Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1413

A number of well-worked clues made this a good ‘un. It was another straightforward puzzle, relatively speaking, so we’ll probably see the difficulty cranked up in time for a Boxing Day stinker. Back in the here and now, you can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

(Cue Pearl and Dean music.)

Some me-stuff before we begin. My Just For Fun page has solutions for over a year’s worth of Times Jumbo Cryptic crosswords. If you have a grid that’s recently given you gyp, then go check it out. Meanwhile, I have a Reviews page if book reviews are your thing. If you fancy a short story, I’ve got your back.

(Cue Pearl and Dean music again.)

And now our feature presentation.


Across clues

1. Amusing and sad to urinate in street after beer (11)

Answer: BITTERSWEET (i.e. “amusing and sad”). Solution is WEE (i.e. “to urinate”) placed “in” ST (a recognised abbreviation of “street”), and the whole placed “after” BITTER (i.e. “beer”), like so: BITTER-S(WEE)T. A clue that scans rather well!

7. Fantastic careerist at office (11)

Answer: SECRETARIAT (i.e. “office”). “Fantastic” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CAREERIST AT.

13. Rented property is large, no bother to maintain (9)

Answer: LEASEHOLD (i.e. “rented property”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) followed by EASE (i.e. “no bother”) and HOLD (i.e. “to maintain”). Another good clue.

14. Catch geezers twice undressed in circus bar (7)

Answer: TRAPEZE (i.e. “circus bar”). Solution is TRAP (i.e. “catch”) followed by EZE (i.e. “geezers twice undressed” – meaning to twice remove the beginning and end letters of GEEZERS).

15. Friend, a married one with spirit (5)

Answer: AMIGO (i.e. “friend”). Solution is A followed by M (a recognised abbreviation of “married”), then I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and GO (i.e. “spirit”, as in having some oomph).

16. Monkey god gets to climb with no tail (6)

Answer: RASCAL (i.e. “monkey”). Solution is RA (i.e. “[Ancient Egyptian sun] god”) followed by SCALE (i.e. “to climb”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “with no tail”), like RA-SCAL.

17. Rogue, pig mostly, led to run by Republican (8)

Answer: SWINDLER (i.e. “rogue”). Solution is SWINE (i.e. “pig”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”), followed by an anagram (indicated by “to run”) of LED, then R (a recognised abbreviation of “Republican”), like so: SWIN-DLE-R.

18. China is after support, filled with people (7)

Answer: TEEMING (i.e. “filled with people”). Solution is MING (i.e. “China”) placed “after” TEE (i.e. “[golf ball] support”), like so: TEE-MING.

20. Recorded mental impulses to choose caviar, new mushroom glory and chickpeas (20)

Answer: ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM, often abbreviated to EEG (i.e. “recorded mental impulses”). Solution is ELECT (i.e. “to choose”), followed by ROE (i.e. “caviar”), then N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”), then CEP (i.e. a type of “mushroom”), then HALO (i.e. “glory”) and GRAM (i.e. “chickpeas”), like so: ELECT-ROE-N-CEP-HALO-GRAM. Crikey. As seed words go, this is a doozy! Well, I guess it was a seed word. I can’t imagine the setter left themselves -L-C-R-E-C-P-A-O-R-M to fill.

23. Admit something in Arabic once denied (7)

Answer: CONCEDE (i.e. “admit”). “Something in” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: ARABI(C ONCE DE)NIED.

24. Pedal note raised a tone in cloying sentimentality (7)

Answer: TREADLE (i.e. “pedal”). Solution is TREACLE (i.e. “cloying sentimentality”) with the C (i.e. “[musical] note”) upped to D (indicated by “raised a tone”).

26. Oriental festival beginning in Nagasaki (7)

Answer: EASTERN (i.e. “oriental”). Solution is EASTER (i.e. “festival”) followed by N (i.e. “beginning in Nagasaki”, i.e. the first letter of “Nagasaki”).

28. Concerned with morning paper? (4)

Answer: REAM (i.e. “paper”). Solution is RE (i.e. “concerned with” – think email replies) followed by AM (i.e. “morning”).

29. Runs article in Express, most extreme (8)

Answer: FARTHEST (i.e. “most extreme”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation of “runs” used in a number of ball games) and THE (i.e. “article”) placed “in” FAST (i.e. “express” – ignore the misleading capitalisation), like so: FA(R-THE)ST. Another clue that scans rather well.

32. Note girl’s shoulder piece (9)

Answer: EPAULETTE (i.e. “shoulder piece”). Solution is E (i.e. “[musical] note”) followed by PAULETTE (i.e. “girl”).

35. A nice pure mixed philosophy student (9)

Answer: EPICUREAN (i.e. “philosophy student”). “Mixed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A NICE PURE.

36. Really like deer backing into large shrub (8)

Answer: TREASURE (i.e. “really like”). Solution is RUSA (i.e. “deer”) reversed (indicated by “backing”) and placed “into” TREE (i.e. “large shrub”), like so: TRE(ASUR)E.

37. Handle spades leaving access to mine (4)

Answer: HAFT (i.e. a “handle”). Solution is SHAFT (i.e. “entrance to mine”) with the S removed (indicated by “spades leaving”, S being a recognised abbreviation of “spades” used in card games).

39. Chap’s chasing leather function (7)

Answer: TANGENT (i.e. “[trigonometrical] function”). Solution is GENT (i.e. “chap”) placed after or “chasing” TAN (i.e. “leather”), like so: TAN-GENT.

41. Weak, like modern violins? (7)

Answer: GUTLESS (i.e. “weak”). Catgut, made from the intestines of sheep and other animals, was once used to create strings for musical instruments. “Like modern violins” refers to how they are, as it were, GUTLESS.

44. Inflicting of pain is wrongful act regularly hurried (7)

Answer: TORTURE (i.e. “inflicting of pain”). Solution is TORT (i.e. “wrongful act” – one I remember from a previous puzzle) followed by URE (i.e. “regularly hurried”, i.e. every other letter of HURRIED).

45. Mistake by noble moving slowly in seeking to restore old order (7-13)

Answer: COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY (i.e. “seeking to restore old order”). Solution is ERR (i.e. “mistake”) placed after or “by” COUNT (i.e. “noble”) and then followed by EVOLUTIONARY (i.e. “moving slowly”), like so: COUNT-ERR-EVOLUTIONARY.

49. Wine drink revealed secrets, draught being knocked back (7)

Answer: SANGRIA (i.e. “wine drink”). Solution is SANG (i.e. “revealed secrets”) followed by AIR (i.e. “draught”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “being knocked back”), like so: SANG-RIA.

50. Surprised being shown the way after second bitter (8)

Answer: STARTLED (i.e. “surprised”). Solution is LED (i.e. “being shown the way”) placed “after” S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) and TART (i.e. “bitter”), like so: S-TART-LED.

51. Is copper interrupting me for error? (6)

Answer: MISCUE (i.e. “error”, say, in snooker). Solution is IS and CU (chemical symbol of “copper”) placed in or “interrupting” ME, like so: M(IS-CU)E.

53. Up before court (5)

Answer: ERECT (i.e. “up”). Ooer missus, etc. Solution is ERE (i.e. poetic form of “before”) followed by CT (a recognised abbreviation of “court”).

54. Through which one hears a murder has been arranged (7)

Answer: EARDRUM (i.e. “through which one hears”). “Has been arranged” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A MURDER.

55. Unfortunately no clue left us for body found in cell (9)

Answer: NUCLEOLUS, which, according to my Chambers, is a body with a cell nucleus. Not sure this quite equates to “body found in cell”, but there you go. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “unfortunately”) of NO CLUE, L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) and US.

56. Two-faced tutor holds right over us (11)

Answer: TREACHEROUS (i.e. “two-faced”). Solution is TEACHER (i.e. “tutor”) wrapped around or “holding” R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) and followed by O (ditto “over”, used in cricket) and US, like so: T(R)EACHER-O-US.

57. Wrongly interpret consumerist modelling (11)

Answer: MISCONSTRUE (i.e. “wrongly interpret”). “Modelling” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CONSUMERIST.

Down clues

1. Trunk must get right round in Spanish dance (6)

Answer: BOLERO (i.e. “Spanish dance”). Solution is BOLE (i.e. “[tree] trunk”), followed by R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) and O (i.e. “round”).

2. Tons managed military base about project moving elsewhere (15)

Answer: TRANSPLANTATION (i.e. “moving elsewhere”). Solution is T (a recognised abbreviation of “tons”) followed by RAN (i.e. “managed”) and STATION (i.e. “military base”) once it has been placed “about” PLAN (i.e. “project”), like so: T-RAN-S(PLAN)TATION.

3. Impressive sight, organ has to provide around church (3-7)

Answer: EYE-CATCHER (i.e. “impressive sight”). Solution is EYE (i.e. “organ”) followed by CATER (i.e. “to provide”) once it has been placed “around” CH (a recognised abbreviation of “church”), like so: EYE-CAT(CH)ER.

4. Set up Japanese festivals for pretentious person (4)

Answer: SNOB (i.e. “pretentious person”). Solution is BONS (i.e. “Japanese festivals” – referring to a Buddhist festival held in Japan every August. A new one on me, but its Google-able) reversed (indicated by “set up” – this being a down clue).

5. Women tend to organise funding (9)

Answer: ENDOWMENT (i.e. “funding”). “To organise” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WOMEN TEND.

6. Caught during doing something to raise sunken ship (7)

Answer: TITANIC (i.e. “sunken ship”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in several ball games) followed by IN (i.e. “during”) and AT IT (i.e. “doing something”). Titter ye not, etc. The whole is then reversed (indicated by “raise”, this being a down clue), like so: TI-TA-NI-C.

7. Carefully examined cases entirely curved at the edges? (9)

Answer: SCALLOPED (i.e. “curved at the edges”). Solution is SCOPED (i.e. “carefully examined”) which is wrapped around or “encasing” ALL (i.e. “entirely”), like so: SC(ALL)OPED.

8. The French invested in vehicle patent (5)

Answer: CLEAR (i.e. “patent”). Solution is LE (i.e. “the French”, as in the masculine form of “the” in French) which is placed or “invested in” CAR (i.e. “vehicle”), like so: C(LE)AR.

9. What may be connected and favoured people went on horseback (9)

Answer: ELECTRODE (i.e. “what may be connected”). Solution is ELECT (i.e. the “favoured people”) followed by RODE (i.e. “went on horseback”).

10. Ineptly confuse us with a tail rhyme (12)

Answer: AMATEURISHLY (i.e. “ineptly”). “Confuse” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of US and A TAIL RHYME.

11. I’d one covered in one strange metal (7)

Answer: IRIDIUM (i.e. “metal”). Solution is I’D and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed or “covered in” I (“one”, again) and RUM (i.e. “strange”), like so: I-R(I’D-I)UM.

12. Even if finished, runs out (6)

Answer: THOUGH (i.e. “even if”). Solution is THROUGH (i.e. “finished”) with the R removed (indicated by “runs out” – R being a recognised abbreviation of “runs” used in a number of ball games).

19. Open conflict over English code given away (8)

Answer: FREEWARE (i.e. “[program] code given away”). Solution is FREE (i.e. “open”) followed by WAR (i.e. “conflict”) and E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”). “Over” indicates how the pieces are stacked over one another, this being a down clue.

21. Forever without regular income, foregoing whiskey (7)

Answer: AGELESS (i.e. “forever”). Solution is WAGELESS (i.e. “without regular income”) with the W removed (indicated by “foregoing whiskey”, being W in the phonetic alphabet).

22. Harsh and sharply caustic, quietly dismissed the French (8)

Answer: UNGENTLE (i.e. “harsh”). Solution is PUNGENT (i.e. “sharply caustic”) with the P removed (indicated by “quietly dismissed”, P being a recognised abbreviation of “piano”, which is “quietly” in musical lingo), and then followed by LE (i.e. “the French”, i.e. the masculine form of “the” in French), like so: UNGENT-LE.

23. Check temperature in centre of reactor’s vessel (8)

Answer: CORVETTE (i.e. “[sea] vessel”). Solution is VET (i.e. “check”) and T (a recognised abbreviation of “temperature”) placed “in” CORE (i.e. “centre of [nuclear] reactor”), like so: COR(VET-T)E.

25. “Uniform tango” incident (5)

Answer: EVENT (i.e. “incident”). Solution is EVEN (i.e. “uniform”) and T (“tango” in the phonetic alphabet).

27. Outside routine, run with dog in charge in rural ground (5-10)

Answer: EXTRA-CURRICULAR (i.e. “outside routine”). Solution is EXTRA (i.e. a “run” in cricket not scored by a batsman, such as those punishing wide deliveries) followed by CUR (i.e. “dog”) and IC (a recognised abbreviation of “in charge”) once it has been placed “in” an anagram (indicated by “ground”) of RURAL, like so: EXTRA-CUR-R(IC)ULAR.

30. Bird is brown and silver tern with wings out (7)

Answer: TANAGER (i.e. “bird” – did a Google image search – Ooh, pretty!) Solution is TAN (i.e. “brown”) followed by AG (chemical symbol of “silver”) and ER (i.e. “tern with wings out”, i.e. the word TERN with the first and last letter removed), like so: TAN-AG-ER.

31. Anthem lacking an English subject (5)

Answer: THEME (i.e. “subject”). Solution is ANTHEM with the AN removed (indicated by “lacking an”) and followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: THEM-E.

33. Broadcasts mistake in pilot’s destination? (8)

Answer: AIRSTRIP (i.e. “pilot’s destination”). Solution is AIRS (i.e. “broadcasts”) followed by TRIP (i.e. “mistake”).

34. Counting beans in cucurbit area ploughed up? (12)

Answer: BUREAUCRATIC (i.e. “counting beans”). “Ploughed up” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CUCURBIT AREA.

38. Odd manner of Scots physicist succeeded in Civil Service (10)

Answer: CRANKINESS (i.e. “odd manner”). Solution is William John Macquorn RANKINE (i.e. “Scottish physicist” – no, me neither) and S (a recognised abbreviation of “succeeded”) placed “in” CS (ditto “Civil Service”), like so: C(RANKINE-S)S.

40. Repetitive notes about a private meeting (4-1-4)

Answer: TETE-A-TETE (i.e. “private meeting”). Solution is TE TE TE TE (i.e. “repetitive notes” in the doh-ray-me style) placed “about” A, like so: TE-TE-(A)-TE-TE.

42. Reference like this includes Jacob’s brother Romeo (9)

Answer: THESAURUS (i.e. “reference”). Solution is THUS (i.e. “like this”) which is wrapped around or “including” ESAU (i.e. “Jacob’s brother” in the Bible) and R (“Romeo” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: TH(ESAU-R)US.

43. Author’s holding gold wine that’s sweet (9)

Answer: SAUTERNES (i.e. “wine that’s sweet”). Solution is Laurence STERNE (“author” of Tristram Shandy) wrapped around or “holding” AU (chemical symbol of “gold”), like so: S(AU)TERNES.

45. Bring together religious community that’s endless ecstasy (7)

Answer: CONVENE (i.e. “bring together”). Solution is CONVENT (i.e. “religious community”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “that’s endless”) and followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of the drug “ecstasy”), like so: CONVEN-E.

46. Best I am in work with corporation (7)

Answer: OPTIMUM (i.e. “best”). Solution is I’M (a contraction of “I am”) placed “in” OP (a recognised abbreviation of “opus”, i.e. “work”. Also “operation”, I like to think) and TUM (i.e. “corporation”, an archaic word meaning the tummy often used by setters), like so: OP-T(I’M)UM.

47. Feature of a cult grabbing power (6)

Answer: ASPECT (i.e. “feature”). Solution is A SECT (i.e. “a cult”) wrapped around or “grabbing” P (a recognised abbreviation of “power), like so: A-S(P)ECT.

48. Make reduction, changing direction for tenant (6)

Answer: LESSEE (i.e. “tenant”). Solution is LESSEN (i.e. “make reduction”) with the N changed to E (indicated by “changing direction”, N and E being recognised abbreviations of “north” and “east” respectively).

50. Something ensuring really vigorous output, primarily (5)

Answer: SERVO. “Primarily” indicates the solution is derived by taking the initial letters of SOMETHING ENSURING REALLY VIGOROUS OUTPUT. Within the context of the clue, a SERVO is a system in which a mechanism gets a helping hand from a subsidiary mechanism to achieve more grunt, hence “something ensuring really vigorous output”.

52. Musical effect in nocturne Chopin put together (4)

Answer: ECHO (i.e. “musical effect”). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: NOCTURN(E CHO)PIN.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1412

A simpler affair this week, though there was one clue that had me chewing over its solution for a while (ALIVE) and another that took me fuffing ages to decode (RECTITUDE). You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them useful. (With luck I’ll have gotten the grid image right this week!)

As ever, some housekeeping before we launch into proceedings. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that has defeated you, then you might find my Just For Fun page a useful destination. If book reviews are your thing, then I have a few on my Reviews page to while away your time. Finally, if you’d like to while away a few minutes more, I have a short story to keep you entertained.

Right, enough of me-me-me. Let’s head to the solutions.


Across clues

1. City Road swathed in mist after morning (9)

Answer: AMSTERDAM (i.e. “city”). Solution is RD (a recognised abbreviation of “road”) placed or “swathed in” STEAM (i.e. “mist”), and the whole following or placed “after” AM (i.e. “morning”), like so: AM-STE(RD)AM.

6. Doctor saw no end of torment? Just a little (7)

Answer: MODICUM (i.e. “a little”). Solution is MO (i.e. “doctor”, specifically a Medical Officer) followed by DICTUM (i.e. “saw”, both words meaning a motto or saying) once the T has been removed (indicated by “no end of torment”, i.e. remove the last letter of “torment”), like so: MO-DICUM.

10. Verse in artistic gathering releasing new attack (5)

Answer: SALVO (i.e. “attack”). Solution is V (a recognised abbreviation of “verse”) placed in SALON (i.e. “artistic gathering”, being art exhibitions organised by French artistic academies) once the N has been removed (indicated by “releasing new”, N being a recognised abbreviation of “new”), like so: SAL(V)O.

13. Impassive fathers having suppressed energy, note (4-3)

Answer: DEAD-PAN (i.e. “impassive”). Solution is DAD and PA (i.e. “fathers”) wrapped around or “suppressing” E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”) and followed by N (ditto “note”), like so: D(E)AD-PA-N.

14. Hair preparation used by hairdresser in secret (5)

Answer: RINSE (i.e. “hair preparation”). “Used by” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: HAIRDRESSE(R IN SE)CRET.

15. Temporary accommodation? Local heading off unsure (9)

Answer: TENTATIVE (i.e. “unsure”). Solution is TENT (i.e. “temporary accommodation”) followed by NATIVE (i.e. “local”) once its initial letter has been removed (indicated by “heading off”), like so: TENT-ATIVE.

16. Late view of main activity offering only a brief connection (5,4,4,2,3,5)

Answer: SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT. Solution satisfies “late view of main activity” – main being another word for the sea – and “a brief connection”.

17. Match was recalled as an up-and-down affair (6)

Answer: SEESAW (i.e. “an up-and-down affair”). Solution is SEE (i.e. “match”, as in “I see your blah and raise you blah-blah“) followed by WAS reversed (indicated by “recalled”), like so: SEE-SAW.

18. Idle worker without a mahlstick? (4-4)

Answer: FREE-HAND. Solution satisfies “idle worker” and “without a mahlstick” – a mahlstick or maulstick is something a painter uses in order to steady their brush hand. Doing without would give them a free hand. You get the idea.

19. Satisfied after strike brought about a Parisian rampage (3,4)

Answer: RUN AMOK (i.e. “rampage”). Solution is OK (i.e. “satisfied”) placed “after” RAM (i.e. “strike”) once it has been “brought about” UN (i.e. “a Parisian”, i.e. the French for “a”), like so: R(UN)AM-OK.

22. Outrageous location of circus banner? (4-3-3)

Answer: OVER-THE-TOP. Solution satisfies “outrageous” and “location of circus banner”, playing on how circus venues are often called big tops.

23. Shop entices – deals being outrageous (12)

Answer: DELICATESSEN (i.e. “shop”). “Being outrageous” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ENTICES DEALS.

27. What you’d expect of a non-level playing field (5)

Answer: PITCH. Solution satisfies “playing field” and “non-level”, as in sloping down.

29. Try to get rid of small bird (7)

Answer: GOSLING (i.e. “small bird”, as in a young goose). Solution is GO (i.e. “try”) followed by SLING (i.e. “to get rid of”).

30. Party line given by newspaper carried by timid folk in the House? (8)

Answer: DOMICILE (i.e. “house” – ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is DO (i.e. “party”) followed by I (i.e. “newspaper”, recently flogged to The Daily Mail) and L (a recognised abbreviation of “line”) once they have been placed in or “carried by” MICE (i.e. “timid folk”), like so: DO-MIC(I-L)E.

32. Big concert followed by capers, mostly (8)

Answer: GIGANTIC (i.e. “big”). Solution is GIG (i.e. “concert”) followed by ANTICS (i.e. “capers”) once the last letter has been removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: GIG-ANTIC.

34. Head of information succeeding in capturing account with some uncertainty (7)

Answer: INEXACT (i.e. “with some uncertainty”). Solution is I (i.e. “head of information”, i.e. the first letter of “information”) followed by NEXT (i.e. “succeeding”) once it has been wrapped around or “capturing” AC (a recognised abbreviation of “account”), like so: I-NEX(AC)T.

36. Mostly in the dark about copper’s position (5)

Answer: LOCUS (i.e. “position”). Solution is LOST (i.e. “in the dark”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and the remainder wrapped “about” CU (chemical symbol of “copper”), like so: LO(CU)S.

39. Start up suddenly after vermin appearing in a South Australian city (5,7)

Answer: ALICE SPRINGS (i.e. “Australian city”). Solution is SPRING (i.e. “start up suddenly”) placed “after” LICE (i.e. “vermin”) and the whole then placed or “appearing in” A and S (a recognised abbreviation of “south”), like so: A-(LICE-SPRING)-S.

41. Evenly-matched situation ahead of game? One’s up for the attack? (10)

Answer: DRAWBRIDGE (i.e. “one’s up for the attack”). Solution is DRAW (i.e. “evenly-matched situation”) followed by or “ahead of” BRIDGE (i.e. “game”).

44. Trips? Unconscious after woozy state, we hear (4,3)

Answer: DAYS OUT (i.e. “trips”). Solution is OUT (i.e. “unconscious”) placed “after” a homophone (indicated by “we hear”) of DAZE (i.e. “woozy state”).

46. Extravagant time tucking into source of booze? (8)

Answer: OPERATIC (i.e. “extravagant”). Solution is ERA (i.e. “time”) “tucked into” OPTIC (i.e. “source of booze”), like so: OP(ERA)TIC.

48. Coach seat initially reserved, occupied by husband (6)

Answer: SCHOOL (i.e. “coach”). Solution is S (i.e. “seat initially”, i.e. the first letter of “seat”) followed by COOL (i.e. “reserved [in nature]”) once it is wrapped around or “occupied by” H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”), like so: S-C(H)OOL.

50. Town academies, often disturbed with noise, getting similar treatment (1,5,2,4,3,8)

Answer: A TASTE OF ONE’S OWN MEDICINE (i.e. “getting similar treatment”). “Disturbed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TOWN ACADEMIES OFTEN and NOISE. Also appeared at the start of the year.

53. The people vote, beset by hard claims for attention (3,6)

Answer: HOI POLLOI (i.e. “the people”). Solution is POLL (i.e. “vote”) placed in or “beset by” H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used in grading pencils) and OI OI (i.e. “claims for attention”), like so: H-OI-(POLL)-OI.

54. Line occupying edge to edge (5)

Answer: SIDLE (i.e. “to edge”). Solution L (a recognised abbreviation of “line”) placed in or “occupying” SIDE (i.e. “edge”), like so: SID(L)E.

55. Taking a position but abandoning street – it’s very wet (7)

Answer: POURING (i.e. “very wet”). Solution is POSTURING (i.e. “taking a position”) with the ST removed (indicated by “abandoning street” – ST being a recognised abbreviation of “street”).

56. Sail fixed after ambassador’s boarded (5)

Answer: SHEET (i.e. “sail”). Solution is HE (i.e. “ambassador”, specifically His Excellency) placed in or “boarding”) SET (i.e. “fixed”), like so: S(HE)ET.

57. Recalled one joining European train (7)

Answer: RETINUE (i.e. entourage or “train”). Solution is UNITER (i.e. “one joining”) reversed (indicated by “recalled”) and followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”), like so: RETINU-E.

58. Protects latest from mole, controversially – stamping this on document? (3-6)

Answer: TOP-SECRET. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “controversially”) of PROTECTS and E (i.e. “latest for mole”, i.e. the last letter of “mole”). Within the context of the clue, a document from a spy or “mole” may well be stamped “top secret”.

Down clues

1. Some Europeans having day later in South American area (5)

Answer: ANDES (i.e. “South American area”). Solution is DANES (i.e. “some Europeans”) with the D (a recognised abbreviation of “day”) knocked back a few notches (indicated by “having…later”).

2. What’s still shocking? (6,11)

Answer: STATIC ELECTRICITY. Clue riffs on how STATIC can mean “still”. Electricity can “shock”. You get the idea.

3. By the way, NASA sent shot round Pluto at first (2,7)

Answer: EN PASSANT (i.e. “by the way” in French. This is a move in chess when a pawn is captured after making an initial move of two squares if an opposing pawn can immediately occupy the space it jumped over. Something like that, anyway.). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “shot”) of NASA SENT which is placed “round” P (i.e. “Pluto at first”, i.e. the first letter of “Pluto”), like so: EN(P)ASSANT.

4. Not clear about horse boat (6)

Answer: DINGHY (i.e. “boat”). Solution is DINGY (i.e. “not clear”) placed about H (a recognised abbreviation of “heroin”, also known as “horse”), like so: DING(H)Y.

5. Deserving suitor more free to embrace one (11)

Answer: MERITORIOUS (i.e. “deserving”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “free”) of SUITOR MORE wrapped around or “embracing” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”), like so: MER(I)TORIOUS.

6. Old woman less dishevelled: she’s always looking for a chap? (3-5)

Answer: MAN-EATER (i.e. “she’s always looking for a chap”). Solution is MA (i.e. “old woman”) followed by NEATER (i.e. “less dishevelled”).

7. Pace picked up, with each occupying certain trenches? (4-3)

Answer: DEEP-SEA (i.e. “occupying certain trenches”). Solution is SPEED (i.e. “pace”) reversed (indicated by “picked up”, this being a down clue) and followed by EA (a recognised abbreviation of “each”).

8. Decided what flowers to be pressed should be? (3,3,5)

Answer: CUT AND DRIED. Solution satisfies “decided” and “what flowers to be pressed should be”.

9. Wild behaviour involving a lot of agitation in part of China (9)

Answer: MANCHURIA (i.e. “part of China”). Solution is MANIA (i.e. “wild behaviour”) wrapped around or “involving” CHURN (i.e. “agitation”) once its final letter has been removed (indicated by “a lot of”), like so: MAN(CHUR)IA. One I got from the wordplay and a quick verify on Wikipedia, to be honest.

10. Quiet name adopted by nameless river (7)

Answer: SHANNON, the longest “river” in Ireland. Solution is SH (i.e. “quiet”) followed by ANON (i.e. “nameless”) once it has been wrapped around or “adopting” N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”), like so: SH-AN(N)ON.

11. Telling stories, very brief, without introduction (5)

Answer: LYING (i.e. “telling stories”). Solution is FLYING (i.e. “very brief”, as in a flying visit) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “without introduction”).

12. Getting the better of blatant forgery, handing out fine (10)

Answer: OVERTAKING (i.e. “getting the better of”). Solution is OVERT (i.e. “blatant”) and FAKING (i.e. “forgery”) once the F has been removed (indicated by “handing out fine”, F being a recognised abbreviation of “fine”), like so: OVERT-AKING.

17. Small worker’s organisation in news story (5)

Answer: SCOOP (i.e. “news story”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”) followed by CO-OP (i.e. “worker’s organisation”).

20. Compiled and misfired, getting confused about a grammatical solecism (9,8)

Answer: MISPLACED MODIFIER (i.e. “grammatical solecism” or error). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “getting confused”) of COMPILED and MISFIRED once they have been wrapped “about” A, like so: MISPL(A)CEDMODIFIER.

21. Hard cube – and one of its dimensions? (6)

Answer: HEIGHT (i.e. “one of [a cube’s] dimensions”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard”) followed by EIGHT (i.e. “cube”, being 2x2x2).

24. Picked up box containing silver bird (small) (6)

Answer: EAGLET (i.e. “bird (small)”, specifically a young eagle). Solution is TELE (i.e. “box”, both informal words for a television) reversed (indicated by “picked up” – this being a down clue) and wrapped around or “containing” AG (chemical symbol of “silver”), like so: E(AG)LET.

25. Times correspondent, initially taken in by evasive type, to do very well (5)

Answer: EXCEL (i.e. “to do very well”). Solution is X (i.e. “times”, as in the multiplication symbol) and C (i.e. “correspondent, initially”, i.e. the first letter of “correspondent”) both placed or “taken in by” EEL (i.e. “evasive type”), like so: E(X-C)EL.

26. Martian mission, very fancy, heading off (6)

Answer: VIKING (i.e. “Martian mission”, referring to the space probes sent to Mars during the 1970s). Solution is V (a recognised abbreviation of “very”) followed by LIKING (i.e. having a “fancy” for someone or something) once the initial letter has been removed (indicated by “heading off”), like so: V-IKING.

28. Afterlife mostly an upward movement? (5)

Answer: HEAVE (i.e. “an upward movement”). Solution is HEAVEN (i.e. “afterlife”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”).

31. French word applied to personal musical style (6)

Answer: MOTOWN (i.e. “musical style”). Solution is MOT (i.e. “French word”, i.e. the French for “word”) followed by OWN (i.e. “personal”).

33. Disco hit with pro dancing? One specialising in footwork (11)

Answer: CHIROPODIST (i.e. “one specialising in footwork”). “Dancing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DISCO HIT and PRO.

35. German train crashed in start of trial (11)

Answer: ARRAIGNMENT (i.e. “start of trial”). “Crashed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of GERMAN TRAIN.

37. Period charm (5)

Answer: SPELL. Solution satisfies “period” and “[magical] charm”.

38. Alexander’s in possession of eight German beach vehicles (4,6)

Answer: SAND YACHTS (i.e. “beach vehicles”). Solution is SANDY’S (i.e. “Alexander’s” – Alexander is sometimes shortened to Sandy) wrapped around or “in possession of” ACHT (i.e. “eight German”, i.e. the German for “eight”), like so: SANDY(ACHT)’S.

40. Bestseller – or a range? (3-6)

Answer: POT-BOILER. Solution satisfies “bestseller” and “[cooking] range”.

42. Integrity? Full assurance requires two characters swapping places (9)

Answer: RECTITUDE (i.e. “integrity”). Solution is CERTITUDE (i.e. “full assurance”) with the R and C swapped (indicated by “two characters swapping places”).

43. Crowd loves Democrat appearing in subscriber channels (8)

Answer: CABOODLE (i.e. “crowd”). Solution is OO (i.e. “loves”, as in zero scores in tennis) and D (a recognised abbreviation of “Democrat”) placed or “appearing in” CABLE (i.e. “subscriber channels”), like so: CAB(OO-D)LE.

45. Frontier station intray won’t contain it (7)

Answer: OUTPOST (i.e. “frontier”). When written as OUT POST, the solution also satisfies “intray won’t contain it”.

47. American thinker: this writer elevated individual not wanting power (7)

Answer: Ralph Waldo EMERSON (i.e. “American thinker”). Solution is ME (i.e. “this writer”, taken from the point of view of the setter) reversed (indicated by “elevated” – this being a down clue) and followed by PERSON (i.e. “individual”) with the P removed (indicated by “not wanting power” – P being a recognised abbreviation of “power”), like so: EM-ERSON. Chalk this one to my Bradfords, given the quintillions of philosophers there have been over the years. (Slight exaggeration.)

49. Stop going to bed and peek? (4,2)

Answer: KEEP UP. Solution satisfies “stop going to bed” and, cryptically, “peek”, riffing on how PEEK is the reverse of KEEP, and how UP signals reversals in down clues. Nice!

51. A cut of meat, quick (5)

Answer: ALIVE (i.e. “quick”, as in being alive to a situation). Solution is A followed by LIVER (i.e. “meat”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “cut of”).

52. A number picked up article about serving American (5)

Answer: EIGHT (i.e. “a number”). Solution is THE (i.e. “article”, being a word like “the”, “a” or “an”) wrapped “about” GI (i.e. a solider or “serving American” of Government Issue), and the whole reversed (indicated by “picked up”, this being a down clue) and like so: E(IG)HT

Review: Best New Horror 11

He looks a friendly soul, doesn’t he!

(If you would like to read reviews of previous books in the Best New Horror series, jump over to my Reviews page for links.)

After a below-par offering last time around, Best New Horror 11 saw in the new millennium with a welcome return to form, evidenced by a number of award-winners and nominees in its pages. It’s a shame then that Robinson’s proofreaders decided to go on strike that year, or so it seems, leaving the book peppered with niggly typos. These don’t factor into my scores, but they did bug me after a while. One would hope the eBook versions offer a cleaner read. In all, Best New Horror 11 is a comfortable 4/5 and worth hunting out.

The stories, all published during 1999, run as follows:

Also collected in SRT’s “Celestial Inventories”

Halloween Street – Steve Rasnic Tem (3/5 – Laura is a strange girl. She has a face that’s hard to remember. Her eyes are impossible to describe. She doesn’t play with the other children, preferring instead to sit at her bedroom window, looking out on Halloween Street, a rundown part of town that strikes fear into the hearts of the local kids. Especially feared is the one house on Halloween Street that looks normal. Laura decides to go trick-or-treating one Halloween to the surprised relief of her parents. They hope it’s a sign of her acting like a normal girl at last. If only. This story was nominated for an International Horror Critics Guild award back in the day, but it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped. Sometimes a re-read is needed to open up SRT’s stories a little, but on this occasion even that didn’t help. Laura is presented as someone who is forever doomed to remain othered, but her actions and demeanour in the story do little to engender any sympathy. That said, the story does set the scene rather nicely for the series of vignettes that closes the book.)

Except taken from Herbert’s novel “Others”

Others – James Herbert (3/5 – In an excerpt from Herbert’s novel of the same name, we follow private investigator Nicholas Dismas as he makes his way home from the pub one evening. He chews over a few scraps of evidence in a missing-baby case he recently quit, evidence that questions whether the child existed in the first place. So why does the case continue to play on his mind? Things are not as they first seem, we discover, not least in Dismas himself, nor some of the people he has the misfortune of meeting. Back in Best New Horror 10, Stephen Jones mentioned only two authors had ever refused to have their stories reprinted in his series. Coincidentally they were the two biggest horror authors on either side of the Atlantic. This seemed a bit strange, given that Jones had previously edited a 300-page book on Herbert called By Horror Haunted. Makes you wonder. Anyway, this dig in Herbert’s ribs seemed to do the trick because a quick copy-and-paste later saw him appear in Best New Horror 11. While this excerpt functions as a story in its own right, it never once left my mind that I was reading a 10-page advertisement for someone’s book. The excerpt is well written, yes, and Herbert does a nice job of making Dismas a credible and sympathetic character, but its inclusion here feels unearned.)

Also collected in Klein’s “Reassuring Tales”

Growing Things – T. E. D. Klein (3/5 – Herb is hooked on a bunch of tatty old magazines found stuffed in the attic: decades-old publications such as Practical Gardener, Home Handyman and Country Kitchen. Of particular interest are the letters pages. There Herb finds a short series of letters from someone trying to deal with a lump growing beneath the linoleum floor of their bathroom. Back then Mr Fixit recommended they should pop open the lump and drain whatever gunk was collecting inside. As subsequent letters go on to reveal, this may not have been the best course of action. Sadly, this was another story I wanted to like more than I did. I loved the central idea of the story but was rather less keen on the devices Klein used to tell it. Not that I can think of any better methods myself. Some stories are just plain awkward, I guess.)

Also collected in Schow’s “Eye”

Unhasped – David J. Schow (3/5 – Ethan is a married man who likes to reflect on his promiscuous bachelorhood. He keeps a cigar box filled with photographs and mementos of past conquests in his fireproof safe, something to help him remember Valerie. And Silla. And Barbara, and Jennifer, Tokay, Wendy, Shari… Conscious that his wife is heading home, Ethan puts away the cigar box and sets about finding a hidey-hole for his safe key. He finds a suitable location behind some corkboard drywall wherein he spies the faint glint of another key hanging there, a key to another box of memories. I can’t say I was overly keen on this one. The first half of the story felt like a string of writing exercises based on past loves, all stitched together using Ethan as a framing device. Schow threads some foreshadowing and wordplay throughout to show this isn’t the case, but those efforts are largely undone by events going in the direction you’d expect, especially when you consider this was a story written by someone who coined the term “splatterpunk”, was originally published in a themed anthology called White of the Moon: New Tales of Madness and Dread and is reprinted here in a horror anthology.)

Also collected in Files’ “The Worm In Every Heart”

The Emperor’s Old Bones – Gemma Files (5/5 – A harsh and inequitable partnership is struck in wartime Shanghai between Tim, a ten-year-old boy, and Ellis, a ruthless, streetwise young woman. Tim was abandoned by his parents in their doomed attempts to flee the country, ultimately putting him in Ellis’s path. Ellis sees in Tim her ticket out of Shanghai and soon the boy discovers just how little value she places on human life. Ellis is not above slashing a throat or two if it benefits her, nor is she slow to sell Tim’s body for sex when the money is right. As Tim gets to know Ellis and sees glimpses of her tender side, a grudging respect slowly builds between the two – a respect that is sorely tested the moment Ellis is tasked to provide for a speciality dish called The Emperor’s Old Bones, a dish that is said to extend the lives of those who eat it. This story bagged the International Horror Critics Guild short fiction gong back in the day (ahead of SRT’s Halloween Street, incidentally) and with good reason. It’s brilliant. The setting feels fresh and exciting, the horror is properly holy-shiiiiit horrific, and, best of all, Files creates in Tim and Ellis two monstrously fascinating characters. Make no mistake, these are bad people – they are like the opposite edges of the same razor blade – and Files works wonders in turning them into relatable, believable and immensely readable characters. This was a superb read. Seek it out.)

Also collected in Campbell’s “Told By The Dead”

The Entertainment – Ramsey Campbell (5/5 – In this Stoker-nominated story we follow Shone, a nursery schoolteacher, as he drives around Westingsea in the pouring rain looking for a place to stay for the night. He eventually settles on a leafy old hotel, parks up and knocks on the door. An old woman answers him, asking, “Are you the entertainment?” She promises him food and a room for the night, and so, perhaps against Shone’s better judgement, he says “I’ll have a stab.” After a mixed bag of Campbell stories dotted throughout previous volumes of Best New Horror, The Entertainment sees him at the top of his game and was a pleasure to read from beginning to end. Slip in a few jokes and this would have made a great Inside No 9 episode. I might be a little biased here because I absolutely love Robert Aickman’s The Hospice (similarities to which Campbell acknowledges in his introduction), but Campbell’s story stands alone once he softens and picks away at Shone’s sanity. Excellent stuff.)

Also collected in Gaiman’s “Fragile Things”

Harlequin Valentine – Neil Gaiman (4/5 – It’s Valentine’s Day and impish, naughty, mischievous Harlequin is in love. The object of his desire is a young woman called Missy, a former mortuary lab technician. In a macabre demonstration of his love, Harlequin pins his heart to her front door, then promptly vanishes from sight to observe what follows. But has Harlequin given his heart away too easily? If fans of genre fiction were to read all of the stories in this book blind of their authors and were then asked to identify the story that was written by Neil Gaiman, literally everyone would pick this. It’s very Gaiman. Happily, it’s also a fine read. The story has a lively feel to it, as if it came to Gaiman quickly, and there are a number of delightfully weird little turns to enjoy. A brief exchange between Harlequin and a mortuary corpse was wonderfully played, for example, as was the ending.)

Also collected in Lamsley’s “Dark Matters”

The Stunted House – Terry Lamsley (4/5 – Lamsley fills the semi-regular Holiday Horror slot in Best New Horror with another quality offering. In it we follow Ambrose and Mel as they take a trip out to the coast. On their travels they discover the titular house situated a short distance from a cliff edge. The house is a little rundown and seemingly abandoned. A balcony floor provides an ideal spot for them to set up a picnic and to take in spectacular views of the secluded beach below. When Ambrose wakes from a post-prandial nap to find Mel nowhere to be found, he goes off to find her. First stop: a look inside the stunted house. This wouldn’t have been out of place in a show like Tales of the Unexpected, which is a thumbs-up from me. A fine way to while away the time.)

Also collected in Newman’s “Unforgivable Stories”

Just Like Eddy – Kim Newman (5/5 – Newman does a wonderfully pompous turn as Edgar Poe as the man unspools a tale of tragedy and madness, all centred around his troublesome middle name. The name Allan serves as a constant reminder to Poe of his enormously wealthy stepfather, John Allan, and the cold-hearted way the man would toy with Poe during the poet’s all-too-frequent times of need. Then, as Poe finds his work in print, his loathsome middle name takes on a further aspect of his displeasure in how often it is misspelled: viz, Edgar Allen Poe. As time passes, Poe grows convinced that Edgar Allen is something more than a mere typo, that he is in fact a doppelganger hellbent on destroying Poe’s life, his family and his reputation, and that Poe is doomed forever to trail in his wake, picking up the pieces. Written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Poe’s death, this is a rare example of showboating that absolutely works. This is a stonking story from Newman – another one! – and one in which he doesn’t shy away from Poe’s myriad faults.)

Also collected in Kiernan’s “Tales of Pain and Wonder”

The Long Hall on the Top Floor – Caitlin R. Kiernan (3/5 – Deacon Silvey settles down on a park bench one evening to quietly sup a bottle of cheap gin and read one of his battered old paperbacks. He is interrupted by skater-boi Soda, who enquires upon a rumour that Deacon possesses psychic abilities. Turns out Soda was asking for a friend, Sadie, who is keen to show Deacon something in the long hall on the top floor of an abandoned building. Aggrieved at having the peace of his evening ruined, Deacon reluctantly agrees to take a look. In all the 200-odd stories I’ve covered so far in Best New Horror, this is the only one that completely escaped my memory within a few weeks of its reading. I could remember literally nothing about it. Even halfway through a reread I struggled to remember how it ended. The reason for this is simple. There is barely a story here. The writing is stylish and pops throughout its runtime, and the characters Kiernan draws together are interesting from the get-go, but there’s precious little for them to do. Like Unhasped, earlier, this is another story that feels like a writing exercise.)

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

Lulu – Thomas Tessier (4/5 – A man pieces together the story of how his grandfather, Leon Kuhn, came to know (real-life writer) Joseph Roth during the man’s final months. Europe stands on the cusp of another Great War and both Kuhn and Roth have holed up in Paris, each having fled an increasingly intolerant Germany. Roth is a tortured genius, alternating between days of feverish working and days of prodigious drinking, while Kuhn is a writer of relatively little renown. A friendship of sorts strikes up between the two men as they frequent Paris’s bars. Kuhn is soon enchanted by Sonja, a woman he assumes to be Roth’s lover or muse. When Kuhn and Sonja fall into bed together, it marks the beginning of a strange symbiotic relationship between the three. Another impressive story from Tessier, whose Ghost Music in Best New Horror 8 was a highlight. As with that story, Lulu showcases in Tessier a writer who knows his material inside-out. It’s seriously impressive stuff, but is let down a smidge by an unnecessary twist ending. Worth seeking out all the same.)

Also collected in Masterton’s “Feelings of Fear”

The Ballyhooly Boy – Graham Masterton (3/5 – Jerry Flynn inherits a rundown terraced house in Ballyhooly from Margaret Devlin, a woman he claims not to have known. The house is cold and grubby and sparsely furnished, with ripped carpets and strange scratches gouged in the ceiling. Jerry eyes the house for a quick sale, having no intention of living there. He is soon accosted by a neighbour who tells him of the screams she’s heard from the supposedly empty house, claims that are soon backed up by others in town. Events take a chilling turn when Jerry stumbles across a few of the house’s chattels, among them a yearbook from his old junior school, and a sullen ghostly boy sitting quietly on the stairs. For the most part this is a fine read. Masterton succeeds in fleshing out an affecting backstory for Jerry and builds a chilling sense of dread as the main story goes on, but the moment the story required a victim and the true monster of the piece was revealed, things started to come apart for me.)

Welcome – Michael Marshall Smith (3/5 – MMS finds inspiration in his home computer once more, this time a computer file with an impossible timestamp. In Welcome, Paul witnesses such a file on his PC, allegedly created on Monday, September 9 1957. He puzzles over this while grinding through tiresome commutes to and from a job he hates. On one such train ride home, Paul wakes to find a strange newspaper by his side. Except it’s not a newspaper at all. The title, for example, is Welcome, and the newsprint is nothing more than pages and pages of people’s names. Why would that be? This is one of those stories where the journey is more important than the destination. Or, put another way, a story which tantalises the reader throughout its runtime without resolving anything at the end. For me, such stories have to work a damn-sight harder than most to warrant my time reading them, and, sadly, on this occasion, MMS doesn’t deliver.)

Also collected in Marano’s “Stories from the Plague Years”

Burden – Michael Marano (4/5 – A gay man is haunted by the ghosts of several friends, each of whom succumbed to the AIDS virus. They linger in plain sight as he cruises the bars with what remains of his friends, bumping into other men on the scene, some of whom resemble walking ghosts themselves. But our man is also haunted by the fact he recently had unprotected sex; a night of passion he might now come to regret. Marano’s full-on film reviews in Cemetery Dance are one of two columns I always seek out whenever they appear. His reviews are unapologetic and in-your-face and guaranteed to be free of bullshit, which gives you a flavour of this story. The gay scene Marano presents here is 100% meat market. There’s no room for love, it’s just men out to fuck other men, night after night. It’s bleak and nihilistic, but the writing really pops and draws you in, a fact made more impressive considering it’s written in the second person, which is usually a tough sell for me.)

Naming the Dead – Paul J. McAuley (4/5 – In this World Fantasy Award-nominated story we are introduced to Mr Carlyle, psychic detective. His is a world in which imps and beasties cling invisibly to people, filling them with doubt and anxiety; a world where diminished ancient river gods can rise up through plugholes to parley, and Carlyle can see them all. When Mrs Stokes drops by to employ Carlyle’s services in tracking down Robert Summers, a convicted murderer recently released from prison, Carlyle reluctantly agrees to help. The plot thickens when Mrs Stokes is slaughtered in her hotel room shortly after their meeting. When two heavies are put onto Carlyle it seems someone, or something, doesn’t want Summers to be found. This was an enjoyably imaginative read. McAuley creates in the space of twenty pages a vibrant world for Carlyle that I’d happily revisit. In his introduction, McAuley expresses his desire to pair Carlyle with another of his characters in a story called Doctor Pretorius and the Lost Island, which appears later in Best New Horror 14. (Rubs hands together expectantly.))

Also collected in Wilson’s “Aftershock & Others”

Aftershock – F. Paul Wilson (4/5 – F. comes up with the goods again in a Stoker-winning story centred on Joe Glyer, a doctor who takes an extracurricular interest in a lightning strike survivor. To his surprise, Kim, having just recovered from the strike in question, is determined to head straight back out to find another storm. She claims each time she is struck by lightning she gains a fleeting moment with her dead son, a claim Glyer has a hard time believing until he too is struck by lightning. F. is as readable as ever, though this is a story that hasn’t aged quite as well as its peers. If you can get past Kim’s lovely breasts, and how frequently they pop out for a bit of fresh air, then an entertaining read awaits you.)

Also collected in Wolfe’s “Innocents Aboard”

A Fish Story – Gene Wolfe (4/5 – A quick in-and-out from Wolfe, presenting in barely four pages a story within a story within a story. Now that’s some editing! In A Fish Story, a writer recounts a fishing trip he once took with his buddies Rab and Bruce. When they start telling ghost stories to one another around the campfire, Rab reluctantly tells of a strange episode he experienced while visiting his dying Aunt Elspeth in hospital, an episode that evidently left its mark on the man. This is another story that raises more questions than it cares to answer but is helped along by its brevity. Worth a five-minute look.)

Originally collected in Case’s “Brotherly Love & Other Tales of Faith and Knowledge”

Jimmy – David Case (3/5 – The sleepy mountain town of Bleekerville is threatened by the emergence of a violent attacker with long nails, a mask-like face with sulphuric eyes and a rapacious passion for teenage girls. Elsewhere, a father sits and frets about his daughter, Rebecca, from whom he has not heard for some months. All he knows is that Rebecca last took up residence in Bleekerville. Meanwhile, an old couple agonise over their teenage son, Jimmy, who has been missing for a few days now. Ethel and Homer fear for Jimmy’s safety, that others in town won’t understand how Jimmy is different from all the other boys. You could chart my enjoyment of this story as a 4/5 gently declining to a 3. It’s is a shame, as Case’s writing for the most part has a brilliant folksy feel to it, riffing on every backwater police station you’ve ever seen in American movies and TV shows. But this folksiness sits uncomfortably in a story about a teenage monster attacking and raping women and teenage girls. This comes to a head, if you’ll forgive the expression, in a scene late in the story which unwisely veers into pornography, a genre in which Case has also been published. Needless to say, this, along with an oh-please ending, made for another story that hasn’t aged well.)

Also collected in Lebbon’s “Fears Unnamed”

White – Tim Lebbon (4/5 – The world is knackered. A gruesome virus has devastated the global population, and the resulting imbalance of power has seen nations merrily knocking seven bells out of each other. A harsh winter has descended, hitting the UK hard, smothering everything in a deep cover of snow. A group of survivors hunker down in a large manor house by the coast, hoping they can see out the worst of the weather. But as the snow continues to fall and the drifts continue to deepen, a more immediate threat emerges from out of the wilds, an otherworldly threat that is as bloodthirsty and vicious as it is cunning and cruel. This story impressed a few people back in the day, bagging a British Fantasy Award and an International Horror Critics Guild nomination, and it’s not hard to see why. This is great story from beginning to… well, till about the three-quarter mark. Like The Ballyhooly Boy earlier, this is a story that doesn’t quite survive the reveal of its monsters, but don’t let that put you off, as the ride up to that point is top-notch. Lebbon creates a real sense of a world dying one snow-blasted day at a time, and the way he strips away layers of hope from our protagonists until there is nothing left but a will to survive is masterful.)

Also collected in Straub’s “Magic Terror”

Pork Pie Hat – Peter Straub (4/5 – A postgrad student secures a private interview with an ailing jazz musician, the eponymous Hat. Our man aims to sell the interview to a magazine with the hope of bringing Hat to the attention of a wider audience. But Hat is a sick man. A life spent playing three sets a night has taken its toll on him, and shortly after the interview Hat passes away. The interview is published, save for one part: a lengthy account of a disturbing incident one Halloween night in Hat’s childhood, his last proper Halloween. In it lie the seeds of Hat’s hard life, and perhaps why, in the run-up to his death, he wouldn’t venture out on Halloween night. I’d been looking forward to reading this ever since devouring Straub’s brilliant Ghost Story a few years ago. Having been partial to a spot of jazz over the past fumfty years, I’d purposely avoided all descriptions of Pork Pie Hat so I could soak up and savour every word Straub had for me. Imagine my slight disappointment, then, when I found this, like Ghost Story, was another story-within-a-story, and one that was not so much concerned with smoky bars and the hard lives that were writ large on tiny stages. Both the inner and outer stories of Pork Pie Hat are great, don’t get me wrong, and Straub knocks it out of the park when it comes to generating tension – the moment our young Hat is on the run and cornered at knifepoint is damn near heart-stopping – but I had hoped for something else. That’s on me, really, so no harm etc. There are a few other niggles, however, that are on Straub. Within the inner story, for example, Hat and his friend Dee are keen to spice up their last proper Halloween by sneaking around The Backs, a shack-strewn bad side of town set in the woods, around which much of the inner story is centred, but too long is spent getting them there, and, when they finally arrive, Straub takes an almost obsessive interest in manoeuvring them through The Backs like chess pieces. And the fact that they wear ghostly white sheets for most of the time feels a bit weird when they’re trying to sneak about in the night. This is also another story that hasn’t aged well since it was published. If you are triggered by use of the word “coloured”, then you might find this one a troubling read. If you can accept that, however, then this is still a mighty fine read.)

Tricks & Treats One Night on Halloween Street – Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 – After SRT opened the book with Halloween Street, he closes the book with this, a series of flash fiction vignettes all connected in some way to the titular street. As with any collection of short stories, they’re a mixed bag, and flash fiction is often a tough sell for me, but one story stands out a mile: that of a boy, Ronald, who answers the door on Halloween to a trick-or-treater who is wearing a mask of his face. Ronald demands to know from whom or where the boy has gotten a mask of his face, but the boy runs off. What happens next is downright eerie and brilliant. In all, this Stoker-nominated “story” is a good and natural closer to the book.

And so ends another lengthy review of Best New Horror. As ever, if you’ve gotten this far, then thanks for reading! I hope you found something of interest. If you fancy a read of Best New Horror 11 then you should be able to find a second-hand copy on Amazon, eBay or AbeBooks without too much hassle. Alternatively, if eBooks are your thing, then you’ll find the book available across all major platforms. Finally, the book images in this review will take you to their respective pages on Goodreads should you wish to explore an author’s work further.

Once again, thank you for reading. I hope you’ll pop by again for another review of Best New Horror.

Till then, TTFN!


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1411

A weird one this week, in that I solved most of the relatively easy clues at the beginning, unwittingly leaving all the bloody hard ones to the end. Sheesh, talk about a false sense of security! I got there in the end, I think, which is the main thing.

You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful. Before we jump in, a spot of housekeeping: if you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s gotten one over you, then you might find succour in my Just For Fun page. If book reviews are your bag then I have the odd one on my Reviews page. I hope to have one up for Best New Horror 11 shortly(ish), as it’s been a while. Finally, if you’d like to read a short story of mine, then you can find one here.

Right, with that little lot out of the way, it’s straight on through to Answerville.

Till next time,


Grid image corrected thanks to a comment from Sid on my About page. Thanks, Sid! – LP

Across clues

1. Open wide his cell, but not completely (7)

Answer: DEHISCE (i.e. “open wide”). “But not completely” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: WI(DE HIS CE)LL. Cool word, but a brute force of Chambers was needed to get it.

5. Mechanic’s grand when in better shape (3,6)

Answer: GAS FITTER (i.e. “mechanic”). Solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “grand”) followed by AS (i.e. “when”) and FITTER (i.e. “in better shape”).

10. Sunlight makes ozone gas, initially producing this? (4)

Answer: SMOG. “Initially” indicates the solution is derived by taking the first letters of SUNLIGHT MAKES OZONE GAS. Not sure of the science behind this one, but then I’m no scientist.

14. Until David is prepared to tour India, he’s not a team player (13)

Answer: INDIVIDUALIST (i.e. “he’s not a team player”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “prepared”) of UNTIL DAVID IS which is wrapped around or “touring” I (“India” in the phonetic alphabet). A clue that scans rather well.

15. Greeks exploited this devious foresight (4,5)

Answer: GIFT HORSE (i.e. “Greeks exploited this”, referring to the Trojan Horse used by the Greeks to infiltrate the city of Troy). “Devious” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FORESIGHT.

16. County with lots of money transferred electronically? (10)

Answer: DOWNLOADED (i.e. “transferred electronically”). Solution is DOWN (i.e. “[Irish] County”) followed by LOADED (i.e. “with loads of money”).

17. Remove police officers from allotment again as punishment (11)

Answer: RETRIBUTION (i.e. “punishment”). Not sure about this one, so watch out. I guess the solution is derived by “removing” some letters from RE(AT)TRIBUTION (i.e. “allotment again”), but I can’t see how AT gets you “police officers”.
[EDIT – Mick comes to the rescue in the comments, highlighting that the word ought to have been REDISTRIBUTION. If one removes DIS (being Detective Inspectors, i.e. “police officers”), you then get RETRIBUTION. Thanks, Mick! – LP]

18. Prominent feature of unfinished material (5)

Answer: CHINO (i.e. “material”). Solution is CHIN (i.e. “prominent feature”) followed by O (i.e. “of unfinished”, i.e. the word “of” with the last letter removed).

19. As many plays are to Mike touring revolutionary Havana (10)

Answer: TRAGICOMIC (i.e. “as many plays are”). Solution is TO and MIC (i.e. “Mike”, both recognised words for a microphone) wrapped around or “touring” CIGAR (i.e. “Havana”) which is reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”), like so: T(RAGIC)O-MIC.

21. Cleverly obtain women’s view (6)

Answer: WANGLE (i.e. “cleverly obtain”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “women”) and ANGLE (i.e. “view”).

23. Fine old important ass with no name (4-5)

Answer: OKEY-DOKEY (i.e. “fine”, as in a word of assent). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) followed by KEY (i.e. “important”) and DONKEY (i.e. “ass”) with the N removed (indicated by “no name” – N being a recognised abbreviation of “name”), like so: O-KEY-DOKEY.

25. Start university owing money? (5)

Answer: DEBUT (i.e. “start”). Solution is U (a recognised abbreviation of “university”) placed in DEBT. The “owing money” bit plays on how the U is placed “in DEBT” to derive the solution. You get the idea.

26. A copper breaking up rave’s beaming (7)

Answer: RADIANT (i.e. “beaming”). Solution is A DI (i.e. “a copper”, specifically a Detective Inspector) placed in or “breaking up” RANT (i.e. “rave”), like so: R(A-DI)ANT.

28. Top sailor and German worker make more than enough (13)

Answer: SUPERABUNDANT (i.e. “more than enough”). Solution is SUPER (i.e. “top”) followed by AB (i.e. “sailor”, specifically one of the Able Bodied variety) then UND (i.e. “and German”, i.e. the German for “and”) and ANT (i.e. “worker”).

31. Drop two drinks containing last of gin (9)

Answer: DOWNSWING (i.e. “drop”). Solution is DOWN and SWIG (i.e. “two drinks”) wrapped around or “containing” N (i.e. “last of gin”, i.e. the last letter of “gin”), like so: DOWN-SWI(N)G.

33. American sent back a strong beer brought in for each fan (9)

Answer: SUPPORTER (i.e. “fan”). Solution can be US (i.e. “American”) reversed (indicated by “sent back”) and PORTER (i.e. “a strong beer”) once P (i.e. “for each”, or per – I’m guessing the setter has “per annum” in mind here, often shortened to “pa”, but in isolation this is not an abbreviation of “per” that is recognised by my Chambers) is “brought in” between them, like so: SU-(P)-PORTER. Alternatively, if you pretend for a moment that the setter’s screwed up, that PORT is a strong beer and not fortified wine, then you could place it in PER (being “for each”), like so: SU-P(PORT)ER. Either way, this ain’t great. Next!!!

35. Called bully regularly in Euston, say, for using throttle (13)

Answer: STRANGULATION (i.e. “using throttle”). Solution is RANG (i.e. “called [on the telephone]”) and UL (i.e. “bully regularly”, i.e. every other letter of BULLY) placed “in” STATION (i.e. “Euston, say”), like so: ST(RANG-UL)ATION.

37. You brought in coffee and baby’s clothing (7)

Answer: LAYETTE (i.e. “baby’s clothing”). Solution is YE (i.e. ye olde “you”) placed “in” LATTE (i.e. “coffee”), like so: LA(YE)TTE. Another go-to solution for setters it seems, having recently appeared here and here.

38. Cunning servicemen open case of claret (5)

Answer: CRAFT (i.e. “cunning”). Solution is RAF (i.e. “servicemen”, specifically the Royal Air Force) placed in or “opening” CT (i.e. “case of claret”, i.e. the first and last letters of “claret”), like so: C(RAF)T.

40. Check what golfer does on tee to try out buggy? (4,5)

Answer: TEST DRIVE. Solution is TEST (i.e. “[to] check”) followed by DRIVE (i.e. “what golfer does on tee”). Test drives are taken in motor vehicles by prospective owners in order to “try them out”. A golf “buggy” might be one such vehicle, at a stretch. You get the idea.

42. Charge the German for trough (6)

Answer: FEEDER (i.e. “trough”). Solution is FEE (i.e. “charge”) followed by DER (i.e. “the German”, i.e. the German for “the”).

44. Angle to pay for drink, including duck (10)

Answer: STANDPOINT (i.e. “angle”). Solution is STAND PINT (i.e. “to pay for drink”) wrapped around or “including” O (i.e. “duck”, being a zero score in cricket), like so: STAND-P(O)INT.

46. Republican university withdraws race (5)

Answer: RELAY (i.e. “race”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation of “Republican”) followed by YALE (i.e. “[American] university”) which is reversed (indicated by “withdraws”), like so: R-ELAY.

48. Study society involved in racket with your authority (11)

Answer: CONNOISSEUR (i.e. “authority”). Another one I’m not 100% on, so watch out. Solution is CON (an archaic word for “study” often used by setters) followed by S (a recognised abbreviation of “society”) once it has been placed or “involved” in NOISE (i.e. “racket”). I’m guessing the setter then means UR to be “your”, to then make CON-NOIS(S)E-UR, but this usage isn’t supported by any of my assorted reference books. If the intention was a contraction of “you are”, then 1) “you’re” is not the same as “your”, and 2) some kind of homophone indicator should have been used. So are we allowing textspeak now, setters, or am I missing something? Hmm. Given my recent form, the latter is a possibility…
[EDIT – After sneaking a look in a few other dictionaries, I see the latest Oxford lists UR as an abbreviation of “your”. Shame, Oxford! Shame! (Rings bell.) – LP]

50. Goods in a recession ignoring City’s hostility (10)

Answer: AGGRESSION (i.e. “hostility”). Solution is GG (i.e. “goods” – G is a recognised abbreviation of “good”, so GG would be the plural “goods”) placed “in” A RECESSION once the letters EC have been removed (indicated by “ignoring City” – EC is the post code area of the City of London), like so: A(GG)RESSION.

52. Gentleman calling for taxi briskly, good to go (9)

Answer: CABALLERO (i.e. a Spanish “gentleman”). Solution is CAB (i.e. “taxi”) followed by ALLEGRO (i.e. “fast” in musical lingo) once the G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) has been removed, like so: CAB-ALLERO.

53. Run new article about outcome of WWIII? (7,6)

Answer: NUCLEAR WINTER (i.e. “outcome of WWIII”). “About” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of RUN NEW ARTICLE.

54. First female premier’s right wing, still (4)

Answer: EVER (i.e. “still”). Solution is EVE (i.e. “[Biblical] first female”) followed by R (i.e. “premier’s right wing”, i.e. the last letter of “premier”).

55. Baked bits and pieces bits Kitty dumps across river (9)

Answer: POTSHERDS, which, in archaeological terms, are fragments of pottery (i.e. “baked bits and pieces”). Solution is POT (i.e. “kitty” as in a pot of money – ignore the misleading capitalisation) followed by SHEDS (i.e. “dumps”) once it has been wrapped around or placed “across” R (a recognised abbreviation of “river”), like so: POT-SHE(R)DS. A new word on me, but not one I can see using in conversation anytime ever. Also, the second mention of “bit” seems redundant, unless it’s supposed to qualify “kitty” – bits being another word for coins. Given that the second “bit” doesn’t scan at all well within the clue, I’m guessing this is an editor fail.

56. Battle colour (7)

Answer: MAGENTA. Solution satisfies “battle” – referring to the Battle of Magenta fought during the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 (so says Wikipedia, anyway) – and “colour”.

Down clues

1. Stage cow, perhaps, with no tail (4)

Answer: DAIS (i.e. “stage”). Another where the setter shakes me off, so be aware. My best guess is that the solution is derived from DAISY with the last letter removed (indicated by “with no tail”), but I’m not getting how this is a “cow, perhaps”. There’s probably some enormous neon-lit cultural reference I’m missing somewhere.

2. Extremely happy vet maybe with leather needing horse compound (9)

Answer: HYDROXIDE (i.e. “compound” of hydrogen and oxygen). Solution is HY (i.e. “extremely happy”, i.e. the first and last letters of “happy”) followed by DR (a recognised abbreviation of doctor, i.e. “vet maybe”) and OX HIDE (i.e. “leather”) with the H removed (indicated by “needing horse” – H being a recognised abbreviation of heroin, also known as “horse”), like so: HY-DR-OX-IDE.

3. Son still muses on mundane old edifices, including a lighthouse (5,7,2,3,5)

Answer: SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD (i.e. “old edifices, including a lighthouse” – the latter referring to the Lighthouse of Alexandria). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) followed by EVEN (i.e. “still” – 54a has EVER being “still”, 3d has EVEN being “still” – both work), then WONDERS (i.e. “muses on”) and OF THE WORLD (i.e. “mundane”).

4. Final violent demonstration missing quota (7)

Answer: ENDMOST (i.e. “final”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “violent”) of DEMONSTRATION once the RATION has been removed (indicated by “missing quota”).

5. King George with cleric going round Yankee landmark (5,6)

Answer: GRAND CANYON (i.e. “landmark”). Solution is GR (i.e. “King George” or Georgius Rex in Latin) followed by AND (i.e. “with”) and CANON (i.e. “cleric”) once it has been placed “around” Y (“Yankee” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: GR-AND-CAN(Y)ON.

6. Cool GP, seen running round getting dehydrated fast? (4-5)

Answer: SPIN-DRIED (i.e. “getting dehydrated fast”, or at least faster than being left out in the open). Solution is SPIED (i.e. “seen”) placed “round” IN (i.e. hip and happening and “cool”) and DR (a recognised abbreviation of “doctor”, i.e. “GP” or General Practitioner), like so: SP(IN-DR)IED.

7. Season without wife’s place in ground (5)

Answer: INTER (i.e. “place in ground”). Solution is WINTER (i.e. “season”) with the W removed (indicated by “without wife” – W being a recognised abbreviation of “wife”).

8. Grasping digits the FT put about (11)

Answer: TIGHTFISTED (i.e. “grasping”). “Put about” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DIGITS THE FT.

9. Fliers on female, one supported by a hat-maker (6)

Answer: RAFFIA (i.e. “hat-maker”. It is also used to make other things, like mats and baskets.) Solution is RAF (i.e. “fliers”) followed by F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”), then I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and A. The “supported by” bit relates to how these pieces are all stacked on top of the final A, this being a down clue.

11. Greeting old seafarers in China (7)

Answer: MORNING (i.e. “greeting” – hoo boy, the swearing when this finally clicked!) Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and RN (i.e. “seafarers”, specifically the Royal Navy) placed “in” MING (i.e. “china” – ignore the misleading capitalisation), like so: M(O-RN)ING.

12. A degree in martial arts restricted building here (5,4)

Answer: GREEN BELT. Solution satisfies “a degree in martial arts” and “restricted building here”.

13. Somehow understanding solids has special relish (8,6,8)

Answer: THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING (i.e. “relish”). Both “somehow” and “special” appear to be anagram indicators here, which seems a tad excessive. Unless thousand island dressing is indeed “special”. Never tried it. Solution is an anagram of UNDERSTANDING SOLIDS HAS. An easier get, having appeared in a previous grid.

18. Rich man’s wrinkles mentioned? (7)

Answer: CROESUS (i.e. “rich man”). “Mentioned” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of CREASES (i.e. “wrinkles”). Another easier get, having appeared in a previous grid.

20. Troops maybe fly spacecraft (7)

Answer: ORBITER (i.e. “spacecraft”). Solution is OR (i.e. “troops”, specifically the Other Ranks of the British Army) followed by BITER (i.e. “maybe fly”. Other biters are available.)

22. Mature people occasionally want to enter gangs (5-3)

Answer: GROWN-UPS (i.e. “mature people”). Solution is WN (i.e. “occasionally want”, i.e. every other letter of WANT) placed in or “entering” GROUPS (i.e. “gangs”), like so: GRO(WN)UPS.

24. Royal couple, taking in current blitz, left out US meddler (8)

Answer: KIBITZER, which is a Yiddish word used in the “US” to describe someone who interferes or gives unwanted advice, i.e. “meddler”. No, me neither. Solution is K and ER (i.e. “royal couple”, being recognised abbreviations of “king” and “Elizabeth Regina” respectively) wrapped around or “taking in” I (a recognised abbreviation for an electrical “current”) and BLITZ once the L has been removed (indicated by “left out” – L being a recognised abbreviation of “left”), like so: K-(I-BITZ)-ER.

27. Defence one entered, jumping bail (5)

Answer: ALIBI (i.e. “defence”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in or “entering” an anagram (indicated by “jumping”) of BAIL, like so: AL(I)BI.

29. Drug source, old man with paltry margins (5)

Answer: POPPY (i.e. “drug source”). Solution is POP (i.e. “old man”, both informal descriptions of one’s father) followed by PY (i.e. “paltry margins”, i.e. the first and last letters of “paltry”).

30. Volunteers in sailor’s home don’t drink (7)

Answer: ABSTAIN (i.e. “don’t drink”). Solution is TA (i.e. “volunteers”, specifically the Territorial Army) placed “in” between AB’S (i.e. “sailor’s” – as mentioned earlier, AB is an Able-Bodied seaman) and IN (i.e. “home”), like so: AB’S-(TA)-IN.

32. Armaments chap holding notes and ruler (7)

Answer: GUNNERY (i.e. “armaments”). Solution is GUY (i.e. “chap”) wrapped around or “holding” NN (i.e. “notes” – N is a recognised abbreviation of “note”, so NN makes a pair of “notes”) and ER (i.e. “ruler”, specifically Elizabeth Regina), like so: GU(NN-ER)Y.

34. Hack to back her to make waves (4,3,4)

Answer: ROCK THE BOAT (i.e. “make waves”). “Hack” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TO BACK HER TO.

36. Vacuum old object found in northern loch (11)

Answer: NOTHINGNESS (i.e. “vacuum”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and THING (i.e. “object”) placed or “found in” N (a recognised abbreviation of “northern”) and NESS (i.e. “loch”), like so: N-(O-THING)-NESS.

37. Everyone goes through this lithium and iron carrier (4,5)

Answer: LIFE CYCLE (i.e. “everyone goes through this”). Solution is LI (chemical symbol of “lithium”) and FE (ditto “iron”) followed by CYCLE (i.e. “carrier”, referring to a bicycle).

39. Noisy performer hit reindeer (3-6)

Answer: TAP-DANCER (i.e. “noisy performer”). Solution is TAP (i.e. “hit”) followed by DANCER (i.e. “[Santa Claus’s] reindeer”).

41. I will try Times nurse acquired under the counter? (3-6)

Answer: ILL-GOTTEN (i.e. “acquired under the counter”). Solution is I’LL (a contraction of “I will”) followed by GO (i.e. “try”, as in have a go), then TT (i.e. “times” – ignore the misleading capitalisation. T is a recognised abbreviation of “time”, and as we’ve seen a number of times, this week’s setter likes to use plurals to indicate repeated letters, so “times” becomes TT) and EN (i.e. “nurse”, specifically an Enrolled Nurse), like so: I’LL-GO-TT-EN.

43. Maybe make peeress some genteel bonnets in retirement (7)

Answer: ENNOBLE (i.e. “maybe make peeress”). “Some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “in retirement” indicates the solution has been reversed, like so: GENTE(EL BONNE)TS.

45. Formula of The Golden Mean? Recall first half only (7)

Answer: THEOREM (i.e. “formula”). Solution is THE followed by OR (i.e. “golden” in heraldry) and ME (i.e. “mean … first half only”) which is reversed (indicated by “recall”), like so: THE-OR-EM.

47. A former PM’s getting up numb (6)

Answer: ASLEEP (i.e. “numb”). Solution is A followed by Robert PEEL’S (i.e. “former PM’s” – PM being Prime Minister) which is reversed (indicated by “getting up” – this being a down clue), like so: A-S’LEEP.

49. Spread limb, ignoring breadth (5)

Answer: RANCH (i.e. “spread”). Solution is BRANCH (i.e. “limb” of a tree) with the B removed (indicated by “ignoring breadth” – B being a recognised abbreviation of “breadth”).

51. Swimmer that completes two of the Balearics (4)

Answer: ORCA, a.k.a. a killer whale (i.e. “swimmer”). “That completes two of the Balearics” refers to MajORCA and MallORCA. Another repeated solution, this time from last month.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1410

Another tricky bugger this week, with exotic solutions all over the place. Another good one, on reflection, though I didn’t think so while in the thick of it! I think I got there in the end. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

In time honoured fashion, a spot of housekeeping before we jump in. If you have a previous Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s looking a bit gappy then you might find my Just For Fun page the cat’s pyjamas. While I’ve got you here, how about a book review or two? Or a short story, maybe? (You don’t ask, you don’t get…)

And so to the answers. See you next time.


A big thank you to Richard in the comments for the correction – LP


Across clues

1. Reach crisis point? Wake up! (4,2,1,4)

Answer: COME TO A HEAD (i.e. “reach crisis point”). “Wake up” also satisfies COME TO. A bit of a scruffy half-finished clue.
[EDIT: Thanks to Barry in the comments for decoding this one further, in that “wake” satisfies COME TO, while “up” satisfies AHEAD. Cheers, Barry! – LP]

7. He’s one United put in control (6)

Answer: HELIUM. (“He” is the chemical symbol of helium.) Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one” and U (a recognised abbreviation of “united”) “put in” HELM (i.e. “control”), like so: HEL(I-U)M.

10. Not a thing associated with involuntary movement of the ear? (4)

Answer: OTIC (i.e. “of the ear”). Solution is O (i.e. “not a thing”, i.e. zero) followed by TIC (i.e. “involuntary movement”).

14. Doctor’s endless search for places to pray (7)

Answer: MOSQUES (i.e. “places to pray”). Solution is MO’S (i.e. “doctor’s” – specifically a Medical Officer) followed by QUEST (i.e. “search”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “endless”), like so: MOS-QUES.

15. Fifty-peseta contracts for work as printer (7)

Answer: TYPESET (i.e. “work as printer”). “Contracts” indicates the solution is hidden within FIF(TY-PESET)A.

16. Green diesel, maybe, turning blue if old (7)

Answer: BIOFUEL (i.e. “green diesel, maybe”, as in eco-friendly diesel). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “turning”) of BLUE IF and O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”).

17. Story in French of a skating hazard claiming archdeacon (5,2,6)

Answer: DEATH IN VENICE, a “story” by Thomas Mann. Solution is DE (i.e. “in French of”, i.e. the French for “of”) followed by A, then THIN ICE (i.e. “skating hazard”) once it has been wrapped around or “claiming” VEN (i.e. “archdeacon”, being a recognised abbreviation of “venerable”), like so: DE-A-THIN-(VEN)-ICE.

18. Pants ladies and gents put on itch (4,5)

Answer: LONG JOHNS (i.e. “pants”). Solution is JOHNS (i.e. “ladies and gents [toilets]”) placed “on” or after LONG (i.e. to yearn or “itch”).

19. Girl’s watch in red from Latin America (5)

Answer: CHLOE (i.e. “girl”). Solution is LO (i.e. “watch” or see, as in lo and behold) placed “in” CHE (i.e. “red from Latin America”, specifically Che Guevara), like so: CH(LO)E.

21. One into renewable energy, local veg? (3-7)

Answer: ECO-VILLAGE. Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “renewable”) of E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”) and LOCAL VEG, like so: ECOV(I)LLAGE. Within the context of the clue, an eco-village would indeed be into renewable energy.

23. Pattern of fur, silver, revealed by one (6)

Answer: AGOUTI (i.e. “pattern of fur” – also a big-assed rat). Solution is AG (chemical symbol of “silver”) followed by OUT (i.e. “revealed”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”). Unsurprisingly, this was one gotten solely from the wordplay.

25. Cutting plants, as Don Quixote once did on the plain (8)

Answer: SAWMILLS (i.e. “cutting plants”). When read as SAW MILLS the solution also satisfies “as Don Quixote once did on the plain”, referring to his tilting (jousting) with imaginary enemies, coined as “tilting at windmills”. It says here.

26. Park in Paris, close to chateau – soon be obliged to move (4,2,8)

Answer: BOIS DE BOULOGNE (i.e. “park in Paris”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “to move”) of U (i.e. “close to chateau”, i.e. the last letter of “chateau”) and SOON BE OBLIGED. Another one gotten solely from the wordplay, and only once most of the intersecting letters were solved.

29. Drop of drink, after song (3,4)

Answer: LAY DOWN (i.e. “drop”). Solution is DOWN (i.e. “[to] drink”) placed “after” LAY (i.e. “song”).

30. Word that’s silly name adopted by posh people (9)

Answer: ASSURANCE (i.e. “word”, as in “my word is my bond”). Solution is ASS (i.e. “[one] that’s silly”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”) once it has been placed in or “adopted by” U (i.e. “posh” – as in a recognised abbreviation of the upper classes in general) and RACE (i.e. “people”), like so: ASS-U-RA(N)CE.

31. Drag people in front of film – to watch here? (2,3)

Answer: TV SET (i.e. “film – to watch here”). Solution is TVS (i.e. “drag people”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of transvestites) placed “in front of ” ET (i.e. “film”, specifically ET: The Extra-Terrestrial).

32. Word of praise in first half for Manchester’s players (5)

Answer: HALLE (i.e. “Manchester’s players”, as in the Halle Orchestra). Solution is the “first half” of HALLELUIAH (i.e. “word of praise”). An easier get than it ought to have been owing to Halle’s appearance in a recent puzzle.

34. Island in Med, large, hyped by America (9)

Answer: LAMPEDUSA (i.e. “island in Med”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) followed by AMPED (i.e. “hyped”) and USA (i.e. “America”). Another one from my Bradfords.

37. In general, duck passes for gander (4-3)

Answer: LOOK-SEE (i.e. “gander”). Solution is LEE (i.e. “general”, as in the car the Dukes of Hazzard buggered about in. That’s all, I think. (Checks history books.) Ohhhhh…) with O (i.e. “duck”, as in a zero score in cricket) and OKS (i.e. okays or “passes”) placed “inside” like so: L(O-OKS)EE.

39. Protected from rain, say, if picked up and quietly covered (14)

Answer: WEATHERPROOFED (i.e. “protected from rain, say”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “picked up”) of WHETHER (i.e. “if”) followed by P (i.e. “quietly”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “piano”, which is “quiet” in musical lingo) and ROOFED (i.e. “covered”).

41. Prolific poet failing to finish on a roll (8)

Answer: ABUNDANT (i.e. “prolific”). Solution is DANTE Alighieri (i.e. “poet”) with his final letter trimmed (indicated by “failing to finish”) placed “on” or after A BUN (i.e. “a roll”), like so: A-BUN-DANT.

43. Patriarch exercises back, cracking rib (6)

Answer: JOSEPH (i.e. “[Biblical] patriarch”). Solution is PE (i.e. “exercises”, specifically Physical Education) reversed (indicated by “back”) and placed in or “cracking” JOSH (i.e. “[to] rib”), like so: JOS(EP)H.

44. After ripping up my card, I left party (5,5)

Answer: PLAID CYMRU (i.e. “[political] party”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “after ripping”) of UP MY CARD I and L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”).

45. Mostly, spa hotel area is for the stars (5)

Answer: HYDRA (i.e. “for the stars”, referring to the Hydra constellation). Solution is HYDRO (i.e. “spa hotel”, short for a hydropathic establishment – chalk one to my Bradfords here) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and followed by A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”), like so: HYDR-A.

48. Eccentric Dickens characters starting on lamb and cheese (9)

Answer: CAMBOZOLA (i.e. “cheese” – another win for the Bradfords here… I doubt my local Tesco Express stocks it). Solution is CAM (i.e. “eccentric” – this could be an alternate spelling of KAM, meaning “awry” (no, me neither), but this feels weaker than a cup of unnervingly milky tea) followed by BOZ (the name Charles “Dickens’s” pen name he used for his early published work) then O-L-A (i.e. “characters starting on lamb and”, i.e. the initial letters of “on”, “lamb” and “and”).
[EDIT: Barry comes to the rescue, lighting on “eccentric” in an engineering sense, citing the CAM shafts of an engine as an example. Thanks again, Barry! – LP]

49. Unassisted TV broadcast outside ending in panic and disorder (2,6,5)

Answer: ST VITUS’S DANCE, a disease or “disorder” also known as Sydenham’s Chorea, resulting in the uncontrollable jerking of the hands, face and feet. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “broadcast”) of UNASSISTED TV placed “outside” of C (i.e. “ending in panic”, i.e. the last letter of “panic”). Another one gotten from a combination of wordplay and a brute force of my Chambers once I’d solved most of the intersecting letters.

51. Half our capital: two grand to keep in yen (7)

Answer: LONGING (i.e. “yen”). Solution is LON (i.e. “half our capital” – The Times being an English newspaper, this would be the first half of LONDON) followed by G and G (i.e. “two grand” – G being a recognised abbreviation of “grand”) once they have been wrapped around or “keeping” IN, like so: LON-G-(IN)-G.

52. Small child can count on granny, ultimately (4,3)

Answer: TINY TOT (i.e. “small child”). Solution is TIN (i.e. “can”, as in a tin can) and TOT (i.e. “count”), the latter placed “on” or after Y (i.e. “granny, ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “granny”), like so: TIN-Y-TOT.

53. Notes Home Counties firm concealing tax returns (7)

Answer: OCTAVES (i.e. “[musical] notes”). Solution is SE (i.e. “Home Counties”, referring to the South East of England) and CO (i.e. “firm”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “company”) which are wrapped around or “concealing” VAT (i.e. “tax”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “returns”), like so: OC-(TAV)-ES. Nicely worked.

54. Welshman’s huffing and puffing, say, putting me out (4)

Answer: RHYS (i.e. “Welshman”). Solution is RHYMES (indicated by “huffing and puffing, say”) with the ME removed (indicated by “putting me out”).

55. Jazz can be so beneficial: understandable say, on vacation (6)

Answer: BLUESY (i.e. “jazz can be”). “On vacation” indicates the solution is derived by removing all the middle letters from BENEFICIAL, UNDERSTANDABLE and SAY.

56. They’re carried by women: one visiting Oz a lot (7,4)

Answer: DOROTHY BAGS (i.e. “they’re carried by women”). “One visiting Oz a lot” refers to DOROTHY, central character of The Wizard of Oz. Another scruffy half-finished clue, it seems. As the scruffy clues represent the first and last of the across clues, maybe this was intentional by the setter for some reason.
[EDIT: A few commenters have helped clarify this one further both here and on my About page. As with 1a, I needed to break the clue down a bit more, in that DOROTHY satisfied “one visiting Oz”, while “a lot” satisfied BAGS. Thanks, all – LP]

Down clues

1. Not the only one to treat you as a joke? (7)

Answer: COMEDIC (i.e. “as a joke”). When read as CO-MEDIC, the solution also satisfies “not the only one to treat you”. A clue that scans rather well.

2. Virginia’s work, turning over boy’s room: mean, indeed (3,8)

Answer: MRS DALLOWAY (i.e. “Virginia [Woolf]’s work”). Solution is LAD’S RM (i.e. “boy’s room” – RM being a recognised abbreviation of “room”) reversed (indicated by “turning over”) and followed by LOW (i.e. “mean” or nasty) and AY (i.e. “indeed”, as in a word of assent), like so: (MR-SDAL)-LOW-AY.

3. Old Testament book at the heart of Matthew’s gospel (5)

Answer: TRUTH (i.e. “gospel”). Solution is RUTH (i.e. “Old Testament book”) placed under or “at” T (i.e. “the heart of Matthew”, i.e. the middle letter of “Matthew”), like so: T-RUTH.

4. Presumably no accompanying letter (8,8)

Answer: ABSENTEE LANDLORD, a “letter” who lives well away from their properties (indicated by “presumably no accompanying”).

5. Apartment resold, after narrowing floor (8)

Answer: ENTRESOL, which is French for a mezzanine (i.e. “floor”). “After narrowing” indicates the solution is hidden within APARTM(ENT RESOL)D. Another one gotten purely from the wordplay, and again only once I’d solved most of the intersecting letters.

6. Deceiving political party not quite legal, as we see it (11)

Answer: DUPLICITOUS (i.e. “deceiving”). Solution is DUP (i.e. “political party”) followed by LICIT (i.e. “legal”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “not quite”) and followed by TO US (i.e. “as we see it”), like so: DUP-LICI-TO-US.

7. Rush, once you’ve got close to home (5)

Answer: HASTE (i.e. “rush”). Solution is HAST (i.e. “once you’ve got”, i.e. ye olde “you’ve got”, as in “Cor, thou hast a crackyng payre, Bettina.”; “Ooh, saucy!” Carry On Henry (1971)… probably) followed by E (i.e. “close to home”, i.e. the last letter of “home”).

8. Visitor from afar supposedly appearing to allow safe passage? (6,5,3)

Answer: LITTLE GREEN MAN. Solution satisfies “visitor from afar supposedly”, alluding to a space alien. The Times being a UK paper, the solution also satisfies “appearing to allow safe passage”, alluding to the green man symbol that appears when it’s safe to step out on a road crossing.

9. Courteous short text accusing a pest? (6)

Answer: URBANE (i.e. “courteous”). “Short text” indicates the solution can also be read as U R BANE, or “you are bane”, i.e. “accusing a pest”. Yeah, I’m not a fan of this one either.

11. Hint book is needed for linesmen (5,6)

Answer: TOUCH JUDGES (i.e. “linesmen” in a game of rugby). Solution is TOUCH (i.e. “hint”) followed by JUDGES (a “book” of the Old Testament).

12. Huge figures in army officer circles, one’s reflected (7)

Answer: COLOSSI (i.e. “huge figures”). Solution is COL (i.e. “army officer”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a colonel) followed by OS (i.e. “circles”) and IS (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one” – ignore the misleading possessive), the latter once it has been reversed (indicated by “reflected”), like so: COL-OS-SI.

13. Marriage of prisoner by prison wall, on the inside (8)

Answer: CONJUGAL (i.e. “marriage”). Solution is CON (i.e. “prisoner”) followed by JUG (i.e. “prison” – I remembered this alternative meaning from a previous puzzle) and middle letters of WALL (indicated by “on the inside”), like so: CON-JUG-AL.

20. European poised for throwing event (7)

Answer: EPISODE (i.e. “event”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “for throwing”) of E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and POISED.

22. I’ve gone down: but I’ll be up in 5! (5)

Answer: LOSER (i.e. “I’ve gone down”). “But I’ll be up in 5” indicates the solution can also be found reversed in 5 down, ENT(RESOL). (“Up” often indicates reversals in down clues.)

24. Delights perhaps in Tory election victory drama (5,7,4)

Answer: LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. Solution satisfies “drama” by William Shakespeare and, with the removal of the first apostrophe, also “delights perhaps in Tory election victory”.

25. Scoff after female makes you jump and turn (7)

Answer: SALCHOW (i.e. “jump and turn [in figure skating]” – ah, so that’s how it’s spelled). Solution is CHOW (i.e. “scoff”) placed “after” SAL (i.e. “female”), like so: SAL-CHOW.

27. Petition opening briefly put an end to fast? (7)

Answer: ENTREAT (i.e. “petition”). Solution is ENTRY (i.e. “opening”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and then followed by EAT (i.e. “put an end to fast”), like so: ENTR-EAT.

28. Something comforting, said cornerpiece, in grand residence (8,6)

Answer: BALMORAL CASTLE (i.e. “grand residence”). Solution is BALM (i.e. “something comforting”) followed by ORAL (i.e. “said”) and CASTLE (i.e. “cornerpiece” at the start of a game of chess).

31. Nick would only be a quarter as long? (3-4)

Answer: TWO-INCH. Solution alludes to “half-inch”, which is Cockney rhyming slang for “pinch” i.e. to “nick” something. A half-inch is “a quarter as long” as two inches. You get the idea.

33. Analyse mood that’s transformed uncouth rich kid? (11)

Answer: LOADSAMONEY, one of comedian Harry Enfield’s characters, mocking the yuppies and “uncouth rich kids” of the 1980s. I’ll admit I was surprised to find it in the dictionary! Anyway, “that’s transformed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ANALYSE MOOD.

35. What triggers eating complaint, or longer illness? (1,4)

Answer: E COLI, a nasty “illness”-inducing bug. “What triggers” indicates the solution can be derived from the starts of EATING COMPLAINT OR LONGER ILLNESS. Another nicely worked clue.

36. Third of income tax due. Evan’s wrong? Not so mine! (11)

Answer: UNEXCAVATED (i.e. “not so mine” – I mean, yeah, I get it, ish, but this is weak). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “wrong”) of C (i.e. “third of income”, i.e. the third letter of “income”) and TAX DUE EVAN.

38. Some of European’s small capitals also in a way classical (11)

Answer: SCANDINAVIA (i.e. “some of Europe[an]”). Solution is SC (a recognised abbreviation of “small capitals” used in printing) followed by AND (i.e. “also”) then IN A and VIA (i.e. “way classical”, i.e. the Latin for “way”), like so: SC-AND-IN-A-VIA. A clue that scans rather well.

40. Sending off pitch, no yellow initially having been waved (8)

Answer: HYPNOTIC (i.e. “sending off”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “having been waved”) of PITCH NO and Y (i.e. “yellow initially”, i.e. the first letter of “yellow”).

42. I hand across a yellow parrot (8)

Answer: IMITATOR (i.e. “parrot”). Solution is I then MITT (i.e. “hand”) which is wrapped around or “across” A and then followed by OR (i.e. “yellow”, referring to gold in heraldry), like so: I-MIT(A)T-OR.

43. Round copper bowl’s ending in grate, full of cracks (7)

Answer: JOCULAR (i.e. “full of [wise]cracks”). Solution is O (i.e. “round”), CU (chemical symbol of “copper”) and L (i.e. “bowl’s ending”, i.e. the last letter of “bowl”) all placed “in” JAR (i.e. “[to] grate [upon]”) like so: J(O-CU-L)AR.

46. Being germ-free, say, extended players’ lives (7)

Answer: ASEPSIS (i.e. “being germ-free”). Solution is AS (i.e. “say”) followed by EPS (i.e. “extended players”, as in vinyl records) and IS (i.e. “lives”).

47. Stupendous amount of sentimental stuff on record recalled (6)

Answer: GOOGOL (i.e. “stupendous amount”). Solution is GOO (i.e. “sentimental stuff”) followed by LOG (i.e. “record”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “recalled”), like so: GOO-GOL.

49. Auditor’s bright lad! (5)

Answer: SONNY (i.e. “lad”). “Auditor” indicates the solution is also a homophone of SUNNY (i.e. “bright”).

50. Irrational number’s using variable for second time (5)

Answer: DITZY (i.e. “irrational”). Solution is DITTY (i.e. “[musical] number”) with the “second” T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”) replaced by (indicated by “using…for”) Z (i.e. “variable” – setters like calling the letters X, Y or Z variables or unknowns in their clues), like so: DIT(T)Y => DIT(Z)Y.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1409

And now for this week’s Jumbo Cryptic. Probably on a par difficulty-wise with puzzle 1408 last week, with another bunch of grid-fill-friendly exotics for solvers to contend with. In all, though, another decent puzzle.

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 have a previous Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s giving you bother then seek ye my Just For Fun page where you’ll find solutions to puzzles going back a year or so. While I’ve got you here, if you dig on book reviews, then I have a page just for that too. Finally, if I can tempt you into a short story, here’s one I made earlier.

Anyway, enough yakking. Time for the answers, right? Till next time, tara.


Across clues

1. Absurd, flaky stuff occurring during depression (7)

Answer: COMICAL (i.e. “absurd”). Solution is MICA (i.e. “flaky stuff” – I’ll take their word for it) placed in or “during” COL (i.e. a geographic “depression”), like so: CO(MICA)L.

5. Almost fanatic, I’d arranged Palestinian uprising (8)

Answer: INTIFADA, a “Palestinian uprising” that took place between 1987 to 1993. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “arranged”) of FANATI (i.e. “almost fanatic”, i.e. the word FANATIC with the last letter removed) and I’D. One of those needing a smidgen of brute force from my Chambers once I’d gotten a few intersecting letters.

9. Maybe friend sharing a ride connected with a joint (6)

Answer: CARPAL (i.e. “connected with a joint”). When read as CAR PAL the solution also satisfies “friend sharing a ride”.

13. Flustered, Mum heartlessly bent my ear, with alarm splitting eardrum (8,8)

Answer: TYMPANIC MEMBRANE, another name for the “eardrum”. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “flustered”) of MM (i.e. “Mum heartlessly”, i.e. the word MUM with the middle letter removed) and BENT MY EAR, all wrapped around or being “split” by PANIC (i.e. “alarm”), like so: TYM(PANIC)MEMBRANE.

14. Strongly urge taking year off, like at home (6)

Answer: ENJOIN (i.e. “strongly urge”). Solution is ENJOY (i.e. “like”) with the Y removed (indicated by “taking year off” – y being a recognised abbreviation of “year”) and followed by IN (i.e. “at home”), like so: ENJO-IN.

16. Large? Hardly one place you could fit in! (8)

Answer: LILLIPUT, from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, in which everything was tiny. Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) followed by ILL (i.e. “hardly” – a little weak but does work) then I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and PUT (i.e. “place”), like so: L-ILL-I-PUT. Cleverly worked.

17. Hamlet’s location half-forgotten over piece of land (4)

Answer: ISLE (i.e. “piece of land”). Solution is ELSINORE (i.e. “[Shakespeare’s] Hamlet’s location”) with the latter half lopped off (indicated by “half-forgotten”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “over”).

18. Exceeded budget, restricted on sets of bowls? (9)

Answer: OVERSPENT (i.e. “exceeded budget”). Solution is PENT (i.e. “restricted”) placed “on” or after OVERS (i.e. “sets of bowls” – referring to overs of cricket), like so: OVERS-PENT.

20. Transitory things in the sound of FM age? (8)

Answer: EPHEMERA (i.e. “transitory things”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “sound of”) of the letters F and M, i.e. EPH and EM, followed by ERA (i.e. “age”).

21. Stone me, once having settled in illegal state (11)

Answer: CRIMINALITY (i.e. “illegal state”). Solution is CRIMINY (i.e. an exclamatory “stone me”. “Once” hints that this has rather gone the same way as “gorblimeyguvnah”, “thequeenmumgawwblessah” and “eesgottashoo’ah”), wrapped around ALIT (i.e. to have “settled”), like so: CRIMIN(ALIT)Y.

24. Sailors and soldiers in a spot getting decoration (9)

Answer: ADORNMENT (i.e. “decoration”). Solution is RN (i.e. “sailors”, specifically the Royal Navy) and MEN (i.e. “soldiers”) placed “in” A DOT (i.e. “a spot”), like so: A-DO(RN-MEN)T.

25. Most of the time you’ll see batter going runny (8)

Answer: THINNING (i.e. “going runny”). Solution is THE with its last letter removed (indicated by “most of”) and followed by INNING (i.e. “time you’ll see [ball game] batter”), like so: TH-INNING.

26. Attack every other occupant of Emmanuel’s (4)

Answer: MAUL (i.e. “attack”). “Every other occupant of…” indicates the solution can be derived by taking every other letter of EMMANUEL’S.

29. Sore point? Get over it and be less hurtful! (4,7)

Answer: PAIN BARRIER (i.e. “sore point”). Clue riffs on how barriers are something you need to “get over”. You get the idea.

31. Character that has a hand in controlling? (5,6)

Answer: GLOVE PUPPET. Another riffy clue, this time one that plays on how glove puppets are characters controlled by a hand shoved up their bottom. (Add proctologist joke here.)

33. High hill-dweller reserved copy (11)

Answer: ANTICYCLONE (i.e. “high” – I had to reread this one a bunch of times to make sure I hadn’t missed something. High? That’s it, setter? High?! By that logic, can clouds be adequately described as “high” as well? This seems one where the setter’s desire to produce a clue that scans has trumped everything else.) Solution is ANT (i.e. “hill-dweller”) followed by ICY (i.e. “reserve”) and CLONE (i.e. “copy”).
[EDIT: Hat-tip to a few commenters who have “high”lighted that a high is another name for an anticyclone. It’s about the fortieth listed definition of the word, but it’s there in the dictionary, so fair play. Thanks all! – LP]

36. Overseas version of Brexit could be going unannounced (6,5)

Answer: FRENCH LEAVE, which is to “go unannounced”. Solution also satisfies “overseas version of Brexit”.

38. Food to fold (4)

Answer: TUCK. Solution satisfies “food” (sometimes also referred to as “tucker” in the land Down Under) and “to fold”.

39. Restaurant with nothing sent back, nothing cut, one initially assumes (8)

Answer: PIZZERIA (i.e. “restaurant”). Solution is ZIP (i.e. “nothing”) reversed (indicated by “sent back”) and followed by ZERO (i.e. “nothing”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “cut”), then I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and A (i.e. “initially assumes”, i.e. the first letter of “assumes”), like so: PIZ-ZER-I-A. Nicely worked, even if it doesn’t scan as well as some other clues.

41. Fine example of wicket in grass that is extremely close (9)

Answer: SHOWPIECE (i.e. “fine example”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “wicket” used in cricket) placed “in” SHOP (i.e. “[to] grass [on someone]”) and followed by IE (i.e. “that is”, i.e. … well, i.e.!) and CE (i.e. “extremely close”, i.e. the first and last letters of “close”), like so: SHO(W)P-IE-CE.

44. Respected, sanctimonious, keeping out of acting work when name is forgotten (11)

Answer: PRESTIGIOUS (i.e. “respected”). Solution is PIOUS (i.e. “sanctimonious”) wrapped around or “keeping” RESTING (i.e. “out of acting work”) once the N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”) has been removed (indicated by “is forgotten”), like so: P(RESTIG)IOUS.

45. Suggestion so popular avoiding universal changes (8)

Answer: PROPOSAL (i.e. “suggestion”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “changes”) of SO POPULAR once the U (a recognised abbreviation of “universal” used in film classifications) has been removed (indicated by “avoiding”).

48. Being English, Anglicans must accept explanation of a Roman numeral (9)

Answer: EXISTENCE (i.e. “being”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and CE (i.e. “Anglicans”, specifically the Church of England) wrapped around or “accepting” X IS TEN (i.e. “explanation of a Roman numeral”), like so: E-(X-IS-TEN)-CE. Another clue that’s nicely worked, despite not scanning as well as other clues.

49. Every area Chicago encloses (4)

Answer: EACH (i.e. “every”). “Encloses” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: AR(EA CH)ICAGO.

50. After bed, look and notice Santa’s presents, say? (8)

Answer: SACKLOAD (i.e. “Santa’s presents, say”). Solution is SACK (i.e. “bed”, as in hitting the sack) followed by LO (i.e. “look”, as in lo and behold) and AD (i.e. “notice”, as in a shortened form of advertisement).

52. Co-ordinated defence system to follow incomplete letter (3,3)

Answer: TAI CHI (i.e. “co-ordinated defence system”). Solution is TAIL (i.e. “to follow”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “incomplete”) and followed by CHI (i.e. “letter”, specifically the twenty-second letter of the Greek alphabet), like so: TAI-CHI.

53. Range of face-to-face animosity? (8,8)

Answer: SPITTING DISTANCE. Another riffy clue. This one plays on how spitting in someone’s face expresses hostility. You get the idea.

54. Is brave enough to admit having no answers? Smart! (6)

Answer: DRESSY (i.e. “smart”). Solution is DARES SAY (i.e. “is brave enough to admit”) with all the As removed (indicated by “having no answers” – a being a recognised abbreviation of “answers”, as in Q&A).

55. French EU cost involved a sweetener (8)

Answer: FRUCTOSE (i.e. “sweetener”). Solution is FR (country code of “France”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “involved”) of EU COST, like so: FR-UCTOSE.

56. Consumable product of melting numismatist’s prize? (7)

Answer: RAREBIT (i.e. “consumable product of melting” – essentially cheese on toast). When the solution is read as RARE BIT, it also satisfies “numismatist’s prize” – a numismatist is a collector of coins and medals and a bit is another word for a coin.

Down clues

1. Follower of W Churchill’s not completely taken stock (6)

Answer: CATTLE (i.e. “stock”). Solution is C ATTLEE (i.e. “follower of W Churchill”, i.e. Clement Attlee, who followed Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of the UK – note how the setter has used the form Initial Surname, hence C ATTLEE) with the last letter removed (indicated by “not completely”).

2. Unclear pronouncement shortened headland near Swansea (6)

Answer: MUMBLE (i.e. “unclear pronouncement”). Solution is MUMBLES (i.e. “headland near Swansea”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “shortened”). One of those “type ‘mumbles’ into Google and see what happens” moments.

3. Russian singer retaining trio and three duos from silent English performer (9)

Answer: Feodor CHALIAPIN (i.e. “Russian singer”. No, me neither. Chalk this one to my Bradfords. Its existence there suggests CHALIAPIN has been a pet solution for a few setters over the years). I can’t get a fix on exactly what the setter has done here. The solution shares letters with CHARLIE CHAPLIN (i.e. “silent English performer”) and “retaining…from” could suggest the removal of certain letters, but how said letters RECHL can be broken into a “trio and three duos” is beyond my ken. Moving on.
[EDIT: A big thank you to Mark in the comments for shedding light on this one. The “trio and three duos” refer to the sets of letters “retained” within CHARLIE CHAPLIN that make up CHALIAPIN, like so CHARLIE CHAPLIN. Ugh. No, setter. Just no. – LP]

4. Learner that is about certain we’re not getting finished things to don in spare time (11)

Answer: LEISUREWEAR (i.e. “things to don in spare time”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”) followed by IE (i.e. “that is”, as seen in 41a) reversed (indicated by “about”), then SURE (i.e. “certain”) and WE ARE (i.e. expanded form of “we’re”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “not getting finished”), like so: L-EI-SURE-WE-AR. A bit of a convoluted mess.

5. Doctrines from current texts (4)

Answer: ISMS (i.e. “doctrines”). Solution is I (a recognised symbol for electrical “current”) followed by SMS (i.e. “texts” – given SMS is a set of initials, shouldn’t this be SMSS? SMSES? SMSESESES?).

6. Marinates hot stews after removing one Scotch bonnet (3-1-7)

Answer: TAM-O-SHANTER (i.e. “Scotch bonnet”, referring to an item of Scottish headwear). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “stews”) of MARINATES HOT once the I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) has been removed (indicated by “removing”). An easier get than it perhaps ought to have been, having been used relatively recently.

7. Manage to cover run with persistent pain taking effect over distance (3-8)

Answer: FAR-REACHING (i.e. “taking effect over distance”). Solution is FARE (i.e. “manage”, as in how one fared) wrapped around or “covering” R (a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in a number of ball games) and followed by ACHING (i.e. “persistent pain”, like so: FA(R)RE-ACHING.

8. Pester fellow Scotsman from Tayside city (9)

Answer: DUNDONIAN, a citizen of Dundee (i.e. “from Tayside city”). Solution is DUN (i.e. “pester” – one of its alternative meanings) followed by DON (i.e. “fellow”) and IAN (i.e. “Scotsman” – setters do love using this bit of wordplay, don’t they?).

10. One forgets source of electricity in mains supply, alternating current (8)

Answer: AMNESIAC (i.e. “one forgets”). Solution is E (i.e. “source of electricity”, i.e. the first letter of “electricity”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “supply”, the adverb form of “supple” as opposed to a supply of something – sneaky, eh?) of MAINS and then followed by AC (a recognised abbreviation of “alternating current”), like so: AMN(E)SI-AC.

11. Words for letters that keep Romeo and Juliet apart (8,8)

Answer: PHONETIC ALPHABET (i.e. “words for letters”). Solution riffs on how Romeo and Juliet are entries in the phonetic alphabet, representing R and J respectively. Said letters are, alphabetically speaking, a distance “apart”.

12. Line on limits of election got helpfully extended (7)

Answer: LENGTHY (i.e. “extended”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “line”) followed by the “limits” or first and last letters of ELECTION, GOT and HEALTHY. Another sneaky one. I like it.

15. Challenging behaviour to get rid of husband-to-be, apparently (8)

Answer: DEFIANCE (i.e. “challenging behaviour”). When read as DE-FIANCE, the solution also satisfies “to get rid of husband-to-be, apparently”.

19. Report of addition to forest: be aware it’s difficult to detect (8)

Answer: NEUTRINO (i.e. “it’s difficult to detect”). “Report of” indicates the solution comprises homophones of NEW TREE (i.e. “addition to forest”) and KNOW (i.e. “be aware”).

22. Singular design stops heater burning bush (3,5)

Answer: GAS PLANT, which is a plant whose oil exudes flammable gas. Hence “burning bush”. The panda of the plant world, anyone? Anyway, the rather convoluted solution for this one is S (a recognised abbreviation of “singular”) and PLAN (i.e. “design”) placed in or “stopping” GAT (i.e. “heater” – both words for a gun. Reading all those Chandler, Hammett and Spillane novels years ago clearly had a positive effect on me), like so: GA(S-PLAN)T.

23. Overall treatment has limited choices in being operated on (8,8)

Answer: HOLISTIC MEDICINE (i.e. “overall treatment”). “Being operated on” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LIMITED CHOICES IN.

27. Inflamed at fringes, the communist possibly had kittens (8)

Answer: LITTERED (i.e. “possibly had kittens” – the possibly bit hints that other species produce litters). Solution is LIT (i.e. “inflamed”) followed by the first and last letters (indicated by “at fringes”) of THE and then RED (i.e. “communist”), like so: LIT-TE-RED.

28. Roll off us, roll out of odd parts (4)

Answer: FURL (i.e. “furl”). “Out of odd parts” indicates the solution is derived by removing the odd letters from OFF US ROLL.

30. Prolific scorer from Hearts supporting defender mostly (4)

Answer: Johann Sebastian BACH (i.e. “prolific [music] scorer”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hearts” used in card games – ignore the misleading capitalisation) which is placed beneath or “supporting” – this being a down clue – BACK (i.e. a “defender” in some field sports) once its final letter has been removed (indicated by “mostly”), like so: BAC-H.

32. Starts dance where engagement doesn’t require entering union (4,4)

Answer: OPEN SHOP (i.e. “where [employment] engagement doesn’t require entering union”). Solution is OPENS (i.e. “starts”) followed by HOP (i.e. “dance” – ask your great grandparents, kids).

34. Slavish campanologist primarily doing his job? (8)

Answer: CRINGING (i.e. “slavish”). Solution is C (i.e. “campanologist primarily”, i.e. the first letter of “campanologist”) followed by RINGING (i.e. “doing his job” – a campanologist is a bell-ringer).

35. Lacking community spirit, warped or cut pieces (11)

Answer: EUROSCEPTIC (i.e. “lacking community spirit”, riffing on the European Community, now European Union). “Warped” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of OR CUT PIECES.

36. Chilled coffee or cold tea run up into sherry? (11)

Answer: FRAPPUCCINO (i.e. “chilled coffee”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “cold”), CUPPA (i.e. “tea”) and R (a recognised abbreviation of “run” used in some ball games) which are all reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue) and placed “into” FINO (i.e. a kind of “sherry”), like so: F(R-APPUC-C)INO. Rather well worked.

37. Confectioner not the first to copy fizz on part of wedding cake? (11)

Answer: CHOCOLATIER (i.e. “confectioner”). Solution is ECHO (i.e. “copy”) with its first letter removed (indicated by “not the first to…”) and followed by COLA (i.e. “fizz”) and TIER (i.e. “part of wedding cake”), like so: CHO-COLA-TIER.

40. Who displays captives without humanity? (9)

Answer: ZOOKEEPER. Solution riffs on how animals are captives of zoos, and how us ‘orrible lot stand outside or “without” their cages. A really good clue.

42. Mischievous person is important for apostle’s higher ecstasy (9)

Answer: PRANKSTER (i.e. “mischievous person”). “For” indicates the solution is derived by substituting the first or “higher” – this being a down clue – E (a recognised abbreviation of “ecstasy”) of PETER (i.e. “apostle”) with RANKS (i.e. “is important”, as in “he wanks as high as anybody in Wome”), like so: P(E)TER => P(RANKS)TER.

43. Uncontrollable laughter produced by sewers? (8)

Answer: STITCHES. Solution satisfies “uncontrollable laughter” and “produced by sewers”.

44. Excuse to spread out like a kilt (7)

Answer: PLEATED (i.e. “like a kilt”). Solution is PLEA (i.e. “excuse”) followed by TED (i.e. “spread” – a laborious one if I have this right, but this refers to a TED spread, which, according to my Chambers, is “a measure of the difference between the value of three-month US Treasury bills and three-month Eurodollar futures contracts”. So there you go.)
[EDIT: Thanks to Steve in the comments for providing a better explanation for the TED part of this clue, being a verb meaning “to spread (new-mown) grass for drying”. As he says, no, me neither! – LP]

46. Socialise with the exalted King out of Aga’s control? (6)

Answer: HOBNOB (i.e. “socialise”). Solution is HOB KNOB (i.e. “Aga’s control”) with the K (a recognised abbreviation of “king”) removed (indicated by “out of”). “Exalted” seems weirdly redundant, so there might be more to it than that.
[EDIT: Thanks to Iain in the comments for clarifying this one. The solution satisfies “socialise with the exalted”, not just “socialise”. Though this is undoubtedly the setter’s intended meaning, it’s not a definition that is wholly backed up by my Chambers, I guess the reason being it would render phrases such as “hobnobbing with the stars” a tad redundant. Other dictionaries may differ on this. – LP]

47. Commercial outlet in run-up to Christmas (6)

Answer: ADVENT (i.e. “run-up to Christmas” – soon advent calendars will have 54 windows rather than 24, mark my words! (Shakes seaweed portentously.)) Solution is AD (i.e. “commercial”) followed by VENT (i.e. “outlet”). A clue that scans rather well.

51. Turn over French article to look for eroticism? (4)

Answer: OGLE (i.e. “look for eroticism”). Solution is GO (i.e. a “turn”) reversed (indicated by “over” – this being a down clue) and followed by LE (i.e. “French article”, i.e. the French masculine word for “the” – articles tend to be words like a, an or the), like so: OG-LE.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1408

And so to last week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic. A big thank you to my spies for securing a copy for me while I was on hols. It means more to me than you might think, as this post marks an unbroken run of solutions spanning a whole year. Not bad considering it was done mainly as a means of getting blogging again!

Anyway, before I start welling up and you all stare uncomfortably at your shoes, let’s get right to it. This puzzle saw a cranking up in difficulty, though I’d hesitate awarding it stinker status. There were more exotics to contend with, but most of them were gettable thanks to gentler wordplay. Another good one, in my less-than-humble opinion.

Before we jump in (okay, I lied about getting right to it, don’t @ me) a spot of housekeeping. If you have a gappy Times Jumbo Cryptic from the last year, then you might be able to plug a few of those gaps using my Just For Fun page. If book reviews are your thing, then I have a bunch on my Reviews page gathering dust. (Makes mental note to get back to those.) If you’d like something from me other than crosswords, then how about a short story? No? Well, it was worth a try. To the answers then!

Till the next one, TTFN.


Across clues

1. Charge female leaving continent for Central American state (5,4)

Answer: COSTA RICA (i.e. “Central American state”). Solution is COST (i.e. “charge”) followed by AFRICA (i.e. “continent”) once the F has been removed (indicated by “female leaving” – f being a recognised abbreviation of “female”), like so: COST-ARICA.

6. Cooking vessel leading Tory moderates rejected (7)

Answer: STEWPOT (i.e. “cooking vessel”). Solution is TOP (i.e. “leading”) followed by WETS (i.e. “Tory moderates” – a new one on me, but it’s there in the dictionary). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “rejected”), like so: STEW-POT.

10. Coin once used in area covered by tube (5)

Answer: DUCAT (i.e. “coin once used” across several European countries). Solution is A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”) placed in or “covered by” DUCT (i.e. “tube”), like so: DUC(A)T.

13. Vague: not centrally accepted by universities in decades (7)

Answer: TENUOUS (i.e. “vague”). Solution is O (i.e. “not centrally”, i.e. the middle letter of “not”) placed between two Us (recognised abbreviation of “university” – note the plural in the clue), which itself is placed in TENS (i.e. “decades”), like so: TEN(U(O)U)S.

14. Sloth: one installed in new terrain right away (7)

Answer: INERTIA (i.e. “sloth”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “new”) of TERRAIN once one of the Rs has been removed (indicated by “right away” – r being a recognised abbreviation of “right”), like so: INERT(I)A.

15. Report of part played by cleaner making pickled herring (7)

Answer: ROLLMOP (i.e. “picked herring”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “report of”) of ROLE (i.e. “part played”) followed by MOP (i.e. “cleaner”), like so: ROLL-MOP.

16. Moment of crisis: time to get a bargain takeaway! (4,3,5,3,4)

Answer: WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN. Solution satisfies “moment of crisis” and “time to get a bargain takeaway”.

17. Regularly used bandbox? That spells trouble (3)

Answer: ADO (i.e. “trouble”). “Regularly” indicates the solution is derived by taking every other letter of BANDBOX.

18. Site of watering hole found by gazelle at last (6)

Answer: LOCALE (i.e. “site”). Solution is LOCAL (i.e. “watering hole”, both describing public houses) followed by E (i.e. “gazelle at last”, i.e. the last letter of “gazelle”).

20. In Asia, badger European prompted to enter trade union (6)

Answer: TELEDU (i.e. “in Asia, badger” – did a Google Image search. Looks like Pepe Le Pew’s portly uncle.) Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) and LED (i.e. “prompted”) placed in or “entering” TU (a recognised abbreviation of “trade union”), like so: T(E-LED)U. Needless to say, this was one gotten from the wordplay and a brute force of my Chambers.

21. Like some legends making us turn a hair somehow (9)

Answer: ARTHURIAN (i.e. “like some legends”). “Somehow” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TURN A HAIR.

23. Suspension in short choral work penned by old lady (10)

Answer: MORATORIUM (i.e. “suspension”). Solution is ORATORIO (i.e. “choral work”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “short”) and placed in or “penned by” MUM (i.e. “old lady”), like so: M(ORATORI)UM.

25. Colourful flags incorporating eastern songbird (4,7)

Answer: REED BUNTING (i.e. “songbird” – off to Google Images again. Ahhhhhh, cute!) Solution is RED BUNTING (i.e. “colourful flags”) wrapped around or “incorporating” E (a recognised abbreviation of “eastern”) like so: RE(E)D-BUNTING.

29. Knowledgeable about binding Rachmaninoff’s first prelude (5)

Answer: INTRO (i.e. “prelude”). Solution is INTO (i.e. “knowledgeable about”) wrapped around or “binding” R (i.e. “Rachmaninoff’s first”, i.e. the first letter of “Rachmaninoff”), like so: INT(R)O.

30. Carry out rifle mostly used in races (8)

Answer: TRANSACT (i.e. “carry out”). Solution is RANSACK (i.e. “[to] rifle”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and placed “in” TT (i.e. “races”, specifically the ones held on the Isle of Man), like so: T(RANSAC)T.

31. Contractor initially put down additional pipe (8)

Answer: CLAYMORE (i.e. “pipe” – not supported by my Chambers, this. I guess the reference is to an explosive, e.g. pipe bomb, but this is a bit like saying an alarm clock or a bag of nails are also explosives. (Shows yellow card to setter.)). Solution is C (i.e. “contractor initially”, i.e. the first letter of “contractor”) followed by LAY (i.e. “put down”) and MORE (i.e. “additional”).

34. Quiet desire to embrace soldiers – like Kate in the play! (8)

Answer: SHREWISH (i.e. “like Kate in the play” – a reference to a character in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew). Solution is SH (i.e. “quiet”) and WISH (i.e. “desire”) wrapped around or “embracing” RE (i.e. “soldiers”, specifically the Royal Engineers of the British Army), like so: SH-(RE)-WISH.

36. Leak finally exposes depredation (8)

Answer: SPILLAGE (i.e. “leak”). Solution is S (i.e. “finally exposes”, i.e. the last letter of “exposes”) followed by PILLAGE (i.e. “depredation”).

37. Music from old film about Connecticut (5)

Answer: OCTET (i.e. “music”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and ET (i.e. “film”, specifically ET: The Extra Terrestrial) placed “about” CT (a recognised abbreviation of the state of “Connecticut”), like so: O-(CT)-ET.

39. Racing official – practical Greek character, might one say? (11)

Answer: HANDICAPPER (i.e. “racing official”). Solution comprises homophones (indicated by “might one say”) of HANDY (i.e. “practical”) and KAPPA (i.e. “Greek character”, specifically the tenth letter of the Greek alphabet).

41. Recurring passage girl found in trio or variation (10)

Answer: RITORNELLO (i.e. “recurring passage” – one that’s not fully supported by my Chambers (no explicit mention is made of “recurring”) but is backed by Wikipedia). Solution is NELL (i.e. “girl”) placed in an anagram (indicated by “variation”) of TRIO OR, like so: RITOR(NELL)O. One gotten from the wordplay once I had a number of intersection letters filled in.

43. Caring mostly for leading lady entering part of theatre (9)

Answer: FOSTERAGE (i.e. “caring”). Solution is FOR with its last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and followed by ER (i.e. “leading lady”, specifically Elizabeth Regina) once it has been placed in or “entering” STAGE (i.e. “part of theatre”), like so: FO-ST(ER)AGE.

45. Suspicion about a cut of meat (6)

Answer: HAUNCH (i.e. “cut of meat”). Solution is HUNCH (i.e. “suspicion”) which is wrapped “about” A, like so: H(A)UNCH.

47. Stabbing pain, for example, recalled by Remus, perhaps? (6)

Answer: TWINGE (i.e. “stabbing pain, for example” – though backed up by the dictionary, I don’t think I’ve ever used “twinge” to describe a stabbing pain. Not when there are more descriptive terms like “bastard agony”…) Solution is EG (i.e. “for example”) reversed (indicated by “recalled”) and placed after or “by” TWIN (i.e. “Remus, perhaps”, as in Romulus and Remus), like so: TWIN-GE.

49. Hawaiian garland certain to be dislodged by rest (3)

Answer: LEI (i.e. “Hawaiian garland”). Solution is LEISURE (i.e. “rest”) with the SURE (i.e. “certain”) removed (indicated by “to be dislodged”).

50. Be completely correct? A carpenter might do it (3,3,4,2,3,4)

Answer: HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD. Solution satisfies “be completely correct” and “a carpenter might do it”.

52. Reportedly no German device for identifying skittle (7)

Answer: NINEPIN (i.e. “skittle”). Solution is a homophone (indicated by “reportedly”) of NEIN (i.e. “no [in] German”) followed by PIN (i.e. “device for identifying”, specifically a Personal Identification Number – “device” in this case being a means of getting something done rather than a physical object), like so: NINE-PIN.

53. Layer of skin Wyatt used to wrap film? (7)

Answer: EPICARP (i.e. “layer of skin” – I had this tentatively pencilled in as EARFLAP for a while, which didn’t help matters). Solution is EARP (i.e. “Wyatt”) “wrapped” around PIC (i.e. “film”, i.e. a shortened form of “picture”), like so: E(PIC)ARP.

54. Eg, Bleriot, beginning to ascend by way of rocky peak (7)

Answer: AVIATOR (i.e. “eg, Bleriot”). Solution is A (i.e. “beginning to ascend”, i.e. the first letter of “ascend”) followed by VIA (i.e. “by way of”) and TOR (i.e. “rocky peak”).

55. Poach second duck (5)

Answer: STEAL (i.e. “poach”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) followed by TEAL (i.e. “duck”).

56. Close relative gripped by woman’s stonework (7)

Answer: MASONRY (i.e. “stonework”). Solution is SON (i.e. “close relative”) placed in or “gripped by” MARY (i.e. “woman”), like so: MA(SON)RY.

57. Combine current charge for accommodating sheep (9)

Answer: INTEGRATE (i.e. “combine”). Solution is IN (i.e. “current”) and RATE (i.e. “charge”) wrapped around or “accommodating” TEG (i.e. “sheep”, specifically one in its second year (pats Chambers)), like so: IN-(TEG)-RATE.

Down clues

1. Sleeping places originally welcomed by elderly sheep (8)

Answer: COTSWOLD (i.e. “sheep” – another one). Solution is COTS (i.e. “sleeping places”) followed by W (i.e. “originally welcomed”, i.e. the first letter of “welcomed”) and OLD (i.e. “elderly”).

2. Slightly burn first bit of grub served in function (5)

Answer: SINGE (i.e. “slightly burn”). Solution is G (i.e. “first bit of grub”, i.e. the first letter of “grub”) placed or “served in” SINE (i.e. “[trigonometric] function”), like so: SIN(G)E.

3. A drink a day, up to the time of a party? (11)

Answer: AMONTILLADO (i.e. “a drink”). Solution is A followed by MON (i.e. “day”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Monday), then TILL (i.e. “up to the time of”), then A and DO (i.e. “party”), like so: A-MON-TILL-A-DO.

4. Brought out children to meet duke (6)

Answer: ISSUED (i.e. “brought out”). Solution is ISSUE (i.e. “children”) followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “duke”).

5. The art I claim is flawed, like the science of numbers? (12)

Answer: ARITHMETICAL (i.e. “like the science of numbers”). “Is flawed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of THE ART I CLAIM.

6. Action taken by the French to adopt English church feature (7)

Answer: STEEPLE (i.e. “church feature”). Solution is STEP (i.e. “action taken”) and LE (i.e. “the French”, i.e. the masculine form of “the” in French) wrapped around or “adopting” E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: STE(E)P-LE.

7. Old city in additional circular sadly not on the course (15)

Answer: EXTRACURRICULAR (i.e. “not on the course”). Solution is EXTRA (i.e. “additional”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “sadly”) of CIRCULAR, which is wrapped around RU (i.e. “old city”), like so: EXTRA-C(UR)RICULAR.

8. European wearing heart stimulator, a conciliatory type (10)

Answer: PEACEMAKER (i.e. “a conciliatory type”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”) placed in or “wearing” PACEMAKER (i.e. “heart stimulator”), like so: P(E)ACEMAKER.

9. Clothing of all those present? (7)

Answer: TURNOUT. Solution satisfies “clothing” when read as TURN OUT, and “all those present”.

10. Wrongdoing in Paris that disturbs Cindy and Len badly (11)

Answer: DELINQUENCY (i.e. “wrongdoing”). Solution is QUE (i.e. “in French that”, i.e. the French for “that”) which is placed in or “disturbs” an anagram (indicated by “badly”) of CINDY and LEN, like so: DELIN(QUE)NCY.

11. River vessel, one to south of the Italian bell towers (9)

Answer: CAMPANILI (i.e. “bell towers”). Solution is CAM (i.e. “[Cambridgeshire] river”) followed by PAN (i.e. “vessel”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) once it has been placed after or “to the south of” – this being a down clue – IL (i.e. “the Italian”, i.e. the Italian for “the”), like so: CAM-PAN-IL-I. Another one gotten purely from the wordplay.

12. Storm caused by magnate changing key to quiet hotel (7)

Answer: TYPHOON (i.e. “storm”). Solution is TYCOON (i.e. “magnate”) with the C (i.e. “[musical] key”) “changing” into P (a recognised abbreviation of “piano”, which is “quiet” in musical lingo) and H (“hotel” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: TY(C)OON => TY(P-H)OON.

19. Smallholder creditor meets with greater frequency? (7)

Answer: CROFTER (i.e. “smallholder”). Solution is CR (a recognised abbreviation of “creditor”) followed by OFTER (i.e. “with greater frequency” – not a proper word, which is why the setter has jokily added a question mark). I’m not keen, but there you go.

22. Hardy character in firm backing an Italian noblewoman (8)

Answer: CONTESSA (i.e. “Italian noblewoman”). Solution is TESS (i.e. “Hardy character”, specifically the titular character from Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles) placed in CO (a recognised abbreviation of a company or “firm”) and AN, the latter reversed (indicated by “backing”), like so: CO-N(TESS)A.

24. False impression given by intelligence agency’s arrest (15)

Answer: MISAPPREHENSION (i.e. “false impression”). When read as MI’S APPREHENSION, the clue also satisfies “intelligence agency’s arrest” (MI standing for “military intelligence”).

26. Wickedly bribe odd characters in lorry to deliver fruit (8)

Answer: BILBERRY (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “wickedly”) of BRIBE and LRY (i.e. “odd characters in lorry”, i.e. every other letter of LORRY).

27. Astride horse, arrive at depressed area (6)

Answer: GHETTO (i.e. “depressed area”). Solution is GET TO (i.e. “arrive at”) which is wrapped around or “astride” H (a recognised abbreviation of “horse”), like so: G(H)ETTO.

28. Vulgarised art in Christopher’s church (6)

Answer: KITSCH (i.e. “vulgarised art”). Solution is KIT’S (i.e. shortened form of “Christopher’s”) followed by CH (a recognised abbreviation of “church”).

32. Bunting British dramatist draped round US city (7)

Answer: ORTOLAN (i.e. “bunting” – a new one on me, especially the fact it’s often edible!). Solution is Joe ORTON (i.e. “British dramatist”) wrapped or “draped around” LA (i.e. “US city”, specifically Los Angeles… (looks out at Mordor the British weather and sighs wistfully)), like so: ORTO(LA)N.

33. Done deed, one secured by stout crony skipping church (4,8)

Answer: FAIT ACCOMPLI (i.e. “done deed”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in or “secured by” FAT ACCOMPLICE (i.e. “stout crony”) once the trailing CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England) has been removed (indicating by “skipping”), like so: FA(I)T-ACCOMPLI.

35. The place which oddly disfigured part of London? (11)

Answer: WHITECHAPEL (i.e. “part of London”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “disfigured”) of THE PLACE and the “odd” letters of WHICH.

37. Arrogant about quarters in projecting part of house (11)

Answer: OVERWEENING (i.e. “arrogant”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “about”) followed by EEN (i.e. “quarters” – I’m taking this to mean a collection of compass points: East, East and North) which has been placed “in” WING (i.e. “projecting part of house”), like so: OVER-W(EEN)ING.

38. Lost for words, having no oration to deliver? (10)

Answer: SPEECHLESS. Solution satisfies “lost for words” and “having no oration to deliver”.

40. Ignorance playing havoc with nice scene (9)

Answer: NESCIENCE (i.e. “ignorance”). “Playing havoc with” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NICE SCENE. This was another one I’d initially gotten wrong, writing INSCIENCE lightly in the grid. While this also means “ignorance”, it wasn’t an anagram of NICE SCENE. I blame the jetlag (…looks to camera…)

42. Policeman with information runs in titled woman (8)

Answer: GENDARME, a French “policeman”. Solution is GEN (i.e. “information”) followed by R (a recognised abbreviation of “runs” used in some ball games) once it has been placed “in” DAME (i.e. “titled woman”), like so: GEN-DA(R)ME.

43. Shavings one chucks outside (7)

Answer: FILINGS (i.e. “shavings”). Solution is I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) with FLINGS (i.e. “chucks”) placed “outside”, like so: F(I)LINGS.

44. Leader of men supporting Roman general? It means the opposite (7)

Answer: ANTONYM (i.e. “it means the opposite”). Solution is M (i.e. “leader of men”, i.e. the first letter of “men”) placed beneath or “supporting” – this being a down clue – Mark ANTONY (i.e. “Roman general”), like so: ANTONY-M.

46. Like some local authorities initially acclaimed in college test (7)

Answer: UNITARY (i.e. “like some local authorities”). Solution is A (i.e. “initially acclaimed”, i.e. the first letter of “acclaimed”) placed “in” UNI (i.e. “college”, specifically a shortened form of university) and TRY (i.e. “test”), like so: UNI-T(A)RY.

48. Set about securing uniform for royal house (6)

Answer: STUART (i.e. “royal house” which gave us a bunch of King Jameses, among others). Solution is START (i.e. “set about”) wrapped around or “securing” U (“uniform” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: ST(U)ART.

51. Possibly wide doorway one missed at Burlington House (5)

Answer: EXTRA (i.e. “possibly wide”, referring to how extra runs can be awarded in cricket wide balls being bowled.). Solution is EXIT (i.e. “doorway”) with the I removed (indicated by “[Roman numeral] one missed”), and followed by RA (short for the Royal Academy, who are housed “at Burlington House”), like so: EXT-RA.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1407

Back again! After ten days spent soaking up the glorious and cloudless Angeleño weather, not to mention attending this year’s World Fantasy Convention and blissfully avoiding anything and everything to do with B**xit (seriously, the US news media barely gave a shit about UK politics – even when the election was called), it’s… uh… well, it’s something to be back in Blighty. Very much something. Still, at least there’s no threat of wildfires breaking out here anytime soon.

Anyway, before I start getting my holiday snaps out, I’ve a bit of catching up to do. Here’s my completed grid for Oct 26’s Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword. It wasn’t quite the stinker that was feared, but still a good puzzle all the same. You can find explanations of my solutions below where I have them. My spies kindly secured puzzle 1408 for me while I was away, so I should have something for that in due course.

A spot of housekeeping before we tuck in. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic showing a few gaps, then my Just For Fun page could be just the thing. If you like reading the odd book review then check out my Reviews page. Fancy a short story instead? I’ve got you covered.

Right, let’s get after it…

(…with apologies to CNN’s Chris Cuomo for nicking his catchphrase)


Across clues

1. Person in surgery admitting green look (5)

Answer: DECOR (i.e. the “look” of something). Solution is DR (i.e. “person in surgery”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “doctor”) wrapped around or “admitting” ECO (i.e. “green”), like so: D(ECO)R.

4. Old lady hosting male Spanish virgin is a stickler for rules (10)

Answer: GRAMMARIAN (i.e. “stickler for rules”). Solution is GRAN (i.e. “old lady”) wrapped around or “hosting” M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”) and MARIA (i.e. “virgin”, specifically the Latin form of Mary, as seen in Ave Maria), like so: GRA(M-MARIA)N.

9. Pure drug snorted by class (6)

Answer: CHASTE (i.e. “pure”). Solution is CASTE (i.e. “class”) wrapped around or “snorting” H (i.e. “drug”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “heroin”), like so: C(H)ASTE.

14. Bird to make slow progress on animal feed (9)

Answer: CHAFFINCH (i.e. “bird”). Solution is INCH (i.e. “to make slow progress”) placed after or “on” CHAFF (i.e. “animal feed”), like so: CHAFF-INCH.

15. At sea, crew has complete order (6,7)

Answer: SEARCH WARRANT (i.e. “order”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “at sea”) of CREW HAS followed by ARRANT (i.e. out-and-out or “complete”), like so: SEARCH-ARRANT.

16. Grenade thrown in defensive position (2,5)

Answer: EN GARDE (i.e. “defensive position”). “Thrown” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of GRENADE.

17. Dairy product in case monarch eats dessert (9)

Answer: LEICESTER (i.e. “dairy product”, as in the cheeeeeeese, Gromit). Solution is LEST (i.e. “in case”) and ER (i.e. “monarch”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Elizabeth Regina) wrapped around or “eating” ICE (i.e. “dessert”), like so: LE(ICE)ST-ER.

18. Small like a youngster? (5)

Answer: TEENY. Solution satisfies “small” and “like a youngster”.

19. Disallow gossip about people in dodgy country (6,8)

Answer: BANANA REPUBLIC (i.e. “dodgy country”). Solution is BAN (i.e. “disallow”) followed by ANA (i.e. “gossip”, as in a collection of someone’s table talk or gossip) then RE (i.e. “about” – think the subject headings in email replies) and PUBLIC (i.e. “people”).

22. Mug is picked up? That’s a relief (7)

Answer: SUCCOUR (i.e. “relief”). “Is picked up” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of SUCKER (i.e. “mug”).

25. Head in business doubly cautious in fair event (7,3)

Answer: COCONUT SHY (i.e. “fair event”). Solution is NUT (i.e. “head”) placed “in” between CO (a recognised abbreviation of “company”) repeated (indicated by “doubly”) and SHY (i.e. “cautious”), like so: CO-CO-(NUT)-SHY.

27. Soon penning attempt, piece in verse (2,5,2,3)

Answer: AN ESSAY ON MAN, a poem by Alexander Pope (i.e. “verse”). No, me neither. Solution is ANON (i.e. “soon”) wrapped around or “penning” ESSAY (i.e. “[a tentative] attempt”) and followed by MAN (i.e. “[chess] piece”), like so: AN(ESSAY)ON-MAN. One I got from the wordplay, and only once I had all the intersecting letters.

30. Gutless Earl’s clothing as Roman peer (5)

Answer: EQUAL (i.e. one’s “peer”). Solution is EL (i.e. “gutless Earl”, i.e. the word “earl” with its middle letters removed) wrapped around or “clothing” QUA (i.e. “as Roman”, i.e. the Latin for “as”), like so: E(QUA)L.

31. Religious authority perhaps derived from Torah etc. (8)

Answer: THEOCRAT (i.e. “religious authority perhaps”). “Derived from” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TORAH ETC.

32. Gloomy inventor making a bloomer (8)

Answer: BLUEBELL (i.e. “bloomer”). Solution is BLUE (i.e. “gloomy”) followed by Alexander Graham BELL (i.e. “inventor”).

35. Did gas upset attender? (8)

Answer: NATTERED (i.e. “did gas”). “Upset” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ATTENDER.

36. Warning nerd to return and get informed early (8)

Answer: FOREKNOW (i.e. “get informed early”). Solution is FORE (i.e. “warning [from golfer]”) followed by WONK (i.e. “nerd”) which is reversed (indicated by “to return”), like so: FORE-KNOW.

37. I’m off to capture unknown tree creature (5)

Answer: TAYRA (i.e. “tree creature” – did a Google Image search… meh, just a big weasel). Solution is TARA (i.e. “I’m off”) wrapped around or “capturing” Y (i.e. “unknown” – setters love using “unknown” to represent X, Y or Z in their solutions), like so: TA(Y)RA.

39. Stout fellow to carry tip in two empty trays (6,6)

Answer: HUMPTY DUMPTY (i.e. “stout fellow”). Solution is HUMP (i.e. “to carry”) followed by DUMP (i.e. “tip”) once it has been placed “in” between “two” lots of TY (i.e. “empty tray”, i.e. the word “tray” with its middle letters removed), like so: HUMP-TY-(DUMP)-TY.

41. Italian let in to break the ice (10)

Answer: FLORENTINE (i.e. “Italian”). Solution is RENT (i.e. “let”) and IN both placed in or “breaking” FLOE (i.e. “ice”), like so: FLO(RENT-IN)E.

43. Taste butter or jam, pieces needing rearrangement? (7)

Answer: TANGRAM, which is a Chinese block puzzle in which seven flat shapes are slotted together to form a square (i.e. “pieces needing rearrangement”). Solution is TANG (i.e. “taste”) followed by RAM (i.e. “butter or jam” – the former being an animal that butts heads, the latter being to cram something into a small space).

45. Rigid Commander enters not looking good (14)

Answer: UNCOMPROMISING (i.e. “rigid”). Solution is COM (a recognised abbreviation of “commander”) placed in or “entering” UNPROMISING (i.e. “not looking good”) like so: UN(COM)PROMISING.

48. Sub’s back pass with sign of uncertainty (5)

Answer: LOCUM (i.e. “sub”, as in a substitute). Solution is COL (i.e. a mountain “pass”) reversed (indicated by “back”) and followed by UM (i.e. “sign of uncertainty”), like so: LOC-UM.

49. Partners playing in songs, at any rate (9)

Answer: LEASTWAYS (i.e. “at any rate” – I suppose, but I’d argue these are distant cousins of one another). Solution is EAST and W (i.e. “partners playing” a game of bridge – W being a recognised abbreviation of “west”) placed “in” LAYS (i.e. “songs”), like so: L(EAST-W)AYS.

51. School member to scoff after Asian dress is cut short (7)

Answer: SARDINE (i.e. “school member”, as in a school of fish). Solution is DINE (i.e. “to scoff”) placed “after” SARI (i.e. “Asian dress”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “cut short”), like so: SAR-DINE.

53. Someone who treats complaints superficially? (13)

Answer: DERMATOLOGIST. Solution riffs on how something that is superficial can be said to be skin-deep. A dermatologist deals with skin complaints. You get the idea.

54. Caught up in French style, spoke angrily (9)

Answer: ENSNARLED (i.e. “caught up [in]”). Solution is EN (i.e. “in French style”, i.e. the French for “in”) followed by SNARLED (i.e. “spoke angrily”).

55. Give extra source of illumination, in a mess (6)

Answer: ADDLED (i.e. “in a mess”). When read as ADD LED, the solution also satisfies “give extra source of illumination” – LED being a recognised abbreviation of a light-emitting diode.

56. Press employee, a kind person such as myself (10)

Answer: TYPESETTER (i.e. “[newspaper] press employee”). Solution is TYPE (i.e. “a kind”) followed by SETTER (i.e. “person such as myself”, referring to the person setting the crossword).

57. Maybe oral fluency? Ultimately likely to lose it (5)

Answer: TESTY (i.e. “likely to lose it”). Solution is TEST (i.e. “maybe oral”, as opposed to a practical or written test) followed by Y (i.e. “fluency ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “fluency”).

Down clues

1. Summons cut and used in the Vatican? (6)

Answer: DOCKET (i.e. “summons”). Solution is DOCK (i.e. “cut”) followed by ET (i.e. “and used in the Vatican”, i.e. the Italian for “and”).

2. Credit source of story introduced by military operation (6,7)

Answer: CHARGE ACCOUNT (i.e. “credit source”). Solution is ACCOUNT (i.e. “story”) following or being “introduced by” CHARGE (i.e. “military operation”).

3. Point in either direction? (5)

Answer: REFER (i.e. “[to] point”). “In either direction” indicates the solution is a palindrome.

4. Artilleryman uncovered gas plant (7)

Answer: GUNNERA (i.e. “plant” – did a Google Image search… meh, big leaves). Solution is GUNNER (i.e. “artilleryman”) followed by A (former chemical symbol of argon, i.e. “gas”).

5. Suffering cutting pains, incline to show weakness (8,4)

Answer: ACHILLES HEEL (i.e. “weakness”). Solution is ILL (i.e. “suffering”) placed in or “cutting” ACHES (i.e. “pains”) and followed by HEEL (i.e. “incline”), like so: ACH(ILL)ES-HEEL.

6. Gosh! It’s about that Gallic aura (8)

Answer: MYSTIQUE (i.e. “aura”). Solution is an exclamatory MY (i.e. “gosh!”) followed by ITS reversed (indicated by “about”) and then QUE (i.e. “that Gallic”, i.e. the French for “that”), like so: MY-STI-QUE.

7. Sack magistrate in hearing (5)

Answer: REAVE (i.e. to pillage or “sack”). “In hearing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of REEVE, formerly a chief “magistrate” of a district.

8. Cats and mice running around besetting one’s simple existence (10)

Answer: ASCETICISM (i.e. “simple existence”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “running around”) of CATS and MICE, which is wrapped around or “besetting” I’S (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one’s”), like so: ASCETIC(I’S)M.

10. Turning back, some incite rehabilitated dissenter (7)

Answer: HERETIC (i.e. “dissenter”). “Some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “turning back” indicates the solution has been reversed, like so: IN(CITE REH)ABILITATED.

11. Formal setting, say, African set up (9)

Answer: STATEROOM (i.e. “formal setting”). Solution is STATE (i.e. “say”) followed by MOOR (i.e. “African”) reversed (indicated by “set up” – this being a down clue), like so: STATE-ROOM.

12. Door guard after polling (5)

Answer: ENTRY (i.e. “door”). Solution is SENTRY (i.e. “guard”) with its initial letter removed (indicated by “polling” – which is “to cut the hair, horns or tree-top from…” (Chambers)).

13. Performer looking less well, suppressing remark on weight (5,9)

Answer: SWORD SWALLOWER (i.e. “performer”). Solution is SALLOWER (i.e. “looking less well”) wrapped around or “suppressing” WORDS (i.e. “remark”) and W (a recognised abbreviation of “weight”), like so: S(WORDS-W)ALLOWER.

20. Making invalid queen not disheartened about German city (9)

Answer: ANNULMENT (i.e. “making invalid”). Solution is ANNE (i.e. “queen” – other queens are available) and NT (i.e. “not disheartened”, i.e. the word “not” with its middle letter removed) placed “about” ULM (i.e. “German city”) like so: ANN(ULM)E-NT.

21. Course covering mature relationships (8)

Answer: LINKAGES (i.e. “relationships”). Solution is LINKS (i.e. “[golf] course”) wrapped around or “covering” AGE (i.e. “mature”), like so: LINK(AGE)S.

23. Director of music cycle recited songs (10)

Answer: RINGLEADER (i.e. “director”). Solution is RING (i.e. “[Richard Wagner’s] music cycle”) followed by LEADER (i.e. “recited songs”, i.e. a homophone of LIEDER).

24. Protects very popular image (10)

Answer: SCREENSHOT (i.e. “image”). Solution is SCREENS (i.e. “protects”) followed by HOT (i.e. “very popular”).

26. Shabby tent, tailor-made originally (14)

Answer: TATTERDEMALION (i.e. “shabby”). “Originally” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TENT TAILOR-MADE. Brilliant word.

28. Visible figures added nuances (9)

Answer: OVERTONES (i.e. “nuances”). When read as OVERT ONES, the solution also satisfies “visible figures”.

29. A pair of short teachers’ marks for poem? (8)

Answer: ACROSTIC (i.e. “poem”). Solution is A followed by CROSS and TICK (i.e. “teachers’ marks”) once their final letters have been removed (indicated by “short”), like so: A-CROS-TIC.

33. See competitors in Welsh girl’s resting place (7,6)

Answer: ELYSIAN FIELDS, “resting place” of heroes in Greek mythology. A bit of a guess, this, but my solution is ELY (i.e. a diocese or “see”, specifically the Diocese of Ely) followed by FIELD (i.e. “competitors”) once it has been placed “in” SIAN’S (i.e. “Welsh girl’s”), like so: ELY-SIAN(FIELD)’S.

34. Wild fern and its clone in bloom (12)

Answer: INFLORESCENT (i.e. “in bloom”). “Wild” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FERN and ITS CLONE.

38. Doctor in hall, one on the right, walking around (10)

Answer: AMBULATORY (i.e. “walking around”). Solution is MB (i.e. “doctor”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a Medicinae Baccalaureus, or a Bachelor of Medicine) placed “in” AULA (i.e. “hall”, from the Latin) and then followed by TORY (i.e. “one on the right”), like so: A(MB)ULA-TORY.

40. Note about article better with digital enhancement (9)

Answer: MANICURED (i.e. “with digital enhancement”, referring to the digits of one’s hand). Solution is MI (i.e. “note” in the doh-ray-mi style – can be spelled “mi” or “me”) wrapped “about” AN (i.e. “article” – setters often use “article” to represent things like A, AN or THE in their solutions) and followed by CURED (i.e. “better”), like so: M(AN)I-CURED.

42. Let team bowled out prepare to get attacked (8)

Answer: EMBATTLE (i.e. “prepare to get attacked”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “out”) of LET TEAM and B (a recognised abbreviation of “bowled” used in cricket).

44. Ferret, curious and enchanting sort (7)

Answer: RUMMAGE (i.e. “[to] ferret”). Solution is RUM (i.e. “curious”) followed by MAGE (i.e. “enchanting sort”).

46. Wrongly surmise this person acts improperly (7)

Answer: MISUSER (i.e. “this person acts improperly”). “Wrongly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SURMISE.

47. Prime fodder keeping colour up (6)

Answer: HEYDAY (i.e. one’s “prime”). Solution is HAY (i.e. “[animal] fodder”) wrapped around or “keeping” DYE (i.e. “colour”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “up” – this being a down clue), like so: H(EYD)AY.

48. Kingdom once a great place, mostly, to be brought up (5)

Answer: LYDIA (i.e. “kingdom once” – specifically one from the Iron Age, located in western Asia). Solution is A and IDYLL (i.e. “great place”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and the remainder reversed (indicated by “up” – again, this being a down clue), like so: LYDI-A. One I got from the wordplay, if I’m honest.

50. Nickel removed from salt for stock (5)

Answer: TRITE (i.e. “stock”). Solution is NITRITE (i.e. “salt”) with the NI (chemical symbol of “nickel”) “removed”.

52. Pan for meat, maybe (5)

Answer: ROAST. Solution satisfies “pan” (i.e. to criticise someone) and “meat, maybe” (e.g. “roast beef” – the “maybe” indicates you can have things like roast vegetables too).

Story: The Last Temptation of Darren Grisley, Destroyer of Us All

No crossword post, folks, as I’m away on hols. All being well, I’ll be back in a week or so. In the meantime, how about a short story, what with it being Halloween and all? – LP

The Last Temptation of Darren Grisley, Destroyer of Us All


I pull out the phone and glaze over the cracked screen. I don’t need to see the words. The ringtone is enough to know it’s Chelle, my ex. I don’t answer her. Instead I cradle the phone in my hands and watch it ring.

Someone harrumphs close by, reminding me I’m not alone. I jab at a tiny button on the side of the phone to lower the volume. The mute switch doesn’t work. Neither do the volume buttons, truth be told, but that doesn’t stop me trying. It’s a wonder the phone still works after the abuse I’ve given it. I’ve always been a bad loser.

The phone continues its demand of me, undeterred. This can only be about one thing. The only thing it’s ever been about since Chelle kicked me out: money. This is hardly the time or the place.

The bus I’m on shudders to a halt. Traffic lights. I look up and notice a number of my fellow passengers are on the brink of stabbing me in both eyes. Further ahead I see the driver flex and relax his hand against the wheel, as if limbering up to pop me one.

“Answer. The Bloody. Phone.” A voice behind me. Probably the harrumpher from before.


I hit ‘Answer’.

“Chelle?” I say evenly. I don’t want to say anything else until I can gauge what kind of mood she is in.

“That money still hasn’t come through, Darren.” Her voice is as volatile as a box of old dynamite.

See? I told you. It’s always about money.

She lets out an angry snort, presumably because I didn’t respond straight away, then: “Joshua starts secondary school next week. You know we need that money.”

“It’s definitely not come through today?”

“Of course it hasn’t,” she hisses. An uncomfortable warmth blossoms across my face with the accusation in her voice.

“Look, let me check my account,” I say. “It’s on an app so I’ll have to call you back.”

“No, wait…”

“I’ll call you right back, Chelle. I promise. I just need to find out what’s happened.”


Her voice has softened and my heart sinks. I don’t want to hear what’s coming, and yet I cannot pull the phone from my ear.

“Are you getting any help?”

A breath catches in my throat. After the mess I’d made of everything during the last three years; once my broken promises had worn thin and my lies and debts had caught up with me; after the slanging matches in the kitchen, the street, the pub and everywhere in between, things have finally come to this: concern. It feels like the tiniest spark of warmth in a snowstorm. The back of my throat tightens. The corners of my mouth tug downwards and my eyelids rim with tears.

“I’ll call you back,” I say, and hang up.


I didn’t call her back.

Instead I sit in a cramped two-bedroomed flat, nesting amid an ageing collection of greasy takeaway tubs and pizza boxes.

The flat belongs to a musclebound firebrand I know called Ray. We used to go to school together. He was big back then too.

I’m looking after the place while he is away on the rigs. I just have to pay the bills and keep the place tidy. This arrangement, I know, is a good thing. When you have been homeless for over a year and have exhausted your friends’ goodwill sleeping on their sofas every night, then anything that keeps you from sleeping on the streets is a good thing. Just don’t anyone dare call me one of the lucky ones.

Ray’s flat sits above a struggling sports bar. He doesn’t have broadband, so I piggyback the bar’s WiFi connection. I think they change the password every week to coax me in for a pint, anything to drum up a bit of business.

I hold my phone close to the laminate floor. I use the feeble signal to check something I already know. The money for Josh hasn’t moved from my account because it wasn’t there in the first place. I had to pay into Ray’s bills account first. Ray always gets paid. That’s the deal. Break the deal and Ray breaks me.

I return my phone to the home screen and its wall of useless apps for Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, BetFred, Betfair, William Hill, Sky Bet and all the rest. The apps still work. They occasionally tease me with alerts of special odds, price boosts and other glamorous offers, but, being bereft of credit, they are all dead to me. The free bets they once so freely offered all dried up about the same time as my cashflow. Funny, that. And yet I cannot delete the apps. I still feel their burn within me. My mind itches at the sight of their icons, colourful invitations to come inside for some harmless knockabout fun. So long as I gamble responsibly, of course – a phrase that now makes me want to puke every time I see it.

The screen suddenly darkens and blurs. The phone rings with the clamour of a 1940’s rotary telephone, its default ringtone. I feel around for the phone’s off button. I don’t want to speak to Chelle, not if she’s so angry with me that she’s used someone else’s mobile to call.

But then I notice the number beyond the splintered screen is mine. Somehow my mobile is calling itself.

I’ve heard of caller IDs being spoofed by scammers, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. I hesitate, unwilling to switch off the phone, but equally unwilling to answer. It’ll be some shitty recorded message, I reason. Some soulless dick in Eastern Europe trying to swindle money from me that I don’t have.

I set the phone down on the coffee table amid a clutch of remote controls and let voicemail handle the call. My stomach gurgles for the hundredth time since I stepped in, so I hunt the last dregs of food from the kitchen, unearthing some macaroni, a squirt of tomato puree and a can of tuna flakes. Tomorrow I’ll be supping the salad cream.

I return to the sofa with a steaming, half-filled bowl of pasta. The moment I sit down my phone springs into life again, thrumming loudly against the wooden coffee table. Once more my number glows beneath the cracked screen, beckoning me to answer. I pick it up and wonder whether it’s possible to block calls coming from my own phone.

Who would call me like this, twice within the space of fifteen minutes? I’m guessing it’s not an auto-dialler. Not unless it has a pitifully short list of numbers to try. At least I’d have the satisfaction of giving a real person some verbal abuse before hanging up on them.

I hit the ‘Answer’ button.

There’s the crumpled sound of wind passing over a microphone. There are hurried footsteps too, as if the caller is running at full pelt. There’s screaming and crying and shouting in the background, and… tearing. Massive, massive tearing. It sounds like someone’s called me from the middle of a mass uprising. Whoever it is, they seem in trouble.

“Hello?” I say. “Who’s that?”

“Don’t…open…!” But the rest is garbled noise.

I nearly drop the phone. The caller is me. Unmistakably me. I’m agitated, stressed, panicked. I shudder as I listen, as if my body heat is leaching through my socks and into the laminate floor.

There’s a scrape of boots against paving stones. My boots. There’s heavy breathing, gasping, fumbling – everything soundtracked by tearing and screaming chaos – and then, at last, my voice again. I’m bellowing into the phone. Distortion. My mouth is too close to the phone, but I can still hear the words.


The tearing sound resumes. It somehow grows louder over the phone. I hear myself screaming at something, my vocal cords tinged with madness, and then… I feel sick. There’s a heavy thump. It sounds as if I’ve been hit by something big, hit hard enough to silence me.

Two soft beeps mark the end of the call.

I sag into the sofa, feeling faint. I look dumbly at the phone like it was the first of its kind and I mine.

What the hell was that all about? Had I just been prank-called? I run through a list of friends for potential candidates, which takes a depressingly short length of time. It doesn’t matter. Whoever was behind the call, how on earth had they gotten my voice? How did they engineer me into those cries and screams and those huge, bizarre tearing sounds? Ignore the app? What was that supposed to mean?

I pace the room. My mind spirals off into increasingly ludicrous explanations. Had someone secretly recorded me? The way I move? The way I breathe? When have I ever said “Ignore the app” like that? Never. So what just happened? Whoever rang, why did they call me? Was someone trying to scare me?

I notice a crack above the sofa, floating in the air, which pulls me from my thoughts.
I lean against the armrest and take a closer look. I thought I was seeing things, but no. Hanging roughly above where I’d been sitting there is a perfectly still hairline crack. I rub my eyes but the crack is still there. I blow at the crack but it does not move. I slowly run my fingers through the middle of it, but the crack remains unbroken.

“What… the… hell?”

The sound of an old car horn makes me jump. I look accusingly at my phone. A text message has arrived from an unknown number. The practiced hand of a serial recipient of junk texts immediately sets into motion its deletion, but then I see two words that turn my blood thick and icy.

New app.

I snap my thumb away as if the screen was alive with electricity. I feel my knees weaken as I read the text message in full.

You have been invited to beta test The Hook, our new app! Ever wished you could call yourself three hours ago? Well now you can! Go to url.me/g6xq14 and download The Hook today!

“Ignore the app,” I mutter to myself.

I sink once more into the sofa, phone in hand, my food now cold and forgotten. I bring up the text message again and let my eyes rest on its teasing blue hyperlink. Nervous energy buzzes through me like the business end of a ten-way accumulator. I hold and re-hold the device, unable to find a comfortable grip.

I surely hadn’t heard a future me just then, had I? A version of me three hours from now? How was that even possible? And through some smartphone app? Seriously? It had to be a set-up, but then how had the hoaxers gotten my voice? Could I be certain it was really me I’d heard?

Then it dawns on me. My attention is drawn to the flat-screen television and the self-satisfied grin of Ray Winstone. It’s an advert for Bet365, which quickly gives way to the opening titles for tonight’s Monday Night Football. Shit, was that why I’d tried to call myself?

My brain is suddenly a storm of activity. Thoughts roar and cascade over one another, plunging into areas of my mind that once made up the old me, the parts I’d spent so long trying to ignore. Oh yes, I can see exactly what’s happened here. It’s seven in the evening. Fast forward three hours and the match will have finished, with the result known along with a hundred and one in-plays.

“Holy shit!”

I glance once more at the text message on my phone. This is no hoax. I’m looking at a gold mine.

Ignore the app!

I cannot. The burning itch of old consumes me again. I return to the home screen of the phone and sweep through pages of betting apps, launching them in turn, digging out my diary of passwords for those I hadn’t used in a while, seeking any bookmaker for whom I may have missed the odd fiver’s credit. There is nothing. My inbox chimes with ‘welcome back’ emails, as if my absence had been through choice.

I scour my memory for any betting sites I haven’t tried, any with a tasty free bet sweetener. But what’s the use? My cards have been cut up, their credit maxed-out, frozen and inaccessible. There is a block on every one of my accounts against every known betting site to stop me spunking away any more money. Payday loan? I’ve had my fair share of them too, but they’re almost impossible for me now that lenders have been forced to background-check everyone.


I take a few deep breaths and force myself to think straight for a moment. Why would I have called myself after a match if I had no means to bet on it? Was I merely proving a point to myself? Even if I was, why on earth had I tried to call halfway through Armageddon?

A cool wave of nausea washes over me as I recall the heavy thump I’d heard. The way it silenced me. I try to block the memory from my mind.

Why had I called? What was the point? Then it clicks. There’s a William Hill just around the corner of McGinty’s pub that doesn’t close till 10pm. I don’t need credit to bet, or a bank account. I just need some folding money.

The only papery things in my wallet are receipts. I leaf through them for my hidden tenner, but I know I’ve already spent it. I’ve enough change in my pockets for a cheap half pint and that’s it. After that I’m officially penniless. So did I put a bet on? If so, how? Tonight’s match is Man City versus Liverpool: first versus second, even this early into the season. With such a low stake I’d win buttons, whatever the result. I must have called myself to simply prove the app worked. It’s not as if I had anything worth selling, save perhaps for a kidney.

Ray, on the other hand…

I look around the lounge and its shelves of books and TV box sets. Maybe I stole something and flogged it down the pub. Ray is still offshore. What the fella doesn’t know won’t hurt him if I replaced whatever I stole using my winnings.

But then really? I’m being reduced to this again? Stealing?

“Ignore the app,” I hear myself saying, then: “Shut up, Gris.”

I blink and an image of Josh flashes before my eyes. Hot shame spreads over me, easing some of the itch. Between us, Chelle and I have next to nothing – certainly not enough to buy everything Josh needs for secondary school – and yet here I am eager to bet again at all costs. Once more I find myself putting my own needs over those of my family and I hate myself anew.

And yet in my hands I hold something that can make everything right again. After years of shitty luck, I’ve finally been handed the break I deserve. But at what cost? My life? It sounded like I’d been hit by a truck in the middle of the Rapture, and all because I hadn’t ignored the app.

Maybe I should sleep on it and get a fresh perspective. I still have a week before Josh starts school again. I don’t need any serious cash until then. I can microwave my tea, watch the match and resist temptation.

My phone rings, a different tone. It’s Harold from the print works, one of my zero-hours.



“Alright, mate. I’ve got a half-mil’ mailing to get out sharpish, and I’m pulling in some troops. I’ve got you anything up to twelve hours if you want them, usual rate, cash in hand. You in?”

I feel the itch subside some more. I glance at the time and figure I can just about survive a twenty-one-hour day. I’d collapse into a heap once I got through the front door again, but at least I’ll have ignored the app and would have a little cash to tide me over.

Some folding money, as it were, and the lack of scrutiny that comes with it.

“Thanks, Harold,” I say. “I’ll be there in an hour.”


It’s seven in the morning when Harold drops me off outside Ray’s flat. My muscles twitch with fatigue and a general lack of food, but my mind is on fire. My phone is out before I’ve kicked off my boots. I hurry into the lounge and lay on the laminate floor, searching for the sports bar’s thready WiFi signal.

Harold had switched the radio over to the match commentary while we worked. Liverpool were stuffing Man City away from home. My mind was boggling over the odds when the sixth goal went in. No wonder I’d tried to call myself. The app – The Hook – I’ve never needed anything so badly.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!”

The connection is no longer there. The bastards in the sports bar have switched off their WiFi overnight. I let my phone clatter onto the floor before I can do anything foolish. The state of the screen is evidence of how destructive my childish outbursts can be.

I take in deep breaths to calm myself. I’m being an idiot again and I know it. I catch a vision of myself, lying on the floor, scowling and frantically jabbing at a phone like some pathetic loser. I force the itch within me to subside. I swallow it down.

So what if I couldn’t download the app right away? What was I going to bet on at seven in the morning? Aussie Rules Football?

“Get a grip, Gris, for Christ’s sake!” I hiss.

The fog surrounding my thoughts thins a little, allowing me to see a way through all of this. I just need to get some shuteye. When I wake again the sports bar will be open and, bingo, I’m back in business.

No, Gris! Ignore it! Ignore the app!

Overwhelmed with exhaustion, I fall asleep on the floor.


I wake with a start and instantly feel my back pull. My phone thrums loudly against the hard floor. The tinny sound of an old telephone echoes around the lounge. I haul myself over to the phone and see my number glowing on the screen again. It’s just gone eleven in the morning.

What the hell do I want at this time of day? No, wait, in three hours’ time? Whatever.

I hit ‘Answer’ and am amazed to hear Josh’s voice.

“Hi, Dad…” he says, and he immediately screams at me. Something awful has just happened. He screams and doesn’t stop. I’m reminded of every one of his nightmares, and how he would shriek in the dark until either Chelle or I looked in on him. It’s a sound I’d hoped never to hear again. I feel my guts twist into a tight knot.

“Josh?” I sit bolt upright, hissing through the pain in my back. “Josh, what’s wrong?”
There’s the sound of tearing again, huge and dominant. My son, still screaming. The phone is in his hand. He’s running hard, soft footfalls on grass. There are faint sounds of others yelling and shouting and crazed dogs barking. I can hear my future self coughing and calling out for him.

“Josh!” I yell into the phone. “Josh, talk to me! What’s happening?”

He can’t hear me. The blasts of wind across the mouthpiece suggest he’s sprinting now.

“Help me, Dad!” I hear him cry. “Please! Help me!”

His screams then fracture into panic and animalistic terror. The tearing all around him is immense.

The phone casing cracks in my hand, I’m crushing it so tight.


“It’s the phone, Dad!” he shrieks. “Don’t…”

The call ends. Two soft beeps.


I pull the phone away and jab at the screen, trying to reconnect the call.


I redial the last caller. Of course it doesn’t work.


I throw the phone into the sofa and scramble across the floor to get as far away from the damned thing as possible.


I sit there for a long time, rigid and tight against the wall, breathing hard, my eyes fixed on the phone. It lies face-down in a nook of cushions, as still as the dead.

That was not a prank. It couldn’t have been. If it was then whoever was behind it had somehow gotten Josh involved and that made me burn inside. What I’d heard was not a put-on. Nobody could ever have acted so scared. No, what I’d heard was a boy – my son – being reduced to nothing but instinct and terror in a matter of seconds. If this was some bastard’s sick idea of a joke, then that must have meant they’d gotten… that they’d somehow gotten Joshua to…

I don’t want to think about it. My stomach spasms.

When I finally draw my attention away from the sofa, I notice a second hairline crack. It’s much longer than the first, starting from a few inches above the floor and running up a couple of feet in a tight curve. It looks like a thin, unbalanced ‘C’ hanging perfectly still in three-dimensional space.

I focus a little above the sofa and catch sight of the first crack. Comparing the two, the second crack seems slightly thicker.

It’s the phone, Dad!

I ignore the cracks in the air and my phone lying on the sofa. I try to focus on one madness at a time.

Why had Josh called me? Obviously it was to say “Hi” but how had that come about? I wasn’t supposed to have him until four at the earliest. I received the call at eleven o’clock in the morning, my time; two o’clock in the afternoon, his. That was, of course, assuming the text message was telling the truth about a three-hour gap. I don’t know what to believe any more.

I focus instead on the facts. I have received two calls from the future: one from myself, which ended badly for me, and one from Josh, which ended badly for him. But I didn’t die following that first call. I managed to resist using the app. So it follows that Josh must do the same.

But how had Josh called me in the first place? He had used my phone, as it was my number that flashed up on the screen. I think back to my state of mind before I’d fallen asleep on the floor. I’d been driven near mad with desire for a WiFi connection I could use so early in the morning. I’d felt the old itch spread across every square inch of me throughout those interminable hours following the match.

In the future I must have downloaded the app as soon as the sports bar had opened. Maybe I had told Josh about it in a bid to make me seem interesting again. Perhaps Josh had badgered me to use it.

And then the tearing and the screaming and the shouting began again.

“Ignore the app,” I mutter to myself.

Then I remember about the Euromillions tonight.


Chelle’s caller ID is displayed on the phone. Above it the time approaches half one in the afternoon. Despite the sunny weather outside, I feel an icy chill collect in my bones. So this is how it happens. I’m about to discover why I get to have Josh a few hours earlier than usual today. I’m probably also about to receive an almighty bollocking from Chelle for not calling her back.

I steady myself and hit ‘Answer’.

“Chelle?” I say as evenly as I can.

“I take it you’ve run out of credit again,” she says. Every word is a railway spike struck deep into the base of my skull.

I am about to tell her about the sixty quid I have in my back pocket – well, forty of it anyway – but she carries on without letting me speak.

“It doesn’t matter. I need you to take Joshua a few hours early.”

“Why? What’s happened?”

“It’s those little shits from the estate. They’re banging on Mum’s door again and chucking stones at her windows. I don’t want Joshua to see me wringing their necks.”

Eleven o’clock my time; two o’clock his.

My skin bunches up into gooseflesh.

“Okay,” I say. “What time should I bring him back?”

“The usual. I still need to head to Lidl.”

“Thank you,” I say, meaning it. “Shall I come round?”

“Hold on, I’ll get him,” she says. “JOSHU-AAAHHH! It’s your Dad! I swear to God, Darren, the sooner they’re back in school the better. Here, he’s on the phone.

“Hi, Dad.”

A bolt of elation courses through me upon hearing his voice again.

“Heya,” I say. “Looking forward to big school?”

“No. Mum says I’ve got to be with you for a few extra hours?”

He doesn’t seem entirely thrilled about the idea, but then who can blame him? I haven’t exactly been Father of the Year.

“Yeah. Nice day for it, though,” I say, trying to sound chipper. “Do you want to do anything in particular?”

“Ally and Yobba are playing footie in the park. I kind of said I’d join them.”

Something clicks in my mind. I see the park. I see people strolling by, enjoying the sun, walking their dogs. Crazed dogs barking. Tearing. I hear my son’s anguished screams.

“Tell you what,” I say. “Why don’t we do something in town, yeah?”

Something far away from the park, from the dogs. Something far away from any free WiFi too, if possible.

Choose something cheap, choose something cheap, choose something cheap…

“Well, the new Marvel movie is still playing at the Odeon,” says Josh. “We could go and see that.”

“You’re the boss.”



If Chelle has murdered any little shits during the last five hours, she’s made a good job of washing the blood off her hands. I count four tenners onto her outstretched palm. At least Josh can go to school without being dressed in rags, or at least for a couple of days per week.

“I rang the bank to see if they could reverse the Direct Debit, but they said no.” The lie forces me to keep my eyes lowered. “I’m getting a few calls for work now, at least. I might get a few more hours’ work tonight.”

Thankfully this is closer to the truth.

She says nothing and so I look her in the eye. Dark rings have formed beneath her eyelids. Faint wrinkles surround her lips. Her face hardens, but I can see her clenching her jaw, trying to maintain the look. I feel a small tugging sensation at the back of my throat and an ache in my chest. After everything we’ve been through, I still love her.

Eventually she speaks: “Are you getting any help?”

“I’m dealing with it, Chelle,” I say. “It’s just taking a while.”

“Where are you now?”

“House-sitting,” I say. After that, probably camping. “I’ll pop round tomorrow if I get any extra money through.”

She nods and folds her arms across her chest, then turns and walks slowly towards her ground floor flat. I notice the darkened crack between Josh’s curtains narrow. When Chelle closes the front door, I start walking.


I slow to a snail’s pace as I near the corner shop. I can’t help it. I see the garish yellow and blue poster in the window.

IT’S OVER £120M!

It’s a quarter past seven. The Euromillions draw takes place in a couple hours’ time. The tills shut in fifteen minutes. I fix the time firmly in my mind. Despite those vile warnings from the future I still find myself craving a phone call.

I’m not so much walking now as loitering, but my phone remains silent. I step inside the shop to waste some more time. I leaf through a poor selection of magazines and a stellar range of puzzle books, but it’s no good. I’m looking more like a shoplifter with each passing minute.

Twenty past seven comes and goes without a call. I smile weakly towards the shopkeeper, then make my excuses and leave.

I should be happy. In avoiding the park, by ignoring the app, I had saved Josh from whatever hell awaited him. I’m still alive too, no longer wiped out by something big and heavy. And, putting the app to one side for a second, I’m starting to earn some money again, even if it is a pittance.

But I’m not happy. My future self hasn’t called, and that gets the conniving, itchy, selfish side of me thinking: “why not?” The future is malleable. It’s mine to change. I’ve proved it. So what’s to stop me from using the app to phone back the winning numbers? My future self is expendable. I just have to resist downloading the app once the call is made. I simply need to sit on my hands back at the flat and watch Lottery HQ make me rich. Whatever hell lay ahead of me needn’t happen as I am always in control of the present.

No sooner does the thought enter my head than my phone starts ringing; the familiar clamouring bells of a rotary telephone. My number glows through the cracked screen. I smile. It seems my future self has gotten the message. I run back towards the corner shop. After a few badly aimed jabs of the finger, I finally manage to hit the ‘Answer’ button.

“…you have to trust me,” I hear myself say. Then the tearing noise begins. Loud hissing soon follows. Screams. Alarms. Then a huge crashing sound and a sickening wet thud. I hear myself cough and choke, eventually managing: “Jesus Christ! No!”

I burst into the shop and scrabble for a slip of paper from the lottery kiosk. I scatter pens everywhere as I try to grab them.

“My God! Oh my God, NO!” I hear myself saying before coughing hoarsely.

“Just read out the numbers, damn it!” I yell into the phone.

There comes the most horrifying, inhuman shriek I have ever heard; a blast of distorted noise that causes me to drop the phone. I manage to get my boot underneath it to cushion the blow. Even with the phone lying on the ground I can still hear its terrifying roar.

But then the noise stops. The screen lights up momentarily with an ‘End of call’ message before going dark again.

“Shit!” I yell. “Shitting, shitting shit!”

I stamp the heel of my boot down hard, only avoiding the phone at the very last minute and jarring my ankle in the process. I swear a lot and at great volume as spikes of agony shoot up my leg.

When I eventually stop raging I am met with a shopkeeper holding a can of pepper spray to my face. Between us in mid-air hangs a jagged black squiggle a couple of millimetres thick. The end of it dips down to the floor where my phone lies.

The digital clock at the back of the shop flicks over to seven thirty-one.


The storm clouds in my head had cleared by the time I’d limped home, allowing me to think rationally again. So what if I didn’t win the lottery tonight? My plan doesn’t need to change, even if some Belgian dentist wins the lot. The jackpot will build again, and it will be mine to claim whenever I wish. I just needed to exercise some patience.

I had let the itch get the better of me again, but this time I don’t feel quite so ashamed. I have something any gambler would give their right arm for: a system I knew worked. If I played my cards right, I could have an infinite line of credit on tap. I could win any game I wanted. In a perverse way, maybe this was exactly the thing I needed to break my addiction. Once the gloss of winning all the time had faded, perhaps I could then move on to something else, like living my life. I could spend more time with Josh. Maybe I could even get back together with Chelle.

Before any of that, however, I clearly needed to get better at calling myself.


My phone sparks into life at around half eight.

“Chelle?” I manage through a mouth full of Chinese food. I wasn’t expecting her.

“Darren? Darren, it’s Joshua,” she says. Her voice is high and wavering. She bursts into tears.

I spit the food into a nearby takeaway tray.

“Chelle? What’s happened? Is Josh alright?”

“He’s been hit,” she says. “A car hit him.”

“Oh my God, Chelle, I’m coming right over.” I leap from the sofa.

“No, we’ll be at the hospital,” she says.

“Okay, I’ll see you there.”

She is suddenly overwhelmed by a mother’s anguish that tears me to pieces for not being there. I’m reaching for my boots when she manages to speak again.

“It’s his head, Darren,” she says. That’s all. She is lost to her grief.

“Don’t worry, Chelle. Everything is going to be alright.”

I pause in the doorway, letting the front door rest against my back. I look over my shoulder and towards the floor of the lounge. I slowly run my thumb along the edge of the phone.

“I promise.”


Chelle explained what happened while we waited in A&E. The little shits from the estate she had chased from her mother’s house in her own unique way had gone and told a few bigger shits who decided to come and do some knocking of their own.

I felt a small flicker of pride when I heard how Josh had followed his mother outside to confront them, but that was quickly snuffed when I heard what happened next. One of the feral bastards had gone for Josh and chased him out into the road.

The driver had slammed on the brakes but couldn’t avoid hitting our son.

For the next however long, Chelle tried to keep Josh conscious until the ambulance came. There was a frightening amount of blood on the road. When Josh’s eyes rolled up and closed, she thought she had lost him.

Either way, dead or alive, it’s bad. I feel like smashing myself in the face. None of this would have happened if I’d kept my stupid vices in check. I’d still have my old job. We’d still have our marriage, our son and our house well away from this hellish side of town, mortgage and all.

The first of the evening’s drunks staggers into A&E. I check the time on my phone. It’s been well over an hour since Josh was admitted. I’m about to enquire at the desk when I hear someone summon us.

The doctor tries to soften the impact of what we are about to see as we ride the elevator to intensive care. She can only spare us a short time with Josh but says it’s important that we see him. She assures us Josh is responding well and that we shouldn’t feel alarmed upon seeing him. A swirling vortex of dread grows within me. No parent should ever have to go through this.

We find our only child lying completely still in a vast, white bed, the top half of his body covered in bandages and tubes and wires. I blanch at the large plastic breather plugging his mouth. Beside him a nurse busies herself checking a hundred and one different monitors. She exchanges an unspoken nod with the doctor.

I feel faint. Chelle covers her mouth and sobs.

“Josh is heavily sedated but conscious,” says the doctor as we rub antibacterial gel into our hands. “It’ll do him a power of good to see you both, but you’ve got to be brave for him. He can’t see you looking upset, okay?”

Chelle nods. I can’t take my eyes off my son. We both rein in our emotions as best we can, but when we enter the room my heart beats harder, pushing more blood into my head, making me feel nauseous and faint once more.

The patches of skin visible beneath the things keeping Josh alive are livid with scrapes and the beginnings of enormous bruises. They seem to cover his left side from shoulder to waist. His upper body, especially his neck, looks swollen but what terrifies me the most are the number of bandages wrapped around his head.

Chelle sits slowly by Josh’s side and gently takes hold of his hand.

“Heya, big guy,” she says. “How are you feeling?”

Josh’s eyes swim in their sockets. They lock onto his mother briefly but he’s fighting a losing battle against whatever sedatives they’ve pumped into him. I feel my throat dry instantly the moment his eyes drift lazily my way and all I can manage is a croak and a weak smile.

He looks lost in there and I feel damned and ashamed. I’ve betrayed the only things left in the world I’ve ever loved and now I look upon what I’ve reduced them to.
I let out a heavy sob. I can’t help it. I ignore the looks from Chelle and the others and reach into my pocket for my phone.

“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t use that in here,” says the nurse.

“Mr Grisley, please, you’ll have to take that elsewhere,” says the doctor. “We have a designated area further down the corridor.”

“Darren!” says Chelle.

“I can make things better again,” I say. The words sound numb and bassy in my head.
The home screen of my phone glows beneath the spider web cracks. The time in the title bar flicks over to ten twenty-seven. I thumb through pages of dead betting apps and find the newest arrival. I dab a finger against the icon for The Hook.

“Sir, please, take that away from here”, says the nurse.

Chelle rises from the chair, hiding her fury from Josh.

I edge nearer the door, my ex-wife closing in on me.

“What the hell do you think you are playing at, Darren?” she hisses. “That’s our son over there. Switch that bloody thing off!”

“I can stop this from happening, Chelle,” I say. My voice is breaking.

The loading screen for The Hook, like its icon, is a stylish but simple design of a quarter-circle with a backwards arrow forming the arc. The loading screen clears to reveal perhaps the simplest app I have ever seen. There are no configurable settings to worry about. There was no need to register, nor did I have to approve any terms and conditions. All there is on the screen is a big red button with the words ‘Hook me up!’ written in the middle.

And so I press it. I hear a muted dial tone and hold the phone to my ear.

“What do you mean you can stop this? How, Darren? How? For God’s sake, it’s already happened!”

“I can put things right, Chelle,” I say. “Please! You have to trust me.”

(c) Paul Collin 2019

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1406

[NOTE: I’ll be away from my laptop next weekend for a couple of weeks. All being well, I’ll be back in the saddle again early-November. Look after the place while I’m gone, will you? – LP]

Another relatively straightforward puzzle this week, though there was a smattering of exotic solutions to keep things a little spicy. It would also appear this week’s setter is the one who has a thing for dead people. (One of the unwritten rules The Times employs in their crosswords is to only allow real people as solutions if they’ve kicked the bucket.) I counted three dead guys lying around, stinking up the place, and another three that were shoehorned into other solutions. The irony wasn’t lost on me, given I’d grumped about precisely this in a comment to last week’s post. Ho and hum.

Anyway, to a spot of housekeeping. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic that’s tripped you up, then you might find my Just For Fun page a handy resource. If you have a passing interest in books, then I’ve a few things on my Reviews page that might interest. Maybe. No promises.

Right then. Here’s my completed grid, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

Till next time,


Across clues

1. About an hour changing motorway (8)

Answer: AUTOBAHN (i.e. a “motorway” in Germany). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “changing”) of ABOUT AN and H (a recognised abbreviation of “hour”).

5. Author on the right put off about vote (6)

Answer: Colin DEXTER, creator of Inspector Morse (i.e. “author” – with apologies to any other deceased authors of his namesake – don’t haunt me). Solution is DETER (i.e. “put off”) placed “about” X (i.e. “vote”), like so: DE(X)TER. Solution also satisfies “on the right”. I’m sinister, which may not surprise anyone.

9. Order to purchase gemstone reportedly for cyborg technology (7)

Answer: BIONICS (i.e. “cyborg technology”). “Reportedly” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of BUY ONYX (i.e. “order to purchase gemstone”).

14. Fiery and extreme English politician in present day (3-8)

Answer: HOT-TEMPERED (i.e. “fiery”). Solution is OTT (i.e. “extreme”, being a recognised abbreviation of “over the top”), E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and MP (i.e. “politician”, specifically a Member of Parliament) placed “in” HERE (i.e. “present”) and finally followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “day”), like so: H(OTT-E-MP)ERE-D.

15. Alas, your pic is spoiled as gannets take food (11)

Answer: RAPACIOUSLY (i.e. “as gannets take food”). “Spoiled” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ALAS YOUR PIC.

16. Europe’s capital resides in wealthy German state (5)

Answer: REICH (i.e. “German state”). Solution is E (i.e. “Europe’s capital”, i.e. the first letter of “European”) placed or “residing in” RICH (i.e. “wealthy”), like so: R(E)ICH.

17. Poisonous mushroom mother’s fed to girl (7)

Answer: AMANITA (i.e. “poisonous mushroom”). Solution is MA (i.e. “mother”) placed in or “fed to” ANITA (i.e. “girl”, as in a girl’s name), like so: A(MA)NITA. I owe this one in part to a frightening number of hours spent gadding about Skyrim. And Skyrim VR.

18. Ireland in round are initially one up on points? (9)

Answer: BALLERINA (i.e. “one up on points”, as in being up on one’s tippy-toes). Solution is ERIN (i.e. “Ireland”, poetically) placed “in” between BALL (i.e. “round” – a bit weak) and A (i.e. “are initially”, i.e. the first letter of “are”), like so: BALL-(ERIN)-A.

19. Rupees southern India discovered in drug island (7)

Answer: CORSICA (i.e. “island”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation of “rupees”), S (ditto “southern”) and I (“India” in the phonetic alphabet) placed or “discovered in” COCA (i.e. “drug”), like so: CO(R-S-I)CA.

20. Perhaps Oscar is number two (6-2-7)

Answer: SECOND-IN-COMMAND (i.e. “number two”). Solution also satisfies “perhaps Oscar”, referring to how O (“Oscar” in the phonetic alphabet) is the second letter of “command”.

22. Not let Anne Dutten out (10)

Answer: UNTENANTED (i.e. “not let”). “Out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ANNE DUTTEN.
[EDIT: Thanks to Mark in the comments for the correction. Solution was UNTENANTED, not UNATTENDED. The grid image was correct, but my brain went wrong when writing up the solutions. Stoopid brain… – LP]

23. Give Spanish noblewoman note (6)

Answer: DONATE (i.e. “give”). Solution is DONA (i.e. “Spanish noblewoman”, the female equivalent of a Don) followed by TE (i.e. “note”, in the doh-ray-me notation).

25. Once more throwing away a win (4)

Answer: GAIN (i.e. “win”). Solution is AGAIN (i.e. “once more”) with the first A removed (indicated by “throwing away a”).

28. Putting longer, I developed a brassy technique (6-8)

Answer: TRIPLE-TONGUING (i.e. “brassy technique”). “Developed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PUTTING LONGER I. Not one to stick into Google. (Right, Mick? 😉 )

30. Ale month shifted alcohol (8)

Answer: METHANOL (i.e. “alcohol”). “Shifted” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ALE MONTH.

32. Soldiers protecting heads of Asian trade mission (8)

Answer: LEGATION (i.e. a diplomatic “mission”). Solution is LEGION (i.e. “soldiers”) wrapped around or “protecting” the “heads” or first letters of “Asian” and “trade”, like so: LEG(A-T)ION.

34. Headless rat in eggs and cheese pastries? Take any remedy (6,2,6)

Answer: CLUTCH AT STRAWS (i.e. “take any remedy”). Solution is AT (i.e. “headless rat”, i.e. the word “rat” with its initial letter removed) placed “in” between CLUTCH (i.e. “eggs”) and STRAWS (i.e. “cheese pastries”), like so: CLUTCH-(AT)-STRAWS.

37. Pint puller needs no help to get froth on liquor (4)

Answer: BARM (i.e. “froth on [fermenting] liquor”). Solution is BARMAID (i.e. “pint puller”) with the AID removed (indicated by “needs no help”). One gotten purely from the wordplay, if I’m honest.

38. Note hint about card game (6)

Answer: ECARTE (i.e. “card game”). Solution is E (i.e. a musical “note”) followed by TRACE (i.e. “hint”) both reversed (indicated by “about”), like so: ECART-E. Another one gotten from the wordplay.

39. 3-D art of changing hands in clock-making (10)

Answer: HOLOGRAPHY (i.e. “3-D art”). Solution is HOROGRAPHY (i.e. “clock-making”) with the R replaced by L (indicated by “changing hands”; R being a recognised abbreviation of “right”, L being “left”).

43. US determination to change inadequate rating (15)

Answer: UNDERESTIMATION (i.e. “inadequate rating”). “To change” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of US DETERMINATION.

45. Vet meeting requirements given time (7)

Answer: INSPECT (i.e. to “vet”). Solution is IN SPEC (i.e. “meeting requirements”, as in being within specification) followed by T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

47. Vandyke perhaps knowing about English illustrator (9)

Answer: Aubrey BEARDSLEY (i.e. “illustrator”). Solution is BEARD (i.e. “Vandyke perhaps”, being a short pointy beard) followed by SLY (i.e. “knowing”) once it has been wrapped around E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: BEARD-SL(E)Y. No, me neither. Another one gotten from the wordplay.

49. Mixture of aluminium in molten rock on the turn (7)

Answer: AMALGAM (i.e. “mixture”). Solution is AL (chemical symbol of “aluminium”) placed “in” MAGMA (i.e. “molten rock”) once it has been reversed (indicated by “on the turn”), like so: AM(AL)GAM.

51. Country concerned with peace after Conservative loss (5)

Answer: REALM (i.e. “country”). Solution is RE (i.e. “concerned with” – think email replies, for example) followed by CALM (i.e. “peace”) with the C removed (indicated by “after Conservative loss” – C being a recognised abbreviation of “Conservative”), like so: RE-ALM.

52. Diplomat needs suit as cover for briefs (7,4)

Answer: ATTACHE CASE (i.e. “cover for briefs”). Solution is ATTACHE (i.e. “diplomat”) followed by CASE (i.e. “suit”). An easier get than it ought to have been, being a recent repeat.

53. Evil American is into careless faker of images (11)

Answer: ILLUSIONIST (i.e. “faker of images”). Solution is ILL (i.e. “evil”) followed by US (i.e. “American”) and an anagram (indicated by “careless”) of IS INTO, like so: ILL-US-IONIST.

54. Sleeping – something not to do around Sandhurst (7)

Answer: DORMANT (i.e. “sleeping”). Solution is DON’T (i.e. “something not to do”) placed “around” RMA (i.e. Royal Military Academy, “Sandhurst” – it’s listed as RMAS in my Chambers, with no separate entry for RMA. Your dictionary may differ.)

55. Dangerous element runs for street in sports venue (6)

Answer: RADIUM (i.e. “dangerous element”). “For” indicates a replacement is afoot. Solution is STADIUM (i.e. “sports venue”) with the ST (a recognised abbreviation of “street”) replaced with R (ditto “runs”, as used in various ball games). Spookily, the last book I’ve read this week is Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing, which is up for a World Fantasy Award next month. The novella is partly about the Radium Girls, who painted radium onto clock faces, tragically unaware of the radiation poisoning until it was much too late. Also, sentient glow-in-the-dark elephants. It’s a good read, incidentally, but takes some getting into. Anyway, moving on…

56. Hardly daunting storing film material (8)

Answer: SCARCELY (i.e. “hardly”). Solution is SCARY (i.e. “daunting”) wrapped around or “storing” CEL (i.e. “film material”), like so: SCAR(CEL)Y.

Down clues

1. Steam haricots with some tongue inside (7)

Answer: AMHARIC, the official language of Ethiopia (i.e. “tongue”). “With some … inside” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: STE(AM HARIC)OTS. One I only got once I had all the intersecting letters filled in, and even then a brute force of my Chambers was needed.

2. All playing on grass put up with half time ice cream (5-6)

Answer: TUTTI-FRUTTI (i.e. “ice cream”). Solution is TUTTI (musical lingo for “all playing”) followed by TURF (i.e. “grass”) reversed (indicated by “put up” – this being a down clue), then TI (i.e. “half time”, i.e. the first half of the word “time”), like so: TUTTI-FRUT-TI.

3. Writer’s from German right, one limited by injunction? (9)

Answer: BRECHTIAN (i.e. “writer’s” – I’m taking this to mean “of Bertolt BRECHT”). Solution is RECHT (i.e. “German right”, i.e. the German for “right”) and I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) placed in or “limited by” BAN (i.e. “injunction”), like so: B(RECHT-I)AN.

4. US comedian’s internal struggle to be eternally optimistic? (4,7,4)

Answer: HOPE AGAINST HOPE. Solution satisfies “US comedian [Bob HOPE]’s internal struggle” and “to be eternally optimistic”). A clue that scans rather well.

6. Ghostly tingling follows tree emitting echo (8)

Answer: ELDRITCH (i.e. “ghostly” – fans of H.P. Lovecraft will be all over this one). Solution is ITCH (i.e. “tingling”) placed after or “following” ELDER (i.e. “tree”) with the second E removed (indicated by “emitting echo” – E is “echo” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: ELDR-ITCH.

7. Orientating car badly in unfamiliar area (5,9)

Answer: TERRA INCOGNITA (i.e. “unfamiliar area”). “Badly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ORIENTATING CAR. Another clue that scans rather well. The solution also begs to be a story title. Really cool.

8. Politician managed to take in English people (10)

Answer: REPUBLICAN (i.e. “politician”). Solution is RAN (i.e. “managed”) wrapped around or “taking in” E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and PUBLIC (i.e. “people”), like so: R(E-PUBLIC)AN. I really ought to start using a recognised abbreviation for “a recognised abbreviation”…

9. Rural bus curtailed – a severe pain (7)

Answer: BUCOLIC (i.e. “rural”). Solution is BUS with the last letter removed (indicated by “curtailed”) and followed by COLIC (i.e. “a severe pain”), like so: BU-COLIC.

10. Old unit containing unknown toxic gas (5)

Answer: OZONE (i.e. “toxic gas”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and ONE (i.e. a “unit”) wrapped around or “containing” Z (i.e. “unknown” – setters love calling the letters X, Y or Z in their solutions “unknowns”), like so: O-(Z)-ONE.

11. Where train stops around one with good reason to get going (11)

Answer: INSTIGATION (i.e. “reason to get going”). Solution is IN STATION (i.e. “where train stops”) placed “around” I (i.e. “[Roman numeral] one”) and G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”), like so: IN-ST(I-G)ATION.

12. Heavens! NHS bed places going up? (8)

Answer: SKYWARDS (i.e. “going up”). Solution is SKY (i.e. “heavens”) followed by WARDS (i.e. “NHS bed places”, as in hospital wards).

13. Killer beheaded Spanish poet (4)

Answer: ORCA, a “killer” whale. Solution is Federico García LORCA (i.e. “Spanish poet”) with the initial letter removed (indicated by “beheaded”). Chalk one to my Bradfords here. My knowledge of Spanish poets is almost as good as my knowledge of non-Spanish poets.

20. Queen’s put up in Italian city (6)

Answer: SIENNA (i.e. “Italian city”). Solution is ANNE IS (i.e. “queen’s”, read as “queen is”), reversed (indicated by “put up” – this being a down clue), like so: SI-ENNA.

21. Picture reason for dropping coffee? (7)

Answer: MUGSHOT. Solution satisfies “picture” and, when read as MUG [IS] SHOT (i.e. “reason for dropping coffee”).

22. Indescribable hunt hold topless meet (6)

Answer: UNTOLD (i.e. “indescribable”). Solution is derived by removing the initial letters (indicated by “topless”) of HUNT HOLD.

24. The food of love, perhaps with chips? (10,5)

Answer: ELECTRONIC MUSIC. Solution riffs on an oft quoted line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “If music be the food of love, play on”. “Chips”, in context of the solution, represent microchips. You get the idea.

26. Treats cloth on side with a napper as quickly as possible (4,5,5)

Answer: FULL STEAM AHEAD (i.e. “as quickly as possible”). Solution is FULLS (i.e. “treats cloth” – an alternative definition of “full” is to scour and beat woollens) followed by TEAM (i.e. “side”) and A HEAD (i.e. “a napper” – a definition supported by my Chambers), like so: FULLS-TEAM-A-HEAD.

27. Flamboyant wood used in old carriage (6)

Answer: FLASHY (i.e. “flamboyant”). Solution is ASH (i.e. “wood”) placed “in” FLY (i.e. “old carriage”), like so: FL(ASH)Y.

29. The French on watch, perhaps for English martyr (7)

Answer: Hugh LATIMER, one of the Oxford “Martyrs” tried for heresy in the sixteenth century and burnt at the stake. Solution is LA (i.e. “the French”, i.e. the feminine form of the word “the” in French) followed by TIMER (i.e. “watch, perhaps”). Another one gotten from the wordplay.

31. Disconcerted wife in large crowd losing key (6)

Answer: THROWN (i.e. “disconcerted”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “wife”) placed “in” THRONG (i.e. “large crowd”) once the G has been removed (indicated by “losing [musical] key”), like so: THRO(W)N.

33. Piano virtuoso, expert at moving pieces (11)

Answer: GRANDMASTER. Solution, when read as GRAND MASTER, satisfies “piano virtuoso”. Solution also satisfies “expert at moving [chess] pieces”.

35. Amentia treated with hemp drug (11)

Answer: AMPHETAMINE (i.e. “drug”). “Treated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AMENTIA and HEMP.

36. Novel sin – just (6,4)

Answer: VANITY FAIR, a “novel” by William Makepeace Thackery. Solution is VANITY (one of the seven deadly “sins”) followed by FAIR (i.e. “just”).

40. Stock film boxers perhaps avoided? (9)

Answer: RESERVOIR (i.e. “stock”). Solution is RESERVOIR DOGS (i.e. a “film” by Quentin Tarantino) with the DOGS removed (indicated by “boxers perhaps avoided”).
[EDIT: Thanks to Sid in the comments for the typo corrections. Much obliged, Sid! – LP]

41. Store directors chasing award (8)

Answer: CUPBOARD (i.e. “store”). Solution is BOARD (i.e. “directors”) placed after or “chasing” CUP (i.e. “award”), like so: CUP-BOARD.

42. Unfortunately, it is a rum dessert (8)

Answer: TIRAMISU (i.e. “dessert”). “Unfortunately” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IT IS A RUM.

44. Note way to remove fumes making acetone? (7)

Answer: SOLVENT (i.e. “acetone”). Solution SOL (i.e. “note”, in the doh-ray-me style) followed by VENT (i.e. “way to remove fumes”).

46. Grass’s book (7)

Answer: TIMOTHY. Solution satisfies “grass” – as in the flora – and “book” – as in one of the books of the New Testament.

48. Russian’s home in Moscow, yes, before tea (5)

Answer: DACHA (i.e. “Russian’s home”). Solution is DA (i.e. “in Moscow, yes” – as in the Russian word for “yes”) followed by CHA (i.e. “tea”). One I knew, weirdly, though I can’t recall from where.

50. Day record set up for top prize (4)

Answer: GOLD (i.e. “top prize”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “day”) followed by LOG (i.e. “record”). The whole is then reversed (indicated by “set up” – this being a down clue), like so: GOL-D.