A medium-to-tough offering this week that managed to get so far up my nose it could have taken a swab test. There were a handful of really good clues, but overall this was not for me. Expect swears.
You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful, despite the grumpiness. While you are here, I’ve curated links to solutions for the last 100+ of these things on my Just For Fun page, should a recent puzzle have you stumped. I’ve also got some mouldy old book reviews and a story of mine.
I hope the start of Lockdown II finds you well, or at least as well as can be expected. As ever, stay safe, mask up and keep supporting NHS and key workers everywhere. We could be in this for the long haul.
- City rivals swallowing drink after drink in case (11)
Answer: PORTMANTEAU (i.e. “case”). Solution is MAN U (i.e. “city rivals” – straight out of the blocks we get a flavour of some of the slack clueing we’re in for this week. I often make fun of stiff grammarians in these posts, but I do acknowledge the importance of grammar in clarifying the written word. The way this clue has been written is wilfully misleading, suggesting more than one city rival is going to appear in the solution, the city rivals in this case being Manchester United and Manchester City football clubs. Misdirection may be a setter’s stock in trade, but it should also remain within the rules. To those who’d argue Manchester United is a multitude of players, management staff, fans etc, I would point out they collectively comprise a team, i.e. a single entity. The clue therefore ought to have been written as “city rival”. (Heavy sigh.) Meanwhile the world keeps spinning…) wrapped around or “swallowing” TEA and the whole then placed “after” PORT (i.e. another “drink”), like so: PORT-(MAN-(TEA)-U).
- Beaten by elements in war, where not in formation (11)
Answer: WEATHERWORN (i.e. “beaten by elements”). “In formation” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WAR WHERE NOT.
- One checks pulse or pulses after bad actor recoiled (17)
Answer: ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (i.e. “one checks pulse”). Solution is GRAM (i.e. “pulses” – an alternative meaning of the word is “the chickpea” (Chambers). My Oxford dictionary goes further, helpfully indicating the word also works a mass noun, so wouldn’t be GRAMS) placed “after” an anagram (indicated by “bad”) of ACTOR RECOILED, like so: ELECTROCARDIO-GRAM.
- Graceful female enters river from the east (5)
Answer: ELFIN (i.e. “graceful” – again, too slack. The dictionaries I have centre around “small, delicate and (mischievously) charming” or a butterfly, for the lepidopterists out there. My Bradford’s, meanwhile, will have none of it. You could argue the thinnest of links to “graceful” through “charming”, but not for this pseudonymous nobody. Ugh. Back to setter school with you.) Solution is F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) placed in NILE (i.e. “river”) once this has been reversed (indicated by “from the east” – this being an across clue), like so: EL(F)IN.
- One Communist enforcer somewhere in Europe (6)
Answer: IBERIA (i.e. “somewhere in Europe”, being Spain and Portugal collectively). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) followed by Lavrentiy BERIA (i.e. a “Communist enforcer” who was one of Stalin’s most influential secret police chiefs and was responsible, among other atrocities, for wartime massacres, the vast expansion of gulags in post-war Russia and who was eventually executed on charges of over 350 counts of rape and treason. Nice guy he was not. It’s bad enough that the setter thought it fine to memorialise this fucker in one of the clues, but that the puzzles editor of The Times, with a number of Jumbos lined up in advance, don’t forget, considered it acceptable to publish this over Remembrance weekend beggars belief.)
- Theatre hands round account showing revenge (8)
Answer: REPRISAL (i.e. “revenge”). Solution is REP (i.e. “theatre”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a repertory theatre) followed by R and L (i.e. “hands” – specifically recognised abbreviations of “right” and “left”) once these have been placed “round” ISA (i.e. “account”, specifically an Individual Savings Account, a tax efficient savings account available here in the UK), like so: REP-R(ISA)L.
- Unknown speed trap’s without siren, perhaps (7)
Answer: NYMPHET (i.e. “siren, perhaps” – other mythical temptresses are available). Solution is Y (i.e. “unknown” – setters cannot resist referring to X Y or Z in solutions as “unknowns”) and MPH (i.e. “speed”, specifically Miles Per Hour) with NET (i.e. “trap”) placed around or “without” them, like so: N(Y-MPH)ET.
- Real logic set out in the form of a parable, say (9)
Answer: ALLEGORIC (i.e. “in the form of a parable, say”). “Set out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of REAL LOGIC.
- Appeal about maintaining virtue in retirement (8)
Answer: EMERITUS (i.e. “in retirement”, often from academia). Solution is SUE (i.e. to apply, plead or “appeal” – again, too wilfully slack for my liking) reversed (indicated by “about”) and wrapped around or “maintaining” MERIT (i.e. “virtue”), like so: E(MERIT)US.
- Cockney’s bum note, one in orchestra (4)
Answer: OBOE (i.e. “one in orchestra”. An orchestra is “a large company of musicians” (Chambers) so I’m guessing this is one of those magic oboes that can play all by themselves. Again, slack.) Solution is HOBO (i.e. “bum”) with the H removed (indicated by “Cockney”, as in how they’re forever dropping their bleedin’ aitches, not to mention incorrectly using “was” with such frequency it makes you wonder whether they were taught it in school) followed by E (i.e. “[musical] note”), like so: OBO-E.
- Spades held back in grassy plant borders (5)
Answer: EDGES (i.e. “borders”). Solution is SEDGE (i.e. “grassy plant”) with the S (a recognised abbreviation of “spades” used in some card games) “held back” to the end, like so: (S)EDGE => EDGE(S).
- Slate sample in store (6)
Answer: PANTRY (i.e. “store”). Solution is PAN (i.e. to criticise or “slate”) followed by TRY (i.e. to “sample” something).
- Cow’s close, suppressing instinctive urges (10)
Answer: INTIMIDATE (i.e. to bully or “cow” someone). Solution is INTIMATE (i.e. “close”) wrapped around or “suppressing” ID (i.e. “instinctive urges”, one of the parts of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory), like so: INTIM(ID)ATE.
- Not great jockeys in shape (8)
Answer: TETRAGON (i.e. “shape”). “Jockeys” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NOT GREAT.
- Supply fashion garments after working in northern town (8-2-4)
Answer: STOCKTON-ON-TEES (i.e. “northern town”). Solution is STOCK (i.e. “supply”) followed by TON (i.e. “fashion” – another favourite play of setters, and a valid definition of “ton”, but I’m still to see it used in the wild) and TEES (i.e. “garments”, specifically T-shirts) once this latter has been placed “after” ON (i.e. “working”), like so: STOCK-TON-(ON)-TEES.
- One disdainful about people arriving at top London location (8,6)
Answer: SPEAKERS CORNER (i.e. “London location”). Solution is SCORNER (i.e. “one disdainful”) wrapped “about” PEAKERS (i.e. “people arriving at top”), like so: S(PEAKERS)CORNER.
- Less than a couple, moving with current (8)
Answer: UNDERTOW (i.e. “current” beneath the water’s surface). Solution is UNDER (i.e. “less than”) followed by TWO (i.e. “a couple”) with the W (a recognised abbreviation of “with”) “moved”, like so: UNDER-T(W)O => UNDER-TO(W).
- Mostly toxic substance, name for fuel (10)
Answer: ANTHRACITE (i.e. “fuel”). Solution is ANTHRAX (i.e. “toxic substance”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and the remainder followed by CITE (i.e. “name”), like so: ANTHRA-CITE. One I remembered from a previous puzzle, if I’m honest.
- Mended coats tailor vacuously left here and there (6)
Answer: STREWN (i.e. “left here and there”). Solution is SEWN (i.e. “mended”) wrapped around or “coating” TR (i.e. “tailor vacuously”, i.e. the word “tailor” with its middle letters removed), like so: S(TR)EWN.
- Officer no longer receiving a raise (5)
Answer: EXALT (i.e. “raise”). Solution is EX-LT (i.e. “officer no longer” – Lt being a recognised abbreviation of “lieutenant”) wrapped around or “receiving” A, like so: EX-(A)-LT.
- Pods round ship heading west (4)
Answer: OKRA (i.e. “pods” of an edible tropical plant of the same name). Solution is O (i.e. “round”) followed by ARK (i.e. “ship”) reversed (indicated by “heading west” – this being an across clue), like so: O-KRA.
- Familiar with animal’s home around lawn, say (8)
Answer: MATERIAL (i.e. “lawn, say” – Chambers offers “a sort of fine linen or cambric”). Solution is MATE (i.e. “familiar” in its noun form – Chambers again: “a person with whom one is well or long acquainted”) followed by LAIR (i.e. “animal’s home”) once this latter has been reversed (indicated by “around”), like so: MATE-RIAL.
- Maybe saw manufacturer’s fixed motor with leak (9)
Answer: TOOLMAKER (i.e. “maybe saw manufacturer”). “Fixed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MOTOR and LEAK.
- Official stops work in plant (7)
Answer: TREFOIL (i.e. “plant” – chalk one to my Bradford’s here. I can seldom be arsed applying much brainpower when setters resort to using plants in their grids). Solution is REF (i.e. “official”) placed in or “stopping” TOIL (i.e. “work”), like so: T(REF)OIL.
- Cheaply con one lady out of publicity (8)
Answer: STINGILY (i.e. “cheaply”). Solution is STING (i.e. “con”) followed by I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and LY (i.e. “lady out of publicity”, i.e. the word LADY with the AD removed, an ad being a shortened form of an advertisement).
- Wrong exam before lunch? (6)
Answer: AMORAL (i.e. “wrong”). When written as AM ORAL the solution also satisfies “exam before lunch”.
- Scrap of fruit and shell of hazelnut (5)
Answer: FIGHT (i.e. “scrap”). Solution is FIG (i.e. “fruit”) followed by HT (i.e. “shell of hazelnut”, i.e. the first and last letters of “hazelnut”).
- Love smooth winger’s passes in game (7,3,7)
Answer: NOUGHTS AND CROSSES (i.e. “game”). Solution is NOUGHT (i.e. “love”, as in a zero score in tennis) followed by SAND (i.e. to “smooth” e.g. some wood) followed by CROSSES (i.e. “winger’s passes” in a game of football).
- Exactly how Generation Rent is obligated? (2,3,6)
Answer: TO THE LETTER. Solution satisfies “exactly” and “how Generation Rent is obligated”, a letter being a landlord.
- Prodigal son has power to stop the endless conflict (11)
Answer: SPENDTHRIFT (i.e. “prodigal”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) followed by P (ditto “power”), then END (i.e. “to stop”), then TH (i.e. “the endless”, i.e. the word “the” with its final letter removed) and finally RIFT (i.e. “conflict”), like so: S-P-END-TH-RIFT. Nicely done.
- Divine, eating the last word in jam (11)
Answer: PREDICAMENT (i.e. “jam” or sticky situation). Solution is PREDICT (i.e. to “divine”) wrapped around or “eating” AMEN (i.e. “the last word”), like so: PREDIC(AMEN)T.
- Bird’s old beak (5)
Answer: REEVE. Solution satisfies “bird” and “old beak” – a “beak” being slang for a judge. One definition of reeve is “[historical] chief magistrate of a district” (Chambers)).
- Issue about dry home’s rugs etc. (7)
Answer: MATTING (i.e. “rugs etc”). Solution is MAG (i.e. “issue”, i.e. a magazine) wrapped “about” TT (i.e. “dry”, being a recognised abbreviation of “teetotal”) and IN (i.e. at “home”), like so: MA(TT-IN)G.
- Revolutionary happening upon fine shelter (4)
Answer: NOOK (i.e. “shelter”). Solution is ON (i.e. “happening”) reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”) and followed by OK (i.e. “fine”), like so: NO-OK.
- Passing vehicle in the middle of deep trail (10)
Answer: EVANESCENT (i.e. “passing”). Solution is VAN (i.e. “vehicle”) placed “in” EE (i.e. “middle [two letters] of dEEp”) and followed by SCENT (i.e. “trail”), like so: E(VAN)E-SCENT.
- Official resurrected any careers (14)
Answer: UNDERSECRETARY (i.e. “official”). “Careers” indicates anagram, as in running or dashing. Solution is an anagram of RESURRECTED ANY.
- Duke has scrap behind court building (8)
Answer: WOODSHED (i.e. “building”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “duke”) and SHED (i.e. to “scrap” or abandon something) both placed after or “behind” WOO (i.e. to “court”), like so: (WOO)-D-SHED.
- Girl lowers cap touching the ears? (5)
Answer: AURAL (i.e. relating to or “touching [on] the ears”). Solution is LAURA (i.e. “girl”) with the initial letter or “cap” “lowered” to the end – this being a down clue, like so: (L)AURA => AURA(L).
- Little people in hospital developing inoculum (9)
Answer: HOMUNCULI (i.e. “little people”, plural of homunculus; a dwarf or manikin). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hospital”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “developing”) of INOCULUM, like so: H-OMUNCULI. Nicely worked.
- Lots of leaves picked up in cathedral city (6)
Answer: RHEIMS (i.e. “cathedral city” in France). “Picked up” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of RHYMES (i.e. “lots of leaves” – RIME can be a variant form of REAM, one meaning of which being a whole bunch of paper).
[EDIT: Thanks to Sue in the comments for pointing out RHEIMS is pronounced REAMS anyway, and so works as a direct homophone. Cheers, Sue! – LP]
- Syncopated, say, in French song in odd places (3,3,6,5)
Answer: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK (i.e. “in odd places”). Solution is OFF THE BEAT (i.e. “syncopated, say” – off to Chambers again: “to alter the rhythm of (music, etc) temporarily by transferring the accent to a normally unaccented beat”. Yup. Exactly what I was going to say. (Looks to camera.)) followed by EN (i.e. “in French”, i.e. the French for “in”) and TRACK (i.e. “song”).
- Not a single girl wearing cape still (11)
Answer: NONETHELESS (i.e. “still”). Solution is NO (i.e. “not a single” – Chambers accepts “not any” and “not one” under a variant sense of the word NO) followed by ETHEL (i.e. “girl”) once placed in or “wearing” NESS (i.e. “cape”, as in the geographic feature), like so: NO-N(ETHEL)ESS.
- Opening in building with raised cross-piece? (4-4)
Answer: TRAP-DOOR (i.e. “opening in building” often flush with a surface, e.g. that found on a theatre stage. Note, not an opening to a building. That would be a rather harsh way of garnering footfall). Solution is ROOD PART (i.e. “cross-piece” – rood is another word for Christ’s cross) all reversed (indicated by “raised” – this being a down clue).
- Combatant one quickly smashed, admitting confusion (5,12)
Answer: LIGHT WELTERWEIGHT (i.e. “combatant” in boxing). Solution is LIGHTWEIGHT (i.e. “one quickly smashed” or intoxicated) wrapped around or “admitting” WELTER (i.e. “confusion”), like so: LIGHT(WELTER)WEIGHT.
- Burn coal, not its top (6)
Answer: IGNITE (i.e. “burn”). Solution is LIGNITE (i.e. brown “coal”, technically almost-but-not-quite-yet coal) with its initial letter removed (indicated by “not its top”). Solution was obvious but needed a quick dip into my Bradford’s to narrow the 25-1 odds of guessing the right initial letter to remove.
- From capital city in France, runs away during struggle (8)
Answer: VIENNESE (i.e. “from capital” of Austria). Solution is RENNES (i.e. “city in France”) with the R removed (indicated by “runs away” – R being a recognised abbreviation of “runs” used in a number of ball games) and the remainder placed “during” VIE (i.e. “struggle”), like so: VI(ENNES)E.
- Onlookers surrounding king revealing all (8)
Answer: STARKERS (i.e. “revealing all”). Solution is STARERS (i.e. “onlookers”) wrapped around or “surrounding” K (a recognised abbreviation of “king”), like so: STAR(K)ERS.
- Believers in sect losing it, so silly! (14)
Answer: SCIENTOLOGISTS (i.e. “believers”). “Silly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SECT LOSING IT SO. Best clue this week by a country mile. Very nicely worked!
- Unacceptable news about priestess without working alliance (3-5)
Answer: NON-UNION (i.e. “without working alliance”). Solution is NON-U (i.e. something that is “unacceptable” in the eyes of posh nobs) followed by N and N (recognised abbreviation of “new”, the plural of which being “news”) wrapped around IO (i.e. “priestess” of Greek mythology), like so: (NON-U)-N(IO)N. One for the Eton set, there.
- Female nursing pet once hurt (6)
Answer: SCATHE (i.e. “once hurt”, referring to how this word would more commonly appear in older texts). Solution is SHE (i.e. “female”) wrapped around or “nursing” CAT (i.e. “pet”), like so: S(CAT)HE.
- See red drunk recover quickly (4,3,2,2)
Answer: SNAP OUT OF IT (i.e. “recover quickly”). Solution is SNAP (i.e. “see red”, a bit like a certain solver this week) followed by OUT OF IT (i.e. “drunk”, a bit like a certain solver in a couple of hours’ time).
- Smallest room in ruined castle tower (5,6)
Answer: WATER CLOSET (i.e. the “smallest room” of the house). “Ruined” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CASTLE TOWER.
- Splenetic European concocted serious complaint (10)
Answer: PESTILENCE (i.e. disease or “serious complaint”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “concocted”) of SPLENETIC followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”).
- Tax measure brought back, cutting a little money (9)
Answer: CHALLENGE (i.e. to “tax”). Solution is ELL (i.e. “measure”, specifically “a varying measure of length originally taken from the arm” (Chambers). Probably explains why there isn’t a single proper right-angle in my house) reversed (indicated by “brought back”) and placed in or “cutting” CHANGE (i.e. “a little money”), like so: CHA(LLE)NGE.
- One crossing the line in interrupting Peter, say (8)
Answer: FINISHER (i.e. “one crossing the [finishing] line”). Solution is IN placed in or “interrupting” FISHER (i.e. “Peter, say”, referring to Saint Peter, a former fisherman who makes several guest appearances in the New Testament of The Bible).
- A distance covered by insect is huge (7)
Answer: MAMMOTH (i.e. “huge”). Solution is A and MM (i.e. “distance”, being a recognised abbreviation of a millimetre) both placed in or “covered by” MOTH (i.e. “insect”), like so: M(A-MM)OTH.
- Small men join in trip (6)
Answer: SORTIE (i.e. “trip”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”) followed by OR (i.e. “men”, specifically the Other Ranks of the British Army) and TIE (i.e. “join”).
- Check development of attention-seeking exploit (5)
Answer: STUNT. Solution satisfies to stop or “check development” and “attention-seeking exploit”.
- Sage European bringing down leader (5)
Answer: RISHI (i.e. “sage” or poet, from the Sanskrit). Solution is similar to 8d, with the first letter or “leader” of IRISH (i.e. “European”) being “brought down” to the end – this being a down clue – like so: (I)RISH => RISH(I).
- Bitter is an intoxicating substance (4)
Answer: ACID. Solution satisfies “bitter” and “intoxicating substance”.