A medium strength puzzle this week for those able to get their hands on a copy following Extinction Rebellion’s protest. While a mere crossword is of course literally nothing compared to the fate of the planet, let alone the news itself, it does seem this particular protest was less about the damage we are doing to the environment and more how 80%+ of our national newspapers are owned by just three companies, News UK Newspapers, part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, being the largest. This is without doubt a poor state of affairs but blocking the newspapers you don’t like doesn’t feel like much of a solution, at least to this pseudonymous nobody. More worrying for XR perhaps is how their cause is increasingly being piggybacked by other agendas which, while undoubtedly important and justified, risk turning the group into merely another unfocused hard-left outfit.
Anyway, putting real life to one side for ten minutes (or 4-5 hours, if you’re me typing this) here’s my solution for this week’s puzzle for anyone who does their Jumbo Cryptics online, or who were able to get a copy (hat-tip to my local corner shop, who very kindly let me have the parts of the paper that did arrive), or for those who are curious of what they missed, or for those who have bought The Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword Book 23 in 2024 and are wondering 1) why it’s 40°C outside in September, 2) whatever happened to Extinction Rebellion, and 3) how on earth 10a is ABBOT.
As ever you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful. Meanwhile, there’s other stuff knocking about the place: further solutions can be found on my Just For Fun page, there’s some dusty old book reviews and a story of mine.
Till next time (which will be a few days late as I’ll be away from my laptop next weekend, lockdowns permitting), take care, mask up and keep the flag flying for NHS and key workers everywhere.
1. Biting as Arctic’s winds (9)
Answer: SARCASTIC (i.e. “biting”). “Winds” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AS ARCTIC’S. Nicely worked.
6. Supplier of ecstasy to be our sponsor, it’s said (7)
Answer: BACCHUS (i.e. “supplier of ecstasy”, specifically, according to Wikipedia, “the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking and wine, of fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre”… that’s one hell of a business card). “It’s said” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of BACK US (i.e. “be our sponsor”).
10. Superior rating given to second-rate back (5)
Answer: ABBOT (i.e. “superior” in charge of an abbey). Solution is AB (i.e. “rating”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Able-Bodied, a rating given to skilled sailors marking them above ordinary sailors) followed by TO and B (i.e. “second-rate”, or B-grade) once these latter two have been reversed (indicated by “back”), like so: AB-(B-OT).
13. With energy, note, old German chaser’s a stayer (7)
Answer: ENDURER (i.e. “stayer”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”) followed by N (ditto “note”) and Albrecht DURER (i.e. “old German” artist and theorist). I believe “chaser” merely means DURER is placed after E and N, but I might have missed something clever.
[EDIT: Ong’ara comes up with the goods in the comments, highlighting that an alternative meaning of “chase” is to decorate by engraving, a discipline that Durer had dabbled in. Thanks, Ong’ara! – LP]
14. Explosive start setting one back a bit (5)
Answer: NITRO (i.e. “explosive”). Solution is INTRO (i.e. “start”) with the I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) moved “back a bit”, like so: (I)NTRO => N(I)TRO.
15. Close one’s rubbish bin – huge odour after emptying! (9)
Answer: NEIGHBOUR (i.e. “close one”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “rubbish”) of BIN HUGE and OR (i.e. “odour after emptying”, i.e. the word “odour” with all its middle letters removed).
16. Seize chance to stop working with metal piping? (6,5,3,4,2,3)
Answer: STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT (i.e. “seize chance”). Solution is STRIKE (i.e. “to stop working”) followed by WHILE THE IRON IS HOT (i.e. “with metal piping [hot]”).
17. Big cat seeing gap, quietly escaping into yard, briefly (6)
Answer: COUGAR (i.e. “big cat”). Solution is GAP with the P removed (indicated by “quietly escaping” – P being a recognised abbreviation of “piano”, or quietly in musical lingo) placed into COURT (i.e. “yard”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”), like so: COU(GA)R.
18. Old statesman rarely any take to at first (8)
Answer: Jomo KENYATTA, former Prime Minister and President of Kenya (i.e. “old statesman”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “rarely”) of ANY TAKE and T (i.e. “to at first”, i.e. the first letter of “to”).
19. One selling joints in bar in Montmarte, not cheap (7)
Answer: BUTCHER (i.e. “one selling joints” of meat). Solution is BUT (i.e. “bar”, as in “best bar none”) followed by CHER (i.e. “in Montmarte, not cheap”, i.e. the French for “dear” – the use of other languages by setters to get the job done gets a bit tiresome in these things from time to time, but this is at least a word supported by my Chambers. Not sure I’m pretentious enough to use it, mind).
22. Lots of ladies, perhaps, one visiting old grandmother of Samuel (10)
Answer: JOHNSONIAN (i.e. “of [Dr] Samuel” Johnson, lexicographer and memorable guest star of Blackadder The Third). Solution is JOHNS (i.e. “lots of ladies, perhaps” – other flavours of toilet are available) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) once it has been placed in or “visiting” O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and NAN (i.e. “grandmother”), like so: JOHNS-O-N(I)AN.
23. Bearing wine: unfamiliar accompaniment to duty-free purchase? (7,5)
Answer: AIRPORT NOVEL (i.e. “accompaniment to duty-free purchase”). Solution is AIR (i.e. “bearing”) followed by PORT (i.e. “wine”) and NOVEL (i.e. “unfamiliar”).
27. Foreign drama that’s painful under any circumstances (5)
Answer: NOHOW (i.e. “under any circumstances” – the definition for this is “in no way”, which seems entirely the opposite, but then my brain isn’t especially great at double-negatives). Solution is NOH (i.e. “foreign drama”, specifically a traditional Japanese drama) followed by OW (i.e. “that’s painful”).
29. In line, getting reading to be picked up (7)
Answer: QUEUING (i.e. “in line”). “Picked up” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of CUEING. I can’t help thinking there’s a typo in this clue; that it should read “getting ready” rather than “getting reading”. Happy to be corrected otherwise.
30. Motivating force behind religious teaching one runs in SE Asia (3,5)
Answer: RED RIVER (i.e. “one runs in SE Asia”, and most other parts of the world it seems). Solution is RE (i.e. “religious teaching”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of Religious Education”) with DRIVER (i.e. “motivating force”) placed “behind” it, like so: RE-DRIVER.
32. Capital Radio presenter blocking call and not available (8)
Answer: NDJAMENA (i.e. “capital” of Chad). Solution is DJ (i.e. “radio presenter” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) placed in or “blocking” NAME (i.e. “call”) and followed by N/A (i.e. “not available), like so: N(DJ)AME-N/A.
34. Be effective after all, maybe, protecting large layer of skin (7)
Answer: CUTICLE (i.e. “layer of skin”). Solution is CUT ICE (i.e. “be effective after all, maybe” – the phrase “cut no ice” means to be ineffective) wrapped around or “protecting” L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”), like so: CUT-IC(L)E.
36. Students gathering for one drink (5)
Answer: NEGUS (i.e. “drink”, specifically “a drink of port or sherry mixed with hot water, sweetened and spiced” (Chambers)). Solution is NUS (i.e. “students” – specifically the National Union of Students) wrapped around or “gathering” EG (i.e. “for one”, as in “for example”), like so: N(EG)US.
39. Folk with primitive homes: all deserve modernising with WC (4-8)
Answer: CAVE-DWELLERS (i.e. “folk with primitive homes”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “modernising”) of ALL DESERVE and WC.
41. One in haste cut sticks to deliver huge blows (10)
Answer: HURRICANES (i.e. “huge blows”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed “in” between HURRY (i.e. “haste”) once its last letter has been removed (indicated by “cut”) and CANES (i.e. “sticks”), like so: HURR-(I)-CANES.
44. Writer embracing year performing as poet (7)
Answer: BYRONIC (i.e. “as poet”, specifically as Lord Byron). Solution is BIC (i.e. “writer”, i.e. a Bic biro) wrapped around or “embracing” YR (a recognised abbreviation of “year”) and ON (i.e. “performing”), like so: B(YR-ON)IC.
46. Appropriate to put on a very loud alarm (8)
Answer: AFFRIGHT (i.e. “alarm”). Solution is RIGHT (i.e. “appropriate”) placed “on” or after A and FF (i.e. “very loud”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “fortissimo” in musical lingo), like so: A-FF-RIGHT.
48. Soft, ultimately tuneless humming (6)
Answer: SPONGY (i.e. “soft”). Solution is S (i.e. “ultimately tuneless”, i.e. the last letter of “tuneless”) followed by PONGY (i.e. “humming”).
50. Do colours? I polish crucifix ring fits inside, to be exact (3,4,2,3,5,4,2)
Answer: DOT ONES IS AND CROSS ONES TS (i.e. “to be exact”). Solution is DO followed by TONES (i.e. “colours”), then I, then SAND (i.e. “polish”), then CROSS (i.e. “crucifix”), then O (i.e. “ring”) and NESTS (i.e. “fits inside”), like so: DO-TONES-I-SAND-CROSS-O-NESTS. Blimey!
53. Rocket, perhaps, that has wartime success within reach? (9)
Answer: VEGETABLE (i.e. “rocket, perhaps”). Solution is VE (i.e. “wartime success”, specifically Victory in Europe) followed by GETABLE (i.e. “within reach”).
54. Triumphant cry on clinching record, that’s followed by “Bravo” (5)
Answer: ALPHA (i.e. “that’s followed by “Bravo”” in the phonetic alphabet). Solution is AHA (i.e. “triumphant cry”) wrapped around or “clinching” LP (i.e. “record”), like so: A(LP)HA.
55. Shakespearean jester, one sharing top billing with duke (7)
Answer: COSTARD (i.e. “Shakespearean jester”, specifically a comic figure in Love’s Labour’s Lost who, incidentally, uses the word honorificabilitudinitatibus in Act V – another reason why I’ll never make it as a stage actor). Solution is CO-STAR (i.e. “one sharing top billing”) followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “duke”).
56. Period before series concluded (3-2)
Answer: RUN-UP (i.e. “period before”). Solution is RUN (i.e. “series”) followed by UP (i.e. “concluded”).
57. Repeat xray that’s distorted on one side (2,5)
Answer: EX PARTE (i.e. “on one side” only, from the Latin and used in legalese). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “that’s distorted”) of REPEAT and X (i.e. “xray” in the phonetic alphabet”).
58. Vanquish, having finished with commanding position (9)
Answer: OVERWHELM (i.e. “vanquish”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “having finished”) followed by W (a recognised abbreviation of “with”) and HELM (i.e. “commanding position”).
1. Mends fencing in king’s colours (5)
Answer: SKEWS (i.e. “colours”). Solution is SEWS (i.e. “mends”) wrapped around or “fencing in” K (a recognised abbreviation of “king”), like so: S(K)EWS.
2. To be cavalier with good horse, very hurried training required (4,9,4)
Answer: RIDE ROUGHSHOD OVER (i.e. “to be cavalier with”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “training required”) of GOOD HORSE, V (a recognised abbreviation of “very”) and HURRIED.
3. Language review is a frank assessment, primarily (9)
Answer: AFRIKAANS (i.e. “language”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “review”) of IS A FRANK and A (i.e. “assessment, primarily”, i.e. the first letter of “assessment”).
4. Reading, perhaps, absorbing personnel in cast (6)
Answer: THROWN (i.e. “cast”). Solution is TOWN (i.e. “Reading, perhaps”) wrapped around or “absorbing” HR (i.e. “personnel”, i.e. Human Resources), like so: T(HR)OWN.
5. Kind of legal position for player in case (11)
Answer: CONSIDERATE (i.e. “kind”). Solution is ONSIDE (i.e. “legal position for player”) placed “in” CRATE (i.e. “case”), like so: C(ONSIDE)RATE.
6. I’ll be seeing you around Thursday, in passing (2,3,3)
Answer: BY THE BYE (i.e. “in passing” – can be spelled BY or BYE). Solution is BYE-BYE (i.e. “I’ll be seeing you”) wrapped “around” TH (a recognised abbreviation of “Thursday”), like so: BY(TH)E-BYE.
7. Way to make up yarn of note, not the first time (7)
Answer: CROCHET (i.e. “way to make up yarn”). Solution is CROTCHET (i.e. “[musical] note”) with the first T removed (indicated by “not the first time” – T being a recognised abbreviation of “time”).
8. Deliver one international player to each sporting official (11)
Answer: HANDICAPPER (i.e. “sporting official”). Solution is HAND (i.e. “deliver”) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), then CAP (i.e. “international player”) and PER (i.e. “to each”).
9. One visibly upset crossing mountain, meeting British person descending it? (9)
Answer: SKIBOBBER (i.e. “person descending [mountain]”). Solution is SOBBER (i.e. “one visibly upset”) wrapped around KI (i.e. “mountain”, specifically K1 in Pakistan with the 1 replaced by I) and B (a recognised abbreviation of “British”), like so: S(KI-B)OBBER.
10. Seeing a crime being committed possibly, but not believing (7)
Answer: ATHEIST (i.e. “not believing”). When written as AT HEIST, the solution also satisfies “seeing a crime being committed possibly”.
11. Some raised cash to oblige assassin (5)
Answer: John Wilkes BOOTH (i.e. “assassin” who killed Abraham Lincoln). “Some” indicates the solution has been hidden in the clue, while “raised” indicates the solution has been reversed – this being a down clue – like so: CAS(H TO OB)LIGE.
12. Act utterly crazily – not unknown to be upset (4,6)
Answer: TURN TURTLE (i.e. “to be upset”, as in turning a turtle over onto its shell, rendering it helpless). Solution is TURN (i.e. “act” or performance) followed by an anagram (indicated by “crazily”) of UTTERLY once the Y has been removed (indicated by “not unknown” – setters love referring to X, Y or Z in their solutions as unknowns).
17. One living in southern US around early summer (5)
Answer: CAJUN (i.e. “one living in southern US”). Solution is CA (i.e. “around”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “circa”) followed by JUN (i.e. “early summer”, as in a shortened form of June).
20. Individual’s own urge to confront hosts gets to look stupid (4,3,2,4,4)
Answer: HAVE EGG ON ONES FACE (i.e. “look stupid”). A bit of a clunky mess, this one. Rather than follow the phrasing of the clue, I’ll merely point out the individual bits, i.e. HAVE (i.e. “hosts”), EGG ON (i.e. “urge”), ONE’S (i.e. “own”) and FACE (i.e. “to confront”).
21. Where we learn which of our neighbours is special (6)
Answer: UNIQUE (i.e. “special”). Solution is UNI (i.e. “where we learn”, as in a shortened form of university) followed by QUE (i.e. “which of our neighbours”, i.e. the French for “which”).
24. Leave time to visit trendy, small bars (6)
Answer: INGOTS (i.e. “bars”). Solution is GO (i.e. “leave”) and T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”) placed in or “visiting” IN (i.e. “trendy”) and S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”), like so: IN-(GO-T)-S.
25. New, excellent service gets you to Scottish destination (5)
Answer: NAIRN (i.e. a “Scottish destination”). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) followed by AI (i.e. “excellent”, i.e. A1 with the 1 replaced by I) and RN (i.e. “service”, specifically the Royal Navy).
26. Wheels put together with track one assembled (3,3)
Answer: KIT CAR (i.e. “wheels put together”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “assembled”) of TRACK and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”).
28. Open country show – hope grandma will attend, finally (5)
Answer: WEALD (i.e. “open country”). “Finally” indicates that the solution is derived from the last letters of SHOW HOPE GRANDMA WILL ATTEND.
31. Flat, shell-like blocks in need of water? (6)
Answer: DREARY (i.e. “flat”). Solution is EAR (i.e. “shell-like”) placed in or “blocking” DRY (i.e. “in need of water”), like so: DR(EAR)Y.
33. Winning the lot, Bill tends to get emotional (1,5,5)
Answer: A CLEAN SWEEP (i.e. “winning the lot”). Solution is AC (i.e. “bill”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “account” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) followed by LEANS (i.e. “tends”) and WEEP (i.e. “to get emotional”).
35. Shiftless viewer specifically into You Tubers? (5,6)
Answer: COUCH POTATO (i.e. “shiftless viewer”). Not fully on board with this one, I’m afraid. I get that tubers gets you POTATO, but that’s about it from me.
[EDIT: Upon reflection, I think there’s nothing more to this one than potatoes = tubers and that the setter is merely cracking wise. (Sighs. Shrugs shoulders.) – LP]
37. Weakling is first, say? Nothing odd in that (5)
Answer: SISSY (i.e. “weakling”). “Nothing odd in that” indicates the solution can be derived by taking every other letter of IS FIRST SAY.
38. Copper, corrupt, one has arrested by senior underworld investigator in suit? (5,5)
Answer: SCUBA DIVER (i.e. “underworld investigator in suit”). Solution is CU (chemical symbol of “copper”), BAD (i.e. “corrupt”) and I’VE (i.e. “one has”, i.e. a contraction of “I have”) all placed in or “arrested by” SR (a recognised abbreviation of “senior”), like so: S(CU-BAD-I’VE)R.
40. Sporting saxe blue cape not such a crime! (9)
Answer: EXCUSABLE (i.e. “not such a crime”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “sporting”) of SAXE BLUE and C (a recognised abbreviation of “Cape”).
42. Wife, under arrest in Grammar School, with a sharp object (6,3)
Answer: COPING SAW (i.e. “a sharp object” used to cut curves). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”) placed after or “under” – this being a down clue – COP (i.e. “arrest”), IN, GS (a recognised abbreviation of “Grammar School”), W (ditto “with”) and A, like so: (COP-IN-GS-A)W.
43. A viewer of EastEnders Christmas special? (5,3)
Answer: MINCE PIE. Solution satisfies “Christmas special” and “a viewer of EastEnders”, as in the cockney rhyming slang for “eye”. Nicely worked.
45. Reflected on points put by, say, Cork Express (7)
Answer: NONSTOP (i.e. “express”). Solution is NO (i.e. “reflected on”, i.e. the word “on” reversed) followed by NS (i.e. “points”, specifically recognised abbreviations of north and south) and TOP (i.e. “cork” – ignore the misleading capitalisation).
47. Stuff in the end not just a source of amusement (7)
Answer: FUNFAIR (i.e. “a source of amusement”). Solution is F (i.e. “stuff in the end”, i.e. the last letter of “stuff”) followed by UNFAIR (i.e. “not just”).
49. Autopsy check’s far from complete, mind (6)
Answer: PSYCHE (i.e. “mind”). “Far from complete” indicates the solution has been hidden in the clue, like so: AUTO(PSY CHE)CK.
51. Cross when hearing match lost (5)
Answer: TIGON (i.e. a “cross” between a tiger and lion created purely because some heartless sods thought “why not?”. Ditto ligers.) “When hearing” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of TIE GONE (i.e. “match lost”).
52. Instant good advice to follow up in place of evil? (5)
Answer: SODOM (i.e. “place of evil”). Solution is MO (i.e. “instant” or moment) followed by DOS (i.e. “good advice”, as in dos and don’ts). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “to follow up” – this being a down clue”), like so: SOD-OM.