Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1356

This was a trickier puzzle than recent weeks, I felt. Indeed, there are a few solutions I’m still not entirely sure about. Here is my completed grid nonetheless, along with explanations where I have them.

Across clues

1. So Electra, being displaced, settles elsewhere (9)

Answer: RELOCATES (i.e. “settles elsewhere”). “Being displaced” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SO ELECTRA.

6. Tories inform country to snub new stars (13)

Answer: CONSTELLATION (i.e. “stars”). Solution is CONS (i.e. “Tories”) followed by TELL (i.e. “inform”) then ATION (i.e. “country to snub new”, i.e. the word “nation” with the letter N – a recognised abbreviation of “new” – removed), like so: CONS-TELL-ATION.

13. Net profit finally extracted to void margins (5)

Answer: TULLE, a delicate thin silk network fabric (i.e. “net”). Solution is T (i.e. “profit finally”, i.e. the last letter of the word “profit”) followed by ULLE (i.e. “extracted to void margins”, i.e. the word “pulled” with the first and last letters – the margins – removed), like so: T-ULLE.

14. Bulbous item – suddenly reveal one held between legs (6,5)

Answer: SPRING ONION (i.e. “bulbous item”). Solution starts with SPRING (i.e. “suddenly reveal”). The remainder is derived by placing I (i.e. “one”) “between” ON and ON (i.e. “legs” – in cricket, leg-side is also referred to as on-side). The solution is therefore SPRING-ON-(I)-ON.

15. Take courage from sniper eliminating Guam’s leader (5)

Answer: UNMAN, which is to deprive of fortitude (i.e. “take courage”). Solution is GUNMAN (i.e. “sniper”) with the letter G removed (i.e. “eliminating Guam’s leader”, i.e. the first letter of Guam).

16. Restraint shown by landlord in fraudulent scheme (5,6)

Answer: CHAIN LETTER (i.e. “fraudulent scheme”). Solution is CHAIN (i.e. “restraint”) followed by (i.e. “shown by”) LETTER (i.e. “landlord”, as in one who lets property).

17. Breathtaking idea? (11)

Answer: INSPIRATION. Solution satisfies both “breathtaking” (i.e. to take a breath) and “idea”.

18. Wages vote taken round Scottish town (7)

Answer: PAYROLL (i.e. “wages”). Solution is POLL (i.e. “vote”) wrapped around (i.e. “taken round”) AYR (i.e. “Scottish town”), like so: P(AYR)OLL.

20. Means to cut film after opening (7)

Answer: HATCHET (i.e. “means to cut”). Solution is ET (i.e. “film”, as in ET The Extra-Terrestrial) placed “after” HATCH (i.e. “opening”), like so: HATCH-ET.

21. Likeable chap becomes swing pioneer (7)

Answer: Benny GOODMAN, dubbed “The King of Swing” (i.e. “swing pioneer”). Solution is GOOD MAN (i.e. “likeable chap”).

23. Noteworthy vicomte, perhaps round bend, needs year to deliver hymn (1,3,2,4,2,7)

Answer: I VOW TO THEE MY COUNTRY (i.e. “hymn”). “Perhaps” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NOTEWORTHY VICOMTE wrapped “round” U (i.e. “bend”) and finished with Y (a recognised abbreviation of “year”), like so: IVOWTOTHEEMYCO(U)NTR-Y. I had to refer to the BBC’s Songs of Praise webpage for this, as my knowledge of hymns doesn’t stretch much beyond the ones we had to sing at school, such as All Things Bright And Beautiful and He’s Got The Whole World In His Pants.

27. Little booze from non-drinker getting round in (3)

Answer: TOT (i.e. “little booze”). Solution is TT (a recognised abbreviation for a tee-totaller, i.e. “non-drinker”) wrapped around O (i.e. “getting round in”), like so: T(O)T.

28. Good Scots side sets standard (6)

Answer: GUIDON, which is a kind of pennant (i.e. “standard”). Solution is GUID (i.e. “Good Scots”, i.e. Scottish word for “good”) followed by ON (i.e. “side” – think back a couple of clues to how leg-side in cricket was sometimes referred to as “on”), like so: GUID-ON.

29. One ancient ruler the other king backed (6)

Answer: XERXES, who ruled Persia 486-465BC (i.e. “ancient ruler”). Solution is SEX (i.e. a bit of “the other”) and REX (i.e. “king”) reversed (i.e. “backed”), like so: XER-XES. Yes, I have Frank Miller to thank for that one rather than any deep knowledge of ancient history.

31. How long it takes to cook in can (5,4)

Answer: DOING TIME. Solution satisfies both “how long it takes to cook” (albeit weakly – I’m not 100% about this) and “in can” (i.e. in prison).

34. Blue joke appearing first warrants severe action (9)

Answer: CRACKDOWN (i.e. “severe action”). Solution is DOWN (i.e. “blue”) with CRACK (i.e. “joke”) “appearing first”, like so: CRACK-DOWN.

35. Stand in science class to give answer (6)

Answer: RETORT. Solution satisfies both “stand in science class” (specifically a retort-stand) and “to give answer”).

36. Prescribed treatment unfinished we hear (6)

Answer: COURSE. Solution satisfies both “prescribed treatment” (e.g. a course of antibiotics) and “unfinished we hear” (i.e. a homophone of the word “coarse”, as in something that is unrefined).

39. Church no longer involved with conspicuously virile chairman (3)

Answer: MAO Zedong (i.e. “chairman”). Solution is MACHO (i.e. “conspicuously virile”) with CH removed (i.e. “church no longer involved with”, CH being a recognised abbreviation of “church”).

40. Book, given hype, outsold historic novel (3,3,9,4)

Answer: THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP (i.e. “book”). “Novel” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HYPE OUTSOLD HISTORIC.

42. Outrageous incident follows outside broadcast (7)

Answer: OBSCENE (i.e. “outrageous”). Solution is SCENE (i.e. “incident”) “following” OB (an abbreviation of “outside broadcast”), like so: OB-SCENE.

43. Enlightened state houses five in north country area (7)

Answer: NIRVANA (i.e. “enlightened state”). Solution is V (i.e. the Roman numeral “five”) placed in N (a recognised abbreviation of “north”), IRAN (i.e. “country”) and A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”), like so: N-IR(V)AN-A.

45. Score after six balls exceed allotted time (7)

Answer: OVERRUN (i.e. “exceed allotted time”). More cricketing wordplay sees RUN (i.e. “score”) placed “after” OVER (i.e. “six balls”), like so: OVER-RUN.

47. Fragrant stuff poet brought round, wife slicing potato (6,5)

Answer: TOILET WATER (i.e. “fragrant stuff”). Solution is ELIOT (i.e. “poet”, specifically T.S. Eliot) reversed (i.e. “brought round”) and followed by TATER (i.e. “potato”) with W (a recognised abbreviation for “wife”) placed inside (i.e. “slicing”), like so: TOILE-T(W)ATER. I’m guessing the editor wouldn’t allow “twat” to be used in the wordplay.

49. Sewer, new one made ridiculously large inside (11)

Answer: NEEDLEWOMAN (i.e. “sewer” – yes, this fooled me for longer than I’d care to admit). “Ridiculously” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NEW ONE MADE wrapped around L (i.e. “large inside” – L being a recognised abbreviation of “large”), like so: NEED(L)EWOMAN.

51. Terry for one feels lie-in occasionally needed (5)

Answer: ELLEN Terry, a Shakespearean actress of old. No, me neither. “Occasionally needed” indicates the solution is derived by taking regular letters of “feels lie-in”, like so: FEELS LIE-IN.

52. Hero outside left understanding or seeking profitable partnership (4-7)

Answer: GOLD-DIGGING (i.e. “seeking profitable partnership”). Solution is GOD (i.e. “hero”) wrapped “outside” L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) and then followed by DIGGING (i.e. “understanding”), like so: GO(L)D-DIGGING.

53. City revolutionary the writer cripples? (5)

Answer: MIAMI (i.e. “city”). Solution is I MAIM (i.e. “the writer” – specifically the setter – “cripples”) reversed (i.e. “revolutionary”), like so: MIAM-I.

54. Edict that binds you and me? (13)

Answer: PRONOUNCEMENT. Solution satisfies both “edict” and “that binds you and me” (i.e. “pronounce man and wife”).

55. Worker, way back, engaging volunteers before delivery (9)

Answer: ANTENATAL (i.e. “before delivery”). Solution is ANT (i.e. “worker”, i.e. a worker ant), then ENAL (i.e. “way back”, i.e. the word “lane” spelt backwards) wrapped around (i.e. “engaging”) TA (i.e. “volunteers”, specifically the Territorial Army), like so: ANT-ENA(TA)L.

Down clues

1. Restriction of authority conversing about an investigator (4-7)

Answer: RATE-CAPPING, e.g. when central government limits the council tax charged by local authorities (i.e. “restriction of authority”). Solution is RAPPING (i.e. “conversing”) wrapped “about” A TEC (i.e. “an investigator”, “tec” being an abbreviated form of “detective”), like so: R(A-TEC)APPING.

2. Certainly no song for a wake (7)

Answer: LULLABY. Solution satisfies multiple meanings of “wake”, for example “the state of being awake” and “a vigil beside a corpse”, and how a lullaby would be inappropriate in each case.

3. Quite attentive to personal hygiene (5)

Answer: CLEAN. Solution satisfies both “quite” (as in “rather” or “very”) and “attentive to personal hygiene.

4. Cover with mosaic put up to promote Greek goddess (10)

Answer: TESSELLATE (i.e. “cover with mosaic”). Solution is SET (i.e. “put”) reversed (indicated by “up”) followed by SELL (i.e. “to promote”) and ATE (i.e. “Greek goddess”, specifically Atë, the Greek goddess of mischief), like so: TES-SELL-ATE.

5. Porridge makes good person strain so as to be sick (7)

Answer: STRETCH (i.e. “porridge”, i.e. a stay in prison). Solution is ST (i.e. “good person”) followed by RETCH (i.e. “strain so as to be sick”).

6. Real party animal, one often stirs the muck (8,5)

Answer: CONCRETE MIXER (i.e. “one often stirs the muck”). Solution is CONCRETE (i.e. “real”) and MIXER (i.e. “party animal”).

7. Old age impaired one settled here in Rome (9)

Answer: NEOLITHIC (i.e. “old age”). This one has got me stumped, even after sleeping on it. I can get NEO (i.e. “impaired one”, i.e. an anagram of “one”), but after that I’m buggered.

8. Three card players in silly feminine attire (7)

Answer: TWINSET (i.e. “feminine attire”). Solution is TWIT (i.e. “silly”) wrapped around NSE (i.e. “three card players”, specifically three players in bridge: north, south and east), like so: TWI(NSE)T.

9. Runway, one seen between flights, ahead of take-off? (7,5)

Answer: LANDING STRIP (i.e. “runway”). Solution is LANDING (i.e. “one seen between flights [of stairs]”) followed by STRIP (i.e. to “take off”).

10. Admiring area in appropriate manner, circling a hill (9)

Answer: ADULATORY (i.e. “admiring”). Solution is A (a recognised abbreviation for “area”) and DULY (i.e. “in appropriate manner”) wrapped around (i.e. “circling”) A TOR (i.e. “a hill”), like so: A-DUL(A-TOR)Y. This took me a lot longer to figure out than it ought to have.

11. A storage unit with two round feet? (5)

Answer: IAMBI, the plural form of “iambus”, which is a foot (a division of a line of poetry) comprising two syllables (i.e. “feet”). Don’t feel too bad if you’re still none the wiser. Unless you are a poet who cares about this stuff you can afford to give less of a shit. Solution is A MB (i.e. “a storage unit”, i.e. a megabyte of computer storage) placed in II (i.e. “two” in Roman numerals), like so: I-A-MB-I.

12. Musical comedy number upset one tenant (2,2,7)

Answer: NO NO NANETTE (i.e. “musical comedy”). Solution is NO (short for “number”), followed by an anagram (indicated by “upset”) of ONE TENANT.

19. Forecast unlikely to require insight? (7)

Answer: OUTLOOK (i.e. “forecast”). Solution is a play on how “insight” could be seen as an opposite of “outlook”.

22. Leading lady in protest accepting short audition (9)

Answer: MATRIARCH (i.e. “leading lady”). Solution is MARCH (i.e. “protest”) wrapped around (i.e. “accepting”) TRIA (i.e. “short audition”, i.e. the word “trial” with the final letter removed), like so: MA(TRIA)RCH.

24. As some layers, over six, on Greek island that ships uranium (9)

Answer: OVIPAROUS, which describes an egg-laying animal (i.e. “as some layers”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “over” used in cricket – yes, folks, more cricket!) followed by VI (“six” in Roman numerals) and PAROS (one of around 14 million “Greek islands”) wrapped around (indicated by “that ships”) U (the chemical symbol for “uranium”), like so: O-VI-PARO(U)S. Looking at clumsy wording of the clue, and also considering the words hanging off this solution, it would have been easier for the setter to pick a different word!

25. Relentless non-resident wanting vote (7)

Answer: ETERNAL (i.e. “relentless”). Solution is EXTERNAL (i.e. “non-resident”) with X removed (i.e. “wanting vote”).

26. Open about amount of work experience (7)

Answer: UNDERGO (i.e. “experience”). Solution is UNDO (i.e. “open”, albeit weakly) wrapped around (i.e. “about”) ERG (i.e. “amount of work”), like so: UND(ERG)O.

30. Dissolute Dan, guy with a thirst in time to slake it? (8,5)

Answer: SATURDAY NIGHT (i.e. “time to slake [a thirst]”). “Dissolute” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DAN GUY and A THIRST.

32. My line used in Shakespearean theatre (5,2)

Answer: GLORY BE (i.e. an exclamatory “my!”). Solution is RY (a recognised abbreviation for a railway, i.e. “line”) placed in GLOBE (i.e. “Shakespearean theatre”), like so: GLO(RY)BE.

33. Transport insured with Korean money to carry silver (7,5)

Answer: COVERED WAGON (i.e. “transport” – think of those wagons seen in westerns). Solution is COVERED (i.e. “insured”) followed by WON (i.e. “Korean money”) wrapped around (i.e. “to carry”) AG (the chemical symbol for “silver”), like so: COVERED-W(AG)ON.

34. Old politician, East German, in vulgar and degrading place (7,4)

Answer: COMPOST HEAP (i.e. “degrading place”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) MP (i.e. “politician”) and OST (which is German for “east”) all placed in CHEAP (i.e. “vulgar”), like so: C(O-MP-OST)HEAP.

37. Old plane into spins becoming ever faster (11)

Answer: EXPONENTIAL (i.e. “becoming ever faster”). Solution is EX (i.e. “old”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “spins”) of PLANE INTO.

38. Flame puts one group in dangerous situation (5,5)

Answer: PILOT LIGHT (i.e. “flame”). Solution is I (the Roman numeral “one”) and LOT (i.e. “group”) placed in PLIGHT (i.e. “dangerous situation”), like so: P(I-LOT)LIGHT.

40. Hot tureen needs stir in addition to that (9)

Answer: THEREUNTO (i.e. “in addition to that”). “Needs stir” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HOT TUREEN.

41. Explosive case of vehicle appearing over crest (9)

Answer: CARTRIDGE (i.e. “explosive case”). Solution is CART (i.e. “vehicle”) followed by (i.e. “over”) RIDGE (i.e. “crest”).

43. Female not true after having rebuffed Brown (7)

Answer: NATALIE (i.e. “female” – I’m still not keen on first names being used as solutions, but I guess nothing else fitted the letters given). Solution is TAN (i.e. “brown”) reversed (indicated by “rebuffed”) followed by A LIE (i.e. “not true”), like so: NAT-A-LIE.

44. Minute man flanked by two aces in republic? (7)

Answer: AMERICA (i.e. “republic”). Solution is M (a recognised abbreviation of “minute”) and ERIC (i.e. “man”) placed in the middle of A A (i.e. “two aces”), like so: A(M-ERIC)A.

46. Ruling that Frenchman must come in for good rest (7)

Answer: REMNANT (i.e. “rest”, as in a remainder). This is another one where I cannot work out what the setter is doing, which could indicate I’ve not got this one right. I believe the wordplay suggests we take REGENT (i.e. “ruling”), replace G (i.e. “good”) with… er… yeah. Buggered.

48. Current despondency interminable in White House (5)

Answer: IGLOO (i.e. “white house”). Solution is I (which represents electrical “current”) followed by GLOO (i.e. “despondency interminable”, i.e. the word “gloom” with the last letter removed), like so: I-GLOO.

50. Ladies obtained in marriage with embrace for me (5)

Answer: WOMEN (i.e. “ladies”). Solution is WON (i.e. “obtained in marriage”) “embracing” ME, like so: WO(ME)N.

So that’s it for another week. This was not a classic, for my money, as there was a little too much reliance on cricket and – I suspect – using foreign words to get the job done. Still, each to their own.

And now a message from The Department of Getting One’s Excuses In Early: I won’t be as quick with the next couple of grids – if I get around to them at all – as I’ll be spending most of the Christmas period getting fabulously pissed. I’m sure you can cope.



Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1355

The Times, like any daily, has a team of setters for their crossword puzzles. There are usually between a dozen and sixteen setters responsible for the sixtyish jumbo puzzles published during the year (if the compendia I keep buying are any judge). Not only does this help maintain the relative sanity of their setters, but it also helps keep the puzzles fresh and to keep solvers on their toes. If the same person was to set a puzzle every week, it wouldn’t take long for solvers to pick up on all their tells.

The downside of having a team of setters, however, is that you run the risk of seeing the same solution appearing in close-successive puzzles, which is what has happened this week. The clue even uses the same wordplay to derive the solution, which is a bit of an editor-fail. Still, it’s always nice to be given a head-start!

Anyway, enough yakking. Here’s my completed grid for this week’s puzzle along with explanations of my solutions. Enjoy!

Across clues

1. Limit firm replacing golf in area (11)

Answer: RESTRICTION (i.e. “limit”). Solution is derived by replacing the letter G (i.e. “golf”, which is G in the phonetic alphabet) in the word REGION (i.e. “area”) with STRICT (i.e. “firm”), like so: RE(STRICT)ION.

7. Thwart European concealing British weakness (6)

Answer: FOIBLE (i.e. “weakness”). Solution is B (a recognised abbreviation of “British” used, say, in honours such as OBE, MBE etc) inserted (inferred by “concealing”) into FOIL (i.e. “thwart”) and E (a recognised abbreviation of “European”, e.g. the EU), like so: FOI(B)L-E.

10. Foxtrot follows this contribution by fine choreographer (4)

Answer: ECHO. In the phonetic alphabet, “Foxtrot” (F) follows “Echo” (E). “Contribution by” also indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: FIN(E CHO)REOGRAPHER.

14. One in black, Parisian mother briefly hugs old vessel (7)

Answer: MOURNER (i.e. “one in black”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and URN (i.e. “vessel”) both inserted into (inferred by “hugs”) MER (i.e. “French mother briefly” – the French for mother is “mère” – “briefly” tells us to remove the final letter), like so: M(O-URN)ER.

15. Protest with a thug defending work closure (7)

Answer: WALKOUT (i.e. “protest”). Solution is W (a recognised abbreviation of “with”), then A, then LOUT (i.e. “thug”) wrapped around (inferred by “defending”) K (i.e. “work closure”, i.e. the last letter of the word “work”), like so: W-A-L(K)OUT.

16. Agitate to acquire right support in Derby? (7)

Answer: STIRRUP (i.e. “support in Debry”, a support for a horse-rider’s foot). Solution is STIR UP (i.e. “agitate”) wrapped around (inferred by “to acquire”) R (a recognised abbreviation for “right”), like so: STIR(R)UP. Sound familiar?

17. Men on board rave about Elizabeth’s old cavaliers (7-6)

Answer: KNIGHTS-ERRANT, who were knights who travelled in search of adventure(i.e. “old cavaliers”). Solution is KNIGHTS (i.e. “men on board”, i.e. knight chess pieces) and RANT (i.e. “rave”) wrapped around (i.e. “about”) ER (i.e. “Elizabeth”, specifically Elizabeth Regina). Echoes of last week’s puzzle can be heard here too.

18. Exact use oil rig might be put to? (9)

Answer: RELIGIOUS, (i.e. “exact”). “Might be put to” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of USE OIL RIG.

19. Cardigan’s gesture of indifference (5)

Answer: SHRUG. Solution satisfies both “cardigan” (a shrug is a woollen garment) and “gesture of indifference”.

21. A boy opens chart with another boy, poorly suited (10)

Answer: MALADAPTED (i.e. “poorly suited”). Solution is A LAD (i.e. “a boy”) placed in (inferred by “opens”) MAP (i.e. “chart”) and then followed by TED (i.e. “another boy”), like so: M(A-LAD)AP-TED.

23. Like some dynasties at home with money, so I’ve heard (6)

Answer: INBRED (i.e. “like some dynasties”). Solution is IN (i.e. “at home”) followed by BRED (i.e. “money, so I’ve heard”, i.e. a homophone of the word “bread”), like so: IN-BRED.

25. Phone about island rally (8)

Answer: MOBILISE (i.e. “rally”). Solution is MOBILE (i.e. “phone”) wrapped around (inferred by “about”) IS (a recognised abbreviation of “island”), like so: MOBIL(IS)E.

26. Opposite case that’s set out for customer in shop? (14)

Answer: COUNTEREXAMPLE. Solution satisfies both “opposite case” and “set out for customer in shop” i.e. an example of something set out on a shop counter.

29. Gold dish at front part of range? (7)

Answer: PLATEAU (i.e. “part of (mountain) range”). Solution is PLATE (i.e. “dish”) placed at the front of AU (i.e. the chemical symbol for “gold”), like so: PLATE-AU.

30. Grass covers daughter with worker in flagrante (3-6)

Answer: RED-HANDED (i.e. “in flagrante”). Solution is REED (i.e. “grass”) wrapped around (i.e. “covers”) D (a recognised abbreviation for “daughter”) and HAND (i.e. “worker”), like so: RE(D-HAND)ED.

31. Romeo pursuing county’s first citizen (5)

Answer: MAYOR (i.e. “first citizen”). Solution is R (i.e. “Romeo”, which is R in the phonetic alphabet) preceded by (i.e. “pursuing”) MAYO (i.e. “county”), like so: MAYO-R.

32. Top Mediterranean island showing hostility (5)

Answer: ICILY (i.e. ” showing hostility”). Solution is SICILY, a Mediterranean island, with the initial letter removed (i.e. to “top”).

34. Study involving apartment ten’s collapse (9)

Answer: DEFLATION (i.e. “collapse”). Solution is DEN (i.e. “study”) wrapped around (i.e. “involving”) FLAT IO (i.e. “apartment ten”), like so: DE(FLAT-IO)N.

37. Withdrawn do-it-yourself recipe for tongue (7)

Answer: YIDDISH (i.e. “tongue”). Solution is DIY reversed (i.e. “withdrawn do-it-yourself”) followed by DISH (i.e. “recipe”).

39. They convey good wishes regarding sects abroad (9,5)

Answer: GREETINGS CARDS (i.e. “they convey good wishes”). “Abroad” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of REGARDING SECTS.

41. Sick young conservatives having to stop passing round pot in camp (8)

Answer: BILLYCAN (i.e. “pot in camp”). Solution is ILL (i.e. “sick”), Y (a recognised abbreviation of “young”) and C (ditto the Conservative Party) placed in (inferred by “having…passing round”) BAN (i.e. “to stop”), like so: B(ILL-Y-C)AN.

43. Carried round keys in the past (6)

Answer: BEFORE (i.e. “in the past”). Solution is BORE (i.e. “carried”) wrapped around E and F (i.e. musical “keys”), like so: B-E-F-ORE.

44. Morph image grotesquely using this old copier? (10)

Answer: MIMEOGRAPH (i.e. “old copier”). “Grotesquely” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MORPH IMAGE.

45. Invalidate yearbook’s missing article (5)

Answer: ANNUL (i.e. “invalidate”). Solution is ANNUAL (i.e. “yearbook”) with the second A removed (i.e. “missing article”).

48. Running this French cooker at home as before (4,5)

Answer: ONCE AGAIN (i.e. “as before”). Solution is ON (i.e. “running”) followed by CE (i.e. “this French” – the French for “this” is “ce”), then AGA (i.e. “cooker”) and IN (i.e. “at home”), like so: ON-CE-AGA-IN.

49. Girl and boy defend sceptical doctor (13)

Answer: DIAGNOSTICIAN (i.e. “doctor”). Solution is DI and IAN (i.e. “girl and boy”) wrapped around (i.e. “defending”) AGNOSTIC (i.e. “sceptical”), like so: DI-AGNOSTIC-IAN.

51. Shock sets back belfry every so often (7)

Answer: STUPEFY (i.e. “shock”). Solution is PUTS (i.e. “sets”) reversed (indicated by “back”) and then followed by EFY (i.e. “belfry every so often”, which is to say regular letters in the word “belfry”, i.e. BELFRY), like so: STUP-EFY.

52. Change in Honduras reduced power in US city (7)

Answer: LEMPIRA, which is the currency of Honduras (i.e. “change in Honduras”). Solution is EMPIR (i.e. “reduced power”, which is to say the word “empire” with the final letter removed) placed in LA (i.e. “US city”), like so: L-EMPIR-A. Wikipedia tends to be my go-to place for far-flung currencies beyond my ken.

53. A bad habit masking a Republican’s cupidity (7)

Answer: AVARICE (i.e. “cupidity”, which is another word for covetousness – something I’ve learned today). Solution is A VICE (i.e. “a bad habit”) wrapped around (inferred by “masking”) A R (i.e. “a Republican” – R being a recognised abbreviation for the Republican Party), like so: A-V(A-R)ICE.

54. Spot undercover agent (4)

Answer: MOLE. Solution satisfies both “spot” and “undercover agent”.

55. Steer right round close to white plants (6)

Answer: OXEYES, which are wild chrysanthemums (i.e. “plants”). I had to look this one up given I mainly grow chillies and weeds. Not sure on the solution to this one, but I’ve a feeling it’s OX (i.e. “steer”) and YES (i.e. “right” – yeah, a bit weak) wrapped around E (i.e. “close to white”, i.e. the last letter of “white”), like so: OX-E-YES.

56. New acting chairman, heading off visitor (11)

Answer: NONRESIDENT (i.e. “visitor”). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”), followed by ON (i.e. “acting”) and RESIDENT (i.e. “chairman, heading off”, i.e. “president” with the initial letter removed), like so: N-ON-RESIDENT.

Down clues

1. Weeds, maybe, surround larger space for new versions (7)

Answer: REMAKES (i.e. “new versions”). Solution is RAKES (i.e. “weeds”) wrapped around EM (i.e. “larger space” – this seems to be a printing term denoting a space that is the width of a lower-case “m”. Not quite sure if that’s sufficient to qualify for a “larger space”, though), like so: R(EM)AKES.

2. Country’s small car with a first rate lock in reverse (5,6)

Answer: SAUDI ARABIA (i.e. “country”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”) followed by AUDI (i.e. “car”), then A, then AI and BAR (i.e. “first rate” and “lock”) “in reverse”, like so: S-AUDI-A-RAB-IA.

3. Farm managed cash margins (5)

Answer: RANCH (i.e. “farm”). Solution is RAN (i.e. “managed”) followed by CH (i.e. “cash margins”, i.e. the first and last letters of the word “cash”), like so: RAN-CH.

4. Duff description of corpulent Santa? (9,7)

Answer: CHRISTMAS PUDDING. Solution satisfies both “duff” (a kind of pudding) and “description of corpulent Santa”.

5. Secretly, for no special reason, suppressing new conflict (8)

Answer: INWARDLY (i.e. “secretly”). Solution is IDLY (i.e. “for no special reason”, e.g. idle curiosity) wrapped around (i.e. “suppressing”) N (a recognised abbreviation for “new”) and WAR (i.e. “conflict”), like so: I(N-WAR)DLY.

6. Invalid sister keeps everyone up, free with 500 very old papers (4,3,4)

Answer: NULL AND VOID (i.e. “invalid”). Solution is NUN (i.e. “sister”) wrapped around ALL reversed (i.e. “everyone up”), then the whole lot followed by D (Roman numeral for 500), V (a recognised abbreviation of “very”), O (ditto “old”) and finally ID (i.e. “papers”), like so: NU(LLA)N-D-V-O-ID.

7. Bob’s put forward (5)

Answer: FLOAT. Solution satisfies both “bob” (i.e. a fishing float) and “put forward” (e.g. to float an idea).

8. Mutually reliant nine pretended to work on time (14)

Answer: INTERDEPENDENT (i.e. “mutually reliant”). “To work” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NINE PRETENDED followed by T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

9. Stand on banks of Liffey to finish (6)

Answer: LASTLY (i.e. “to finish”). Solution is LAST (i.e. “stand”) followed by LY (i.e. “banks of Liffey”, i.e. the first and last letters of “Liffey”), like so: LATE-LY.

11. RAC put up a trophy designed to hold gallons for 25 down (11)

Answer: CARTOGRAPHY (the solution to 25 down is MAPPING). Solution is CAR (i.e. “RAC put up”, i.e. reverse the letters RAC) followed by an anagram (indicated by “designed”) of A TROPHY wrapped around (i.e. “to hold”) G (a recognised abbreviation of “gallons”), like so: CAR-TO(G)RAPHY.

12. Sat after work and disputed (7)

Answer: OPPOSED (i.e. “disputed”). Solution is OP (i.e. “work”, short for “operation”) placed before POSED (i.e. “sat”), like so: OP-POSED.

13. Sort of creeper that gets stuck in pipe (8)

Answer: VIRGINIA. Solution satisfies both “sort of creeper” (i.e. Virginia creeper) and “gets stuck in pipe” (i.e. Virginia tobacco).

20. Museum’s good way to conserve rarities initially (7)

Answer: GALLERY (i.e. “museum”). Solution is G (a recognised abbreviation of “good”) and ALLEY (i.e. “way”) wrapped around (indicated by “to conserve”) R (i.e. “rarities initially”, i.e. the first letter of the word “rarities”), like so: G-ALLE(R)Y.

22. Asian animal genes turn up in Pennsylvania (5)

Answer: PANDA (i.e. “Asian animal”). Solution is AND (i.e. “genes turn up”, i.e. the letters DNA reversed) placed in PA (the code for the US state Pennsylvania), like so: P(AND)A.

24. Potential killer surprisingly delighted with a shandy (6,10)

Answer: DEADLY NIGHTSHADE (i.e. “potential killer”). “Surprisingly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DELIGHTED and A SHANDY.

25. Plotting software in China (7)

Answer: MAPPING (i.e. “plotting”). Solution is APP (i.e. “software”) placed in MING (i.e. “China”), like so: M(APP)ING.

27. Deserve to retain article made of clay (7)

Answer: EARTHEN (i.e. “made of clay”). Solution is EARN (i.e. “deserve”) wrapped around (i.e. “to retain”) THE (i.e. “article”), like so: EAR(THE)N.

28. Academic colleague’s caught sitting topless for money (14)

Answer: PROFESSIONALLY (i.e. “for money”). Solution is PROF (i.e. “academic”) and ALLY (i.e. “colleague”) wrapped around (i.e. “caught”) ESSION (i.e. “sitting topless”, i.e. the word “session” with its initial letter removed), like so: PROF-(ESSION)-ALLY.

31. Intend shortly to hide drab innards of plant  (7)

Answer: MEDULLA, which is the inner portion of an organ, hair or tissue (i.e. “innards of plant”). Solution is MEA (i.e. “intend shortly”, i.e. the word “mean” with the last letter removed) wrapped around (i.e. “to hide”) DULL (i.e. “drab”), like so: ME(DULL)A.

33. Actually, posh leader hides answer, producing poor results (11)

Answer: INEFFECTUAL (i.e. “producing poor results”). Solution is IN EFFECT (i.e. “actually”) followed by U (i.e. “posh” – the letter “U” can be used to denote the upper-class) and L (i.e. “leader” – my Chambers doesn’t offer L as an abbreviation of “leader”, but I’m guessing this is what was meant) wrapped around (i.e. “hides”) A (a recognised abbreviation of “answer”), like so: IN-EFFECT-U(A)L.

35. Acre yielded sisal for one (5)

Answer: AGAVE, an aloe-like plant found in the desert (i.e. “sisal for one” – sisal is a type of agave). I have Fallout: New Vegas to thank for that one. See, video games aren’t all bad. Anyway, the solution is A (a recognised abbreviation of “acre”) followed by GAVE (i.e. “yielded”).

36. Anger as modern state conceals excavation (11)

Answer: INDIGNATION (i.e. “anger”). Solution is IN (i.e. “modern”) and NATION (i.e. “state”) wrapped around (i.e. “conceals”) DIG (i.e. “excavation”), like so: IN-(DIG)-NATION.

38. Motivate trendy one in TV scene I shot (11)

Answer: INCENTIVISE (i.e. “motivate”). Solution is IN (i.e. “trendy”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “shot”) of TV SCENE I, which is wrapped around I (indicated by “one in”), like so: IN-CENT(I)VISE.

40. Endanger trio sheltering at noon (8)

Answer: THREATEN (i.e. “endanger”). Solution is THREE (i.e. “trio”) wrapped around (indicated by “sheltering”) AT, and then followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “noon”), like so: THRE(AT)E-N.

42. Preserve article in deep container (8)

Answer: MAINTAIN (i.e. “preserve”). I’m not 100% sure about this one, but I reckon the solution is AIN’T (if this counts as an “article”) placed in MAIN (i.e. “deep”, both words can be taken to mean “the sea”), like so: M(AINT)AIN.

43. Thrive with or without a couple of sons (7)

Answer: BLOSSOM (i.e. “thrive”). Solution is BLOOM (i.e. another word for “thrive”) wrapped around SS (i.e. “a couple of sons” – “s” being a recognised abbreviation of “son”), like so: BLO(SS)OM.

46. Easygoing fast time touring eastern part of UK (7)

Answer: LENIENT (i.e. “easygoing”). Solution is LENT (i.e. “fast time”) wrapped around E (i.e. “eastern”) and NI (i.e. “part of UK”, specifically Northern Ireland), like so: L(E-NI)ENT.

47. A rook getting stuck in cat’s throat part (6)

Answer: LARYNX (i.e. “throat part”). Solution is A R (i.e. “a rook”, “r” being a recognised abbreviation of “rook” used in chess) placed in (i.e. “getting stuck in”) LYNX (i.e. “cat”), like so: L(A-R)YNX.

49. Male broaching party’s depressed state (5)

Answer: DUMPS (i.e. “depressed state”). Solution is M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”) placed in (i.e. “broaching”) DUPS (i.e. “party’s”, specifically the Democratic Unionist Party), like so: DU(M)PS.

50. Current TV quiz includes artist, one from Middle East (5)

Answer: IRAQI (i.e. “one from Middle East”). Solution is I (a symbol used to denote electrical “current”) and QI (i.e. “TV quiz”) wrapped around (i.e. “includes”) RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician), like so: I-(RA)-QI.

Right. Time to do something else. TTFN!


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1354

Another Saturday sees another Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword! This was one of those annoying puzzles where it took me nearly as long to settle on the final two solutions as it did to solve the other fifty-eight! Assuming I’ve got them right, here’s my completed grid, along with explanations for my solutions.


Across clues

1. Physician became dictator’s prisoner (5)

Answer: MEDIC (i.e. “physician”). “Prisoner” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: BECA(ME DIC)TATOR.

4. Do too little work and prepare to play, given the chance (10)

Answer: UNDERSTUDY. Solution satisfies both “do too little work” and “prepare to play, given the chance” (i.e. how rookie players learn from established teammates).

9. Ran through party on purpose (4,2)

Answer: USED UP (i.e. “ran through”). Solution is USE (i.e. “purpose”) followed by DUP (i.e. “party”, specifically the Democratic Unionist Party).

14. As fruit cut by length four times (9)

Answer: QUADRUPLE (i.e. “four times”). Solution is QUA (i.e. “as” – qua means “in the capacity of” and, yes, I did get my Chambers out for that one) followed by DRUPE (i.e. “fruit” – a drupe is “any fleshy fruit with a stone”, and, yes, I did get my Chambers out for that one too) wrapped around (i.e. “cut by”) L (a recognised abbreviation for “length”), like so: QUA-DRUP(L)E.

15. Is financing it in a new way not worth considering? (13)

Answer: INSIGNIFICANT (i.e. “not worth considering”). “In a new way” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IS FINANCING IT.

16. Confused report of more profound times (2,1,4)

Answer: IN A DAZE (i.e. “confused”). This is one of the two clues I really struggled with, and even now I’m not 100% sure I’ve cracked it. I’m guessing we’re dealing with homophones (indicated by “report”) of “inner” (i.e. “more profound”) and “days” (i.e. “times”).

17. Holes in long-haul craft (9)

Answer: SPACESHIP (i.e. “long-haul craft”). Solution is SPACES (i.e. “holes”) followed by “HIP” (i.e. “in”, i.e. popular).

18. Chief heading off westward quaffing island’s wine (5)

Answer: RIOJA (i.e. “wine”). Solution is ROJA (i.e. “chief heading off westward”, which is to say MAJOR (i.e. “chief”) with its initial letter removed (i.e. “heading off”) and the letters reversed (i.e. “westward”)) wrapped around I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”), like so: R(I)OJA. A lot of work for such a short solution!

19. Couturier’s accessories causing a sensation (4,3,7)

Answer: PINS AND NEEDLES. Solution satisfies both “couturier’s accessories” and “a sensation”.

22. Detecting online espionage? (7)

Answer: ESPYING (i.e. “detecting”). Solution is a play on how words are often prefixed with an “e” to identify them with the internet, in this case E-SPYING for “online espionage”.

25. Trouble after an invention puts off Tesla’s foremost supporter (10)

Answer: AFICIONADO (i.e. “supporter”). Solution is ADO (i.e. “trouble”) preceded by (i.e. “after”) A FICION (i.e. “an invention” – A FICTION – “puts off Tesla’s foremost” – remove T), like so: A-FICION-ADO.

27. Normal rugged sort – old actor (6,6)

Answer: MARLON BRANDO (i.e. “actor”). “Rugged” indicates anagram. The first part of the solution is an anagram of NORMAL. The remainder is BRAND (i.e. “sort”) followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”). Crossword nerd fact: The Times only allows real people to be solutions to their crossword clues if they are dead.

30. Find fault with batsman’s innings (5)

Answer: KNOCK. Solution satisfies both “find fault with” and “batsman’s innings” (cricket).

31. Collaborator getting slower taken in by shrink (2-6)

Answer: CO-WRITER (i.e. “collaborator”). Solution is RIT (i.e. “getting slower” – rit is an abbreviation of “ritardando”, a musical term meaning “with diminishing speed” – another word I had to look up!) slotted into (i.e. “taken in by”) COWER (i.e. “shrink”), like so: CO-W(RIT)ER.

32. Sound measure by which to rank European city (8)

Answer: BELGRADE (i.e. “European city”). Solution is BEL (i.e. “sound measure” – ten decibels make a bel, a fact I’m not sure I’ll retain after this week is out) followed by GRADE (i.e. “to rank”).

35. No clergy, only Mae West in disguise (8)

Answer: LAYWOMEN (i.e. “no clergy” – “lay” relates to people who are not members of the clergy). “In disguise” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ONLY MAE and W (a recognised abbreviation of “west”). Sneaky. I like it.

36. German governor critical after contrary strike (8)

Answer: MARGRAVE (i.e. “German governor”). Solution is GRAVE (i.e. “critical”) preceded by (indicated by “after”) MAR (i.e. “contrary strike”, i.e. the word RAM reversed), like so: MAR-GRAVE. This was my antepenultimate solution for quite a while, mainly because I couldn’t look past “LANGUAGE” given that “German” was in the clue and I had the letters: _A_G_A_E. In the end I had to use a solver to find other words fitting the letters. I regret nothing!

37. Attractive female player’s first to go in eliminator (5)

Answer: CUTIE (i.e. “attractive female” – I’ll let the internet field that one). Solution is CUP TIE (i.e. “eliminator”) with P removed (i.e. “player’s first” – P – “to go”).

39. Thought’s being restricted again, as it were (12)

Answer: DELIBERATION. Solution satisfies both “thought” and “being restricted again, as it were”. Regarding the latter, if one was freed from restraint only to be restrained once more, this would be a DE-LIBERATION.

41. Potential catch by fishing port barely mentioned (6,4)

Answer: SKATED OVER (i.e. “barely mentioned”). Solution is SKATE (i.e. “potential catch”, which is basically indicating a fish) followed by DOVER (i.e. “fishing port”).

43. Search suspect, male, ahead of time (7)

Answer: RUMMAGE (i.e. “search”). Solution is RUM (i.e. “suspect”) followed by M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”) and AGE (i.e. “time”).

45. Philosopher Latinises text I mistranslated (14)

Answer: EXISTENTIALIST (i.e. “philosopher”). “Mistranslated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LATINISES TEXT I. I spent more time than I’d care to admit thinking this was going to be the name of one of approximately 100,000 philosophers. I’m too cynical for my own good sometimes.

48. It often goes with “cheers”, and audible countercheers (5)

Answer: BOOZE. Solution satisfies both “it often goes with ‘cheers'” and “audible countercheers”. In the latter, “audible” indicates a homophone, with BOOZE sounding like “boos”.

49. Teach music abroad, ditching posh teaching method (9)

Answer: CATECHISM, which is to instruct, especially in the Christian faith, by question an answer (i.e. “teaching method”). “Abroad” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TEACH MUSIC with U removed (i.e. “ditching posh” – U can be used to denote the upper class).

51. Scoffer joins press, producing crude output (3,4)

Answer: PIG IRON, a mass of unforged metal as first extracted from the ore (i.e. “crude output”). Solution is PIG (i.e. “scoffer”) followed by (i.e. “joins”) IRON (i.e. “press”).

53. Not being alone at work is essential (3-10)

Answer: NON-NEGOTIABLE (i.e. “essential”). “At work” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of NOT BEING ALONE.

54. Coming to littl’un exhausted granny to start with (9)

Answer: TOTALLING (i.e. “coming to”). Solution is TOT (i.e. “littl’un”) followed by ALL IN (i.e. “exhausted”) and G (i.e. “granny to begin with”, i.e. the first letter of “granny”).

55. Cover for Oriental bowl of some antiquity (6)

Answer: OLDISH (i.e. “of some antiquity”). Solution is OL (i.e. “cover for Oriental”, i.e. the first and last letters of the word “Oriental”) followed by DISH (i.e. “bowl”).

56. Top working girl in bodyguard benefits initially (4,6)

Answer: HEAD STARTS (i.e. “benefits initially”). Solution is HEAD (i.e. “top”) followed by TART (i.e. “working girl”) placed in SS (i.e. “bodyguards” – SS was short for Schutzstaffel, which translated to “protection department”), like so: HEAD-S(TART)S.

57. Son in confinement lashed out (5)

Answer: SPENT (i.e. “lashed out”, to spend extravagantly). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) followed by PENT (i.e. “in confinement”).

Down clues

1. Resistance from foreign noble deprived of his own? (6)

Answer: MAQUIS, French guerrilla resistance forces operating during the Second World War. Solution is MARQUIS (i.e. “noble”) with R removed (i.e. “deprived of his own” – R is a recognised abbreviation of several titles within the nobility, such as Rex (king) or Regina (queen)).

2. Wilde resorted to this club after eventful year (8,5)

Answer: DRAMATIC IRONY, a situation in a play in which the irony is evident to the audience but not the characters, (i.e. “(Oscar) Wilde resorted to this”). Solution is IRON (i.e. “club”, as in golf) preceded by (i.e. “after”) DRAMATIC (i.e. “eventful”) and proceeded by Y (a recognised abbreviation of “year”), like so: DRAMATIC IRON-Y.

3. Fine provincial force once set up court abroad (5)

Answer: CURIA, which is the court of the papal see (i.e. “court abroad”). No, me neither. Solution is AI (i.e. “fine” – a play on the 1 of “A1” looking like an I) followed by RUC (i.e. “provincial force once”, specifically the former Royal Ulster Constabulary), and the whole lot then reversed (indicated by “set up”), like so: CUR-IA. This was the other clue that took me for-faffing-ever to solve, chiefly because all I had to go on was C_R__, the last letter being snared up in 16a’s I_/A/___E, which I was also struggling with. This almost reduced the C section of my Chambers to tatters!

4. Politician needs support of course within global alliance – plenty given (7)

Answer: UMPTEEN (i.e. “plenty”). Solution is MP (i.e. “politician”) followed by TEE (i.e. “support” for a golf ball) and the whole wrapped “within” UN (i.e. “global alliance”, specifically the United Nations), like so: U(MP-TEE)N.

5. Drink, getting into gear before lecture? (8,4)

Answer: DRESSING DOWN (i.e. “lecture”). Solution is DOWN (i.e. “drink”) with DRESSING (i.e. “getting into gear”) placed “before” it.

6. One sorcerer with scarlet cloak portrayed again (8)

Answer: REIMAGED (i.e. “portrayed again”). Solution is I MAGE (i.e. “one sorcerer”, with 1 made to look like an “I”) placed in (i.e. cloaked in) RED (i.e. “scarlet”), like so: RE(I-MAGE)D.

7. Pinch mistress’s bottom in gallery (5)

Answer: TASTE (i.e. a “pinch”). Solution is S (i.e. “mistress’s bottom”, i.e. the last letter of the word “mistress”) placed in TATE (i.e. “gallery”) like so: TA(S)TE.

8. A top-of-range gadget for boxer’s trainer, perhaps (3-7)

Answer: DOG-WHISTLE, which is a high-frequency whistle inaudible to the human ear and is used in dog-training.

10. Run in to rouse support for equestrian (7)

Answer: STIRRUP, a support for a horse-rider’s foot (i.e. “support for equestrian”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation for “run” used in a number of sports) placed in STIR UP (i.e. “to rouse support”), like so: STIR(R)UP.

11. Oppressive form of greeting rebounded on Scot? (9)

Answer: DRACONIAN (i.e. “oppressive”). Solution is CARD (i.e. “form of greeting”) reversed (indicated by “rebounded”) and followed by ON IAN (i.e. “on Scot” – setters do like using Scot to represent IAN in their clues – all the Scottish “Ians” I’ve known spelled their name “Iain”), like so: DRAC-ON-IAN.

12. Ruined city’s favourite artist (5)

Answer: PETRA, an ancient Jordanian city that was largely ruined by a fourth-century earthquake. Think of that place at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There you go. Anyway, the solution is PET (i.e. “favourite”) followed by RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically the Royal Academy of Arts).

13. Stormy petrels in Times account may attract it (6,8)

Answer: SIMPLE INTEREST, which is interest calculated on the capital only (i.e. “account may attract it”). “Stormy” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PETRELS IN TIMES.

20. Liquid (black) in small vault whence pong emanates (5,4)

Answer: STINK BOMB (i.e. “from whence pong emanates”). Solution is INK (i.e. “liquid”) followed by B (a recognised abbreviation for “black” used in chess). This is then inserted into S (a recognised abbreviation for “small”) and TOMB (i.e. “vault”), like so: S-T(INK-B)OMB.

21. Can’t grasp what happens during fall (6,2)

Answer: LEAVES GO. Solution satisfies both “can’t grasp” and “what happens during fall” (i.e. autumn).

23. Bird we’re told put six feet under bush (10)

Answer: GOOSEBERRY (i.e. “bush”). Solution is GOOSE (i.e. “bird”) and BERRY (i.e. “we’re told” – indicates homophone – “put six feet under” i.e. bury).

24. Recidivist bets on queen wearing hat (10)

Answer: BACKSLIDER, which is someone who slips back in their faith, morals or work (i.e. “recidivist”). Solution is BACKS (i.e. “bets”) followed by LID and ER (i.e. “queen” – ER, short for Elizabeth Regina – “wearing hat” – i.e. preceded by LID), like so: BACKS-LID-ER.

26. Note: United explicit about player making a pile (7,7)

Answer: NUCLEAR REACTOR, which is sometimes referred to as a “pile”, a term originating from the graphite blocks used in part of its construction. Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “note”) followed by U (a recognised abbreviation of “united”), then CLEAR (i.e. “explicit”), then RE (i.e. “about”) and finally ACTOR (i.e. “player”).

28. One detective force intercepts sovereign trying to kill his relative? (9)

Answer: REGICIDAL, regarding the act of killing a king. Solution is I (i.e. “one”) followed by CID (i.e. “detective force”, specifically the Criminal Investigation Department). This is then placed in REGAL (i.e. “sovereign”), like so: REG(I-CID)AL.

29. Stimulant mostly taken after capital pasta (8)

Answer: RIGATONI (i.e. “pasta”). Solution is RIGA (i.e. “capital”, specifically the capital city of Latvia), followed by TONI (i.e. “stimulant mostly”, i.e. the word “tonic” with the final letter removed).

33. Moving ceremony to celebrate engagement (6,7)

Answer: ACTIVE SERVICE (i.e. “engagement”). Solution is ACTIVE (i.e. “moving”) followed by SERVICE (i.e. “ceremony to celebrate”).

34. Spooner’s assessing safe charging point for motorist (7,5)

Answer: PARKING METER (i.e. “charging point for motorist”). Solution is a Spoonerism of MARKING (i.e. “assessing”) and PETER (a slang word for a “safe”).

38. Canny, by the way? (10)

Answer: STREETWISE. Solution satisfies both “canny” and “by the way” (“way” being another word for “street”, so “by the way” is another way of saying “by the street”, or “street-wise”).

40. Mincing man with poodle ridiculed (9)

Answer: LAMPOONED (i.e. “ridiculed”). “Mincing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MAN and POODLE.

42. Spades and fork, rough but penetrating (8)

Answer: STRIDENT, which is of a voice that is loud and grating (i.e. “rough but penetrating”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “spades” in cards) followed by TRIDENT (i.e. “fork”).

44. Even dons like exams (1,6)

Answer: A LEVELS, (i.e. “exams”). Solution is LEVEL (i.e. “even”) wrapped in (i.e. “dons”) AS (i.e. “like”), like so: A-(LEVEL)S.

46. Drive times up, unfortunately (7)

Answer: IMPETUS (i.e. “drive”). “Unfortunately” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TIMES UP.

47. Cavalier almost impaling himself, in brief (6)

Answer: KNIGHT (i.e. “cavalier”). Solution is NIGH (i.e. “almost”) placed in KT (a recognised abbreviation of “knight”, i.e. “impaling himself, in brief”), like so: K(NIGH)T.

48. Writer rejected one indoor game for another (5)

Answer: BINGO (i.e. “indoor game”). Solution is NIB (i.e. “writer”) reversed (i.e. “rejected”) and then followed by GO (another “indoor game”), like so: BIN-GO.

50. Juvenile journalist particularly cut up (5)

Answer: CUBED (i.e. “particularly cut up”). Solution is CUB (i.e. “juvenile”) followed by ED (i.e. “journalist”).

52. Red Guard primarily holds sway, having ousted leader (5)

Answer: GULES, which is the heraldic colour “red”. Solution is G (i.e. “Guard primarily”, i.e. the first letter of the word “guard”) followed by ULES (i.e. “holds sway, having ousted leader”, i.e. the word “rules” with the first letter removed), like so: G-ULES.

So there you have it. I have a feeling I’ll see the words “margrave” and “curia” popping up all over my reading during the next couple of months. It’s weird how that sometimes happens.

Till next time.


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1353

Here’s this week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword for any crossword nuts out there, along with explanations of my solutions. This was a noticeably easier puzzle than the previous few. It’s either that or I’ve found a setter I’m in tune with. This sometimes happened when I used to do The Guardian cryptic crossword during lunch breaks, back when I used to have such things as lunch breaks. Some setters’ puzzles I could do in the space of three cigarettes, back when I used to smoke such things as cigarettes. The fondly-remembered Araucaria, however, was a setter who would stump me every time – I’d be lucky to solve more than a handful of his clues. The Times don’t seem to credit their setters, which is a shame.

Anyway, enough misty-eyed blathering. Herewith my solution.

Across clues

1. Smash-hit person who sells more albums than anyone else, say? (6-7)

Answer: RECORD-BREAKER. As you can see, the solution satisfies the hints in the clue.

8. Withdraws bad marks (9)

Answer: SCRATCHES. Solution satisfies both “withdraws” and “bad marks”.

13. Flap, being emotional in extremis after drink (5)

Answer: LAPEL (i.e. “flap”). Solution is EL (i.e. “emotional in extremis”, i.e. the first and last letters – the extremes – of the word “emotional”) preceded by (i.e. “after”) LAP (i.e. “drink”), like so: LAP-EL.

14. Men going round part of church taking time, as one might normally expect (2,7)

Answer: ON AVERAGE (i.e. “as one might normally expect”). Solution is OR (i.e. “men”, specifically “other ranks” in the military… I can hear the internet sharpening their knives already) surrounding (i.e. “going round”) NAVE (i.e. “part of church”), then followed by (i.e. “taking”) AGE (i.e. “time”), like so: O(NAVE)R-AGE.

15. Order the whole lot to go to battle site (7)

Answer: SUMMONS (i.e. “order”). Solution is SUM (i.e. “the whole lot”) followed by MONS (i.e. “battle site” – The Battle of Mons was an early battle of the First World War)

16. Club prices to change – it’s an element of economic management (6,6)

Answer: PUBLIC SECTOR (i.e. “an element of economic management”). “Change” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CLUB PRICES TO.

17. Goods in cube, wrapped in cheap paper, in iron case (10)

Answer: FREIGHTAGE (i.e. “goods”). Solution is EIGHT (i.e. “cube”, i.e. a cube number, in this case 2 x 2 x 2 = 8) surrounded by (i.e. “wrapped in”) RAG (i.e. “cheap paper”, as in a cheap newspaper) which is itself surrounded by FE (i.e. “in iron case”, Fe is the chemical symbol of iron), like so: F(R(EIGHT)AG)E. A valid, albeit slightly overengineered clue.

18. Fire ultimately provided in one prison when it’s very cold (3,3)

Answer: ICE AGE (i.e. “when it’s very cold”). Solution is E (i.e. “fire ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of the word “fire”) placed in (i.e. “provided in”) I CAGE (i.e. “one prison”) like so: IC(E)AGE.

19. After prayer, maybe render hymn that’s well liked (8)

Answer: PLEASING (i.e. “well liked”). Solution is PLEA (i.e. “prayer”) followed by SING (i.e. “render hymn” – I guess not many words ended with “hum-hum-hum” or “stare at the stained glass windows”).

21. Not connected to e.g. Oxford? (6)

Answer: UNSHOD. The solution hangs on Oxford being a type of shoe, and so to not be connected to an Oxford is to be “unshod”.

24. Audacity? It is, briefly, to nick vehicle for jaunts (10)

Answer: GALLIVANTS (i.e. “jaunts”). Solution is GALL (i.e. “audacity”) followed by IT’S (i.e. “it is, briefly”) wrapped around (i.e. “to nick”) VAN (i.e. “vehicle”), like so: GALL-I(VAN)TS.

26. Fanciful description of Ramanujan is unexpected period of flourishing (6,6)

Answer: INDIAN SUMMER. Solution satisfies both “Fanciful description of Ramanujan” and “unexpected period of flourishing”. Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who lived during the British Rule of India, making him an “Indian summer”. I’ve only just looked that up, and I admit it made me smile. I thought my puns were bad.

29. Benefit through work finally (4)

Answer: PERK (i.e. “benefit”). Solution is PER (i.e. “through”) followed by K (i.e. “work finally”, i.e. the last letter of the word “work”).

30. One paid to get channels for items to be sold? (8)

Answer: PRODUCTS (i.e. “items to be sold”). Solution is PRO (i.e. “one paid”) followed by DUCTS (i.e. “channels”). For some reason, despite having the letters P_O_U_T_, it took me longer to figure this one out than most of the other clues.

31. A steerer out of control, someone grabbed by the cops? (8)

Answer: ARRESTEE (i.e. “someone grabbed by the cops”). “Out of control” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A STEERER.

34. Mischievous like Conservative in political gathering? (8)

Answer: RASCALLY (i.e. “mischievous”). Solution is AS C (i.e. “like Conservative” – C is a recognised abbreviation of the Conservative Party) slotted in RALLY (i.e. “political gathering”) like so: R(AS-C)ALLY. Only when typing this blog did I realise my first attempt, “rascable” was not only incorrect, but it wasn’t even a word. No wonder I couldn’t get the clue to fit!)

35. Nothing right in the country? That’s one sort of view? (8)

Answer: PANORAMA (i.e. “one sort of view”). Solution is O R (i.e. “nothing right”) slotted into PANAMA (i.e. “country”), like so: PAN(O-R)AMA.

36. Seen among them, utter idiot (4)

Answer: MUTT. “Seen among” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, i.e. THE(M UTT)ER.

39. Travel unresolved – get agitated? (2,2,2,3,3)

Answer: GO UP IN THE AIR. Solution satisfies both “travel unresolved” (i.e. “travel” – GO – followed by “unresolved” – UP IN THE AIR) and “get agitated”.

40. Cover protecting the female after protest is broken up (10)

Answer: DEMOLISHED (i.e. “broken up”). Solution is LID (i.e. “cover”) surrounding (i.e. “protecting”) SHE (i.e. “the female”) and preceded by (indicated by “after”) DEMO (i.e. “protest”), like so: DEMO-LI(SHE)D.

43. Group for the favoured few that may be a pest (6)

Answer: INSECT (i.e. “that may be a pest”). Solution is IN-SECT (i.e. “group for the favoured few”, which is riffing on the term “in-crowd”).

44. Anger facing blokes in television that’s about financial transaction (8)

Answer: VIREMENT, which is an accountancy term meaning an “authorised transference of a surplus to balance a deficit under another heading”. Don’t say I never learn you nuffink. Solution is IRE (i.e. “anger”) followed by (i.e. “facing”) MEN (i.e. “blokes”) surrounded by VT (i.e. “television that’s about”, i.e. the abbreviation TV reversed), like so: V(IRE-MEN)T.

45. Figures protecting university’s prestige (6)

Answer: STATUS (i.e. “prestige”). Solution is STATS (i.e. “figures”) wrapped around (i.e. “protecting”) U (a recognised abbreviation of “university”) like so: STAT(U)S.

49. A city endlessly lauded sadly filled with bitterness (10)

Answer: ACIDULATED (i.e. “filled with bitterness” – this seems a little at odds with my Chambers, which suggests the word means “to make slightly acid”.) “Sadly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A, CIT (i.e. “city endlessly”, i.e. the word “city” with the last letter removed) and LAUDED.

51. Eat these – gain energy attending functions (12)

Answer: PROFITEROLES (i.e. “eat these”, indicating food). Solution is PROFIT (i.e. “gain”) followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”) and ROLES (i.e. “functions”).

53. Full of endless craving, I was first to be exploited (3-4)

Answer: ILL-USED (i.e. “exploited”). Solution is I LED (i.e. “I was first”) wrapped around (i.e. “full of”) LUS (i.e. “endless craving”, i.e. the word “lust” with the last letter removed), like so: IL(LUS)ED.

54. Performance has elegance, we hear – one will get folk into an arena (9)

Answer: TURNSTILE (i.e. “one will get folk into an arena”). Solution is TURN (i.e. “performance”) followed by STILE (i.e. “elegance, we hear”, i.e. a homophone of “style”).

55. A community in Herts is well-informed (5)

Answer: AWARE (i.e. “well-informed”). Solution is A followed by WARE (i.e. “community in Herts”, the town of Ware is located in Hertfordshire).

56. Trade union woman, leader of Left, dealing with figures (9)

Answer: NUMERICAL (i.e. “dealing with figures”). Solution is NUM (i.e. “trade union” – specifically the National Union of Mineworkers, which is still a thing if in vastly reduced form) followed by ERICA (i.e. “woman”) and L (i.e. “leader of Left”, i.e. the first letter of “Left”).

57. Lack of elegance that is evident when no thanks are offered for meal? (13)

Answer: GRACELESSNESS. Solution satisfies both “lack of elegance” and “that is evident when no thanks…” – i.e. no saying of grace – “…are offered for meal”.

Down clues

1. Having less colour coming up, grass is getting worse (9)

Answer: RELAPSING (i.e. “is getting worse”). Solution is RELAP (i.e. “having less colour coming up”, i.e. the word PALER reversed) followed by SING (i.e. “grass”, as in to grass someone up).

2. Accomplished office assistant housed in tower (7)

Answer: CAPABLE (i.e. “accomplished”). Solution is PA (i.e. “office assistant”, i.e. a personal assistant) placed in (i.e. “housed in”) CABLE (i.e. “tower”), like so: CA(PA)BLE. I’m not 100% about this one as I cannot see how a tower can be a cable or vice versa.

3. One helps cook stretch out part of the food supply (7, 3)

Answer: ROLLING PIN. Solution satisfies both “one helps cook stretch out” and “part of the food supply”. I’m guessing the latter means a rolling pin on a conveyor belt.

4. Black parasite found in garment (6)

Answer: BLOUSE (i.e. “garment”). Solution is B (a recognised abbreviation of “black” used in chess) followed by LOUSE (i.e. “parasite”).

5. I’m one captain at sea – some hope for the slaves! (12)

Answer: EMANCIPATION, the act of setting free from restraint, i.e. “some hope for the slaves”. “At sea” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of I’M ONE CAPTAIN.

6. University maiden may be sounding faint (4,4)

Answer: KEEL OVER (i.e. “faint”). Solution is KEEL (i.e. “university…may be sounding”, i.e. a homophone of Keele University in Staffordshire) followed by OVER (i.e. “maiden” – a maiden over in cricket is one where the batting team scores no runs).

7. Old coin not counterfeit (4)

Answer: REAL. Solution satisfies both “old coin” (a real was an old Spanish coin) and “not counterfeit”).

8. Formally admitting wickedness, inwardly sporting (8,2)

Answer: SWEARING IN (i.e. “formally admitting”). Solution is SIN (i.e. “wickedness”) with WEARING (i.e. “sporting”) placed inside (i.e. “inwardly”), like so: S(WEARING)IN.

9. Country game needing short pole (6)

Answer: RUSTIC (i.e. “country”). Solution is RU (i.e. “game”, specifically Rugby Union) followed by STIC (i.e. “short pole”, i.e. the word “stick” with the final letter removed). This was the last clue I solved, and for a while I was teetering between “rustic” and “Russia” as both fitted the given letters and “country”. It only clicked when I finally figured out what “RU” stood for.

10. US magazine given award in accordance with well-established tradition (4-8)

Answer: TIME-HONOURED (i.e. “in accordance with well-established tradition”). Solution is TIME (i.e. “US magazine”) followed by HONOURED (i.e. “given award”).

11. One house and another being erected – a commotion (3-2)

Answer: HOO-HA (i.e. “commotion”). Solution is HO (a recognised abbreviation of “house”) followed by OH (i.e. “and another [house] being erected”, i.e. HO reversed) and A, like so: HO-OH-A.

12. Let Ben dress up unconventionally – wearing this, in drag? (9,4)

Answer: SUSPENDER BELT, an item of clothing a person in drag might wear. “Unconventionally” indicates anagram. Solution is a neat anagram of LET BEN DRESS UP.

20. Contains nuts, OK?

Answer: SANCTION (i.e. to “OK”). “Nuts” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of CONTAINS.

22. Passionate woman grabs this person to present unpalatable fact (4,5)

Answer: HOME TRUTH (i.e. “unpalatable fact”). Solution is ME (i.e. “this person”) wrapped in (inferred by “grabs”) HOT RUTH (i.e. “passionate woman”), like so: HO(ME)T-RUTH.

23. Hotel obstruction after pop politician presents brochure (8)

Answer: PAMPHLET (i.e. “brochure”). Solution is H (i.e. “hotel”, which is the letter H in the phonetic alphabet) and LET (an archaic word for “obstruction”) preceded by (i.e. “after”) PA (i.e. “pop”, both terms for “father”) and MP (i.e. “politician”), like so: PA-MP-H-LET.

25. Incentive to delve into birds and plants (9)

Answer: LARKSPURS (i.e. “plants”). Solution is SPUR (i.e. “incentive”) placed in (i.e. “to delve into”) LARKS (i.e. “birds”), like so: LARK(SPUR)S.

27. Reporter Rex rushed up a hill (8)

Answer: NARRATOR (i.e. “reporter”). Solution is R (i.e. “Rex”, another word for king, abbreviated) and RAN (i.e. “rushed”) reversed (indicated by “up”) and then followed by A TOR (i.e. “a hill”), like so: NAR-R-A-TOR.

28. Escape from trouble? One man up for breaking law (3,1,4)

Answer: RUN A MILE (i.e. “escape from trouble”). Solution is I MAN (i.e. “one man”) reversed (indicated by “up”) and placed in (i.e. “breaking”) RULE (i.e. “law”), like so: RU(NAM-I)LE.

29. Wandering of person half lost, say, traveller finally joining one country (13)

Answer: PEREGRINATION (i.e. “wandering”). Word of the week for me, and one where I got the solution some significant time before I got the wordplay that led to it. Here goes! Solution is PER (i.e. “person half lost”, i.e. the word “person” with the latter half removed) followed by EG (i.e. “say”, i.e. “for example”), then R (i.e. “traveller finally”, i.e. the last letter of “traveller”) and then I NATION (i.e. “one country”), like so: PER-EG-R-I-NATION. Phew!

32. Manoeuvring bear in circus – a sort of craft (5,7)

Answer: CABIN CRUISER (i.e. “a sort of craft”). “Manoeuvring” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of BEAR IN CIRCUS.

33. Government bureau not working, restricted by obvious formality (6,6)

Answer: PATENT OFFICE (i.e. “government bureau”). Solution is OFF (i.e. “not working”) placed in (i.e. “restricted by”) PATENT (i.e. “obvious”) and ICE (i.e. “formality”, i.e. a coldness of manner), like so: PATENT(OFF)ICE.

37. King, say, one mad about fighting unit (10)

Answer: REGIMENTAL (i.e. “about fighting unit”). Solution is R (i.e. “king” – another word for king, as noted earlier, is “Rex”, which can be abbreviated to “R”) followed by EG (i.e. “say”, i.e. “for example”) then I (i.e. “one”) and MENTAL (i.e. “mad”).

38. Past masters? (10)

Answer: HISTORIANS. Solution satisfies the hint dropped in the clue, i.e. people who are rather knowledgeable about the past.

41. Terrible mishaps when rubbish is dumped on plants (9)

Answer: DISASTERS (i.e. “terrible mishaps”). Solution is DIS (i.e. to “rubbish” something – both “dis” and “diss” are recognised words meaning to disrespect or to treat with contempt) followed by (i.e. “dumped on”) ASTERS (i.e. “plants”).

42. Mostly modern dance music gathers support in part of America (8)

Answer: NEBRASKA (i.e. “part of America”). Solution is NE (i.e. “mostly modern”, i.e. the word “new” with the last letter removed) and SKA (i.e. “dance music”) with BRA (i.e. “support”) in between (indicated by “gathers”), like so: NE(BRA)SKA.

46. Work on the land as prisoner wearing hat (7)

Answer: TILLAGE (i.e. “work on the land”). Solution is LAG (i.e. “prisoner”) surrounded by (i.e. “wearing”) TILE (i.e. “hat” – a tile is a slang word for a hat – not one I am familiar with, I would add), like so: TIL(LAG)E.

47. Poet’s pub – order outsiders to leave (6)

Answer: BARDIC, another word for a poetaster, or a petty “poet”. Solution is BAR (i.e. “pub”) followed by DIC (i.e. “order outsiders to leave”, i.e. the word “edict” with the first and last letters removed.)

48. Chemical drug followed by the same again (6)

Answer: ETHENE (i.e. “chemical”). Solution is E-THEN-E… E being an abbreviation of the drug “Ecstasy”, THEN the same again, E.

50. Form of belief conveyed by rabbi’s lamentation (5)

Answer: ISLAM (i.e. “form of belief”). “Conveyed by” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: RABB(I’S LAM)ENTATION.

52. Vessel burning with characters regularly escaping (4)

Answer: BRIG, a two-masted “vessel”. Solution is derived by removing regular letters from the word “burning” like so: BURNING.

Right, that’s all for now. And, yes, I know, I really, really, really should be writing.


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1352

Following last week’s post, here’s my completed grid for this week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword, along with explanations for the solutions where I have them. As ever with these things there were a few WTF solutions in there and a couple of clues that still leave me scratching my head, but overall this was easier than last week’s puzzle. At least it didn’t keep me up until 1am trying to solve it. And to think there are crossword kings and queens out there who can crack these things in an hour or two. Sheesh!


Across clues

1. Unfunny art park regularly shows something outstanding in white (7)

Answer: NUNATAK, a point of rock appearing above a surface of land ice, (i.e. “something outstanding in white”). If you ever needed proof that everything has to have a name, there it is. Solution is derived by removing every other letter (i.e. “regularly”) from UNFUNNY ART PACK.

5. Father’s returned with little desire for food? (8)

Answer: APPETITE (i.e. “desire for food”). Solution is AP (i.e. “father’s returned”, i.e. “pa” reversed) followed by PETITE (i.e. “little”).

9. Chap has shortly to cut weight (6)

Answer: GRAHAM, (i.e. “chap”). Solution is HA (i.e. “has shortly”, i.e. the word “has” with the last letter removed) inserted into (inferred by “to cut”) GRAM (i.e. “weight”), like so: GRA(HA)M. As noted in last week’s post, I’m never keen when the setter has to rely on given names to get the job done. It’s even worse when the entire solution is a given name.

13. Physics device compresses matter in a strange way (4, 13)

Answer: MASS SPECTROMETER (i.e. “physics device”). “In a strange way” indicates an anagram. Solution is rather a neat anagram of COMPRESSES MATTER.

14. Woody material needs straightening with edges removed (6)

Answer: LIGNIN, “a complicated mixture of substances deposited in the thickened cell walls of plants, making them rigid”, i.e. (“woody material”). So another everyday word then! The solution is ALIGNING (i.e. “straightening”) with the first and last letters removed (i.e. “with edges removed”). Needless to say this is one of those solutions I got from the wordplay rather than a deep knowledge of… er… “woody material”.

16. Dutiful round patient’s place in hospital that is not empty (8)

Answer: OBEDIENT (i.e. “dutiful”). Solution is O (i.e. “round”) followed by BED (i.e. “patient’s place in hospital”) then IE (i.e. “that is”) and finally NT (i.e. “not empty”, i.e. the word “not” with its middle letter removed).

17. An objection over a large orchestral piece? (4)

Answer: TUBA (i.e. “large orchestral piece”). Solution is A BUT (i.e. “an objection”) reversed (inferred by “over”).

18. I flirt awfully after tea – something that could get one suspended? (9)

Answer: CHAIRLIFT (i.e. “something that could get one suspended”). Solution is IRLIFT (an anagram of I FLIRT, as indicated by “awfully”) preceded by (inferred by “after”) CHA (i.e. “tea”).

20. Form of soya planted in river that’s no longer running? (3, 2, 3)

Answer: OUT OF USE (i.e. “no longer running”). Solution is TOFU (i.e. “form of soya”) inserted into (i.e. “planted in”) OUSE (i.e. “river” – the River Ouse in North Yorkshire), like so: OU(TOFU)SE.

21. Public speaker, warm and adept (11)

Answer: TOASTMASTER (i.e. “public speaker”). Solution is TOAST (i.e. “warm”, as in “as warm as toast”) followed by MASTER (i.e. “adept”).

24. Not giving in, city guards survive one (9)

Answer: INELASTIC (i.e. “not giving”). Not entirely sure about the solution for this one, but I reckon it’s IN (as in the “in” in the clue, if you get what I mean) followed by the letters EC (i.e. “city” – though quite which city I couldn’t say) wrapped around (inferred by “guards”) LAST (i.e. “survive”) and I (i.e. “one”), like so: IN-E(LAST-I)C.

25. Taking on a lecturer without work – half time (8)

Answer: ADOPTION (i.e. “take on”). Solution is A DON (i.e. “a lecturer”) wrapped around (inferred by “without”) OP (i.e. “work” – “op” being a recognised abbreviation for operator or operation) and TI (i.e. “half time”, i.e. the first half of the word “time”), like so: AD(OP-TI)ON.

26. Crack bringing head of safety into aircraft (4)

Answer: JEST (i.e. “crack”, as in a wisecrack). Solution is S (i.e. “head of safety”, i.e. the first letter of “safety”) placed into JET (i.e. “aircraft”), like so: JE(S)T.

29. Philharmonic took in composer audibly a lover of French timbres? (11)

Answer: PHILATELIST, a stamp collector. Solution satisfies the wordplay in both “Philharmonic took in composer” and “a lover of French timbres”. Regarding the former, the solution reads PHIL-ATE-LIST, i.e. Phil (short for “Philharmonic”) ate (i.e. “took in”) list (i.e. a homophone (inferred by “audibly”) of composer Franz Liszt’s surname). Regarding the latter, the French for stamp is “timbre”, so solution is a lover of stamps.

31. Notes country is keeping one Conservative and tame (11)

Answer: DOMESTICATE (i.e. to “tame”). Solution is DO and ME (i.e. “notes”, taken from the do-re-me-fa-so-la-te scale – your spellings may vary from those of the setter!) followed by STATE (i.e. “country”) wrapped around (inferred by “keeping”) I (i.e. “one”) and C (i.e. “Conservative”, C being a recognised abbreviation of the Conservative Party), like so: DO-ME-ST(I-C)ATE.

33. Get annoyed with aim for decoration (11)

Answer: NEEDLEPOINT (i.e. “decoration”). Solution is NEEDLE (i.e. “get annoyed”) followed by POINT (i.e. “aim”).

36. Leave – it holds wild panic for one who’s involved (11)

Answer: PARTICIPANT (i.e. “one who’s involved”). Solution is PART (i.e. “leave”) followed by IT wrapped around an anagram of PANIC (i.e. “it holds wild panic”), like so: PART-I(CIPAN)T.

38. Twisting old street in Paris – and what one needs to buy there (4)

Answer: EURO, the currency used in France. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “twisting”) of O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and RUE (i.e. “street in Paris” – the French for street is “rue”).

39. Overstep the mark and move twelve inches back, right? (2, 3, 3)

Answer: GO TOO FAR (i.e. “overstep the mark”). Solution is GO (i.e. “move”) followed by TOOFA (i.e. “twelve inches back”, i.e. the letters of “a foot” reversed) and then R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”), like so: GO-TOOFA-R.

41. American male working where ships unload in remote country (9)

Answer: BOONDOCKS, a slang North American term describing wild or remote country. Solution is BO (i.e. “American male”, “bo” being an American slang word for a man) followed by ON (i.e. “working”) and DOCKS (i.e. “where ships unload”).

44. Sportsman leapt the net excitedly (11)

Answer: PENTATHLETE (i.e. “sportsman”). “Excitedly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LEAPT THE NET.

45. Memorise poem for discussion (8)

Answer: CONVERSE (i.e. “discussion”). Solution is CON (an archaic word meaning “study”) followed by VERSE (i.e. “poem”).

48. Crossing a line in pursuit of writer of farces (9)

Answer: TRAVERSAL (i.e. “crossing”). Solution is A and L (i.e. “a line”, “l” being a recognised abbreviation of “line”) following (i.e. “in pursuit of”) TRAVERS (i.e. “writer of farces”, specifically Ben Travers).

49. Word no peacekeepers needed (4)

Answer: NOUN, a naming “word”. Solution is NO and UN (i.e. “peacekeepers”, i.e. the United Nations). Tsk. It seems there’s nothing the Russians won’t hack these days.

50. Heaven is being trapped in a row of shops (8)

Answer: PARADISE (i.e. “heaven”). Solution is IS inserted into PARADE (i.e. “is being trapped in a row of shops”), like so: PARAD(IS)E.

52. A bachelor told to go away (6)

Answer: ABSENT (i.e. “away”). Solution is A and B (i.e. “a bachelor”, “B” being a recognised abbreviation of bachelor) followed by SENT (i.e. “told to go”).

53. I sing idiot patter, arranging conjuring tricks (16)

Answer: PRESTIDIGITATION, a sleight of hand (i.e. “conjuring tricks”). “Arranging” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of I SING IDIOT PATTER. I had to dig the Chambers out for this one, though I suspected it would start with something like “prestige” thanks to the Christopher Priest novel. A great word!

54. Worker in house or outbuilding (4-2)

Answer: LEAN-TO, a shed or suchlike propped up against the side of a property (i.e. “outbuilding”). Solution is ANT (i.e. “worker”, as in a worker ant) surrounded by LEO (i.e. “house”, i.e. a division of the horoscope more often called a sign), like so: LE(ANT)O.

55. Old soldier about to finish Territorial Army feud (8)

Answer: VENDETTA (i.e. “feud”). Solution is VET (i.e. “old soldier”, short for “veteran”) wrapped around (indicated by “about”) END (i.e. “to finish”) and then followed by TA (i.e. “Territorial Army”), like so: V(END)ET-TA.

56. Colour of a red elm when worked (7)

Answer: EMERALD (i.e. “colour”). “When worked” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of A RED ELM.

Down clues

1. Some variation, perhaps, in bedroom – both upside down? (6)

Answer: NIMROD, specifically Variation IX of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. You’ll know it when you hear it. Solution is a reversal of both IN and DORM (i.e. “in bedroom”) as indicated by “both upside down”.

2. New monster turned up, killing English military designer (6)

Answer: Major Peter Norman NISSEN, who invented prefabricated huts of corrugated steel (i.e. “military designer”). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviated form of “new”) followed by ISSEN (i.e. “monster” – Nessie – “turned up” – i.e. reversed – “killing English” – i.e. remove end “E”).

3. A routine gets to be fixed over singer’s vocal range (9)

Answer: TESSITURA (i.e. “singer’s vocal range”). This was another solution I got from the wordplay rather than actually knowing the word. Solution is A RUT (i.e. “a routine”) followed by IS SET (i.e. “to be fixed”) and the whole lot then reversed (indicated by “over”).

4. Unfortunately it’ll betoken a four-dimensional concept (5, 6)

Answer: KLEIN BOTTLE (i.e. “a four-dimensional concept” – trust me, it is). “Unfortunately” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IT’LL BETOKEN.

5. Singer taking part in abysmal Tosca (4)

Answer: ALTO, a high falsetto male voice (i.e. “singer”). “Taking part in” suggests the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: ABYSM(AL TO)SCA.

6. Sticking out in favour of underground rave (11)

Answer: PROTUBERANT (i.e. “sticking out”). Solution is PRO (i.e. “in favour of”) followed by TUBE (i.e. “underground”, specifically the London Underground rail network) and RANT (i.e. “rave”).

7. Final statement is exam – at least as far as these clues go? (3, 4, 4)

Answer: THE LAST WORD (i.e. “final statement”). As for the rest of the clue, I haven’t the foggiest idea what the setter is going on about! Anyone?

8. Cutting song after resistance during number (9)

Answer: TRENCHANT (i.e. “cutting”). Solution is R (a recognised abbreviation for electrical resistance) with TEN wrapped around it (i.e. “during number”) and followed by CHANT (i.e. “song”), like so: T(R)EN-CHANT.

10. American line is to complain bitterly with Republican over a Democrat (8)

Answer: RAILROAD (i.e. “American line”). Solution is RAIL (i.e. “to complain bitterly”) followed by recognised abbreviations of the remaining words, i.e. “Republican Over A Democrat”.

11. Be uncertain with short tapestry on a zodiac subject (4, 2, 3, 7)

Answer: HANG IN THE BALANCE (i.e. “Be uncertain”). Solution is HANGIN (i.e. “short tapestry”, i.e. the word “hanging” with the final letter removed) followed by THE BALANCE (i.e. “a zodiac subject”, specifically Libra, the scales).

12. Check up on men having second egg to begin with (7)

Answer: MONITOR (i.e. “check”). This is another clue that has me shrugging my shoulders. I’m guessing that “men having second egg” means replacing the second letter of “men” with an O, but, frankly, after that the setter has lost me.

15. Careful with parking for university being critical (8)

Answer: CAPTIOUS (i.e. “being critical”). Solution is CAUTIOUS (i.e. “careful”) with U (for “university”) replaced by P (for “parking”).

19. Vegetable with unknown feature put in dutchie regularly (8)

Answer: ZUCCHINI, a courgette (i.e. “vegetable”). Solution is Z (i.e. “unknown” – the letters X, Y, and Z are often referred to as “unknown” in clues) followed by CHIN (i.e. “feature”) placed in UCI (i.e. “dutchie regularly”, i.e. every other letter of DUTCHIE), like so: Z-UC(CHIN)I.

22. VIP’s a bit out of date? (8)

Answer: SIXPENCE. Solution satisfies the wordplay of both “VIP” and “a bit out of date”. Regarding the latter, a “bit” is another name for a coin (e.g. a “threepenny bit”), and a sixpence is a coin no longer in circulation, i.e. “a bit out of date”. As for “VIP”, it took me ages to realise the setter had used Roman numerals, i.e. VI-p => 6p => sixpence. Well played.

23. Name eater associated originally with sardine? (13, 3)

Answer: MEDITERRANEAN SEA. And so from a great clue in 22d we come to one that is somewhat woollier. “Originally” indicates an anagram. Essentially the solution is an anagram of NAME EATER and SARDINE.

27. Surprise event is had with European paper (8)

Answer: TREATISE (i.e. “paper”). Solution is TREAT (i.e. “surprise event”) followed by IS and then E (i.e. “European”).

28. Bird seen in sky, big owl? Tit? (4)

Answer: KIWI. Solution is derived from the middle letters (i.e. “seen in”) of SKY, BIG, OWL and TIT.

30. Rod has beer around ten (4)

Answer: AXLE (i.e. “rod”). Solution is ALE (i.e. “beer”) wrapped around X (i.e. “ten”), like so: A(X)LE.

32. Dying to tease in bank? (8)

Answer: MORIBUND (i.e. “dying”). Solution is RIB (i.e. “to tease”) inserted into MOUND (i.e. “bank”), like so: MO(RIB)UND.

34. Rugby player – he’s unknown to see forwards (8)

Answer: PROPHESY (i.e. “see forwards”). Solution is PROP (i.e. “rugby player”) followed by HE’S and then Y (i.e. “unknown” – as mentioned earlier, setters like to use “unknown” to represent the letters X, Y or Z).

35. Fees often do upset snobbish (6-5)

Answer: TOFFEE-NOSED (i.e. “snobbish”). “Upset” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of FEES OFTEN DO.

36. Skydiver has ruined haircut in times gone by (11)

Answer: PARACHUTIST (i.e. “skydiver”). Solution is PAST (i.e. “times gone by”) wrapped around an anagram (indicated by “ruined”) of HAIRCUT like so: PA(RACHUTI)ST.

37. Not working in musical show I have to follow troupe’s lead (11)

Answer: INOPERATIVE (i.e. “not working”). Solution is IN OPERA (i.e. “in musical show”) followed by T (i.e. “troupe’s lead”, i.e. the first letter of “troupe”) and I’VE (a contraction of “I have”), like so: IN-OPERA-T-IVE.

40. Rather obese on account of swilling lager (9)

Answer: OVERLARGE (i.e. “rather obese”). Solution is OVER (i.e. “on account of”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “swilling”) of LAGER, like so: OVER-LARGE.

42. Scorn girl’s passion after a year (9)

Answer: DISPARAGE (i.e. “scorn”). This is another clue where I’m not on the same page as the setter. I’m guessing “girl’s” is DI’S, “passion” could be RAGE and PA is “a year”, as in “per annum”, but it doesn’t feel right.

43. Obscure large cask turning up for fruit (8)

Answer: HAZELNUT (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is HAZE (i.e. “obscure”) followed by both TUN (i.e. “cask”) and L (recognised abbreviation for “large”) reversed (indicated by “turning up”), like so: HAZE-L-NUT.

44. Difficulty is mine, following everything (7)

Answer: PITFALL (i.e. “difficulty”). Solution is PIT (i.e. “mine”) followed by F (recognised abbreviation of “following”) and ALL (i.e. “everything”).

46. Compound’s a mix of calcium, sulphur, lithium and iodine (6)

Answer: SILICA (i.e. “compound”). “A mix of” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of CA (chemical symbol for calcium), S (sulphur), LI (lithium) and I (iodine).

47. Wrote how sheep are sometimes treated (6)

Answer: PENNED. Solution satisfies both “wrote” and “how sheep are sometimes penned”.

51. Girl taking a university exam (4)

Answer: VIVA, a type of university exam students can take if they are on the brink of achieving a particular grade. Solution is VIV (i.e. “girl”) followed by (i.e. “taking”) A.


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1351

I’m always keen to improve my vocabulary. It helps me make fewer visits to the dictionary when a writer slips a weird and wonderful word into their work, plus it helps to save me from embarrassing moments of catachresis (he says, slipping a weird and wonderful word into his work).

One way to improve one’s vocab is to indulge in word puzzles. My particular poison is the cryptic crossword. I’m as fascinated by the many weird and wonderful techniques setters use to misdirect and generally baffle their victims solvers as I am astonished by the variety and number of bizarre and seldom-used words and phrases that pepper their grids.

In recent weeks I’ve made serious attempts at completing the Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword, instead of sacking it off the moment I feel I’ve done as much as my aching brain can handle. So here’s this week’s Times Jumbo Cryptic, along with my solutions and explanations, where I have them. If you’ve ever wondered how cryptic crosswords work then perhaps this post can help. Just watch you don’t become addicted too!


Got there in the end, I think!

So here are the clues, along with my explanations of my answers:

Across clues

1. Vivacity initially held back mischief maker (6)

Answer: SPRITE, an imp or impish person (i.e. “mischief maker”). Solution is ESPRIT (another word for “vivacity”) with its initial letter E placed at the end.

5. Artist’s medium discomfort after short illness (7)

Answer: GOUACHE, an opaque watercolour-like paint (i.e. “artist’s medium”). Solution comprises GOU (“short illness”, i.e. GOUT with the final letter removed) followed by ACHE (“discomfort”).

9. Meandering soldiers put in charge (8)

Answer: INDIRECT (i.e. “meandering”). Solution is RE (“soldiers”, specifically Royal Engineers) placed in INDICT (another word for “charge”), like so: INDI(RE)CT. I spent way too long thinking “meandering” was an anagram indicator. (Shakes fist at the setter.)

13. It’s evident prison transmuted a modern criminal (4, 4, 13)

Answer: QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM, or, in English, “which was to be demonstrated”, (i.e. “it’s evident”). Solution is QUOD (another name for “prison” – no, me neither) followed by an anagram (indicated by “criminal”) of TRANSMUTEDAMODERN. One’s Chambers came in handy here.

14. Chinese finally sought after car dealer (8)

Answer: MERCHANT (i.e. “dealer”). Solution is HAN (i.e. “Chinese”) and T (i.e. the last letter of “sought”) placed after MERC (i.e. “car”), like so: MERC-HAN-T.

15. Satellite rattles when blown about (7)

Answer: TELSTAR, a satellite that was launched in the 1960s. “When blown about” indicates an anagram. Solution is anagram of RATTLES.

16. Sweet nothing with husband being ace (6)

Answer: NOUGAT (i.e. “sweet”). Solution is NOUGHT (i.e. “nothing”) with the letter H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”) replaced by the letter A (“ace” as it appears on a playing card).

17. Sharp stuff from fault-finder having delayed resistance with drug (6,4)

Answer: CITRIC ACID (i.e. “sharp stuff”). Solution is CRITIC (i.e. “fault-finder”) with the letter R (a recognised abbreviation for electrical resistance) put back a few places (i.e. “having delayed resistance”), followed by ACID (i.e. “drug”).

20. Tense one working and failing (12)

Answer: IMPERFECTION (i.e. a “failing”). I can’t say for certain how the setter has arrived at this clue. I’m guessing the idea is something like “I am” (tense one) and “perfection” (working). If so, this is weak. Just because something works doesn’t mean it’s perfect. If that was the case, I’d be typing this on a Windows 1.0 PC running Netscape Navigator.

23. Evens out site of a portico (4)

Answer: STOA, an ancient Greek portico or covered colonnade. Solution is derived by taking the even letters out of SITE OF A.

24. River bird one’s seen on a ship (8)

Answer: TAFFRAIL, a rail seen around the stern of a ship. Solution is TAFF (a river in Wales) followed by RAIL (a variety of bird). This is one of those handy words I wish I’d known earlier.

26. Sacked on Thursday, was very sore? (8)

Answer: THROBBED, (i.e. “was very sore”). Solution is TH (a recognised abbreviation of “Thursday”) followed by ROBBED (i.e. “sacked”).

29. Totter up with beer, welcoming old musical style (12)

Answer: COUNTERPOINT, a melody that is added to another (i.e. “musical style”). Solution is COUNTER (i.e. “totter up”) followed by PINT (“beer”) with O (recognised abbreviation of “old”) placed inside, like so: COUNTER-P(O)INT.

30. School subject one grasped by quiet determination (12)

Answer: RESILIENCE (i.e. “determination”). Solution is RE (i.e. “school subject”, specifically Religious Education) followed by SILENCE (“quiet”) with I (“one”) placed in the middle, like so: RE-SIL(I)ENCE.

32. Man stops erring by a crude vice (10)

Answer: DEBAUCHERY (i.e. “vice”). Solution is HE (i.e. “man”) placed in the middle of (indicated by “stops”) an anagram (indicated by “erring”) of BYACRUDE, like so: DEBAUC(HE)RY.

34. Riding train, the setter’s giving nothing away (12)

Answer: INEXPRESSIVE (i.e. “giving nothing away”). Solution is IN EXPRESS (i.e. “riding train”) followed by I’VE (as in “belonging to the setter of the puzzle”).

36. Bit by bit, returned animals with good sense (8)

Answer: STEPWISE (i.e. “bit by bit”). Solution is PETS reversed (i.e. “returned animals”) followed by WISE (“good sense”), like so: STEP-WISE.

38. Referred to broadcast, ignoring one’s daughter (8)

Answer: ADVERTED (i.e. “referred to”). Solution is ADVERTISED (i.e. “broadcast”) with IS removed (i.e. “ignoring ones”), and then followed by D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”).

39. Ball and function from the right country club (4)

Answer: NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (i.e. “country club”). Solution is O (i.e. “ball”, because the letter O looks like a ball) followed by TAN (i.e. “function”, specifically tangent, a trigonometrical function). The letters are then reversed (i.e. “from the right”).

41. For high tea, do supply alcohol (4, 2, 3, 3)

Answer: HAIR OF THE DOG, which is to cure a hangover by drinking more booze. A sneaky solution this, as the anagram indicator “high” (i.e. gone off) is part of the anagram itself. Solution is an anagram of FORHIGHTEADO.

43. Fake news to support a leaderless country (10)

Answer: PROPAGANDA (i.e. “fake news”, the spreading of often false information to help bring about change). Solution is PROP (i.e. “to support”) followed by A and then GANDA (i.e. “leaderless country”, specifically UGANDA with the leading letter removed.), like so: PROP-A-GANDA. (I spent way too long thinking this was going to end in ARANCE.)

44. He won’t accept obsolete coin (6)

Answer: DENIER. Solution has a double-meaning, satisfying both “he won’t accept” (being one who denies) and “obsolete coin” (being an old small French silver coin).

46. Live in perfect tower (7)

Answer: MINARET, a mosque tower. Solution is ARE (i.e. “live”) placed in MINT (i.e. “perfect”), like so: MIN(ARE)T.

48. On the point of retirement, cut expenditure (8)

Answer: OUTGOING. Solution has a double-meaning, satisfying both “on the point of retirement” and “cut expenditure” (cut=out; going=expenditure). Expenditure is also referred to as an outgoing.

50. Very effusive towards semiotician, with hard journey nearly done (3, 4, 3, 3, 8)

Answer: ALL OVER BAR THE SHOUTING, i.e. (“nearly done”). Solution is ALL OVER (i.e. “very effuse”), followed by BARTHES (i.e. Roland BARTHES, a French philosopher and semiotician – what do you mean, “Who?!”), then H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard”, used in grading pencils) and finally OUTING (i.e. “journey”).

51. French novel all told briefly after the beginning (8)

Answer: GERMINAL, a 19th century French novel by Emile Zola. No, I’ve not read it either. Solution is INAL (i.e. IN ALL with final letter removed, i.e. “all told briefly”) preceded by GERM (i.e. “the beginning”, e.g. the germ of an idea).

52. Article by poet is going slowly (7)

Answer: ANDANTE, a musical term – because it wouldn’t be a Times crossword without including at least one of approximately 20,000 musical terms – meaning to move slowly. Solution is AN (i.e. “article”, specifically the indefinite article used before vowel sounds) followed by DANTE (i.e. “poet”, specifically the ever-cheery Dante Alighieri).

53. Revealing hypocrisy in empty society (6)

Answer: SCANTY (i.e. “revealing”). Solution is CANT (i.e. “hypocrisy”) placed in the middle of S and Y (i.e. “empty society”, being the word “society” with its middle letters removed), like so: S(CANT)Y.

Down clues

2. Announcer’s maximum annoyance (5)

Answer: PIQUE. Solution is a homophone of “peak” (i.e. “announcer’s maximum”), being PIQUE (i.e. “annoyance”).

3. Press impatient with a current political barrier (4, 7)

Answer: IRON CURTAIN, a political barrier between the former Soviet bloc and the West. Solution is IRON (i.e. “press”) followed by CURT (i.e. “impatient”), then A (“with a”), then IN (i.e. “current”).

4. Agreed to don rotten cheat’s pirate garb? (8)

Answer: EYEPATCH (i.e. “pirate garb”). Solution is an anagram of CHEAT (i.e. “rotten cheat”) with YEP (i.e. “agreed”, informally) placed inside (i.e. “to don”), like so: E(YEP)ATCH.

5. President with the heart for angry demagogy (5)

Answer: GRANT, i.e. Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth President of the United States. Solution is G (i.e. “heart for angry”, i.e. the middle letter of the word “angry”) followed by RANT (another word for “demagogy”). This is comfortably my favourite clue of this puzzle. Very fitting and well played!

6. Modernised vans from urban parade went out together (7)

Answer: UPDATED (i.e. “modernised”). Solution is U and P (i.e. “vans from urban parade” – van is a recognised abbreviation of vanguard, i.e. at the forefront, so we want the initial letters of “urban parade”) followed by DATED (i.e. “went out together”).

7. Appeal in protest, offering help (11)

Answer: COMPLAISANT (i.e. “offering help”). Solution is SA (i.e. “appeal”, specifically “sex appeal”. No, I can’t say I’ve seen it written like that either) placed in the middle of COMPLAINT (i.e. “protest”).

8. Artist is in Paris, taking in Rodin on vacation (5)

Answer: ERNST, i.e. Max Ernst, a prolific surrealist artist of the 20th century. Solution is EST (i.e. “is in Paris” – the French for “is” is “est”) with RN placed in the middle (i.e. “Rodin on vacation”, being “Rodin” with the middle letters removed, or “vacated”), like so: E(RN)ST.

9. Pen triter works to read (9)

Answer: INTERPRET (i.e. “to read”). “Works” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of PENTRITER.

10. Dog’s head drops down (5)

Answer: DRAIN. I’m guessing here that the clue is “down”, as if to down a drink, i.e. drain it. Solution is D (i.e. “Dog’s head”, i.e. the first letter of “dog”) followed by RAIN (i.e. “drops”).

11. Increase housing bill, inspiring fear (11)

Answer: REDOUBTABLE (i.e. “inspiring fear”). Solution is REDOUBLE (i.e. “increase”) with TAB (i.e. “bill”) placed inside (i.e. “housing”), like so: REDOUB(TAB)LE.

12. Recalled old party host holding English stringed instrument (7)

Answer: CEMBALO, being an alternative name for a harpsichord (i.e. “stringed instrument”). Bear with me here. Solution is O (i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “old”), followed by LAB (i.e. “party”, i.e. the Labour Party) then MC (i.e. “host”, specifically Master of Ceremonies) with E (i.e. “English”) in the middle (inferred by “holding”). The whole lot is then reversed (i.e. “recalled”), like so: C(E)M-BAL-O. You’re welcome.

18. A shy person, traveller stops between races (9)

Answer: INTROVERT (i.e. “a shy person”). Solution is ROVER (i.e. “traveller”) placed in the middle of (i.e. “between”) IN and TT (i.e. “races”). I know that TT is the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race. I’m guessing that IN is the Indy 500, but I could be wrong.

19. Fish caught by one in paper, wriggling (7)

Answer: CRAPPIE, a small sunfish found in North America. Not exactly a name that whets the appetite. Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in cricket) followed by an anagram (indicated by “wriggling”) of PAPER with I (i.e. “one”) included, like so: C-RAPP(I)E.

21. Animal in parable, or in another form (5, 4)

Answer: POLAR BEAR (i.e. “animal”) “In another form” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of PARABLEOR.

22. Recruiter in French car (8)

Answer: ENROLLER (i.e. “recruiter”). Solution is EN (i.e. “in French” – the French for “in” is “en”) followed by ROLLER (i.e. “car”, specifically a Rolls Royce).

25. Female to get around breezy, fantastic place (9)

Answer: FAIRYLAND (i.e. “fantastic place”). Solution is AIRY (i.e. “breezy”) surrounded by F (i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “female”) and LAND (i.e. “to get”), like so: F(AIRY)LAND.

27. Old wine unruly adolescent brought up (9)

Answer: EXCAVATED (i.e. “brought up”). Solution is EX (i.e. “old”) followed by CAVA (i.e. “wine”) and TED (i.e. “unruly adolescent”, specifically a Teddy Boy).

28. Covering king and a couple of leaders (8)

Answer: KERCHIEF, a square piece of cloth worn over the head, i.e. “covering”. Solution is K (i.e. “king”) followed by ER and CHIEF (i.e. “a couple of leaders”, specifically ER, or Elizabeth Regina, and… er… a chief.)

31. Boss has drink, on second (7)

Answer: SUPREMO (i.e. “boss”). I’m not sure how the setter has arrived at this. I get that “sup” covers “has drink”, but if REMO is supposed to be a type of drink (i.e. “on second”) I’ve not heard of it. I see there’s a San Remo cocktail, but, frankly, any bartender can knock up a cocktail and slap a name on it.

33. According to girl I don’t know, this is a sprinkler (11)

Answer: ASPERGILLUM, a holy-water sprinkler. So now you know. Solution is AS PER (i.e. “according to”) followed by GILL (i.e. “girl”, as in a girl’s name – yeah, I never like it when they drop first names into solutions either) and then UM (i.e. “I don’t know”).

34. Lively home by Spanish city esteemed highly (11)

Answer: INVIGORATED (i.e. “lively”). Solution is IN (i.e. “home”), VIGO (i.e. “Spanish city”) and RATED (i.e. “esteemed highly”).

35. Visitor for Christmas day, one around US resort (5, 6)

Answer: SANTA MONICA (i.e. “US resort”). Solution is SANTA (i.e. “visitor for Christmas”) followed by MON (i.e. “day”, “Mon” being a recognised abbreviation of Monday), I (i.e. “one”) and CA (i.e. “around”, i.e. “ca” being a recognised abbreviation of circa.)

37. Passing border in record time, heading for Laos (9)

Answer: EPHEMERAL (i.e. “passing”). Solution is HEM (i.e. “border”) placed among EP (i.e. “record”, an Extended-Play single – ask your parents), ERA (i.e. “time”) and L (i.e. “heading for Laos”, i.e. the initial letter of Laos), like so: EP-(HEM)-ERA-L.

40. Trust man to train pets (8)

Answer: TANTRUMS, another word for pets or huffs. “To train” indicates an anagram. Solution is an anagram of TRUSTMAN.

42. Mean, say, to be getting on (7)

Answer: AVERAGE (i.e. “mean”). Solution is AVER (i.e. to assert, or “say to be”), followed by AGE (i.e. “getting on”).

43. Technique for selling new design (7)

Answer: PATTERN (i.e. “design”). Solution is PATTER (i.e. “technique for selling”) followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”).

45. Flier’s welcome in armed service (5)

Answer: RAVEN (i.e. “flier”, or a bird). Solution is AVE (i.e. “welcome”, or an archaic form of address) placed in the middle of RN (i.e. “armed service”, specifically the Royal Navy).

47. US cities hosting a creature from Africa (5)

Answer: NYALA, a South African antelope. Solution is A being placed between NY and LA (i.e. “US cities hosting a”).

48. Missile launch site shelters right in the shade (5)

Answer: OCHRE, an earthy colour (i.e. “shade”). Solution is R (i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “right”) placed amid OCHE (i.e. “missile launch site”, being the line behind which darts players must stand when throwing). This clue made me smile when I got it.

49. Almost time for parting word (5)

Answer: NIGHT (i.e. “parting word”, shortened form of “goodnight”). Solution is NIGH (i.e. “almost”) followed by T (i.e. recognised abbreviation of “time”).

So there we have it. This puzzle was a bit of a stinker with a few clues I’m still unsure about. If anyone can clue me in on the reasoning behind 20a (IMPERFECTION) and 31d (SUPREMO) that would be lovely.

Oh, and, yes, it’s been a while. Hello again, world!


NaNoWriMo 2015: Winner (just)!

Crikey, didn’t November fly by? One minute it was Halloween and we were all sitting in the Forum exchanging plots and twists and character bios for NaNoWriMo, the next it’s the eleventh hour, St Andrew’s Day, and I’m adding the last however many words needed to get over the line. But get over the line I did – 50,164 words in 30 days. Presenting cheesy grin!

So that’s all very nice. Even nicer was witnessing a lot of happy WriMos throughout various newsfeeds and write-ins, and a buddy’s page that was liberally peppered with purple ‘Winner!’ bars.

Nicer still, now NaNoWriMo is done, I don’t feel like taking Year Zero and shoving it through a shredder, or at least not yet anyway. Instead, I’m rather keen to keep adding to it. I’ll aim for 1,000 words per day, similar to when I was finishing The Floors, although this time I won’t be working to a silly self-imposed deadline. Again, feel free to crack the whip if you see me slacking.

I’m still none the wiser how long Year Zero will be. Given what I’ve written so far, plus the scenes I still want to write, not to mention the plot, lest we forget, the story could hit 225,000 words if I’m not careful (that’s in the region of 750 paperback pages, folks). I fear it could put Year Zero at risk of being junked unseen by agents or publishers. (Mind you, given some of the rates I’ve seen offered of late, I don’t imagine I’d have any problem finding someone out there to edit the thing!)

Luckily I have a number of red pens left over from editing The Floors. I’ve a feeling I might need them. Let’s get a first draft done before all of that, eh?




25,000 words down. Time for a cover!

Year Zero cover 1What-ho, peeps, it’s your least humble servant Mr Poll here again, this time with a short and sweet NaNoWriMo update.

This is one of those me-me-me posts (yes, another one!), so feel free to skip this if you aren’t, you know, me.

Anyway, with the halfway point of the month fast approaching I’ve just hit the 25,000 word mark, so things are trundling along nicely. It’ll be interesting to see where in the story I’ll be come 50,000 words, because at the moment there’s still a fair amount to get out of my head, and I still need to somehow knit large chunks of it together into a workable narrative. I’ve a feeling this could weigh in around twice as long as The Floors, though bear in mind I rather underestimated how long that would be. (“100,000 words too long,” you say? Tsk! Meanie.)

The biggest positive for me so far is that Year Zero is shaping up a lot better than The Forum of the Dead, my last NaNoWriMo attempt. There haven’t been too many bad days, touch keyboard, when I’ve felt like giving up and doing something less maddening instead, and even then I’ve at least managed to write something. Of course, whether said something survives a second draft, who knows, so long as I get to a second draft.

A sign that I’m feeling more positive about Year Zero is that I’ve knocked together a cover for it. Not bad for an hour’s messing about with Inkscape, and a fitting contrast to The Floors. The cover might change over the coming however-long – for example, I might yet put this out under (gasps) my proper actual real proper name – but for now it’s a useful placeholder.

Anyway, like I said, a short and sweet update. I’ll befoul the cyberwaves once more when I hit 50,000 words. I bet you can’t wait!


NaNoWriMo 2015

NaNo2015 ParticipantGoodness me, it seems like an awfully long time since I was last blathering up the blogosphere. What’s that? “That’s because it has been an awfully long time?” Yeah, well, try not to sound too pleased about it, because I’m back to befoul the cyberwaves again. You lucky, lucky people!

So why have I come back? Well, partly because WordPress renewed my domain name and it would be a shame to see $26 go to waste, and partly because there’s another NaNoWriMo on the way!

Now, if at this point you are wondering what the hell a NaNoWriMo is when it’s at home, then seek ye the National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo sees lots of people hunker down over their laptops and writing pads during the month of November, all feverishly trying to squeeze 50,000 words of a novel onto the empty page before the end of the month. That weighs in at just under 1,700 words every day, which is chickenfeed to seasoned pros like Alexander McCall Smith, who can push out 1,000 words in an hour, but often proves a little trickier for most mere mortals.

Now, your least humble servant, Mr Poll, here, did alright in the 2012 and 2013 NaNos, scoring just over 50,000 words in them both. (I was on hols for 2014’s NaNo.) 2012’s NaNo yielded my sci-fi horror novel, “The Floors”, which you can still see shamelessly plastered all over this blog. 2013’s NaNo brought about a solid chunk of a novel called “The Forum of the Dead”, which I then took around the back of the house and shot so as not to distress the kids.

Looking back, there was a big difference between my first and second attempts at NaNoWriMo. Back in 2012, the whole concept of “The Floors” was like some all-consuming forest fire sweeping through my mind. A maze of thirteenth floors? Bam! The idea had taken root, and it was more or less all my brain could think about until the book was finished, redrafted, edited, redrafted and put out there to buy. Sometimes, when that happens, the only thing I can do is to go along with it and try to enjoy the ride.

“The Forum of the Dead” was where things started to go a bit wonky. It started off as another simple idea: someone comes into possession of a laptop with a corrupt bookmark that, when clicked on, takes them to a web forum used by the dead. The whole thing was going to cover witchcraft and possession and the strange and valuable things squirrelled away in people’s attics, but by the end of 50,000 words I had barely scratched the surface of the story and, alarmingly, elements of it were beginning to resemble L. Ron Hubbard’s first draft for that whole Scientology thing.

Scrapping all of the effort that went into those 50,000 words – research included – wasn’t exactly a great confidence booster. Far from it. Since then, I’ve barely been able to finish anything fun and creative, which isn’t exactly spiffy.

So why am I going to put myself through all of that again? Several reasons. First and foremost, I need to get back into the writing habit again, otherwise what’s the point of this whole Lucian Poll thing? (Let me stop you there before you start.) I’ve had a story rattling around my head since “The Forum of the Dead” that I wouldn’t mind getting onto paper so I can go around thinking about some other things. I also hope that by getting back into the writing groove again I’ll start to enjoy my reading a little more. (It may just be that I’ve hit upon a string of duds on my bookshelves.) Last, but my no means least, I’m also keen to see who of my 2012 and 2013 writing buddies are taking part in this year’s event. If NaNoWriMo makes me dip more than the occasional toe into the murky waters of social media then maybe that would be a good thing too.

As for this year’s novel, it’s tentatively called “Year Zero” and, contrary to the zombie-esque title, will be a straight science fiction yarn. You may therefore see a… ah… rebranding going on here over the coming however-long. 😉 I feel I have a stronger grip on “Year Zero” than I did “The Forum of the Dead”, but it’s not burning a hole in my brain a la “The Floors”. I also reckon, should I win, 50,000 words won’t get me a huge way through the story, but I’m fairly comfortable with that. Science fiction and fantasy are a tad more forgiving of long stories than most other genres.

So, crises of confidence and life aside, you should find me at this year’s Norwich NaNo launch this coming Hallowe’en, where I’ll listen to the splendid story ideas of my fellow WriMos before stammering and blurting out mine.

If I get to the end of “Year Zero” then, with a bit of luck, I’ll have a story that fits this here blurb:

Welcome to Newich, a most unusual city.

In a strange and shapeless world, and surrounded by Erdd’s warm, blue-green oceans, there stands the makeshift metropolis of Newich, a four-hundred square mile patchwork quilt of a city. Except there’s a problem. Newich simply should not exist. Everything about the city is wrong, from its corrupted streets to its fused buildings, from its stuttering politics to its ten million lost and lonely inhabitants. But then the same could be said of Erdd itself, and the universe around it. Why else would the night skies blaze with the light of a billion, trillion stars?

No, something has gone very badly awry, something that has placed all existence on a knife-edge, and the root of it all lies somewhere in Newich. Inquisitor Eleda Paraczek is determined to unearth the truth, whatever the cost.

All she needs is the right confession.

Well, it’s early days.

In the meantime, keep your eye on the word count shown at the top of the sidebar, and be sure to crack the whip if you see me slacking. Especially given Fallout 4’s imminent release. (Come on, I’m only human!)


Review: The Silence

A live televised caving expedition in Moldova takes a disastrous turn when a team of potholers and scientists opens up a large and hereto sealed underground ecosystem, releasing from it a swarm of vicious bat-like creatures that promptly feast on their liberators. The now-unmanned cameras keep on rolling, beaming the harrowing footage to a few horror-struck Discovery Channel viewers across the world.

Two such witnesses to the carnage are Ally and her father, Huw, whose stories we then follow as the world rapidly goes to hell. Ally is an easy-going fourteen year old girl getting on with life with her mum and brother in a quiet town in south-east Wales, not letting a thing like her lack of hearing hold her back. Huw, on the other hand, is holed up in a bed and breakfast on the Cornish coast, working lonely weekdays away from home. Both can scarcely believe what they have seen, and yet both are rocked by the footage.

At first the creatures escaping from the cave aren’t deemed much of a threat. As Ally scours the internet and social media for context, she finds many commentators dismissing the footage in one way or another. Surely it’s a movie trailer, right? Right? Well, sucks to be them, then. Shouldn’t have gone down there in the first place. Why should I care? I mean, Moldova is pretty far away, isn’t it?

Then the news stories bring home the terrible truth as towns, cities and countries begin to fall. The creatures are astonishingly quick, immediately attracted to the slightest noise around them, their appetites voracious. They have no eyes, their flesh is a sickly yellow, and their teeth – oh, man, so many sharp pointy teeth. Worse still, in this new ecosystem teeming with unsuspecting walking meat, and with no predators to speak of, the creatures swarm like locusts and breed like wildfire.

Both Ally and Huw know deep down that the situation is serious, perhaps even the beginning of the end. But what can they do? Should the whole family up sticks and run? Even if they did, where would they run to? And could they outrun the coming swarm?

Maybe. Maybe not. All they know is that in order to survive they will need to be very, very quiet.

A couple of years ago I tore through Tim Lebbon’s fairly lengthy end-of-the-world novel Coldbrook and thought it was a riot. Picking up a copy of The Silence, however, I was struck by how similar the premise seemed. It was as if someone had replaced the flesh-hungry zombies of Coldbrook with flesh-hungry du Maurier-esque birds, then reset the apocalypse simulation and hit the play button. Even so, I had enjoyed Coldbrook more than enough to buy The Silence without a second thought, and, y’know what? I’m glad I set my cynicism to one side, because The Silence is excellent.

There is a lot to like here. The pacing of the book is spot-on. The vesps – little, hungry buggers that they are – overwhelm Europe at a frightening pace, and yet, at the same time, Lebbon manages to keep the horror away from Blighty’s shores for as long as possible, ratcheting up the tension brilliantly as Ally and her family struggle to cope in a land fast losing itself to panic. The writing is smooth as silk and, like Coldbrook before it, I tore through The Silence in only a few sittings, probably leaving scorch marks on the pages.

Not only is the pace expertly judged, but so are the reader’s expectations as the story develops. As bizarre as it sounds, I swear Lebbon is telepathically linked to the reader. There were a number of times I found a nagging thought developing along the lines of “surely if everything was going to hell, then such-and-such would have happened/run out/gone off by now” only for that very thing to happen within a couple of chapters.

There’s also a nice bit of symbolism threaded through The Silence, if you go in for that kind of thing – perhaps nothing too subtle if even I’d spotted it, but pleasing all the same. (I’ll keep shtum on that one, in case you’re tempted to have a read.)

But the biggest triumph of The Silence is Ally. She is one of the best-written characters I’ve read for a while, matched only perhaps in my recent reads by Jamie Morton in Stephen King’s Revival and the hapless hikers of Adam Nevill’s The Ritual. It’s quite cunning, really, in that it’s Ally’s normalness that defines her. Any prejudices taken into this book melt away within a few chapters. While we’re never left in any doubt that Ally cannot hear, it seldom seems to matter. She’s just getting on with it, signing with friends and family who know how, and lip-reading those who do not, no biggie, no dramas.

There were niggles and downsides to The Silence, but these were fairly minor. For example, Ally’s chapters within the book noticeably outshone those that focused on Huw. I don’t quite know why, but I never really connected with him. Perhaps it was his tendency to gush with love at the slightest sight, sound or whiff of whichever family member was nearest him. Then again, I am a bitter and cold-hearted sod, so bear that in mind.

I also felt there were small inconsistencies in what it would take to attract a nearby vesp. The slightest whisper could set one upon you, but in other scenes you could gather up a bag of odds and sods with the things peaceably perched almost on your shoulder. Nothing truly jarring, and perhaps easily overlooked.

One plus point, and a rare one for a Titan Books first edition, is that I found no typos in the book! Huzzah! It’s such a shame, then, to find they’ve gotten Ally’s name wrong on the cover. Hey ho, I guess you can’t have everything. (By the way, the copy-proofing offer still stands, guys.)

So, in summary, should you give The Silence a whirl? Absolutely. Read it as if you were watching a movie, and be sure to check your fingertips for burns as those pages fly by. It’s not quite a 5/5 from me, but, equally, it seems harsh giving it only 4/5. Heartily recommended.