About Lucian Poll

One of them horror writerly things based in the UK. Do drop by. Bring meat!

Review: Best New Horror 4

Nom, nom, nom!

(If you would like a run-through the stories found in the first three volumes of Best New Horror, jump over to my Reviews page for links.)

Best New Horror continues into a fourth volume showcasing twenty-four of the best horror shorts published during 1992. Well, twentyish may be a more accurate description. Not for the first time, the editors have padded the book with a few not-terribly-horrific pretenders, especially in the latter half. Thankfully, the quality of these pretenders helps elevate the book into 4/5 territory.

As to the stories, let’s take a look.

Also collected in Edelman’s “These Words Are Haunted”. Cool cover, taking detail from Francisco Goya’s “Saturn Eating His Son”. Nom, nom, nom! (Again.)

The Suicide Artist – Scott Edelman (3/5 – A man reluctantly tells the reader of a horrible experience of his, aged just six, when a stranger led him away from school. He would like to end the story there but, of course, you, the reader, want to know more. So he continues: detailing the murderous lengths he went to in order to survive the stranger’s clutches; about the tragedy that had seen him left alone at the school gates in the first place; and, a short time later, how he stumbled upon his father’s appalling abuse of Kate, his older sister. The more that is revealed, the greater the bitterness and hostility the narrator feels about it. How dare you want to know more! But you can’t help it, can you? You just won’t let him stop, not unless… I admire what Edelman was trying to do here, exploring how characters in a horror story would feel to have the worst moments of their lives written up for the entertainment of others, and how the permeance of the fourth wall could present an opportunity for a little payback. In Edelman’s introduction, he describes the unease the story would create in his audience whenever he performed a reading of it, and I can fully believe it. This is a piece that begs to be read aloud. On paper, however, its power is lessened. In my case it allowed me to dwell upon on plot weaknesses. Rather than feeling shame at wanting to know more of the story, or quivering in fear of what the narrator might have in store for me, I spent the latter half thinking, “Wow, you were one unexpectedly strong and fiendishly devious six-year old boy, weren’t you?”)

Dancing On A Blade Of Dreams – Roberta Lannes (3/5 – The evil that men do carries over into this sexually-charged story of a juror, Patty, during a kidnapping-rape-murder trial. In the dock sits Garrick, an incredibly handsome man who claims to have been set up by a former friend. One night, as the trial nears its climax, Patty dreams of being driven – shackled, bruised and bloody – to a pristine hotel room where she is chained to a bathtub by her ex-husband, Michael. There she is abused by her ex, all the while craving the smallest morsel of his love. When Patty eventually awakens, she feels incredibly uncomfortable about the dream, for Michael had never once been violent during their marriage. Patty’s stomach sinks when the trial moves onto an eerily-familiar hotel room in which one of the victims was believed to have been held captive. It seems Patty is experiencing the horrific final days of Garrick’s victims in her dreams and, worse still, Garrick knows it. This was okay, and noticeably better than Apostate In Denim, Lannes’ controversial entry in Best New Horror 2. Lannes works some vivid and gruesomely effective imagery into her story, but the ending felt a little tacked-on and didn’t work the more I thought about it.)

Also collected in “The Essential Clive Barker”

The Departed – Clive Barker (5/5 – A short and sweet story in which Hermione, a recently-departed ghost, seeks to connect with her young son one last time. Under the counsel of an experienced old ghost called Rice, the two devise a plan to visit upon the boy while he is out trick-or-treating. Barker works real magic in this story. There can be no other explanation. In the space of a few pages he masterfully creates a pair of wonderful characters in Hermione and especially Rice, and imbues them with a winning chemistry from the off. By the ending – because of the ending – I wanted to know so much more about them. An excellent read.)


Also collected in Brite’s “Swamp Foetus”

How To Get Ahead In New York – Poppy Z. Brite (4/5 – Steve and Ghost (from Brite’s novel Lost Souls) are booked to play a gig in New York’s East Village. It’s four in the morning and they step off a Greyhound and into a daunting Port Authority bus terminal. It doesn’t take long for them to get lost in a building seemingly designed to confuse out-of-towners, and they soon fall prey to a resident army of mindless vagrants. So begins a typically strange morning in New York. I liked this story a lot, despite not having read Lost Souls. Brite maintains a light and affectionate touch throughout much of the story, wrapping a rich human zoo around Steve and Ghost as they sample much of the weirdness New York has to offer.)

Also collected in Brunner’s “The Man Who Was Secrett and Other Stories”

They Take – John Brunner (4/5 – Ann and her husband Carlo are summoned to Bolsevieto, a small rural Italian village, to inspect a nearby house and some accompanying land, both of which had been left to Ann by her late aunt. They are unimpressed by what they find. They are keen to leave the village and to sell the place as soon as possible, until Ann spots some unusual tomb-like structures squatting on her land. They should have listened to their instincts. There’s a great sense of place in this story, helped in no small part by Brunner’s command of all things Italian. Horror stalwarts will probably find the bones of this story in numerous others they read, but, all things considered, this is a good substitute for the “dumped on a remote Greek island” story found in the previous three books.)

Replacements – Lisa Tuttle (4/5 – Stuart is horrified by the sight of a wingless bat-like creature shuffling pathetically amid the pavement trash. He instinctively stamps it to death, repulsed, but soon finds another crawling along the kerbside. It’s clear there are more of the hideous little critters out there. Tensions mount when his wife, Jenny, brings one of the creatures home as a pet, seemingly in thrall of it. This story did a decent job of making my skin crawl but was somewhat offset by Stuart being a complete and utter wet blanket. Throughout the story he tells precisely nobody about his predicament, which takes some swallowing.)

Also collected in “25 Years in the Word Mines – The Best Short Fiction of Graham Joyce”

Under The Pylon – Graham Joyce (4/5 – A bunch of kids play beneath a neighbourhood pylon, paying no heed to the warning signs and in spite of the discarded bricks and five-foot-high nettles growing there. Big School is fast approaching for all of them, bringing with it the end of childhood innocence and the onset of puberty, and it seems the pylon is sensitive to the changes playing out below. There’s something about Joyce’s style that never fails to draw me in, a raw honesty perhaps. I loved The Year of the Ladybird (a.k.a. The Man in the Electric Blue Suit in the US), a review of which you can read here, and I really liked this.)


Collected in Ligotti’s “Grimscribe: His Lives and Works”

The Glamour – Thomas Ligotti (3/5 – A man is drawn to a movie theatre one night while walking through an unfamiliar part of town. Being the kind of man who likes visiting movie theatres in the dead of night, this seems rather a fortuitous find. The front of the movie theatre is dilapidated and boarded up, and yet a poorly-lit notice advertises tonight’s attraction: “The Glamour”. When his attention is drawn to an alternative side-entrance to the building further along a darkened alleyway, the man is helpless to resist taking a look. This story has appeared in a few “Best of…” anthologies over the years but was a bit of a misfire for me, sadly, even after a reread. Ligotti’s lush writing is present, certainly, but in places it felt like he was trying too hard. His use of repetition, often a successful and hypnotic trait of his other works, feels a little overdone here, likewise a visceral atmosphere he doesn’t so much accumulate as heap upon the reader once our man enters the movie theatre. Could just be me, though.)

Also collected in Gordon’s “The Burning Baby and Other Ghosts”

Under The Ice – John Gordon (4/5 – Rupert invites his schoolfriend, David, to come skating on the frozen fens near his parent’s farm. David is a little suspicious of the boy’s motives. It’s as if Rupert has an answer to every excuse of David’s for not going. Eventually David gives in and they are picked up by Rupert’s father. David soon finds that Rupert’s parents weren’t expecting company, making him feel even less comfortable. He senses a great unspoken tragedy hanging over the family: conversation with Rupert’s father is practically non-existent, while Rupert’s mother is a shadow of her former vibrant self. To David’s relief, Rupert pulls him away from the house and out onto the ice. With the daylight quickly fading, the boy is keen to show David something out there; something under the ice. Like They Take a little earlier in the book, this story will have a familiar ring to it for seasoned horror fans, but is no less of a good read because of it. Worth a look.)

Collected in Lane’s “The Earthwire and Other Stories”

And Some Are Missing – Joel Lane (4/5 – David is adjusting to life alone following a split from his long-term boyfriend, Alan. A chance intervention outside his new digs introduces David to the shadowy antipeople, and they are not exactly friendly. I mentioned in my review of Best New Horror 3, which featured Lane’s story Power Cut, how I often have to read his stories a couple of times before I get a whiff of what’s really going on. This was one of those stories, due mainly to a final sentence that forced me to reassess everything I’d just read. After a re-read, I’m fairly certain it was thrown in there for precisely that purpose, but your reading of it may differ. Either way, it is still worth a read.)


The Little Green Ones – Les Daniels (3/5 – An American writer takes time out from a convention to explore a nearby London cemetery where he is creeped out by a pair of lifelike statues: one of a little girl, the other a little boy. Both are completely covered with an unusually green lichen, a colour that begins to haunt him as he returns home. In the editors’ introduction they explain how this story was inspired by the author’s attendance at a recent World Fantasy Convention held in London. I rather wished they’d hadn’t mentioned this, to be honest, because it made The Little Green Ones less of a horror story and more a six-page gripe about the shitty time he had there. This was an okay read, to be fair, but how this was nominated for a World Fantasy Award back in the day is a mystery.)

Also collected in SRT’s “The Far Side Of The Lake”

Mirror Man – Steve Rasnic Tem (3/5 – Jeff is a man staring old age in the face, quite literally. He regularly checks his appearance in the mirror for fresh signs of his inevitable decrepitude, unable to help himself. His marriage to Liz has long been a loveless endeavour, but Jeff is determined not to let the same happen with Susan, their eleven-year-old daughter. In fact, to help him feel better about the white hairs poking out of his ears, he decides it would be a fine idea to take his daughter for a long drive to Providence and to a college reunion due to take place there. There he can show Susan off to all his old friends. Wouldn’t that be fun? (…?) The longer the drive drags on, and the closer they get to Providence, the more it seems Susan is slipping away from him. On the Steve Rasnic Tem Weird-O-Meter™, this story ranks a respectable “Pretty Strange”. Sadly, it doesn’t rank among his best. It’s not for a lack of effort, but it seems my Lovecraftian maxim holds true once more: that when an author dabbles in Lovecraft’s world, they often produce inferior work. Indeed, in the introduction to this story, we learn SRT had a hard time selling it for publication precisely due to its Lovecraftian angle, eventually finding succour in a dedicated Lovecraftian press.)

Mothmusic – Sarah Ash (4/5 – Astar Taziel is a physician who witnesses the devastating effects of boskh – a substance yielded from the dust of a moonmoth’s wings. Boskh has wonderful medicinal qualities when taken in moderation, but beyond that addiction lies. To Taziel’s growing horror, it soon becomes clear that boskh has a payload much more serious than mere dependency. This is a fantasy yarn, traveller, so steel yonself for A Story Of A Hundred And One Spurious Names. Stick with this one, though, because there is a satisfying seam of horror running throughout.)

Also collected in “Masters of the Weird Tale: Karl Edward Wagner”

Did They Get You To Trade? – Karl Edward Wagner (5/5 – Another winner from Wagner sees Ryan Chase, a successful portrait artist, seeking inspiration over a few alfresco pints one fine sunny afternoon in London. A homeless man approaches Chase’s table and begs a few coins for a meal. Chase sees something in the man that could inspire a future work and so he buys a round of drinks to get to know him a little more. To his surprise Chase discovers the derelict was once a punk hero of his: the mighty Nemo Skagg of the trailblazing punk band Needle, a man who once had the world at his feet, but is now on his uppers. What could have happened to Skagg for him to end up in this state? Over the course of a staggering amount of drink, we are about to find out. This was nominated for a Stoker award back in the day, but, even after a reread, I fail to see the horror here. Urban fantasy, absolutely. Horror, no. Not that any of that matters because, whatever the genre, this story is a solid-gold treat from beginning to end. Put simply, Nemo Skagg is a magnificent creation. In Skagg, Wagner perfectly captures an angry punk spark and fierce intelligence that can never be fully extinguished by the booze, but in the end it’s Skagg’s humanity that shines through. The final revelation of what happened to the last of Skagg’s money is bittersweet and devastating. I can’t pretend to have read Wagner’s entire output, but I’d be astonished if he had written many things better than this. A reread sees this score upped from a 4/5 to 5/5.)

Night Shift Sister – Nicholas Royle (4/5 – Carl is a record shop owner with a huge record collection, an even bigger crush on Siouxsie Sioux and a photocopied map of somewhere he cannot place. The latter intrigues him. There are no street names to speak of and none of the landmarks are labelled, so where could the map have come from? Wait, there’s a Siouxsie Sioux lookalike over there. Perhaps she will know something. Yeah, the jumps of logic in this story take some getting over, but to be fair this is the best Royle story I’ve read in Best New Horror so far, and it bagged a British Fantasy Award at the time. It was also weirdly fun counting all the spiral motifs Royle stuffed into the story.)

The Dead – Simon Ings & M. John Harrison (2/5 – Echoes of the old New Wave movement can be heard in a story where a woman discovers through her childhood and young womanhood an unwanted and unpleasant rebirthing role she must fulfil. My original review of this story was a single word “Nope” – not entirely helpful, but it rather summed up my thoughts at the time. Nothing in the story quite matches the creep factor of two blokes, however well-respected, hunched over their respective keyboards writing this particular literary gem:

It helps to lick your finger and wet yourself between the legs.

Riiiiiight, thanks fellas. The piece improves upon a second reading, but not enough to improve its score. If you are a fan of fiction from out of the left-field then you might have a better time of The Dead than me. That said, when this story was republished in Interzone magazine back in January 1993 – a publication not entirely unfamiliar with weird fiction – it sank without a trace in its annual Readers Poll. Next story please!)

Also collected in Fowler’s “Uncut”

Norman Wisdom And The Angel Of Death – Christopher Fowler (4/5 – Stanley is a desperately boring man charged with brightening up the days of those patients at his local hospital with no family or friends to visit them. And how better to entertain the lonely sick than a meticulous run-through of every Norman Wisdom movie, line by line, scene by scene? Just don’t switch off whatever you do, otherwise it might be the end of you! When budget cuts create a bed shortage at the hospital, Stanley is asked to take in a wheelchair-bound patient, Saskia. They instantly hit it off, with Stanley finding in Saskia a tonic to his own loneliness. To top it all, she is a fan of Our Norman. How fortunate is that! Could Stanley be about to turn his life around? What do you reckon? Fowler expertly crafts an engaging and hyperreal villain in Stanley in an entertaining story that is only one contrivance short of perfection.)

Red Reign – Kim Newman (5/5 – This is the novella that inspired Newman’s Anno Dracula series of books, and it’s a corker. I had avoided the Anno Dracula series till now because “vampires, meh…” but I might have to rethink all that. This is Victorian London, but not as we know it. Dracula is Prince Regent, vampirism is spreading unchecked across the land, and a certain Dr Seward is secretly taking it upon himself to despatch vampish ladies of the night. The murders are sending ripples across the warms (humans) and new-borns (vampires) alike. Something must be done. Centuries-old vampire Genevieve Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of The Diogenes Club must work together to root out this so-called “Jack The Ripper”. This brilliant story is worth the entrance fee on its own.)

Also collected in Atkins’ “The Wishmaster and Other Stories”

Aviatrix – Peter Atkins (3/5 – Jonathan Dyson is a nervous flyer. He’s fine once he’s up in the air, but the take-off? Forget about it. To help him get through his latest trip he sinks a Valium pre-flight, secures himself in his seat, and finds himself slipping into a vivid dream world. In it he meets the titular aviatrix who takes him out in her open-top biplane across increasingly strange lands and seas. As he slips in and out of consciousness Jonathan is surprised to find he is able to re-enter his dream where he left off. This was okay, with some great little touches here and there, particularly when Jonathan slips into the dream world for the first time, but let’s be honest – the moment you saw he was a nervous flyer you probably guessed how the story turns out.)

Also collected in MacLeod’s “Past Magic”

Snodgrass – Ian R. MacLeod (4/5 – A smart alternative history that follows John Lennon as he bums around Birmingham thirty years after he walked out The Beatles. His whole selfish existence has been spent living from one moment to the next. His friends and acquaintances are little more than means to an end, which, for “Dr Winston O’Boogie”, is usually to get pissed and get high. Now, with Lennon squarely in his fifties, The Beatles are back in town and Macca would like to see the good doctor again. I liked this a lot more than 1/72nd Scale, MacLeod’s previous story in Best New Horror 2. His Lennon is a wonderfully gobby character: coarse and witty and, despite his many, many flaws, unmistakeably human. This is an engrossing and entertaining read, certainly, but it has found its way into a horror anthology on the thinnest of premises.)

Also collected in Wilhelm’s “And the Angels Sing”

The Day Of The Sharks – Kate Wilhelm (3/5 – Gary and Veronica are heading on holiday to Grand Bahama, stopping over at Bill and Shar’s luxury house on the way. Their hosts are preparing for a party that evening, to which Gary and Veronica are cordially invited. The shindig is self-serving, of course. Gary is an investment councillor and he knows it won’t take long for Bill’s wealthy business-owning guests to learn of the fact and to start tapping him up. Meanwhile Veronica is a woman on the edge of madness. She struggles to hold herself together with tranquilisers after an incident in which she set fire to her workplace. Gary cares little for her these days. He’s playing down time before they can separate. Gary’s much keener to bump uglies with Shar again. Events take a metaphorically gruesome turn the morning after the party. This was okay but, as you may have detected, a lack of likeable characters made it difficult to care what was happening to anybody.)

Also collected in Harrison’s “Travel Arrangements”

Anima – M. John Harrison (3/5 – A writer makes the acquaintance of a curious fella called Choe Ashton, who proceeds to drift in and out of his life. Ashton is an enigma: giddy and in love with the world one moment, then surly and abusive the next. He is, however, never less than interesting. It’s impossible to see the whole of him without parts of one’s vision blurring, for instance. Ashton is prone to disappearing for weeks and months without notice only to reappear as if nothing had happened, and our man is unable to resist his call every time. The anima is another name for the soul and Harrison deftly personifies through Ashton the changeable and restless bugger sitting behind the wheel in all of us. It’s an okay read – less a story than it is a character study – but quite what qualified this for inclusion in a horror anthology is beyond me.)

Bright Lights, Big Zombie – Douglas E. Winter (3/5 – In this Stoker-nominated story, zombies are a thing, New York is struggling to cope with its returning dead and society has banned all video nasties as part of its response. Blurry umpteenth-generation copies of notorious old giallo flicks such as Cannibal Holocaust and Guinea Pig become valuable contraband, and an opportunity presents itself to exploit this demand by producing real-life zombie movies. The story is told in second-person (as fans of Bright Lights, Big City might suspect). Usually this is a red flag for me, but Winter’s playful inventiveness made this one of the better examples.)

Also collected in Straub’s “Magic Terror”

The Ghost Village – Peter Straub (5/5 – This superb novella expands on Straub’s novel Koko and is an early and condensed version of The Throat, the concluding part of his Blue Rose trilogy. We’re back in the heat of the Vietnamese jungle. Death is only a sniper’s bullet away. Tim Underhill and Mike Poole explore a chamber dug beneath a hut in an abandoned village. Something bad happened here, something bad enough to keep the VC away. Text lines the walls and ceiling of the chamber, old rust-coloured blood stains much of the floor and ominous-looking manacles hang limp. A chance meeting in an illegal bar reveals the horrific truth of the place. Like Koko before it, The Ghost Village bagged a World Fantasy Award, and is a terrific closer to this book.)


And so ends another monster review of Best New Horror. Thanks for getting this far. I hope you enjoyed it. Sadly, PS Publishing’s anniversary editions of Best New Horror seem to have stopped at book three with little sign of the series continuing. They continue to publish new volumes of the series, however, with book twenty-nine (yes, twenty-nine!) coming in the next month or so. That said, you shouldn’t have too much trouble sourcing a second-hand copy of this book from Amazon, eBay or AbeBooks should you desire, and, as ever, you’ll find eBook editions available across all main platforms.

And so onto book five!



Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1375

A slightly tougher puzzle this time, which makes me think there could be a stinker coming over the busy Easter weekend! This was a pretty good puzzle too, all told, with only one repeat of a recent solution to speak of (GARB). You’ll find my completed grid below, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

If you’d like solutions for the last couple dozen Times Jumbo Cryptic puzzles, then jump to my Just For Fun page. If you’re a fan of horror fiction (because why wouldn’t you be?) then I have a few things on my Reviews page that might float your boat, soon to include the oft-promised review for Best New Horror 4. (I’m just turning it into some approximation of English.)

Till then, TTFN.


Across clues

1. Engaging in local tour, turned ahead to progress slowly in Crosby? (3-8)

Answer: PUB-CRAWLING (i.e. “engaging in local tour”). Solution is UP (i.e. “ahead”) reversed (indicated by “turned”) and then followed by CRAWL (i.e. “to progress slowly”) placed “in” BING (i.e. “Crosby”), like so: PU-B(CRAWL)ING.

7. Here one may find shops are opened by scoundrel (6)

Answer: ARCADE (i.e. “here one may find shops”). Solution is ARE being “opened [up] by” CAD (i.e. “scoundrel”), like so: AR(CAD)E.

10. Swedish-American star almost in dress (4)

Answer: GARB (i.e. “dress”). Solution is Greta GARBO (i.e. “Swedish-American star”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “almost”).

14. Principal director brings in northern chap to make money abroad (7)

Answer: CENTIMO, which is the name of several Latin American countries’ small coins (i.e. “money abroad”). Solution is CEO (i.e. “principal director”, specifically a Chief Executive Officer) “bringing in” N (a recognised abbreviation of “northern”) and TIM (i.e. “chap”, as in a man’s name), like so: CE(N-TIM)O.

15. Men, splitting apart, strangely maintaining correspondence (3,4)

Answer: PRO RATA (i.e. “maintaining correspondence” – pro rata means “in proportion”, so this should be read along the lines of “maintaining correspondent portions”. It’s sneaky, but I rather like it.) Solution is OR (i.e. “men”, specifically the Other Ranks of the army) “splitting” an anagram (indicated by “strangely”) of APART, like so: PR(OR)ATA.

16. Spectacular performance where learner breaks cover (7)

Answer: BLINDER (i.e. “spectacular performance”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”) “breaking” BINDER (i.e. “cover”), like so: B(L)INDER.

17. Endeavour by arrangement to have superb small pianos (7,6)

Answer: CONCERT GRANDS (i.e. “pianos”). Solution is CONCERT (i.e. “endeavour”, think of it like a concerted effort) placed “by” GRAND (i.e. “superb”) and S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”), like so: CONCERT-GRAND-S.

18. Diver in vehicle test on craft circling lake (9)

Answer: GUILLEMOT, a shorebird that can dive up to 100m for food (i.e. “diver”). Did a Google Image search – yup, looks like a bird. Solution is MOT (i.e. “vehicle test” – the initials are derived from the now-defunct Ministry of Transport) placed after GUILE (i.e. “craft”) which is “circling” L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”), like so: GUI(L)LE-MOT.

19. Republican, accompanied by venomous types, speaks hoarsely (5)

Answer: RASPS (i.e. “speaks hoarsely”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation of “Republican”) followed by ASPS (i.e. “venomous types”).

21. Fuel the very thing needed in an ancient Balkan location (10)

Answer: ANTHRACITE, also known as “hard coal”, which burns without smoke or much of a flame. Good for barbeques, then. Anyway, “fuel”. Solution is IT (i.e. “the very thing”) placed “in” AN and THRACE (i.e. “ancient Balkan location” – no, me neither), like so: AN-THRAC(IT)E.

23. Brutish sort, throwing back thin plate (6)

Answer: ANIMAL (i.e. “brutish sort”). Solution is LAMINA (i.e. “thin plate”) reversed (indicated by “thrown back”).

25. Artist in decline – could depression cause this? (8)

Answer: RAINFALL (i.e. “could [atmospheric] depression cause this”). Solution is RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) then IN, and then FALL (i.e. “decline”).

26. Man’s excellent knowledge about British regiment in border area (6-8)

Answer: ALSACE-LORRAINE, a region of France that was annexed by the German Empire in the 19th century (i.e. “border area”). Solution is AL’S (i.e. “man’s”), then ACE (i.e. “excellent”), followed by LORE (i.e. “knowledge”) placed “about” RA (i.e. “British regiment”, specifically the Royal Artillery) and IN, like so: ALS-ACE-LOR(RA-IN)E. I got the Alsace bit, but had to look up the rest.

29. Element turning stomach in clergyman losing work (7)

Answer: BISMUTH (i.e. “[chemical] element”). Solution is TUM (i.e. “stomach”) reversed (indicated by “turning”) and placed in BISHOP (i.e. “clergyman”) with the OP removed (i.e. “losing work” – op being short for operation), like so: BIS(MUT)H.

30. Likely to notice retainer having departed? (9)

Answer: OBSERVANT (i.e. “likely to notice”). Solution is SERVANT (i.e. “retainer”) placed after OB (an abbreviation of “obiit”, which is Latin for “died”, i.e. “departed”), like so: OB-SERVANT.

31. Lived in luxury endlessly in Datchet’s outskirts (5)

Answer: DWELT (i.e. “lived in”). Solution is WELL (as in some degree of “luxury”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “endlessly”) and placed in DT (i.e. “Datchet’s outskirts”, i.e. the first and last letters of “Datchet”), like so: D(WEL)T.

32. Try hard to catch glimpse of Romeo – stick around (5)

Answer: CRANE (i.e. “try hard to catch glimpse”). Solution is R (which is “Romeo” in the phonetic alphabet) with CANE (i.e. “stick”) placed “around” it, like so: C(R)ANE.

34. Vessel having rope at bow in tangle (9)

Answer: POWERBOAT (i.e. “vessel”). “In tangle” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ROPE AT BOW.

37. Exile concerned with stale atmosphere vacated enclosure (7)

Answer: REFUGEE (i.e. “exile”). Solution is RE (i.e. “concerned with”) followed by FUG (i.e. “stale atmosphere”) and EE (i.e. “vacated enclosure”, i.e. the word “enclosure” with all its middle letters removed), like so: RE-FUG-EE.

39. Nurse working after pains located around sick body part (8,6)

Answer: ACHILLES TENDON (i.e. “body part”). Solution is TEND (i.e. “[to] nurse”) and ON (i.e. “working”) placed “after” ACHES (i.e. “pains”) put “around” ILL (i.e. “sick”), like so: ACH(ILL)ES-TEND-ON.

41. Secret meeting with Tory and Liberal inside underground chamber (8)

Answer: CONCLAVE (i.e. “secret meeting”). Solution is CON (i.e. “Tory”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Conservative) and L (ditto “Liberal”) placed “inside” CAVE (i.e. “underground chamber”), like so: CON-C(L)AVE.

43. Have riches perhaps in a vault (6)

Answer: ABOUND. Solution satisfies “have riches perhaps” and “a vault”, as in a leap or A BOUND.

44. Doing well in Duke of Milan’s university (10)

Answer: PROSPEROUS (i.e. “doing well”). Solution is PROSPERO’S (i.e. “Duke of Milan’s”, as in Prospero, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s The Tempest) with U (a recognised abbreviation of “university”) placed “in” it like so: PROSPERO(U)S.

45. Saw things in Société Ethnologique? (5)

Answer: TEETH (i.e. “saw things” – a nice bit of wordplay that made me smile when I got it.) “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: SOCIE(TE ETH)NOLOGIQUE.

48. Musical flourish modified signals at party (9)

Answer: GLISSANDO (i.e. “musical flourish”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “modified”) of SIGNALS followed by DO (i.e. “party”), like so: GLISSAN-DO. I often moan when musical terms are used as solutions as there are bloody thousands of the things, but, unusually, this was one I actually recognised.

49. Happy home deity to constrain old ghosts (2,4,7)

Answer: IN GOOD SPIRITS (i.e. “happy”). Solution is IN (i.e. “[at] home”) and GOD (i.e. “deity”) “constraining” O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”), then followed by SPIRITS (i.e. “ghosts”), like so: IN-GO(O)D-SPIRITS.

51. European move abroad to unseat good foreign government (7)

Answer: EMIRATE (i.e. “foreign government”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) followed by MIGRATE (i.e. “move abroad”) with the G removed (i.e. “to unseat good” – G being a recognised abbreviation of “good”), like so: E-MIRATE.

52. Barker grabbing little Mexican food (7)

Answer: TOSTADA, which is a fried tortilla (i.e. “Mexican food”). Solution is TOSA (which is a Japanese mastiff, i.e. “barker” – did a Google Image search – meh, random) “grabbing” TAD (i.e. “little”), like so: TOS(TAD)A. A bit of a stinker, this one.

53. Eastern sea creature shedding tail in Spring (7)

Answer: EMANATE (i.e. “[to] spring” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “eastern”) followed by MANATEE (i.e. “sea creature”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “shedding tail”), like so: E-MANATE.

54. Cosmetic procedure for legendary friar (4)

Answer: TUCK. Solution satisfies “cosmetic procedure” and “legendary friar”.

55. Strict at all times in case of sabotage (6)

Answer: SEVERE (i.e. “strict”). Solution is EVER (i.e. “at all times”) placed “in” SE (i.e. “case of sabotage”, i.e. the first and last letters of “sabotage”), like so: S(EVER)E.

56. Closer minders so upset with order to protect stronghold (11)

Answer: DOORKEEPERS (i.e. “closer minders” – clumsy, but it passes). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “upset”) of SO and ORDER, “protecting” KEEP (i.e. “stronghold”), like so: DOOR(KEEP)ERS.

Down clues

1. Leading vehicle has to complete with top retracted (4,3)

Answer: PACE CAR (i.e. “leading vehicle”). Solution is RACE (i.e. “to compete”) and CAP (i.e. “top”) all reversed (indicated by “retracted”), like so: PAC-ECAR.

2. Potential trouble coming from deranged relatives son supports (6,5)

Answer: BANANA SKINS (i.e. “potential trouble”). Solution is BANANAS (i.e. “deranged”) followed by KIN (i.e. “family”) and S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”).

3. God is here ultimately to provide uplift (5)

Answer: RAISE (i.e. “uplift”). Solution is RA (i.e. “god”, specifically the ancient Egyptian sun god) followed by IS and then E (i.e. “here ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “here”).

4. Whale epithet also adapted for this football chant? (3,3,3,3,4)

Answer: WHO ATE ALL THE PIES (i.e. “football chant”). “Adapted” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WHALE EPITHET ALSO. A rather well-worked clue.

5. The writer’s regret about old city’s corrupt constituent (8)

Answer: IMPURITY (i.e. “corrupt constituent”). Solution is I’M (i.e. “the writer’s”, a contraction of “the writer is” rather than the possessive form; think of this from the point of view of the setter) followed by PITY (i.e. “regret”) placed “about” UR (i.e. “old city”, specifically one in ancient Mesopotamia), like so: IM-P(UR)ITY.

6. Draws line under reason for basic principles (6,5)

Answer: GROUND RULES (i.e. “basic principles”). Solution is RULES (i.e. “draws line”) placed “under” GROUND (i.e. “reason”), this being a down clue.

7. Gather tea’s brought up in the morning (5)

Answer: AMASS (i.e. “gather”). Solution is ASSAM (a variety of “tea”) with the AM (i.e. “in the morning”) “brought up” to the front. This was a solution that took considerably less time to get than the wordplay leading up to it!

8. Demand huge amount to power our planet? (6,3,5)

Answer: CHARGE THE EARTH. Solution satisfies both “demand huge amount” and “to power our planet”.

9. Style shown by Labour’s leader in European city (6)

Answer: DUBLIN (i.e. “European city”). Solution is DUB (i.e. “style”) followed “by” L (i.e. “Labour’s leader”, i.e. the first letter of “Labour”) and then IN, like so: DUB-L-IN.

11. Jogger encountered on the Champs Elysées? (4-7)

Answer: AIDE-MÉMOIRE, which is a reminder or something that “jogs” the memory. Solution riffs on how this is a French phrase, as hinted at by “on the Champs Elysées”.

12. Regressive boy wrecked last old reformatory (7)

Answer: BORSTAL (i.e. “old reformatory”). Solution is ROB (i.e. “boy” – I guess in the context of the solution it couldn’t really be “man”) which is reversed (indicated by “regressive”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “wrecked”) of LAST, like so: BOR-STAL.

13. One going aloft in ship under the wind (8)

Answer: AIRLINER (i.e. “one going aloft”). Solution is LINER (i.e. “ship”) placed “under” AIR (i.e. “wind”), this being a down clue, like so: AIR-LINER.

20. Almost endure consuming American spread (7)

Answer: SUFFUSE (i.e. “spread”). Solution is SUFFER (i.e. “endure”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “almost”) and the remainder “consuming” US (i.e. “American”), like so: SUFF(US)E.

22. A bit of a laugh with one in credit control meeting (5)

Answer: CHAIR (i.e. “[to] control meeting”). Solution is HA (i.e. “a bit of a laugh”) “with” I (Roman numeral “one”) placed “in” CR (a recognised abbreviation of “credit”), like so: C(HA-I)R.

24. Worker at lodge stores wood and food (11,5)

Answer: PORTERHOUSE STEAK, which is broadly similar to a T-bone steak (i.e. “food”). Solution is PORTER (i.e. “worker at lodge”) followed by HOUSES (i.e. “stores”) and TEAK (i.e. “wood”).

25. Novel touching and useless because without chapter (7)

Answer: REBECCA, a “novel” by Daphne Du Maurier. This was a solution I guessed right at the beginning and only sussed the wordplay towards the end. Weird. Anyway, the solution is RE (i.e. “touching [upon]” or regarding) followed by BECAUSE without the USE (i.e. “useless”) which is then wrapped around or “without” C (a recognised abbreviation of “chapter”), like so: RE-BEC(C)A.

27. Too much here to be taken out of context – remember? (7)

Answer: EXTREME (i.e. “too much”). “To be taken out of” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: CONT(EXT REME)MBER.

28. Trouble with heart? Here’s comfort in retirement! (3-5,6)

Answer: HOT-WATER BOTTLE (i.e. “comfort in retirement”, as in going to bed). Solution is HOT WATER (i.e. “trouble”) followed by BOTTLE (i.e. “heart”, as in courage).

31. Loss expert acting as receiver for chemical company (7)

Answer: DEFICIT (i.e. “loss”). Solution is DEFT (i.e. “expert”) “receiving” ICI (an old “chemical company”, specifically Imperial Chemical Industries), like so: DEF(ICI)T.

33. Admitting nothing in crash, I paid out for other driver (11)

Answer: APHRODISIAC (i.e. a “driver” for a bit of the “other”, nudge, nudge). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “out”) of CRASH I PAID “admitting” O (i.e. “nothing”), like so: APHR(O)DISIAC.

35. Large American trucks transporting new phones (5)

Answer: RINGS (i.e. “phones”). Solution is RIGS (i.e. “large American trucks”) “transporting” N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”), like so: RI(N)GS.

36. Cautious taking dangerous bends (2,4,5)

Answer: ON ONES GUARD (i.e. “cautious”). Solution is ON (i.e. “taking”, though an example of this doesn’t spring immediately to mind) followed by an anagram (indicated by “bends”) of DANGEROUS.
[EDIT: Check out the comments, where Michael gives a good explanation of how ON is derived.]

38. Serious in backing learned person to become an idol (6,5)

Answer: GRAVEN IMAGE (i.e. “idol”). Solution is GRAVE (i.e. “serious”) followed by IN which is reversed (indicated by “backing”) and then MAGE (i.e. “learned person”), like so: GRAVE-NI-MAGE.

40. No sailor alights on isle (8)

Answer: LANDSMAN, which is someone with no seafaring experience (i.e. “no sailor”). Solution is LANDS (i.e. “alights”) followed by MAN (i.e. “isle”, as in the Isle of Man).

42. Mountain pass on ring road constructed in state (8)

Answer: COLORADO (i.e. “[US] state”). Solution is COL (i.e. “mountain pass”) followed by O (i.e. “ring”) and an anagram (indicated by “constructed”) of ROAD, like so: COL-O-RADO.

43. Add to men relieving us in some 31 days? (7)

Answer: AUGMENT (i.e. “add to”). Solution is AUGUST (i.e. “some 31 days”) “relieved of” US and replaced with MEN.

46. Society girl pursuing house party organiser (7)

Answer: HOSTESS (i.e. “party organiser”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “society”) and TESS (i.e. “girl”) “pursuing” or placed after HO (a recognised abbreviation of “house”), like so: HO-S-TESS.

47. Belong essentially out there? On the contrary! (6)

Answer: INHERE (i.e. “belong”). Solution riffs on “in here” being “contrary” to, “out there”.

49. Children that may be taken where there’s disagreement? (5)

Answer: ISSUE. Solution satisfies both “children” and “that may be taken when there’s disagreement”, as in “to take issue with something”.

50. Absurd and mad to toss away shilling (5)

Answer: INANE (i.e. “absurd”). Solution is INSANE (i.e. “mad”) after “tossing away” S (a recognised abbreviation of “shilling”).

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1374

Another easy puzzle this week, but also another with several clues I rather liked for their clever construction or how well they scanned. The only blot here is the re-emergence of several solutions from recent puzzles, including one that was essentially a direct copy. I know The Times uses software to generate certain puzzles (which, weirdly, is why you’ll find the word “moist” appearing an uncomfortable number of times in the top-right corner of their Codeword puzzles), but I keep alive the hope they aren’t doing the same here. Still, it makes you wonder. Anyway, wanging aside, you’ll find my completed solution below, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

Before we get there, some distractions. If you’d like to see solutions for the last couple dozen Times Jumbo Cryptics, go to my Just For Fun page. If horror fiction is your thing (or a guilty pleasure) then I’m currently working through the long-running Best New Horror series, which you can jump to on my Reviews page. Feel free to leave a comment. I moderate them mainly to keep out the spammers, but I’ll let anything genuine through.

And so, to my solution. Laters, taters.


Across clues

1. Side holding power in a splinter group (6)

Answer: ASPECT (i.e. “side”). Solution is A SECT (i.e. “a splinter group”) “holding” P (a recognised abbreviation of “power”), like so: A-S(P)ECT.

4. Underworld boss having mobile that goes on by itself (10)

Answer: PERSEPHONE, who, in Greek mythology, was queen of the underworld (i.e. “underworld boss”). Solution is PER SE (Latin for “by itself”) followed by PHONE (i.e. “mobile”).

10. Go to form new colony as part of vicious war, maybe (5)

Answer: SWARM (i.e. “go to form new colony”). “As part of” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: VICIOU(S WAR M)AYBE.

14. Getting hump somehow in ordeal is characteristic of success (9)

Answer: TRIUMPHAL (i.e. “characteristic of success”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “somehow”) of HUMP “getting…in” TRIAL (i.e. “ordeal”), like so: TRI(UMPH)AL.

15. Strange edict about one article after another penned by relative is shown to be true (13)

Answer: AUTHENTICATED (i.e. “shown to be true”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “strange”) of EDICT placed around A (i.e. an “article”), which is then placed “after” THE (“another [article]”) once it has been “penned” by AUNT (i.e. “relative”), like so: AU(THE)NT-IC(A)TED.

16. Refuse to admit learner that’s less developed (7)

Answer: LITTLER (i.e. “less developed”). Solution is LITTER (i.e. “refuse”, as in garbage) “admitting” L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”), like so: LITT(L)ER.

17. On foot, it provides quick cover (7)

Answer: TOENAIL. The sensitive flesh beneath one’s fingernails and toenails is the quick, which is why you might hear of someone biting their fingernails down to the quick. On a foot, the toenail can be said to be “quick cover”. I actually groaned when I got this, but I have to admit this is a great clue.

18. Cruciverbalist’s last kind of wordplay, having put out third puzzle (7)

Answer: TANGRAM, a Chinese “puzzle” being seven tiles of assorted geometric shapes which, when correctly placed, form a square. You’ll know it when you see it. Solution is T (i.e. “cruciverbalist’s last”, i.e. the last letter of “cruciverbalist”) followed by ANAGRAM (i.e. “kind of wordplay”) with the “third [letter] put out”, like so: T-ANGRAM. Another good clue, this.

19. Avoiding offence, in a way – like copper, initially (11,7)

Answer: POLITICALLY CORRECT (i.e. “avoiding offence, in a way”). Solution riffs on how this phrase is often abbreviated as “PC”, which is also “like copper, initially” i.e. a Police Constable.

21. Behave like obsequious dog or other little animal (4)

Answer: FAWN. Solution satisfies both “behave like obsequious dog” and “little animal”, i.e. a baby deer.

24. Decide not to run with small old-fashioned weapon (5)

Answer: SPIKE. In the parlance of newspaper editors (according to my Chambers, anyway), a rejected article is said to be spiked (i.e. “decide not to run”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”) followed by PIKE (i.e. “old-fashioned weapon”).

26. Investor finally compensated, holding current issued shares (8)

Answer: RATIONED (i.e. “issued shares”). Solution is R (i.e. “investor finally”, i.e. the last letter of “investor”) followed by ATONED (i.e. “compensated”) “holding” I (a recognised abbreviation of an electric “current”), like so: R-AT(I)ONED.

27. Make from sale, having also included promotional activity (8)

Answer: BRANDING (i.e. “promotional activity”). Not sure about this one, so watch out. My solution is BRING, which I’m guessing is “make from sale”, though I can’t quite visualise this, which is “having” AND (i.e. “also included”), like so: BR(AND)ING. Rather a clunky clue if that’s the case.

29. Result of making name for oneself as fighter (3,2,6)

Answer: NOM DE GUERRE, which is an assumed name (i.e. “making name for oneself”). In French, the solution translates as “war name”. Centuries ago such war names would be given to new recruits to the French army, hence “as fighter”.

30. What can be got from what’s in menu, in short (11)

Answer: NOURISHMENT. Within the context of the clue, nourishment is indeed “what can be got from what’s in menu”. “What can be got from” also indicates an anagram of MENU IN SHORT.

32. Rock group worth breaking up? Not so far (6,5)

Answer: STONES THROW (i.e. “not so far”). Solution is The Rolling STONES (i.e. “rock group”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “breaking up”) of WORTH, like so: STONES-THROW.

35. Cut back – result of freeze, say – in authoritarian regime (6,5)

Answer: POLICE STATE (i.e. “authoritarian regime”). Solution is LOP (i.e. “cut”) reversed (indicated by “back”), then followed by ICE (i.e. “result of freeze”) and STATE (i.e. “say”), like so: POL-ICE-STATE.

37. Respite, as European is accepted by British fairly (8)

Answer: BREATHER (i.e. “respite”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European” you’ll see used a few times in this puzzle – tsk, all these Europeans coming over here stealing our abbreviations… #satire) placed in B (ditto “British”) and RATHER (i.e. “fairly”), like so: B-R(E)ATHER.

39. Bad fortune besetting European – score reduced by six (8)

Answer: FOURTEEN (i.e. “score reduced by six”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “bad”) of FORTUNE “besetting” E (a recognised abbreviation of “European” – see what I mean?), like so: FOURT(E)EN.

40. Something outstanding about university’s appearance initially (5)

Answer: DEBUT (i.e. “appearance initially”). Solution is DEBT (i.e. “something outstanding”) placed “about” U (a recognised abbreviation of “university”), like so: DEB(U)T.

43. What’s the matter with intelligence? Poet’s pronouncement (4)

Answer: GREY. Solution satisfies “what’s the [grey] matter with intelligence” and “poet’s pronouncement”, i.e. a homophone of Thomas Gray.

44. It’s half a world away from where we are here (8,10)

Answer: SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE. In the context of the clue, and given The Times is a UK newspaper, the southern hemisphere is indeed “half a world” away.

47. Improperly dispensed upscale form of medication (7)

Answer: CAPSULE (i.e. “form of medication”). “Improperly dispensed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of UPSCALE.

48. Fruit was revolting with it (7)

Answer: ROSEHIP (i.e. “fruit” of the rose plant). Solution is ROSE (i.e. “revolting”, as in “rose up”) followed by HIP (i.e. “with it”, as in cool, daddio).

50. King protected by subjects in heated situations (7)

Answer: TROPICS (i.e. “heated situations”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation for “king”, specifically Rex) “protected” by TOPICS (i.e. “subjects”), like so: T(R)OPICS.

51. Enjoying, for example, cricket? Over count is repeatedly revised (13)

Answer: INSECTIVOROUS (i.e. “enjoying, say, cricket”, as in the insect). “Revised” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OVER COUNT IS and IS (i.e. “is repeatedly”). Another clue I rather liked.

52. Fifteenth century house in city (9)

Answer: LANCASTER. Solution satisfies both “fifteenth century house”, as in the House of Lancaster, which have us a bunch of King Henrys in the fifteenth century, and “house in city”, as in Lancaster House, a mansion found in London.

53. In peculiar way, how swindler is selected for side? (5)

Answer: ODDLY (i.e. “in a peculiar way”). I’ve precisely no idea what the rest of the clue is getting at.

54. Full of amazement since a lot of weight I lost (10)

Answer: ASTONISHED (i.e. “full of amazement”). Solution is AS (i.e. “since”) followed by TON (i.e. “a lot of weight”) and I SHED (i.e. “I lost”).

55. Oblivion achieved ultimately in drink in this? (6)

Answer: BENDER. Solution is N and D (i.e. “oblivion achieved ultimately”, i.e. the last letters of “oblivion” and “achieved”) placed “in” BEER (i.e. “drink”), like so: BE(ND)ER. Within the context of the clue, going on a bender is to drink to excess, in which case oblivion may well be achieved. The beer monster in me approves.

Down clues

1. Wild animals run into stakes (9)

Answer: ANTELOPES (i.e. “wild animals”). Solution is LOPE (which is to “run” with long strides) placed “into” ANTES (i.e. “stakes”), like so: ANTE(LOPE)S.

2. Painters initially list oil in mixed medium art technique (11)

Answer: POINTILLISM (i.e. “art technique”). Solution is P (i.e. “painters initially”, i.e. the first letter of “painters”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “mixed”) of LIST OIL IN and then M (a recognised abbreviation of “medium” used in clothing sizes), like so: P-OINTILLIS-M.

3. Left in piece of jewellery on time for royal court (7)

Answer: CAMELOT! CAMELOT! CAMELOT! (It’s only a model.) I’ve been waiting over a thousand words to type that! Anyway, “royal court”. Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) placed in CAMEO (i.e. “piece of jewellery”) and followed by T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”), like so: CAME(L)O-T. Tis a silly place.

5. Report written up about century, brilliant effort (5)

Answer: ECLAT, which is showy splendour or distinction (i.e. “brilliant effort”). Solution is TALE (i.e. “report”) reversed (indicated by “written up”, this being a down clue) and placed “about” C (a recognised abbreviation of “century”), like so: E(C)LAT. Seems a handy word for setters, as this solution also appeared back in January.

6. House of Lords, perhaps, having ethos tamely changed (7,4)

Answer: STATELY HOME (i.e. “house of lords, perhaps” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). “Changed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ETHOS TAMELY.

7. Confuse pagan with theory of ancient philosophy (11)

Answer: PYTHAGOREAN (i.e. “ancient philosophy”). “Confuse” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PAGAN and THEORY. Sound familiar? It should because a near carbon-copy of this clue also appeared a fortnight ago. My heart sank when I solved this first, as I thought we were in for another Greatest Hits puzzle. It’s a little suspicious that the same, not-entirely-everyday word appears twice in as many weeks, though, isn’t it?

8. See way to support past master, above all (8)

Answer: OVERLORD (i.e. “master above all”). Solution is LO (i.e. “see”, as in “lo and behold”) and RD (i.e. “way”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “road” used in street names) “supporting” or following OVER (i.e. “past”), like so: OVER-LO-RD.

9. Motor vehicle, say, in competition overturned (6,3)

Answer: ESTATE CAR (i.e. “motor vehicle”). Solution is STATE (i.e. “say”) placed “in” RACE (i.e. “competition”) reversed (indicated by “overturned”), like so: E(STATE)CAR.

10. Behind one’s back (6)

Answer: SECOND. Solution satisfies “behind” (as in to second a motion, for example) and “one’s back” (as in one’s second).

11. Later adjusted temperature in simple option (11)

Answer: ALTERNATIVE (i.e. “option”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “adjusted”) of LATER followed by T (a recognised abbreviation of “temperature”) placed “in” NAÏVE (i.e. “simple”), like so: ALTER-NA(T)IVE.

12. Subject of most original palindrome? (5)

Answer: In the famous “palindrome” Madam, I’m Adam, MADAM would be the “subject” to whom the palindrome is directed. Not quite sure where the “most original” bit comes into it, if I’m honest.

13. Current malfunction in LA? (5,7)

Answer: SHORT CIRCUIT (i.e. “current malfunction”). Solution also satisfies “LA”, as in the word “lap” – another word for “circuit” – being cut short.

20. Scholarly American’s volume found on a railway (8)

Answer: LITERARY (i.e. “scholarly”). Solution is LITER (i.e. “American’s volume”, as in the US spelling of “litre”) placed “on” A and RY (a recognised abbreviation of “railway”), like so: LITER-A-RY.

22. Female article of clothing close, along with male one (7)

Answer: NIGHTIE (i.e. “female article of clothing”). Solution is NIGH (i.e. “close”) and TIE (i.e. “male one”, as in a male article of clothing). Another solution that has featured recently.

23. Motivated in this way with drug, in conclusion (8)

Answer: ENTHUSED (i.e. “motivated”). Solution is THUS (i.e. “in this way”) and E (i.e. “drug”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “ecstasy”) placed “in” END (i.e. “conclusion”), like so: EN(THUS-E)D.

25. Take part in novel event held after ten (8)

Answer: ELEVENTH (i.e. “after ten”). “Take part in” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: NOV(EL EVENT H)ELD.

28. One seeing what’s going to be charged for sweet (5,3)

Answer: BULLS EYE (i.e. a “sweet”). In the context of the clue, a bull would use their eye to see what they are going to charge towards. I rather liked the humour here. Well played.

29. What contains primarily oats, say, easily being consumed by horse? (7)

Answer: NOSEBAG. Solution is NAG (i.e. “horse”) “consuming” O S E and B (i.e. “primarily oats, say, easily being”, i.e. the first letters of “oats”, “say”, “easily” and “being”), like so: N(O-S-E-B)AG. Within the context of the clue, a nosebag may indeed contain oats for a horse. Another good ‘un.

31. Popular with constituents, including female relative that’s erratic (12)

Answer: INCONSISTENT (i.e. “erratic”). Solution is IN (i.e. “popular”) followed by CONTENT (i.e. “constituents”) “including” SIS (i.e. “female relative”, short for “sister”), like so: IN-CON(SIS)TENT.

33. Given too much publicity about European vote presented (11)

Answer: OVEREXPOSED (i.e. “given too much publicity”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “about”, as in, for example, “crying over spilt milk”) followed by E (our old friend, a recognised abbreviation for “European”) then X (i.e. “vote”) and POSED (i.e. “presented”), like so: OVER-E-X-POSED.

34. Golf clubs holding English Open, finally – competitors don’t want it (6,5)

Answer: WOODEN SPOON (i.e. “competitors don’t want it”). Solution is WOOD and SPOON (i.e. “golf clubs” – a spoon is an obsolete golf club; we had a brassie the other week, so why not) “holding” E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and N (i.e. “open, finally”, i.e. the last letter of “open”), like so: WOOD-(E-N)-SPOON.

35. Reduce new academic work that immediately follows this (11)

Answer: PARENTHESIS. Solution is PARE (i.e. “reduce”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) and THESIS (i.e. “academic work”). In the context of the clue, a parenthesis does indeed immediately follow, being wrapped around the (11). Another clue I liked.

36. Moderated about one part of speech being held up, in short (11)

Answer: ABBREVIATED (i.e. “in short”). Solution is ABATED (i.e. “moderated”) placed “about” I (Roman numeral “one”) and VERB (i.e. “part of speech”) reversed (indicated by “being held up”, this being a down clue), like so: AB(BREV-I)ATED.

38. Specialized publications I create so cryptically (9)

Answer: ESOTERICA (i.e. “specialized publications”). “Cryptically” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of I CREATE SO.

41. Manager of funds changed rate with more confidence (9)

Answer: TREASURER (i.e. “manager of funds”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “changed”) of RATE followed by SURER (i.e. “more confident”), like so: TREA-SURER. Another Greatest Hit, this solution only appearing last week!

42. Sailor aboard sturdy launch (5,3)

Answer: START OUT (i.e. “launch”). Solution is TAR (a word for “sailor” often favoured by crossword setters) put “aboard” STOUT (i.e. “sturdy”), like so: S(TAR)TOUT.

45. Liable to embrace sweet girl, initially, being vulgar (7)

Answer: PROFANE (i.e. “vulgar”). Solution is PRONE (i.e. “liable to”) “embracing” FA (i.e. “sweet girl, initially” – this took some figuring out, but this refers to Sweet Fanny Adams, which is often abbreviated to “Sweet FA”), like so: PRO(FA)NE. I rather liked the recursiveness of this, given how “Sweet FA” is often used for a certain well-known profanity.

46. Forceful or pitifully weak about check (6)

Answer: PUNCHY (i.e. “forceful”). Solution is PUNY (i.e. “pitifully weak”) placed about CH (a recognised abbreviation of “check” used in chess), like so: PUN(CH)Y.

47. Capital in company affected by inflation? (5)

Answer: CAIRO (i.e. “capital [of Egypt]”). Solution is CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”) with AIR placed inside (i.e. “affected by inflation”, like filling a balloon), like so: C(AIR)O. Another one that made me smile when I figured it out.

49. Cry holding son giving sign of life (5)

Answer: PULSE (i.e. “sign of life”). Solution is PULE, which is to whimper or whine (i.e. “cry”), “holding” S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”), like so: PUL(S)E.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1373

This week’s puzzle was rather a good one, in my less-than-humble opinion. Though it perhaps sat on the easier end of the difficulty scale, there were a number of clues that scanned really well, and a handful that could be rather prescient in these uncertain times.

As ever, a little housekeeping before we tuck in. You can find a bunch of previous solutions on my Just For Fun page, if that appeals. I’m currently working through reviews of each volume of Best New Horror, which you can find on my Reviews page. Only twenty-six more to go! Finally, if you’d like to leave a comment, please do so. Comments are moderated to avoid (mainly Russian) spam littering the blog, but I’ll approve anything genuine, good or bad.

Right then. To the solution!


Across clues

1. Mobile cadre has to sharpen up after pressure (4,5)

Answer: CELL PHONE (i.e. “mobile”). Solution is CELL (as in a unit group, i.e. “cadre”) and HONE (i.e. “sharpen up”) preceded by P (a recognised abbreviation of “pressure”), like so: CELL-P-HONE.

6. Teetotal, so endure losing alcohol at first (5)

Answer: SOBER (i.e. “teetotal”). Solution is SO then BEAR (i.e. “endure”) with the A removed (i.e. “losing alcohol at first”, i.e. losing the first letter of “alcohol”), like so: SO-BER.

9. Let blood without expression of surprise in medical (5-2)

Answer: CHECK-UP (i.e. “medical”). Solution is CUP (i.e. “let blood” – one of the variant meanings of “cup” is to draw the blood to the surface of the skin using cupping-glasses for the purposes of bloodletting) with HECK (i.e. “expression of surprise”) placed “without” it, like so: C(HECK)UP.

13. Fabric care including European backing (5)

Answer: DENIM (i.e. “fabric”). Solution is MIND (i.e. “care”) “including” E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “backing”), like so: D(E)NIM.

14. Incense is permissible during show (7)

Answer: PROVOKE (i.e. “[to] incense”). Solution is OK (i.e. “permissible”) placed “during” PROVE (i.e. “[to] show”), like so: PROV(OK)E.

15. What some put in encyclopedia for English? (9)

Answer: DIPHTHONG, which is a two-vowel sound pronounced as one syllable. Within the context of the clue, it details how the diphthong “ae” could replace the final E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) in “encyclopedia” to obtain the variant spelling “encyclopaedia”.

16. Giving up job, reasoning it is tricky (11)

Answer: RESIGNATION (i.e. “giving up job”). “Tricky” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of REASONING IT.

17. Southern US soldier left amid deceased is unhappy (11)

Answer: DISGRUNTLED (i.e. “unhappy”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “southern”), GRUNT (i.e. “US soldier”) and L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) placed “amid” DIED (i.e. “deceased”), like so: DI(S-GRUNT-L)ED. I’m often reminded of P.G. Wodehouse when I see this word. To quote: “I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled”. Still makes me laugh.

18. Sacred creature, primarily Egyptian? (6)

Answer: SCARAB, the sacred beetle of the Ancient Egyptians. Solution comprises S and C (i.e. “sacred creature, primarily”, i.e. the first letters of “sacred” and “creature”) followed by ARAB (i.e. “Egyptian”), like so: S-C-ARAB. A good clue, this.

19. Find out about how some cook steak in radiation (8)

Answer: INFRARED (i.e. “radiation”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “out”) of FIND placed “about” RARE (i.e. “how some cook steak”), like so: INF(RARE)D.

21. Stones needing good composer (6)

Answer: GRAVEL (i.e. “stones”). Solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) followed by Maurice RAVEL (i.e. “composer” – him wot done Bolero, like).

25. Topless partygoer grew old and developed mean values (8)

Answer: AVERAGED (i.e. “developed mean values”). Solution is RAVER (i.e. “partygoer”) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “topless”) and followed by AGED (i.e. “grew old”), like so: AVER-AGED.

26. Words reported in court about terrible language (8,6)

Answer: INDIRECT SPEECH (i.e. “words reported”, as in “he said such-and-such”). Solution is IN and CT (a recognised abbreviation of “court”) placed “about” DIRE (i.e. “terrible”) and followed by SPEECH (i.e. “language”), like so: IN-(DIRE)-CT-SPEECH.

28. The French hail Brexit’s aim (5)

Answer: LEAVE (i.e. “Brexit’s aim”). Solution is LE (i.e. “the French” – the French for “the” is “le”) followed by AVE (i.e. “hail”, as in a greeting).

29. Is able to go quickly, but not a pace near a gallop (6)

Answer: CANTER (i.e. “pace near a gallop”). Solution is CAN (i.e. “is able to”) followed by TEAR (i.e. “go quickly”) with the A removed (indicated by “but not a”), like so: CAN-TER.

30. After Tiger beer, perhaps, tons in photo can be in a stiff trance (10)

Answer: CATALEPTIC (i.e. “in a stiff trance”). Solution is CAT (i.e. “tiger”) and ALE (i.e. “beer”) followed by PIC (i.e. “photo”) wrapped around T (a recognised abbreviation of “tons”), like so: CAT-ALE-P(T)IC.

33. Fish’s batter used for waffle? (10)

Answer: CODSWALLOP (i.e. “waffle”). Solution is COD’S (i.e. “fish’s”) followed by WALLOP (i.e. “[to] batter”).

35. Bird that sings in America during quiet (6)

Answer: THRUSH (i.e. “bird that sings”). Solution is THRU (i.e. “America during” – as in a variant form of “through” popularly used in America) followed by SH (i.e. “quiet”).

36. Violent expulsion from power by press (5)

Answer: PURGE (i.e. “violent expulsion”). Solution is P (a recognised abbreviation of “power”) followed by URGE (i.e. “[to] press”).

38. Sign railway added to line finishing in centre of Reading? (7,7)

Answer: LENDING LIBRARY (i.e. “centre of reading” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is LIBRA (i.e. “sign [of the zodiac]”) and RY (a recognised abbreviation of “railway”) which is “added to” L (ditto “line”) and ENDING (i.e. “finishing”), like so: L-ENDING-LIBRA-RY.

40. Station using track from Sweden (8)

Answer: WATERLOO. Solution satisfies both “[London train] station” and “track from Sweden” (i.e. the hit choon by ABBA).

42. Instructions for sellers, initially on cheese (6)

Answer: BRIEFS (i.e. “instructions”). Solution is F and S (i.e. “for sellers, initially”, i.e. the first letters of “for” and “sellers”) placed “on” BRIE (i.e. “cheese”), like so: BRIE-F-S.

43. Boats seen plying in delta lagoons? (8)

Answer: GONDOLAS (i.e. “boats”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “plying”) of LAGOONS and D (i.e. “delta” in the phonetic alphabet).

44. Low bar has right to offer entertainment (6)

Answer: DIVERT (i.e. “to entertain”). Solution is DIVE (i.e. “[a] low bar”, as in “this place is such a dive”) followed by RT (a recognised abbreviation of “right” e.g. in the title Rt Hon, for Right Honourable).

47. In high state, queen wearing fashionable fur is unbeatable (11)

Answer: INSUPERABLE (i.e. “unbeatable”). Solution is UP (i.e. “high state”) and ER (i.e. “queen”, specifically Elizabeth Regina) “wearing” IN (i.e. “fashionable”) and SABLE (i.e. “fur”), like so: IN-S(UP-ER)ABLE.

50. Art style gets involuntary response in Catholicism (11)

Answer: ROMANTICISM (i.e. “art style”). Solution is ROMANISM (i.e. “Catholicism”) “getting” TIC (i.e. “involuntary response”), like so: ROMAN(TIC)ISM.

52. Unusual approach about unknown odd books (9)

Answer: APOCRYPHA (i.e. “odd books”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “unusual”) of APPROACH placed “about” Y (i.e. “unknown” – setters like using this to represent X, Y, or Z in their solutions), like so: APOCR(Y)PHA.

53. Deadlock that is besetting parliamentarian fool (7)

Answer: IMPASSE (i.e. “deadlock”). Solution is IE (i.e. “that is”) “besetting” MP (i.e. “parliamentarian”) and ASS (i.e. “fool”), like so: I(MP-ASS)E. Another clue that made me smile, especially given the chimp’s tea party we have for a parliament these days.

54. Frequently relent, letting son go (5)

Answer: OFTEN (i.e. “frequently”). Solution is SOFTEN (i.e. “relent”) with the S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) “let go”.

55. Spa vessel? Need this to be clean (7)

Answer: BATHTUB (i.e. “spa vessel”). Within the context of the clue, you would rather hope the bathtubs in a spa were clean. Unless they’re filled with muck, I guess. Or tofu. Or whatever is deemed cleansing these days.

56. Small cat, not male, gets rather wet (5)

Answer: SOGGY (i.e. “rather wet”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”) followed by MOGGY (i.e. “cat”) with the M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”) removed.

57. Re-arrest university’s corrupt bursar (9)

Answer: TREASURER (i.e. “bursar”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “corrupt”) of REARREST and U (a recognised abbreviation of “university”).

Down clues

1. What’s back in favour – a deciduous tree (5)

Answer: CEDAR (i.e. “tree”). “In” suggests the solution is hidden in the clue, while “back” indicates that the solution is reversed, like so: FAVOU(R A DEC)IDUOUS.

2. Add green acres plan? I could arrange it (9,8)

Answer: LANDSCAPE GARDENER. “Arrange it” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ADD GREEN ACRES PLAN. As you can see, the solution rather fits within the context of the clue. I liked this one a lot. Well played, setter.

3. Small dog, for instance, raced and consumed fruit (11)

Answer: POMEGRANATE (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is POM (i.e. “small dog”, specifically a shortened form of pomfret – a breed of dog that setters like using in their solutions, if you’ll forgive the pun) followed by EG (i.e. “for instance”) then RAN (i.e. “raced”) and ATE (i.e. “consumed”), like so: POM-EG-RAN-ATE.

4. On oath regularly for returning child all alone (6)

Answer: ORPHAN (i.e. “child all alone”). “Regularly” suggests part of the solution can be derived from every other letter of ON OATH. This is then followed by PRO (i.e. “for”). The whole lot is then reversed, indicated by “returning”, like so: ORP-HAN.

5. Turning to me, one touching son’s strong feelings (8)

Answer: EMOTIONS (i.e. “strong feelings”). Solution is TO ME reversed (indicated by “turning”), then followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) then ON (i.e. “touching”) and S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”), like so: (EM-OT)-I-ON-S.

6. Lorna enrages upset wealthy socialite (6,6)

Answer: SLOANE RANGER (i.e. a term for “wealthy socialite” coined in the mid-1970s). “Upset” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LORNA ENRAGES.

7. Pacific crop with cash benefit (10)

Answer: BREADFRUIT (i.e. “Pacific crop”). Solution is BREAD (i.e. “cash”) and FRUIT (i.e. “benefit”).

8. Bachelor avoiding marrying women goes on (5)

Answer: RIDES (i.e. “goes on”). Solution is BRIDES (i.e. “marrying women”) with the B (a recognised abbreviation of “bachelor”) removed.

9. Protected ape immediately (9)

Answer: COPYRIGHT (i.e. “protected”). Solution is COPY (i.e. “ape”) then RIGHT (i.e. “immediately” – a weak one this, but both words can be taken to mean “direct”).

10. Fruit very quietly put into beer, chasing what consumers like? (6,5)

Answer: EATING APPLE (i.e. “fruit” – this puzzle is helping with our five-a-day, if nothing else). Solution is PP (i.e. “very quietly”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “pianissimo” used in music) “put into” ALE (i.e. “beer”), and the whole lot “chasing” EATING (i.e. “what consumers like”), like so: EATING-A(PP)LE.

11. Nearly all know Jill – with Jack, one going for hill (5)

Answer: KNOLL (i.e. “hill”). Solution is KNO (i.e. “nearly all know”) followed by JILL with the J (a recognised abbreviation of “Jack” used in cards) and I (Roman numeral “one”) “going”, like so: KNO-LL.

12. Quiet area holding a deity? (6)

Answer: PAGODA. Solution is P (a recognised abbreviation of “piano” – i.e. “quiet” – used in music) and A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”) “holding” A GOD (i.e. “a deity”). Within the context of the clue, a pagoda – an Eastern temple – may well be a quiet area holding a god. Another one I rather liked.

18. Shopping centres caught in the act of selling very little (5-5)

Answer: SMALL-SCALE (i.e. “very little”). Solution is MALLS (i.e. “shopping centres”) and C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in assorted ball games) placed “in” SALE (i.e. “the act of selling”), like so: S(MALLS-C)ALE.

20. Inventor of myth: risen dead nearly all American (8)

Answer: DAEDALUS (i.e. “inventor of [Greek] myth”). Solution is DEAD reversed (indicated by “risen” – this being a down clue) and followed by AL (i.e. “nearly all”) and US (i.e. “American”), like so: DAED-AL-US.

22. Potential markers’ list set down under chosen exam (9,8)

Answer: ELECTORAL REGISTER (i.e. “potential markers”, as in those eligible to vote, i.e. to “mark” their ballot paper). Solution is REGISTER (i.e. “list”) placed or “set down under” ELECT (i.e. “chosen”) and ORAL (i.e. “exam”) – this being a down clue – like so: ELECT-ORAL-REGISTER. Another good one.

23. Place outside Nice rebuilt for a writer (6)

Answer: PENCIL (i.e. “writer”). Solution is PL (a recognised abbreviation of “place” used in street names) put “outside” an anagram (indicated by “rebuilt”) of NICE, like so: P(ENCI)L.

24. Be a wimp, getting confused in checkout (7,3)

Answer: CHICKEN OUT (i.e. “be a wimp”). “Getting confused” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IN CHECKOUT.

27. Lacking time, talking over PA system is tiresome (8)

Answer: ANNOYING (i.e. “tiresome”). Solution is TANNOYING (i.e. “talking over PA system”) “lacking” T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

31. Retreat with sheep under tree (6)

Answer: ASHRAM, which, in India, is a hermitage for a holy man (i.e. “retreat”). Solution is RAM (i.e. “sheep”) placed “under” – this being a down clue – ASH (i.e. “tree”), like so: ASH-RAM. One I got through the wordplay, if I’m honest.

32. Task round plot – nursery finally planned moves? (12)

Answer: CHOREOGRAPHY (i.e. “planned moves”). Solution is CHORE (i.e. “task”) followed by O (i.e. “round”), GRAPH (i.e. “plot”) and Y (i.e. “nursery finally”, i.e. the last letter of “nursery”), like so: CHORE-O-GRAPH-Y.

34. Thinner tie with rips is thrown out (5,6)

Answer: WHITE SPIRIT (i.e. “thinner”). “Thrown out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TIE WITH RIPS.

36. Quick dropping stone into valuable setting (11)

Answer: PRECIPITOUS (i.e. “quick[-]dropping”). Solution is PIT (i.e. “[a fruit] stone”) “set into” PRECIOUS (i.e. “valuable”), like so: PRECI(PIT)OUS.

37. Minor royal and pop singer loiter, avoiding Queen (10)

Answer: PRINCELING (i.e. “minor royal”). Solution is PRINCE (i.e. “pop singer”) followed by LINGER (i.e. “loiter”) “avoiding” (i.e. removing) ER (i.e. “queen”, specifically Elizabeth Regina), like so: PRINCE-LING.

39. What’s for instance involved in cooking top grub? (9)

Answer: GASTROPUB. Solution is AS (i.e. “for instance”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “cooking”) of TOP GRUB, like so: G(AS)TROPUB. Within context of the clue, a gastropub could well be somewhere cooking top grub.

41. Second group after month finding small monkey (8)

Answer: MARMOSET (i.e. “small monkey”). Solution is MO (i.e. “second”, as in the unit of time) and SET (i.e. “group”) placed “after” MAR (a recognised abbreviation of “March”, i.e. “month”), like so: MAR-MO-SET.

45. What helps raise protection for baby around vehicle (6)

Answer: BICARB (i.e. “what helps raise [in baking]”). Solution is BIB (i.e. “protection for baby”) placed “around” CAR (i.e. “vehicle”), like so: BI(CAR)B.

46. Building an inn at last on river (6)

Answer: ANNEXE (i.e. “building”). Solution is AN then N (i.e. “inn at last”, i.e. the last letter of “inn”) followed by EXE (i.e. a “river” running through Devon).

48. Film big game expedition? (5)

Answer: SHOOT. Solution satisfies “[to] film” and “big game expedition”.

49. Metal that is not used in old-fashioned club (5)

Answer: BRASS (i.e. “metal”). Solution is BRASSIE (i.e. “old-fashioned [golf] club”, albeit one that doesn’t feature in my Chambers – your dictionary may differ) with the IE removed (i.e. “that is not used”, “that is” being another way of saying “i.e.”).

51. Number invading spoil home territory (5)

Answer: MANOR (i.e. “home territory”). Solution is NO (a recognised abbreviation of “number”) “invading” MAR (i.e. “to spoil”), like so: MA(NO)R.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1372

This was a mercifully gentler affair after last week’s horror show. My aching brain appreciates it! You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

If you have a recent puzzle knocking about for which you’d like the answers, then you might find my Just For Fun page useful. In the meantime, I’ll continue work on my review of Best New Horror 4. (You can see reviews of the first three books in my Reviews page, should you fancy a gander.)

Right then. In the immortal words of Nicolas Cage: “NOT THE BEES!” “Let’s ride”.


Across clues

1. Trip merrily in dance music of the 1990s (7)

Answer: BRITPOP (i.e. “music of the 1990s”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “merrily”) of TRIP placed “in” BOP (i.e. “dance”), like so: B(RITP)OP.

5. Men pulling trains, perhaps? You’ll find them in Scotland (8)

Answer: HEBRIDES. Solution satisfies “men pulling trains, perhaps” (i.e. HE BRIDES, as oxymoronic as it sounds – “trains” being those dirty great back-ends of wedding dresses) and “you’ll find them in Scotland”.

9. Dance spotted in puzzle (6)

Answer: JIGSAW (i.e. “puzzle”). Solution is JIG (i.e. “dance”) followed by SAW (i.e. “spotted”).

13. Talc’s article wanted for such attention, in brief? (6,6,4)

Answer: TENDER LOVING CARE. Solution is TALC with the A – an article – removed (i.e. “talc’s article removed”). This gives you TLC, which is a recognised abbreviation (indicated by “in brief”) of Tender Loving Care (i.e. “attention”).

14. Party politics at sea moving ahead, so all concluding (4,2)

Answer: STAG GO (i.e. “party”). “All concluding” indicates that the solution is derived from the final letters of POLITICS AT SEA MOVING AHEAD SO.

16. Conservative PM once lacking leadership, old Con cross (8)

Answer: ORTHODOX (i.e. “conservative”, as in one’s views). Solution is Lord Frederick NORTH, British Prime Minister 1770-1782 (i.e. “PM once”) with the initial letter removed (i.e. “lacking leadership”), and followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”), DO (to cheat, i.e. “con”) and X (i.e. “cross”), like so: ORTH-O-DO-X.

17. Miles away from a ranch – miles away! (4)

Answer: AFAR (i.e. “miles away”). Solution is A FARM (i.e. “a ranch”) with the M removed (i.e. “miles away”, M being a recognised abbreviation of “miles”).

18. Done in accessing corner in this domestic chore (9)

Answer: HOOVERING (i.e. “domestic chore”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “done”) and IN placed in, or “accessing” HOG (i.e. “[to] corner [something]”), like so: HO(OVER-IN)G.

20. Hunk of sweetmeat? (8)

Answer: BEEFCAKE. Solution satisfies “hunk” and, cryptically, “sweetmeat” (as in a BEEF CAKE).

21. Change about a hundred for a difference (11)

Answer: ALTERCATION (which is to dispute something heatedly, i.e. “a difference”). Solution is C (Roman numeral for “a hundred”) placed in ALTERATION (i.e. “change”), like so: ALTER(C)ATION.

24. Shape central, eg quadrilateral (9)

Answer: RECTANGLE (i.e. “quadrilateral”). “Shape” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CENTRAL EG.

25. Flower, grey lines perhaps round the edge (8)

Answer: PRIMROSE (i.e. “flower”). Solution is PROSE (i.e. “grey lines perhaps” – “prose” can mean non-poetic text, or something that’s boring and grey) placed “round” RIM (i.e. “the edge”), like so: P(RIM)ROSE.

26. A welcome shower? (4)

Answer: HAIL. Solution satisfies “a welcome” and “shower”.

29. Hammer close to a bar for field event? (3,4,4)

Answer: CAR BOOT SALE (i.e. “field event”). “Hammer” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CLOSE TO A BAR.

31. Details causing much head scratching? Then tough! (5-6)

Answer: NITTY-GRITTY (i.e. “details”). Solution is NITTY (i.e. “causing much head scratching”) “then” GRITTY (i.e. “tough”). A solution that appeared a few weeks ago.

33. Greek philosophy derived from pagan theory (11)

Answer: PYTHAGOREAN (i.e. “Greek philosophy”). “Derived from” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PAGAN THEORY.

36. Idle barge, one taking extra work (11)

Answer: MOONLIGHTER (i.e. “one taking extra work”). Solution is MOON (i.e. “[to] idle”) and LIGHTER (i.e. “[a] barge”).

38. Youth centres in Leicestershire and Kent (4)

Answer: TEEN (i.e. “youth”). Solution is derived from the “centres” of LeicesTErshire and KENt.

39. One criticising salesman and traveller (8)

Answer: REPROVER (i.e. “one criticising”). Solution is REP (i.e. “salesman”) followed by ROVER (i.e. “traveller”).

41. Mediator has to try and gamble – little point (2-7)

Answer: GO-BETWEEN (i.e. “mediator”). Solution is GO (i.e. “to try”) then BET (i.e. “gamble”) then WEE (i.e. “little”) and N (i.e. “point”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “north” on a compass), like so: GO-BET-WEE-N.

44. Fire at bird, producing lead (5,1,5)

Answer: BLAZE A TRAIL (i.e. “[to] lead”). Solution is BLAZE (i.e. “fire”) followed by AT and then RAIL (i.e. “bird” – did a Google Image search – meh, random).

45. Possible boiler trouble (3,5)

Answer: HOT WATER. Solution satisfies “possible boiler” (other boiling liquids may be available) and “trouble”.

48. Inspired by crude matter, newspaper producing four-letter word (9)

Answer: TETRAGRAM (i.e. “four-letter word”). Solution is RAG (i.e. “newspaper”) “inspired” into an anagram (indicated by “crude”) of MATTER, like so: TET(RAG)RAM.

49. Author unknown, all works lacking initial (4)

Answer: ANON (i.e. “author unknown”). Solution is CANON (i.e. “all works”) with the first letter removed (i.e. “lacking initial”).

50. Support overwhelming seed in West London contest? (4,4)

Answer: BOAT RACE (i.e. a “West London contest” which will be on in a couple of weeks). Solution is OAT (i.e. “seed”) being “overwhelmed” by BRACE (i.e. “support”), like so: B(OAT)RACE.

52. Backtracking southeast European runs off (6)

Answer: ELOPES (i.e. “runs off”). Solution is SE (a recognised abbreviation of “southeast”) and POLE (i.e. “European”), and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “backtracking”), like so: ELOP-ES.

53. A bigot retired with game of rugby in a mess (2,5,3,6)

Answer: AT SIXES AND SEVENS (i.e. “in a mess”). Solution is A, then SEXIST (i.e. “bigot”) reversed (indicated by “retired”), then followed by AND (i.e. “with”) and SEVENS (i.e. “game of rugby”), like so: A-TSIXES-AND-SEVENS.

54. Never what the bold show (2,4)

Answer: NO FEAR. Solution satisfies an exclamatory “never” that you don’t hear so much these days, and “what the bold show”.

55. Poets, say, in European catalogues (8)

Answer: ELEGISTS (i.e. “poets”). Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) placed “in” E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and LISTS (i.e. “catalogues”), like so: E-L(EG)ISTS.

56. Weary old bowler, perhaps, trapping us (7)

Answer: EXHAUST (i.e. “weary” – though I’d question the tense here). Solution is EX-HAT (i.e. “old bowler, perhaps”) “trapping” US, like so: EX-HA(US)T.

Down clues

1. Base saw British uprising (6)

Answer: BOTTOM (i.e. “base”). Solution is MOTTO (i.e. “saw” – an alternative meaning of “saw” is a saying or phrase) and B (a recognised abbreviation of British) reversed (indicated by “uprising” – this being a down clue), like so: B-OTTOM.

2. Light lifted in fleeting image (6)

Answer: IGNITE. “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “lifted” indicates the solution is reversed, again this being a down clue, like so: FLE(ETING I)MAGE.

3. They happen to see father embracing females only, zero males (9)

Answer: PHENOMENA (i.e. “they happen to [be] see[n]”). Solution is PA (i.e. “father”) “embracing” HEN O MEN (i.e. “females only, zero males” – a bit weak, but you know what I mean), like so: P(HEN-O-MEN)A.

4. Series of cushioned blows? (6,5)

Answer: PILLOW FIGHT. Solution riffs on how one involves fighting with pillows, which, of course, are a kind of cushion. Another clue that featured in a recent puzzle.

5. Queen’s residence, where Welsh corgi ends on covers of Vogue (4)

Answer: HIVE (i.e. “queen [bee]’s residence”). Solution is H and I (i.e. “Welsh corgi ends”, i.e. the last letters of WELSH and CORGI) placed “on” VE (i.e. “covers of Vogue”, i.e. the first and last letters of “vogue”). I rather liked this clue.

6. Censorship withdrawn, intro cut from film perhaps that’s sentimental and sweet (8,3)

Answer: BANOFFEE PIE (i.e. “[a] sweet”). Solution is BAN (i.e. “censorship”) then OFF (i.e. “withdrawn”) then WEEPIE (i.e. “film perhaps that’s sentimental”) with its “intro cut”, like so: BAN-OFF-EEPIE.

7. Existence driving people? (11)

Answer: INCARNATION (i.e. “existence”). “Driving people” also suggests this may be an IN-CAR NATION.

8. Soil brilliant thing for fungus (9)

Answer: EARTHSTAR, a very cool-looking “fungus”. Solution is EARTH (i.e. “soil”) and STAR (i.e. “brilliant thing”).

10. Current fashion to stop river causing a blockage (2,3,3)

Answer: IN THE WAY (i.e. “causing a blockage”). Solution is IN (i.e. “current”) and THE WAY (i.e. “[a] fashion”). Not sure what the “to stop river” bit relates to. If you call a river a “way”, then the solution would satisfy that as well, I guess.

11. Husband, perhaps, provided in Antichrist gone mad! (11,5)

Answer: SIGNIFICANT OTHER (i.e. “husband, perhaps”). Solution is IF (i.e. “provided”, as in “you can do something provided you do something else”) placed “in” an anagram (indicated by “mad”) of ANTICHRIST GONE, like so: SIGN(IF)ICANTOTHER.

12. Villain picked up weapon that’s about right (5,2)

Answer: WRONG UN (i.e. “villain”). I’m not 100% sure, but I reckon the solution might be WON (i.e. “picked up”, albeit rather weakly) and GUN (i.e. “weapon”) placed “about” R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) like so: W(R)ON-GUN.

15. Try out travels around islands popular with holidaymakers (8)

Answer: TOURISTY (i.e. “popular with holiday makers”). Solution is IS (a recognised abbreviation of “islands”) with an anagram (indicated by “travels”) of TRY OUT placed “around” it, like so: TOUR(IS)TY.

19. Material cost is cut (8)

Answer: LACERATE (i.e. “cut”). Solution is LACE (i.e. “material”) and RATE (i.e. “cost”).

22. Mad to split prize (8)

Answer: CRACKPOT (i.e. “mad”). Solution is CRACK (i.e. “to split”) and POT (i.e. “prize”).

23. Frighten – leaving one embarrassingly exposed? (5,3,5,3)

Answer: SCARE THE PANTS OFF (i.e. “frighten”). In the context of the solution, one might well be embarrassingly exposed having had their pants scared off – particularly if one has gone commando.

27. Putting down sheets, fifty certainly sound (8)

Answer: LAYERING (i.e. “putting down sheets”). Solution is L (Roman numeral for “fifty”), then AYE (i.e. an affirmatory “certainly”) and RING (i.e. “sound”).

28. Dress up for game (4)

Answer: BRAG (i.e. “[card] game”). Solution is GARB (i.e. “dress”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue).

30. Nation in love with king, perhaps (4)

Answer: OMAN (i.e. “nation”). Solution is O (i.e. “love”, i.e. a zero score in tennis) followed by MAN (i.e. “king, perhaps”).

32. Ideas, however, tactless in the extreme (8)

Answer: THOUGHTS (i.e. “ideas”). Solution is THOUGH (i.e. “however”) followed by TS (i.e. “tactless in the extreme”, i.e. the first and last letters of “tactless”).

34. Capsize transparent vessel (8)

Answer: OVERTURN (i.e. “capsize”). Solution is OVERT (i.e. “transparent”) followed by URN (i.e. “vessel”).

35. Church body doing little to contain downward acceleration, in self-contemplation (5-6)

Answer: NAVEL-GAZING (i.e. “self-contemplation”). Solution is NAVE (i.e. “church body”) followed by G (i.e. “downward acceleration”, i.e. “g”, a recognised value representing gravity in umpteen physics-based equations) “contained” by LAZING (i.e. “doing little”), like so: NAVE-L(G)AZING.

36. Tramp, prowler doffing cap, is noble (11)

Answer: MARCHIONESS (i.e. “noble”). Solution is MARCH (i.e. “tramp”) followed by LIONESS (i.e. “prowler”) without its initial letter (indicated by “doffing cap”), like so: MARCH-IONESS.

37. After party, artist has to sketch a cross (11)

Answer: LABRADOODLE (i.e. “a cross [breed of dog]”). Solution is LAB (i.e. “party”) with RA (a recognised abbreviation of “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) placed “after” it and then followed by DOODLE (i.e. “sketch”), like so: LAB-RA-DOODLE.

40. The way repairer mends a leotard with marks in it (4,5)

Answer: ROAD METAL, which are broken stones used for roads (i.e. “the way repairer”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “mends”) of A LEOTARD with M (a recognised abbreviation of “marks”, the former currency of Germany) placed “in it”, like so: ROAD(M)ETAL.

42. Ordinal with tenet that’s controversial (9)

Answer: TWENTIETH (i.e. “ordinal”). “Controversial” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WITH TENET.

43. Victory secured by leader, a terrible old Irish statesman (2,6)

Answer: Éamon DE VALERA (i.e. “old Irish statesman”. No, me neither.) Solution is V (a recognised abbreviation of “victory”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “terrible”) of LEADER A, like so: DE(V)ALERA.

44. Freezing point for bird (7)

Answer: BITTERN (i.e. “bird”). Solution is BITTER (i.e. “freezing”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “north”, a “point” on a compass).

46. Opener taking gold – that’s rich! (6)

Answer: GATEAU (i.e. “[a cake] that’s rich”). Solution is GATE (i.e. “opener”) followed by AU (chemical symbol of “gold”).

47. Guy heading for Tianjin in China (3,3)

Answer: TEA SET (i.e. “china” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is TEASE (i.e. “[to] guy”) followed by T (i.e. “heading for Tianjin”, i.e. the first letter of Tianjin).

51. Route I don’t know (4)

Answer: PASS. Solution satisfies “route” and “I don’t know”.

Review: Best New Horror 3

The cover is a bit naff, yes, but it seems the image was heavily altered prior to publication. Could just be me, though.

After the relative disappointment of Best New Horror 2 compared to the first volume, it’s pleasing to see a noticeable improvement in this third outing. Out go the sci-fi pretenders and bloodless time-wasters of book two to be replaced by some notably darker material – this was the year American Psycho hit the bookshelves, after all. Overall, then, this book scores a fairly solid 4/5.

Best New Horror 3 collects twenty-nine of the best horror shorts published during 1991, and goes a little something like this:

True Love – K. W. Jeter (4/5 – In this pitch-black opener we follow a disturbed woman as she lures a young boy to her house. We discover through frequent flashbacks that she suffered greatly at the hands of her father, satisfying his sexual urges from an early age and weathering his physical and psychological abuse. Now, in her middle-age, her father is little more than a dried-up husk, shut away in a spare bedroom upstairs. It’s a wonder he’s still alive. Perhaps it has something to do with the children his daughter keeps bringing home. This is a story that is unafraid to visit some truly dark places and I was surprised to find it just as horrific on a second readthrough. And yet Jeter never lets the story veer too far into gratuitousness. Instead he infuses the piece with a cold disconnectedness I found almost as unsettling as the plot. In short, this story perfectly sets up the darker tone of this book, though I’d be happy to not read it a third time.)

Also collected in Campbell’s “Ghosts & Grisly Things”

The Same In Any Language – Ramsey Campbell (3/5 – In another of those “dumped on a Greek island” stories – the third in as many books – we find Hugh, a bookish ten-year-old boy, enduring a Greek holiday from hell with his boorish father. All Hugh wants out of the holiday is to explore the uninhabited island of Spinalonga and to soak up its history. All Hugh’s dad wants is to drink, to piss off Johnny Foreigner and to screw around with Kate, his newfound holiday shag. Worse still, as the days roll on, Kate is trying to act more like a mum to Hugh. Eventually the adults accede to Hugh’s request and they all take a boat trip out to Spinalonga – a former leper colony – as the sun sets in the distance. This was okay, with some interesting and believable relationships developing between the characters, but things went awry the moment Campbell tried to spoon in the horror. The moment his characters stepped onto the island was the moment I started seeing the author’s hand at work, nudging his characters along, making them say and do things that felt a little out of whack, as if he was in a hurry to finish. The story soon feels over-engineered, a bit like Hugh’s dad, and isn’t helped by an unfunny joke ending.)

Impermanent Mercies – Kathe Koja (4/5 – Ellis is a photographer with a mercenary streak. He doesn’t care too much for the subjects on the other side of the lens so long as they can score him the perfect shot. For one such picture, Ellis lines up a young boy, Andy, and his dog, True, between a pair of train tracks. Moments later the hound is tragically killed beneath the wheels of a train. Ellis is later horrified to find that the boy has kept the dog’s head in a box. And that the head can talk. This starts off weird and then gets weirder and darker with each passing paragraph. This reminded me somewhat of the deeply strange and disturbing monologues in Chris Morris’s Blue Jam radio series from the late 1990s (several years after this was published, I should add). I loved Blue Jam back then and I really liked this.)

Collected in Brennert’s “Mai Qui and Other Phantoms”, which you’ll do well to find.

Ma Qui – Alan Brennert (4/5 – Collins is an American soldier trying to come to terms with his violent death out in the Vietnamese jungle. He is not the only one. A few of his squad mates haunt the area as well, having met their ends in the same bloody skirmish. The ghosts of the Vietcong also sit among the trees, a number of them weeping. When a recovery chopper arrives to repatriate the remains of his squad mates, Collins suddenly finds himself alone. Convinced the VC has stolen his body, Collins sets out to find it. He encounters the ghost of a fellow soldier suspended helplessly over a nearby river. In rescuing him, Collins learns of the terrible role he now must fulfil in the afterlife. This is a really good and absorbing read which bagged a Nebula award back in the day.)

Originally published in the shared-world anthology “Under the Fang”

The Miracle Mile – Robert R. McCammon (4/5 – In this bleak tale, which was written as a scene-setter for a post-vampire-apocalypse-themed anthology edited by McCammon, we follow a family as they pick their way through a storm-ravaged American wasteland on the way to Perdido Beach. Kyle and Allie have been coming to the beach every year since they’d hitched up together, years before the world went to hell. For their twelve-year-old son, Tommy, summer has always meant a trip to the place. It’s something they’ve always done. But is this particular pilgrimage being undertaken through sheer bloody-mindedness or is there a darker purpose? What happens when you run out of road in a world full of predators? For the most part this story was fairly standard end-of-the-world fare, being competent and readable but hardly ground-breaking. There then came a moment which genuinely had me saying “Whoa!”, which doesn’t happen very often. For that, an extra point.)

Also collected in SRT’s “City Fishing”.

Taking Down The Tree – Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 – Christmas has come and gone for Nick and his family. It’s time for the kids to stop playing with their toys and help their father take down the tree, the cards, the decorations and a whole lot more besides. A short and effective shocker from SRT, and another one that genuinely surprised me on a first read. Good stuff!)






Also collected in Clegg’s “Lights Out”

Where Flies Are Born – Douglas Clegg (3/5 – Ellen is on the run with her young son, Joey. They are both escaping the violent clutches of Frank: Ellen’s other half and Joey’s father. When their train breaks down and a lengthy delay looks inevitable, Ellen and Joey accept an offer of accommodation from Mama and Papa Neeson. On their way to the Neeson farmhouse the old couple talk of their little ones. Ellen is sceptical, as the Neesons look much too old to have young children. During the night, on the way to the bathroom, Ellen sees one of the little ones in the hallway: a bruised and filthy girl with a large fly crawling over her face. This was okay, with some really creepy imagery, but I didn’t buy into Papa Neeson’s explain-all, nor did I buy into the ending, which felt rather tacked-on.)

Collected in Johnson’s “In The Night In The Dark”

Love, Death and the Maiden – Roger Johnson (3/5 – It’s the late 1930’s and Europe teeters on the brink of war. A man is introduced to a playwright, Margaret, and her attractive assistant, Valerie. For her next work, Margaret wishes to base a play around Elisabeth Bathory and sends Valerie on a trip across an increasingly volatile Eastern Europe to dig up research on the notorious countess. Valerie writes often to our man, describing her travels, but her correspondence soon darkens as her quest develops into a hunt for Bathory’s iron maiden. Though the setup of the story was hopelessly overengineered, once it got going it was a shoo-in for a solid 4/5. Johnson intercuts his story with gruesomely interesting factoids about Bathory’s insane and murderous excess, and the device works surprisingly well. The denouement, however, spoiled it all, coming across as silly and, unfortunately, in a weird way, reminded me of the Fembots from the Austin Powers movies. Not groovy, baby.)

Also collected in Somtow’s “The Pavilion of Frozen Women”

Chui Chai – S. P. Somtow (4/5 – Russell Liebowitz is an oversexed yuppie earning obscene amounts of cash by day and feeding his assorted vices by night. One night in Bangkok (forgive me, I could not resist) he meets up with Dr Stone in Club Pagoda to discuss some business. Stone seeks an investment of several millions of dollars into her medical research programme. Liebowitz is wise to her programme, however, and its notoriety. Stone is equally wise to Liebowitz, knowing exactly how to press his buttons. A beautiful woman takes to the stage of Club Pagoda to perform the titular dance, and our man is hopeless to resist her. Too late, Liebowitz realises he’s been set up. This is quite the mirror opposite of the previous story, in that it was a solid 3/5 until the ending, which was wonderfully bonkers.)

Also collected in Newman’s “Famous Monsters”

The Snow Sculptures of Xanadu – Kim Newman (1/5 – Newman’s encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema and the horror genre is given another airing in this short piece of pseudofiction. Orson Welles rocks up to a dilapidated Xanadu, Charles Foster Kane’s mansion. There he meets Dr Montague and his team of paranormal investigators. After suiting up seemingly for a blizzard, they step inside. That’s about it, really. The vast majority of the “story” is little more than indulgent showboating from Newman as he sets about blurring real life and several fictitious worlds with dizzying abandon. (You might recognise Dr Montague and his team from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, for example.) Cinephiles may get a kick out of this effort, but many others – myself included – will find it the longest four-page story they’d ever read. An argument could be made that this piece – despite its lack of popularity (it was voted one of the worst stories published in Interzone magazine that year) – was necessary, for Newman would soon go on to fuse real life and fictitious worlds with much greater success in later works. More on that in my review of Best New Horror 4.)

Colder Than Hell – Edward Bryant (4/5 – In turn-of-the-century Wyoming, Logan and his wife, Opal, make the best of a bad situation while a long and bitterly cold winter storm rages outside their remote farmhouse. With the blizzard reducing visibility to mere feet, stepping outside for firewood presents a major operation for Logan. Yet Opal seems to have nowhere near as much trouble when it’s her turn. As the storm continues to strengthen so too does Logan’s suspicion of Opal. Was this really the woman he married all those years ago? How can she remain so calm when all hell is breaking loose outside? This was a good story touching on the feelings of an old married couple who were never able to produce children, and how a small germ of resentment spinning from that could develop into something bigger, given the right circumstances – in this case a relentless and oppressive snowstorm. If I had one complaint, it was Bryant’s attempt to hang the horror element of his story on a somewhat artificial-sounding phrase Opal uses whenever Logan sneezes. There are sound historical reasons why people say something like “gesundheit” or “your health” (to ward off disease) or “bless you” (to ward off evil spirits). I can’t imagine why anyone would say “company’s coming”.)

Also collected in Collins’s “Knuckles and Tales”

Raymond – Nancy A. Collins (4/5 – Darryl is intrigued by a new starter in his class: a nervous and scrawny little boy called Raymond. The boy is dropped off by his abusive, man-mountain-like father in a beat-up pickup truck held together “by a length of baling wire, spit, and a prayer”. Raymond doesn’t really engage with the rest of the class and is largely left alone to do his own thing. The boy’s simple nature, bandaged head and gloved hands mark him out for special attention by the school bully, who soon finds to his cost that Raymond has a limit to the abuse he can take. This is a werewolf story (so much is revealed in the editor’s introduction), but one that is ahead of the pack, so to speak.)

Also collected in Grant’s “Scream Quietly”

One Life, In An Hourglass – Charles L. Grant (4/5 – A spot of fan fiction takes us into the world of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. A middle-aged woman named Cora returns to Green Town, the sometime venue of Cooger & Dark’s travelling carnival. Teenage memories of Mr Dark flood Cora’s mind and the plans she had of leaving Green Town with him, and how those plans were thwarted by her mother. But that was then. Cora can feel the carnival returning, and this time she is sure of it. The storm clouds that once foreshadowed the carnival are gathering once more. I’m not usually a fan of stories that come with prerequisites, but this was pretty good, helped by a wonderfully chill ending. It also prompted me to read Bradbury’s novel beforehand, which had been on my to-be-read pile for years.)

Also collected in Morrison’s “Lovely Biscuits”

The Braille Encyclopedia – Grant Morrison (4/5 – Morrison goes all Clive Barker in this Stoker-nominated short as a young blind woman is recruited into a world of sadism and exquisite pain, of abused angels and human books scarred with forbidden knowledge. Dark stuff indeed, but a good read if you have the constitution for it. I bet this is exactly what Louis Braille had in mind back in the 1800’s when he was putting his alphabet together, the grubby bugger.)


Also collected in Hand’s “Last Summer at Mars Hill”

The Bacchae – Elizabeth Hand (5/5 – The ozone layer is knackered, and a large-scale project is underway to place mesh-like shielding into orbit to help combat the damage. Everything takes on a sepia tint, which does a lot more than muddy everyone’s vision. Amid mounting stories of women attacking and killing men, Gordon begins to see a threatening change in the women around him, not least in his other half, Olivia. Walking back together from seeing a production of Euripides’ The Bacchae, Olivia seems irritated by everything Gordon says or does. When they are set upon by three male muggers, Gordon is horrified by Olivia’s explosive response. Some (male) readers back in the day passionately decried this as little more than a misandrous gorefest. It is not. Instead this is a smart riff on Euripides’ tragedy, with women all round the world driven to brutal maenadic fervour thanks to a few too many man-made environmental disasters. What results is one of the best stories in the book and reminded me of Raccoona Sheldon (aka Alice Sheldon aka James Tiptree Jnr)’s The Screwfly Solution, but with the genders reversed. The story was republished a few years ago in Nightmare Magazine, and you can read it here: http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/the-bacchae)

Busted In Buttown – David J. Schow (4/5 – A short shocker from Schow which sees Mex, a no-nonsense burglar, escaping the attentions of the LAPD only to find the tables turned on him in an unforeseen and gruesome way. Another winner.)

Subway Story – Russell Flinn (2/5 – A grumpy old fusspot called Whittle harbours a serious grudge against Daniel, a younger work colleague, going so far as to write an incendiary letter to the local newspaper about the youth of today. Yep, that kind of guy. Anyway, when he’s not looking down his nose on society and all within it, Whittle can often be found getting freaked out by the coven of bag ladies hanging around the entrance to his local subway. When Whittle suspects Daniel is following him around outside of work, he leads the lad into the subway. The next morning, Daniel doesn’t show up to work. This was a real curiosity. My original review of this (which I’ve left up on Goodreads) feels like an entirely different story now that I’ve read it a second time. Sadly, this was not to the story’s benefit, as Flinn’s awkward writing style served only to push me further out of his story. (It could be written in character; I haven’t read any other of Flinn’s stuff.) There are still some lovely turns of phrase to be had, but blimey this was a struggle to get through a second time. A rare downgraded score from me.)

Also collected in Ligotti’s “Noctuary”

The Medusa – Thomas Ligotti (4/5 – Lucian Dregler is a man obsessed with all things Medusa: her mythology, her influence on culture throughout the ages, even the question of her very existence. Dregler is called to a club where he is given a fresh Medusan lead to follow by a friend, not realising it’s a hoax. Or is it? This really ought to be a straight 3/5, but once again I’m won over by Ligotti’s writing, especially in the first half of the story. He is sometimes guilty of creating main characters who are too laser-focused on their interests and are prone to over-philosophising about them – as is the case here – but where he absolutely nails it in The Medusa is in the locations. Within the space of a page I wanted to kick back with a large brandy and a newspaper in the aforementioned club, while his description of a bookshop Dregler later visits almost had me never wanting to leave the place.)

Also collected in Lane’s “The Terrible Changes”. Good luck finding a copy.

Power Cut – Joel Lane (4/5 – A politician called Lake escapes the loneliness of his constituency flat and hits the town for a bit of rough. Lake hooks up with a moody fella called Gary and they head back to Gary’s place. It’s a squalid, bare-bones studio flat littered with newspaper cuttings. The cuttings cover the walls too, and Lake makes the horrible mistake of reading them. Joel Lane’s stories were often good but would require a re-read or two to fully appreciate what was going on, for me at least. This earlyish effort is comparatively straightforward, however, and reads like a pleasingly short Robert Aickman story. Good stuff.)



Moving Out – Nicholas Royle (3/5 – Nick is an arsehole who likes to play pranks on his other half. So much so, it seems, that she eventually moves away – seventy miles away. She refuses Nick’s help, refuses to acknowledge his offer, even his very existence. Now why would she do a thing like that? This was okay – and better than Royle’s previous entries in the Best New Horror series – but two things held it back: 1) I’d guessed what was going on by the end of page one, and 2) Nick really, really is a proper arsehole!)

Also collected in Partridge’s “Bad Intentions”. Love the cover!

Guignoir – Norman Partridge (4/5 – Frank and Larry are twin brothers working a grim carnival attraction called the Death Car: the very vehicle a murderer, Hank Caul, once used to drive his victims to their slaughter. The car is owned by their father, a man with as much business prowess as a bucket of cold piss. When the Death Car’s fortunes start to wane, Pa decides to bring the car back to the town where Caul carried out his horrific murderers, regardless of how the locals may feel about it. The twins witness Pa handing over a suitcase of money – their life savings – over to a few locals in exchange for a smaller briefcase. The old man believes the case contains the skin of Caul, a sure-fire way of reigniting interest in the Death Car. When Pa realises he has been conned, and that Larry hasn’t returned from getting his end away the night before, and that the Death Car has also gone missing… well, that’s enough to get Frank good and mad and out for answers. This was a rollicking, full-blooded story that packed a whole lot of goings-on into its 8000-ish words, but I wonder if it would have worked even better in a longer form.)

Blood Sky – William F. Nolan (4/5 – Ed hits it off with Lorry, a rodeo waitress, and for the first time in his life it feels like he has found true love. Conversation with her is easy, the sex is great and Lorry’s free spirit holds rather a lot of appeal for Ed. It seems they were made for each other. She jacks in her job and they hit the road together, but it doesn’t take long for the cracks to show. Unknown to Lorry, Ed is the notorious Big Sky Strangler, and his past crimes are beginning to catch up with him. As Ed is increasingly reminded of his true nature, the compulsion within him to kill begins to grow again. I liked this a lot, which was helped no end by Nolan’s easy style and the superb characters he creates. The unpleasant nightmares Ed experiences at the beginning of the story are also a real highlight of the piece.)

Ready – David Starkey (no, not the historian) (4/5 – Mike is deeply disturbed by the sounds coming from the flat next door. It sounds like his neighbour is beating a dog, and at length. This goes on night after night until Mike finally snaps and confronts his neighbour, whereupon Mike is invited in to have a go himself. A deliciously dark story, this, though probably not one for animal lovers.)

Also collected in “Walk on the Wild Side: The Best Horror Stories of Karl Edward Wagner Volume 2”

The Slug – Karl Edward Wagner (5/5 – Martine is forced to set aside her sculpting for a moment to hear a sorry story from a fellow creative (and keen alcoholic), Keenan Bauduret. It seems that Keenan made the mistake of letting a fellow writer, Casper Crowley, into his life only to find the man won’t let go of him. Keenan’s creativity stalls, deadlines slip, alcohol mounts, work dries up, and so Keenan feels compelled to take drastic action and wrench his life back. This is an excellent read, helped immeasurably by Wagner’s superb afterword. To quote: “The imaginative is the choice prey of the banal, and uncounted works of excellence have died stillborn thanks to junk phone calls and visits from bored associates.” I’m putting that on my gravestone!)

Also collected in MMS’s “More Tomorrow and Other Stories”

The Dark Land – Michael Marshall Smith (3/5 – Michael is a young man who lives with his parents. One morning, with the house to himself, Michael sets about rearranging his bedroom, tiring himself in the process. When he wakes from a short nap he finds himself trapped in a waking nightmare of creeping wood-panelling, of a kitchen that accumulates filth and rotting rubbish at an alarming rate, and of two unpleasant men in suits who seem super-keen to smash their way in through the back door. The front door offers salvation of sorts. Now, if only Michael could reach it. This was a funny one to score, even after a re-read. MMS absolutely nails that uneasy, shifting, segueing experience of dreaming, and this story is undoubtedly well-written, but The Dark Land feels overlong for what it is and the ending is a bit of a cop-out. Still, the story bagged a British Fantasy Award back in the day, so what do I know?)

Also collected in Etchison’s “The Death Artist”

When They Gave Us Memory – Dennis Etchison (4/5 – A successful actor attempts to reconnect with his parents at their coastal home. He finds the old family home empty, up for sale and in a sorry state of repair. The latter of these strikes him as odd, as his parents had always kept a presentable home. Perhaps they had grown too frail to continue living there. It’s been a while since they last talked, what with his work, his lifestyle and myriad other excuses. He finally finds ma and pa living in a cramped mobile home, where he’s alarmed to find he’s not quite the son they think he is. I liked this story a lot, which is saying something considering the god-sized deus ex machina Etchison employs, and despite my twigging what was going on a little ahead of schedule. Definitely worth checking out.)

Taking Care Of Michael – J. L. Comeau (4/5 – An effective flash fiction shocker as a woman takes care of her disabled brother… badly.)

Also collected in Tessier’s “Ghost Music and Other Tales”

The Dreams Of Dr Ladybank – Thomas Tessier (4/5 – Dr Ian Ladybank finds he can exercise psychic control over two people. One is Snake, a low-ranking biker and wannabe pimp; the husband of one of Ladybank’s patients. The other is a transvestite hooker called Tony, assigned to Ladybank following Tony’s arrest. Ladybank wastes no time in using his newfound power to make both men’s lives a living hell. Matters take a twisted turn when Snake meets up with a hooker called Toni, and tries to coerce her into working for him. This is comfortably the longest story in the book, as long as the three next longest stories combined. Is it worth it? Yes indeed. It’s certainly not afraid to go there, let’s put it that way. But this novella is not without its flaws. Snake is a cookie-cutter badass with some truly cringeworthy dialogue, though maybe this was intentional. My biggest problem, however, lies in Tony. He sure doesn’t talk, act, dress, whore, drive, drink or keep a home like you’d think a sixteen-year-old would. I’ve no idea why Tessier felt the need to make Tony so young, other than an attempt to increase the shock value. Trust me, the story doesn’t need it! Still a good read, all the same.)

Zits – Nina Kiriki Hoffman (2/5 – Another flash fiction shocker as a sexually-abused teenage girl contemplates what to do with the big zit growing inside of her. This didn’t work for me. It seemed to be trying way too hard to be nasty, as if the subject matter wasn’t nasty enough. In their introduction to this story the editors lament the amount of child abuse stories in horror, so it seems bizarre for them to end the book on one.)

Phew! A fair few stories to tuck into there. Well done for getting to the end of this review! If you are tempted to give the book a whirl then PS Publishing can fix you up with a swanky paperback edition, otherwise you should be able to source a second-hand copy or an eBook version somewhere across the World Wide Internets. If you’d like a whizz through the stories found in books one and two, head over to my Reviews page for links.

In the meantime, on with book four!


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1371

After a few relatively easy puzzles I suppose we were due another stinker, and this week’s puzzle certainly warrants the title. Once again we have a setter using the dick move of plugging half a dozen dead people into the grid to help bail themselves out of a tricky spot. Ugh. And don’t even get me started on some of the other solutions. You’ll see what I mean.

This also felt like a “greatest hits” puzzle at times, with several solutions being repeated from recent grids. I appreciate there are several setters of these puzzles behind the scenes but having also seen recent repeats in last week’s puzzle it does feel like an editor fail. I mean, the setters clearly have no means of communicating with one another – for that we would need some kind of massively interconnected network of some description. Hmm… Anyway, world keeps spinning, as they say.

A little bit of housekeeping: if you’d like to see completed (and occasionally bitchy) solutions for recent other Times Jumbo Cryptic puzzles then check out my Just For Fun page. If you’ve a hankering for reviews of decades-old horror short stories (because of course you have – you haven’t come here just to nick my answers have you? 😉 ) then check out my Reviews page. I should have a monster review for Best New Horror 3 along in the next day or two.

Anyhoo, on with the show. Here’s my completed grid, along with solutions where I have them. Enjoy!


Across clues

1. Old dictator to be in one’s part-time army (7)

Answer: Fulgencio BATISTA, US-backed authoritarian ruler of Cuba in the 1950s. Solution is BAT (i.e. “to be in”, i.e. at bat) followed by IS (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one’s”) and TA (i.e. “part-time army”, specifically the Territorial Army). Ugh. A shape of the things to come in this puzzle.

5. Regulated eg, thus – or most inaccurate (8)

Answer: ROUGHEST (i.e. “most inaccurate”). “Regulated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of EG THUS OR.

9. Bones and Sulu, only half accepted by the ship’s crew? (6)

Answer: TARSUS, which is a cluster of “bones” in your foot. Solution is SU (i.e. “Sulu, only half”, specifically the first half) being “accepted by” TARS (i.e. “ship’s crew” – a tar is another word for sailor which is popular with crossword setters), like so: TAR(SU)S.

13. Jumbo’s sound and not forced: that’s music to our ears! (7,9)

Answer: TRUMPET VOLUNTARY (i.e. “music to our ears”). Not a term I was familiar with, I’ll admit. Do a search on YouTube for “Prince of Denmark’s March” for an example of one you might have heard. Anyway, solution is TRUMPET (i.e. “Jumbo’s sound”) followed by VOLUNTARY (i.e. “not forced”).

14. Get back from park, all down? (6)

Answer: RECOUP (i.e. “get back”). Solution is REC (i.e. “park”, short for “recreation area”) followed by O UP (i.e. “all down” – if all are down then we assume zero are up, or O UP).

16. You troublemakers, partly responsible for closing bars! (5)

Answer: OUTRO (i.e. “closing bars [of a tune]”). “Partly” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: Y(OU TRO)UBLEMAKERS.

17. Land to the west excellent – north west? (7)

Answer: ESTONIA (i.e. “land”). This took some figuring, but essentially the solution is AI (i.e. “excellent” – with I representing 1 in A1) followed by NOT SE (i.e. “north west”, as in the opposite of south-east) and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “to the west”, this being an across clue), like so: ES-TON-IA.

18. National reserve network with warning light coming back on? (9)

Answer: ICELANDER (i.e. “national”). Solution is ICE (i.e. “reserve”, as in having an icy nature) then LAN (i.e. “network”, specifically a Local Area Network in computing – ask your parents, kids) and RED (i.e. “warning light”) reversed (indicated by “coming back on”), like so: ICE-LAN-DER.

19. Lots of French who drink fine English whiskey (5,1,3)

Answer: QUITE A FEW (i.e. “lots”). Solution is QUI (i.e. “French who” – the French for “who” is “qui”) followed by TEA (i.e. “drink”) then F (a recognised abbreviation of “fine” used in grading lead pencils) then E (ditto “English”, except for the pencils bit, natch) then W (which is “whiskey” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: QUI-TEA-F-E-W.

21. One might ask caddie to get this put right (4,3)

Answer: IRON OUT. Solution satisfies both “one might ask caddie to get this” and “put right”.

22. Two, having change of heart, bringing about thaw? (2-3)

Answer: DE-ICE (i.e. “bringing about thaw”). Solution is DEUCE (i.e. a “two” in cards or dice) with the middle letter changed to I (i.e. “change of heart)”.

23. Insect with a soft skin, mostly (5)

Answer: APHID (i.e. “insect” – and right sods for my chilli plants they are too). Solution is A, then P (i.e. “soft”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “piano” in musical lingo), then HIDE (i.e. “skin”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: A-P-HID.

25. Psychiatrist, Regional Health Authority chief, hosting old Shakespearean actors (9)

Answer: RORSCHACH (i.e. “psychiatrist” – he of the inkblot test and, a mere four weeks since I last made it official, still everyone’s favourite character in Watchmen. Don’t lie.) Solution is RHA (i.e. the now defunct “Regional Health Authority”) and CH (a recognised abbreviation of “chief”) “hosting” O (ditto “old”) and RSC (i.e. “Shakespearean actors”, specifically the Royal Shakespeare Company), like so: R(O-RSC)HA-CH.

27. Say something cheeky, pinching girlfriend’s drink (3-4)

Answer: EGG FLIP, a “drink” made of ale, wine, spirits or milk, with eggs, sugar, spice etc. Sounds positively vile. Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) and LIP (i.e. “something cheeky”) “pinching” GF (a recognised abbreviation of “girlfriend”), like so: EG-(GF)-LIP.

29. Passes over spare golf pants (9)

Answer: LEAPFROGS (i.e. “passes over”). “Pants” (as in rubbish) indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SPARE GOLF.

31. Be not totally penniless, reportedly, after power failure? (5-4-4)

Answer: MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN (i.e. “failure”). Solution is HAVE BEEN (i.e. “be not totally penniless, reportedly”, i.e. homophone of “have bean”) placed “after” MIGHT (i.e. “power”).

34. Centre of stilton to keep getting softer, cut with harsh sound (6,7)

Answer: MELTON MOWBRAY (i.e. “centre of stilton” – stilton is said to have originated near there). Solution is MELTON (i.e. “keep getting softer” as in “melting”. I could be wrong here as I would have expected a homophone indicator of some description) followed by MOW (i.e. “cut”) and BRAY (i.e. “harsh sound”).

35. Animated character with old coin after cake (9)

Answer: SPONGEBOB SquarePants (i.e. “animated character”). Solution is BOB (i.e. “old coin” as in a slang term for a shilling) placed “after” SPONGE (i.e. “cake”), like so: SPONGE-BOB.

37. Failed to follow suit, minister agreed (7)

Answer: REVOKED (i.e. “failed to follow suit [in a game of cards]”). Solution is REV (i.e. “minister”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “reverend”) followed by OKED (i.e. “agreed”).

39. Picked up something to go with roll, a square cheese (9)

Answer: ROQUEFORT (i.e. “cheese”). Solution is ROQUE (i.e. “picked up something to go with roll”, i.e. a homophone of “rock” as in “rock and roll”) followed by FORT (i.e. “a square” – a weak one, this, unless I’m missing something blindingly obvious.)

42. Daughter, standing, gets knocked back (5)

Answer: DRANK (i.e. “knocked back”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) followed by RANK (i.e. “standing”).

43. City’s matches: one’s been put back (5)

Answer: PARIS (i.e. “city”). Solution is PAIRS (i.e. “matches”) with the I (Roman numeral “one”) “put back” a notch.

45. Plant that’s simple and exotic we adore (7)

Answer: OARWEED, a type of seaweed (i.e. “[a] plant that’s simple”). “Exotic” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WE ADORE.

47. Eccentric went for early bath? (4-5)

Answer: LEFT-FIELD. Solution satisfies both “eccentric” and “went for early bath”.

49. Show where the food’s kept: about time! (9)

Answer: PAGEANTRY (i.e. “show”). Solution is PANTRY (i.e. “where the food’s kept”) placed “about” AGE (i.e. “time”), like so: P(AGE)ANTRY.

50. Recalled hotel late in the day closing early in ME city once (7)

Answer: NINEVEH, which was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia (i.e. “ME city once” – ME being a recognised abbreviation of Middle East). Solution is H (“hotel” in the phonetic alphabet) followed by EVENING (i.e. “late in the day”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “closing early”) and the whole lot reversed (indicated by “recalled”), like so: NINEVE-H.

52. French philosopher’s pained conclusion to testimonial (5)

Answer: Georges SOREL (i.e. “French philosopher” – more dead people!). Solution is SORE (i.e. “pained”) followed by L (i.e. “conclusion to testimonial”, i.e. the last letter of “testimonial”).

54. Complaint viewer has first off is recorded? Correct! (6)

Answer: IRITIS, which is an inflammation of the iris (i.e. “complaint viewer has”). I’d do a Google Image search but… no. Solution is IR (i.e. “first off is recorded”, i.e. the first letters of “is” and “recorded”) followed by IT IS (i.e. “correct”).

55. Fair number to be found in magazine? (6,10)

Answer: BLONDE BOMBSHELLS. One of those slightly airy-fairy solutions which riffs on how fair-haired people are referred to as BLONDE, and how you could store a “number” of BOMBSHELLS in a “magazine”; also, how you may find blonde bombshells in certain magazines. I’m told.

56. The latest, hard, fashionable, Times puzzle setter (6)

Answer: SPHINX, a monster in Greek mythology who proposed riddles to travellers and strangled whoever was unable to solve them. Which sounds a bit mean. Anyway: “puzzle setter”. Solution is SP (i.e. “the latest”, i.e. an abbreviation of “Stop Press” used in newspaper offices, albeit one that doesn’t feature in my Chambers – your dictionary may differ) followed by H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in grading pencils) then IN (i.e. “fashionable”) and X (i.e. “Times”, as in the multiplication symbol), like so: SP-H-IN-X.

57. They make better notes – doesn’t respond to them? (8)

Answer: REMEDIES (i.e. “they make [one] better”). Solution is RE and ME (i.e. “notes” in the do-re-me scale – these are always a bit of a ball-ache as there are so many variant spellings of each one) followed by DIES (i.e. “doesn’t respond to them” – within the context of the solution, if one doesn’t respond to a remedy they could die).

58. Kindly leave the car running after parking, finally (7)

Answer: GERTCHA, a slang contraction of “get out of it you” made famous by Chas and Dave (again, ask your parents, kids). In other words, “kindly leave”. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “running”) of THE CAR placed “after” G (i.e. “parking, finally”, i.e. the last letter of the word “parking”), like so: G-ERTCHA.

Down clues

1. One’s often up in the air, however not turning to shrink (6,5)

Answer: BUTTON QUAIL (i.e. “one’s often up in the air”). Done a Google Image search – aaaaaaaaahhh, cute. Solution is BUT (i.e. “however”) followed by NOT reversed (indicated by “turning”) and then QUAIL (i.e. “to shrink”).

2. Barb’s letter from Kefalonia – not on vacation (5)

Answer: TAUNT (i.e. “barb”). Solution is TAU (i.e. “letter from Kefalonia” – Kefalonia being one of around four billion Greek islands, and tau being the nineteenth letter of the Greek alphabet) followed by NT (i.e. “not on vacation”, i.e. the word “not” with the middle letter removed).

3. Judge has way of sitting after drink (7)

Answer: SUPPOSE (i.e. “[to] judge”).  Solution is POSE (i.e. “way of sitting”) placed “after” SUP (i.e. “drink”), like so: SUP-POSE. For too long I had this down as “Rumpole” until I remembered he was a barrister, not a judge. Don’t worry pole-sitters, I’m sure you’ll get a nod in a future puzzle.

4. Wartime lines repeated do haunt memory of the wounded (6,3,6,5)

Answer: ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH, a poem by Wilfred Owen (i.e. “wartime lines”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “wounded”) of DO and DO (i.e. “repeated do”) and HAUNT MEMORY OF THE.

5. Oarsman to do exercises inside part of church (4-5)

Answer: ROOD-TOWER (i.e. “part of church”, specifically the steeple and tower over the crossing of a church, so now you know). Solution is ROWER (i.e. “oarsman”) with an anagram (indicated by “exercises”) of TO DO placed “inside”, like so: RO(ODTO)WER.

6. What future holds: new and drastic change (1-4)

Answer: U-TURN (i.e. “drastic change”). Solution is the middle letters of FUTURE (i.e. “what future holds”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”), like so: UTUR-N.

7. A certain posturing no longer holds a Spanish artist up (5,4)

Answer: HATHA YOGA (i.e. “a certain posturing”). Solution is HATH (i.e. “no longer holds”, i.e. an archaic variation of the word “has”) followed by A GOYA (i.e. “a Spanish artist”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue), like so: HATH-AYOG-A.

8. Short withered crack masking very good condition of skin (7)

Answer: SERPIGO, which is a spreading skin disease, particularly ringworm, i.e. “condition of skin”. I have literally no idea what the setter is on here, even after having slept on it, so watch out.
[EDIT: A big thank you to Clive in the comments for helping to clear this one up. The solution is SERE (an alternative form of the word “sear”, which is itself a poetic word for dry and “withered”) with its final letter removed (indicated by “short”) and GO (i.e. “[a] crack [at something]”) “masking” PI (i.e. “very good”, an alternative meaning of “pi” is a pious person), like so: SER-(PI)-GO. This was comfortably one of the toughest clues I’ve seen in these puzzles. Still, at least I now know what to call that big rash that covers 75% of my body.]
[FURTHER EDIT: 76% now.]

10. Brother murdered by a doctor turned theologian in France (7)

Answer: Peter ABELARD (i.e. a “theologian in France” from around 900 years ago whose love affair with Héloïse d’Argenteuil became legendary, it says here. Uh-huh, if you say so.) Solution is ABEL (i.e. “brother murdered [by Cain]”) then A then DR (a recognised abbreviation of “doctor”) reversed (indicated by “turned”), like so: ABEL-A-RD.

11. Hummingbird that’s flown high we hear and notice (9)

Answer: SWORDBILL (i.e. a kind of “hummingbird” with a looooooong beak). Solution is SWORD (i.e. “that’s flown high we hear”, i.e. a homophone of “soared”) followed by BILL (i.e. “notice”).

12. A new purpose for developing devastating missile perhaps (11)

Answer: SUPERWEAPON (i.e. “devastating missile perhaps”). “Developing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A NEW PURPOSE.

15. Tell Tom off as a result? (3,3,3,3,2,3,3)

Answer: LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG. Solution satisfies both “tell” and, within the context of the clue, “Tom off as a result”. Another solution repeated from a recent puzzle, this time from the start of the year.

20. Sort of parent, the Spanish patriarch (7)

Answer: ISHMAEL (i.e. “patriarch”). Solution is ISH (i.e. “sort of”) followed by MA (i.e. “parent”) and EL (i.e. “the Spanish”, the Spanish for “the” being “el”). Another recent solution, appearing only a couple of weeks ago.

21. New entrant’s pay ultimately fair (7)

Answer: INCOMER (i.e. “new entrant”). Solution is INCOME (i.e. “pay”) followed by R (i.e. “ultimately fair”, i.e. the last letter of the word “fair”).

24. Take orders from wizard perched on stone (7)

Answer: DEFROCK (i.e. “take orders [away] from [a priest]”). Solution is DEF (i.e. excellent or “wizard”) followed by or “perched on” ROCK (i.e. “stone”).

26. Can’t stand up in corset a hindrance (5)

Answer: HATES (i.e. “can’t stand [something]”). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “up” indicates the solution is reversed, this being a down clue, like so: COR(SET A H)INDRANCE.

28. Old actor appreciated on tours one reflected (7)

Answer: Sir John GIELGUD, luvvie, i.e. “old actor”. Another where the setter has gone off on their own. I get that DUG is “appreciated”, that I is “one” and “reflected” indicates some or all of the elements are reversed, but I can’t visualise the rest so I’m moving on with my life.
[EDIT: Thanks to Grindrod in the comments for the speedy clarification: the solution is G(I)EL-GUD, being DUG then LEG (i.e. “on” in cricket) wrapped around or “touring” I and then the whole lot reversed.]

30. Broadcaster of the truth used to be cut short (5)

Answer: SOWER (i.e. “broadcaster”). Solution is SO (i.e. “of the truth”) followed by WERE (i.e. “used to be”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “cut short”), like so: SO-WER.

32. R-refuse to admit Grace possibly upset county (7)

Answer: GWYNEDD (i.e. “county”). Solution is D-DENY (i.e. “r-refuse”) followed by WG (i.e. “Grace possibly”, specifically the cricketer WG Grace), and then the whole lot reversed (indicated by “upset”) like so: GW-YNED-D.

33. In which host briefly holds British artist? (7)

Answer: EMBRACE. Solution is EMCE (i.e. “host”, i.e. a Master of Ceremonies) “holding” B (a recognised abbreviation of “British”) and RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) like so: EM(B-RA)CE. Within the context of the clue, one may be said to hold someone in an embrace.
[EDIT: On a re-read I’ve realised I missed a bit. “Host briefly” should be EMCEE with the final E removed.]

34. Nursemaid’s extraordinary parsimony, saving pennies (4,7)

Answer: MARY POPPINS (i.e. a fictional “nursemaid”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “extraordinary”) of PARSIMONY wrapped around or “saving” P and P (recognised abbreviations of a couple of “pennies”), like so: MARYPO(P-P)INS.

36. Dessert poor, sadly, containing essence of weakened spirit (5,6)

Answer: BAKED ALASKA (i.e. “dessert”). Solution is BAD (i.e. “poor”) and ALAS (i.e. “sadly”) “containing” KE (i.e. “essence of weakened”, i.e. the middle two letters of the word “weaKEned”) and then followed by KA (i.e. “spirit”), like so: BA(KE)D-ALAS-KA. Not a classic.

38. Through journey is hard, crossing river like the Amazon? (9)

Answer: VIRAGOISH (i.e. “like the amazon” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is VIA (i.e. “through”) then GO (i.e. “[to] journey”), IS and H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard”), all wrapped around or “crossing” R (ditto “river”), like so: VI(R)A-GO-IS-H. This was the last clue I solved and what a fart-on it was.

40. Strange, tailless goat, mostly seen over Eastern China (5,4)

Answer: QUEEN ANNE (i.e. “china” – again, ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is QUEER (i.e. “strange”) with the last letter removed (i.e. “tailless”) and followed by NANNY (i.e. “goat”) also trimmed of it’s last letter (indicated by “mostly”) and finished with E (a recognised abbreviation of “Eastern”), like so: QUEE-NANN-E.

41. Plain clothes police at centre totally in the dark? (9)

Answer: OBLIVIOUS (i.e. “totally in the dark”). Solution is OBVIOUS (i.e. “clear”) which “clothes” LI (i.e. “police at centre”, i.e. the middle two letters of “poLIce”), like so: OB(LI)VIOUS.

44. Stop and figure it out? Not at first (7)

Answer: STATION (i.e. “[train or bus] stop”). Solution is STAT (i.e. “figure”) followed by I O and N (i.e. “it out not at first”, i.e. the first letters of “it”, “out” and “not”) like so: STAT-I-O-N.

46. What would be for Queen Elizabeth I? (5,2)

Answer: ROYAL WE. Within the context of the clue, the Queen would use the Royal We rather than referring to herself as “I”.

48. Champion mater and pater, with Independent Schools Council for a time! (7)

Answer: Bobby FISCHER, former US chess grandmaster (i.e. “champion mater”). Solution is FATHER (i.e. “pater”) with the A and T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”) replaced by ISC (i.e. “Independent Schools Council”).

51. Patches of red and green, last three to turn up (5)

Answer: NAEVI. A naevus is a birthmark, and its plural is “naevi”, i.e. “patches of red”. Solution is NAÏVE (i.e. “green”) with the last three letters reversed (i.e. “last three to turn up”, this being a down clue).

53. Survivor’s ordeal: his CD Ignoring the Odds (5)

Answer: RELIC (i.e. “survivor”). “Ignoring the odds” indicates the solution is derived by removing the odd letters of ORDEAL HIS CD.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1370

I had an easier time with today’s puzzle, hence the rather early post. A couple of good clues and equally good solutions made it a pleasant puzzle to complete. You can find my completed grid below, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

If you have an oldish puzzle knocking about, then I have solutions for the previous twenty or so grids on my Just For Fun page.

My review of Best New Horror 3 is ongoing. It’s proving to be just as much of a monster as my review of book 2. You can jump into them on my Reviews page, if horror fiction is your thing.

And now, food. TTFN!


Across clues

1. Mutton stew from heated container served in churches (10)

Answer: HOTCHPOTCH (i.e. “mutton stew”). Solution is HOT (i.e. “heated”) followed by POT (i.e. “container”) “served in” CH and CH (recognised abbreviations of “church”), like so: HOT-CH-(POT)-CH.

6. Failing in tense Irish leader meeting cricket side (12)

Answer: IMPERFECTION (i.e. “[a] failing”). Solution is IMPERFECT (i.e. “[a grammatical] tense” – unless you are an ardent grammarian you can forgive me for not giving two shits about providing an explanation) followed by I (i.e. “Irish leader”, i.e. the first letter of “Irish”) and ON (i.e. “cricket side” – also known as “leg side”).

14. Muscle that’s required on farm vehicle (9)

Answer: RETRACTOR (i.e. a “muscle” responsible for drawing in parts of the body). Solution is RE (i.e. “that’s required” I guess, but I can’t quite visualise how) followed by TRACTOR (i.e. “farm vehicle”).

15. Very cold, as eels may be, roughly speaking (5)

Answer: GELID. Solution satisfies “very cold” and “as eels may be, roughly speaking” i.e. a rough homophone of “jellied”.

16. Vanity of one replacing conductor finally in Prom? (7)

Answer: CONCEIT (i.e. “vanity”). Solution is CONCERT (i.e. “Prom”) with the R (i.e. “conductor finally”, i.e. the last letter of “conductor”) “replaced” by I (Roman numeral “one”).

17. Situation regarding barrister’s least successful action? (5,4,8)

Answer: WORST CASE SCENARIO. Solution satisfies both “situation” and “barrister’s least successful action”. One that made me smile when I clocked it.

18. Prepared to make money (5)

Answer: READY. Solution satisfies both “prepared” and “money” as in readies.

19. Catastrophic game in old America (7)

Answer: RUINOUS (i.e. “catastrophic”). Solution is RU (i.e. “game”, specifically Rugby Union) followed by IN then O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) then US (i.e. “America”).

21. Incisive magazine once taken by youth leader (6)

Answer: PUNCHY (i.e. “incisive”). Solution is PUNCH (i.e. “magazine”) followed “by” Y (i.e. “youth leader”, i.e. the first letter of “youth”).

22. Nit-picker in Paris who the French resistance provided with books (8)

Answer: QUIBBLER (i.e. “nit-picker”). Solution is QUI (i.e. “in Paris who” – the French for “who” being “qui”), LE (i.e. “the French”, ditto “the” being “le”) and R (a recognised abbreviation of electrical “resistance”) “provided with” B and B (both ditto “books”), like so: QUI-(B-B)-LE-R.

24. Madcap result of strike at end of match? (7)

Answer: HOTHEAD (i.e. “madcap”). Solution satisfies both “madcap” and “result of strike at end of match”.

26. Time to abandon the human condition for ethical conduct (8)

Answer: MORALITY (i.e. “ethical conduct”). Solution is MORTALITY (i.e. “human condition”) with the first T removed (being a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

27. French island you ultimately aren’t going to (6)

Answer: USHANT (i.e. a “French island” with a population of 862. Hey, perhaps my postcode will be a solution in next week’s puzzle.) Solution is U (i.e. “you ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “you”) followed by SHANT, a contraction of “shall not” (i.e. “aren’t going to”). One I thankfully got fairly quickly through the wordplay and a quick Google.

30. Itinerant agent returning, one sad to abandon husband (11)

Answer: PERIPATETIC (i.e. walking about, or “itinerant”). Solution is REP (a recognised abbreviation of “representative”, i.e. “agent”) reversed (indicated by “returning”) and then followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and PATHETIC (i.e. “sad”) with the H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”) removed, like so: PER-I-PATETIC.

32. Study of wrongdoing, or logic, in my broadcast (11)

Answer: CRIMINOLOGY (i.e. “study of wrongdoing”). “Broadcast” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OR LOGIC IN MY.

33. Widespread longing to follow Republican in charge (3-8)

Answer: FAR-REACHING (i.e. “widespread”). Solution is ACHING (i.e. “longing [for]”) “following” FARE (i.e. a fee or “charge”) wrapped around R (a recognised abbreviation of “Republican”), like so: FAR(R)E-ACHING.

35. Edged forward with courage, like some dolphins (6-5)

Answer: BOTTLE-NOSED. Solution satisfies both “edged forward” – i.e. nosed [ahead] – “with courage” – i.e. bottle, and “like some dolphins”.

37. Continue to have part-time soldiers in control (6)

Answer: RETAIN – if a someone retains their championship then they “continue” to be the best. Solution is TA (i.e. “part-time soldiers”, specifically the Territorial Army) placed in REIN (i.e. “control”), like so: RE(TA)IN.

38. In Irish county, loon regularly belted farm animal (8)

Answer: GALLOWAY, a breed of large black hornless cattle (i.e. “farm animal”). Solution is GALWAY (i.e. “Irish county”) wrapped around or “belting” LO (i.e. “loon regularly”, i.e. every other letter of the word LOON), like so: GAL(LO)WAY.

39. Diplomacy originally improving Civil Service procedures (7)

Answer: TACTICS (i.e. “procedures”). Solution is TACT (i.e. “diplomacy”) followed by I (i.e. “originally improving”, i.e. the first letter of “improving”) and CS (short for “Civil Service”).

42. Ill-mannered urchin drunk in Dover from time to time (8)

Answer: IMPOLITE (i.e. “ill-mannered”). Solution is IMP (i.e. “urchin”) followed by LIT (i.e. “drunk”) placed “in” OE (i.e. “Dover from time to time”, i.e. regular letters of DOVER), like so: IMP-O(LIT)E.

44. Growth more than once of old college irrational (6)

Answer: POLYPI (i.e. “growth more than once” – a polypus is a tumour that grows on the mucous membrane (you sometimes hear of singers having to have them removed), and the plural of polypus is polypi). Solution is POLY (i.e. “old college”, i.e. a recognised short form of “polytechnic”) followed by PI (an “irrational” number, being a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction with integer numerator and denominator). A good clue this!

46. Blushing politician touring Borders? (7)

Answer: CRIMSON (i.e. “blushing”). Solution is CON (i.e. “politician”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a member of the Conservative Party) “touring” RIMS (i.e. “borders”), like so: C(RIMS)ON.

48. Stabbing sword held by toughest occupant (5)

Answer: ESTOC (i.e. a short “stabbing sword”. Lovely.) “Held by” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: TOUGH(EST OC)CUPANT. Another one I got mercifully quickly through the wordplay and a quick dip into my Chambers.

49. Settle extortionate charge, using the beak as go-between? (3,7,3,4)

Answer: PAY THROUGH THE NOSE. Solution satisfies both “settle extortionate charge” and, within the context of the solution, “using the beak as go-between”. Another that made me smile when I got it.

51. Immortal Oriental bird beside a lake (7)

Answer: ETERNAL (i.e. “immortal”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “Eastern”, i.e. “Oriental”) followed by TERN (i.e. “bird”) then A and then L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”).

52. Half a dozen mostly supreme sensations (5)

Answer: VIBES (i.e. “sensations”). Solution is VI (i.e. “half a dozen” in Roman numerals) followed by BES (i.e. “mostly supreme”, i.e. the word “best” with the last letter removed).

53. Remove bird dipping into cream (9)

Answer: ELIMINATE (i.e. “remove”). Solution is MINA (i.e. “bird”, a variant spelling of mynah) “dipping into” ELITE (i.e. “cream [of the crop]”), like so: ELI(MINA)TE.

54. Nab treasure finally seen drifting beneath the waves (12)

Answer: SUBTERRANEAN (I’d always considered this to mean “beneath the earth” – a typo perhaps?) Solution is an anagram (indicated by “drifting”) of NAB TREASURE followed by N (i.e. “finally seen”, i.e. the last letter of “seen”).

55. Harsh line adopted by a hospital department (10)

Answer: ASTRINGENT (i.e. “harsh”). Solution is STRING (i.e. “line”) “adopted by” A and ENT (i.e. “hospital department”, specifically Ear Nose and Throat), like so: A-(STRING)-ENT.

Down clues

1. Idolise offender initially imprisoned by female judge? (4-7)

Answer: HERO-WORSHIP (i.e. “idolise”). Solution is O (i.e. “offender initially”, i.e. the first letter of “offender”) “imprisoned by” HER WORSHIP (i.e. “female judge”), like so: HER(O)WORSHIP.

2. Expression of impatience over heartless college teacher (5)

Answer: TUTOR (i.e. “teacher”). Solution is TUT (i.e. “expression of impatience”) placed “over” (this being a down clue) OR (i.e. “heartless college”, i.e. the word “order” with the middle letters removed. There might be an actual college beginning with O and ending in R but I’m not aware of one).

3. Grieving Scottish football team – or English? (9)

Answer: HEARTSORE (i.e. “grieving”). Solution is HEARTS (i.e. “Scottish football team”, specifically Heart of Midlothian) followed by OR and then E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”).

4. Fugitives? The opposite to the spouse’s family, we hope! (7)

Answer: OUTLAWS (i.e. “fugitives”). Solution riffs on this being “the opposite” of in-laws (i.e. “the spouse’s family”).

5. Warning about right to increase distribution of booty (5-2)

Answer: CARVE-UP (i.e. “distribution of booty”). Solution is CAVE (an alternative meaning of this is to beware, i.e. “warning”) placed “about” R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) and followed by UP (i.e. “increase”), like so: CA(R)VE-UP.

7. Habitually dejected, connecting fruit with abdominal pain, say? (11)

Answer: MELANCHOLIC (i.e. “habitually dejected”). “Say” indicates the solution is made up of homophones of “melon” (i.e. “fruit”) and “colic” (i.e. “abdominal pain”).

8. Last to invest, holding fourth of shares (6)

Answer: ENDURE (i.e. “[to] last”). Solution is ENDUE (i.e. “to invest”) “holding” R (i.e. “fourth of shares”, i.e. the fourth letter of “shares”), like so: ENDU(R)E.

9. Dogsbody’s feat in setting up of corporation (8)

Answer: FACTOTUM (i.e. “dogsbody”). Solution is ACT (i.e. “feat”) placed “in” OF reversed (indicated by “setting up”, this being a down clue) and then followed by TUM (an alternative meaning of “corporation” is a belly, especially a pot-belly – a new one on me, but I rather like it), like so: F(ACT)O-TUM.

10. Instrument graduate introduced to old Nicaraguan guerrillas, before long (13)

Answer: CONTRABASSOON (i.e. “instrument”). Solution is BA (i.e. “graduate”, specifically a Bachelor of Arts) “introduced to” CONTRAS (i.e. “old Nicaraguan guerrillas”) and followed by SOON (i.e. “before long”), like so: CONTRA(BA)S-SOON.

11. Face slipping in hostile part of glacier (7)

Answer: ICEFALL (i.e. “part of glacier”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “slipping”) of FACE placed “in” ILL (i.e. “hostile”), like so: I(CEFA)LL.

12. Practical details in Kitty’s rhymes? (5-6)

Answer: NITTY-GRITTY (i.e. “practical details”). Solution riffs on how the words rhyme with Kitty. I wonder if she was a fan of 80s pop sensations, Scritti Politti.

13. Self-absorbed chap possessing energy and money (10)

Answer: EGOCENTRIC (i.e. “self-absorbed”). Solution is ERIC (i.e. “chap”) “possessing” GO (i.e. “energy”) and CENT (i.e. “money”), like so: E(GO-CENT)RIC.

20. Bury hamster, say, across river – and explain (9)

Answer: INTERPRET (i.e. “explain”). Solution is INTER (i.e. “bury”) followed by PET (i.e. “hamster, say”) placed “across” R (a recognised abbreviation of “river”), like so: INTER-P(R)ET.

23. Popularly a TV series, to be completely accurate (8)

Answer: STRICTLY. Solution satisfies “popularly a TV series” i.e. BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, which is informally known as “Strictly”, and “to be completely accurate”, as in strictly speaking.

25. Do what Morse did, failing to get time for female (6)

Answer: DETECT (i.e. “do what [Inspector] Morse did”). Solution is DEFECT (i.e. “failing”) with the F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) replaced by T (ditto “time”).

26. New laic term describing some psalm translations (8)

Answer: METRICAL, which describes a work that consists of verses (i.e. “describing some psalm translations”). “New” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LAIC TERM.

28. Characteristic of auditorium requiring sound judgement (9)

Answer: ACOUSTICS. Solution satisfies “characteristic of auditorium” and “sound judgement”.

29. Little creature retired doctor allowed to go around island (6)

Answer: PIGLET (i.e. “little creature”). Solution is GP (i.e. “doctor”, specifically a General Practitioner) reversed (indicated by “retired”) and “going around” I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”), then followed by LET (i.e. “allowed”), like so: P(I)G-LET.

31. Relaxation of rules applying to linesmen? (6,7)

Answer: POETIC LICENCE. Solution satisfies the clue, with “linesmen” being a cryptic reference to poets.

33. Pardon woman brought up in smithy north of loch (11)

Answer: FORGIVENESS (i.e. “pardon”). Solution is VI (i.e. “woman”, short for Vivienne, I guess) reversed (indicated by “brought up”, this being a down clue) and placed in FORGE (i.e. “smithy”), which is then placed ahead of (i.e. “north of”, again this being a down clue) NESS (i.e. “loch”), like so: FORG(IV)E-NESS.

34. Nice people, even, may suffer such national prejudice (11)

Answer: GALLOPHOBIA, which is a dislike of the French (i.e. “national prejudice”). Solution riffs on how people of Nice, a city on the French Riviera, may also suffer this.

35. Doctor who used bay’s place of ill repute (10)

Answer: BAWDYHOUSE (i.e. “place of ill repute”). “Doctor” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WHO USED BAY. The possessive ‘s is ignored.

36. Dig up French art treasures initially displaying impartiality (11)

Answer: DISINTEREST (i.e. “displaying impartiality”). Solution is DISINTER (i.e. “dig up”) followed by ES (i.e. “French art” – in this case “art” is ye olde for “is”, and the French for “is” is “es”) and T (i.e. “treasures initially”, i.e. the first letter of “treasures”).

40. Standard review by key writer ultimately upset no one (9)

Answer: CRITERION (i.e. “[a] standard”). Solution is CRIT (a recognised informal abbreviation of “criticism”, i.e. “review”) followed “by” E (i.e. “[musical] key”) then R (i.e. “writer ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “writer”) then the reversal (indicated by “upset”) of NO and I (i.e. Roman numeral “one”), like so: CRIT-E-R-I-ON.

41. Dotty drawer’s son, one who takes alcohol regularly (8)

Answer: STIPPLER (i.e. “dotty drawer”, or a pointillist if you’d rather. #ShowingOff). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) followed by TIPPLER (i.e. “one who takes alcohol regularly”).

43. Paperback covering alternative source of flavouring, perhaps (7)

Answer: POTHERB (i.e. “source of flavouring, perhaps”). Solution is PB (a recognised abbreviation of “paperback”) “covering” OTHER (i.e. “alternative”), like so: P(OTHER)B.

45. French painter’s entry (7)

Answer: INGRESS (i.e. “entry”). Solution is Jean-Auguste-Dominique INGRES (i.e. “French painter”, and very good he was too. Check him out.) when considering the ‘s as possessive, i.e. INGRES’S.

46. Start of terrible row after accountant becomes more spiteful (7)

Answer: CATTIER (i.e. “more spiteful”). Solution is T (i.e. “start of terrible”, i.e. the first letter of “terrible”) and TIER (i.e. “row”) placed “after” CA (a recognised abbreviation for a Chartered “Accountant”), like so: CA-T-TIER.

47. Living in woods, son left vehicle outside rear of bothy (6)

Answer: SYLVAN (i.e. “living in woods”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son” again), L (ditto “left”) and VAN (i.e. “vehicle”), placed “outside” of Y (i.e. “rear of bothy”, i.e. the last letter of “bothy”) like so: S-(Y)-L-VAN. I didn’t get this from the old Sylvanian Families range of toys. No, I was much too old for that kind of thing. And a bloke. (Looks to camera.)

50. Decorated knight on board leaving to make a speech (5)

Answer: ORATE (i.e. “to make a speech”). Solution is ORNATE (i.e. “decorated”) with the N (i.e. “knight on board”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “knight” used in chess) removed.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1369

Here’s my completed grid for this week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword. You’ll find explanations of my solutions below where I have them. Despite a handful of weird and wonderful words, this one didn’t take too long for me to complete. I guess I hit lucky on most of the awkward ones.

Right then, on with my review of Best New Horror 3. (Checks imaginary watch.) Or bed. Yes, that’s probably more sensible.


Across clues

1. Entirely at home with Dorothy’s best friend (2,4)

Answer: IN TOTO, which is Latin for “entirely”. Solution is IN (i.e. “at home”) followed by TOTO (i.e. “Dorothy’s best friend” from L Frank Baum’s The Wizard Of Oz).

5. Fancy trousers, back to front and extremely ticklish (7)

Answer: STREWTH, an Aussie version of “fancy [that]”. Solution is TREWS (i.e. a slang term for “trousers”) with the final letter placed first (i.e. “back to front”) and followed by TH (i.e. “extremely ticklish”, i.e. the first and last letters – or extremes – of the word “ticklish”), like so: STREW-TH.

9. Literary marquis (not duke) embracing top adventure (8)

Answer: ESCAPADE (i.e. “adventure”). Solution is DE SADE (i.e. “literary marquis” and famed grubby bugger) with the first D removed (i.e. “not duke” – D being a recognised abbreviation of “duke”) and then “embracing” CAP (i.e. “top”), like so: ES(CAP)ADE.

13. Mathematical statements confusing fifteen old antiquaries (12,9)

Answer: DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS (i.e. “mathematical statements”). “Confusing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FIFTEEN OLD ANTIQUARIES. I rather liked the elegance of differential equations back in my A-level days, but adaptive memory has since seen much of the knowledge overwritten by episodes of Rick and Morty. I can live with that.

14. Shout about rough Australian pots (8)

Answer: CROCKERY (i.e. “pots”). Solution is CRY (i.e. “shout”) placed “about” OCKER (i.e. “rough Australian”), like so: CR(OCKER)Y.

15. Face of incredulity quiet chap, reportedly Abraham’s son (7)

Answer: ISHMAEL (i.e. “Abraham’s son” – there were enough of them, the big stud). Solution is I (i.e. “face of incredulity”, i.e. the first letter of the word “incredulity”) followed by SH (i.e. “quiet”) and MAEL (i.e. “chap, reportedly” – the setter has cheated here in my less-than-humble opinion, as MAEL is not a word (according to my Chambers, at least), which rather disqualifies it as a homophone of “male”. Meanwhile the world keeps spinning.)

16. Dull second mate with primitive instincts (6)

Answer: STUPID (i.e. “dull”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “stupid” [EDIT: or of “second”, even. Thanks to Winston in the comments for the correction.]) followed by TUP (i.e. “[to] mate [sheep]”) and ID, the part of one’s personality said to be responsible for “primitive instincts”.

17. Fellow Estonian perhaps exhaled audibly in shade (6,4)

Answer: COBALT BLUE (i.e. a colour or “shade”). Solution is CO-BALT (i.e. “fellow Estonian perhaps”, “Balt” being a word describing someone from the Baltic provinces) followed by BLUE (i.e. “exhaled audibly”, i.e. a homophone of “blew”).

20. Port in India surrounded by jade, iron ore, bananas (3,2,7)

Answer: RIO DE JANEIRO (i.e. “port”). Solution is I (i.e. “India” in the phonetic alphabet) placed in an anagram (indicated by “bananas”) of JADE IRON ORE, like so: R(I)ODEJANEIRO.

23. Man perhaps lives vacuous life (4)

Answer: ISLE (i.e. “Man perhaps” as in the Isle of Man). Solution is IS (i.e. “lives”) followed by LE (i.e. “vacuous life”, i.e. the word “life” emptied of its middle letters).

24. Use blades, decapitating delightful fish (3,5)

Answer: ICE SKATE (i.e. “use blades”). Solution is NICE (i.e. “delightful”) with the first letter removed (i.e. “decapitated”) and followed by SKATE (i.e. “fish”).

26. Draw on book jacket of “Candide” for entertainment (3,5)

Answer: TAP DANCE (i.e. “entertainment”). Solution is TAP (i.e. “draw on”) followed by DAN (i.e. “book”, specifically a recognised abbreviation for the Book of Daniel in the Bible) and CE (i.e. “jacket of ‘Candide’, i.e. the first and last letters of “Candide”).

29. Pension off screwed up Teresa, a nun (12)

Answer: SUPERANNUATE (i.e. “pension off”). “Screwed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of UP TERESA A NUN.

30. Cut tax allowance after European liberality (10)

Answer: TOLERATION (i.e. “liberality”). Solution is TOLL (i.e. “tax”) with the final letter removed (i.e. “cut”) then followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and RATION (i.e. “allowance”), like so: TOL-E-RATION.

32. Lover ditches the setter behind the main sewer (10)

Answer: SEAMSTRESS (i.e. “sewer”). Solution is MISTRESS (i.e. “lover”) with the I removed (i.e. “ditches the setter”, think about it from the point of the view of the setter) and placed “behind” SEA (one of several meanings of “main”), like so: SEA-MSTRESS.

34. Describe carer ethic as amazing (12)

Answer: CHARACTERISE (i.e. “describe”). “Amazing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CARER ETHIC AS.

36. Toddler wrapped in flag by ace Bulgarian copper (8)

Answer: STOTINKA, which is one hundredth of a Bulgarian lev (i.e. “Bulgarian copper”). Solution is TOT (i.e. “toddler”) “wrapped in” SINK (i.e. “flag”) and followed by A (i.e. an “ace” in playing cards), like so: S(TOT)INK-A. My Chambers came to the rescue here rather than any deep knowledge of the minor denominations of other countries’ currencies. I suspected this would start with STOT, and thankfully there it was.

38. Pub regulars in Lucerne make insinuation (8)

Answer: INNUENDO (i.e. “insinuation”). Solution is INN (i.e. “pub”) followed by the “regular” letters of LUCERNE and then DO (i.e. “[to] make”), like so: INN-UEN-DO. Also my favourite Queen track, because you needed to know that.

39. Ghastly Hanoverian king, first of many (4)

Answer: GRIM (i.e. “ghastly”). Solution is GRI (i.e. “Hanoverian king”, specifically Georgius Rex Imperator – or in English – George, King and Emperor) followed by M (i.e. “first of many”, i.e. the first letter of the word “many”).

41. Polish-Irish writer accepting brother as impartial mediator (6,6)

Answer: HONEST BROKER (i.e. “impartial mediator”). Solution is HONE (i.e. “[to] polish”) followed by Bram STOKER (i.e. “Irish writer”) “accepting” BR (a recognised abbreviation of the title “Brother”) like so: HONE-ST(BR)OKER. This was on the tip of my tongue for ages. I had “broker” but couldn’t for the life of me think what the rest of the solution could be. Eventually I was saved by the wordplay. A good one, this.

43. Awful acts in urban areas after matron sheds clothing (10)

Answer: ATROCITIES (i.e. “awful acts”). Solution is CITIES (i.e. “urban areas”) placed “after” ATRO (i.e. “matron sheds clothing”, i.e. the word “matron” with the first and last letters removed).

44. Oppressive temperature in cupboard (6)

Answer: CLOSET (i.e. “cupboard”). Solution is CLOSE (i.e. “oppressive”, as in humid weather) followed by T (a recognised abbreviation of “temperature”).

46. Spoke highly of lift in Palladium (7)

Answer: PRAISED (i.e. “spoke highly of”). Solution is RAISE (i.e. “lift”) placed “in” PD (chemical symbol of “palladium”), like so: P(RAISE)D.

48. Middle part that fits into socket (8)

Answer: EYEPIECE. Solution satisfies both “middle” – i.e. eye [of a storm] – “part” – i.e. piece, and “fits into socket”.

50. Last words seen by proofreader? (4,4,13)

Answer: QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM. In English this means “which was to be proved”. In the context of the clue, one could say these were the last words seen by a proof reader. Sound familiar? This was also in puzzle 1351 last November. Seems a popular solution among setters.

51. Kind look for Baskerville, perhaps (8)

Answer: TYPEFACE, of which “Baskerville” is one. Solution is TYPE (i.e. “[a] kind”) followed by FACE (i.e. “[to] look”).

52. Beset by strain, Mary’s mum hides here (7)

Answer: TANNERY (i.e. “[animal] hides here”). Solution is TRY (i.e. “strain”) “besetting” Queen ANNE (i.e. “Mary’s mum” – a bit of a guess as none of her children lived for very long, but with The Favourite winning Oscars recently this is what I’m plumping for) like so: T(ANNE)RY.

53. Suppress a retired magistrate in Rome (6)

Answer: AEDILE, an office of the Roman Republic (i.e. “magistrate in Rome”). Solution is ELIDE (i.e. to abridge or “suppress”) followed by A and then the whole lot reversed (indicated by “retired”), like so: A-EDILE. A word I had to look up.

Down clues

2. Lowest point of rebellious playwright after female disappears (5)

Answer: NADIR (i.e. “lowest point”). Solution is Richard Brinsley SHERIDAN (i.e. “playwright”) with the SHE removed (i.e. “after female disappears”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “rebellious”, as in an uprising – this being a down clue).

3. Formal language changing if I lose face (11)

Answer: OFFICIALESE (i.e. “formal language”). “Changing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IF I LOSE FACE.

4. Smashed eggs over non-drinker in brawl (8)

Answer: OMELETTE (i.e. “smashed eggs”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket), then TT (ditto teetotaller, or “non-drinker”) placed “in” MELEE (i.e. “brawl”) like so: O-MELE(TT)E.

5. Disreputable bishop’s office, disturbingly empty (5)

Answer: SEEDY (i.e. “disreputable”). Solution is SEE (i.e. “bishop’s office”) followed by DY (i.e. “disturbingly empty”, i.e. the word “disturbingly” with all the middle letters removed).

6. Row after sailor climbs part of rigging (7)

Answer: RATLINE (i.e. “part of rigging”). Solution is LINE (i.e. “[a] row”) placed “after” TAR (a word for “sailor” rather popular with crossword setters) reversed (indicated by “climbs” – this being a down clue) like so: RAT-LINE.

7. Brave tenor on radio, one unsettled by wind (7,4)

Answer: WEATHER VANE (i.e. “one unsettled by wind”) .Solution is WEATHER (i.e. “brave”) followed by VANE (i.e. “tenor on radio” – i.e. a homophone of “vein” (tenor as in “the general purport or drift of something”)).

8. Why we leave wife with an upset animal (5)

Answer: HYENA (i.e. “animal”). Solution is derived by removing W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”) from WHY and WE, then following it with AN reversed (indicated by “upset”), like so: HY-E-NA.

9. Exuberant cows briefly entering hospital department (9)

Answer: EBULLIENT (i.e. “exuberant”). Solution is BULLIES (i.e. “cows” – to cow someone is to bully them) with the final letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and placed in ENT (i.e. “hospital department”, specifically Ear Nose and Throat), like so: E(BULLIE)NT.

10. Smart girls shunning drug for skin (5)

Answer: CUTIS (i.e. “skin”). Solution is CUTIES (i.e. “smart girls” – yes, the noise you heard there was my skin crawling) with the E (a recognised abbreviation of ecstasy, i.e. “drug”) removed (i.e. “shunned”).

11. Proud, angry words in favour of public transport (11)

Answer: PROTUBERANT. Solution satisfies both “proud” and “angry words in favour of public transport”, i.e. PRO TUBE RANT.

12. Tramp clutching paper documents (7)

Answer: DOSSIER (i.e. “documents”). Solution is DOSSER (i.e. “tramp”) “clutching” I (i.e. “[news]paper”), like so: DOSS(I)ER.

18. Extremely dim old boy sat on the outside eating kippers, say (9)

Answer: OBSCUREST (i.e. “extremely dim”). Solution is OB (a recognised abbreviation of “old boy”) followed by ST (i.e. “sat on the outside”, i.e. the first and last letters of the word “sat”) “eating” CURES (i.e. “[to] kipper”), like so: OB-S(CURES)T.

19. Allow parasites to bite rear of passionate non-smoker (7)

Answer: LICENSE (i.e. “allow”). Solution is LICE (i.e. “parasites”) “biting” E (i.e. “rear of passionate”, i.e. the last letter of the word “passionate”) and NS (a recognised abbreviation of “non-smoker”), like so: LIC(E-NS)E.

21. Make business error, partially backing failed art revolution (9)

Answer: OVERTRADE (i.e. “make business error”). “Partially” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “backing” indicates the solution is reversed, like so: FAIL(ED ART REVO)LUTION.

22. Asks half-cut buccaneer to inhale (8)

Answer: ASPIRATE (i.e. “to breathe”). Solution is AS (i.e. “asks half-cut”, i.e. the first half of the word “asks”) followed by PIRATE (i.e. “buccaneer”).

25. Mates turned up with glue for knockabout comedy (9)

Answer: SLAPSTICK (i.e. “knockabout comedy”). Solution is PALS (i.e. “mates”) reversed (indicated by “turned up” – this being a down clue) and followed by STICK (i.e. “[to] glue”), like so: SLAP-STICK.

27. Mix force and fury in fierce exchange (9)

Answer: CROSSFIRE (i.e. “fierce exchange”). Solution is CROSS (i.e. “mix”) followed by F (a recognised abbreviation of “force”) and IRE (i.e. “fury”).

28. Appallingly trite man, strict disciplinarian (8)

Answer: MARTINET (i.e. “strict disciplinarian”). “Appallingly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TRITE MAN.

31. Hero’s mate is slim, revolutionary communist (7)

Answer: LEANDER. Solution refers to the Greek myth of Hero and Leander, though, if I’m honest, I got this through a fairly obscure game on the Commodore Amiga. You have your methods, I have mine. Solution is LEAN (i.e. “slim”) followed by RED (i.e. “communist”) reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”).

33. Club members awaiting deliveries (7-2-2)

Answer: MOTHERS-TO-BE. Solution riffs on how expectant mothers – i.e. those “awaiting deliveries” – are said to be “members” of the pudding “club”.

34. Carmen snogs vile US politician (11)

Answer: CONGRESSMAN (i.e. “US politician”). “Vile” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CARMEN SNOGS.

35. Just cared, having moral sense (5-6)

Answer: RIGHT-MINDED (i.e. “having moral sense”). Solution is RIGHT (i.e. “just”) followed by MINDED (i.e. “cared”).

37. Originally advising extensive repair work on road in Lancashire? (9)

Answer: AEROPLANE (i.e. “Lancashire [bomber]”). Solution is A, E and R (i.e. “originally advising extensive repair” – i.e. the first letters of “advising”, “extensive” and “repair”) followed by OP (a recognised abbreviation of operation, i.e. “work”) and LANE (i.e. “road”). [EDIT: Should have been “Lancaster” bomber, not Lancashire. Thanks to Winston in the comments for the correction.]

40. Plans novel e-cash ATM (8)

Answer: SCHEMATA (i.e. “plans”). “Novel” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of E CASH ATM.

42. Censure unruly yob grabbing two thirds of fruit (7)

Answer: OBLOQUY (i.e. “censure”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “unruly”) of BOY “grabbing” the first “two thirds of” LOQUAT (i.e. “fruit”), like so: OB(LOQU)Y.

43. Bald men, scratching heads, finally taught me how to cook pasta (2,5)

Answer: AL DENTE (i.e. “how to cook pasta”). Solution is derived by removing the initial letters (indicated by “scratching heads”) of BALD MEN and then following it with the “final” letters of “taught” and “me” like so: ALD-EN-T-E. Another good one, this.

45. Cheers supporting article and letter (5)

Answer: THETA (i.e. “[Greek] letter”). Solution is TA (i.e. thanks, or “cheers”) “supporting” (this being a down clue) THE (i.e. “article”), like so: THE-TA.

47. Initially act upon Morse’s sound assessment (5)

Answer: AUDIT (i.e. “assessment”). Solution is A and U (i.e. “initially act upon”, i.e. the initial letters of “act” and “upon”) followed by DIT (i.e. “Morse {code}’s sound”).

48. Guard neglecting southern gate? (5)

Answer: ENTRY (i.e. “gate”). Solution is SENTRY (i.e. “guard”) removing, or “neglecting”, the S (a recognised abbreviation of “southern”).

49. Arrived on back of doleful quadruped (5)

Answer: CAMEL (i.e. “quadruped”). Solution is CAME (i.e. “arrived”) placed “on [the] back of” L (i.e. “back of doleful”, i.e. the last letter of the word “doleful”).

Review: Best New Horror 2

“Hello, cheeky!”

Best New Horror 2 was published back in 1991 and showcased twenty-eight tales of horror, the supernatural and the weird, all published during the previous year. As with the first volume, this edition was edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell. Interestingly, the original release of this book was stripped of its intended opening story after the publishers got cold feet, fearing that the inclusion of a splatterpunk story would risk the book being pulled from store shelves. The offending story, Roberta Lannes’ Apostate in Denim, was reinstated in PS Publishing’s recent anniversary edition of Best New Horror 2, and is covered below.

Sadly, on the evidence presented in this volume, 1990 was a dry year for quality horror shorts. It’s telling that a number of the stories were pulled from the pages of science fiction publications with only the merest nod to horror. Overall, then, Best New Horror 2 is a straightforward 3/5.

Despite the dip in quality from book one, there are still a few stories that are well worth your time. Here is a rundown of what you can expect to find inside.

Also collected in Lannes’ “The Mirror of Night”

Apostate In Denim – Roberta Lannes (3/5 – A young man called Barry Boag peers through the gaps of Mr Hardesty’s shack, transfixed in a state of sexual excitement as he watches the man cruelly and methodically torture a small boy. When Barry’s voyeurism is eventually discovered by Hardesty, he finds the man quite untroubled by it all. In fact, Hardesty invites Barry around for a more intimate look. This was okay, but it felt as if Lannes was being too eager to shock the reader at times, as if this was the only way to hold their attention. Yes, this is splatterpunk, but, consonant with a number of other works in this subgenre, the shock tactics undermine the story. If I’m honest I found Lannes’ assertion in her introduction (that she did not set out to write a splatterpunk story) got under my skin more than the story itself. Apostate… was published at a time when splatterpunk was all the rage, so don’t give me that.)

The First Time – K. W. Jeter (4/5 – An adolescent boy is invited along on a trip to a Mexican border town with his father, his Uncle Tommy and a few of their friends. It’s a trip the men have taken several times already, often making a weekend of it, and the boy nervously agrees to go along. When they arrive in town, they all crowd into a bar to drink beers and goof off. The boy notices the men disappearing one at a time to a curtained area away from the main bar, returning a short time later reeking of sweat and acting a little differently. When there’s suddenly no room for the boy to sit with his father and his friends, the lad queasily realises he’s up next. This didn’t work for me the first time around as I felt the premise was too far-fetched – I couldn’t accept how the men could keep shtum around the boy regarding the WHAAAAAAA…?!!? that goes on beyond the curtain. Contrary to my initial impressions, however, The First Time did actually improve the second time around.)

Also collected in Straub’s “Houses Without Doors”

A Short Guide To The City – Peter Straub (2/5 – In this mock travelogue we are guided around a nameless north-midwestern city in the US, its districts and demographics, its cultures and landmarks, expressed at times through the flavours and degrees of violence executed therein, and how they may or may not relate to the local Viaduct Killer, whoever he – or they – may be. The literary fireworks in Straub’s long fiction often show he’s an author who is not afraid to experiment. This firework, for me at least, was a dud.)



Also collected in Massie’s “The Fear Report”

Stephen – Elizabeth Massie (4/5 – Anne is an emotionally and physically scarred woman who volunteers at a rehabilitation centre to help severely disabled patients study and train for life in the outside world. One of her charges, Michael, is a charismatic guy who has no legs, no left arm and whose right arm is missing below the elbow. Michael’s silent roommate, Stephen, has an even tougher time of it. This was one of the better stories in the book and bagged a Stoker Award back in the day along with a World Fantasy Award nomination. I’m not going to go too much into this one as it would rob the story of some of its impact, suffice to say that, me being the sick puppy I am, I couldn’t quite get that scene from Reanimator out of my head while reading this. Also, I couldn’t help but cast Noel Fielding in my head as the titular Stephen, which I fully admit is a bit weird.)

Also collected in Carroll’s “The Panic Hand”

The Dead Love You – Jonathan Carroll (2/5 – Anthea Powell is a woman with a successful career and a heart condition. When she is forced to swerve to avoid hitting a cyclist, she accidentally runs her car into another driver’s vehicle. The owner, an albino by the name of Bruce Beetz, is furious and, after getting short thrift from the police officer handling the incident, Bruce decides to take revenge. When Anthea falls asleep in a hot bath, Bruce leaves a toy car floating in the water. When she wakes one morning she finds a children’s book on her bed called I’M COMING TO GET YOU. Anthea is afraid but also intrigued, for in her dreams she’s discovered Bruce isn’t exactly the guy he makes out to be. A much bigger surprise lies in store for “Bruce”. In my original review of this story, I called it “less a horror story than a fuck-you to the reader”, and, to be honest, after a reread, my opinion of it hasn’t changed. It still reeks of a writer being asked to produce a story for an anthology (which was the case here), picking up some half-finished effort and welding a jarringly different ending to it. This is a bit of a Carroll trope, it seems. I’ll pass on more, thanks.)

Also collected in Ellison’s “Slippage”

Jane Doe #112 – Harlan Ellison (3/5 – Ben Laborde is a man on the run, not from the police but from a small group of translucent people, each of whom were cut off in their prime before they had a chance to live their lives. Tired of being hunted for so long, Ben stops and confronts his pursuers, at which point he learns an unusual truth about himself. When he was on form, Ellison could be a blinding supernova of creativity. This story doesn’t reach those giddy heights, thanks in part to a jarring plot convenience, but there is still more invention on display here than half the other stories in this book put together. Pity it’s not a horror story, really.)



Also collected in Garton’s “Methods of Madness”

Shock Radio – Ray Garton (4/5The Arthur Colton Jr. Show is a late-night talk radio sensation thanks to its obnoxious and unabashedly right-wing, pro-male, pro-life (and pseudonymous) host. Fronting the show is a man called Andy Craig. He doesn’t share his alter-ego’s views, and is frequently astonished at how his audience and innumerable critics can take Colton seriously. Can’t they see it’s all just an act? Apparently not. The frequent exchanges between Colton and his more rational callers make this an engrossing read, and depressingly demonstrate how little things have changed in the near-thirty years since this was originally published. Though Shock Radio isn’t perfect – Andy isn’t a terribly convincing character, and you’ll likely see the ending coming – I suspect this will be one of the stories in the book that will stick in your mind for a while to come.)

Also collected in MMS’s “More Tomorrow and Other Stories”

The Man Who Drew Cats – Michael Marshall Smith (5/5 – An old man recounts a long, hot summer some years ago when a tall and intense stranger came to the small town of Kingstown. By day Tom would sit out on the town square creating incredibly realistic paintings of animals, keeping the neighbourhood kids rapt as he worked. Come the evening, he would sit and drink with the old boys of town and sometimes open up a little about the tragedies of his past. One day Tom notices one of the children, Billy, is noticeably sadder than the others, and before long he is introduced to the boy’s mother, Mary, and, by extension, her abusive drunk of a husband, Sam. When Tom can no longer stand to witness the effects of Sam’s bloody and bruising violence upon Mary and Billy, the tall and intense stranger acts in the only way he knows how: he paints Sam a picture. This powerful and wonderfully-spun debut from MMS nailed a British Fantasy Award back in the day and is by far and away the best story in Best New Horror 2. Absolutely unmissable. In fact, you should stop reading this and read that instead.)

Also collected in Tem’s “The Ice Downstream and Other Stories”

The Co-op – Melanie Tem (4/5 – In this strange and disturbing slice of life we watch as a young mother, Julie, plays hostess to an assortment of other mothers from around the neighbourhood. As potato salad is messily consumed and as their kids all argue among themselves down in the basement, the group discuss the ups and downs of parenthood. Oh, wait. Did I say “ups”? Sunshine and lollipops this most certainly is not, and the finale will linger long after the reading.)




Also collected in Royle’s “Mortality”

Negatives – Nicolas Royle (3/5 – Brian Linden is driving at night, maintaining a steady seventy on the motorway, bored out of his gourd. He is on the way to meet his other half, Melanie, at a cottage for the weekend. When Brian looks to the passenger seat, he sees Melanie fast asleep beside him. Confused? In order to find out more we wind back a couple of weeks to when Brian’s odd visions began, back when he was made to use an old office computer with a green screen. Though this is a tad dated, a smattering of cool imagery and some neat ideas help make this a better story than Archway (Royle’s entry in book one). The story is guilty of being over-engineered, however, evidenced by a weak ending that doesn’t really work.)

Collected in Ligotti’s “Grimscribe: His Lives and Works”

The Last Feast of Harlequin – Thomas Ligotti (4/5 – In this World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novelette Ligotti turns his hand to a spot of Lovecraft. An academic (and keen clown fanatic) arrives in the remote American town of Mirocaw, eager to learn more about the “Fool’s Feast” that takes place there during the winter solstice. Mirocaw is a strange town set in a bowl whose odd topography makes it seem like the houses overlap one another. The citizens too seem to overlap: alongside people going about their daily lives our man sees several strange and scruffy others vacantly shuffling about the place largely unseen, one of whom bears a noticeable likeness for an old professor of his. Whenever an author dips their toes in Lovecraft they nearly always come a cropper (and I include Lovecraft himself in that). Ligotti wobbles a bit here and there but ultimately turns in a story that manages to retain much of the good stuff found in Lovecraft’s work while at the same time jettisoning an awful lot of the rubbish. In all, a good ‘un, this.)

Also collected in MacLeod’s “Voyages by Starlight”

1/72nd Scale – Ian R. MacLeod (3/5 – A family tries to move on from the eldest son Simon’s accidental death. Younger son David inherits Simon’s room and its effects, including a number of meticulously constructed model aircraft. When David’s father hands him a large model aircraft kit of his own to assemble, David is daunted by the task. It’s the last thing he needs amid the constant reminders from all around that he is not his elder brother and can never hope to be. Spoilers ahoy, folks, but I can’t help it on this occasion. This Nebula-nominated novelette starts off beautifully and then… well… hmm. It may have been better if I could have bought into the premise of a model aeroplane coming to life, attacking David and… (sigh…) still somehow living after being burned to a charred and plasticky crisp. Nope. Sorry. Even after a second read this came across as silly when it really didn’t intend to be.)

Also collected in “Masters of the Weird Tale: Karl Edward Wagner”

Cedar Lane – Karl Edward Wagner (3/5 – In this short and curious what-if, multiple versions of the same man recall their childhood at a house on Cedar Lane, each often smelling the stench of burning leaves or experiencing a sharp agonising pain immediately before… well, to say any more would be to give the game away. Here we have another story that is a hundred parts science fiction infused with a tiny soupçon of horror. Even on its own terms, the story is merely okay. A shame, really, as I rather enjoyed At First Just Ghostly, Wagner’s story in the first book.)



Also released as its own separate eBook (links to Amazon)

At A Window Facing West – Kim Antieau (3/5 – Maggie is a fearless journalist on vacation in Mexico with her other half, Peter, and his brother, Rich. The holiday has thus far been dictated by what Rich doesn’t want to do, which causes friction between the three of them. After a row with Peter, Maggie is woken from her sleep by a scream from outside. She sees two policemen carrying away a woman who is crying for help, but Maggie feels powerless to do anything. Upon their return from hols, the guilt Maggie feels about the episode eats away at her until she can take it no longer. Compelled to investigate, she returns to Mexico. Bad move. This story shares a few genes with Thomas Tessier’s Blanca, published in the first book, and was okay, but you’ll have probably already guessed the ending.)

Also collected in “The Best Short Stories of Garry Kilworth”

Inside the Walled City – Garry Kilworth (4/5 – A journalist in Hong Kong follows hifalutin cop John Speakman, his guide and two junior police officers into a vast makeshift building called the Walled City. The slum had once teemed with tens of thousands of Hong Kong’s poor, but now it lies empty, awaiting demolition. Speakman’s job is to chase out any stragglers. Once inside, our man grows convinced that Speakman has evil in mind for him, but that’s nothing compared to what the building has in store for them all. This is another one sharing a couple of genes with a story from the first book, this time Laurence Staig’s Closed Circuit, which was set in an inescapable shopping mall. I liked this a lot, even if the characters largely played second fiddle to the real star of the piece, the Walled City itself. Kilworth has a whale of a time describing its fetid and labyrinthine – and lethal – innards. Good gory fun.)

On The Wing – Jean-Daniel Breque (3/5 – Robin is a twelve year old boy who takes a solitary swim at an abandoned quarry. He reflects on two close friends of his, and slowly comes to realise they may not be friends at all. They never seem to come to the quarry any more, and back when they did they would play all kinds of mean tricks on him. When Robin learns that his friends may have taken to visiting the quarry after dark, he sneaks out for a midnight dip, where things take a sinister turn. This was okay, but I found some of the passages clunky (possibly lost in translation). The story also felt rather mechanical, with several scenes existing mostly to set up the next scene rather than to tell a bit more of the story, a bit like a train laying down its own tracks. That said, the ending, however disconnected it felt from the rest of the story, is wonderfully creepy.)

Firebird – J. L. Comeau (4/5 – By day Julianna is part of a tight-knit police team jokingly named “The Nut Squad” on account of the dangerous whack-jobs they so often have to take down. In the evenings she maintains a rigorous ballet regime to help keep her mind and body sharp. By night she is haunted in her sleep by the horrifying events of her first assignment. When, one evening, at the end of their shift, the squad are sent to join other teams at an incident in progress, they are all immediately set on edge. They arrive at a tenement block where a number of officers struggle to hold back a thoroughly freaked-out crowd. When Julianna looks up to one of the upper windows she sees the lunatic from her first assignment – a man she had gunned down and killed. This full-blooded story rattles along at a fair old pace, almost like a Kathryn Bigelow movie from back in the day, and it’s a belter. In the space of 10,000 words you have damn near everything you would get from a novel ten times the length, and Comeau doesn’t pull any punches. Definitely worth a read. In fact, you can read the full thing for free on Comeau’s website: http://www.countgore.com/Firebird.htm)

Also collected in Schow’s “Seeing Red”

Incident on a Rainy Night in Beverly Hills – David J. Schow (4/5 – Jonathan Brill is a wealthy psychiatrist to the stars, taking in a stormy evening from the safety of his study. He is visited upon by a panicked old friend, Haskell Hammer, who begs for shelter not just from the storm outside but the men in white vans too – never a good sign. Haskell soon spins a strange and possibly deluded story of how he got to be in this position; a story of what it really takes to make it in Hollywood. In my original review of this story I said I liked it a lot up until the cheap-ass ending. Weirdly on a second reading the ending felt a little better – if still rather unearned – but I found it was the middle that sagged. It’s still worth a read, either way, scraping a 4/5.)

Also collected in Brite’s “Swamp Foetus”

His Mouth Will Taste Of Wormwood – Poppy Z. Brite (4/5 – Howard and Louis are two young men living in modern-day gothic splendour who devote every living moment seeking something – anything – that can truly satisfy them. From hard drink to strange drugs, from degrading beautiful women to bedding androgynous young men and eventually each other – nothing fills the void. In their pursuit of ever-newer and evermore-debauched experiences they take to robbing graves and raiding mausoleums, acts that eventually draw them closer to what they crave the most. But at what cost? This story has become a modern horror classic since its first publication, and who am I to argue? Brite’s elegant writing and pitch-black humour elevates this above most stories in the book.)

Also collected in Newman’s “The Original Dr Shade and Other Stories”

The Original Dr Shade – Kim Newman (4/5 – Greg Daniels is an illustrator hired to help resurrect the old Dr Shade character for the launch of the Argus, a new hard-right British newspaper. He is introduced to Harry Lipman, an elderly man who last wrote the character back in the 1950s. The men soon hit it off, developing a Dr Shade more suited for the modern era while at the same time honouring the derring-do stories of yesteryear. But Greg and Harry fail to recognise the changing mood of the country. A new fascism is fast taking hold, catalysed by the upcoming launch of the Argus and the seeming resurgence of the original Dr Shade – a brutal and significantly more controversial iteration of the character. Within the first page of this story I knew this was going to be a winner. I loved the British comics scene back in my younger years. If it had panels and speech bubbles, I was all over it. This is a mighty fine and uncompromising read, and definitely one you should seek out.)

Madge – D. F. Lewis (2/5 – In a story barely ten words longer than this mini-review, Lewis sketches out the titular Madge, whose gift of song holds the locals of a fishing village in her thrall. But on this particular storm-laden evening she carries her song into new and unheard verses, crooning of the one she loved. After taking one of the local men to her bed she explains the unsettling purpose of her song. Lewis is remarkable in the field for having comfortably over 1,000 of his stories published, the majority being short shorts like this. I’m not the greatest fan of flash-fiction-length stories, however, as I seldom find them a satisfying read. Despite the quality of the writing, this one didn’t sway me.)

Alive in Venice – Cherry Wilder (3/5 – Following a family misfortune a young teenage girl, Susan, accompanies her brother and sister-in-law on their honeymoon in Venice. She knows enough to give the newlyweds some space, and thus spends a lot of her time in a writing room of the house. A large tapestry hangs in the room, behind which Susan finds a large door. A key hangs on a hook nearby. When a strange series of items are left in the room beneath a decorative ventilator, Susan grows convinced there may be someone behind the door beckoning her through. Wilder’s The House On Cemetery Street was probably the best story in the first book, but here she stumbles. This story was okay, but it felt more like a series of things happening than anything you could get emotionally involved in.)

Also collected in Frost’s “Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories”

Divertimento – Gregory Frost (3/5 – Teenagers Peter and Susanne are brother and sister, with Peter the eldest by a couple of years. Not that you’d believe it, for Susanne looks to be in her eighties while Peter is rocking a mid-forties look. A timebomb had once detonated in the family home, killing their parents in the blast, ageing them to dust in an instant, while also greatly ageing the two siblings. The bomb left behind a unique temporal rift allowing the children to look back through time to witness a previous occupant of the house: one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This story was okay with some really cool ideas, but let’s be honest – it’s another science fiction story that has been crowbarred into a horror anthology on the thinnest of premises.)

Also collected in Wilson’s “The Barrens and Others”

Pelts – F. Paul Wilson (4/5 – A poacher and his son strike it lucky when they find their traps have snared several large raccoons, each possessing the thickest and most luxurious coats they have ever seen. The poachers brutally kill the poor animals still clinging to life before bagging them all up and taking their prizes home. After a hard slog skinning and preparing the pelts, Pa leaves his son to clean up. The lad catches movement in the corner of his eye. Did one of the pelts move just then? In this Stoker-nominated story, F. shows everyone here how horror is done. This is a bloody good read and was made into an episode of Masters of Horror some years later.)


Also collected in Sutton’s “Clinically Dead and Other Tales of the Supernatural”

Those of Rhenea – David Sutton (3/5 – Elizabeth is holidaying in Greece, soaking up the sun and taking in the sights. Though promising herself no romantic entanglements, she finds herself knocking around keen photographer and fellow holidaymaker, Steve Convenient-Infodump. They break away from an island tour of Demos to do their own bit of exploring, but end up missing the boat back to the mainland. Darkness falls, and the two discover why no-one ever stays on Demos overnight. This was okay, but seasoned horror fans will have seen the skeleton of this story in a hundred others before it. The story is so flat that when the horror eventually makes itself known you are almost numb to it.)


Also collected in Wolfe’s “Starwater Strains”

Lord of the Land – Gene Wolfe (2/5 – A man known as The Nebraskan rocks up to a rickety farmhouse to chat with an old timer about, among other things, a dark shape the old boy saw once aways down the road; an emanation he calls a soul-sucker. The old timer’s granddaughter, Sarah serves them lemonade as a means to loiter nearby and listen in. Later, when The Nebraskan agrees to stay the night, Sarah passes him a note warning him not to utter a word of the old timer’s stories to her father. This was Wolfe’s tribute to Lovecraft, so it should come as no surprise that he produces inferior work as a result. Originally, this hot mess had me nodding off several times. On a reread, things don’t improve any. The story is uneven to say the least, and hits so many bum notes (dull backgrounding; dialog written as it is spoken, and, of course, Sarah simply has to make a pass at our man) it becomes a real chore to get through – and it’s only 14 pages long. Of course, your mileage may vary, as you can see in a relatively recent discussion of this story on Tor.com: https://www.tor.com/2017/02/22/urban-legends-of-ancient-egypt-gene-wolfes-lord-of-the-land/)

Also collected in SRT’s “The Far Side Of The Lake”

Aquarium – Steve Rasnic Tem (3/5 – Michael is hired by Victor Montgomery to catalogue the chattels of his hotel. As he works through the many artworks and items of furniture, Michael is reminded of the childhood he spent in an orphanage. His mind starts to deteriorate and hints of darker memories begin to surface when Michael finds certain items of furniture with strange and unsettling adornments. This was okay, but I’ve read better from SRT. Here it felt as if he was trying too hard to keep things weird, from a rather unnecessary attempt to wrongfoot the reader about Michael’s age, to how Victor looks more like a baby in a suit the more he talks, to, most obviously, SRT’s frequent attempts to relate things to an aquarium.)


Also collected in Wilson’s “The Cleft and Other Odd Tales”

Mister Ice Cold – Gahan Wilson (4/5 – Mister Ice Cold is doing the rounds, the chimes of his ice cream truck sending children into a frenzy with the promise of iced confections to come. While Mister Ice Cold is busy serving the ranks of children queueing outside, a young boy sneaks into his van and makes the mistake of looking in the one compartment Mister Ice Cold never seems to open. Gahan Wilson is a creative polymath; he is perhaps better known as a cartoonist, with a long career contributing to publications such as The New Yorker, but he is also a very good short story writer. Though you could accuse this short short of being a little predictable, you cannot question Wilson’s masterful delivery. Mister Ice Cold has only one line in the story, and it is brilliantly chilling. If you’ll pardon the pun.)

Also collected in Hand’s “Last Summer at Mars Hill”

On The Town Route – Elizabeth Hand (4/5 – Continuing the ice cream theme, this story sees Julie slumming it in her digs, having given up on her studies and seemingly the whole concept of going outside. Her boyfriend, Cass, drags her out to ride along with him in his knackered old ice cream van. Along the route, she watches the urban landscape give way to nature and the houses become more ramshackle. She meets all of Cass’s regulars, including a headstrong young girl called Little Eva, and Maidie and Sam, her somewhat unusual parents. When tragedy strikes on the way back home, Maidie unexpectedly intervenes. I liked this story a lot, even if Julie has little other role than to be our eyes and ears. There’s a slacker vibe to the story that I loved, and Hand creates a wonderful sense of a hazy countryside summer. A really good read, though I would argue Mister Ice Cold would have been a better closer to the book.)

And that wraps up this monster review of Best New Horror 2. Thanks for getting this far! If any of these stories float your boat then PS Publishing offers a chunky 25th Anniversary edition of the book, otherwise it shouldn’t be too hard finding a second-hand copy on the interwebs. You can also find Best New Horror 2 for purchase on most popular eBook platforms.

Till book three, then – TTFN!