Oof! I feel sorry for any solvers who attempted to start this one from the top. Take a look at the first six across solutions and compare them to the rest of the grid. Why on earth do setters do this? Why do they designate a certain area of the grid for markedly harder clues or exotic solutions? Has this ever resulted in a satisfying solve? This happens enough to make me suspect it could be a particular setter’s calling card. If so, I’d quite happily see them dropped from the roster. It’s not as if I’d miss their uninspired clueing.
So, yeah, you could say this one pissed me off. Not that it was particularly hard, just that it was so uneven. To be fair, it could also be because this is a working weekend for your favourite internet nobody, which does little to improve the mood. If you can forgive my grumpiness, you’ll find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful. If a recent Jumbo has accused you of attending a Downing Street lockdown knees-up then you might find my Just For Fun page of use, where you’ll find links to solutions for hundreds of the buggers. Elsewhere there are the usual ancient book reviews and a story of mine.
Thanks once more for the kind words and input. They are always appreciated and it’s always interesting to hear how other solvers fared. Till next time, mask up, get jabbed and stay safe out there, kids.
- Note orbiting traveller here? (6)
Answer: PHOBOS, a moon or “orbiter” of Mars. Solution is PS (i.e. “note”, short for a postscript) wrapped around or “orbiting” HOBO (i.e. “traveller”), like so: P(HOBO)S.
- Star about to introduce a new work (7)
Answer: CANOPUS (i.e. “star”, supposedly the second brightest in the night sky). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “circa”, i.e. “about”) followed by A, then N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) and OPUS (i.e. “work”). Chalk one to my Bradford’s.
- Hint of consternation with horse facing a huge buffalo (8)
Answer: CARABAOS (i.e. “buffalo”). Solution is C (i.e. “hint of consternation”, I guess meaning the first letter of “consternation” – can’t say I’m keen) followed by ARAB (i.e. a breed of “horse”), then A and OS (i.e. “huge”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “outsizes”). Another nod to Bradford’s. As you may have gathered from my intro, I’d lost all patience by this point.
- Enter drudge – he wrote one novel, a Victorian story (5,3,9,4)
Answer: UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE (i.e. “a Victorian story”, specifically Thomas Hardy’s second novel). “Novel” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ENTER DRUDGE HE WROTE ONE. An underwhelming anagram of a minor novel few could give a shit about.
- This writer with acidity – it is something with a nasty smell (8)
Answer: MEPHITIS (i.e. “a nasty smell”). Solution is ME (i.e. “this writer” from the point of view of the setter) followed by PH (i.e. “acidity” …or alkalinity depending which way you swing) and IT IS. One nailed solely through the wordplay, but at least the solution was in some way interesting.
- Insecticide desperate man put down in row (7)
Answer: LINDANE (i.e. “insecticide”). Solution is DAN (i.e. “desperate man”, specifically Dandy comic’s cover star Desperate Dan) placed “in” LINE (i.e. “row”), like so: LIN(DAN)E. I was straight to Bradford’s again the moment I saw “insecticide”, especially after the disgraceful made-to-fit bullshit that was pulled in grid 1509’s “LINU RON”. There are literally a million things more worthy of my time than knowing every insecticide out there. Also, if you wanted proof the setter is being a [lady’s naughty bits] simply for the sake of it, consider the other words that could have fitted the intersecting letters.
- Despises saints penning hackneyed stuff (6)
Answer: SCORNS (i.e. “despises”). Solution is S and S (both recognised abbreviations of “saint”) wrapped around or “penning” CORN (i.e. “hackneyed stuff”), like so: S(CORN)S.
- Fellow with a bit of an edge you’d rather not meet? (4,6)
Answer: GRIM REAPER. Clue plays on how the Grim Reaper is often depicted carrying a scythe and that “you’d rather not meet” him, seeing that’d be the end of you.
- Fellow losing head, writer with position that you wouldn’t have anticipated (12)
Answer: HAPPENSTANCE (i.e. “that you wouldn’t have anticipated”). Solution is CHAP (i.e. “fellow”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “losing head”) and the remainder followed by PEN (i.e. “writer”) and STANCE (i.e. “position”), like so: HAP-PEN-STANCE.
- Help here, off and on, to provide sword (4)
Answer: EPEE (i.e. “sword”). “Off and on” indicates the solution is derived from every other letter of HELP HERE.
- Creative type in firm, initially managing problem (8)
Answer: COMPOSER (i.e. “creative type”). Solution is CO (i.e. “firm”, short for company) followed by M (i.e. “initially managing”, i.e. the first letter of “managing”) and POSER (i.e. “problem”).
- Drinks with sharp content with making of new businesses (8)
Answer: STARTUPS (i.e. “new businesses”). Solution is SUPS (i.e. “drinks”) wrapped around or having “content” of TART (i.e. “sharp”), like so: S(TART)UPS.
- A controversy about extension to home? (12)
Answer: CONSERVATORY (i.e. “extension to home”). “About” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A CONTROVERSY. Another underwhelming anagram.
- Rambling as miserable person, the German in Germany’s capital (10)
Answer: MEANDERING (i.e. “rambling”). Solution is MEAN (i.e. “as miserable person”) followed by DER (i.e. “the German”, i.e. the German for “the”), then IN and G (i.e. “Germany’s capital”, i.e. the first letter of “Germany”).
- Work backstage maybe and create a fuss (4,1,5)
Answer: MAKE A SCENE. Solution satisfies “work backstage maybe” and “create a fuss”.
- Bishop, say, wanting whisky and something sweet (12)
Answer: BUTTERSCOTCH (i.e. “sweet”). Solution is B (a recognised abbreviation of “bishop” used in chess) followed by UTTER (i.e. “say”) and SCOTCH (i.e. “whisky”).
- Resolves to conceal one’s actions to destroy gods (8)
Answer: DEICIDES (i.e. “actions to destroy gods”). Solution is DECIDES (i.e. “resolves”) wrapped around or “concealing” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: DE(I)CIDES.
- Number to be found in old city entertained by crazy fellow (4,4)
Answer: CUBE ROOT (i.e. “number”). Solution is BE placed or “found in” UR (i.e. “old city” – a favourite of many setters) which is itself then placed in or “entertained by” COOT (i.e. “crazy fellow”, like so: C(U(BE)R)OOT.
- Feathered friend turning, finding very little (4)
Answer: DRIB (i.e. “very little”). Solution is BIRD (i.e. “feathered friend”) reversed (indicated by “turning”).
- French lass produced white wine around lunchtime? (12)
Answer: MADEMOISELLE (i.e. “French lass”). Solution is MADE (i.e. “produced”) and MOSELLE (i.e. “white wine”) once wrapped “around” I (i.e. “lunchtime” – basically one expressed as a Roman numeral. The riddly question mark tries to excuse the rather poor wordplay), like so: MADE-MO(I)SELLE.
- A guy to care inordinately and behave maturely! (3,4,3)
Answer: ACT YOUR AGE (i.e. “behave maturely”). “Inordinately” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A GUY TO CARE. I thought use of YOUR in Times crossword solutions was discouraged in favour of ONE’S. This has happened a couple of times recently so maybe it isn’t a hard and fast rule. (Shrugs.)
- Something loopy that can be a pain (6)
Answer: STITCH. Solution satisfies “something loopy” and “a pain”.
- A bit of money, gold, right for one in fabled race (7)
Answer: CENTAUR (i.e. “one in fabled race”). Solution is CENT (i.e. “a bit of money” – a bit can refer to a coin) followed by AU (chemical symbol of “gold”) and R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”). This reminded me of a great short story by Stephen Graham Jones called When Swords Had Names. It was published by The Dark magazine a few years ago. If dark fantasy floats your boat then you can read the story in full here:
- Looking smart, attractive girl keeps within reach (in want of husband) (8)
Answer: DANDYISH (i.e. “looking smart”). Solution is DISH (i.e. “attractive girl”) wrapped around or “keeping” HANDY (i.e. “within reach”) with the H removed (indicated by “in want of husband” – H being a recognised abbreviation of “husband”), like so: D(ANDY)ISH.
- Does the business, vote by vote, and shows little enthusiasm (4,7,3,7)
Answer: GOES THROUGH THE MOTIONS (i.e. “shows little enthusiasm”). Clue plays on MOTIONS being orders of “business”, perhaps of a kind that a board may “vote” on. Something like that, anyway.
- Gets hold of bits of music (8)
Answer: SNATCHES. Solution satisfies “gets hold of” and “bits of music”.
- Start to swim as a boat may be ruined (7)
Answer: SCREWED (i.e. “ruined”). Solution is S (i.e. “start to swim”, i.e. the first letter of “swim”) followed by CREWED (i.e. “as a boat may be”).
- World of mum, at home after party (6)
Answer: DOMAIN (i.e. “world”). Solution is MA (i.e. short form of “mother”) and IN (i.e. “at home”) both placed “after” DO (i.e. “party”), like so: DO-(MA-IN).
- Husband with zero value in his home? (5)
Answer: HOUSE (i.e. “home”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”) followed by O (i.e. “zero”) and USE (i.e. “value”).
- Educationist joins dictionary publisher in special rooms (11)
Answer: BEDCHAMBERS (i.e. “special rooms” – a bit random calling them special, but I suppose they are “confined or mainly applied to a particular subject” (Chambers). Like most rooms, then). Solution is BED (i.e. “educationalist”, specifically a Bachelor of Education”) followed by CHAMBERS (i.e. “dictionary publisher”).
- Support the heartless king who walks as if he owns the place? (8)
Answer: STRUTTER (i.e. “who walks as if he owns the place”). Solution is STRUT (i.e. “support”) followed by TE (i.e. “the heartless”, i.e. the word “the” with its middle letter removed) and R (i.e. “king”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of the Latin Rex).
- Fish and lettuce, nothing hard to be swallowed (5)
Answer: COHOS (i.e. “fish”, specifically Pacific salmon). Solution is COS (i.e. variety of “lettuce”) wrapped around or “swallowing” O (i.e. “nothing”) and H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in grading pencils), like so: C(O-H)OS.
- Woman ultimately one to laugh, not the first critical soul (7)
Answer: NIGGLER (i.e. “critical soul”). Solution is N (i.e. “woman ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “woman”) followed by GIGGLER (i.e. “one to laugh”) once its first letter has been removed (indicated by “not the first”), like so: N-IGGLER.
- Hot food on plane? That’s unrealistic (3,2,3,3)
Answer: PIE IN THE SKY (i.e. “unrealistic”). Clue plays on PIE being a variety of “hot food”. Food on a “plane” tends to be served once it’s IN THE SKY. You get the idea.
- Delivery man, worker perhaps in African country, initially (5)
Answer: SANTA Claus (i.e. “delivery man”). Solution is ANT (i.e. “worker perhaps”, other flavours of ant are available) placed “in” SA (i.e. “African country, initially”, i.e. the initial letters of South Africa), like so: S(ANT)A.
- Neighbourhood of Bishop Bill provides intimacy (9)
Answer: CLOSENESS (i.e. “intimacy”). Solution is CLOSE (i.e. “neighbourhood of bishop”) followed by NESS (i.e. “bill” – ignore the misleading capitalisation, this is a geographic feature, specifically a sharp promontory).
- Some crossed Iran making return journeys (5)
Answer: RIDES (i.e. “journeys”). “Some” indicates the solution has been hidden in the clue, while “making return” indicates the solution has been reversed, like so: CROS(SED IR)AN.
- Mayor taking umbrage, sort to get upset (11)
Answer: BURGOMASTER (i.e. “mayor” in certain European countries). “To get upset” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of UMBRAGE SORT.
- Huge canoe at sea – Channel Islands coming up (7)
Answer: OCEANIC (i.e. “huge”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “at sea”) of CANOE followed by CI (i.e. a recognised abbreviation of the “Channel Islands”) once this has been reversed (indicated by “coming up” – this being a down clue), like so: OCEAN-IC.
- Unscrupulous person in respect of procedure relating to will? (9)
Answer: REPROBATE (i.e. “unscrupulous person”). Solution is RE (i.e. “in respect of” – think email replies) followed by PROBATE (i.e. “procedure relating to will”).
- Gaseous fuel, on paper, looking bad (7)
Answer: PROPANE (i.e. “gaseous fuel”). “Looking bad” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ON PAPER.
- Soldier was introduced to Her Majesty – something definitive (9)
Answer: PARAMETER (i.e. “something definitive”, likely a defined value, e.g. a delivery date input into a supermarket app). Solution is PARA (i.e. “soldier”, short for paratrooper) followed by MET (i.e. “was introduced to”) and ER (i.e. “Her Majesty”, specifically Elizabeth Regina).
- Hit and run in careless manner (8)
Answer: SLAPDASH (i.e. careless manner”). Solution is SLAP (i.e. “hit”) followed by DASH (i.e. “run”).
- French native shown to have endless serenity (9)
Answer: PROVENCAL (i.e. “French native” of Provence). Solution is PROVEN (i.e. “shown”) followed by CALM (i.e. “serenity”) once its last letter has been removed (indicated by “endless”), like so: PROVEN-CAL.
- Ruler kept under by deity in charge is showing fear (9)
Answer: PANICKING (i.e. “showing fear”). Solution is KING (i.e. “ruler”) placed after or “under” – this being a down clue – PAN (i.e. “deity”, specifically the Greek god of the woods) and IC (a recognised abbreviation of “in charge”), like so: (PAN-IC)-KING.
- Live mostly in very good old military post (8)
Answer: PRESIDIO (i.e. “military post”). Solution is RESIDE (i.e. “live…in”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and the remainder placed “in” PI (i.e. “very good”, short for pious) and followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”), like so: P(RESID)I-O.
- Plant giving a closet a new look (7)
Answer: ALECOST (i.e. “plant” used in flavouring beer). Solution is A followed by an anagram (indicated by “a new look”) of CLOSET, like so: A-LECOST.
- Procedure with unclaimed property in small estate – deceive fellows involved (11)
Answer: ESCHEATMENT (i.e. “procedure with unclaimed property”, often turned over to the state). Solution is EST (i.e. “small estate”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “estate”) wrapped around or “involving” CHEAT (i.e. “deceive”) and MEN (i.e. “fellows”), like so: ES(CHEAT-MEN)T.
- Hard-hitting speaker booked to give message? (5-6)
Answer: BIBLE-BASHER. Clue plays on someone “hard-hitting” being a BASHER and a BIBLE being a “book”. You get the idea.
- Where officers meet – evidently not a mess! (7,4)
Answer: ORDERLY ROOM (i.e. “where officers meet”). Clue plays on how ORDERLY can mean something is in order, hinting that such a ROOM is “not a mess”. You get the idea.
- Son has funny trousers – they have weights attached (4,5)
Answer: SASH CORDS (i.e. “they have weights attached” – over to Chambers: “a cord attaching a weight to a sash in order to hold it open at any height”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “funny”) of HAS, then CORDS (i.e. “trousers”, short for corduroy), like so: S-ASH-CORDS.
- Little boy preceded by French maid in ribboned headgear (8)
Answer: BONNETED (i.e. “in ribboned headgear”). Solution is TED (i.e. “little boy”, I guess being a shortened form of Edward) placed after or “preceded by” BONNE (i.e. “French maid”), like so: BONNE-TED.
- Opposing dope as substance to fight off disease (7)
Answer: ANTIGEN (i.e. “substance to fight off disease”). Solution is ANTI (i.e. “opposing”) followed by GEN (i.e. “dope” or knowledge).
- A demonstration with heads held high? (3,4)
Answer: AIR SHOW (i.e. “demonstration”). Clue plays on how, in order to observe said show, you’d need your “head held high”.
- Come out in church with mitre on? (5)
Answer: HATCH (i.e. “come out”). Solution is CH (a recognised abbreviation of “church”) with HAT (i.e. “mitre”) placed “on” top, this being a down clue, like so: HAT-CH.
- Words showing intelligence – any number thrown in (5)
Answer: NOUNS (i.e. “words”). Solution is NOUS (i.e. “intelligence”) wrapped around or having “thrown in” N (i.e. “any number”, or an indefinite number used in maths), like so: NOU(N)S.
- Like St Paul’s march maybe Dean originally set up (5)
Answer: DOMED (i.e. “like St Paul’s” Cathedral). Solution is DEMO (i.e. “march maybe” – other forms of demonstration are available) followed by D (i.e. “Dean originally”, i.e. the first letter of “dean”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “set up” – this being a down clue), like so: D-OMED.
- Food gives us hiccups? Only a bit! (5)
Answer: SUSHI (i.e. “food”). “Only a bit” indicates the solution has been hidden in the clue, like so: GIVE(S US HI)CCUPS.