I’m always keen to improve my vocabulary. It helps me make fewer visits to the dictionary when a writer slips a weird and wonderful word into their work, plus it helps to save me from embarrassing moments of catachresis (he says, slipping a weird and wonderful word into his work).
One way to improve one’s vocab is to indulge in word puzzles. My particular poison is the cryptic crossword. I’m as fascinated by the many weird and wonderful techniques setters use to misdirect and generally baffle
their victims solvers as I am astonished by the variety and number of bizarre and seldom-used words and phrases that pepper their grids.
In recent weeks I’ve made serious attempts at completing the Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword, instead of sacking it off the moment I feel I’ve done as much as my aching brain can handle. So here’s this week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic, along with my solutions and explanations, where I have them. If you’ve ever wondered how cryptic crosswords work then perhaps this post can help. Just watch you don’t become addicted too!
So here are the clues, along with my explanations of my answers:
1. Vivacity initially held back mischief maker (6)
Answer: SPRITE, an imp or impish person (i.e. “mischief maker”). Solution is ESPRIT (another word for “vivacity”) with its initial letter E placed at the end.
5. Artist’s medium discomfort after short illness (7)
Answer: GOUACHE, an opaque watercolour-like paint (i.e. “artist’s medium”). Solution comprises GOU (“short illness”, i.e. GOUT with the final letter removed) followed by ACHE (“discomfort”).
9. Meandering soldiers put in charge (8)
Answer: INDIRECT (i.e. “meandering”). Solution is RE (“soldiers”, specifically Royal Engineers) placed in INDICT (another word for “charge”), like so: INDI(RE)CT. I spent way too long thinking “meandering” was an anagram indicator. (Shakes fist at the setter.)
13. It’s evident prison transmuted a modern criminal (4, 4, 13)
Answer: QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM, or, in English, “which was to be demonstrated”, (i.e. “it’s evident”). Solution is QUOD (another name for “prison” – no, me neither) followed by an anagram (indicated by “criminal”) of TRANSMUTEDAMODERN. One’s Chambers came in handy here.
14. Chinese finally sought after car dealer (8)
Answer: MERCHANT (i.e. “dealer”). Solution is HAN (i.e. “Chinese”) and T (i.e. the last letter of “sought”) placed after MERC (i.e. “car”), like so: MERC-HAN-T.
15. Satellite rattles when blown about (7)
Answer: TELSTAR, a satellite that was launched in the 1960s. “When blown about” indicates an anagram. Solution is anagram of RATTLES.
16. Sweet nothing with husband being ace (6)
Answer: NOUGAT (i.e. “sweet”). Solution is NOUGHT (i.e. “nothing”) with the letter H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”) replaced by the letter A (“ace” as it appears on a playing card).
17. Sharp stuff from fault-finder having delayed resistance with drug (6,4)
Answer: CITRIC ACID (i.e. “sharp stuff”). Solution is CRITIC (i.e. “fault-finder”) with the letter R (a recognised abbreviation for electrical resistance) put back a few places (i.e. “having delayed resistance”), followed by ACID (i.e. “drug”).
20. Tense one working and failing (12)
Answer: IMPERFECTION (i.e. a “failing”). I can’t say for certain how the setter has arrived at this clue. I’m guessing the idea is something like “I am” (tense one) and “perfection” (working). If so, this is weak. Just because something works doesn’t mean it’s perfect. If that was the case, I’d be typing this on a Windows 1.0 PC running Netscape Navigator.
23. Evens out site of a portico (4)
Answer: STOA, an ancient Greek portico or covered colonnade. Solution is derived by taking the even letters out of SITE OF A.
24. River bird one’s seen on a ship (8)
Answer: TAFFRAIL, a rail seen around the stern of a ship. Solution is TAFF (a river in Wales) followed by RAIL (a variety of bird). This is one of those handy words I wish I’d known earlier.
26. Sacked on Thursday, was very sore? (8)
Answer: THROBBED, (i.e. “was very sore”). Solution is TH (a recognised abbreviation of “Thursday”) followed by ROBBED (i.e. “sacked”).
29. Totter up with beer, welcoming old musical style (12)
Answer: COUNTERPOINT, a melody that is added to another (i.e. “musical style”). Solution is COUNTER (i.e. “totter up”) followed by PINT (“beer”) with O (recognised abbreviation of “old”) placed inside, like so: COUNTER-P(O)INT.
30. School subject one grasped by quiet determination (12)
Answer: RESILIENCE (i.e. “determination”). Solution is RE (i.e. “school subject”, specifically Religious Education) followed by SILENCE (“quiet”) with I (“one”) placed in the middle, like so: RE-SIL(I)ENCE.
32. Man stops erring by a crude vice (10)
Answer: DEBAUCHERY (i.e. “vice”). Solution is HE (i.e. “man”) placed in the middle of (indicated by “stops”) an anagram (indicated by “erring”) of BYACRUDE, like so: DEBAUC(HE)RY.
34. Riding train, the setter’s giving nothing away (12)
Answer: INEXPRESSIVE (i.e. “giving nothing away”). Solution is IN EXPRESS (i.e. “riding train”) followed by I’VE (as in “belonging to the setter of the puzzle”).
36. Bit by bit, returned animals with good sense (8)
Answer: STEPWISE (i.e. “bit by bit”). Solution is PETS reversed (i.e. “returned animals”) followed by WISE (“good sense”), like so: STEP-WISE.
38. Referred to broadcast, ignoring one’s daughter (8)
Answer: ADVERTED (i.e. “referred to”). Solution is ADVERTISED (i.e. “broadcast”) with IS removed (i.e. “ignoring ones”), and then followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”).
39. Ball and function from the right country club (4)
Answer: NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (i.e. “country club”). Solution is O (i.e. “ball”, because the letter O looks like a ball) followed by TAN (i.e. “function”, specifically tangent, a trigonometrical function). The letters are then reversed (i.e. “from the right”).
41. For high tea, do supply alcohol (4, 2, 3, 3)
Answer: HAIR OF THE DOG, which is to cure a hangover by drinking more booze. A sneaky solution this, as the anagram indicator “high” (i.e. gone off) is part of the anagram itself. Solution is an anagram of FORHIGHTEADO.
43. Fake news to support a leaderless country (10)
Answer: PROPAGANDA (i.e. “fake news”, the spreading of often false information to help bring about change). Solution is PROP (i.e. “to support”) followed by A and then GANDA (i.e. “leaderless country”, specifically UGANDA with the leading letter removed.), like so: PROP-A-GANDA. (I spent way too long thinking this was going to end in ARANCE.)
44. He won’t accept obsolete coin (6)
Answer: DENIER. Solution has a double-meaning, satisfying both “he won’t accept” (being one who denies) and “obsolete coin” (being an old small French silver coin).
46. Live in perfect tower (7)
Answer: MINARET, a mosque tower. Solution is ARE (i.e. “live”) placed in MINT (i.e. “perfect”), like so: MIN(ARE)T.
48. On the point of retirement, cut expenditure (8)
Answer: OUTGOING. Solution has a double-meaning, satisfying both “on the point of retirement” and “cut expenditure” (cut=out; going=expenditure). Expenditure is also referred to as an outgoing.
50. Very effusive towards semiotician, with hard journey nearly done (3, 4, 3, 3, 8)
Answer: ALL OVER BAR THE SHOUTING, i.e. (“nearly done”). Solution is ALL OVER (i.e. “very effuse”), followed by BARTHES (i.e. Roland BARTHES, a French philosopher and semiotician – what do you mean, “Who?!”), then H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard”, used in grading pencils) and finally OUTING (i.e. “journey”).
51. French novel all told briefly after the beginning (8)
Answer: GERMINAL, a 19th century French novel by Emile Zola. No, I’ve not read it either. Solution is INAL (i.e. IN ALL with final letter removed, i.e. “all told briefly”) preceded by GERM (i.e. “the beginning”, e.g. the germ of an idea).
52. Article by poet is going slowly (7)
Answer: ANDANTE, a musical term – because it wouldn’t be a Times crossword without including at least one of approximately 20,000 musical terms – meaning to move slowly. Solution is AN (i.e. “article”, specifically the indefinite article used before vowel sounds) followed by DANTE (i.e. “poet”, specifically the ever-cheery Dante Alighieri).
53. Revealing hypocrisy in empty society (6)
Answer: SCANTY (i.e. “revealing”). Solution is CANT (i.e. “hypocrisy”) placed in the middle of S and Y (i.e. “empty society”, being the word “society” with its middle letters removed), like so: S(CANT)Y.
2. Announcer’s maximum annoyance (5)
Answer: PIQUE. Solution is a homophone of “peak” (i.e. “announcer’s maximum”), being PIQUE (i.e. “annoyance”).
3. Press impatient with a current political barrier (4, 7)
Answer: IRON CURTAIN, a political barrier between the former Soviet bloc and the West. Solution is IRON (i.e. “press”) followed by CURT (i.e. “impatient”), then A (“with a”), then IN (i.e. “current”).
4. Agreed to don rotten cheat’s pirate garb? (8)
Answer: EYEPATCH (i.e. “pirate garb”). Solution is an anagram of CHEAT (i.e. “rotten cheat”) with YEP (i.e. “agreed”, informally) placed inside (i.e. “to don”), like so: E(YEP)ATCH.
5. President with the heart for angry demagogy (5)
Answer: GRANT, i.e. Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth President of the United States. Solution is G (i.e. “heart for angry”, i.e. the middle letter of the word “angry”) followed by RANT (another word for “demagogy”). This is comfortably my favourite clue of this puzzle. Very fitting and well played!
6. Modernised vans from urban parade went out together (7)
Answer: UPDATED (i.e. “modernised”). Solution is U and P (i.e. “vans from urban parade” – van is a recognised abbreviation of vanguard, i.e. at the forefront, so we want the initial letters of “urban parade”) followed by DATED (i.e. “went out together”).
7. Appeal in protest, offering help (11)
Answer: COMPLAISANT (i.e. “offering help”). Solution is SA (i.e. “appeal”, specifically “sex appeal”. No, I can’t say I’ve seen it written like that either) placed in the middle of COMPLAINT (i.e. “protest”).
8. Artist is in Paris, taking in Rodin on vacation (5)
Answer: ERNST, i.e. Max Ernst, a prolific surrealist artist of the 20th century. Solution is EST (i.e. “is in Paris” – the French for “is” is “est”) with RN placed in the middle (i.e. “Rodin on vacation”, being “Rodin” with the middle letters removed, or “vacated”), like so: E(RN)ST.
9. Pen triter works to read (9)
Answer: INTERPRET (i.e. “to read”). “Works” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of PENTRITER.
10. Dog’s head drops down (5)
Answer: DRAIN. I’m guessing here that the clue is “down”, as if to down a drink, i.e. drain it. Solution is D (i.e. “Dog’s head”, i.e. the first letter of “dog”) followed by RAIN (i.e. “drops”).
11. Increase housing bill, inspiring fear (11)
Answer: REDOUBTABLE (i.e. “inspiring fear”). Solution is REDOUBLE (i.e. “increase”) with TAB (i.e. “bill”) placed inside (i.e. “housing”), like so: REDOUB(TAB)LE.
12. Recalled old party host holding English stringed instrument (7)
Answer: CEMBALO, being an alternative name for a harpsichord (i.e. “stringed instrument”). Bear with me here. Solution is O (i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “old”), followed by LAB (i.e. “party”, i.e. the Labour Party) then MC (i.e. “host”, specifically Master of Ceremonies) with E (i.e. “English”) in the middle (inferred by “holding”). The whole lot is then reversed (i.e. “recalled”), like so: C(E)M-BAL-O. You’re welcome.
18. A shy person, traveller stops between races (9)
Answer: INTROVERT (i.e. “a shy person”). Solution is ROVER (i.e. “traveller”) placed in the middle of (i.e. “between”) IN and TT (i.e. “races”). I know that TT is the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race. I’m guessing that IN is the Indy 500, but I could be wrong.
19. Fish caught by one in paper, wriggling (7)
Answer: CRAPPIE, a small sunfish found in North America. Not exactly a name that whets the appetite. Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in cricket) followed by an anagram (indicated by “wriggling”) of PAPER with I (i.e. “one”) included, like so: C-RAPP(I)E.
21. Animal in parable, or in another form (5, 4)
Answer: POLAR BEAR (i.e. “animal”) “In another form” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of PARABLEOR.
22. Recruiter in French car (8)
Answer: ENROLLER (i.e. “recruiter”). Solution is EN (i.e. “in French” – the French for “in” is “en”) followed by ROLLER (i.e. “car”, specifically a Rolls Royce).
25. Female to get around breezy, fantastic place (9)
Answer: FAIRYLAND (i.e. “fantastic place”). Solution is AIRY (i.e. “breezy”) surrounded by F (i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “female”) and LAND (i.e. “to get”), like so: F(AIRY)LAND.
27. Old wine unruly adolescent brought up (9)
Answer: EXCAVATED (i.e. “brought up”). Solution is EX (i.e. “old”) followed by CAVA (i.e. “wine”) and TED (i.e. “unruly adolescent”, specifically a Teddy Boy).
28. Covering king and a couple of leaders (8)
Answer: KERCHIEF, a square piece of cloth worn over the head, i.e. “covering”. Solution is K (i.e. “king”) followed by ER and CHIEF (i.e. “a couple of leaders”, specifically ER, or Elizabeth Regina, and… er… a chief.)
31. Boss has drink, on second (7)
Answer: SUPREMO (i.e. “boss”). I’m not sure how the setter has arrived at this. I get that “sup” covers “has drink”, but if REMO is supposed to be a type of drink (i.e. “on second”) I’ve not heard of it. I see there’s a San Remo cocktail, but, frankly, any bartender can knock up a cocktail and slap a name on it.
33. According to girl I don’t know, this is a sprinkler (11)
Answer: ASPERGILLUM, a holy-water sprinkler. So now you know. Solution is AS PER (i.e. “according to”) followed by GILL (i.e. “girl”, as in a girl’s name – yeah, I never like it when they drop first names into solutions either) and then UM (i.e. “I don’t know”).
34. Lively home by Spanish city esteemed highly (11)
Answer: INVIGORATED (i.e. “lively”). Solution is IN (i.e. “home”), VIGO (i.e. “Spanish city”) and RATED (i.e. “esteemed highly”).
35. Visitor for Christmas day, one around US resort (5, 6)
Answer: SANTA MONICA (i.e. “US resort”). Solution is SANTA (i.e. “visitor for Christmas”) followed by MON (i.e. “day”, “Mon” being a recognised abbreviation of Monday), I (i.e. “one”) and CA (i.e. “around”, i.e. “ca” being a recognised abbreviation of circa.)
37. Passing border in record time, heading for Laos (9)
Answer: EPHEMERAL (i.e. “passing”). Solution is HEM (i.e. “border”) placed among EP (i.e. “record”, an Extended-Play single – ask your parents), ERA (i.e. “time”) and L (i.e. “heading for Laos”, i.e. the initial letter of Laos), like so: EP-(HEM)-ERA-L.
40. Trust man to train pets (8)
Answer: TANTRUMS, another word for pets or huffs. “To train” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of TRUSTMAN.
42. Mean, say, to be getting on (7)
Answer: AVERAGE (i.e. “mean”). Solution is AVER (i.e. to assert, or “say to be”), followed by AGE (i.e. “getting on”).
43. Technique for selling new design (7)
Answer: PATTERN (i.e. “design”). Solution is PATTER (i.e. “technique for selling”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”).
45. Flier’s welcome in armed service (5)
Answer: RAVEN (i.e. “flier”, or a bird). Solution is AVE (i.e. “welcome”, or an archaic form of address) placed in the middle of RN (i.e. “armed service”, specifically the Royal Navy).
47. US cities hosting a creature from Africa (5)
Answer: NYALA, a South African antelope. Solution is A being placed between NY and LA (i.e. “US cities hosting a”).
48. Missile launch site shelters right in the shade (5)
Answer: OCHRE, an earthy colour (i.e. “shade”). Solution is R (i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “right”) placed amid OCHE (i.e. “missile launch site”, being the line behind which darts players must stand when throwing). This clue made me smile when I got it.
49. Almost time for parting word (5)
Answer: NIGHT (i.e. “parting word”, shortened form of “goodnight”). Solution is NIGH (i.e. “almost”) followed by T (i.e. recognised abbreviation of “time”).
So there we have it. This puzzle was a bit of a stinker with a few clues I’m still unsure about. If anyone can clue me in on the reasoning behind 20a (IMPERFECTION) and 31d (SUPREMO) that would be lovely.
Oh, and, yes, it’s been a while. Hello again, world!