A simpler ride this week, though this could be a case of me being more familiar with some of the exotic solutions. As has been noted, “it’s only easy if you know it”. Still, there was some nice clueing on display. (And maybe we’re being softened up for a Boxing Day stinker.)
As ever, you can find my completed solution below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful. You can find links to solutions for the last 100+ of these things on my Just For Fun page, should a recent Jumbo have given you nightmares. Meanwhile there’s the usual dusty old book reviews and a story of mine.
Till next time, stay safe, mask up and keep supporting the NHS and key workers everywhere. If you have had to cancel Christmas this year, don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. My liver and kidneys would breathe a sigh of relief if, you know, they had lungs and stuff. Anyway, if you are at a loose end come the big day, swing on by and I might have a little something.
- Plan whiskey during vigil, fully alert (4-5)
Answer: WIDE-AWAKE (i.e. “fully alert”). Solution is IDEA (i.e. “plan”) and W (“whiskey” in the phonetic alphabet) both placed in or “during” WAKE (i.e. “vigil”), like so: W(IDEA-W)AKE.
- Cook hot flan? You bet (3,4)
Answer: NOT HALF (i.e. “you bet”, both expressions of agreement). “Cook” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HOT FLAN.
- Charlatan’s about to cover start of tough subject (5)
Answer: MATHS (i.e. “subject” at school or college). Solution is SHAM (i.e. “charlatan”) reversed (indicated by “about”) and wrapped around or “covering” T (i.e. “start [letter] of tough”), like so: MA(T)HS.
- First of trout caught by Paddy’s lure (7)
Answer: TEMPTER (i.e. “lure”). Solution is T (i.e. “first [letter] of trout”) placed in or “caught by” TEMPER (i.e. “paddy” – ignore the misleading capitalisation), like so: TEMP(T)ER.
- Box against Home Counties in Scottish centre (2,3)
Answer: TV SET (colloquially called the “box”). Solution is V (i.e. “against”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “versus”) and SE (i.e. “Home Counties”, a.k.a. the South East of England) both placed “in” TT (i.e. “Scottish centre”, i.e. the middle letters of ScoTTish), like so: T(V-SE)T.
- You can see one in zoo barking at gorilla (9)
Answer: ALLIGATOR (i.e. “you can see one in zoo”). “Barking” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AT GORILLA.
- It’s a wonder anything could grow there! (7,7,2,7)
Answer: HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON, one of the Seven “Wonders” Of The World. Experts reckon they were more likely to have been rooftop gardens than whacking great hanging baskets, which, no matter how you spin it, isn’t quite the same. I’d have asked for my money back. The Colossus of Rhodes was much more impressive, plus it had a souvenir shop.
- Build up a team by phone (6)
Answer: ACCRUE (i.e. “build up”). Solution is A followed by a homophone (indicated by “by phone”) of CREW (i.e. “team”).
- Regularly show up vulgar cook, at last, with one’s exotic dish (8)
Answer: SOUVLAKI (i.e. “exotic dish”, a “Greek dish of lamb, similar to a shish kebab” (Chambers). Sounds good to me.) Solution is SOUVLA (i.e. “regularly show up vulgar”, i.e. every other letter of SHOW UP VULGAR) followed by K (i.e. “cook, at last”, i.e. the last letter of “cook”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: SOUVLA-K-I. One I got purely from the wordplay, to be honest.
- Jerk splits stone, affecting his eyesight (7)
Answer: OPTICAL (i.e. relating to “eyesight”). Solution is TIC (i.e. “jerk”) placed in or “splitting” OPAL (i.e. “stone”), like so: OP(TIC)AL.
- Left before service talk’s prominent feature (7,3)
Answer: LANTERN JAW (i.e. “prominent feature”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) followed by ANTE (i.e. “before” in Latin), then RN (i.e. “service”, specifically the Royal Navy) and JAW (i.e. “talk”).
- Girl encountering an adder? That goes on in unseasonal weather (6,6)
Answer: INDIAN SUMMER (i.e. “unseasonal weather”). Solution is DI (i.e. “girl”, specifically a shortened form of Diana), AN and SUMMER (i.e. “adder” – think maths) all placed after or “on” IN, like so: IN-(DI-AN-SUMMER).
- It could supply mast, either sort (5)
Answer: BEECH. Clue plays on variant meanings of “mast”, one being a ruddy big pole stuck up on sailing ships, the other being the fruit of trees such as the beech. Nicely done.
- Old Ford’s ideal, right for advancement (7)
Answer: PREFECT (i.e. “old Ford” motor car). Solution is PERFECT (i.e. “ideal”) with the R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) moved along a notch (indicated by “for advancement”), like so: PE(R)FECT => P(R)EFECT. Hands up who would have preferred a Hitchhiker’s reference. Yeah, me too.
- Band hero a bundle of nerves (8)
Answer: GANGLION (i.e. “bundle of nerves” of the anatomical kind, rather than a fit of butterflies). Solution is GANG (i.e. “band”) followed by LION (i.e. “hero”). One I remembered from putting together The Floors, when I wanted something to help describe a big fizzing ball of anachronometric energy, without making up words like anachronometric. Predominantly relates to tumours and cysts if you do a Google Image search, so perhaps there were better contenders!
- One’s second strip of carpet lifted (6-2)
Answer: RUNNER-UP (i.e. “one’s second”). Solution is RUNNER (i.e. “strip of carpet” used in corridors and on staircases) followed by UP (i.e. “lifted”).
- Indian shelter made from porous material I raised (7)
Answer: WICKIUP (i.e. “Indian shelter”). Solution is WICK (i.e. “porous material”) followed by I and UP (i.e. “raised”). Chalk one to my Bradford’s here.
- Letters from Crete about large pile of rocks (5)
Answer: TALUS (i.e. “pile of rocks”). Solution is TAUS (i.e. “letters from Crete” – tau is the nineteenth letter of the Greek alphabet) wrapped “about” L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”), like so: TA(L)US.
- Painter’s tool sticks covering first of long shades (12)
Answer: ROLLERBLINDS (i.e. “shades”). Solution is ROLLER (i.e. “painter’s tool”) followed by BINDS (i.e. “sticks”) once wrapped around or “covering” L (i.e. “first [letter] of long”), like so: ROLLER-B(L)INDS.
- Who pulls teeth, perhaps, in privileged seclusion? (5,5)
Answer: IVORY TOWER (i.e. “privileged seclusion”). Clue plays on TOWER meaning “one who tows” or “pulls”, and tusks being made of IVORY – a tusk being a long protruding “tooth”. Nicely worked.
- Note name visiting smart MO in US (7)
Answer: TECHNIC (i.e. “MO in US” – MO being Modus Operandi, a method of working, while TECHNIC is basically another word for “technique”. My Oxford attributes use of TECHNIC chiefly to North America, though in which field I couldn’t say. You certainly don’t hear it much in the wild. Meanwhile, my Chambers makes no such geographical distinction. Anyway, I’m rambling…) Solution is TE (i.e. “note” in the do-ray-me fashion) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”) once placed in or “visiting” CHIC (i.e. “smart”), like so: TE-CH(N)IC.
- Seriously cut off location in fens (8)
Answer: SEVERELY (i.e. “seriously”). Solution is SEVER (i.e. “cut off”) followed by ELY (i.e. “location in fens”, a coastal plain in eastern England).
- Heritage prison set back within Londonderry’s walls (6)
Answer: LEGACY (i.e. “heritage”). Solution is CAGE (i.e. “prison”) reversed (indicated by “set back”) and placed “within” LY (i.e. “Londonderry’s walls”, i.e. the first and last letters of “Londonderry”), like so: L(EGAC)Y.
- North Korean warships went off to block progress (5,1,7,2,3,5)
Answer: THROW A SPANNER IN THE WORKS (i.e. “to block progress”). “Off” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NORTH KOREAN WARSHIPS WENT. Very nicely worked.
- Food and spirit for each old region of UK (9)
Answer: PEPPERONI (i.e. “food”). Solution is PEP (i.e. “spirit”) followed by PER (i.e. “for each”), then O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and NI (i.e. “region of UK”, specifically Northern Ireland).
- Ground taken back at end of Victorian era (5)
Answer: ARENA (i.e. sports “ground”). “At end of” indicates the solution has been hidden at the end of the clue, while “taken back” indicates the solution has been reversed, like so: VICTORI(AN ERA).
- Classic struggle to obtain books with silver (7)
Answer: VINTAGE (i.e. “classic”). Solution is VIE (i.e. “struggle”) wrapped around or “obtaining” NT (i.e. “books”, specifically the New Testament of The Bible) and AG (chemical symbol of “silver”), like so: VI(NT-AG)E.
- Dirty mark or marks scorch clothes (5)
Answer: SMEAR (i.e. “dirty mark”). Solution is M (a recognised abbreviation of “marks”, the former German currency) placed in or “clothed” by SEAR (i.e. “scorch”), like so: S(M)EAR.
- In tent, try revolutionary hot dairy product (7)
Answer: YOGHURT (i.e. “dairy product”). Solution is GO (i.e. “try”) reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”) and, with H (a recognised abbreviation of “hot”), both placed “in” YURT (i.e. “tent”), like so: Y(OG-H)URT.
- Most colourful hi-vis top Victor discarded (9)
Answer: YELLOWEST (i.e. “most colourful”). Solution is YELLOW VEST (i.e. “hi-vis top”) with the V (“Victor” in the phonetic alphabet) “discarded”.
- Charming woman with yen (5)
Answer: WITCH (i.e. “charming woman” – “charm” as in a spell or enchantment). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “with”) followed by ITCH (i.e. “yen” or yearning).
- Country friar respecting people (9,8)
Answer: DOMINCAN REPUBLIC (i.e. “country”). Solution is DOMINICAN (i.e. “friar”) followed by RE (i.e. “respecting” or “about” – think email replies) and PUBLIC (i.e. “people”).
- Feature a time-consuming testimony (9)
Answer: ATTRIBUTE (i.e. “feature”). Solution is A and TRIBUTE (i.e. “testimony”) wrapped around or “consuming” T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”), like so: A-(T)-TRIBUTE.
- A top class European capital stars (6)
Answer: AURIGA (i.e. “stars” – other constellations are available). Solution is A followed by U (i.e. “top-class” – a favourite play of several setters, U is sometimes used to refer to the upper or “top class”) and RIGA (i.e. “European capital” of Latvia).
- Predict more staff will need to keep extremely alert (11)
Answer: EXTRAPOLATE (i.e. “predict”). Solution is EXTRA (i.e. “more”) followed by POLE (i.e. “staff”) once wrapped around or “keeping” AT (i.e. “extremely alert”, i.e. the first and last letters of “alert”), like so: EXTRA-POL(AT)E.
- In broadcast, recognises joint slump (4-4)
Answer: NOSE-DIVE (i.e. “slump”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “in broadcast”) of KNOWS (i.e. “recognises”) followed by DIVE (i.e. “joint” or disreputable bar).
- Drama queen, a Titian representation (7)
Answer: TITANIA (i.e. “drama queen” of the fairies, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream). “Representation” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A TITIAN.
- After a bit, I tweet “Job for pathologist” (11)
Answer: ANATOMISING (i.e. “job for pathologist” – to anatomise is to dissect, while pathologists get busy with post mortems and such). Solution is AN ATOM (i.e. “a bit”) followed by I and SING (i.e. “tweet”).
- Spooner’s claptrap displayed aloft at its peak (4-5)
Answer: FULL BLOWN (i.e. “peak”). Solution is BULL (i.e. “claptrap”) and FLOWN (i.e. “displayed aloft”) with their initial letters swapped (indicated by “Spooner’s”).
- Margaret has rather a lot of data (7)
Answer: MEGABIT (i.e. “data”). Solution is MEG (shortened form of “Margaret”) followed by A BIT (i.e. “a lot” – rather different this time to AN ATOM!) Unnecessary nerd tip: if you ever find yourself struggling to marry the download rates of your broadband connection to its bandwidth, remember that 8 bits make a byte. This means your 80Mb (megabits) broadband connection gives you bandwidth of up to 10MB (megabytes) per second. Oh, look, everyone’s buggered off.
- Write off sum (5)
Answer: TOTAL. Solution satisfies “write off” and “sum”. Simple, but nicely done.
- Lies initially among unfamiliar company: they’re breathtaking! (10)
Answer: STRANGLERS (i.e. “they’re breathtaking”. A bit like Keanu Reeves in the eyes of one particular gamer.) Solution is L (i.e. “lies initially”, i.e. the first letter of “lies”) placed in or “among” STRANGERS (i.e. “unfamiliar company”), like so: STRANG(L)ERS.
- A German tabloid points up unscripted remark (2-3)
Answer: AD-LIB (i.e. “unscripted remark”). Solution is A followed by BILD (i.e. “German tabloid”) once reversed (indicated by “points up” – this being a down clue), like so: A-DLIB.
- Company wife and male go arm in arm, somehow forming union (6-3,8)
Answer: COMMON-LAW MARRIAGE (i.e. “union”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “somehow”) of CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”), W (ditto “wife”) and MALE GO ARM IN ARM.
- Sharpshooter frets about missing bullseye at the end (6)
Answer: SNIPER (i.e. “sharpshooter”). Solution is REPINES (i.e. “frets”) reversed (indicated by “about”) and once one of the Es has been removed (indicated by “missing bullseye at the end” – E being the last letter of “bullseye”), like so: REPIN(E)S => REPINS => SNIPER.
- Spot what’s found in warmer water? (6)
Answer: NOTICE (i.e. “spot”). When written as NOT ICE the solution also satisfies “what’s found in warmer water”. I have to admit this one made me smile when I twigged it.
- Nice place to sleep in the dark (5)
Answer: UNLIT (i.e. “in the dark”). When written as UN LIT the solution also satisfies “Nice place to sleep”, being the French for “a bed” – Nice being a city in France.
- What Persian did when cut round top of ear? (6)
Answer: MEOWED (i.e. “what Persian did”, as in the breed of cat). Solution is MOWED (i.e. “cut”) wrapped “round” E (i.e. “top [letter] of ear”), like so: M(E)OWED.
- Ambassador defends English enclosure (5)
Answer: HENGE (i.e. “enclosure”). Solution is HE (i.e. “ambassador”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of His Excellency) wrapped around or “defending” ENG (short for “English”), like so: H(ENG)E.
- Linen a traveller picked up in city (6)
Answer: NAPERY (i.e. table “linen”). Solution is A and REP (i.e. “traveller” – think of company agents gadding hither and thither), the latter reversed (indicated by “picked up” – this being a down clue), and both then placed “in” NY (i.e. “city”, specifically New York), like so: N(A-PER)Y.
- Meticulous old man at home putting up posts (11)
Answer: PAINSTAKING (i.e. “meticulous”). Solution is PA (i.e. father or “old man”) followed by IN (i.e. “at home”) and STAKING (i.e. “putting up posts”).
- Popular impromptu piece moved automatically (11)
Answer: INVOLUNTARY (i.e. “automatically”). Solution is IN (i.e. “popular”) followed by VOLUNTARY (i.e. “impromptu piece”, specifically “a piece of music played at will” (Chambers)).
- Bouquet for one impresses pair (5)
Answer: SPRAY (i.e. “bouquet”). Solution is SAY (i.e. “for one”, both ways of saying “for example”) wrapped around or “impressing” PR (a recognised abbreviation of “pair”), like so: S(PR)AY. Chalk another one to my Bradford’s. I wouldn’t have made the connection.
- Samples for child sure to involve piano (10)
Answer: PROTOTYPES (i.e. “samples”). Solution is PRO (i.e. “for”) followed by TOT (i.e. “child”) and YES (i.e. “sure”) once wrapped around or “involving” P (a recognised abbreviation of “piano”), like so: PRO-TOT-Y(P)ES.
- What has occurred before Conservative supports sponsors (4,5)
Answer: BACK STORY (i.e. “what has occurred before”). Solution is TORY (i.e. “Conservative”) placed after or “supporting” – this being a down clue – BACKS (i.e. “sponsors”).
- Take down unstable ring for sport (3,4,2)
Answer: TAE KWON DO (i.e. “sport”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “unstable”) of TAKE DOWN followed by O (i.e. “ring”).
- Nearly interrupt suspect like peeping Tom? (8)
Answer: PRURIENT (i.e. “like peeping Tom”, as in someone who takes an unhealthy sexual interest in something). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “suspect”) of INTERRUPT once the last letter has been removed (indicated by “nearly”).
- Close to crossing river? Time for resolution (3,4)
Answer: NEW YEAR (i.e. “time for resolution”). Solution is NEAR (i.e. “close to”) wrapped around or “crossing” WYE (i.e. “river”), like so: NE(WYE)AR.
- Fifth to abandon Tuvalu, swimming round a new island group (7)
Answer: VANUATU (i.e. “island group”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “swimming”) of TUVALU once its “fifth” letter has been removed, wrapped “round” A and N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”), like so: V(A-N)UATU. I get a sense of “why on earth did I put this in the grid” about this clue! One I remembered from a previous puzzle, if I’m honest.
- Scoop! Liberal gets push first (6)
Answer: SHOVEL (i.e. “scoop”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “Liberal”) with SHOVE (i.e. “push”) placed ahead of it, or “first”, like so: SHOVE-L.
- Not much change in Mumbai plant incorporating gym (5)
Answer: RUPEE (i.e. “not much change in Mumbai” – at the moment 1 rupee is worth a shade over 1p). Solution is RUE (a strong-smelling shrubby Mediterranean “plant” (Chambers)) wrapped around or “incorporating” PE (i.e. “gym”, specifically Physical Education), like so: RU(PE)E.
- Exhausted writer gets in the way (5)
Answer: SPENT (i.e. “exhausted”). Solution is PEN (i.e. “writer”) placed “in” ST (i.e. “way”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “street”), like so: S(PEN)T.