam, as the true seventh imam” (Chambers). So there you go.) Solution is ISM (i.e. “doctrine”) followed by AIL (i.e. “to be poorly”) and I (i.e. “interpreted at first”, i.e. the first letter of “interpreted”). One gotten purely from the wordplay.

49. Lasting mark left by short old Greek composer (9)

Answer: SCARLATTI (i.e. “composer” – there are a few to choose from, it seems). Solution is SCAR (i.e. “lasting mark”) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) and ATTIC (i.e. “old Greek” – Attic being of Attica, the region around Athens) once the last letter has been removed (indicated by “short”), like so: SCAR-L-ATTI. Another gotten partially from the wordplay, once I’d started typing “composer scarl” into Google. Who needs knowledge, eh, folks?

50. In this selection process keen that woman should block top illustrator? (13)

Answer: CHERRYPICKING (i.e. “selection process”). Solution is CRY (i.e. to mourn or “keen”) wrapped around or “blocked” by HER (i.e. “that woman”) and followed by PIC KING (i.e. “top illustrator”, PIC being short for “picture”), like so: C(HER)RY-PIC-KING.

52. Wed, perhaps, without dread, vacuous PA (5)

Answer: DADDY (i.e. “pa” – ignore the misleading uppercase text). Solution is DAY (i.e. “Wed, perhaps”, being a recognised abbreviation of Wednesday) wrapped around or placed “without” DD (i.e. “dread, vacuous”, i.e. the word “dread” with all its middle letters removed), like so: DA(DD)Y. One of those clues that has you facepalming the moment you twig it. Well played.

53. City, close to championship, continue to be relaxed? (7)

Answer: PRESTON (i.e. “city”). Solution is P (i.e. “close to championship”, i.e. the last letter of “championship”) followed by REST ON (i.e. “continue to be relaxed”).

54. Henry abused his power to punish severely (9)

Answer: HORSEWHIP (i.e. “punish severely”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “Henry”, a unit of measurement we’ve seen used in another grid recently) followed by an anagram (indicated by “abused”) of HIS POWER, like so: H-ORSEWHIP. A clue that scans rather well.

Down clues

1. Prepares for fried dish or buffets (7)

Answer: BATTERS. Solution satisfies “prepares for fried dish” and “buffets”. Another well-worked clue.

2. Leaves stripper to run after a lowdown female (5,6)

Answer: AGENT ORANGE, a defoliant used as a chemical agent in the Vietnam war (i.e. “leaves stripper”). Solution is TO and R (a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in several ball games) placed “after” A and GEN (i.e. “lowdown”), then followed by ANGE (i.e. “female”, being a shortened form of Angela), like so: A-GEN-TO-R-ANGE.

3. Maidenhead maybe wanted in exchange for Slough (5)

Answer: SWAMP (i.e. “slough” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is M (i.e. “Maidenhead”, i.e. the first letter of “maiden”) placed “in” SWAP (i.e. “exchange”), like so: SWA(M)P.

4. A Conservative out to break with EU prompt! (7)

Answer: AUTOCUE (i.e. “prompt”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “to break”) of A, C (a recognised abbreviation of “Conservative”), OUT and EU. Cleverly done.

5. Some French boy (3)

Answer: DES. Solution satisfies “some French”, i.e. the French for “of the” or “some”, and “boy”, as in a boy’s name. My French extends little beyond un, deux, trois and Le Piat D’or, but this feels like another tenuous clue.

6. A number spotted, happening to be paying visit (9)

Answer: SEVENTEEN (i.e. “a number”). Solution is SEEN (i.e. “spotted”) wrapped around or being “paid a visit” by EVENT (i.e. “happening”), like so: S(EVENT)EEN.

7. Hardly ever is gran’s meat lean (6)

Answer: RARELY (i.e. “hardly ever”). Another where the setter loses me, so watch out. I get that meat can be prepared “rarely”, but that about all the heat I’m getting from this one.
[EDIT: Gareth comes to the rescue again here, pointing out that the solution is RA-RELY, comprising RA (i.e. “Gran’s meat”, i.e. the middle letters of “gran”) and RELY (i.e. “lean [on]”). Thanks, Gareth! – LP]

8. An age to cultivate some neat approach in (4,3,4,4,4)

Answer: TILL THE COWS COME HOME, denoting a long time (i.e. “an age”). Solution is TILL (i.e. “to cultivate [land]”) followed by THE COWS (i.e. “some neat” – an alternative meaning of “neat” covers cattle such as cows and oxen) then COME (i.e. “approach”) and HOME (i.e. “in”, as in “at home”).

9. Hung around with over-edacious hosts (7)

Answer: HOVERED (i.e. “hung around”). “Hosts” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: WIT(H OVER-ED)ACIOUS.

10. With place for page, it’s a sound organ or piano! (9)

Answer: WURLITZER (i.e. “organ or piano”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “with”) followed by URL (i.e. “place for [web]page”, short for a Uniform Resource Locator) then a homophone (indicated by “sound”) of IT’S A.

11. 3 lovers of trendy music and books in need of foreign friend (11)

Answer: HIPPOPOTAMI (i.e. “3 lovers” – the answer to 3d is SWAMP. Another one that is too vague for my liking). Solution is HIP (i.e. “trendy”) followed by POP (i.e. “music”), then OT (i.e. “books”, specifically the Old Testament of The Bible) and AMI (i.e. “foreign friend” – the French for “friend” being “ami”). Next!

12. Grass is overheard identifying conspirator (5)

Answer: Titus OATES, who fabricated a plot to kill Charles II (i.e. “conspirator”). “Is overheard” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of OATS (i.e. “grass”). A well-worked clue, but I’d no idea who this was. (Pats Google gently.)

16. Book is bio my foster father and I twice reworked (1,5,7,2,4)

Answer: A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME (i.e. a well-known “book” by Professor Stephen Hawking). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “reworked”) of BIO MY FOSTER FATHER, I and I (indicated by “I twice”).

19. Monitor calls on regulator to support women’s group (7)

Answer: WIRETAP (i.e. “monitor calls”). Solution is RE (i.e. “on”, i.e. about – think email responses) and TAP (i.e. “regulator”) both preceded (indicated by “to support” – this being a down clue) by WI (i.e. “women’s group”, specifically the Women’s Institute), like so: WI-RE-TAP.

21. It’s something in S Africa to catch wild bears with nets (9)

Answer: STEENBRAS (i.e. “it’s something in S Africa to catch”, namely a kind of fish. Big buggers too, if Google Images is any judge.) “Wild” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of BEARS and NETS. The wordplay was fairly obvious, but only gotten once I’d solved all the intersecting letters.

22. Way of paying complete with pen and pad, finally (2,4)

Answer: IN KIND (i.e. “way of paying”). Solution is INK IN (i.e. “complete with pen”) followed by D (i.e. “pad, finally”, i.e. the last letter of “pad”).

23. Pass papers on, and empty textbook, immediately (1,4,4)

Answer: I DON’T KNOW (i.e. “pass”). Solution is ID (i.e. identification “papers”) followed by ON, then TK (i.e. “empty textbook”, i.e. the word “textbook” with all of its middle letters removed) and NOW (i.e. “immediately”).

24. Like some metal to get hold of annually? (7)

Answer: COPPERY (i.e. “like some metal”). Solution is COP (i.e. “to get hold of”) followed by PER Y (i.e. “annually”, with Y being a recognised abbreviation of “year”, i.e. per year).

25. Put out of pub, ancient one associated with The Sun’s top journalist (7)

Answer: PHRASED (i.e. “put”). Solution is PH (i.e. “pub”, specifically a Public House) followed by RA (i.e. “ancient one associated with the sun” – ignoring the misleading capitalisation – referring to the sun god Ra) then S (i.e. “the sun’s top”, i.e. the first letter of “sun” – a nice bit of recycling) and ED (i.e. “journalist”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of an “editor”).

27. Potentially even state celebration should involve one (6)

Answer: PARITY (i.e. “potentially even state”). Solution is PARTY (i.e. “celebration”) wrapped around or “involving” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: PAR(I)TY.

29. Shift from English – earlier try to abandon science (7)

Answer: CHEMISE (i.e. “shift”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) with CHEMISTRY (i.e. “science”) placed “earlier” once the TRY has been removed (indicated by “try to abandon”), like so: CHEMIS-E.

31. Middle-of-the-road leader on the right dismissed hawk (6-5)

Answer: MORTAR-BOARD (i.e. “hawk” – this can be a board upon which plasterers hold plaster or mortar while they work. Hmm. You learn something every day in this game.) Solution is MOR (a recognised abbreviation of “middle-of-the-road”) followed by STARBOARD (i.e. “on the right [of a ship]”) once its initial letter has been removed (indicated by “leader…dismissed”), like so: MOR-TARBOARD.

33. Still to determine its outcome? (5,6)

Answer: PHOTO FINISH (i.e. “outcome”). Solution riffs on how photographs or “stills” are used “to determine” who won a race. You get the idea.

35. European city hall condemned, rightly (9)

Answer: ETHICALLY (i.e. “rightly”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “condemned”) of CITY HALL, like so: E-THICALLY.

37. A mathematician’s large audience excited (9)

Answer: EUCLIDEAN (i.e. “a mathematician’s”, i.e. pertaining to the Ancient Greek mathematician Euclid). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “excited”) of L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) and AUDIENCE.

40. Wretched uprising, frequently coming in place of protest? (7)

Answer: ROOFTOP (i.e. “place of protest”). Solution is POOR (i.e. “wretched”) reversed (indicated by “uprising” – this being a down clue) and wrapped around or allowing to “come in” OFT (i.e. “frequently”), like so: RO(OFT)OP.

42. Excursionist, one setting off? (7)

Answer: TRIPPER. Solution satisfies “excursionist” and “one setting off [an alarm]”.

43. Confined to bed – but no more stories? (5,2)

Answer: LYING UP. Solution satisfies “confined to bed” and “no more stories”, i.e. no more lies.

44. Missile briefly guided northwards, and across France (6)

Answer: EXOCET (i.e. “missile”). Solution is COXED (i.e. “guided”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “northwards” – this being a down clue) and followed by ET (i.e. “and across France”, i.e. the French for “and”), like so: EXOC-ET.

45. Edged forward and picked up bouquet? (5)

Answer: NOSED. Solution satisfies “edged forward” and smelled, i.e. “picked up bouquet”.

48. Exam’s ending with long, hard paper (5)

Answer: MACHE (i.e. “hard paper”). Solution is M (i.e. “exam’s ending”, i.e. the last letter of “exam”) followed by ACHE (i.e. “long”).

51. Cheer swift runner coming up – not quite to the echo (3)

Answer: RAH (i.e. “cheer”). Solution is HARE (i.e. “swift runner”) with the E removed (indicated by “not quite to the echo” – echo being E in the phonetic alphabet) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “coming up” – this being another down clue).

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1423

A welcome one-off switch to the 27×27 jumbo grids of old as The Times celebrates 90 years of their cryptic crossword. This one was very well done, with a lot of clues and solutions themed around the number 90 or the year 1930 or crosswords in general.

You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them useful. A little housekeeping before we jump in. If you have a previous Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s showing a few gaps then my Just For Fun page is the place to head. If horror stories are your bag then I have a few Reviews knocking about the place, and even a story of my own.

Right, that’s enough gabbing. To the answers! Meanwhile, after rattling out over 4,000 words of solutions over the last however many hours, I’m going to place these aching fingertips of mine into an ice bath. TTFN!


Across clues

1. The number for today’s 45? (5,8,2,3)

Answer: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU (i.e. a song or “number”). The solution to 45d is TIMES CROSSWORD, and this puzzle celebrates its 90th birthday. The first of many themed clues.

10. Ninety-ton load originally transported with great diligence (8)

Answer: INTENTLY (i.e. “with great diligence”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “transported”) of NINETY, T (a recognised abbreviation of “ton”) and L (i.e. “load originally”, i.e. the first last of “load”). Themed.

16. Miss, perhaps, loch, with fog to the west (5)

Answer: HAZEL (i.e. “miss, perhaps”, i.e. a girl’s name). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “loch”) with HAZE (i.e. “fog”) placed before or “to the west” of it, like so: HAZE-L.

17. Came out with partner once requested? (9)

Answer: EXCLAIMED (i.e. “came out with”). Solution is EX (i.e. “partner once”) followed by CLAIMED (i.e. “requested”). Note the XC in the solution, being the Roman numerals for 90.

18. Drag couple, pushing wife back (3)

Answer: TOW (i.e. “drag”). Solution is TWO (i.e. “couple”) with the W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”) sent to the “back”.

19. Carbon copy perfectly covers a composition (7)

Answer: TOCCATA (i.e. “composition”). Solution is CC (i.e. “carbon copy”) placed in or “covered by” TO A T (i.e. “perfectly”) and followed by A, like so: TO-(CC)-A-T-A. An easier get thanks to this solution appearing relatively recently in puzzle 1417.

20. Times cryptic has bagged large one (9)

Answer: MILESTONE. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “cryptic”) of TIMES wrapped around or “bagging” L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) and followed by ONE, like so: MI(L)EST-ONE. In the general context of the puzzle, the Times crossword can be said to have passed a significant milestone. Good clue!

21. Piano master given one month by notorious landlord (11)

Answer: Sergei RACHMANINOV (i.e. “piano master”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and NOV (i.e. “month”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of November) both preceded “by” Peter RACHMAN (i.e. “notorious landlord”, who exploited and threatened his tenants to such an extent that his name became synonymous with the practice), like so: RACHMAN-I-NOV. Helpfully, today’s Times feedback column contained a piece on the accepted spelling(s) of Rachmaninov. Which was nice.

23. See, in singular working method, way to extend playtime (3-2)

Answer: SLO-MO (i.e. “way to extend playtime”). Solution is LO (i.e. “see”, as in “lo and behold”) placed “in” between S (a recognised abbreviation of “singular”) and MO (i.e. “working method”, or Modus Operandi), like so: S-(LO)-MO.

24. Flash detective with Latin touch (7)

Answer: MODICUM (i.e. “touch”). Solution is MO (i.e. “flash”, both descriptive of a short period of time) followed by DI (i.e. “detective”, specifically a Detective Inspector) and CUM (i.e. “with Latin”, i.e. the Latin for “with”).

25. In short, why you can’t ring chemist (5)

Answer: Alfred NOBEL (i.e. “chemist”). Solution is NO BELL (i.e. “why you can’t ring”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “in short”).

26. Forward social security packs for one (5)

Answer: SASSY (i.e. “forward”). Solution is SS (a recognised abbreviation of “social security”) placed in or “packing” SAY (i.e. for example or “for one”), like so: SA(SS)Y.

28. Advance payments: one way to get by (7)

Answer: SUBSIST (i.e. “to get by”). Solution is SUBS (i.e. “advance payments”) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and ST (i.e. “way”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “street”).

29. “Meet in Colorado” – I like this clue! (4,6)

Answer: COME ACROSS (i.e. “meet”). Solution is CO (a recognised abbreviation of “Colorado”) followed by ME (i.e. “I” from the point of view of the setter) and ACROSS (i.e. “like this clue”, this being an across clue).

31. Running to ground, maybe, voracious predator turning on swallow (8)

Answer: DOWNFLOW (i.e. “swallow”). This feels a bit weak to me – I’d argue swallowing is a positive action and a downflow to be passive. I could also be overthinking this. Either way, watch out. My solution is DOWN (i.e. “running to ground, maybe” – if you are running prey to ground then you are downing them) followed by WOLF (i.e. “voracious predator”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “turning”), like so: DOWN-FLOW.
[EDIT: Thanks to Mick in the comments for offering a better explanation of this one. The operative phrase here is “running to ground, maybe”, not “swallow”, as in water flowing or running down to the ground. The solution is therefore DOWN (i.e. “swallow”) placed before WOLF, as described above. – LP]

33. Grand performance’s finale for circus clown (7)

Answer: AUGUSTE (i.e. “circus clown”). Solution is AUGUST (i.e. “grand”) followed by E (i.e. “performance’s finale”, i.e. the last letter of “performance”).

35. Cricket team after hotel (5)

Answer: INDIA. Solution satisfies “cricket team” and “after hotel”, referring to the phonetic alphabet where Hotel is H and India is I.

37. Hard test occurring at regular intervals (5)

Answer: HORAL, which describes something happening every hour (i.e. “at regular intervals”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in pencil grading) followed by ORAL (i.e. “test”). One gotten through the wordplay, if I’m honest.

38. Children’s doctor lacking energy to work out (4)

Answer: SUSS (i.e. “to work out”). Solution is children’s author Dr SEUSS (i.e. “children’s doctor”) with the E removed (indicated by “lacking energy”, E being a recognised abbreviation of “energy”). A small nod to the theme, given how solvers suss cryptic clues.

39. Touching, moving letters from dog trainer (2,6,2)

Answer: IN REGARD TO (i.e. “touching [on]”). “Moving letters from” indicates anagram. Solution is anagram of DOG TRAINER.

41. Hot, wearing kit attached to mat – it’s 90 degrees! (5-5)

Answer: RIGHT-ANGLE (i.e. “it’s 90 degrees” – a nod to the puzzle’s theme again). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hot”) placed in between or “wearing” RIG (i.e. “kit”) and TANGLE (i.e. “[to] mat”), like so: RIG-(H)-TANGLE.

43. Extravagant Times clue for “Einstein”? (7,8)

Answer: NAUGHTY NINETIES, referring to the 1890s, not the comparatively staid 1990s. Anyway, “extravagant times” – ignore the misleading capitalisation. “Clue for ‘Einstein’” indicates the solution forms a cryptic clue for “Einstein” – an anagram of NINETIES, with “naughty” being an anagram indicator. Clever stuff. I like it.

46. Some of our best, and biggest, friends win dosh and flourish, unexpectedly (5,10)

Answer: IRISH WOLFHOUNDS (i.e. “some of our best, and biggest, friends” – referring to dogs being man’s best friend and how Irish wolfhounds are big old buggers. I’m not much of a dog person, but I have always had a soft spot for Irish wolfhounds. I’d get one but its kennel would be bigger than my house.) “Unexpectedly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WIN DOSH and FLOURISH.

49. Singles that are old: at least 90 (5-5)

Answer: FORTY-FIVES (i.e. “[vinyl record] singles that are old” – ask your parents, kids). Solution also satisfies “at least 90”, 90 being the first multiple of 45. Another nod to the puzzle’s theme, there.

53. Country girl left a party held by Queen Victoria (2,8)

Answer: EL SALVADOR (i.e. “country”). Solution is ELSA (i.e. “girl”) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) and A DO (i.e. “a party”) once it has been placed in or “held by” VR (i.e. “Queen Victoria”, or Victoria Regina), like so: ELSA-L-V(A-DO)R. After clean missing GABON in last week’s puzzle, I was pleased to quickly nail this one.

54. What solvers are keen to fill? Not quite keen, on reflection (4)

Answer: GRID (i.e. “what solvers are keen to fill”). Solution is DIRGE (i.e. “keen” – an alternative definition describes this as a “lamentation over the dead” (Chambers)) with the last letter removed (indicated by “not quite”). The remainder is then reversed (indicated by “on reflection”). Another good clue, and another small nod to the theme.

56. Live outside Rugby by backward out-of-town area (5)

Answer: EXURB (i.e. “out-of-town area”). Solution is BE (i.e. “live”) placed around or “outside” of RU (i.e. “rugby”, specifically Rugby Union) and X (i.e. “by”, as in the multiplication symbol), and the whole reversed (indicated by “backward”), like so: E(X-UR)B. One gotten solely through the wordplay. Cool word, though.

58. Film for setter? (5)

Answer: LAYER. Solution satisfies “film” and “setter”, as in one who sets or lays something.

60. For a song in Italian, what a carry on! (7)

Answer: CHEAPLY (i.e. “for a song”). Solution is CHE (i.e. “in Italian, what”, i.e. the Italian of “what” – thank goodness for Google Translate, eh, folks?) followed by A and PLY (i.e. to make one’s way or “carry on”).

62. Sanction attendant to find a place for 45, most days (4,4)

Answer: BACK PAGE (i.e. “a place for 45, most days” – another themed clue, the solution to 45d is TIMES CROSSWORD, which is often found on the back page of the newspaper). Solution is BACK (i.e. “sanction”) followed by PAGE (i.e. “[boy] attendant”).

63. Explains and edits a clue after revision (10)

Answer: ELUCIDATES (i.e. “explains”). “After revision” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of EDITS A CLUE. Another nicely worked little nod to the crossword theme.

66. Charged to company blessed person’s expenses! (7)

Answer: ONCOSTS (i.e. “expenses”). Costs, then. Anyway, solution is ON (i.e. “charged”) followed by CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”) and ST’S (i.e. “blessed person’s”, being a recognised abbreviation of “saint” made possessive).

68. Sudden attack, somewhat uncivil, ungentlemanly (5)

Answer: LUNGE (i.e. “sudden attack”). “Somewhat” indicates solution is hidden in the clue, like so: UNCIVI(L UNGE)NTLEMANLY.

70. Place mostly full of parasites to get caught in (5)

Answer: LOCUS (i.e. the “place” of something). Solution is LOUSY (i.e. “full of parasites”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and the remainder wrapped around or “getting” C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in several ball games), like so: LO(C)US.

71. Roughly holds sibling’s body (7)

Answer: CHASSIS (i.e. “body”). Solution is C (i.e. “roughly”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “circa”) followed by HAS (i.e. “holds”) and SIS (i.e. “sibling”, being a shortened form of “sister”).

73. Mostly when jumbo appears easy, oddly is gratifying (5)

Answer: SATES (i.e. “is gratifying”). Solution is SAT (i.e. “mostly when jumbo appears” – keeping with the theme of the puzzle, this refers to a shortened form of Saturday, when the Times Jumbo is usually published) followed by ES (i.e. “easy, oddly”, i.e. the odd letters of EASY). Another good clue!

74. It’s change you must accept from extremely lovable female carer! (5,6)

Answer: LEGAL TENDER (i.e. “it’s change you must accept”). Solution is LE (i.e. “extremely lovable”, i.e. the first and last letters of “lovable”) followed by GAL (i.e. “female”) and TENDER (i.e. “carer”). Another good ‘un.

76. Plant from study picked up at front of shop (4,5)

Answer: REED GRASS (i.e. “plant”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “picked up”) of READ (i.e. “study”) placed in “front of” GRASS (i.e. to “shop” someone to the police).

78. Like 9 and 0, for instance – neither one thing nor the other to Shakespeare (3-4)

Answer: ODD-EVEN. Solution satisfies “like 9 and 0, for instance” (I’ll let the debate about whether 0 is an even number rage elsewhere) and “neither one thing nor the other to Shakespeare”, referring to a quote from Othello about midnight: “at this odd-even and dull watch o’ the night”.

79. House-sitter concealing a plot (3)

Answer: MAP (i.e. “plot”). Solution is MP (i.e. “house-sitter”, specifically a Member of Parliament who sits in the House of Commons) wrapped around or “concealing” A, like so: M(A)P.

80. (Ad)dressing down? (7-2)

Answer: TALKING-TO. Solution satisfies “dressing down” and, without the hyphen, “addressing”.

82. One appearing in drag – one in Pirandello? (5)

Answer: LUIGI “Pirandello”, Italian dramatist. No, me neither. Solution is LUG (i.e. “drag”) with I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) “appearing in” it and then followed by another I (ditto “one”), like so: LU(I)G-I. The second “in” seems unfairly misleading here, suggesting solvers also squeeze the second I into LUG. Either way, not a classic.

83. Senior women, old, long in post, going back (8)

Answer: DOYENNES (i.e. “senior women”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and YEN (i.e. to yearn or “long” for) placed “in” SEND (i.e. “[to] post”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “going back”), like so: D(O-YEN)NES.

84. What’s seen end of Romanov – our one irrefutably cryptic! (8,10)

Answer: FEBRUARY REVOLUTION (i.e. “what’s seen end of Romanov [dynastic rule in Russia]”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “cryptic”) of V (i.e. “end of Romanov”, i.e. the last letter of “Romanov”) and OUR ONE IRREFUTABLY. Nicely played.

Down clues

1. Gases with unpleasant smell in flat (2-3)

Answer: HO-HUM (i.e. uninteresting or “flat”). Solution is H and O (i.e. “gases”, specifically chemical symbols for hydrogen and oxygen) followed by HUM (i.e. “unpleasant smell”).

2. Revolutionary poser with unknown values being tried for Brain-teasers’ World (9)

Answer: PUZZLEDOM (i.e. “brain-teasers’ world” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is MODEL (i.e. “poser”) followed by Z and Z (i.e. “unknown values” – setters love referring to X, Y and Z in their solutions as “unknowns”), then UP (i.e. “being tried”, i.e. being up in court). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”), like so: PU-ZZ-LEDOM.

3. Bag for yellow sock lay abandoned (4,3)

Answer: YOLK SAC (i.e. “bag for [egg] yellow”). “Abandoned” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SOCK LAY.

4. Fateful day when leader’s abandoned pair flanking demo? (4,2,5)

Answer: IDES OF MARCH (i.e. “fateful day” for Julius Caesar). Solution is SIDES OF MARCH (i.e. “pair flanking demo”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “leader’s abandoned”).

5. What could be long under end of snout (5)

Answer: TACHE, a contraction of “moustache”, i.e. “what could be … under end of snout”). Solution is ACHE (i.e. to “long” for) placed “under” T (i.e. “end of snout”, i.e. the last letter of “snout”), like so: T-ACHE. Another clue nicely played.

6. Tirade sent up charity race (8)

Answer: DIATRIBE (i.e. “tirade”). Solution is AID (i.e. “charity”) reversed (indicated by “sent up” – this being a down clue) and followed by TRIBE (i.e. “race”), like so: DIA-TRIBE.

7. Regularly sampled syrup, my, that’s tasty! (3)

Answer: YUM (i.e. “that’s tasty”). “Regularly sampled” indicates the solution is derived by taking every other letter of SYRUP MY.

8. What solver may refer to when looking up identical medical conditions (7)

Answer: OEDEMAS (i.e. “medical conditions”). Solution is OED (i.e. “what solver may refer to”, specifically the Oxford English Dictionary) followed by SAME (i.e. “identical”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “when looking up” – this being a down clue), like so: OED-EMAS. One gotten purely through the wordplay.

9. Many Times newspaper plugs unsettled one (5)

Answer: OFTEN (i.e. “many times” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is FT (i.e. “newspaper”, specifically the Financial Times) placed in or “plugging” an anagram (indicated by “unsettled”) of ONE, like so: O(FT)EN.

11. Locals show up in nanoseconds! (7)

Answer: NATIVES (i.e. “locals”). Solution is EVITA (i.e. musical “show”) which is reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue) and placed “in” NS (a recognised abbreviation of “nanoseconds”), like so: N(ATIVE)S.

12. A case perhaps for charging, out of old tax, interest on deposit (6,7)

Answer: EXCESS BAGGAGE (i.e. “a case perhaps for charging”). Solution is EX (i.e. “old”), followed by CESS (i.e. “tax” – a new one on me, but it’s there in the dictionary), then BAG (i.e. “interest”, as “reading horror stories is my bag”) and GAGE (an archaic word for a pledge, i.e. “deposit” – another new one on me). Another solution with the numerals XC (i.e. 90).

13. Is to cease manufacturing warm coats for mothers-to-be? (3,6)

Answer: TEA COSIES (i.e. “warm coats for mothers-to-be” – this refers to a popular phrase “shall I be mother” when someone’s pouring a cuppa). “Manufactured” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IS TO CEASE.

14. 1930 for Chinese show in Birmingham with parts exchanged… (4,2,3,5)

Answer: YEAR OF THE HORSE (i.e. “1930 for Chinese”). Solution is HORSE OF THE YEAR (i.e. “show in Birmingham”) with the YEAR and HORSE “parts exchanged”. Another nod to the puzzle’s theme.

15. …This year keen for some cricket? (6-6)

Answer: TWENTY-TWENTY. This seems a triple-header, being “this year” (i.e. 2020), “keen” (relating to 20-20 vision, perhaps) and “some cricket” (being the popular short-short form of the game). Most of these Jumbo Cryptics will be collected and republished in a few years’ time, so this clue might not work so well in future.

22. Insensitive request for a ring – receiving different sort (7)

Answer: CALLOUS (i.e. “insensitive”). Solution is CALL US (i.e. “request for a ring”) wrapped around or “receiving” O (i.e. a “different sort” of ring), like so: CALL-(O)-US.

24. Host nabbing posh family to help out (4,2)

Answer: MUCK IN (i.e. “to help out”). Solution is MC (i.e. “host”, specifically a Master of Ceremonies) wrapped around or “nabbing” U (i.e. “posh”, being a recognised abbreviation of the upper class – another favourite tell of some setters) and followed by KIN (i.e. “family”), like so: M(U)C-KIN.

25. Overheard refusals to touch kid’s hankie (4,3)

Answer: NOSE RAG (i.e. “hankie”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “overheard”) of NOES (i.e. “refusals”) placed beside or “touching” RAG (i.e. “[to] kid”).

27. Only be doing this having put away volume (4)

Answer: SOLE (i.e. “only”). Solution is SOLVE (i.e. “be doing this” from the point of view of us solvers when faced with this clue) with the V removed (indicated by “having put away volume” – V being a recognised abbreviation of “volume”).

30. Crawling out, mostly quiet (5)

Answer: AWASH (i.e. “crawling”). Solution is AWAY (i.e. “out”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and followed by SH (i.e. “quiet”), like so: AWA-SH.

32. Feeds small numbers at college, in High School (4-3)

Answer: NOSH-UPS (i.e. “feeds”). Solution is NOS (i.e. “small numbers”, i.e. a contraction of the word “numbers”) followed by UP (i.e. “at college” – another favourite of some solvers) once it has been wrapped around or placed “in” HS (a recognised abbreviation of “High School”), like so: NOS-H(UP)S.

33. The last word? Just what one needs? Yes, primarily (7)

Answer: AMENITY. Pure guess this, as I’ve no idea what the setter is playing at here. Amenity is a pleasantness or pleasing characteristic, neither sense of the word I can seem to crowbar into this clue. You might want to take this with a pinch of salt. My solution is AMEN (i.e. “the last word”) followed by IT (i.e. “just what one needs” – I mean, yeah, kinda, I guess I see it, but…) and Y (i.e. “yes, primarily”, i.e. the first letter of “yes”). There’s probably some quotation or something clever I’m missing that sheds light on this.

34. A game for the 45’s birthday party? (6)

Answer: CLUEDO (i.e. “a game”). The solution to 45d is TIMES CROSSWORD, so, when read as a CLUE DO – a do being a “party” – then the solution satisfies the clue.

36. There are stories from Welshman appearing in The Times etc (7)

Answer: DAILIES (i.e. newspapers such as “The Times etc”). When read as DAI LIES the solution also satisfies “stories from Welshman”.

40. Derby game involves four sort of shooting (5-2)

Answer: DRIVE-BY (i.e. “sort of shooting”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “game” as in something gamy or gone off) of DERBY wrapped around or “involving” IV (i.e. “[Roman numerals] four”), like so: DR(IV)EBY.

42. In turning up sibyl, a monastery’s deviant (7)

Answer: ANOMALY (i.e. “deviant”). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “turning up” indicates the solution has been reversed – this being a down clue – like so: SIB(YL A MONA)STERY’S.

43. Less likely to spot one putting on one’s coat? (7)

Answer: NONDRIP. Solution riddles on people being less likely to be dripped on or “spotted” when “putting on” a coat of non-drip paint. That’s it, unless I’m missing something especially clever. Shouldn’t this solution have been hyphenated?

44. Removed from board, sulked (6)

Answer: HUFFED. Solution satisfies “removed from [draughts] board” – according to my Chambers, to huff is “to remove from the board for failing to make a possible capture” (blimey, who knew draughts was so complicated?) – and “sulked”.

45. This enigmatic item’s put out along with news (5,9)

Answer: TIMES CROSSWORD (i.e. “this”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “enigmatic”) of ITEM’S followed by CROSS (i.e. “put out”) and WORD (i.e. “the news”), like so: TIMES-CROSS-WORD. A more obvious nod to the puzzle’s theme.

47. 1930, where fifty percent of history is still (4,4,5)

Answer: HALF PAST SEVEN (i.e. “1930” as shown on a twenty-four-hour clock). Solution is HALF (i.e. “fifty percent”) followed by PAST (i.e. “of history”) then ‘S (a contraction of “is” – not keen on this, but there you go) and EVEN (i.e. “still”). Another themed clue.

48. Base bachelor quite keen for 90-minute affair (8,4)

Answer: FOOTBALL GAME (i.e. “90-minute affair”). Solution is FOOT (i.e. “base”) followed by B (a recognised abbreviation of “bachelor”) and ALL GAME (i.e. “quite keen”). Another themed clue.

50. Disturbances after polling bringing change in Russia (7)

Answer: ROUBLES (i.e. “change in Russia”). Solution is TROUBLES (i.e. “disturbances”) after the first letter has been removed (indicated by “polling” – the act of cutting the tops of trees).

51. Ticked over five hundred large – that is five hundred – boxes! (5)

Answer: IDLED (i.e. “ticked over”). Solution is D (i.e. “[Roman numeral] five hundred”) and L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) placed in or “boxed” by IE (i.e. “that is”, i.e. er… “i.e.”) and D (again, “five hundred”), like so: I(D-L)E-D.

52. Emergency or upset thus besetting teacher (6)

Answer: CRISIS (i.e. “emergency”). Solution is SIC (i.e. “thus”) wrapped around or “besetting” SIR (i.e. “teacher”) and the whole reversed (indicated by “upset” – this being a down clue – like so: C(RIS)IS.

55. Might the setters pull a fast one? (7)

Answer: DOGSLED. Solution riddles on setters being a breed of dog, though I’m not entirely sure they’d be able to pull a dogsled with much speed! That’s it, unless I’m missing something clever.

57. Stick with this game – a version you’re still saddled with? (7,4)

Answer: BICYCLE POLO. Another riddly clue, this time riffing on how you would have a “stick with this game”. Bikes have “saddles”, as you’d have with horse-based polo. You get the idea.

59. Examine origins of special crossword at ninety (4)

Answer: SCAN (i.e. “examine”). “Origins of” indicates the solution is derived by taking the initial letters of SPECIAL CROSSWORD AT NINETY. Another themed clue.

61. Fervently, finally celebrated elite puzzling across 90 years (9)

Answer: EXCITEDLY (i.e. “fervently”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “puzzling”) of D (i.e. “finally celebrated”, i.e. the last letter of “celebrated”) and ELITE wrapped around or placed “across” XC (i.e. “[Roman numerals for] 90”) and then followed by Y (a recognised abbreviation of “years”), like so: E(XC)ITEDL-Y. Another themed clue.

64. Conductor’s inaction’s outrageous (9)

Answer: Arturo TOSCANINI (i.e. “conductor”). “Outrageous” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of INACTION’S. One I knew, weirdly!

65. Want to leave mark on financial institutions (8)

Answer: SCARCITY (i.e. “want”). Solution is SCAR (i.e. “to leave mark”) followed by CITY (i.e. “financial institutions”).

67. Offend Anglicans, passing round half of lewd gag (7)

Answer: SILENCE (i.e. “gag”). Solution is SIN (i.e. “offend”) and CE (i.e. “Anglicans”, i.e. the Church of England) wrapped “round” LE (i.e. “half of lewd”, specifically the first half of “lewd”), like so: SI(LE)N-CE.

69. Old German prince’s shocking treatment, in part after rising (7)

Answer: ELECTOR (i.e. “old German prince” – no, me neither). Solution is ECT (i.e. “shocking treatment”, specifically Electroconvulsive Therapy) placed “in” ROLE (i.e. “part”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “after rising” – this being a down clue), like so: EL(ECT)OR. One gotten from the wordplay alone. I suspect the next five things I read will be coincidentally stuffed full of electors.

72. Writer in The Guardian, or in Le Monde (7)

Answer: Maya ANGELOU (i.e. “writer”). Solution is ANGEL (i.e. “guardian” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) followed by OU (i.e. “or in Le Monde”, Le Monde is a French newspaper, the French for “or” is “ou”. Another gotten solely from the wordplay and a quick check on Wikipedia.

75. Drinks picked up with ear drop (5)

Answer: LAPSE (i.e. “drop”). “Picked up with ear” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of LAPS (i.e. “drinks”).

76. Like a difficult jumbo, not like the others? (5)

Answer: ROGUE. Solution satisfies “like a difficult jumbo”, as in a rogue elephant, and “not like the others”. Another themed clue.

77. Twig, at last, Times Cryptic Number One’s being recalled! (5)

Answer: SCION (i.e. “twig”). Solution is S and C (i.e. “at last, Times Cryptic”, i.e. the last letters of “Times” and “Cryptic”) followed by NO (a contraction of “number”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) once they have been reversed (indicated by “being recalled”), like so: S-C-(I-ON). Another themed clue.

81. Field of grass bound to need cutting (3)

Answer: LEA (i.e. “field of grass”). Solution is LEAP (i.e. “bound”) once the last letter has been removed (indicated by “to need cutting”).

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1422

One for the “okay” pile, spoiled for me thanks to a couple of irritating clues. Then again, it might just be me being grumpy. Either way, you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

Before any of that, though, a spot of housekeeping. If you’ve come to grief at the hands of a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic then you might find enlightenment in my Just For Fun page. While I’ve got you here, I’ll also take this opportunity to thrust a few mostly horror-related book reviews under your nose, and even a short story, because I’m self-interested nice like that.

That’s all, folks. You can scroll down now.


Across clues

1. Foodstuff succeeded with the best amongst us? (4,5)

Answer: SOUR CREAM (i.e. “foodstuff”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “succeeded”) followed by OUR CREAM (i.e. “the best amongst us”).

6. Fake pictures provided here for Jean and Alan (10)

Answer: ARTIFICIAL (i.e. “fake”). Solution is ART (i.e. “pictures”) followed by IF (i.e. “provided”), then ICI (i.e. “here for Jean”, Jean is a Frenchman’s name, the French for “here” is ICI) and AL (shortened form of “Alan”).

12. Part of UK without long road, strip in capital (7)

Answer: NAIROBI (i.e. “capital” of Kenya). Solution is NI (i.e. “part of UK”, specifically Northern Ireland) placed around or “without” AI (i.e. “long road”, specifically the A1 motorway) and ROB (i.e. “strip”), like so: N(AI-ROB)I.

13. Source of alcohol, two hits left at the end (5-4)

Answer: PUNCH-BOWL (i.e. “source of alcohol”). Solution is PUNCH and BLOW (i.e. “two hits”) with the L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) placed “at the end”.

14. Man on pitch backing team to be secure again (5)

Answer: REFIX (i.e. “secure again”). Solution is REF (i.e. “man on pitch”, specifically the referee) followed by XI (i.e. ” team”, specifically the Roman numerals for eleven) once it has been reversed (indicated by “backing”), like so: REF-IX.

16. Poet expresses grief vocally in modern development (6,6)

Answer: MILTON KEYNES (i.e. “modern development”). Solution is John MILTON (i.e. “poet”) followed by a homophone (indicated by “vocally”) of KEENS (i.e. “expresses grief”).

17. He requests appeal, one about to break safe (10)

Answer: PETITIONER (i.e. “he requests”). Solution is IT (i.e. “[sex] appeal”) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and ON (i.e. “about”, as in “this book is on the subject of…”), all wrapped in or “breaking” PETER (a slang name for a safe – I remembered this usage from a previous puzzle), like so: PET(IT-I-ON)ER.

19. Home help with pets is arranged for evildoer (14)

Answer: MEPHISTOPHELES (i.e. “evildoer”). “Arranged” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HOME HELP and PETS IS. Another I remembered from a previous puzzle.

22. Swallowing drug, hassle at an end for peers (3,5)

Answer: AGE GROUP (i.e. “peers”). Solution is AGGRO (i.e. “hassle”) wrapped around or “swallowing” E (a recognised abbreviation of the “drug” ecstasy) and then followed by UP (i.e. “at an end”, as in “your time is up”), like so: AG(E)GRO-UP.

24. Like director’s second try to knock out Western (4,2)

Answer: TAKE TO (i.e. “[to] like”). Solution is TAKE TWO (i.e. “[film] director’s second try”) with the W (a recognised abbreviation of “Western”) removed (indicated by “to knock out…”).

25. Alcohol reporter’s failed to notice in a haze (6,4)

Answer: SCOTCH MIST (i.e. “haze”). Solution is SCOTCH (i.e. “alcohol”) followed by a homophone (indicated by “reporter’s”) of MISSED (i.e. “failed to notice”).

26. Agile new figure, not feminine (5)

Answer: NIFTY (i.e. “agile”). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) followed by FIFTY (i.e. “[numeric] figure”) with the first F removed (indicated by “not feminine” – F being a recognised abbreviation of “feminine”), like so: N-IFTY.

29. Possibly spots daredevil (4)

Answer: RASH. Solution satisfies “possibly spots” and “daredevil”.

30. Trash, always separate (8)

Answer: DISSEVER (i.e. “separate”). Solution is DISS (i.e. “[to] trash”) followed by EVER (i.e. “always”). One gotten through the wordplay.

32. No longer stocking fruit that’s past it (3,2,4)

Answer: OUT OF DATE. Solution satisfies “no longer stocking fruit” and “past it”.

34. Bound to keep Hanoverian king in a state of distress (9)

Answer: CHAGRINED (i.e. “in a state of distress”). Solution is CHAINED (i.e. “bound”) wrapped around or “keeping” GR (i.e. “Hanoverian king”, specifically the initials for Georgius Rex) like so: CHA(GR)INED.

35. Dissolute clergy look around for sweet stuff (8)

Answer: GLYCEROL (i.e. “sweet stuff”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “dissolute”) of CLERGY followed by LO (i.e. “look”, as in “lo and behold”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “around”), like so: GLYCER-OL.

36. Stop pouring wine, having enough now for starters (4)

Answer: WHEN (i.e. “stop pouring”). “For starters” indicates the solution is derived by taking the initial letters of WINE HAVING ENOUGH NOW. Nicely worked.

39. Make confused request about Italian playmaker (5)

Answer: BEFOG (i.e. “make confused”). Solution is BEG (i.e. “request”) placed “about” Dario FO (i.e. “Italian playmaker” – no, me neither), like so: BE(FO)G.

40. Obstruct clerk maybe storing one statue (10)

Answer: FILIBUSTER (i.e. “obstruct”). Solution is FILER (i.e. “clerk maybe”) wrapped around or “storing” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and BUST (i.e. “statue”), like so: FIL(I-BUST)ER.

42. Indian’s rule about summer month, reversing car (6)

Answer: JAGUAR (i.e. “car”). Solution is RAJ (i.e. “Indian’s rule”) wrapped “about” AUG (i.e. “summer month”, specifically August) and the whole “reversed”, like so: JA(GUA)R.

44. Are they adapted for the chase? (8)

Answer: CHEETAHS. “Adapted” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of THE CHASE. In the context of the clue, cheetahs can be said to be well adapted for the chase, being a bit nippy. Nice clue.

46. Striving to enter agreement, clever for sure (14)

Answer: UNQUESTIONABLE (i.e. “for sure”). Solution is QUEST (i.e. “striving” – should that have been “strive”?) placed in or “entering” UNION (i.e. “agreement”) and followed by ABLE (i.e. “clever”). Not great.

48. Caul nun put awry with no respect for time (10)

Answer: UNPUNCTUAL (i.e. “with no respect for time”). “Awry” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CAUL NUN PUT.

49. Carry a dog with hip injured for medical procedure (12)

Answer: CARDIOGRAPHY (i.e. “medical procedure”). “Injured” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CARRY A DOG and HIP.

53. Musician’s muted then, touring ring road (5)

Answer: SORDO (i.e. “musician’s muted”, i.e. muted in musical lingo). Solution is SO (i.e. “then”) wrapped around or “touring” O (i.e. “ring”) and RD (a recognised abbreviation of “road”), like so: S(O-RD)O. One gotten from the wordplay.

54. Belief of US parent guarding wayward minors (9)

Answer: MORMONISM (i.e. “belief”). Solution is MOM (i.e. “US parent”) wrapped around or “guarding” an anagram (indicated by “wayward”) of MINORS, like so: MO(RMONIS)M.

55. Meal which a large driver might need, it’s said (4,3)

Answer: HIGH TEA (i.e. “meal”). “It’s said” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of HIGH TEE (i.e. “which a large driver might need” – driver, in this case, referring to a golf club).

56. People’s mood around English seaside resort (10)

Answer: FOLKESTONE (i.e. “seaside resort”). Solution is FOLK’S TONE (i.e. “people’s mood”) wrapped “around” E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: FOLK(E)’S-TONE.

57. He brings in crop top during race by river (9)

Answer: HARVESTER (i.e. “he brings in crop”). Solution is VEST (i.e. “top”) placed in or “during” HARE (i.e. “[to] race”) and then followed by R (a recognised abbreviation of “river”), like so: HAR(VEST)E-R.

Down clues

1. Spades work on the land in silence (5)

Answer: STILL (i.e. “in silence”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “spades” used in card games) followed by TILL (i.e. “work on the land”).

2. Medics run into spacecraft experts without force (10)

Answer: UROLOGISTS (i.e. “medics”). Solution is UFOLOGISTS (i.e. “spacecraft experts”) with the F removed (indicated by “without force” – F being a recognised abbreviation of “force”) and replaced by R (a recognised abbreviation of “run”).

3. Chirpy sorts caught disease (8)

Answer: CRICKETS (i.e. “chirpy sorts”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in a number of ball games) followed by RICKETS (i.e. “disease”).

4. Sentry regularly maintaining redcap’s a dead man (5)

Answer: EMPTY (i.e. “a dead man” – referring to the informal name “dead men” given to empty beer bottles or cans – not one I’ve used myself, but it’s there in the dictionary). Solution is ETY (i.e. “sentry regularly”, i.e. every other letter of SENTRY) wrapped around or “maintaining” MP (i.e. “redcap” – a nickname for Military Police), like so: E(MP)TY. Tricky bugger!

5. Move daintily, satisfied about a food mixture (9)

Answer: MINCEMEAT (i.e. “food mixture”). Solution is MINCE (i.e. “move daintily”) followed by MET (i.e. “satisfied”) once it has been placed “about” A, like so: MINCE-ME(A)T.

6. Long hours in one’s embrace (4)

Answer: ACHE (i.e. to “long” for). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hours”) placed in ACE (i.e. “one” in cards), like so: AC(H)E.

7. Digger may have one phone, ringing bank (6)

Answer: TROWEL (i.e. “digger may have one”). Solution is TEL (i.e. “phone”, as in an abbreviated form of “telephone”) wrapped around or “ringing” ROW (i.e. “bank”), like so: T(ROW)EL.

8. By the way, you’ll find this bit of pie rank (7,7)

Answer: FILLING STATION (i.e. “by the way, you’ll find”, referring to how you’ll find filling stations at the sides of roads). Solution is FILLING (i.e. “bit of pie”) followed by STATION (i.e. “rank”).

9. Nick raving lunatic with iron blade (7,5)

Answer: CARVING KNIFE (i.e. “blade”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “lunatic”) of NICK RAVING followed by FE (chemical symbol of “iron”), like so: CARVINGKNI-FE.

10. Too welcoming female working for Spaniard (7)

Answer: ALFONSO (i.e. “Spaniard”, i.e. a Spanish man’s name). Solution is ALSO (i.e. “too”) wrapped around or “welcoming” F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) and ON (i.e. switched on or “working”), like so: AL(F-ON)SO.

11. Name remote switches for gauge (10)

Answer: ANEMOMETER (i.e. “[wind] gauge”). “Switches” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NAME REMOTE.

15. King rising excitedly to hype desert plant, say (9)

Answer: XEROPHYTE (i.e. “desert plant, say”). Solution is REX (Latin for “king”) reversed (indicated by “rising” – this being a down clue) and followed by an anagram (indicated by “excited”) of TO HYPE, like so: XER-OPHYTE. Cool word.

18. Allow Henry coats of armour gamely? It suggests no go (8)

Answer: LETHARGY (i.e. “it suggests [having] no go”). Solution is LET (i.e. “allow”) followed by H (a recognised abbreviation of “henry”, a unit of measurement used in physics – ignore the misleading capitalisation – a new one on me, I’ll admit) and then the first and last letters (indicated by “coats of”) ARMOUR and GREATLY, like so: LET-H-AR-GY.

20. Handle fish on southern British river (9)

Answer: PIKESTAFF (i.e. “handle”). Solution is PIKE (i.e. “fish”) followed by S (a recognised abbreviation of “southern”) and TAFF (i.e. “British river”).

21. Sets of animals go off, one perhaps on horse (10)

Answer: PACKSADDLE (i.e. “one perhaps on horse”, referring to an item of riding gear). Solution is PACKS (i.e. “sets of animals”) followed by ADDLE (i.e. “[to] go off”).

23. What cooks have is pretension when cooking (3,7)

Answer: TIN OPENERS (i.e. “what cooks have”). “When cooking” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PRETENSION.

27. Second cry goes up – it’s very illuminating (5,4)

Answer: FLASH BULB (i.e. “it’s very illuminating”). Solution is FLASH (i.e. “second”, both short periods of time) followed by BLUB (i.e. “cry”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “goes up” – this being a down clue), like so: FLASH-BULB.

28. Good to stop paper’s error, which shows a trend (4,2,3,5)

Answer: SIGN OF THE TIMES (i.e. “trend”). Solution is SIN OF THE TIMES (i.e. “[news]paper’s error”) wrapped around or “stopped” by G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”), like so: SI(G)N-OF-THE-TIMES.

31. See Bill grabbing country drifter (8)

Answer: VAGABOND (i.e. “drifter”). Not 100% on this one, so watch out. I get that V is “see” (being a recognised abbreviation of “vide”, Latin for “see” – I’ve seen this in a few puzzles now) and BOND can be “bill”, ignoring the misleading capitalisation. The wordplay would suggest “country” is then placed between these (indicated by “grabbing”), like so: V-(AGA)-BOND, but I can’t see why AGA would be “country”. Nothing’s jumping out at me in my Chambers or Oxford. My Bradford’s is dry on this one too, plus AGA isn’t a recognised three-letter code for a country. Even Wikipedia shrugs its shoulders. So, yeah, jiggered.
[EDIT: Thanks to Steve in the comments for bailing me out of this one. The country in question was GABON, with AD (i.e. short for advertisement, i.e. “bill”) wrapped around it. V was as I had it above. The solution is therefore V-A(GABON)D. One of those ones where I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Thanks again, Steve! – LP]

33. Murder story in book woke Peter? (8,4)

Answer: BRIGHTON ROCK (“murder story” by Graham Greene. Solution is B (a recognised abbreviation of “book”) followed by RIGHT ON (i.e. “woke”) and ROCK (i.e. “peter” – ignore the misleading capitalisation – it’s not backed up by my Chambers or my Oxford but it is listed in my Bradford’s – I guess as a shortened form of saltpetre, spelled saltpeter in the US).
[EDIT: Hat-tips to a number of commenters who highlighted that Peter = Rock on account of a quote from the Bible, specifically in Matthew 16:18. Thanks, all! – LP]

34. Swiss bank firm plugging reductions for youthful members (3,6)

Answer: CUB SCOUTS (i.e. “youthful members”). Solution is UBS (i.e. “Swiss bank”) and CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”, i.e. “firm”) placed in or “plugging” CUTS (i.e. “reductions”), like so: C(UBS-CO)UTS.

37. Gardener cultivated runners around May, oddly (10)

Answer: NURSERYMAN (i.e. “gardener”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “cultivated”) of RUNNERS which is wrapped “around” another anagram (indicated by “oddly”) of MAY, like so: NURSER(YMA)N.

38. Vehicle producer in decline? True, so we hear (10)

Answer: WAINWRIGHT (i.e. “vehicle producer”). “So we hear” indicates homophone. Solution comprises homophones of WANE (i.e. “in decline”) and RIGHT (i.e. “true”).

41. Delicate silk initially that French put on some Protestants (9)

Answer: SQUEAMISH (i.e. “delicate”). Solution is S (i.e. “silk initially”, i.e. the first letter of “silk”) followed by QUE (i.e. “that French”, i.e. the French for “that”) then AMISH (i.e. “some Protestants”).

43. South American dictator briefly seizing lead in Latin American game (8)

Answer: PINOCHLE (i.e. “American [card] game” – backed up by my Oxford, but Wikipedia begs to differ, suggesting the game was only popular in America, not invented there). Solution is Augusto PINOCHET (i.e. “South American dictator”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and the remainder wrapped around or “seizing” L (i.e. “lead in Latin”, i.e. the first letter of “Latin”), like so: PINOCH(L)E.

45. Greenery some pasture’s part of (7)

Answer: ESPARTO (i.e. “greenery”). “Some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: PASTUR(E’S PART O)F. One gotten from the wordplay and a quick check in my Chambers.

47. One involved in puzzling over style (6)

Answer: HAIRDO (i.e. “style”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed or “involved in” HARD (i.e. “puzzling”) and followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket), like so: HA(I)RD-O.

50. Object that’s not quite proper (5)

Answer: DEMUR (i.e. “[to] object”). Solution is DEMURE (i.e. “proper”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “not quite”).

51. Old man’s half-hearted sales pitch (5)

Answer: PATER (i.e. “old man”). Solution is PATTER (i.e. “sales pitch”) with one of the middle Ts removed (indicated by “half-hearted”).

52. Learner given literary work that’s a rich source of material (4)

Answer: LODE (i.e. “rich source of material”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”) followed by ODE (i.e. “literary work”).

Review: Best New Horror 12

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

After reading the introductions to several stories in Best New Horror 12 you’d be forgiven for thinking this was less the best horror fiction published during 2000 and more a collection of writers’ B-sides, rejections and side projects. There’s entertainment to be had still, don’t fret, but it’s telling that there were no award winners or nominees among the running order. Overall this is a 4/5 from me, but only just.

Best New Horror 12 contains twenty-two stories, and runs as follows:

Castle in the Desert – Kim Newman (4/5 – Newman kicks off proceedings with a playful short set in his Anno Dracula universe, the first of two stories in this book that would eventually go on to help form his novel Johnny Alucard. It’s 1977 and a private detective is asked to look into the death of his ex-wife, Linda, found at the bottom of a swimming pool with an iron spike through her head. Meanwhile Linda’s daughter has gone missing, feared to have fallen in with a bunch of vampires. When a chance meeting pairs our gumshoe with 400-year-old vampire (and erstwhile Anno Dracula heroine) Geneviève Dieudonné, the trail of breadcrumbs leads to a commune holed up in a reconstructed castle out in the Californian desert. Best they go take a look then. Best New Horror 5 featured Newman’s story The Big Fish, which placed a Marlow-esque private detective in a Lovecraftian Los Angeles, but Newman spoiled the story by going way overboard on the Hollywood references. Castle in the Desert, in which a Marlow-esque private detective is placed in an Anno Dracula Los Angeles, is written with comparative restraint and reaps the rewards as a result. A pity then that Newman goes and makes the exact same mistakes again in around 270 pages’ time. If you fancy a read of Castle in the Desert, check out the following web archive:

The Keeper of the Rothenstein Tomb – Iain Sinclair (3/5 – As described in the story’s introduction, this is a companion piece to a book Sinclair wrote with artist Rachel Lichtenstein called Rodinsky’s Room which explored the real-life disappearance of a Jewish man, David Rodinsky, whose room then lay untouched for twenty years. For this story we’re placed in the mind of a paranoid writer, Norton, who is tasked to write an article about an antique hand mirror said to hold a view of Rodinsky’s room the longer one looks into it. Norton’s taskmistress believes the item could shed some light on what happened to the man. Their investigations lead Norton to seek an old man paid to tend a single tomb in an unknown cemetery. Like Sinclair’s Hardball (Best New Horror 8) this is a story that demands a bit more from the reader than most. Come to it cold, like I did, and you may come away nonplussed by Sinclair’s oblique writing and Norton’s frequent digressions into such wilfully narrow subjects as the different shapes and sizes of people’s philtrums or the acceptable plural word for Pokémon. Read a bit more into the story’s background, however, and a re-read rather improves matters. All this is fine if you have the patience for it. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I’m not often keen on stories that come with prerequisites and The Keeper… does nothing to alter that view.)

Also collected in Garris’s “A Life in the Cinema”

Forever Gramma – Mick Garris (4/5 – A teenager recounts a horrifying episode from his younger years. Back then he loved his dear old Gramma and would always come running to her house whenever he smelled her signature peach cobbler cooking. Our young lad is devastated when Gramma passes on, and is suspicious of Mr Cooperman, the local store owner, when the man offers to prepare her body for the funeral. Though Cooperman has undertaken this task for several other of the townsfolk over the years, the boy knows something is off. He knows Cooperman had a crush on Gramma. When our lad ventures out one night to check on creepy old Cooperman, he is disturbed to smell peach cobbler as he nears the man’s house. Sick bags at the ready, folks! If you’re thinking, “Ah, isn’t that lovely? Mr Cooperman found a way to bring his sweetheart back to life and they’re sitting down to a nice bowl of peach cobbler…” then you might want to skip over this one. This is a story that… er… goes there. And then, not content with getting there, decides to keep going. And going. Aaaaaand going! It’s a good read if you’ve got the stomach for it.)

Also collected in Fowler’s “The Devil In Me”

At Home in the Pubs of Old London – Christopher Fowler (4/5 – An artist details his visits to each of thirteen pubs dotted around Old London. What starts out as a mini review of each establishment turns significantly darker when we realise our man is meeting a different woman in each place, and that some of the women seem awfully tired by the end of the evening. This oddment started life as a spoken piece Fowler was commissioned to write by the proprietors of the (now-closed) Filthy McNasty’s bar in London. The story works well on paper, but I would love to have heard it live.)

Also collected in Kiernan’s “Tales of Pain and Wonder”


In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) – Caitlin R. Kiernan (4/5 – A short Lovecraftian number from Kiernan in which we follow Henry S. Matthews, a geologist who is asked to consult upon a blasting operation at Red Mountain, Alabama. The idea is to reroute a river through the ridge and thus channel millions of gallons of fresh water to the nearby city of Birmingham. Partway through the operation, however, the blasting has ceased. The foreman is keen for Matthews to offer his expertise upon a strange hollow they’ve inadvertently blasted into, and to witness what lies within it. Several of HPL’s stories fell into the “field reports from the unknown” category, and all too often they were spoiled by lengthy tracts of boring exposition and meagre characterisation. Kiernan flips this around and succeeds with less than half of HPL’s usual word count. A few annoying writerly tics remain, unnecessarily concatenating words to describe things as “crystalwet” for example, but this remains a satisfyingly chilling slice of the palaeontological weird.)

Bone Orchards – Paul J. McAuley (3/5 – McAuley revisits the world of Mr Carlyle, psychic detective, last seen in the imaginative and enjoyable Naming the Dead (Best New Horror 11). While sitting out and about one day Carlyle espies an old woman leaving a note on a grave. Intrigued, he retrieves the folded paper only to be met with the ghost of a potty-mouthed young girl who is annoyed at Carlyle for taking what was meant for her. Initially assuming the young girl to be the old woman’s daughter, Carlyle is surprised to discover the grave is more than fifty years old. This was a marked drop in quality from Naming the Dead, sadly, thanks in part to an unnecessarily and jarringly sweary little girl (and I’m no prude – indeed, I appreciate and heartily practice most forms of creative swearing). Matters aren’t helped by a plot that most armchair Poirots would have sewn up before the halfway point. McAuley’s writing, however, gets you over the line.)

Also collected in Campbell’s “Told By The Dead”

No Strings – Ramsey Campbell (3/5 – A late-night phone-in radio host locks up after his show and heads out to his car. On the steps outside the studio he is met by a busker wearing a suit that’s one size too big for him. The busker strikes up a violin and begins to walk away. The radio host follows, eventually getting to his car. The busker, still playing, approaches and enters a nearby abandoned building. The playing ends abruptly and our man hears a bloodcurdling scream coming from inside. Naturally, he heads on in to investigate. This was okay, especially once we get inside the building, but it perfectly demonstrates how Campbell can be guilty of overengineering his stories. It’s an accusation I’ve made in several previous reviews, so let’s take No Strings as an example of what I mean. In order to make his story work, Campbell needs his protagonist to enter a building alone and in the dead of night after hearing a scream. Most people in that situation would say “sod that” and leg it. Campbell therefore needs his protagonist to be a naturally caring person, someone who would run toward danger rather than away from it. People might think of a nurse at this point, and it wouldn’t take too much in the story to have said nurse returning to their car alone at night. Campbell, on the other hand, plumps for a phone-in radio host, and therefore has to jettison a whole bunch of inconvenient personnel from the story such as producers, technicians, security, etc so he can have said host left alone at night to lock up a radio station. I mean, come on! It’s a shame because the ending, when or if you get there, is properly creepy.)

Also collected in Ptacek’s “Looking Backwards in Darkness: Tales of Fantasy and Horror”

The Grotto – Kathryn Ptacek (3/5 – Ceil Wallace is dying. She ups sticks from New Jersey to Tuscany, reverts to her maiden name and sets about spending her remaining days reconnecting with her ancestry. Breaking off from a tour of San Damonio, her family home for countless generations, Ceil returns to her lodgings and the company of its proprietor, Ventaglio, and his son, Marco. The old man insists Ceil takes in several of the surrounding areas, while Marco, wrapped in the spirit of the conversation, unwisely recommends a nearby grotto. Ventaglio is far from keen on the idea, claiming the grotto to be no place for a lady. Later, a man introducing himself as Laurence San Damonio hears of Ceil’s interest in the grotto and offers to take her there. Good idea, no? Seasoned horror fans will have read stories like this a number of times before, not least here in the pages of Best New Horror. It’s a well-written piece, but doesn’t break much fresh ground and, for this cold-hearted sod at least, it seemed that Ceil felt sorry for herself once too often.)

Merry Roderick – Geoffrey Warburton (4/5 – Hayshott is a sprawling manor house stuffed to the rafters with three centuries’ worth of interesting junk. Its present owner has hired a number of experts to help catalogue and assess its treasures. On a previous visit to the manor grounds, one such expert, Laura, had stumbled across an L-shaped alcove, at the end of which hung an unnervingly realistic painting of a squat and not especially jolly jester. Now commissioned to work at Hayshott, Laura is having trouble finding the alcove again, and discovers the portrait may have been destroyed some years before. Worse still, a short hooded figure prowls Hayshott, one with its sights seemingly set on Laura. This is another story that will have a familiar chime to it for horror fans, but I am a sucker for dusty old places filled with curios. Your mileage may vary.)

Also collected in Lamsley’s “Dark Matters”

Climbing Down From Heaven – Terry Lamsley (4/5 – Lamsley serves up a healthy slab of English gothic in a tale which sees two close-knit sisters find their way of life upset by the arrival of a new neighbour: a man! (Swoons melodramatically.) Harriet is the breadwinner of the household, a driven go-getter who likes to have her breakfast on the table when she gets up and her tea ready when she gets in from work. Millie, her older sister by three years, looks after the house in Harriet’s absence, and, in her downtime, comes to develop a growing fascination for the to-doings of their new neighbour, Eden H. Wychammer. How come every time Millie looks out onto Eden’s garden, some work seems to have taken place without her noticing? Why do most of the rooms remain empty days after he moved in? And what was the deal with the enormous mirror the removal men had taken such care to deliver? When Harriet visits upon Eden to introduce herself, Millie is alarmed to find her sister return much later all aglow of their new neighbour, an altogether different kind of fascination for the man that will soon take a dark and fanatical turn. Lamsley’s stories are often a highlight of Best New Horror and this is no different. This is an absorbing read that is only let down slightly by the ending.)

Empty Stations – Nicholas Royle (3/5 – Gareth Sangster is a freelance journalist with a thing for lost films about London. The one he’s really keen to get his hands on is Nine South Street, and with good reason: he starred in it. His co-star in the film, Ash, rings him to say he’s got a lead on its possible location, stirring Gareth into action. But Ash is an unreliable bugger, given to heavy drinking and drugtaking. The two join up at a station on the London Underground and ride the tube. When it becomes clear Ash is stringing our man along, Gareth storms off at the next stop, a seemingly empty station. An ultimately unfulfilling story, sadly, which is a shame given the intriguing setup and interesting characters Royle puts together in barely half a dozen pages. A jolting change of perspective near the end gets readers’ hopes up that there may be some kind of resolution to the story, but it soon becomes clear we are going to meet a similar dead-end to that facing our man.)

Flesh of Leaves, Bones of Desire – Charlee Jacob (4/5 – A strange old man visits the town of Simonville selling cardboard skeletons for people to hang from the trees. They sell like hot cakes, and soon almost every tree in town has one flapping in the breeze. But then, as night falls, the cardboard bones begin to gather form, a breeze whipping up skins of dead leaves upon each skeleton. Soon newly formed tree-folk are walking the streets, and tonight, with a simple call of “trick or treat”, they lust for life. This was a good read that packed an impressive amount of bonking into its short run time, though the descriptions of frenzied arboreous lovemaking are more likely to make most people flinch and hiss through their teeth than get them all hot and bothered. Ouch!)

Also collected in Lebbon’s “As The Sun Goes Down”

The Repulsion – Tim Lebbon (3/5 – The almost mandatory Holiday Horror story in Best New Horror focuses on Dean and Maria as they enjoy/endure a break in Amalfi, Italy. The holiday is a last-ditch attempt by the pair to rekindle their loveless relationship, and things get off to a dismal start. Dean momentarily loses Maria during a wander through Amalfi’s labyrinthine streets, eventually finding her again in the town square. Somehow it seems Maria has become even more distant from him. Can Dean be sure she is even the same Maria? This was okay, but not one of Lebbon’s best. I felt nothing for the two central characters. Their lack of chemistry – their lack of anything, really – made them drab and uninteresting, leaving the heavy lifting of the story to the sights and sounds of Amalfi itself.)

Also collected in Etchison’s “The Death Artist”

The Detailer – Dennis Etchison (4/5 – We’re in Los Angeles, the city where the car is king and where its people sure love their cars. Paulino works at a garage as a detailer, the kind of guy who knows his carnauba from his Turtle Wax, a guy who can get a car looking as good as the day it rolled off the forecourt, if not better. He’s a nice guy too who thinks the world of his regulars, often going the extra mile for them. When he spies the metallic grey Lexus of one such regular, Paulino is surprised to find Mr Ellsworth behind the wheel and not his trophy wife, Suzie. Mr Ellsworth demands the works for the Lexus, inside and out. Paulino feels this a little odd, given Mrs Ellsworth had asked him to give the car a full detail only a few days earlier. And where is Mrs Ellsworth, anyway? This story goes pretty much in the direction you’d expect from one paragraph to the next, but its success lies in the brilliantly readable character Etchison creates in Paulino.)

Coming Home – Mark Morris (3/5 – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and the Graingers are gearing up for the birth of their first child. Jane is counting down the days till she pops, wondering whether junior will make an appearance before Santa Claus. She wakes from an afternoon nap to hear gross, sludgy breathing uncomfortably close by. She catches a fleeting glimpse of a figure at her window – the last thing she wants when her nearest neighbour lives more than a mile away. Gerry, her husband, is typically rubbish about the situation because men, and so it’s down to Jane to face up to the nightmarish visitations haunting her every move. Is she being stalked by a ghost of Christmas past, or a Christmas yet to come? Morris doesn’t waste a word in this one, cramming a lot of story into barely seven pages, but its brevity ultimately starves the tale of the atmosphere it needs for the horror to succeed. This was one of those rare occasions when I’d have preferred for the story to be longer.)

The Hunger of the Leaves – Joel Lane (4/5 – Lane swaps his usual ultra-bleak Midlands reportage for an entertaining jaunt through Clark Ashton Smith’s far-future Zothique universe. (The story was written for a themed anthology in the style of pulpy fantasy adventures.) Three hardened villains seek their fortune in the heart of a forest. It is said that a sorcerer lives deep within the woods, and our men are determined to do the old codger in and help themselves to his loot. But the further the men push through the forest the more dangerous their wicked quest becomes. If it’s not dryads pricking at their manly desires then it’s the forest itself, carpeted with dead and unusually barbed leaves… and a staggering number of bones. Be twice warned, fair traveller, this be a fantasy story so charge thine Aegis of Clarity and steel yourself for battle against hordes of silly names. Skim over the gobbledegook and you’ll likely have a good time with this one.)

Also collected in “25 Years in the Word Mines – The Best Short Fiction of Graham Joyce”

Xenos Beach – Graham Joyce (4/5 – We’re on holiday again, this time with a man keen to get away from it all following the end of his marriage. Armed with a battered old guidebook he takes to the Greek islands, hopping from one to another until his wanderings eventually land him on Xenos – Greek for “stranger”. A number of tattered and sun-bleached tents stand empty as if in defiance of the sea, but there is no sign of anyone around who may still be using them. A passing priest warns our man that the island is dangerous for holidaymakers, that the currents are too strong for swimming. When our man accidentally adds incense-heavy mastic bushes to his evening’s fire he wakes from his stupor the next morning to find a few others have joined him on the beach. According to the author’s notes in his retrospective collection 25 Years in the Word Mines, the setting for this story was inspired by a real-life stay he’d had with his wife on Chios beach… tattered tents and all. Me, I’d have been off like a shot! I’m a big fan of Joyce’s writing, as has been noted in a number of my reviews, and this is another winner. Very much worth your time.)

At Eventide – Kathe Koja (4/5 – Another strange and unsettling offering from Koja sees a damaged woman called Alison carving out a living for herself making wooden totemic boxes, each unique and specific to the person commissioning them. What the client did with their box, what they put into it and why was entirely up to them, but the work was always personal and accomplished with the utmost sincerity, and thus was born a steady demand for Alison’s craft. Her profile is instantly boosted one day when someone sells their box to an art gallery. The newfound fame is the last thing Alison wanted, however, for the man who’d once held her captive and had so viciously abused her is now free from prison and on her trail seeking a box of his own. Koja shows everyone how it’s done, setting up a genuinely tense showdown between Alison and her abuser and then delivering a payoff that is ((-chef’s kiss-)). The darkest story of Best New Horror 12 is also the best.)

Also collected in SRT’s “City Fishing”.

Pareidolia – Steve Rasnic Tem (3/5 – Blake is a fifty-something man-child attending a funeral for the first time in goodness knows how long. He’s not exactly dressed for the occasion, and the near constant wailing of a baby somewhere is driving him to distraction. An old man walks among the funeralgoers and places a comforting hand on the shoulder of the bereaved. Though the old man is familiar to Blake, he cannot place him and so he follows the old man outside. Sheltering from a sudden rain shower, the old man gives Blake cause to open up on thoughts about his own mortality in a most unexpected way. I loved the potential of this story – pareidolia being a sensation of recognising people or things in everyday stuff, such as seeing a dancing elephant among the clouds or a vision of Piers Morgan in a slice of toast – but, as harsh as it sounds, I can’t help wishing someone other than SRT had taken a stab at this. For the most part the story is well-written, nailing the sombre thoughts of a man beginning to lose the battle against ageing, but ultimately the story underdelivers and has to weird things up in lieu of an ending. A misfire for me, sadly.)

Also collected in Ligotti’s “My Work Is Not Yet Done”

I Have a Special Plan For This World – Thomas Ligotti (4/5 – The workers of the Blaine Company have been a stressed lot ever since their offices were relocated to “Murder Town”; stressed to the extent that their collective anxiety has somehow manifested in everyone not being able to see more than a couple of feet ahead of themselves. Staff are understandably bumping into one another as they hare about the place, which doesn’t do much to help stress levels. Management at the Blaine Company exists solely to ensure these stress levels never dip, and their failure in this capacity, real or perceived, is met with the ultimate punishment: slaughter in the smog-filled streets of Murder Town. Can all this extreme tension and brutal behaviour be blamed on the thickening yellow fog choking the streets of Murder Town, and now slowly seeping into the office building, or does the real threat to the Blaine Company and its employees lie a little closer to home? Ligotti takes a less-than-subtle satirical swipe at the corporate world but mostly gets away with it. The writing is as sumptuous as ever, and the way he manages to walk a tightrope throughout the story, veering neither too far into black comedy nor outright horror, is impressively done. You might guess what’s going on ahead of time, like I did, but this is still well worth a read.)

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

The Handover – Michael Marshall Smith (3/5 – A sombre read from MMS in which we visit a small rundown settlement and its dwindling population. Eldorado was once a prosperous mining town during the Gold Rush era, but now, on the cusp of a new millennium, with its mines long stripped of anything of value, the town lies on the brink of extinction. In a place where the children stopped coming, and where nobody seems capable of moving on, all that remains is for the townsfolk to watch as nature slowly reclaims building after building, street after street, and citizen after citizen. We focus on Bill, chowing down a bowl of filthy chilli in Maggie’s Bar one snowbound evening, when he is visited upon by Jack. The old man’s wife is close to death, and he asks Bill – no spring chicken himself – to assist him in what needs to be done. This started off really well, almost like a companion piece to MMS’s exemplary The Man Who Drew Cats. The story is filled with brilliantly phrased observations on the effects of ageing, and is sprinkled with atmospheric descriptions of a town on its last legs. The trouble is the story goes on for too long, going off into Eldorado’s history and those of the story’s key players with little justification for doing so. Had it been half the length, this would probably have been my pick of the book.)

The Other Side of Midnight – Kim Newman (3/5 – Clocking in at nearly 90 pages, this novella follows on from Castle in the Desert and sees Geneviève Dieudonné, now a fully-fledged private detective in 1980s Los Angeles, hired by Orson Welles to dig up some dirt on a mysterious producer by the name of John Alucard. It seems Alucard’s pockets run deep, financing several projects across Tinseltown, but they all seem to be about the same thing and nobody seems able to describe the man, let alone say they’ve met him. When the body of an acquaintance is dumped on Genè’s doorstep, it seems someone doesn’t want her on the case. Newman plays to the cinephiles of his audience again, which is lovely if you’re into that kind of thing, but this left me coughing politely and checking how long was left before the end credits. When left unchecked like this, Newman has a habit of not only going overboard with his first love but doing a quadruple somersault and a backflip in the process. Cineastes may applaud his shooting scripts and umpteen different casting configurations for theoretical cinematic productions of Dracula, but most other people will wonder where on earth the story has digressed to this time. Speaking of which, the story, slight as it is considering its length, is okay, and Newman does a great job of breathing life into Orson Welles, but way too much of the runtime is given over to crowbarring as many fictional worlds into his Anno Dracula universe as possible, from The Big Lebowski to Columbo, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (here embarrassingly renamed Barbie). Newman clearly had a blast writing this, but it isn’t a story I’ll be rushing back to re-read.)

And that wraps up another monster review of Best New Horror. As with most books in the series, you should be able to find a second-hand copy of this on Amazon, eBay or AbeBooks without too much trouble. If eBooks are your bag then you’ll also find this available on most major platforms. Finally, clicking on the images above will take you to the relative page on Goodreads should you want to dive a little deeper into an author’s work. (The link to Steve Rasnic Tem’s City Fishing will take you to its page on Smashwords.)

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading! Do drop by again for a whizz through Best New Horror 13.


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1421

Another good one this week – probably the best one in quite a while, with several well-worked clues and a couple that raised a titter. More like this please, setters!

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 jump in, please excuse me while I get the old lemonade stand out for a bit. If you dig on horror stories then you might want to swing by my Reviews page, where I’m (slowly) working my way through Stephen Jones’s Best New Horror series. (I’ll have a review of BNH12 shortly after posting this, as it’s been a while.) I’ve even stuck one of my own stories on here somewhere. If you’re here for the answers to a few past Times Jumbo Cryptics, then my Just for Fun page is the place to head.

Right then, to the answers!


Across clues

1. Feel wobbly and empty, sick inside (9)

Answer: VACILLATE (i.e. “feel wobbly”). Solution is VACATE (i.e. “[to] empty”) with ILL (i.e. “sick”) placed “inside” like so: VAC(ILL)ATE.

6. New charger perhaps needs constant plugging in to central point (5)

Answer: FOCAL (i.e. “central point”). Solution is FOAL (i.e. “new charger perhaps”, referring to a young horse) wrapped around or “plugging in” C (a recognised abbreviation of “constant”), like so: FO(C)AL.

9. It’s no use if it’s flat as a pancake? (7)

Answer: BATTERY. Solution satisfies “it’s no use if it’s flat” and “as a pancake”, typically made from batter. One of several clues that made me smile when I clocked the solution.

13. Minister taking on Brussels after U-turn – it’s a bit of theatre (5)

Answer: REVUE (i.e. “it’s a bit of theatre”). Solution is REV (i.e. “minister”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “Reverend”) followed by EU (short for the European Union, often informally referred to as “Brussels”) which is reversed (indicated by “after U-turn”), like so: REV-UE.

14. Shady relative joining leader of anarchist resistance (7)

Answer: UNCLEAR (i.e. “shady”). Solution is UNCLE (i.e. “relative”) followed by the initial letters or “leaders” of “anarchist” and “resistance”, like so: UNCLE-A-R.

15. Opener of Irish county’s team (9)

Answer: CORKSCREW (i.e. “opener”). When read as CORK’S CREW the solution also satisfies “Irish county’s team”.

16. Back after divorce in a flash (5,6)

Answer: SPLIT SECOND (i.e. “in a flash”). Solution is SECOND (i.e. “[to] back”) placed “after” SPLIT (i.e. “divorce”). A repeat from last week, which is a little disappointing.

17. Exactly where to press? (2,3,6)

Answer: ON THE BUTTON. Solution satisfies “exactly” and “where to press”.

18. Court maintaining right of possession for customer (6)

Answer: CLIENT (i.e. “customer”). Solution is CT (a recognised abbreviation of “court”) wrapped around or “maintaining” LIEN (i.e. “right of possession”), like so: C(LIEN)T. Another repeat from last week with rather a similar clue, which is a little more disappointing.

19. Quickly take off Mel’s bra after fiddling with catch at first (8)

Answer: SCRAMBLE (i.e. “quickly take off”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “after fiddling”) of MEL’S BRA and C (i.e. “catch at first”, i.e. the first letter of “catch”). A clue that scans rather well.

21. Angel dust haul abandoned by a copper (2,4)

Answer: PC PLOD (i.e. “copper”). Solution is PCP (a drug with the street name “angel dust”) followed by LOAD (i.e. “haul”) once the A had been removed (indicated by “abandoned by a”), like so: PCP-LOD.

25. Took off gripping comedian in the end, receiving undemanding pap? (8)

Answer: SPOONFED (i.e. “receiving undemanding pap”). Solution is SPOOFED (i.e. copied or “took off”) wrapped around or “gripping” N (i.e. “comedian in the end”, i.e. the last letter of “comedian”), like so: SPOO(N)FED.

26. Ruthless traders like places with tourists (5,9)

Answer: ASSET STRIPPERS (i.e. “ruthless traders”). Solution is AS (i.e. “like”) followed by SETS (i.e. “places”) and TRIPPERS (i.e. “tourists”). Another clue that scans really well.

28. Gourmand leaving starter to get thin (5)

Answer: REEDY (i.e. “thin”). Solution is GREEDY (i.e. “gourmand”) with its initial letter removed (indicated by “leaving starter”). Another good ‘un.

29. I’ll be seized by hallucinatory experiences after knocking back mescal? (6)

Answer: SPIRIT (i.e. “mescal” – other booze is available). Solution is I placed in or being “seized by” TRIPS (i.e. “hallucinatory experiences”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “after knocking back”), like so: SPIR(I)T. Again, good!

30. Gets into difficulty at dance that stays open late? (6,4)

Answer: CORNER SHOP (i.e. “that stays open late”). Solution is CORNERS (i.e. “gets [one] into difficulty”) followed by HOP (i.e. “dance”).

33. Bronze pater with child bust (5,5)

Answer: THIRD PLACE (i.e. “bronze [medal]”). “Bust” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PATER and CHILD.

35. Go along with scam by scoundrel (6)

Answer: CONCUR (i.e. “go along with”). Solution is CON (i.e. “scam”) followed by CUR (i.e. “scoundrel”). Another clue that scans well.

36. Party to identify with opposition? (5)

Answer: BEANO (i.e. “party”). When read as BE A NO the solution also satisfies “identify with opposition”.

38. On the other hand, I may be captivated by startled hooting call of birds (14)

Answer: ORNITHOLOGICAL (i.e. “of birds”). Solution is OR (i.e. “on the other hand”) followed by I once it has been placed in or “captivated by” an anagram (indicated by “startled”) of HOOTING CALL, like so: OR-N(I)THOLOGICAL.

40. Raise a miserable, tailless entrant for Crufts? (8)

Answer: COCKAPOO, a cross between an American cocker spaniel and a miniature poodle (i.e. “entrant for Crufts”). Solution is COCK (i.e. “raise” – wahey!) followed by A and POOR (i.e. “miserable”) once the last letter has been removed (indicated by “tailless”), like so: COCK-A-POO. A rather fitting clue.

42. Ruins girl entering high society with gentleman after rejection (6)

Answer: DEBRIS (i.e. “ruins”). Solution is DEB (i.e. “girl entering high society”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “debutante” – something I remembered from a previous puzzle) followed by SIR (i.e. “gentleman”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “after rejection”), like so: DEB-RIS.

43. Macho types going topless by day? Correct (8)

Answer: EMENDATE (i.e. “[to] correct”). Solution is HE-MEN (i.e. “macho types”) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “going topless”) and followed by DATE (i.e. “day”), like so: EMEN-DATE.

44. I would love to interrupt hostile folly (6)

Answer: IDIOCY (i.e. “folly”). Solution is I’D (a contraction of “I would”) followed by O (i.e. “love”, being a zero score in tennis) once it has been placed in or “interrupting” ICY (i.e. “hostile”), like so: I’D-I(O)CY.

47. State legislator and detective ringing space station repeatedly, before one (11)

Answer: MISSISSIPPI (i.e. “[US] state”). Solution is MP (i.e. “legislator”, specifically a Member of Parliament) and PI (i.e. “detective”, specifically a Private Investigator) wrapped around or “ringing” ISS and ISS (i.e. “space station repeatedly”, ISS being the International Space Station) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) like so: M(ISS-ISS-I)P-PI.

50. Unorthodox religions embraced by established church advisor (11)

Answer: CONSIGLIERE (i.e. “advisor”, especially to a Mafia godfather). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “unorthodox”) of RELIGIONS placed in CE (i.e. “established church”, specifically the Church of England), like so: C(ONSIGLIER)E.

52. Put slant on appeal: one’s encapsulated by Lewis’s girl (9)

Answer: ITALICISE (i.e. “put slant on”). Solution is IT (i.e. “[sex] appeal”) followed by I’S (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one’s”) once is has been placed in or “encapsulated by” ALICE (i.e. “Lewis [Carroll]’s girl”), like so: IT-ALIC(I’S)E.

53. Literary festival town collecting listeners’ gossip (7)

Answer: HEARSAY (i.e. “gossip”). Solution is HAY (i.e. “literary festival town”) wrapped around or “collecting” EARS (i.e. “listeners”), like so: H(EARS)AY.

54. Places for audio visual experience (5)

Answer: SITES (i.e. “places”). “Audio” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of SIGHTS (i.e. “visual experience”). Another good clue.

55. Taser perhaps hurt one (4,3)

Answer: STUN GUN (i.e. “Taser perhaps” – other brands are available in your local self-defence superstore). Solution is STUNG (i.e. “hurt”) followed by UN (i.e. “one”, as in a young ‘un or a wrong ‘un).

56. Sample of titbit as temptation? (5)

Answer: TASTE (i.e. “sample”). “Of” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: TITBI(T AS TE)MPTATION.

57. Star to write signature and stuff (9)

Answer: PENTAGRAM (i.e. “star”). Solution is PEN (i.e. “to write”) followed by TAG (i.e. “signature”) and RAM (i.e. “[to] stuff”).

Down clues

1. Corrupting influence of Lenin initially on Russia (5)

Answer: VIRUS (i.e. “corrupting influence”). Solution is VI (i.e. “Lenin initially”, referring to the initials of his forenames, Vladimir Ilyich) followed by RUS (a recognised abbreviation of “Russia”). Another good clue.

2. King endorsed this polite refusal (5,12)

Answer: CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. Clue refers to Martin Luther “King’s endorsement” of civil disobedience during the civil rights movement in the United States. Solution is CIVIL (i.e. “polite”) followed by DISOBEDIENCE (i.e. “refusal”).

3. Place property to get commission (11)

Answer: LIEUTENANCY (i.e. “commission”). Solution is LIEU (i.e. “place”, as “in lieu of”) followed by TENANCY (i.e. “property”).

4. Perception of area combined with space (6)

Answer: ACUMEN (i.e. “perception”). Solution is A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”) followed by CUM (i.e. “combined with” in Latin) then EN (i.e. “space”, referring to a printer’s term for a space that is the width of an “n”).

5. Invade enclosure with fish (8)

Answer: ENCROACH (i.e. “invade”). Solution is ENC (a recognised abbreviation of “enclosure” used in formal correspondence) followed by ROACH (i.e. “fish”).

6. Shrink underwear? Could be a revealing error (8,4)

Answer: FREUDIAN SLIP. Solution satisfies “could be a revealing error” and, humorously, “shrink underwear”, referring to famous psychiatrist or “shrink” Sigmund FREUD. Well, I thought it was funny.

7. Cook could be on top of ratings – such a one? (6,4)

Answer: CORDON BLEU, a chef or “cook” of the highest excellence (i.e. “on top of ratings”). There’s probably something clever I’ve missed here.
[EDIT: Thanks to zouzoulap in the comments for shedding light on this one. “Cook” turns out to be not only the operative word of the clue but an anagram indicator, specifically of COULD BE ON and R (indicated by “top of ratings”, i.e. the first letter of “ratings”). Cleverly disguised. I like it! – LP]

8. Sparked up around Jersey etc – it’s legal (5)

Answer: LICIT (i.e. “legal”). Solution is LIT (i.e. “sparked up”) wrapped “around” CI (i.e. “Jersey etc”, referring to the Channel Islands), like so: LI(CI)T.

9. Glance up captivated by stripper, one working in pub? (9)

Answer: BARKEEPER (i.e. “one working in pub”). Solution is PEEK (i.e. “glance”) reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue) and placed in or “captivated by” BARER (i.e. “stripper”), like so: BAR(KEEP)ER.

10. It may be useful for coverage of present time to publish Times, say (6,5)

Answer: TISSUE PAPER (i.e. “it may be useful for coverage of present”). Solution is T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”) followed by ISSUE (i.e. “to publish”) and PAPER (i.e. “Times, say”).

11. Water bird lifted out of detergent (5)

Answer: EGRET (i.e. “water bird”). “Lifted out of” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue. There is no reversal indicator, however, which is a bit off. Anyway, you can see the solution reversed in the clue, like so: DE(TERGE)NT.

12. Unknown number in flight going off course (6)

Answer: YAWING (i.e. “going off course”). Solution is Y (i.e. “unknown number” – setters love using “unknown” to represent the letters X, Y or Z in their solutions) followed by AWING (i.e. “in flight”).

18. Players getting restricted food allocation having nuts taken away (10)

Answer: CASTRATION (i.e. “having nuts taken away” – being the massive child I am, this made me chuckle when I got it and it still makes me chuckle as I type this). Solution is CAST (i.e. “players”) followed by RATION (i.e. “restricted food allocation”). Excellent clue!

20. Settle North and South Carolina, held by English formerly (8)

Answer: ENSCONCE (i.e. “settle”). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “north” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) and SC (ditto “South Carolina”) placed or being “held by” E (ditto “English”) and ONCE (i.e. “formerly”), like so: E-(N-SC)-ONCE.

22. Display tool that’ll forecast costs? (8,9)

Answer: OVERHEAD PROJECTOR. Solution satisfies “display tool” and something that’ll project overheads or “forecast costs”. Another that made me smile when I twigged the solution.

23. Sly type overhearing cunning plan will (6)

Answer: WEASEL (i.e. “sly type”). “Overhearing” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of WHEEZE (i.e. “cunning plan”) and ‘LL (a contraction of “will”). (Makes so-so gesture.)

24. Hopes dashed by record held by party lacking skill in political science (10)

Answer: PSEPHOLOGY (i.e. “political science”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “dashed”) of HOPES along with LOG (i.e. “record”) both placed in or “held by” PY (i.e. “party lacking skill”, i.e. the word PARTY with the ART removed), like so: P(SEPHO-LOG)Y. I had a feeling this would be a word beginning with “ps”, so luckily it didn’t take much finding in my Chambers.

27. Reveal record miss (8)

Answer: DISCLOSE (i.e. “reveal”). Solution is DISC (i.e. “[vinyl] record”) followed by LOSE (i.e. “miss”).

31. What might indicate direction to Arctic strait (6)

Answer: NARROW (i.e. “strait”). When read as N ARROW, the solution also satisfies “what might indicate direction to Arctic” – N being a recognised abbreviation of “north”. For most of this puzzle, I’d mistakenly had this down as BERING. It didn’t help.

32. To show deference, say, play second fiddle with diminishing level of skill (3,3,6)

Answer: BOW AND SCRAPE (i.e. “to show deference”). Solution also satisfies “play…fiddle with diminishing level of skill”, referring to how one would play the fiddle badly with a bow. Something like that, anyway.

34. Deciding to put off fossil fuel production? (11)

Answer: DETERMINING (i.e. “deciding”). When read as DETER MINING, the solution also satisfies “put off fossil fuel production”.

36. Drastic potential result of global warming’s course (5,6)

Answer: BAKED ALASKA (i.e. “[dessert] course”). Solution riffs on how global warming would cause Alaska to heat up. You get the idea.

37. Party defeats Greens? (4,6)

Answer: SIDE DISHES (i.e. “greens” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Bloody hell, this took some figuring, especially when you only have the letters _I_E/_I_H_S to work with. The solution is SIDE (i.e. “party”, e.g. one side or “party” of a transaction) followed by DISHES (i.e. “defeats”. I thought this might have been to “dish” someone in a game of eight-ball pool, which is win leaving all your opponent’s balls on the table, but it seems this usage isn’t supported by any dictionary I have. My Oxford did have “to dish” as to soundly to defeat someone, so there you go).

39. Sob, racked with noises showing infatuation (9)

Answer: OBSESSION (i.e. “infatuation”). “Racked” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SOB and NOISES.

41. Fails to meet to pay for drink (6,2)

Answer: STANDS UP (i.e. “fails to meet”). Solution is STAND (i.e. “to pay for”) followed by SUP (i.e. “drink”).

45. Filth put up with always initially in communications (6)

Answer: EMAILS (i.e. “communications”). Solution is A (i.e. “always initially”, i.e. the first letter of “always”) placed “in” SLIME (i.e. “filth”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “put up” – this being a down clue), like so: EM(A)ILS.

46. African party member lifting vote against (6)

Answer: LIBYAN (i.e. “African”). Solution is LIB (i.e. “party member”, specifically a member of the Liberal Democrats) followed by NAY (i.e. “[a] vote against”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “lifting” – this being a down clue), like so: LIB-YAN.

48. United supporters turning up for typical shambles (5)

Answer: SNAFU (i.e. “typical shambles” – referring to a US Military acronym that stands for Situation Normal All Fucked Up). Solution is U (a recognised abbreviation of “united”) followed by FANS (i.e. “supporters”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “turning up” – again, this being a down clue), like so: SNAF-U. Apologies if you caught some inappropriate language picked up by our dictionaries just then.

49. Fuel contains lead in Laos, one’s gathered (5)

Answer: PLEAT (i.e. “one’s gathered”). Solution is PEAT (i.e. “fuel”) wrapped around or “containing” L (i.e. “lead in Laos”, i.e. the first letter of “Laos”), like so: P(L)EAT.

51. Course of salts? (5)

Answer: EPSOM. Solution satisfies “[race]course” and “salts”.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1420

Here’s my completed grid for this week’s Times Jumbo cryptic, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. If you have a previous Jumbo that’s given you sleepless nights chewing over a few pesky clues, then my Just For Fun page might help you out. While I’ve got you here, I might as well hawk a few other things to help idle away a quiet half hour, such as my reviews page or a short story. Hey, a guy’s gotta try!

And so to the answers….


Across clues

1. Material provided by trader, £50 being spent by gullible person (10)

Answer: SEERSUCKER (i.e. “material” – not one I’m overly familiar with). Solution is SELLER (i.e. “trader”) with the LL removed (indicated by “£50 being spent” – a cheeky one this: L is the Roman numeral for 50, meanwhile L is also a recognised abbreviation of “pounds”, albeit pounds of weight rather than currency) and the remainder followed by SUCKER (i.e. “gullible person”), like so: SEER-SUCKER. One gotten through the wordplay only.

6. Best performances at athletics stadium in lists of achievements (5,7)

Answer: TRACK RECORDS. Solution satisfies “best performances at athletic stadium” and “lists of achievements”.

14. Native beginning to settle in Lincoln (9)

Answer: ABORIGINE (i.e. “native”). Solution is ORIGIN (i.e. “beginning”) placed or “settling in” ABE (i.e. “Lincoln”, specifically Abraham Lincoln), like so: AB(ORIGIN)E.

15. Top name for chocolate? (5)

Answer: BROWN (i.e. “chocolate”). Solution is BROW (i.e. “top”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”).

16. Son and friend holding City of London area to be remarkably good (7)

Answer: SPECIAL (i.e. “remarkably good”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) and PAL (i.e. “friend”) wrapped around or “holding” ECI (i.e. “City of London area”, i.e. the postcode area EC1), like so: S-P(ECI)AL.

17. Problematic jumbo, one of those things being ignored in Chambers! (8,2,3,4)

Answer: ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, being an obvious problem that people do not wish to acknowledge. Clue riffs on “jumbo” being another word for an elephant, and “chamber” being another word for a room. You get the idea. A clue that reads rather well, given its context.

18. 15 out of practice? (5)

Answer: RUSTY. Solution satisfies “15” – the solution to 15a being BROWN, the colour of rust – and “out of practice”.

19. More than one group in Paris is absorbed by gangs (7)

Answer: SESTETS, which are “groups” of six. The “more than one” indicates the solution is a plural. Solution is EST (i.e. “in Paris is”, i.e. the French for “is”) placed in or “absorbed by” SETS (i.e. “gangs”), like so: S(EST)ETS.

21. Fellow not upper-class embraces girl void of expression (6)

Answer: GLASSY (i.e. “void of expression”). Solution is GUY (i.e. “fellow”) with the U removed (indicated by “not upper-class” – U being a recognised abbreviation for the upper-class) and the remainder wrapped around or “embracing” LASS (i.e. “girl”), like so: G(LASS)Y.

22. Command to surrender one’s arms (8)

Answer: ORDNANCE (i.e. “arms”). Solution is ORDINANCE (i.e. “command”) with the I removed (indicated by “to surrender one” – I being the Roman numeral for “one”).

24. Foolish African dictator, old and twitching (7)

Answer: IDIOTIC (i.e. “foolish”). Solution is IDI Amin (i.e. “African dictator”) followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and TIC (i.e. “twitching”).

26. Bear, say, getting caught in elaborate trap, oddly (8)

Answer: TETRAPOD (i.e. “bear, say”, along with a sizeable chunk of the animal kingdom). “Caught in” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: ELABORA(TE TRAP OD)DLY. This was the last clue I solved and took a while for me to spot what was going on. Nicely played.

27. Old city goddess appears in street, looking back (6)

Answer: THEBES (i.e. “old city”). Solution is HEBE (i.e. Greek “goddess” of youth) placed “in” ST (a recognised abbreviation of “street”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “looking back”), like so: T(HEBE)S.

30. Use video device to show rugby player moving rapidly (4-7)

Answer: FAST-FORWARD. Solution satisfies “use video device” and “rugby player moving rapidly”.

32. Mother has performing career with that US writer (5,6)

Answer: DAMON RUNYON (i.e. “US writer” – no, me neither). Solution is DAM (i.e. “mother”, usually of cattle, horses etc – again, me neither) followed by ON (i.e. “performing”), then RUN (i.e. to sprint or “career”) and YON (i.e. a poetic “that”). Sheesh!

33. Organise office, beginning to end, providing areas for growth (11)

Answer: PLANTATIONS (i.e. “areas for growth”). Solution is PLAN (i.e. “organise”) followed by STATION (i.e. “office”) once its first letter has been placed at the end (indicated by “beginning to end”), like so: PLAN-TATIONS.

35. Adriatic resort almost the best for a very brief period (5,6)

Answer: SPLIT SECOND (i.e. “very brief period”). Solution is SPLIT (i.e. “Adriatic resort”) followed by SECOND (i.e. “almost the best”).

37. Everything serf wanted after end of enslavement (3,3)

Answer: THE LOT (i.e. “everything”). Solution is HELOT (i.e. “serf” – a word I’m wise to now it’s been used a few times) placed “after” T (i.e. “end of enslavement”, i.e. the last letter of “enslavement”), like so: T-HELOT. Another clue that scans really well.

38. Misunderstanding of French hero going round America (8)

Answer: DELUSION (i.e. “misunderstanding”). Solution is DE (i.e. “of French”, i.e. the French for “of”) followed by LION (i.e. “hero”) once it has been placed “round” US (i.e. “America”), like so: DE-L(US)ION.

39. Trendy type greeting Bill, exuding love (7)

Answer: HIPSTER (i.e. “trendy type”). Solution is HI (i.e. “greeting”) followed by POSTER (i.e. “bill” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) once the O has been removed (indicated by “exuding love” – “love” being a zero score in tennis), like so: HI-PSTER.

42. Designer of home – bit of a hole with nothing right (8)

Answer: INVENTOR (i.e. “designer”). Solution is IN (i.e. “[at] home”) followed by VENT (i.e. “bit of a hole”) then O (i.e. “nothing”) and R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”).

44. At end of loud game girl is restrained (6)

Answer: FRUGAL (i.e. “restrained”). Solution is F (a recognised abbreviation of “forte”, which is “loud” in musical lingo) followed by RU (i.e. “game”, specifically Rugby Union) and GAL (i.e. “girl”). The “at end of ” bit seems a bit redundant, so I might not have this 100% right.

46. Town sending family member round the twist (7)

Answer: SWINDON (i.e. “town”). Solution is SON (i.e. “family member”) wrapped “round” WIND (i.e. “twist”), like so: S(WIND)ON.

48. Hooter’s small cry of pain? (5)

Answer: OWLET, a baby owl (i.e. “hooter”). The “small cry of pain” jokingly hints at an “ow!”, using the suffix -let to indicate a little ‘un.

49. Working group that may be sitting, despite what you may think? (8,9)

Answer: STANDING COMMITTEE (i.e. “working group”). Clue plays on how “standing” and “sitting” are opposites. You get the idea.

51. What’s large and icy, endlessly moving? (7)

Answer: GLACIER (i.e. “what’s large and icy”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “moving”) of LARGE and ICY, once the last letter Y has been removed (indicated by “endlessly”). Nicely played.

52. Secret societies? They pick up things (5)

Answer: TONGS. Solution satisfies “secret [Chinese] societies” and “they pick up things”.

53. Loony ran up tree in delight (9)

Answer: ENRAPTURE (i.e. “delight”). “Loony” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of RAN UP TREE.

54. Frenchman understood the thing about article editor dealt with afresh (12)

Answer: RENEGOTIATED (i.e. “dealt with afresh”). Solution is RENE (i.e. “Frenchman”) followed by GOT (i.e. “understood”) then IT (i.e. “the thing”) once it has been wrapped “about” A (i.e. “article”), and finally finished with ED (a recognised abbreviation of “editor”), like so: RENE-GOT-I(A)T-ED.

55. It’s imprudent, not having more than one part, we hear (10)

Answer: INDISCREET (i.e. “imprudent”). “We hear” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of INDISCRETE (i.e. “not having more than one part”).

Down clues

1. Head of school was worried – dead body – terribly frightened! (6,5)

Answer: SCARED STIFF (i.e. “terribly frightened”). Solution is S (i.e. “head of school”, i.e. the first letter of “school”) followed by CARED (i.e. “was worried”) and STIFF (i.e. “dead body”).

2. Escape as European heading north, then east (5)

Answer: ELOPE (i.e. “escape [to marry]”). Solution is POLE (i.e. “European”) reversed (indicated by “heading north” – this being a down clue) and followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “east”), like so: ELOP-E.

3. Most modest learner in expression of frustration over exam? (9)

Answer: SLIGHTEST (i.e. “most modest”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”) placed “in” SIGH (i.e. “expression of frustration”) and followed by TEST (i.e. “exam”), like so: S(L)IGH-TEST.

4. Customers more or less right? Foremost of trusty shoppers (7)

Answer: CLIENTS (i.e. “customers”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “circa”, i.e. “more or less”) followed by LIEN (i.e. a “right” to hold another’s property) and the initial or “foremost” letters of “Trusty” and “Supporters”, like so: C-LIEN-T-S.

5. When the light goes down, say, with poison being swallowed (7)

Answer: EVENING (i.e. “when the light goes down”). Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) wrapped around or “swallowing” VENIN (i.e. “poison”), like so: E(VENIN)G. Chalk one to my Bradfords for the poison bit.

7. Deployed soldier had to protect northern state (5,6)

Answer: RHODE ISLAND (i.e. “[US] state”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “deployed”) of SOLDIER HAD wrapped around or “protected” by N (a recognised abbreviation of “northern”), like so: RHODEISLA(N)D.

8. Insincere talk about country’s division (6)

Answer: CANTON (i.e. “country’s division”). Solution is CANT (i.e. “insincere talk”) followed by ON (i.e. “about”).

9. Herb’s woman (8)

Answer: ROSEMARY. Solution satisfies “herb” and “woman”. Also my benefactress for a few reference books used in these blog posts. (Tips hat.)

10. Acting before moving home, maybe, one deals with financial matters (8,5)

Answer: CLEARING HOUSE. Solution satisfies “acting before moving house” and “one deals with financial matters”.

11. Stops wickedness after period of monarchy, not good (5,2)

Answer: REINS IN (i.e. “stops”). Solution is SIN (i.e. “wickedness”) placed “after” REIGN (i.e. “period of monarchy”) once the G has been removed (indicated by “not good” – G being a recognised abbreviation of “good”), like so: REIN-SIN.

12. Lousy essay son’s penned badly in period not taken seriously? (5,6)

Answer: SILLY SEASON (i.e. “period not taken seriously”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “lousy”) of ESSAY SON wrapped around or “penning” ILL (i.e. “badly”), like so: S(ILL)YSEASON.

13. Taken away, being scatterbrained (10)

Answer: ABSTRACTED. Solution satisfies “taken away” and “scatterbrained”.

20. Well-presented fruits eaten by quiet zoo animal? (9)

Answer: SHIPSHAPE (i.e. “well-presented”). Solution is HIPS (i.e. “fruits” of a rose) placed in or being “eaten by” SH (i.e. “quiet”) and followed by APE (i.e. “zoo animal”), like so: S(HIPS)H-APE.

23. Supporting one of Ireland’s heads, offering a solution (8)

Answer: FORMALIN (i.e. “solution”). Solution is FOR (i.e. “supporting”) followed by MALIN (i.e. “one of Ireland’s heads”, and the most northerly part of the island of Ireland, it says here). Chalk another one to my Bradfords here.

25. Minister – scoundrel and mischief maker (6)

Answer: CURATE (i.e. “minister”). Solution is CUR (i.e. “scoundrel”) followed by ATE (i.e. “mischief maker”, referring to Ate, the Greek goddess of mischief).

26. Rips around socks? Hard to avoid that in prickly plants (3,5)

Answer: TEA ROSES (i.e. “prickly plants”). Solution is TEARS (i.e. “rips”) placed “around” HOSE (i.e. “socks”) once the H has been removed (indicated by “hard to avoid” – H being a recognised abbreviation of “hard”), like so: TEAR(OSE)S.

28. Ostracised son sent to bed, young lout as was (9)

Answer: BOYCOTTED (i.e. “ostracised”). Solution is BOY (i.e. “son”) followed by COT (i.e. “bed”) and TED (i.e. “young lout, as was”, short for a Teddy boy).

29. Tin deposited on long grass (6)

Answer: SNITCH (i.e. “grass”). Solution is SN (chemical symbol of “tin”) followed by ITCH (i.e. to yearn for or “long”).

31. Offer made by generous tailor is no good at all (3,3,7)

Answer: FIT FOR NOTHING. Solution satisfies “offer made by generous tailor” and “no good at all”. A clue that scans rather well.

33. State of bewilderment in domesticated and wild animals gets one quibbling (11)

Answer: PETTIFOGGER (i.e. “one quibbling”). Solution is FOG (i.e. “state of bewilderment”) placed “in” PET (i.e. “domesticated…animal”) and TIGER (i.e. “wild animal”), like so: PET-TI(FOG)GER.

34. Social activity after nine maybe, old tribe attending church (6,5)

Answer: SQUARE DANCE (i.e. “social activity”). Solution is SQUARE (i.e. “nine maybe”, referring to the square of 3) followed by DAN (i.e. “old tribe [of Israel]” – I remembered this from a previous puzzle) and CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England”).

35. Smart head – one concealed lack of generosity (10)

Answer: STINGINESS (i.e. “lack of generosity”). Solution is STING (i.e. “smart”) and NESS (i.e. “head”, as in the geographical feature) wrapped around or “concealing” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: STING-(I)-NESS.

36. Ten men raged, out to create disorder (11)

Answer: DERANGEMENT (i.e. “disorder”). “Out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TEN MEN RAGED.

40. Oration of Greek character delivered with insolence – listener’s choice (9)

Answer: PHILIPPIC (i.e. “oration”, and a particularly angry one at that). Solution is PHI (i.e. “Greek character”, specifically the twenty-first letter of the Greek alphabet) followed by LIP (i.e. “insolence”) and PIC (i.e. “listener’s choice”, i.e. a homophone of the word PICK). Another I remembered from a previous puzzle, if I’m honest. Hmm. Looks like I’d spelled it incorrectly back then too. (Facepalms oneself.)

41. Spar bends on rough trip (8)

Answer: BOWSPRIT (i.e. “spar [of a ship]”). Solution is BOWS (i.e. “bends”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “rough”) of TRIP, like so: BOWS-PRIT.

43. Scoundrel is outwardly conceited, inwardly wicked (7)

Answer: VILLAIN (i.e. “scoundrel”). Solution is VAIN (i.e. “conceited”) placed “outwardly” of ILL (i.e. “wicked”), like so: V(ILL)AIN. Another clue that reads well.

45. Hannibal? Carthaginian finally making a stand (7)

Answer: LECTERN (i.e. “stand”). Solution is “Hannibal” LECTER, a character featuring in several Thomas Harris novels, followed by N (i.e. “Carthaginian finally”, i.e. the last letter of “Carthaginian”).

46. Old city captured by fantastic Masai warrior (7)

Answer: SAMURAI (i.e. “warrior”). Solution is UR (i.e. “old city”, a favourite of setters) placed in or “captured by” an anagram (indicated by “fantastic”) of MASAI, like so: SAM(UR)AI.

47. Popular phrase – snare for a bloke, almost (6)

Answer: MANTRA (i.e. “popular phase”). Solution is MAN-TRAP (i.e. “snare for a bloke”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “almost”).

50. End of the short uprising, break from hostilities (5)

Answer: TRUCE (i.e. “break from hostilities”). Solution is E (i.e. “end of the”, i.e. the last letter of “the”) followed by CURT (i.e. “short”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “uprising”, this being a down clue), like so: TRUC-E.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1419

Another good ‘un marks the end of a busy period of Jumbos. I much prefer puzzles that have me thumbing through a good dictionary as opposed to an atlas or a Who’s Who of dead people, so for the most part this one ticked several boxes. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

A spot of housekeeping before we crack on. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s left you cold then you might find some joy in my Just For Fun page. Meanwhile, if book reviews tickle your fancy then I’ve got a bunch here. I’ll stick a review of Best New Horror 12 on here shortly(ish), now things are settling down again after New Year. If you’d like a short story then I’ve got you covered too.

If you’re here just for the answers then I guess I’d better hop to it. Tuck in!


Across clues

1. Name – a girl’s by the sound of it (7)

Answer: MONIKER (i.e. “name”). “By the sound of it” indicates homophone. Solution is also a homophone of MONICA, a “girl’s” name.

5. Flyer produced by petulant Head (9)

Answer: CROSSBILL (i.e. “flyer”, as in a bird – did a Google image search… appropriately named!). Solution is CROSS (i.e. “petulant”) followed by BILL (i.e. “head” – both words can mean a piece of land that juts out into the sea).

10. Sword Europeans found outside gym (4)

Answer: EPEE (i.e. “sword”). Solution is E and E (i.e. “Europeans” – E being a recognised abbreviation of “European”) placed “outside” of PE (a recognised abbreviation of Physical Education, i.e. “gym”), like so: E(PE)E.

14. Rugby players – 75% of them? (5-8)

Answer: THREE-QUARTERS (i.e. “75% of them”). When read without hyphenation, THREE QUARTERS also satisfies “[three] rugby players”).

15. Picking up little brat going walkabout (9)

Answer: IMPROVING (i.e. “picking up”). Solution is IMP (i.e. “little brat”) followed by ROVING (i.e. “going walkabout”).

16. Back soldiers at start of this temporary transfer (10)

Answer: SECONDMENT (i.e. “temporary transfer”). Solution is SECOND (i.e. “[to] back”) followed by MEN (i.e. “soldiers”) and T (i.e. “start of this”, i.e. the first letter of “this”).

17. Terence, Leo and I contrived to campaign politically (11)

Answer: ELECTIONEER (i.e. “to campaign politically”). “Contrived” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TERENCE, LEO and I.

18. Boy – head of class, as it happens (5)

Answer: CLIVE (i.e. “boy[‘s name]”). Solution is C (i.e. “head of class”, i.e. the first letter of “class”) followed by LIVE (i.e. “as it happens” – think live sports coverage). I’m seldom happy when forenames are used to plug awkward gaps in grids, so you can imagine my… er… delight with this one, especially considering the numerous other words that could have fitted the intersecting letters. Harrumph, etc.

19. Army corps’s pressing need largely beginning to expedite rebirth (10)

Answer: RESURGENCE (i.e. “rebirth”). Solution is RE’S (i.e. “army corps’s”, specifically the Royal Engineers) followed by URGENCY (i.e. “pressing need”) with its final letter removed (indicated by “largely”) and E (i.e. “beginning to expedite”, i.e. the first letter of “expedite”), like so: RE’S-URGENC-E.

21. A new aim holding back a SW African state (6)

Answer: ANGOLA (i.e. “SW African state”). Solution is A followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) and GOAL (i.e. “aim”) once the A has been shifted along (indicated by “holding back a”), like so: A-N-GOLA.

23. Policy declaration of teams in turmoil (9)

Answer: MANIFESTO (i.e. “policy declaration”). “Turmoil” indicated anagram. Solution is an anagram of OF TEAMS IN.

25. Western poem originally naming Anglo-Saxon god (5)

Answer: WODEN (i.e. “Anglo-Saxon god”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “western”) followed by ODE (i.e. “poem”) and N (i.e. “originally naming”, i.e. the first letter of “naming”). One gotten solely through the wordplay, to be honest.

26. Failed to find “glove” in dictionary (7)

Answer: OMITTED (i.e. “failed”, e.g. omitting to mention something important). Solution is MITT (i.e. “glove” placed or “found” in OED (i.e. “dictionary”, specifically the Oxford English Dictionary), like so: O(MITT)ED.

28. Gloucester’s son’s directions accepted by noble poet (6,7)

Answer: EDMUND SPENSER (i.e. a “poet” whose ye olde spellyngs and definitions litter dictionaries to this day). Solution is EDMUND’S (i.e. “Gloucester’s son’s” – referring to Edmund, a character in Shakespeare’s King Lear, who was the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester) followed by NS (i.e. “directions”, specifically recognised abbreviations of “north” and “south”) once it has been placed in or “accepted by” PEER (i.e. “noble”), like so: EDMUND’S-PE(NS)ER. A nod to Google for this, as I’ve never been much of a fan of Shakespeare.

31. Deal with prime disturbance of the cuticle (9)

Answer: EPIDERMAL (i.e. “of the cuticle”). “Disturbance” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DEAL and PRIME.

33. Secret flight bound to disturb fellows in film (9)

Answer: ELOPEMENT (i.e. “secret flight”). Solution is MEN (i.e. “fellows”) placed “in” ET (i.e. “film”, specifically ET: The Extra Terrestrial). LOPE (i.e. to “bound”) then “disturbs” or is placed inside of this, like so: E(LOPE)(MEN)T.

35. Making little impact where security may be found around tiller (13)

Answer: UNDERWHELMING (i.e. “making little impact”). Solution is UNDER WING (i.e. “where security may be found”, as in being taken under someone’s wing) wrapped “around” HELM (i.e. “tiller”), like so: UNDER-W(HELM)ING.

37. Implement he recognised in Paris after decades with university (7)

Answer: UTENSIL (i.e. “implement”). Solution is IL (i.e. “he recognised in Paris”, i.e. the French for “he”), placed “after” U (a recognised abbreviation of “university”) and TENS (i.e. “decades”), like so: U-TENS-IL.

38. A sorcerer may practice it, partly to be a hardman (5)

Answer: OBEAH, which is “witchcraft or poisoning practiced in the West Indies, Guyana etc” (Chambers) (i.e. “a sorcerer may practice it”). “Partly” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: T(O BE A H)ARDMAN. Three words: Made. To. Fit!

40. Like delicious drink only initially imbibed by random centaurs (9)

Answer: NECTAROUS (i.e. “like delicious drink”). Solution is O (i.e. “only initially”, i.e. the first letter of “only”) placed in or being “imbibed by” an anagram (indicated by “random”) of CENTAURS, like so: NECTAR(O)US.

42. Lasciviousness originally rare at East Sheen? (6)

Answer: LUSTRE (i.e. “sheen” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is LUST (i.e. “lasciviousness”) followed by R (i.e. “originally rare”, i.e. the first letter of “rare”) and E (a recognised abbreviation of “East”).

44. Part of army finally serving in Europe, perhaps (10)

Answer: CONTINGENT (i.e. “part of army”). Solution is G (i.e. “finally serving”, i.e. the last letter of “serving”) placed in CONTINENT (i.e. “Europe, perhaps”), like so: CONTIN(G)ENT.

46. Extol Labour leader feeding black horse? (5)

Answer: BLESS (i.e. “extol”). Solution is L (i.e. “Labour leader”, i.e. the first letter of “Labour”) placed in or “feeding” BESS (i.e. “black horse”, specifically Black Bess, Dick Turpin’s horse), like so: B(L)ESS.

48. The writer’s one shedding tears about small naval vessel (11)

Answer: MINESWEEPER (i.e. “naval vessel”). Solution is MINE (i.e. “the writer’s”, taking the point of view of the setter) and WEEPER (i.e. “one shedding tears”) placed “about” S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”), like so: MINE-(S)-WEEPER.

50. Dishonest activity practised by carpenters? (10)

Answer: CHISELLING. Solution satisfies “dishonest activity” and “practiced by carpenters”.

52. Fruit can deteriorate ultimately, inspiring rage (9)

Answer: TANGERINE (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is TIN (i.e. “can”) and E (i.e. “deteriorate ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “deteriorate”) wrapped around or “inspiring” ANGER (i.e. “rage”), like so: T(ANGER)IN-E.

53. Examine attorney more protractedly about male spreader of gossip (13)

Answer: SCANDALMONGER (i.e. “spreader of gossip”). Solution is SCAN (i.e. “examine”) followed by DA (i.e. attorney, specifically a District Attorney) and LONGER (i.e. “more protracted”) once it has been placed “about” M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”), like so: SCAN-DA-L(M)ONGER.

54. 1950s youth going over English millennium building (4)

Answer: DOME (i.e. “millennium building”, specifically the Millennium Dome in London, now known as the O2 Arena). Solution is MOD (i.e. “1950s youth”) reversed (indicated by “going over”) and followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: DOM-E.

55. Onlooker volunteers to feed unpopular police officer? (9)

Answer: SPECTATOR (i.e. “onlooker”). Solution is TA (i.e. “volunteers”, specifically the Territorial Army) placed in or “feeding” INSPECTOR (i.e. “police officer”) once the IN has been removed (indicated by “unpopular”, as in not being “in”), like so: SPEC(TA)TOR. Good clue!

56. Private room in hospital used by leader of city corporation (7)

Answer: SANCTUM (i.e. “private room”). Solution is SAN (an old slang word for a sanitorium, i.e. “hospital”) followed by C (i.e. “leader of city”, i.e. the first letter of “city”) and TUM (i.e. “corporation”, an archaic word for a tummy or belly – setters love using this).

Down clues

1. A widow’s gift could possibly – so to speak (4)

Answer: MITE. Solution satisfies “a widow’s gift” – referring to a widow’s mite, which is “a small offering generously given” (pats Chambers) – and also “could possibly – so to speak”, referring to a homophone of MIGHT.

2. One overwhelmed by new organ composition, like Grieg (9)

Answer: NORWEGIAN (i.e. “like [Edvard] Grieg”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in or “overwhelmed by” an anagram (indicated by “composition”) or NEW ORGAN, like so: NORWEG(I)AN.

3. Hope for success, but ruin one’s piano recital? (4,4,7,7)

Answer: KEEP ONES FINGERS CROSSED. Solution satisfies “hope for success” and “ruin one’s piano recital”. I did smile at this when I twigged it.

4. Canon upset about contribution to team’s score (7)

Answer: ROUNDER (i.e. “contribution to team’s score” – do they score runs in rounders or do they score rounders? (Shrugs)). Solution is ROUND (i.e. “canon” – one of its definitions is “a type of vocal or instrumental musical composition in which the melody is repeated by one part following another in imitation” (Chambers again); meanwhile one of round’s umpteen definitions is “a canon sung in unison” – score one to my Bradford’s here, as I would never have made the connection) followed by RE (i.e. “about” – think email replies) which is reversed (indicated by “upset” – this being a down clue), like so: ROUND-ER.

5. Basis of cereal a person formerly consumed (11)

Answer: CORNERSTONE (i.e. “basis of”). Solution is CORN (i.e. “cereal”) and ONE (i.e. “a person”) wrapped around or “consuming” ERST (i.e. at first or “formerly”), like so: CORN-(ERST)-ONE.

6. Public argument about Hutton’s first poor return? (9)

Answer: OVERTHROW (i.e. “poor return” – think a fielder overthrowing the ball in cricket). Solution is OVERT (i.e. “public”) and ROW (i.e. “argument”) placed “about” H (i.e. “Hutton’s first”, i.e. the first letter of “Hutton”), like so: OVERT-(H)-ROW.

7. Soiree regularly gatecrashed by American girl (5)

Answer: SUSIE (i.e. “girl[‘s name]” (sighs)). Solution is SIE (i.e. “soiree regularly”, i.e. every other letter of SOIREE) wrapped around or being “gatecrashed” by US (i.e. “American”), like so: S(US)IE.

8. Shimmering effect encountered at first in relaxed scenic ride (11)

Answer: IRIDESCENCE (i.e. “shimmering effect”). Solution is E (i.e. “encountered at first”, i.e. the first letter of encountered) placed in an anagram (indicated by “relaxed”) of SCENIC RIDE, like so: IRID(E)SCENCE.

9. Literary island identified by a set in Los Angeles? (6)

Answer: LAPUTA (i.e. “literary island”, specifically one found in Gulliver’s Travels). Solution is A and PUT (i.e. “set [down]”) both placed in LA (i.e. “Los Angeles”), like so: L(A-PUT)A.

11. Instruction book on old card game (7)

Answer: PRIMERO (i.e. “card game”). Solution is PRIMER (i.e. “instruction book”) followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”). Can’t say I’ve played it.

12. Decorate artist brought up in part of UK (9)

Answer: ENGARLAND (i.e. “decorate”). Solution is RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) reversed (indicated by “brought up” – this being a down clue) and placed “in” ENGLAND (i.e. “part of UK”), like so: ENG(AR)LAND.

13. Bomb eastern warehouse, heavy and lacking buoyancy? (2,4,4,1,4,7)

Answer: GO DOWN LIKE A LEAD BALLOON (i.e. “bomb”). Solution is GODOWN (i.e. “eastern warehouse” – no, me neither) and LIKE A LEAD BALLOON (i.e. the riddle “heavy and lacking buoyancy?”). Not a classic.

18. Accomplished Liberal turned out to take part (7)

Answer: COMPETE (i.e. “take part”). Solution is COMPLETE (i.e. “accomplished”) with the L removed (indicated by “Liberal turned out” – L being a recognised abbreviation of “Liberal”).

20. Put up with outcome, entertaining daughter on river (7)

Answer: ENDURED (i.e. “put up with”). Solution is END (i.e. “outcome”) wrapped around or “entertaining” D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) and URE (i.e. a “river”), like so: EN(D-URE)D.

22. Early Stone Age hero regularly landed on this once (8)

Answer: EOLITHIC (i.e. “early Stone Age”). Solution is EO (i.e. “hero regularly”, i.e. every other letter of HERO) followed by LIT (i.e. “landed on”) and HIC (i.e. “this once”, i.e. the Latin for “this”).

24. Like nuns, perhaps, knowing about revised rites (8)

Answer: SISTERLY (i.e. “like nuns, perhaps”). Solution is SLY (i.e. “knowing”) wrapped “about” an anagram (indicated by “revised”) of RITES, like so: S(ISTER)LY.

27. Characters in steamship meticulous about speeds (5)

Answer: TEMPI (i.e. “speeds”). “Characters in” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “about” indicates the solution has been reversed, like so: STEAMSH(IP MET)ICULOUS.

29. Creature makes lowing sound on top of escarpment (5)

Answer: MOOSE (i.e. “creature”). Solution is MOOS (i.e. “makes lowing sound”) followed by E (i.e. “top of escarpment”, i.e. the first letter of “escarpment”).

30. Trainee in breeding establishment overlooking hospital department (7)

Answer: STUDENT (i.e. “trainee”). Solution is STUD (i.e. “breeding establishment”) followed by ENT (i.e. “hospital department”, specifically Ear, Nose and Throat).

32. They’re versed in the law, getting poets beheaded (7)

Answer: LEGISTS (i.e. “they’re versed in law”). Solution is ELEGISTS (i.e. “poets”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “beheaded”). LEGIST doesn’t feature in my Oxford dictionary, but does appear in Chambers.

34. Atmospheric layer primarily recognised in eccentric peer’s photo (11)

Answer: TROPOSPHERE (i.e. “atmospheric layer”). Solution is R (i.e. “primarily recognised”, i.e. the first letter of “recognised”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “eccentric”) of PEER’S PHOTO, like so: T(R)OPOSPHERE.

36. Camera accessory selection finally sold in more stylish setting (11)

Answer: RANGEFINDER (i.e. “camera accessory”). Solution is RANGE (i.e. “selection”) followed by D (i.e. “finally sold”, i.e. the last letter of “sold”) once it has been placed “in” FINER (i.e. “more stylish”), like so: RANGE-FIN(D)ER.

37. Member briefly in football team, not subject to restrictions (9)

Answer: UNLIMITED (i.e. “not subject to restrictions”). Solution is LIMB (i.e. “member”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and placed “in” UNITED (i.e. “football team”), like so: UN(LIM)ITED.

39. Skill required to fix both taps on floating platform? (9)

Answer: HANDCRAFT (i.e. “skill”). Solution is H AND C (i.e. “both taps”, i.e. recognised abbreviations for “hot” and “cold”) followed by RAFT (i.e. “floating platform”).

41. Top man at Camelot, we hear, throughout a dark period? (9)

Answer: OVERNIGHT (i.e. “throughout a dark period”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “top”) followed by a homophone (indicated by “we hear”) of KNIGHT (i.e. “man at Camelot”), like so: OVER-NIGHT.

43. Reported malefactor? Shakespearean colonel? It means the same thing (7)

Answer: SYNONYM (i.e. “it means the same thing”). “Reported” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of SIN ON HIM (i.e. descriptive of a “malefactor”). The “Shakespearean colonel” bit likely refers to a line containing the words SIN ON HIM, but, as mentioned, Shakespeare isn’t my bag. Sorry.
[EDIT: Thanks to several commenters here and on my About page for shedding light on this one. “Shakespearean colonel” refers to Colonel Nym, a character who appears in Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor, a wrong ‘un with a penchant for stealing. This would make him SINNER NYM. Thanks all! – LP]

45. Archer hugging climber at last on island where climbers are trained (7)

Answer: TRELLIS (i.e. “where climbers are trained”). Solution is William TELL (i.e. “archer”) wrapped around or “hugging” R (i.e. “climber at last”, i.e. the last letter of “climber”) and followed by IS (a recognised abbreviation of “island”), like so: T(R)ELL-IS.

47. Brainbox principally interested in taxonomic group (6)

Answer: GENIUS (i.e. “brainbox”). Solution is I (i.e. “principally interested”, i.e. the first letter of “interested”) placed “in” GENUS (i.e. “taxonomic group”), like so: GEN(I)US.

49. Exam I entered among others (5)

Answer: RESIT (i.e. “exam”). Solution is I placed in or “entering” REST (i.e. “others”), like so: RES(I)T.

51. Englishman in Oz absorbing start of royal concert (4)

Answer: PROM (i.e. “concert”). Solution is POM (i.e. “Englishman in Oz”, preferring to how Aussies refer to Englishmen) wrapped around or “absorbing” R (i.e. “start of royal”, i.e. the first letter of “royal”), like so: P(R)OM.