Review: Best New Horror 6

Seems a bit harsh having “R. Campbell” on the tombstone!

(If you would like a run through the stories found in the first five books of the series, jump over to my Reviews page.)

This sixth entry sees a slimmer volume for the Best New Horror series, and showcases twenty-one stories and a poem, all published during 1994. To be honest the book could have been even slimmer. Like the previous volume, Best New Horror 6 is an uneven read with a number of underwhelming stories littering the first half of the book. Get through that lot and you’ll find the latter half significantly better, evidenced by a glut of award-winners and nominees. Taken as a whole, this makes for a fairly solid 4/5.

This was the first book in the series that was solely edited by Stephen Jones following Ramsey Campbell’s departure. Don’t think you’ve seen the last of Campbell, though, as his stories go on to feature in this and all but one of the next 22 books!

So let’s jump in. The stories you’ll find in Best New Horror 6 are as follows:

Also collected in Watt-Evans’s “Hazmat and Other Toxic Stories”

Dead Babies – Lawrence Watt-Evans (3/5 – Allie’s waters have broken and her husband, Bill, is rushing her to hospital. The baby isn’t hanging around, however, and it soon dawns on Bill that they will never reach the hospital in time. He decides a more sensible idea would be to make a short detour to Dr Everett’s house. They are answered by Dr Everett’s sister, Laura, who ushers them into a small parlour-like room. Everett arrives and sends Bill and Laura out into the hallway while he tends to Allie. As Bill paces the hall he cannot help but notice a dreadful smell in the house, seemingly coming from a nearby room, but he doesn’t question it. When he hears Allie’s anguished screams, Bill finds their worst fears have been realised. But that is only the beginning of the nightmare. This short helping of American gothic was okay, but it goes in the direction you’d expect from one scene to the next. That said, there are some nice touches here and there. The story is told from Bill’s point of view and Watt-Evans does a great job of humanising him with an affectionate Deep South twang.)

Also collected in Ellison’s “Slippage”

Sensible City – Harlan Ellison (4/5 – Gropp is a police lieutenant facing a lengthy prison sentence following the brutal deaths of several inmates at the internment facility he ran. He’s as guilty as all Hell too, thanks to his favourite pastime of smacking prisoners’ heads along the bars of their cells until they pass out. Knowing he’s going down, Gropp jumps bail with his right-hand-man-mountain Mickey Rizzo, who also has blood on his hands. They hightail it in a car with Mickey at the wheel. After a while they find themselves on an unfamiliar Interstate route with no idea where they are or where they are headed. A town called Obedience presents itself in the near distance, a town with an ominous green tinge in the sky. This was a fun short; like a weird mix of The Ant Hill Mob (with Gropp as Clyde and Mickey as Dum Dum) and the old Creepy and Eerie comics of the 60s.)

Also collected in Lamsley’s “Conference with the Dead”

Blade and Bone – Terry Lamsley (4/5 – Ogden is on his bike, taking in and reporting upon the sights of the Peak District for the benefit of his laid-up wife, Poppy. A freak downpour on his travels forces Ogden to urgently seek shelter amid a line of boarded-up houses. Assuming the area to be uninhabited, he smashes open the door of a nearby outhouse. As he barges his way in, Ogden has the uncanny feeling of something brushing past him. Could he have accidentally released something from the outhouse? And if so, what? This was another strong showing from Lamsley, whose Two Returns in Best New Horror 5 was a highlight. This story takes a while to get going but oh my does the ending deliver!)

Also collected in Partridge’s “The Man with the Barbed-Wire Fists”

Harvest – Norman Partridge (3/5 – Raphael lives alone in C-Town. His children are dead. His wife is gone. Everyone else in C-Town has either died or fled. The trees are blackened, the river poisoned. The sounds of a weeping woman float through the empty streets. She is La Llarona, the very personification of all that ills C-Town, and she is keen for Raphael to taste her gruesome, fleshy fruit. When Raphael is visited by a succession of people all keen for him to move away from the area, a tragic and significantly more mundane explanation presents itself. But can Raphael accept it? I liked this sad and sombre story up until the ending, which tries to get away without answering anything. I griped first time around that this was weak and it suggested Partridge didn’t know how to finish the story; a feeling that is sadly undiminished following a second reading.)

Sometimes, In The Rain – Charles Grant (4/5 – Len is an old man given to sitting out on the porch in the middle of winter, watching shapes emerge and dissolve in the rain. His younger sister, Gracie, lives with him. Originally this was to help Len around the house, but these days she’s there more to bicker and complain and fuss. In order to escape her, Len goes out drinking with his friend (and Gracie’s ex-husband), the magnificently named Youngman Stevens. But Youngman is a widower with a troubled soul. He is prone to seeing his recently deceased wife Edith in a nearby park. When Len staggers home after another night on the sauce, he catches a glimpse of Edith too. Of Grant’s appearances in Best New Horror, this Stoker-nominated novelette was perhaps his most straightforward story. Nevertheless, it’s wonderfully written, cannily observed and a nice little chiller to boot.)

Ménage à Trois – Richard Christian Matheson (2/5 – A couple get it on. Repeatedly. With a knife. Of course! This short sequence of vignettes was originally published in an anthology of erotic horror called Little Deaths, and clearly the attempt was to evoke a Barkeresque ooh-yeah-baby-cut-me-there-mmm-yeah-peel-my-skin kind of thing, but to be honest it’s about as sexy as finding blood in your stool. I’ve given it one extra star, though, for its unintended comedy value. “Ghastly red licorice” indeed.)

Also collected in Lane’s “The Lost District and Other Stories”

Like Shattered Stone – Joel Lane (4/5 – Peter is a sculptor who suddenly finds he’s creating amazing work while asleep. One morning he wakes up in his studio, naked, tool in hand (stop it), finding he has rendered in granite an extraordinarily vivid forearm of a child reaching up out of the stone. It’s all very nice, but it’s a world away from the smashed-up cars and burnt-out buildings he was intending to sculpt. He wakes up another morning to find a young girl’s head cut from another block of stone. Whatever could any of this mean? Later, one evening, while cutting through a side street to Soho Road, Peter spots a dark sealed-up building. The walls of said building aren’t brick, however. They look somewhat like granite. This was a weirdly playful curiosity from Lane, couched, as ever, in bleak reportage from the Black Country. Echoes of this story can be heard in My Stone Desire, his British Fantasy Award-winning story of 2008.)

Black Sun – Douglas E. Winter (2/5 – In this International Horror Critics Award-winning story we follow an unnamed stranger as he is accompanied by a man called Hagopian through short scenes of post-nuclear holocaust and the slow death of the world. Hagopian has hired the stranger to undertake a horrific mass killing in the neon city, seemingly unaware of his assassin’s true self. Much of this mood piece is open to interpretation, and your enjoyment of it will hinge on how much work you are willing to put into reading it. As I’ve mentioned a few times in these reviews, I have to be in the right frame of mind. I was originally less than enamoured with this story, stating that I’d be happy to live out my days never having to read it again. Well, having read it a second time – as I have with several stories so far in these extended reviews of Best New Horror – I found a story that still exhausted my patience, though it did improve slightly. I’ve upped the score a tad, but I wouldn’t count on a third reading.)

Also collected in Harrison’s “Things That Never Happen”

Isobel Avens Returns To Stepney In The Spring – M. John Harrison (3/5 – In a story that flicks between past and present we follow Mick “China” Rose as he builds up a courier firm servicing a number of medical research companies across Europe. During these halcyon days he falls heavily for the titular Isobel, a waitress who yearns to fly like a bird. Cut to the present day and Isobel seems to have found one such research company that can help her fly, but with distressing, life-changing consequences. I wasn’t keen on this Dr Moreau-esque story the first time around, thanks mostly to the incredibly irritating Avens. Seriously, if she’d exclaimed “China!” one more time I’d have reached into the story and wrung her bloody neck. It’s damn near every other word she says. She even says it to help Harrison break up a few overly long paragraphs. <CynicModeDeactivated> Amazingly, despite everything running against it, Harrison manages to turn this story around in the latter third. For book nerds out there, Harrison later took this story, added Choe Ashton from Anima (his story in Best New Horror 4) and turned it into the British Fantasy Award nominated novel Signs Of Life. I’ll pass, thanks.)

The Dead Orchards – Ian MacLeod (5/5 – Caitlin is a poor girl who finds herself the centre of a rich old man’s attention. He is struck by her astonishing beauty, which is undimmed by her impoverished appearance. He begs her to come visit him, promising her money, a life of pampering and luxury and more besides. Caitlin agrees but is wary. She recalls how her mother disappeared one night long ago when lured to these grounds. She has every right to be wary too, for her host possesses a cruel streak a mile wide and the wealth to feed it. He also has a secret enchanted well tucked away in the bowels of the house. Those who drink of its waters fall into a catatonic state, a quality of which the old man has taken murderous advantage time and again. This was MacLeod’s third appearance in Best New Horror, with each story better than the last. The Dead Orchards is an excellent read; a full-blooded and handsomely written horror story that is chock-full of gothic imagery and which leads to a very satisfying ending. Job done!)

Also collected in Massie’s “Shadow Dreams”

What Happened When Mosby Paulson Had Her Painting Reproduced On The Cover Of The Phone Book – Elizabeth Massie (5/5 – From one excellent story to another. In What Happened… we follow Elliott, a tragic young boy whose wellbeing, confidence and schooling is being routinely destroyed by his dying mother. She is quick to browbeat Elliott, to lay on the emotional blackmail, to do anything to get her own way. Her cold-hearted selfishness has stripped the boy of any sense of ambition, effectively reducing him to her personal dogsbody. One morning Elliott opens the mail and sees a classmate’s painting on the cover of the phone book, which makes him realise how much of his potential he is wasting. He used to get good grades. His artwork was often praised by his teachers. Now look at him. But what can he do to improve his lot? This is a sad story made all the more heartbreaking by the fact Massie drew on her experience as a teacher to write it.)

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

The Alternative – Ramsey Campbell (3/5 – Highton returns home one evening to his wife and two kids. Home is a cramped two-bedroom flat in a grotty, run-down estate. Both Highton and his wife, Valerie, have to sleep in the sitting room to give their teenage daughter and junkie son separate rooms. But something weird happens when Highton goes to sleep. When he wakes, he is a successful accountant with a model family and all the trappings of a comfortable lifestyle. So which life is real and which one is the dream? This was okay, but I couldn’t quite shake the notion that Campbell was trying too hard. The Alternative chimes false as a result. List five things you’d expect to find in a stereotypical well-to-do household or rough council estate during the mid-90s and the chances are most of them will show up in this story.)

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

In The Middle Of A Snow Dream – Karl Edward Wagner (3/5 – Niane Liddell is an exotic dancer with a drug habit and the mental scars of a hard life. She’s had a few brushes with death, the latter brought about through a Demerol overdose. She is sent to a retreat for recovering addicts, but something about the place feels a little off. It seems her fellow patients have all had near-death experiences too. Coincidence? This was one of Wagner’s final stories before he died at the age of 48, and it left me wondering whether this was truly the finished article. The pacing of the story is uneven to say the least. Wagner spends time building up interesting characters in Niane and her fellow exotic dancer girlfriend Navonna, but the moment they both enter the retreat it seems he cannot wait to throw monsters at them and finish the story. Not great, sadly.)

Also collected in McAuley’s “Invisible Country”

The Temptation Of Dr Stein – Paul J. McAuley (4/5 – In an alternative history where Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions have helped transform Florence into a world power, Henry Gorrall and his sometime unofficial assistant Dr Stein investigate the body of a young girl pulled from the Grand Canal. Her body is sent to the city hospital for examination accompanied by two guards. When the guards are mortally attacked and the girl’s body fails to arrive, Gorrall is furious. It seems the girl has been stolen by bodysnatchers. Events take a chilling turn when the girl is subsequently found in the company of a sideshow charlatan calling himself Dr Pretorious. Remarkably, the girl is alive… after a fashion. I didn’t come to this story with high hopes if I’m honest, despite it bagging a British Fantasy Award. While I don’t mind stories set in alternative universes, it didn’t feel right for a horror story for some reason. I needn’t have worried. McAuley wisely keeps the alternate reality stuff squarely in the background and focuses instead on characters, plot and excellent writing. Definitely worth a read.)

Also collected in Kilworth’s “Moby Jack and Other Tall Tales”

Wayang Kulit – Garry Kilworth (4/5 – A man is enjoying the rustic delights of Bali when he is handed an invitation to attend a wayang kulit – a sacred shadow puppet play. He attends the show and is suitably impressed with the skill and artistry on display. Later, while nobody is around, he examines the assorted puppets in the booth, unaware of his shadow falling against the screen. One of the shadow puppets moves, seemingly settling into place, its shadow meeting his. Our man soon senses a growing pain in his shoulders and comes to realise the shadow play isn’t quite finished. I really liked Kilworth’s Inside The Walled City, which was a highlight of Best New Horror 2, and this story is every bit as good.)

The Scent Of Vinegar – Robert Bloch (4/5 – Greg Kolmer is a young man who is keen to locate Kitty Earnshaw’s place. Hers was a fabled house of ill repute from cinema’s golden era, believed to be lost to the years somewhere up in the Hollywood hills. Greg is convinced he will find his fortune there, a treasure trove of dirt on the leading men of the age. Instead what he finds is a golden girl lying in one of the rooms; a girl with sharp teeth who, bizarrely, is able to detach her head from her shoulders. This Stoker-winning story from the author of Psycho is a fun read with a wonderfully satisfying ending.)

The Homecoming – Nicholas Royle (4/5 – Daniela returns to Romania, her homeland, following Ceausescu’s bloody downfall. Upon arriving there she has a feeling that the nightmare isn’t quite over. Bucharest is a wreck, yes, but other than that the city still seems brimming with informers and secret police. Strange dreams and uncomfortable truths come to light when Daniela attempts to find her brother. This World Fantasy Award-nominated story previously appeared in Jones’ Shadows Over Innsmouth anthology, but thankfully this is one of those rare occasions where an author dips his toes lightly into Lovecraft territory and produces superior work. True, the tired Lovecraftian trope of a perpetually fearful protagonist is given an airing here, but the quality of the story makes up for it.)

Also collected in Landis’s “Impact Parameter and Other Quantum Realities”

The Singular Habits Of Wasps – Geoffrey A. Landis (5/5 – There are a few 5-star stories in this volume but this has the beating of them all. In The Singular Habits of Wasps Landis presents an astonishingly good Sherlock Holmes story, albeit perhaps not one for the purists! Doctor Watson is worried for Holmes. The famous detective has recently returned from investigating the disappearance of a mortally wounded farm hand and is exhibiting behaviour that is odd, even for him. With each nightly disappearance of Holmes it seems a lady of the night ends up slaughtered. Holmes couldn’t be the notorious Jack The Ripper, could he? Remember: when you have eliminated the impossible, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth.)

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

To Receive Is Better – Michael Marshall Smith (4/5 – Jack is a man on the run, hiding on a subway train, desperate to avoid drawing attention to himself. But the cards are stacked against him, for Jack has never known the outside world. To make matters worse, he is missing an eye, some fingers and a leg. He has spent his whole life being kept in a tunnel, with all the other “spares” like him. Needless to say, Jack is a more than a little pissed at his lot and is going to do something about it. This World Fantasy Award-nominated story was originally published in another of Jones’s many anthologies, The Mammoth Book Of Frankenstein, and it’s typically brilliant of MMS to find an intriguing twist on the Frankenstein story. He would later take this story and turn it into his second novel, Spares, which I might have to seek out.)

Also collected in Hodge’s “Lies & Ugliness”

The Alchemy Of The Throat – Brian Hodge (5/5 – In this sumptuous Stoker-nominated novelette we follow a modern-day castrato soprano, Giovanni Petrelli, in the months following his auction from a shady conservatory. This is a world in which castrati are still produced, albeit in utter secrecy, and the prices fetched by the most talented castrati are eyewatering. (The ones who don’t make the grade “mysteriously” disappear.) Giovanni is purchased by an incredibly wealthy man called Julius, and is soon put to the task of singing for him. During the many years of his training, Giovanni has heard all the horror stories of his trade, of how the androgynous beauty of the castrati often land them in the beds of their patrons. He is understandably wary of Julius, wondering how long it will be before he too falls foul of his patron’s lusty hands. But it seems Julius is content for Giovanni to merely sing for him. Julius’s debauched friends, on the other hand, are another matter – as Giovanni is about to find out in full. This is a superb story, real genre-elevating stuff. There have been a few erotic horror stories in this and previous volumes of Best New Horror, but Hodge shows them all how it’s done. Unmissable, though you might need some smelling salts while reading it.)

Also collected in Newman’s “Famous Monsters”

Out Of The Night, When The Full Moon Is Bright – Kim Newman (5/5 – This World Fantasy Award-nominated novella sees another mash-up from Newman, his third in as many books. Red Reign, in Best New Horror 4, was a brilliant story which took in Dracula and pretty much everyone of note, both real and fictional, from the Victorian era. The Big Fish, from Best New Horror 5, however, was a largely unsuccessful attempt to shoehorn Chandler into Lovecraft’s universe. This time around Newman clearly thought, “The Legend of Zorro, WITH WEREWOLVES!” And do you know what? He’s only gone and pulled it off. In one half of a dual narrative, we follow a young black novelist, Stuart Finn, as he endures a ride-around from hell courtesy of the LAPD. The whole city is a powder keg, its citizens brazenly taking pot-shots at the police, its gangs seemingly massacring rivals with impunity. Finn is here to develop a screenplay based on a successful novel of his, transplanting it from the UK to the US, but will he survive long enough to do so? On the flipside of the story we follow Diego as he embraces his newfound lycanthropy and cuts a murderously righteous path through a cruel, fledgling America, slaughtering any wrongdoers he senses, carving his zig-zag-zig calling card on each and every one of them. How the two narratives tie together, you’ll have to read for yourself, needless to say it’s very well done. It’s not all wine and roses, however. There is a whiff of stale and faintly Verhoevenian near-futurism to overlook here and there, but do so and you’ll find this a satisfying and bloodthirsty romp. Tuck in!)

Lovers – Esther M. Friesner (4/5 – A young woman awaits her sweetheart who has gone to war. She sends him a letter, promising him her heart, but then finds her love for him wanes in favour of another. Come her wedding day, an unexpected guest arrives, a little worse for wear, letter in hand. An unbroken four-page poem didn’t appeal to me, if I’m honest, but then poetry is often what you make it. Once I’d gotten the cadence down I couldn’t help reading this with the voice of Vincent Price in my head, which worked wonders! (Yes, I’m weird.) Lovers evoked a nice chill down the spine and made for a good closer.)

And so we come to the end of another monster review of Best New Horror. If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading! I hope there were a few stories here that tickled your fancy. You shouldn’t have too hard a job tracking down a second-hand copy of this book on eBay or AbeBooks should you fancy a read. Failing that, the eBook version is available to purchase across most platforms. The book covers above will each link to their respective Goodreads pages, which may provide you with other avenues to explore.

I’ll be back with a review of book 7 in a wee while. Do join me, won’t you? Till then, TTFN!


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1384

After making something of a Henry Halls of Saturday’s puzzle, it’s nice to quickly cleanse the palate with another Times Jumbo Cryptic! It took me a little while to find an entry point (in this case GRACE-AND-FAVOUR, weirdly) but once I had a few filled in it was reasonably steady progress to the end. Though this was another grid guilty of repeating a recent clue, it was a good puzzle overall.

Anyhoo, some housekeeping as ever. If you have a recent Times Jumbo Cryptic for which you’d like a solution then my Just For Fun page could be just the ticket. If you’re a horror reader then my Reviews page might have something that appeals.

And so to my completed grid. You’ll find explanations of my solutions below where I have them. I hope you find them useful. TTFN!


Across clues

1. Engineer endlessly longing to be cloaked in obscurity (9)

Answer: MACHINIST (i.e. “engineer”). Solution is ACHING (i.e. “longing”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “endlessly”) “cloaked in” MIST (i.e. “obscurity”), like so: M(ACHIN)IST.

6. Is drink placed in old hat wasted? (10)

Answer: DISSIPATED (i.e. “wasted”). Solution is IS and SIP (i.e. “drink”) “placed in” DATED (i.e. “old hat”), like so: D(IS-SIP)ATED.

12. Startle artilleryman, heading off before end-of-war celebrations (7)

Answer: UNNERVE (i.e. “startle”). Solution is GUNNER (i.e. “artilleryman”) with its first letter removed (indicated by “heading off”) and followed by VE (i.e. “end-of-war celebrations”, specifically Victory in Europe, or VE day), like so: UNNER-VE.

13. Nice way of describing of a hedonist? (3,6)

Answer: BON VIVANT (i.e. “hedonist”). “Nice”, being a city in France, indicates the solution is a French phrase.

14. I brought in copies done over in shade of brown (5)

Answer: SEPIA (i.e. “shade of brown”). Solution is APES (i.e. “copies”) reversed (indicated by “done over”) and “bringing in” I, like so: SEP(I)A.

16. Secret plans for monasteries under maritime directions? (6,6)

Answer: SEALED ORDERS (i.e. “maritime directions”). Solution riffs on how SEALED is another word for “secret” and how ORDERS is another word for “monasteries”.

17. Non-participant, beginning to watch everyone, beginning to feel less prominent (10)

Answer: WALLFLOWER (i.e. “non-participant”). Solution is W (i.e. “beginning to watch”, i.e. the first letter of “watch”) followed by ALL (i.e. “everyone”) then F (i.e. “beginning to feel”, i.e. the first letter of “feel”) and finally LOWER (i.e. “less prominent”). A clue that scans really well.

19. As adept with pen as with sword? (5,2,3,4)

Answer: QUICK ON THE DRAW. Solution riffs on differing meanings of the word “draw”: how can draw with a pen, and how one draws their sword. You get the idea.

22. Appropriate to involve Times, sure to revise regular items (8)

Answer: FIXTURES (i.e. “regular items”). Solution is FIT (i.e. “appropriate”) “involving” X (i.e. “Times”, as in the multiplication symbol) and then followed by an anagram (indicated by “to revise”) of SURE, like so: FI(X)T-URES.

24. Suppose administrator seizing power will want end to unrest (6)

Answer: EXPECT (i.e. “suppose”). Solution is EXEC (i.e. “administrator”, short for executive or executor) “seizing” P (a recognised abbreviation of “power”) and then followed by T (i.e. “end to unrest”, i.e. the last letter of “unrest”), like so: EX(P)EC-T.

25. Dairy product down? Something said to produce a smile (4,6)

Answer: BLUE CHEESE (i.e. “dairy product”). Solution is BLUE (i.e. “down”) followed by CHEESE (i.e. “something said [to photographer] to produce a smile”).

26. Much enthusiasm about brother finding wild horse (5)

Answer: ZEBRA (i.e. “wild horse”). Solution is ZEAL (i.e. “enthusiasm”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “much”, as in not quite all) and then placed “about” BR (a recognised abbreviation of “brother”), like so: ZE(BR)A.

29. Perhaps, the Opposition article backed by Frenchman (4)

Answer: THEM (i.e. “perhaps, the Opposition”, as in “them and us”). Solution is THE (i.e. “article”) “backed by” M (i.e. “Frenchman”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “monsieur”). This was the last clue I solved and took a bit of mulling over. Well played.

30. Puritan accepting new money, making an impression (8)

Answer: PRINTING (i.e. “making an impression” – impression in this case being a single printing of a book). Solution is PRIG (i.e. “puritan”) wrapped around or “accepting” N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”) and TIN (i.e. a slang term for “money”), like so: PRI(N-TIN)G.

32. Function hosting a performance offering little amusement (9)

Answer: SATURNINE (i.e. “offering little amusement”). Solution is SINE (i.e. “function”, as in one of the six trigonometric functions in mathematics) “hosting” A and TURN (i.e. “performance”), like so: S(A-TURN)INE.

34. The same may be represented in dialect (9)

Answer: IDENTICAL (i.e. “the same”). “May be represented” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IN DIALECT.

35. Atmospheric phenomenon? Study source of turbulence and fume (8)

Answer: CONTRAIL, short for a condensation trail, sometimes used to draw large penises in the sky (i.e. “atmospheric phenomenon” – I’m taking this to mean “something that can be observed in the sky” rather than anything more exotic). Solution is CON (an archaic word meaning “study” often used by setters) followed by T (i.e. “source of turbulence”, i.e. the first letter of “turbulence”) and then RAIL (i.e. “[to] fume”).

36. Tree? China has millions (4)

Answer: PALM (i.e. “tree”). Solution is PAL (i.e. “China”, as in the Cockney rhyming slang “china plate – mate” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) followed by M (a recognised abbreviation of “millions”).

39. Sign of error in new rate for special edition of paper (5)

Answer: EXTRA (i.e. “special edition of paper”, as in “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”). Solution is X (i.e. “sign of error”, as in crossing something out) placed “in” an anagram (indicated by “new”) of RATE, like so: E(X)TRA.

40. Article in verse including record in sorry state (10)

Answer: APOLOGETIC (i.e. “in sorry state”). Solution is A (i.e. “article”) followed by POETIC (i.e. “in verse”) which is wrapped around or “including” LOG (i.e. “record”), like so: A-PO(LOG)ETIC. While this clue doesn’t scan particularly well, I did rather like the “in sorry state” bit.

42. Remarkable note penned by prisoner is handed over (6)

Answer: SIGNAL (i.e. “remarkable” – I get it, but I can’t think of a decent sentence where you’d use one rather than the other). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “note”) placed in or “penned by” LAG (i.e. “prisoner”) and IS which have been reversed (indicated by “handed over”), like so: SI-G(N)AL.

44. Sporting contest: plan to finish early or late in the day (8)

Answer: EVENTIDE (i.e. “late in the day”). Solution is EVENT (i.e. “sporting contest”) followed by IDEA (i.e. “plan”) which has its final letter removed (indicated by “to finish early”), like so: EVENT-IDE. I rather liked this one.

46. Action subsequently engaging lawyers to succeed in arbitration? (6,1,7)

Answer: STRIKE A BARGAIN (i.e. “arbitration”). Solution is STRIKE (i.e. “action”) followed by A BAR GAIN (i.e. “lawyers to succeed” – the legal profession is sometimes referred to as the Bar). Sound familiar? That’s because this solution also appeared in last week’s puzzle. Not only that, but it also appeared in virtually the same position on the grid! Come on, ed!

48. Very annoyed: silver reduced into small pieces retaining only 40% of value (10)

Answer: AGGRAVATED (i.e. “very annoyed”, albeit informally lest we aggravate the pedants). Solution is AG (chemical symbol of “silver”) followed by GRATED (i.e. “reduced into small pieces”) which is wrapped around or “retaining” VA (i.e. “40% of value”, specifically the first two letters), like so: AG-GRA(VA)TED.

49. Erotica? Men with it possibly showing some speed in response (8,4)

Answer: REACTION TIME (i.e. “showing some speed in response”). “Possibly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of EROTICA MEN and IT.

53. Blame hard to be accepted by group of thinkers? (5)

Answer: THANK (i.e. “[to] blame”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” used to grade pencils) placed in or being “accepted by” TANK (i.e. “group of thinkers”, as in a think tank), like so: T(H)ANK.

54. Public official: origins linked to male in Arab state (9)

Answer: OMBUDSMAN (i.e. “public official”). Solution is BUDS (i.e. “origins”) followed by M (a recognised abbreviation of “male”) placed “in” OMAN (i.e. “Arab state”), like so: OM(BUDS-M)AN.

55. I name support from near the coast (7)

Answer: INSHORE (i.e. “near the coast”). Solution is I then N (a recognised abbreviation of “name”) followed by SHORE [up…] (i.e. “support”).

56. I agree: positive response seen in territory in the past (10)

Answer: YESTERYEAR (i.e. “in the past”). Solution is YES (i.e. “I agree”) followed by YEA (i.e. “positive response”) once it has been placed “in” TERR (a recognised abbreviation of “Territory”), like so: YES-TER(YEA)R.

57. Prepared with a line about study describing many office jobs? (9)

Answer: SEDENTARY (i.e. “describing many office jobs”, meaning lots of sitting down). Solution is SET (i.e. “prepared”) followed by A and RY (i.e. “line”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “railway”), all wrapped “about” DEN (i.e. “study [room]”), like so: SE(DEN)T-A-RY.

Down clues

1. Fellow, one with a passion (5)

Answer: MANIA (i.e. “passion”). Solution is MAN (i.e. “fellow”) followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and A.

2. Take control of stimulus – something footballer takes (6,4)

Answer: CORNER KICK (i.e. “something footballer takes”). Solution is CORNER (i.e. “take control of”) and KICK (i.e. “stimulus”).

3. Reserve to move briskly, feeling the cold (3-5)

Answer: ICE-BOUND (i.e. “feeling the cold” – a bit weak this, in my less-than-humble opinion. Ask the crews of HMSs Erebus and Terror and they might have given you a different perspective). Solution is ICE (i.e. “reserve”, as in having an icy nature) followed by BOUND (i.e. “to move briskly”).

4. Plant grew tall, avoiding cold lake (5)

Answer: IMBED (i.e. “[to] plant”). Solution is CLIMBED (i.e. “grew tall”) with the C (a recognised abbreviation of “cold”) and L (ditto “lake”) removed (indicated by “avoiding”).

5. Town in Kent has fashionable people cross (9)

Answer: TONBRIDGE (i.e. “town in Kent”). Solution is TON (i.e. “fashionable people” – setters quite often like to use this in their clues. It’s in the dictionary, though I still haven’t seen a sentence using it. Anyway…) followed by BRIDGE (i.e. “[to] cross”).

6. Daughter, not fully mature, weak character (4)

Answer: DRIP (i.e. “weak character”). Solution is D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) followed by RIPE (i.e. “mature”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “not fully”), like so: D-RIP.

7. Pretending to have support of a new religious figure (6)

Answer: SHAMAN (i.e. “religious figure”). Solution is SHAM (i.e. “pretending”) followed by or “having support of” – this being a down clue – A and N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”).

8. “Elitist leaning” may represent us (14)

Answer: INTELLIGENTSIA. “May represent us” indicates anagram. Solution is a rather fitting anagram of ELITIST LEANING. Within the context of the solution, the intelligentsia may well represent this. Very good, this. Best clue we’ve had for a couple of months.

9. More than one sailor loves to carry an instrument in the coldest temperature (8,4)

Answer: ABSOLUTE ZERO (i.e. “the coldest temperature”). Solution is ABS (i.e. “more than one sailor”, specifically Able Seaman made plural) followed by O and ZERO (i.e. “loves”, both plays on how “love” is zero in tennis) “carrying” LUTE (i.e. “[musical] instrument”), like so: ABS-O-(LUTE)-ZERO.

10. Enable soldiers to turn up, bearing military captive (7)

Answer: EMPOWER (i.e. “enable”). Solution is REME (i.e. “soldiers”, specifically the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) reversed (indicated by “to turn up”, this being a down clue) and wrapped around or “bearing” POW (i.e. “military captive”, specifically a Prisoner Of War), like so: EM(POW)ER.

11. Later question beginning to engage some number in smaller group (10)

Answer: SUBSEQUENT (i.e. “later”). Solution is QU (a recognised abbreviation of “question”) followed by E (i.e. “beginning to engage”, i.e. the first letter of “engage”) and N (i.e. “some [variable] number”) all placed “in” SUBSET (i.e. “smaller group”), like so: SUBSE(QU-E-N)T.

15. Love coming in fast – the stuff of jets and rockets (9)

Answer: AEROSPACE (i.e. “the stuff of jets and rockets”). Solution is EROS (the god of “love”) “coming into” APACE (i.e. “fast”), like so: A(EROS)PACE.

18. Source of disease: head about to keep note (8)

Answer: PATHOGEN (i.e. “source of disease”). This took a while to get, but the solution is PATE (i.e. “head”) placed “about” HOG (i.e. “to keep”) and followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “note”), like so: PAT(HOG)E-N.

20. Instrument in Apollo lander: I’m restrained about that (9)

Answer: IMPLEMENT (i.e. “instrument”). Solution is I’M PENT (i.e. “I’m restrained”) placed “about” LEM (i.e. “Apollo Lander”, specifically a Lunar Excursion Module), like so: IM-P(LEM)ENT. Yes, I looked up “LEM”.

21. Hold hard – young chap has fallen badly in between (4,6)

Answer: HALF NELSON (i.e. “[wrestling] hold”). Solution is H (a recognised abbreviation of “hard” covered earlier) and SON (i.e. “young chap” – a bit of a stretch, this) with an anagram (indicated by “badly”) of FALLEN placed “in between”, like so: H-(ALFNEL)-SON.

23. China’s problem with crime (3,7)

Answer: TEA SERVICE (i.e. “china” – again, ignore the misleading capitalisation). Solution is TEASER (i.e. “problem”) followed by VICE (i.e. “crime”).

27. National symbol? Scots own up after it’s found in refuse (9)

Answer: BRITANNIA (i.e. “national symbol”). Another that took some getting, but the solution is AIN (i.e. “Scots own”, i.e. Scottish form of the word “own”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and placed “after” IT once it has been put “in” BRAN (the coarser part or “refuse” of anything), like so: BR(IT)AN-NIA.

28. Opener to meal with taste, left out as expression of sovereign’s thanks (5-3-6)

Answer: GRACE-AND-FAVOUR, which is “of a residence belonging to the British sovereign and granted rent-free to a person of importance” (i.e. “sovereign’s thanks”). So there you go. Solution is GRACE (i.e. “opener to meal”) then AND (i.e. the “with” bit) and FLAVOUR (i.e. “taste”) with the L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) removed (indicated by “left out”).

31. Isle of Grain not entirely undeveloped (8)

Answer: INCHOATE (i.e. “underdeveloped”). Solution is INCH (a Scottish or Gaelic word for “island” often used by setters) followed by OATEN (i.e. “of grain”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “not entirely”), like so: INCH-OATE.

33. Sailor following Channel, and French providing restriction (12)

Answer: STRAITJACKET (i.e. “restriction”). Solution is JACK (one of several words meaning “sailor”) placed after or “following” STRAIT (i.e. “channel”) and itself followed by ET (i.e. “and French”, i.e. the French for “and”), like so: STRAIT-JACK-ET.

34. One cricket side taking article into practice area? That’s awkward (9)

Answer: INELEGANT (i.e. “awkward”). Solution is I (Roman numeral “one”) then LEG (i.e. “cricket side”) and AN (i.e. “article”) “taken into” NET (i.e. “practice area” used in cricket and other ball games), like so: I-NE(LEG-AN)T.

37. Paper upset about delay identifying shirker (10)

Answer: MALINGERER (i.e. “shirker”). Solution is REAM (i.e. “paper”) reversed (indicated by “upset”, this being a down clue) and placed “about” LINGER (i.e. “delay”), like so: MA(LINGER)ER.

38. End up accepting witches I found in Pacific islands (10)

Answer: MICRONESIA (i.e. “Pacific islands”). Solution is AIM (i.e. “end”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and placed around or “accepting” CRONES (i.e. “witches”) and I, like so: MI(CRONES-I)A.

41. Outermost layer is primed to disintegrate after input of energy (9)

Answer: EPIDERMIS (i.e. “outermost layer”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “to disintegrate”) of IS PRIMED “after input of” E (a recognised abbreviation of “energy”), like so: EPID(E)RMIS.

43. Help is turning up after former schoolmate gets stuck on Northern rock (8)

Answer: OBSIDIAN (i.e. “rock”). Solution is AID (i.e. “help”) and IS reversed (indicated by “turning up”, this being a down clue) and placed after OB (i.e. “former schoolmate”, specifically an Old Boy). The whole is then followed by N (a recognised abbreviation of “northern”), like so: OB-(SI-DIA)-N.

45. Go wild after English impress deeply (7)

Answer: ENGRAVE (i.e. “impress deeply”). Solution is RAVE (i.e. “go wild”) placed “after” ENG (a recognised abbreviation of “English”), like so: ENG-RAVE.

47. Weak grouse sent skyward ends in trivial chase (6)

Answer: FEEBLE (i.e. “weak”). Solution is BEEF (i.e. “grouse”, as in a complaint) reversed (indicated by “sent skywards”, this being a down clue) and followed by LE (i.e. “ends in trivial chase”, i.e. the last letters of “trivial” and “chase”), like so: FEEB-L-E.

50. Punished, or preserved half-heartedly (5)

Answer: CANED (i.e. “published”). Solution is CANNED (i.e. “preserved”) with one of its middle Ns removed (indicated by “half-heartedly”).

51. Club comedy, ultimately satire (5)

Answer: IRONY (i.e. “satire”). Solution is IRON (i.e. “[golf] club”) followed by Y (i.e. “comedy, ultimately”, i.e. the last letter of “comedy”).

52. IT expert losing top in German river (4)

Answer: ODER (i.e. “German river”). Solution is CODER (i.e. “IT expert”) with the first letter removed (indicated by “losing top”). One I had to look up, if I’m honest.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1383

This week’s puzzle was a real Jekyll and Hyde one for me. I rattled through the first half while waiting for a haircut on Saturday morning only to find a noticeably tougher beast when I returned to it a few hours later. Weird. I got there in the end, though. As ever, you’ll find my completed grid below with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

A bit of housekeeping before we launch into proceedings. If you’d like to see completed solutions of previous Times Jumbo Cryptic crosswords, then my Just For Fun page might prove useful. If you’re a fan of horror fiction then my Reviews page might have a book or two of interest. My current folly is to review the 29 volumes (and counting) of Stephen Jones’s Best New Horror series. I hope to have a review of Best New Horror 6 up this week, you lucky things.

Finally, it’s been brought to my attention that the amount of advertising on my site is a getting a bit silly. This is WordPress’s doing, not mine. I guess with the increased traffic coming to my site, WordPress’s algorithms have decided it’s fair game to pump out more adverts. This stinks, obviously, so I’ll pony up some money and get these ads removed. You can send my knighthood in the post, thanks.

Right, let’s get on with it shall we? All being well, I’ll see you shortly with tomorrow’s solution.


A big hat-tip to zouzoulap in the comments for the correction!

Across clues

1. Font by Norma, perhaps (5,3,5)

Answer: TIMES NEW ROMAN (i.e. “font”). Solution is TIMES (i.e. “[multiplied] by”) followed by NEW ROMAN (i.e. “Norma, perhaps” – “new” is sometimes used by setters to indicate an anagram, so NEW ROMAN cryptically indicates Roman is an anagram of “Norma”. You get the idea.)

8. Dine without fish and put up with endless sweet (9)

Answer: SUGARPLUM (i.e. “sweet”). Solution is SUP (i.e. “dine”, specifically an archaic word meaning to take one’s evening meal, or supper) placed outside or “without” GAR (i.e. “fish”, specifically a garfish) and then followed by LUMP (i.e. “put up with”, as in “to like it or lump it”) with its final letter removed (indicated by “endless”), like so: SU(GAR)P-LUM.

13. Green politician in Montreal opposition (5)

Answer: REALO (i.e. “Green politician”, specifically one in the less radical side of the German Green Party, it says here). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: MONT(REAL O)PPOSITION. One I got from the wordplay, if I’m honest.

14. Bring round one affected by ecstasy right in disco? (11)

Answer: DISENTRANCE (i.e. “bring round”). Solution is I (Roman numeral “one”) then SENT [into…] (i.e. “affected by ecstasy”) then R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) all wrapped up “in” DANCE (i.e. “disco”), like so: D(I-SENT-R)ANCE.

15. Genius way of doing things in study (5)

Answer: DEMON (i.e. “genius”, as in being very good, or a demon, in some endeavour). Solution is MO (i.e. “way of doing thing”, specifically Modus Operandi) placed “in” DEN (i.e. “study [room]”), like so: DE(MO)N.

16. Involving VIPs drunk, even (4-5)

Answer: HIGH-LEVEL (i.e. “involving VIPs” – if something is high-level then it’s intended for the movers and shakers of an organisation). Solution is HIGH (i.e. “drunk”) followed by LEVEL (i.e. “even”).

17. Stravinsky, perhaps very removed from American vitality (4)

Answer: IGOR (i.e. “Stravinsky, perhaps” – as in the fella’s first name). Solution is VIGOR (i.e. “American vitality”, i.e. how the US spells “vigour”) with the V (a recognised abbreviation of “very”) “removed” from the beginning.

18. Extremely fresh where the IOW ferry operates (8)

Answer: INSOLENT. Solution satisfies “extremely fresh”, as in giving someone some lip, and “where the IOW ferry operates” – IOW being Isle of Wight, and its ferry would therefore operate IN [the] SOLENT. I rather liked this clue.

20. People regularly touchy about reward for winners (6)

Answer: OCCUPY (i.e. “[to] people”). Solution is OCY (i.e. “regularly touchy”, i.e. every other letter of the word TOUCHY) placed “about” CUP (i.e. “reward for winners”), like so: OC(CUP)Y.

21. A thing that’s PC upset perceptual morons (8,8)

Answer: PERSONAL COMPUTER (i.e. “a thing that’s PC”). “Upset” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of PERCEPTUAL MORONS.

24. Soldier retreats in confusion after start of D-Day (6,3)

Answer: DESERT RAT (i.e. “soldier”, specifically a solider in the 7th Armoured Division of the British Army active during World War II). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “in confusion”) of RETREATS placed “after” D (i.e. “start of D-Day”, as in its first letter), like so: D-ESERTRAT.

26. Evil embraced by doctors’ revolts (7)

Answer: RISINGS (i.e. “revolts”). Solution is SIN (i.e. “evil”) placed in or “embraced by” RIGS (i.e. “doctors”, e.g. to rig an election is to doctor its results), like so: RI(SIN)GS.

27. Judicial decision to abolish court note writer (5)

Answer: Giuseppe VERDI (19th century composer, or “note writer”). Solution is VERDICT (i.e. “judicial decision”) with the CT removed (indicated by “to abolish court” – CT being a recognised abbreviation of “court”).

29. Botticelli, perhaps, using same egg mixture (8,4)

Answer: GUESSING GAME (i.e. “Botticelli, perhaps” – Botticelli is a game where players have to guess the identity of a person through yes/no questions after an initial letter has been given. Not one I’ve played, though I am a fan of yes/no riddles). “Mixture” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of USING SAME EGG.

31. Small shrub in grass, a lentil transformed (10)

Answer: POTENTILLA (i.e. “small shrub” – one I have no shame in looking up as there are thousands of the buggers to choose from). Solution is POT (i.e. “grass”, both nicknames for marijuana) followed by an anagram (indicated by “transformed”) of A LENTIL, like so: POT-ENTILLA.

33. A shift that drops four with a routine job (4-2-4)

Answer: NINE-TO-FIVE (i.e. “a routine job”). Solution riffs on how “shifting” four from nine gives you five, taking you from “nine [down] to five”. You get the idea. Again.

35. What’s used in adding carriage and track for former guard (5-7)

Answer: CARRY-FORWARD (i.e. “what’s used in adding” – ask your grandparents, kids). Solution is CAR (i.e. “carriage”) followed by RY (i.e. “track”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of railway), then FOR and finally WARD (i.e. “guard” – “former” seems a redundant word, unless I’m missing something), like so: CAR-RY-FOR-WARD.

38. End of skewer used in turning rump steak may be wanted thus? (5)

Answer: RARER (i.e. “steak may be wanted thus”). Solution is R (i.e. “end of skewer”, i.e. the last letter of “skewer”) “used in” REAR (i.e. “rump”) which is reversed (indicated by “turning”), like so: RA(R)ER.

39. Pain in mouth, but not quite windpipe (7)

Answer: TRACHEA (i.e. “windpipe”). Solution is ACHE (i.e. “pain”) placed “in” TRAP (i.e. “mouth”) which has its final letter removed (indicated by “but not quite”), like so: TR(ACHE)A.

40. Papers sent out after account mishaps (9)

Answer: ACCIDENTS (i.e. “mishaps”). Solution is ID (i.e. “papers”) and an anagram (indicated by “out”) of SENT, which are both placed “after” ACC (a recognised abbreviation of “account”), like so: ACC-ID-ENTS.

42. Begin again with fresh filling in pie, ale and a starter of fish (4,4,1,3,4)

Answer: TURN OVER A NEW LEAF (i.e. “begin again”). Solution is TURNOVER (i.e. “pie”) and ALE being “filled” by NEW (i.e. “fresh”) and then followed by A and finally F (i.e. “starter of fish”, i.e. the first letter of “fish”), like so: TURNOVER-A(NEW)LE-A-F.

44. Cat’s way of acting with long established right (6)

Answer: MOUSER (i.e. “cat”). Solution is MO (i.e. “way of acting”, i.e. our friend Modus Operandi again) followed by USER (a legal term meaning “long-established right” – not one I’m familiar with but it’s in the dictionary).

47. Stop old boys lorry taking away 1000 tons (8)

Answer: OBSTRUCT (i.e. “stop”). Solution is OBS (a recognised abbreviation of “old boy” made plural) followed by TRUCK (i.e. “lorry”) with the K removed (indicated by “taking away 1000”), then T (a recognised abbreviation of “tons”), like so: OBS-TRUC-T.

49. Chap is wonderful, but no Romeo (4)

Answer: BILL (i.e. “chap”). Solution is BRILL (i.e. “wonderful”) with the R removed (indicated by “but no Romeo”, being R in the phonetic alphabet).

50. Canadian introducing a European dress in imperial style (9)

Answer: CAESARIAN (i.e. “in imperial style”). Solution is CAN (a recognised abbreviation of “Canadian”) including or “introducing” A then E (ditto “European”) then SARI (i.e. “dress”), like so: C(A-E-SARI)AN.

52. Breakfast food in reflux puts out small intestine, partly (5)

Answer: ILEUM (i.e. “(small) intestine, partly”, specifically the lowest part of the small intestine). Solution is MUESLI (i.e. “breakfast food”) reversed (indicated by “in reflux”) and with the S removed (indicated by “puts out small” – S being a recognised abbreviation of “small”). Another really good clue that scans particularly well.

53. Obsolete big towns containing little space and filth (11)

Answer: OBSCENITIES (i.e. “filth”). Solution is OBS (a recognised abbreviation of “obsolete”) and CITIES (i.e. “big towns”) “containing” EN (i.e. “little space” – “em” is a printing term used to describe a space the width of a letter m, so “en” is, understandably, half an em), like so: OBS-C(EN)ITIES.

54. Ray eating river fish (5)

Answer: BREAM (i.e. “fish”). Solution is BEAM (i.e. “ray”, as in a sunbeam) “eating” R (a recognised abbreviation of “river”), like so: B(R)EAM.

55. Note lake with seabird in tiny American city (9)

Answer: MILWAUKEE (i.e. “American city”). Solution is MI (i.e. “note” in the do-ray-mi style) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “lake”) and WEE (i.e. “tiny”) with AUK (i.e. “seabird”) placed inside like so: MI-L-W(AUK)EE.

56. Teased non-stop about old TV series (7,3,3)

Answer: STEPTOE AND SON (i.e. “old TV series”). “About” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TEASED NON-STOP.

Down clues

1. Doctor Who developing material for brand? (9)

Answer: TORCHWOOD (i.e. “material for brand” – a “brand” in this case being a flaming torch). “Developing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of DOCTOR WHO. Looks like we’re seeing repeats creeping back in, as this solution only appeared a few weeks ago.

2. Maidens put up soldier cold with muscle pain (7)

Answer: MYALGIC (i.e. “with muscle pain”). Solution is M (a recognised abbreviation of “maidens” used in cricket) followed by LAY (i.e. “put”) which is reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and followed by GI (i.e. “[US] soldier”) and C (a recognised abbreviation of “cold”), like so: M-YAL-GI-C.

3. Soap externally lubricates openings for awkward stoppers? (11)

Answer: SPOILSPORTS (i.e. “awkward stoppers”). Solution is SP (i.e. “soap externally”, i.e. the first and last letters of “soap”) followed by OILS (i.e. “lubricates”) and PORTS (i.e. “openings”).

4. Salad plant initially even needs a plunge into water (6)

Answer: ENDIVE (i.e. “salad plant”, a member of the chicory family – another one I had to look up). Solution is EN (i.e. “initially even needs”, i.e. the first letters of “even” and “needs”) followed by DIVE (i.e. “plunge into water”).

5. Able to recover and take again without legal right to possession (9)

Answer: RESILIENT (i.e. “able to recover”). This took some getting but the solution is RESIT (i.e. “take [exam] again”) surrounding or placed “without” LIEN (i.e. “legal right to possession”), like so: RESI(LIEN)T.

6. Millions against second title for respected Indian parliamentarian, an aggressive creature (6,6)

Answer: MANTIS SHRIMP (i.e. “aggressive creature” – done a Google Images search: it looks like something that’s escaped from The Yellow Submarine. Groovy!) Solution is M (a recognised abbreviation of “millions”) followed by ANTI (i.e. “against”) then S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) then SHRI (i.e. “title for respected Indian” – also spelled “Sri”) and finally MP (i.e. “parliamentarian”). Aggressive, eh? I reckon I could take one.

7. Managed rising disagreement over head’s parochialism (10)

Answer: NARROWNESS (i.e. “parochialism”). Solution is RAN (i.e. “managed”) reversed (indicated by “rising”, this being a down clue) then followed by ROW (i.e. “disagreement”) and NESS (i.e. “head”, as in a headland), like so: NAR-ROW-NESS.

8. A number dressed in blue and yellowish-brown (4)

Answer: SAND (i.e. “yellowish-brown”). Solution is N (i.e. “a [variable] number”) placed or “dressed in” SAD (i.e. “blue”), like so: SA(N)D.

9. Fresh home produce which might one day do for all of us (10,6)

Answer: GREENHOUSE EFFECT (i.e. “what might one day do for all of us” Cheery!). Solution is GREEN (i.e. “fresh”) followed by HOUSE (i.e. “home”) and [to] EFFECT (i.e. “produce”).

10. A day in port to send a message (5)

Answer: RADIO (i.e. “to send a message”). Solution is A then D (a recognised abbreviation of “day”) placed “in” RIO (i.e. “port”, specifically Rio De Janeiro), like so: R(A-D)IO.

11. One delivering sheep on time for unit (7)

Answer: LAMBERT, a “unit” of brightness. Solution is LAMBER (i.e. “one delivering sheep”) placed “on” T (a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

12. Beast left chamois under screen (7,6)

Answer: MONSTER LIZARD. I’m not following this one, if I’m brutally honest. The solution could be MONSTER (i.e. “beast”) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) and IZARD (a Pyrenean “chamois” – no, me neither), but I’ve no idea why this makes the solution “under screen”. Alternatively, the clue could be read as L-IZARD being placed “under” MONSTER (this being a down clue) to produce a “beast”, but here I fail to see how monster would be “screen”. Maybe the setter is pumped up for the new Godzilla movie, I don’t know. It’s a shitty clue either way, so I’m moving on.
[EDIT: Scratch that. Solution is MONITOR LIZARD. As zouzoulap clarifies in the comments, MONITOR = “screen”. Much obliged, zouzoulap! – LP]

19. Ringing caught long-tailed monkey without ring (8)

Answer: CLANGOUR (i.e. “ringing”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in ball games) followed by LANGUR (i.e. “long tailed monkey” – done a Google Images search: Yep. Monkey.) placed around or “without” O (i.e. “ring”), like so: C-LANG(O)UR.

22. Turn to somebody coming over (5)

Answer: PIVOT (i.e. “turn”). Solution is TO then VIP (i.e. “somebody”, as in “to be a somebody”) which are then reversed (indicated by “coming over”), like so: PIV-OT.

23. Mechanism showing relative time? (11,5)

Answer: GRANDFATHER CLOCK (i.e. “mechanism showing… time”). Solution riffs on a double meaning of “relative”, here being a grandfather.

25. Less easy going back with Queen (7)

Answer: STERNER (i.e. “less easy”). Solution is STERN (the “back” of a ship) followed by ER (i.e. “Queen”, specifically Elizabeth Regina).

28. See what one’s forgotten about relative merit (7)

Answer: RELEARN (i.e. “see what one’s forgotten about”). Solution is REL (a recognised abbreviation of “relative”) followed by EARN (i.e. “merit”).

29. Main set ignore dreadful feeling baby boomers are best? (13)

Answer: GENERATIONISM (i.e. “feeling baby boomers are best”). “Dreadful” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MAIN SET IGNORE.

30. Let others go without a freebie (8)

Answer: GIVEAWAY (i.e. “freebie”). Solution is GIVE WAY (i.e. “let others go”) placed around or “without” A, like so: GIVE(A)WAY.

32. Sea wall peril – mad how courses of bricks are laid (12)

Answer: PARALLELWISE (i.e. “how courses of bricks are laid”). “Mad” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SEA WALL PERIL.

34. Bone decay turned up in a part of the body (5)

Answer: TORSO (i.e. “part of the body”). Solution is OS (Latin for “bone” – think of ossuaries such as the Catacombs of Paris) and ROT (i.e. “decay”) both reversed (indicated by “turned up”, this being a down clue) like so: TOR-SO.

36. How one may get a date with Charlie, perhaps, corrupt baron (11)

Answer: RADIOCARBON (i.e. “how one may get a date”, as in carbon-dating something to determine its age). Solution is RADIO C (i.e. “Charlie, perhaps”, i.e. C in the phonetic alphabet) followed by an anagram (indicated by “corrupt”) of BARON, like so: RADIO-C-ARBON.

37. Audacity of revolutionary English movement out of India (10)

Answer: CHEEKINESS (i.e. “audacity”). Solution is CHE Guevara (i.e. “revolutionary”) followed by E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and KINESIS (i.e. “movement”) once the final I as been removed (indicated by “out of India”, “India” being I in the phonetic alphabet), like so: CHE-E-KINESS. Not a classic.

40. Revolutionary, a leading one on street (9)

Answer: ANARCHIST (i.e. “revolutionary”). Solution is AN ARCH (i.e. “a leading”) followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and ST (a recognised abbreviation of “street”).

41. Powerful politician setting FBI agent after good man Reagan? (9)

Answer: STRONGMAN (i.e. “powerful politician”). Solution is G-MAN (i.e. “FBI agent”) being “set…after” ST (i.e. “good man”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “saint”) and RON (i.e. “Reagan”, specifically former US President Ronald Reagan), like so: ST-RON-GMAN.

43. Philosopher’s trick involving singular lines (7)

Answer: Bertrand RUSSELL (i.e. “philosopher”). Solution is RUSE (i.e. “trick”) including or “involving” S (a recognised abbreviation of “singular”) and followed LL (i.e. “lines”, L being a recognised abbreviation of “line”). A philosopher I’m faintly familiar with – a rarity for me!

45. Spy hero’s ways of conveying emotion (7)

Answer: SMILEYS (i.e. “ways of conveying emotion”). Solution refers to George Smiley, “spy hero” of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Solider Spy. A solution that’s rather wearing flares and a kipper tie in internet terms.

46. Not so much on empty estate for renter (6)

Answer: LESSEE (i.e. “renter”). Solution is LESS (i.e. “not so much”) followed by EE (i.e. “empty estate”, i.e. the word “estate” will all its middle letters removed).

48. Odd soul music one can dance to (5)

Answer: RUMBA (i.e. “music one can dance to”). Solution is RUM (i.e. “odd”) followed by BA (i.e. “soul” – in ancient Egyptian religion the ba is the soul, represented as a bird with a human head. Trippy.)

51. Land surrounded by water regularly dissolves (4)

Answer: ISLE (i.e. “land surrounded by water”). “Regularly” indicates the solution is derived from taking every other letter from DISSOLVES.

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1382

I guess we were due a proper stinker and, hoooo boy, we got one! There were exotic solutions aplenty in this week’s grid, but at least they were actual words. I’d much rather be camped out in my Chambers during these harder puzzles than a Who’s Who of dead people or the darker recesses of Britain’s botanical gardens. If anything my issue with this week’s puzzle was the poor quality of some of the clues. The setter’s overreliance on using people’s names in particular grew rather tiresome. Anyway, what’s done is done. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

As usual some housekeeping before we begin. If you have an recent Times Jumbo Cryptic for which you are missing some answers, then my Just For Fun page might be of interest. If you have a hankering for horror fiction then my Reviews page might point you in the direction of a few books. I’m currently putting together a review of Best New Horror 6, which I hope to put up after Bank Holiday Monday’s solution, assuming I have one obvs.

Right, I won’t keep you any longer. TTFN!


Across clues

1. Doctor caught pinching journalist’s wine (5)

Answer: MEDOC (i.e. “wine”). Solution is MO (i.e. “doctor”, specifically a Medical Officer) and C (a recognised abbreviation of “caught” used in a number of ball games) “pinching” ED (i.e. “journalist”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “editor”), like so: M(ED)O-C. A really good, tricksy clue this.

4. A woman’s spells on a drug rejected in these parts (10)

Answer: HEREABOUTS (i.e. “in these parts”). Solution is HER BOUTS (i.e. “a woman’s spells”) which is placed around A and E (i.e. “drug”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “ecstasy”) which have been swapped around (indicated by “rejected”), like so: HER-(E-A)-BOUTS.

9. Tactless remark primarily riling the chief electrician (6)

Answer: GAFFER (i.e. “the chief electrician”). Solution is GAFFE (i.e. “tactless remark”) followed by R (i.e. “primarily riling”, i.e. the first letter of “riling”).

14. Strait-laced Carthaginian woman making entry (9)

Answer: PURITANIC (i.e. “strait-laced”). Solution is PUNIC (i.e. “Carthaginian” – an early taste of the kind of puzzle we’re dealing with this week) with RITA (i.e. “woman”) “making entry” like so: PU(RITA)NIC.

15. Questioning politician on eg train or at sea (13)

Answer: INTERROGATORY (i.e. “questioning”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “at sea”) of EG TRAIN OR, followed by TORY (i.e. “politician”). Not a classic.

16. What Parisian left among directions for follow-ups (7)

Answer: SEQUELS (i.e. “follow-ups”). Solution is QUE (i.e. “what Parisian” – the French for “what” is “que”) and L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”) placed “among” SES (i.e. “directions” – I’m taking this to be the compass points “south”, “east” and then “south” again). Again, not a classic.

17. Friend eager to carry a new covered litter (9)

Answer: PALANKEEN (i.e. “covered litter”). Solution is PAL (i.e. “friend”) and KEEN (i.e. “eager”) “carrying” A and N (a recognised abbreviation of “new”), like so: PAL-(A-N)-KEEN. One I got more or less through the wordplay. While I knew the word palanquin, I had no idea there was an alternative spelling.

18. Horrify a reindeer herder going west (5)

Answer: APPAL (i.e. “horrify”). Solution is A then LAPP, a native of Lapland (i.e. “reindeer herder”) which is reversed (indicated by “going west”, this being an across clue), like so: A-PPAL.

19. How it dries rice out? That’s novel (5,4,5)

Answer: CIDER WITH ROSIE, a “novel” by Laurie Lee. “Out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HOW IT DRIES RICE.

22. Pole with old hat in distant settlement (7)

Answer: OUTPOST (i.e. “distant settlement”). Solution is POST (i.e. “pole”) with OUT (i.e. “old”) placed on top like a “hat”, like so: OUT-POST. Probably would have worked better as a down clue.

25. Son finally abandons water-starved sheep in fairish number (10)

Answer: THIRTYFOLD (i.e. “fairish number”). Solution is THIRSTY FOLD (i.e. “water-starved sheep”) with the S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) removed. I’m not quite sure where “finally” factors into it, mind, so I might be wrong.

27. Crossing ocean it finally moved quickly, having particular sound (12)

Answer: TRANSPACIFIC (i.e. “crossing ocean”). Solution is T (i.e. “it finally”, i.e. the last letter of “it”) followed by RAN (i.e. “moved quickly”) and then SPACIFIC (i.e. “having particular sound”, i.e. a homophone of “specific” – I’m seldom impressed when setters use non-existent words as homophones in their solutions, but this takes some beating).

30. Italian fellow’s regularly alluring air (5)

Answer: LUIGI (i.e. “Italian fellow” – for non-existent homophones, see also people’s names). “Regularly” indicates the solution is derived through removing every other letter of ALLURING AIR.

31. Confuse viewpoint of otolaryngologists? (8)

Answer: ENTANGLE (i.e. “confuse”). “Otolaryngologists” are specialists in the ear, nose and throat areas of the body, often abbreviated to ENT. The clue therefore hints the “viewpoint” of such specialists would be an ENT ANGLE.

32. One of Mitford’s aristos accepting suggestion for psalm (8)

Answer: ANTIPHON, which is a type of church music sung by two parties each responding to the other (i.e. “psalm”). Bear with me here. In the novel The Pursuit of Love by Nancy “Mitford” there are upper-crust characters collectively named The Hons. One such “aristo” would therefore be AN HON. “Accepting” TIP (i.e. “suggestion”), you would then get: AN-(TIP)-HON. Don’t worry, I’ve not read her either.

35. Study dance, providing fee for postponement (8)

Answer: CONTANGO, which, in stockbroking circles, is a percentage paid by the buyer to the seller of stock for keeping back its delivery until the next settlement day (i.e. “fee for postponement”). Solution is CON (an archaic word for “study” often used by setters in their solutions) followed by TANGO (i.e. “dance”). A small admission: I’ve worked in the industry for donkey’s years (albeit very much back-office) and I’ve never come across this word before, probably because 99+% of stock delivery is now done electronically. Cool word, all the same, though not as good as scripophily. Anyway, I’m blathering…

36. Detached Roman statesman with animals from the east (8)

Answer: STACCATO, a musical term for notes that are “detached” or disconnected. Solution is CATO (i.e. “Roman statesman” – there were a couple of them to choose from) preceded by CATS (i.e. “animals”) which is reversed (indicated by “from the east”, this being an across clue), like so: STAC-CATO.

37. Outspoken woman receiving military commander (5)

Answer: VOCAL (i.e. “outspoken”). Solution is VAL (i.e. “woman”, short for Valerie) “receiving” OC (i.e. “military commander”, specifically an Officer Commanding), like so: V(OC)AL.

39. Upright rider’s second woman at frontier, we hear (12)

Answer: SKATEBOARDER (i.e. “upright rider”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) followed by KATE (i.e. “woman”, short for Katherine) and then BOARDER (i.e. “frontier, we hear”, i.e. a homophone of “border”).

41. Saw about taking to the water and making merry (10)

Answer: WASSAILING (i.e. “making merry”). Solution is SAW reversed (indicated by “about”) and followed by SAILING (i.e. “taking to the water”).

43. Cleft stick girl’s found by river at Pontypridd (7)

Answer: DISTAFF, which is a “cleft stick” used to keep hold of the wool in spinning. Solution is DI’S (i.e. “girl’s” – I was getting weary of the setter’s overuse of people’s names in their clues by this point) followed by TAFF (i.e. “river at Pontypridd”).

45. Mount further industrial action, ringing pub to agree on terms (6,1,7)

Answer: STRIKE A BARGAIN (i.e. “agree on terms”). Solution is GAIN (i.e. “[to] further”) “mounted” by STRIKE (i.e. “industrial action”) and then split around or “ringing” A BAR (i.e. “pub”), like so: STRIKE-(A-BAR)-GAIN. Again, not a great one, this.

48. Singers in Cuba’s side streets (5)

Answer: BASSI (i.e. “singers”, a plural of the Italian term “basso”). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: CU(BA’S SI)DE.

49. Gangster’s way to enter parts of builder’s course (9)

Answer: CAPSTONES, which are the top or finishing stones of a structure (i.e. “parts of builder’s course”). Solution is CAPONE’S (i.e. “gangster’s”, specifically Al Capone) with ST (i.e. “way”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “street”) “entering”, like so: CAP(ST)ONES.

51. Foot of giant bird encountered in the east (7)

Answer: TROCHEE, which, in prosody, is a “foot” of two syllables, a long followed by a short. Yeah, me neither. This was one I got purely through the wordplay. Solution is ROC (i.e. a “giant bird” of legend) placed “in” THE and E (a recognised abbreviation of “east”), like so: T(ROC)HE-E.

53. Slow mover gets into a riot, carelessly (5,8)

Answer: GIANT TORTOISE (i.e. “slow mover”). “Carelessly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of GETS INTO A RIOT.

54. Talmudic scholar’s chatter about rejection of wrongdoing (9)

Answer: RABBINIST (i.e. “Talmudic scholar”). Solution is RABBIT (i.e. “chatter”) placed “about” SIN (i.e. “wrongdoing”) reversed (indicated by “rejection”), like so: RABBI(NIS)T.

55. Fully developed type demanding change of leader (6)

Answer: MATURE (i.e. “fully developed”). Solution is NATURE (i.e. “type”) with a “change of leader” or initial letter. The only other word it can be is “mature”.

56. Uncultivated Greek character given inventory in English (10)

Answer: PHILISTINE (i.e. “uncultivated”). Solution is PHI (i.e. “Greek character”, specifically the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet) followed by LIST (i.e. “inventory”) then IN and finally E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”).

57. Part of spring attached to 50% of beds, perhaps (5)

Answer: MAYBE (i.e. “perhaps”). Solution is MAY (i.e. “part of spring [months]”) followed by BE (i.e. “50% of beds”, specifically the first 50%).

Down clues

1. Like Eeyore’s second expression of impatience (6)

Answer: MOPISH (i.e. “like Eeyore”). Solution is MO (i.e. “second”, specifically a short form of “moment”) followed by PISH (i.e. “expression of impatience”).

2. Quiet old insider prepared to return to civilian employment (13)

Answer: DEREQUISITION (i.e. “return to civilian employment”). “Prepared” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of QUIET INSIDER and O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”).

3. Piece of meat – item regularly forming dish (5)

Answer: CUTIE (i.e. “dish”, as in a smart girl or something cute – I know it’s a recognised word but there’s something about it that feels profoundly creepy these days). Solution is CUT (i.e. “piece of meat”) followed by IE (i.e. “item regularly”, i.e. every other letter of ITEM), like so: CUT-IE.

4. Passes first of workmen carrying a tool (7)

Answer: HANDSAW (i.e. “tool”). Solution is HANDS (i.e. “passes”) and W (i.e. “first of workmen”, i.e. the first letter of “workmen”) “carrying” A, like so: HANDS-(A)-W.

5. Go over again, about to surrender (12)

Answer: RECAPITULATE (i.e. “go over again”). Solution is RE (i.e. “about”, often used in email replies) followed by CAPITULATE (i.e. “to surrender”).

6. Fax Mary starts off about affliction of the armpit (8)

Answer: AXILLARY (i.e. “of the armpit”). Solution is FAX and MARY with the initial letters removed (indicated by “starts off”) and the remaining letters wrapped “about” ILL (i.e. “affliction”), like so: AX-(ILL)-ARY. Another I got purely from the wordplay.

7. Like some cereal Oscar put away before noon (5)

Answer: OATEN (i.e. “like some cereal”). Solution is O (“Oscar” in the phonetic alphabet) followed by ATE (i.e. “put away”) and then N (a recognised abbreviation of “noon”).

8. Like a Weill opera, costing very little once (10)

Answer: THREEPENNY. Solution satisfies “like a Weill opera”, referencing Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, and “costing very little once”, referring to the old threepenny bit.

10. Insistent a worker must shore up barrier (7)

Answer: ADAMANT (i.e. “insistent”). Solution is A and ANT (i.e. “worker”) wrapped around or “shoring up” DAM (i.e. “barrier”), like so: A-(DAM)-ANT.

11. Completely safe dessert, one originally consumed by academic (9)

Answer: FOOLPROOF (i.e. “completely safe”). Solution is FOOL (i.e. “dessert”) followed by O (i.e. “one originally”, i.e. the first letter of “one”) placed in or “consumed by” PROF (i.e. “academic”), like so: FOOL-PR(O)OF.

12. Member of ruling family put up by Republican circle (5)

Answer: ROYAL (i.e. “member of ruling family”). Solution is LAY (i.e. “put”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and fronted “by” R (a recognised abbreviation of “Republican”) and O (i.e. “circle”), like so: R-O-YAL.

13. Intimates favour crooked man in scoop (4,10)

Answer: BOON COMPANIONS (i.e. “intimates”). Solution is BOON (i.e. “favour”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “crooked”) of MAN IN SCOOP. This was the last clue I solved and took some doing even though “companions” was an easy get. The solution is not a phrase I’m familiar with and doesn’t feature in my Chambers. Nicely played, all the same.

20. Free former con briefly at end of sentence (9)

Answer: EXTRICATE (i.e. “free”). Solution is EX (i.e. “former”) followed by TRICK (i.e. “con”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “briefly”), then AT and then E (i.e. “end of sentence”, i.e. the last letter of “sentence”), like so: EX-TRIC-AT-E. A good clue that scans rather well.

21. Vestment certain to incorporate new clip (8)

Answer: SURPLICE (i.e. “vestment”). Solution is SURE (i.e. “certain”) “incorporating” an anagram (indicated by “new”) of CLIP, like so: SUR(PLIC)E. Another I got purely through the wordplay and only once I’d had a few letters filled in.

23. Practical sciences only the GOC deployed (10)

Answer: TECHNOLOGY (i.e. “practical sciences”). “Deployed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ONLY THE GOC.

24. Stressed computer studies woman with daughter touring islands (10)

Answer: ITALICISED (i.e. “stressed”). Solution is IT (i.e. “computer studies” – this is weak in my opinion: computer studies and information technology aren’t necessarily the same; the former is a relatively small subset of the latter #PedantsYay) followed by ALICE (i.e. “woman” – sigh…) and D (a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) placed around or “touring” IS (ditto “islands”), like so: IT-ALIC(IS)E-D.

26. Experience efficient estate manager’s sense of wellbeing (4-4,6)

Answer: FEEL-GOOD FACTOR (i.e. “sense of wellbeing”). Solution is FEEL (i.e. “experience”) followed by GOOD FACTOR (i.e. “efficient estate manager”). For a while I had the first two words of this clue as “good-will”, which was clearly not the case. Nicely played, setter.

28. Nagging civilian in garrison principally restricting husband (9)

Answer: CHIVVYING (i.e. “nagging”). Solution is CIVVY (i.e. “civilian”) followed by IN and then G (i.e. “garrison principally”, i.e. the first letter of “garrison”), which are all wrapped around or “restricting” H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”), like so: C(H)IVVY-IN-G.

29. Woollen items knight placed among gear on river (8)

Answer: KNITWEAR (i.e. “woollen items”). Solution is N (a recognised abbreviation of “knight” used in chess) “placed among” KIT (i.e. “gear”) and then followed by WEAR (i.e. “river”), like so: K(N)IT-WEAR. Another clue that scans rather well.

33. Greek character with house worked in mythic Asian port (2,3,4,4)

Answer: HO CHI MINH CITY (i.e. “Asian port”). Solution is CHI (i.e. “Greek character”, specifically the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet) placed “with” or behind HO (a recognised abbreviation of “house”) and then followed by an anagram (indicated by “worked”) of IN MYTHIC, like so: HO-CHI-MINHCITY.

34. Artist in Irish county composed airs outside eastern inn (12)

Answer: CARAVANSERAI, which is a kind of unfurnished “inn” in some Eastern countries in which caravans stop. Solution is RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) placed “in” CAVAN (i.e. “Irish county”) and followed by an anagram (indicated by “composed”) of AIRS which itself is placed “outside” of E (a recognised abbreviation of “eastern”), like so: CA(RA)VAN-S(E)RAI. Not a word I was familiar with, but I rather like it.

38. Peevish type giving mongrel a common dog’s name (10)

Answer: CROSSPATCH (i.e. “peevish type”). Solution is CROSS (i.e. “mongrel”) followed by PATCH (i.e. “a common dog’s name” – hmm, really?). Another word I wasn’t familiar with, but another I rather like.

40. One leaving Francis’s place beat rear of flippant aide (9)

Answer: ASSISTANT (i.e. “aide”). Solution is ASSISI (i.e. “[Saint] Francis’s place”) with the final I removed (indicated by “[Roman numeral] one leaving”) and then followed by TAN (i.e. “beat”) and T (i.e. “rear of flippant”, i.e. the last letter of “flippant”), like so: ASSIS-TAN-T.

42. Society family not so devoid of cover (8)

Answer: SKINLESS (i.e. “devoid of cover”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “society”) followed by KIN (i.e. “family”) and LESS (i.e. “not so”).

44. One flying aircraft at first by way of rocky peak (7)

Answer: AVIATOR (i.e. “one flying”). Solution is A (i.e. “aircraft at first”, i.e. the first letter of “aircraft”) followed by VIA (i.e. “by way of”) and TOR (i.e. “rocky peak”).

46. Current board suitable for representing on stage (7)

Answer: ACTABLE (i.e. “suitable for representing on stage”). Solution is AC (i.e. “current”, specifically alternating current) followed by TABLE (i.e. “board”).

47. Take up residence in N Yorks town (6)

Answer: SETTLE. Solution satisfies “take up residence” and “N Yorks town”. I’m never keen when setters use tiny towns as solutions – Settle in this case having a population of less than 3,000 people – but they do have a knack of picking towns with some geographical or historical significance. In this case, “Settle” being an actual word helps too!

48. High-ranking Muslim woman, say taken in by tramp (5)

Answer: BEGUM (i.e. “high-ranking Muslim woman”). Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) “taken in by” BUM (i.e. “tramp”), like so: B(EG)UM. One I got through a combination of the wordplay and recent-ish news events.

50. Leaving hospital, get excited and sing (5)

Answer: TRILL (i.e. “sing”). Solution is THRILL (i.e. “get excited”) with the H (a recognised abbreviation of “hospital”) removed or “leaving”.

52. Work on island with hesitation, producing narcotic drug (5)

Answer: OPIUM (i.e. “narcotic drug”). Solution is OP (i.e. “work”, short for “operation”) followed by I (a recognised abbreviation of “island”) and UM (i.e. “hesitation”).

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1381

Another easyish one this week, though there were a few odd words in there that had me scrabbling through the dictionary. A few well-worked clues helped make this a rather pleasant puzzle overall – a good run of late. You can find my completed grid below, along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful in your quest for cruciverbalist perfection.

As usual, some housekeeping before we begin: if you have an old Times Jumbo Cryptic for which you’d like the answers, then my Just For Fun page might see you right. If horror fiction is your thing and you’d like to read me wang on about it, then my Reviews page might be of interest.

Right-oh. On with the show.


Across clues

1. Light rain: Jack sheltering in hollow that’s welcoming (10)

Answer: HOSPITABLE (i.e. “welcoming”). Solution is SPIT (i.e. “light rain”) and AB (i.e. “jack”, specifically a seaman of the Able Bodied variety) “sheltering in” HOLE (i.e. “hollow”), like so: HO(SPIT-AB)LE.

6. Ignorant group is taken in by hacker (4,3,5)

Answer: NONE THE WISER (i.e. “ignorant”). Solution is NONET (i.e. “group”, specifically a group of nine players) followed by HEWER (i.e. “hacker”) “taking in” IS, like so: NONET-HEW(IS)ER. I had the solution right from the off but it took me most of the puzzle to figure out how it was composed. Nicely done.

14. Animal has tail at first, one to cut back (7)

Answer: POLECAT (i.e. “animal”). Solution is T (i.e. “tail at first”, i.e. the first letter of “tail”) followed by ACE (i.e. “one” in cards) and LOP (i.e. “to cut”), all reversed (indicated by “back”), like so: POL-ECA-T.

15. Source of wealth around old church of a distant epoch (7)

Answer: MIOCENE (i.e. “of a distant epoch”, specifically of an era between 23,000,000 and 5,000,000 years ago). Solution is MINE (i.e. “source of wealth”, e.g. a goldmine) placed “around” O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England), like so: MI(O-CE)NE. I had an idea of what this could be, but it took some rummaging through my Chambers to nail it.

16. Emperor carrying on with unknown character – that’s anything but love? (3-4)

Answer: NON-ZERO (i.e. “that’s anything but love” – a play on “love” being zero in tennis). Solution is NERO (i.e. “emperor”) “carrying” ON and Z (i.e. “unknown character” – setters often use “unknown” to represent X, Y or Z in their solutions), like so: N(ON-Z)ERO.

17. Mock a noted conclusion (4)

Answer: CODA (i.e. “noted conclusion”, as in the end part of a musical composition). Solution is COD (i.e. “mock”) followed by A.

18. Discussion involving Tory – amazing (6)

Answer: CONFAB (i.e. “discussion”, short for confabulation). Solution is CON (a recognised abbreviation of Conservative, i.e. “Tory”) and FAB (i.e. “amazing”).

20. Attentive chap from East Timor? (8)

Answer: DILIGENT (i.e. “attentive”). Solution is DILI (capital of “East Timor”) followed by GENT (i.e. “chap”), as in a DILI GENT. A rather well-worked clue.

24. Now partner has ruined everything, after happening to cause upset (5,1,7,2,3,5)

Answer: THROW A SPANNER IN THE WORKS (i.e. “cause upset”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “ruined”) of NOW PARTNER HAS, followed by IN (i.e. “happening”, as in what is fashionable) and THE WORKS (i.e. “everything”) placed “after” it, like so: THROWASPANNER-IN-THEWORKS.

25. Girl has put short stockings on – hallelujah! (7)

Answer: HOSANNA, an exclamation of praise to God (i.e. “hallelujah”). Solution is ANNA (i.e. “girl”) fronted by or “having put on” HOSE (i.e. “stockings”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “short”), like so: HOS-ANNA.

26. Friend a nuisance in European city (8)

Answer: BUDAPEST (i.e. “European city”, specifically the capital of Hungary). Solution is BUD (i.e. “friend”) followed by A and PEST (i.e. “nuisance”).

27. In a fine spray deodorant initially contained (6)

Answer: AMIDST (i.e. “in”). Solution is A MIST (i.e. “a fine spray”) “containing” D (i.e. “deodorant initially”, i.e. the first letter of “deodorant”), like so: A-MI(D)ST.

29. Thickness not diminished, roughly about right (5,9)

Answer: THIRD DIMENSION (i.e. “thickness”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “roughly”) of NOT DIMINISHED placed “about” R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”), like so: THI(R)DDIMENSION.

31. Pernicious lady about to steal fella’s heart (8)

Answer: DAMNABLE (i.e. “pernicious”). Solution is DAME (i.e. “lady”) placed “about” NAB (i.e. “to steal”) and L (i.e. “fella’s heart”, i.e. the middle letter of “fella”), like so: DAM(NAB-L)E. Another well-worked clue.

34. Interesting it’s coming together (8)

Answer: ENGAGING. Solution satisfies “interesting” and “coming together”, as in getting engaged to marry.

36. Turning scarlet, the sour dessert (9,5)

Answer: CHARLOTTE RUSSE, a kind of cake that, from the images I’ve seen, looks to be around 80% cream, i.e. “dessert”. “Turning” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SCARLET THE SOUR.

39. About to marry deadwood (6)

Answer: REFUSE (as in rubbish, i.e. “deadwood”). Solution is RE (i.e. “about”) and FUSE (i.e. “to marry”).

41. Stairs including an opening (8)

Answer: FANLIGHT, which is a window over a door or another window (i.e. “opening”). Solution is FLIGHT (i.e. “stairs”) “including” AN, like so: F(AN)LIGHT.

43. Anxious over cracks in heater returning (7)

Answer: NERVOUS (i.e. “anxious”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “cracks”) of OVER, which is placed “in” SUN (i.e. “heater”) which is reversed (indicated by “returning”), like so: N(ERVO)US.

46. Having saved little US cash, silly granddad, he wed nan, getting severely punished (6,5,3,9)

Answer: HANGED DRAWN AND QUARTERED (i.e. “severely punished” – they didn’t do things by halves back in Middle Ages #exitsstage). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “silly”) of GRANDDAD HE WED NAN, which is placed about or “saving” QUARTER (i.e. “little US cash”), like so: HANGEDDRAWNAND(QUARTER)ED.

47. Quibble darling? Move well back! (8)

Answer: PETTIFOG (i.e. “quibble” – a pettifogger is a solicitor who deals quibblingly with trivial cases). Solution is PET (i.e. “darling”) followed by GO (i.e. “move”) and FIT (i.e. “well”) which are both reversed (indicated by “back”), like so: PET-TIF-OG.

48. State having twisted story, journalist going into it (6)

Answer: SWEDEN (i.e. “state”). Solution is NEWS (i.e. “story”) which is reversed (indicated by “twisted”) and ED (i.e. “journalist”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of an editor) “going into it”, like so: SW(ED)EN.

49. Suspect image for recollection, provided in terrible case (1-3)

Answer: E-FIT, which is the modern-day equivalent of photofit images of criminals based on eyewitness accounts, (i.e. “suspect image”). Solution is IF (i.e. “provided” – a nod to Clive in the comments section of previous posts for this) placed “in” TE (i.e. “terrible case”, i.e. the first and last letters of the word “terrible”). The whole lot is then reversed (indicated by “for recollection”), like so: E(FI)T. Another well-worked clue.

53. Equal measure in a tumbler originally containing reduced drink (7)

Answer: ALIQUOT (i.e. “equal measure”). Solution is A and T (i.e. “tumbler originally”, i.e. the first letter of “tumbler”) which “contain” LIQUOR (i.e. “drink”) with its last letter removed (indicated by “reduced”), like so: A-(LIQUO)-T. Not a word I’m familiar with, so chalk one to my Chambers for this.

54. Mineral container one returned, awaiting delivery (2,5)

Answer: IN UTERO (i.e. “[of a baby] awaiting delivery”). Solution is ORE (i.e. “mineral”) followed by TUN (i.e. “container”) and I (Roman numeral “one”), all reversed (indicated by “returned”), like so: I-NUT-ERO.

56. Finally abandoning south for north, then a US city (7)

Answer: ATLANTA (i.e. “US city”). Solution is AT LAST (i.e. “finally”) with the S (recognised abbreviation of “south”) “abandoned for” or replaced by N (ditto “north”), “then” followed by A, like so: AT-LANT-A.

57. Drink in exciting bars, say? (3,9)

Answer: HOT CHOCOLATE (i.e. “drink”). Solution is HOT (i.e. “exciting”) followed by CHOLOTATE (i.e. “bars, say”, suggesting one form in which chocolate is served).

58. Sweet wine no great shakes? (10)

Answer: AFTERSHOCK (i.e. “no great shakes” – still rather hairy for anyone unlucky enough to experience them, though). Solution is AFTERS (i.e. “sweet”, as in a pudding) followed by HOCK (i.e. “wine”).

Down clues

1. After trip, stop game (9)

Answer: HOPSCOTCH (i.e. “game”). Solution is HOP (i.e. “trip”) with SCOTCH (i.e. “[to] stop”) placed “after” it.

2. Saucy thing beginning to strip – a boy doing otherwise? (5,8)

Answer: SALAD DRESSING (i.e. “saucy thing”). Solution is S (i.e. “beginning to strip”, i.e. the first letter of “strip”) followed by A LAD (i.e. “a boy”) and DRESSING (i.e. “doing otherwise” – in the context of the clue, one dressing would be the opposite of one stripping).

3. Island, a short distance (4)

Answer: INCH. Solution satisfies a Scottish or Irish word for an “island”, and “a short distance”.

4. Sat on Titanic so agitated, prepare for a battle! (6,8)

Answer: ACTION STATIONS (i.e. “prepare for a battle!”). “Agitated” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SAT ON TITANIC SO.

5. In Nepal, a meteor hit (3)

Answer: LAM (i.e. “hit”). “In” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: NEPA(L A M)ETEOR.

7. Original ode’s first up for poet (4)

Answer: Wilfred OWEN (i.e. “poet”). Solution is NEW (i.e. “original”) followed by O (i.e. “ode’s first”), which are then reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue), like so: O-WEN.

8. One seeing English tree, it overlooking cape (10)

Answer: EYEWITNESS (i.e. “one seeing”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) followed by YEW (i.e. “tree”), then IT, which are all placed above or “overlooking” (again, this being a down clue) NESS (i.e. a headland or “cape”), like so: E-YEW-IT-NESS.

9. Party bringing leaders of neighbouring nations into prominence (3,5)

Answer: HEN NIGHT (i.e. “party”). Solution is N and N (i.e. “leaders of neighbouring nations”, i.e. the initial letters of “neighbouring” and “nations”) which is placed “into” HEIGHT (i.e. “prominence”), likes so: HE(N-N)IGHT. Another good ‘un.

10. Extraordinary female made up new word where Arabic spoken (6,5)

Answer: WONDER WOMAN (i.e. “extraordinary female”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “made up”) of NEW WORD followed by OMAN (i.e. “where Arabic spoken”).

11. Protected pigs ultimately led there to be slaughtered (9)

Answer: SHELTERED (i.e. “protected”). Solution is S (i.e. “pigs ultimately”) followed by an anagram (indicated by “slaughtered”) of LED THERE.

12. Little jumper, fine top (4)

Answer: ROOF (i.e. “top”). Solution is ROO (i.e. “little jumper”, as in a baby kangaroo) followed by F (a recognised abbreviation of “fine”).

13. Together in neatly arranged houses (8)

Answer: COMBINED (i.e. “together”). Solution is IN which is “housed” within COMBED (i.e. “neatly”), like so: COMB(IN)ED.

19. Lit up at dinnertime, darling goes in to eat (8)

Answer: FLAMBEED (i.e. “lit up at dinnertime”). Solution is LAMB (i.e. “darling”) which “goes in” FEED (i.e. “to eat”), like so: F(LAMB)EED.

21. Identical daughter gets hold of bandage finally for wound (6)

Answer: TWINED (i.e. “wound”). Solution is TWIN D (i.e. “identical daughter” – D being a recognised abbreviation of “daughter”) which “gets hold of” E (i.e. “bandage finally”, i.e. the last letter of “bandage”), like so: TWIN-(E)-D.

22. Inspired by rock, style of music to perform – that’s for dropouts? (4,4)

Answer: TRAP DOOR (i.e. “that’s for dropouts”). Solution is RAP (i.e. “style of music”) and DO (i.e. “to perform”) which is placed in or “inspired by” TOR (i.e. “rock”), like so: T(RAP-DO)OR. Another clue that scans rather well.

23. Weariest when travelling, in a kind of way (2,2,4)

Answer: AS IT WERE (i.e. “in a kind of way”). “When travelling” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of WEARIEST.

28. Mean knock? (7,7)

Answer: BATTING AVERAGE. In cricket, a “knock” is a batsman’s score in a single innings, while “mean” is another word for “average”).

29. Ecclesiastical governors the chief enemy in conclusion (8)

Answer: THEARCHY (i.e. “ecclesiastical governors”). Solution is THE followed by ARCH (i.e. “chief”) and Y (i.e. “enemy in conclusion”, i.e. the last letter of “enemy”).

30. English town succeeded before the French city (2,6)

Answer: ST HELENS (i.e. “English town”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “succeeded”) followed by THE and LENS (i.e. “French city”).

32. Singer ending in club like so, for enjoyable party (5,8)

Answer: BASSO PROFUNDO (i.e. “singer” – never heard of him #lamejoke). Solution is B (i.e. “ending in club”, i.e. the last letter of “club”) followed by AS (i.e. “like”), then SO, then PRO (i.e. “for”), then FUN (i.e. “enjoyable”) and DO (i.e. “party”), like so: B-AS-SO-PRO-FUN-DO.

33. Match fit, perhaps, though no start in store (8)

Answer: BOUTIQUE (i.e. “store”). Solution is BOUT (i.e. “match”) followed by PIQUE (i.e. “fit, perhaps”) which has had its initial letter removed (indicated by “though no start”), like so: BOUT-IQUE. For some reason this took bloody ages for me to get, given only the even letters.

35. Essay on wheat, book totally factual (6,5)

Answer: GOSPEL TRUTH (i.e. “totally factual”). Solution is GO (i.e. “[to] essay”) followed by SPELT (i.e. an inferior variety of “wheat”) and then RUTH (i.e. “book”, as in one of the books of the Old Testament). A comparatively tough clue, this.

37. Curiosity – artist needs it to read between the lines? (6)

Answer: RARITY (i.e. “curiosity”). Solution is RA (i.e. “artist”, specifically a Royal Academician) followed by IT which is placed “between” RY (i.e. “the lines”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “railway”), like so: RA-R(IT)Y.

38. Hot stuff, with nothing in court case being vulgar (10)

Answer: LAVATORIAL (i.e. “vulgar”). Solution is LAVA (i.e. “hot stuff”) followed by O (i.e. “nothing”) which has been placed “in” TRIAL (i.e. “court case”), like so: LAVA-T(O)RIAL.

40. Details I infer scattered around page on book (4,5)

Answer: FINE PRINT (i.e. “details”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “scattered”) of I INFER which is placed “around” P (a recognised abbreviation of “page”), and then followed by NT (i.e. “book”, specifically the New Testament), like so: FINE(P)RI-NT.

42. Criminal comedian admitting beaten, finally (8)

Answer: GANGSTER (i.e. “criminal”). Solution is GAGSTER (i.e. “comedian”) “admitting” N (i.e. “beaten, finally”, i.e. the last letter of “beaten”), like so: GA(N)GSTER.

44. Distract team with song (9)

Answer: SIDETRACK (i.e. “distract”). Solution is SIDE (i.e. “team”) followed by TRACK (i.e. “song”).

45. A bit of water and a second, neither quite finding sea (8)

Answer: ADRIATIC (i.e. “sea”). Solution is A DRIP (i.e. “a bit of water”) “and” A TICK (i.e. “a second”), both of which have their last letters removed (indicated by “neither quite”), like so: A-DRI-A-TIC.

50. Dish – or pot? (4)

Answer: HASH. Solution satisfies both “dish” and “pot”, as in hashish.

51. Sculptor’s piece in pieces! (4)

Answer: BUST. Solution satisfies “sculptor’s piece” and “in pieces”. I rather liked this one.

52. Something more luxurious, cut (4)

Answer: PLUS (i.e. “something more”). Solution is PLUSH (i.e. “luxurious”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “cut”).

55. A female with nothing up top? (3)

Answer: OAF (i.e. “[having] nothing up top”, as in one having no brain). Solution is A then F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) with O (i.e. “nothing”) placed “up top” of them, this being a down clue, like so: O-A-F. Another I rather liked.

Review: Best New Horror 5

(If you would like an overview of the stories published in the first four books of the series, jump over to my Reviews page for links.)

Best New Horror 5 showcases twenty-nine horror shorts that were published during 1993 and was the last instalment of the series to be edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell. As with previous books in the series, Best New Horror 5 is a mixed bag with runs of good stories here and there. A strong finish to the anthology helps push this into 4/5 territory.

As for the stories themselves, let’s take a look:


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

Later – Michael Marshall Smith (4/5 – A man watches in horror as his beloved Rachel is cruelly knocked down in a hit-and-run accident. She dies in his arms a moment later. Our man is devastated and tries his best to get through the awful events that must follow, such as informing Rachel’s parents, attending her funeral and wake, and adjusting to living alone in a house still filled with her effects. Soon after the funeral, and unable to face life without her, he goes to macabre lengths to bring Rachel back home. This was a good read with touching and believable expressions of grief, but was spoiled slightly the moment the supernatural was brought in. Slight spoiler – this was originally published in a zombie anthology, so I guess it had to go there, but I reckon Later would have packed a bigger punch had it ended just before the zombie stuff kicked in.)

When The Red Storm Comes – Sarah Smith (4/5 – We’re in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. Peace talks are taking place between Russia and Japan, and the town is awash with foreign diplomats and their entourages. Amid the hubbub Susan Wentworth finds herself the subject of Count Ferenc Zohary’s intense interest. He promises to make her a vampire, just like him – if he is indeed what he says he is. Horror veterans will have read umpteen stories of vampire rumpy such as this over the years, but the interesting setting makes this worth a look.)

The Exhibit – Martin Plumbridge (4/5 – Suzie is enduring a succession of drab beach-side attractions with her father, all the while wishing she was somewhere else. When her father suggests they try The Wax Museum, Suzie stays put and sends him in on his own. When he fails to materialise some time later, Suzie and the museum’s attendant head in to investigate. I liked this more than I thought I would, given the setup. The story goes in some unexpected directions, which helps to build a satisfyingly creepy atmosphere.)

Leavings – Kathe Koja (3/5 – Gordon finds he is being haunted by the long choking hair of his dead lover Sophy. He’s pulling hair from the back of his throat, from his food, from his drink, seemingly everywhere. But why is Sophy haunting him so? I wasn’t terribly keen on this the first time around. It’s told in an increasingly cut-up style to give us a sense of the madness taking hold of Gordon, but it didn’t take long for this to get on my nerves. Stories that set themselves up as difficult reads live or die on the willingness of the reader to go along with it, and it soon felt like this was a story that was determined to throw me out. It evidently succeeded as a second reading revealed a wonderfully creepy ending I’d missed the first time around. I’ve therefore upped the score a notch from my original review. Leavings is worth a look if you have the patience for it.)

Originally collected in Bryant’s “Darker Passions”

Human Remains – Edward Bryant (3/5 – A group of women meet at a hotel. They dine together even though they have never met before. They are each survivors of a man recently executed for serial rape and murder, and the women exchange their experiences of him. Vicky shares the story of her narrow escape but leaves out a few crucial details, not least that she secretly wishes to feel the thrill of her near-death experience once more. In her bag is a Barbie doll wrapped in its entirety with fishing wire, seemingly left for her in the ladies’ toilet. A lure, perhaps? I’ve rarely felt as conflicted about a story as I did here. There’s a nasty undercurrent that grows the longer you dwell on it. Scored purely on the unease the story creates, this would be a 5/5, but I can’t say I liked this one.)

Also collected in Royle’s “Mortality”

Flying Into Naples – Nicholas Royle (3/5 – Royle fills the “holiday horror” slot for this particular instalment of Best New Horror with a weird slipstreamy story about a divorcee jetting into Naples in the hope of re-engaging with an old flame, Flavia. On his travels he experiences a bizarre episode, meeting a dying man not unlike himself who tells him where Flavia lives. When he tracks her down our man finds that Flavia only really comes alive when she is in her car. At all other times she is almost grey and lifeless, as if she is gathering a fine layer of dust like everything else around town. Flavia also claims to have been widowed six times, an enigmatic warning our man would do well to heed. I wasn’t overly keen on this story from the outset. My unshakeable impression was that we were on holiday with a stalker, and I’m not entirely convinced that was intentional. The story is rescued somewhat by the impressive sense of place Royle creates, giving us a good flavour of Naples and its surrounding areas.)

Also collected in Brite’s “Swamp Foetus”

The Sixth Sentinel – Poppy Z. Brite (5/5 – In this superb ghost story we are in the company of Jean Lafitte, feared pirate and privateer of New Orleans’ French Quarter during the mid-nineteenth century. Now long dead, he haunts his old stamping grounds. In one such place lives Rosalie Smith, a world-weary twentysomething who strips by night and fills the rest of her waking hours slugging hard liquor. Jean is smitten and is not shy about making himself known to her. Rosalie is unconcerned by his presence, often talking freely with him, but she flatly refuses his offers of undiscovered treasure. She’s not keen on digging stuff up. Keen to ease Rosalie’s mental hurt, Jean enters her dreams to find the source of her pain. But is that his only motivation? If you liked His Mouth Will Taste Of Wormwood, Brite’s story in Best New Horror 2 (and also collected in Swamp Foetus) then you’ll love this. Unmissable.)

The Brothers – Rick Cadger (4/5 – Ian is driving home with his odious brother-in-law, Neville, who is stopping over for a few days. Home is the picturesque village of Galham with its pair of large serpentine statues erected like bookends on either side: The Brothers Bokovan and Yusenoi. Only those born of Galham can see The Brothers and each Galhamite has allegiance to one or the other. The Brothers quietly bless their subjects with success and longevity in return for their loyalty… and for a once-in-a-lifetime test of their faith. Events take a bizarre turn when, upon arriving home, Ian suddenly finds himself a guest; that somehow his wife is now married to Neville. This story has no right to work as well as it does. For a start it’s written in the second person, a tough sell for me. Not only that, The Brothers operates solely and unapologetically on its own terms and it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. And yet it’s a wonderfully weird read. Definitely worth a look.)

The Owen Street Monster – J. L. Comeau (4/5 – A mean and mighty fine story told entirely as a sequence of phone calls made by Janine, the neighbourhood queen bee, to her closest friends. It seems some of Janine’s friends aren’t coping very well. Some are doubting whether the titular monster they’d killed was a monster at all. To say any more would be to give the game away, suffice to say this is a devilishly fun short.)

Also collected in Klein’s “Reassuring Tales”

One Size Eats All – T. E. D. Klein (4/5 – Continuing the devilish fun is a story in which a young lad, Andy, receives a sleeping bag for Christmas. Both he and his older brother are planning to camp out on Mount Wendigo, so this is all very well. But the packaging seems to contain a misprint, declaring the sleeping bag to be “One Size Eats All”. At least Andy hopes it’s a misprint. Though this story was written for kids, Klein doesn’t shy away from pressing all the scary buttons. A mighty fine way to spend ten minutes.)

Mulligan’s Fence – Donald R. Burleson (4/5 – Kelly returns to the neighbourhood where she grew up. The apartment block in which she lived is long gone, razed to the ground, but old man Mulligan’s fence still stands. Kelly scans the wood, running her fingers over the initials carved there, remembering the names, unaware she is also somehow drawing some of her old childhood friends back to the fence. For the most part this was a straight-up 3/5. As short as the story was, it lingered much too long on a roll call of inconsequential characters from Kelly’s past, but the Tales-From-The-Crypt-style ending just about rescued it.)

How She Dances – Daniel Fox (4/5 – Michael shares a taxi with Alice, who is trying to get home to her baby, Anne-Marie. Michael is wary of Alice from the off. She seems unstable, speaking in halting sentences, struggling to get her meaning across, but one thing becomes clear: Alice didn’t arrange a babysitter. Michael is concerned for Anne-Marie’s welfare but soon comes to regret not leaving well enough alone. Like Kathe Koja’s Impermanent Mercies (featured in Best New Horror 3) this story reminded me of a nightmarish sketch in Chris Morris’s Blue Jam radio show (the sketch with the plumber, he says tiptoeing around spoilers). It’s a good read, though one that is guilty of forever warning the reader of the horror to come, which is a rather cheap way of building tension.)

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

Passages – Karl Edward Wagner (3/5 – Three old friends meet at a school reunion and fall into a conversation detailing their secret horrors. Freddie tells how his sisters and their friends would dress him up in girls clothes. Marcia tells of how she was convinced she had spiders infesting her tight curly hair. Grant, a surgeon, tells of his hatred of needles – and how he managed to overcome his fear. For me, this was a misfire. Wagner does a good job of building up the story, creating a sense of unease as Grant tells his tale, but the payoff is underwhelming.)

Easing The Spring – Sally Roberts Jones (3/5 – A folksy horror tale which sees an environmental campaigner introduced to a young woman called Ceri in a somewhat obvious matchmaking attempt by Ceri’s grandmother. They hit it off, which turns out to be bad news for our man. This was okay, but most readers will be familiar with a number of other stories along these lines, not least of which *cough* a certain cult 1970’s British horror film starring Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward *cough*. Goodness me, that was a long cough.)

Also collected in the Tems’ “In Concert: The Collected Speculative Fiction”

Safe At Home – Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem (2/5 – Melinda is struggling to cope in her relationship with Charlie. Scenes of her inner conflict, of the horrors she experiences when they become intimate, are intercut with snatches of dialogue from Uncle Pat to his niece, Mandy, and Uncle Pat loves Mandy so very, very much. Boy, did this story piss me off the first time around. The Tems’ attempt to conflate child sex abuse and hairy Lovecraftian squid-sex, real or imagined, later in Mandy/Melinda’s life felt horribly misjudged; an opinion that hasn’t changed after a second reading. The subject matter is bad enough. Tacking monsters onto it serves only to cheapen the real horror at the centre of the story. Worse still, this grubby shocker was originally published in an anthology of erotic horror called Hottest Blood. I’m going to take erotic at its broadest meaning here – that of relating to sexual desire rather than arousing it – because the idea of someone getting their jollies off of this story doesn’t bear thinking about.)

Also collected in Fowler’s “Flesh Wounds”

Mother Of The City – Christopher Fowler (4/5 – Douglas hates London. He hates how his friends have all moved there and made successes of their lives. Perhaps most of all he hates how he has been left behind. After sleepwalking through much of his twenties he suddenly has the good fortune to meet a young advertising executive, Michelle, through a work commission. To Douglas’s surprise, they hit it off. It seems life has turned a corner for our man, but it doesn’t take long for the cracks in their relationship to show. Unlike Douglas, Michelle absolutely adores London and when our man lets slip his true feelings about the place Michelle takes it to heart. After their differences manifest themselves into a full-blown row, Douglas soon regrets his idiocy and begs Michelle for another chance. When she agrees to meet him for dinner on her turf, Douglas finds London doesn’t want to play ball. Another winner from Fowler.)

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

Justice – Elizabeth Hand (3/5 – Janet is a journalist who is stranded in a one-horse town after her editor pulls the story she’s working on. She is told to investigate a nearby cattle mutilation instead. Janet is furious, but reluctantly goes along with it. Later, she spies a familiar-looking RV parked in town with what sound like two huge dogs shut up inside. The RV belongs to itinerant lawyer, Irene Kirk, who Janet discovers has her own sense of justice. Hand’s excellent story The Bacchae in Best New Horror 3 was a modern take on Euripides’s tragedy. She dips into Greek mythology again for Justice, but doesn’t quite succeed. The story takes an age to get going, and feels overlong as a result.)

Also collected in Newman’s “Famous Monsters”

The Big Fish – Kim Newman (3/5 – From one author attempting to relive recent glories, it seems, to another. Newman gave us the superb Red Reign in Best New Horror 4, which was a fantastic mash-up of literary and real-life characters set in Victorian London, which then gave rise to his Anno Dracula series. In this novelette he tries another mash-up, this time plonking a Chandleresque private detective into a Lovecraftian world, but on this occasion he comes up short. The near-constant wisecracking of our shamus soon becomes tiresome, and the rather dry roll-call of names and movies dumped into the first half of the story could have been better spent developing some of the characters. In the end I suspect this was a lot more fun for Newman to write than it was for me to read.)

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

In The Desert Of Deserts – Thomas Tessier (3/5 – A man is crossing the Sahara desert because plot. (I’m not kidding. At no point do we know why he’s doing this, suffice to say that he is and he’s doing it in a Range Rover packed full of – air quotes – expensive equipment. Anyway, back to the plot.) He is advised to only drive at night by the locals, but soon finds this impractical. The roads, or at least what exists of them, are almost impossible for him to follow. He switches to daytime driving, but soon discovers why he was advised to drive at night. The next morning he finds footprints circling his camp, a presence that seems to haunt him every time he stops for the night. This was okay – Tessier’s depiction of the Sahara is a highlight – but the ending is weak.)

Also collected in Lamsley’s “Under The Crust”

Two Returns – Terry Lamsley (4/5 – We’re on the up again now with a wonderful Jamesian ghost story from a writer who would go on to make a number of welcome appearances in Best New Horror. In Two Returns we follow Mr Rudge, an old man who one evening witnesses a caped silhouetted figure standing manfully on a darkened railway platform. Rudge is alarmed to see glimpses of this shadowy figure all the way home. The shadow always seems to stay ahead of him. When Rudge gets in through the front door he finds a decidedly unwelcome cape hanging on his coat-hook. I picked up a copy of Lamsley’s Under The Crust, from which this story is taken, at the most recent World Fantasy Convention. Sadly that was all I did as the thing would have cost me $400 to purchase. Cripes!)

The Moment The Face Falls – Chet Williamson (4/5 – Paul Kenyon is a former screenwriter who knocks out a steady stream of pseudonymous novels to make ends meet. Out of the blue he receives a phone call from a producer who really, really liked that western he wrote decades ago – the one with Jimmy Stewart, the one directed by Anthony Mann – and he wants Kenyon to write the screenplay of a soon-to-be-published nailed-on bestseller. After so long in the wilderness things are finally looking up for Kenyon. What could possibly go wrong? Though not strictly speaking a horror story, it still has a certain Tales Of The Unexpected vibe to it. If you liked that show – and I very much did – then you’ll lap this up.)

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

Darker Angels – S. P. Somtow (4/5 – This extraordinary story was originally published in an anthology called Confederacy Of The Dead, and it ticks pretty much every box of that premise. We’re witnessing the last dregs of the American Civil War through the eyes of Jimmy Lee, a fourteen-year-old boy left picking his way through a battlefield carpeted with the corpses of Confederate troops. Amid the carnage he meets Old Joseph, a former slave who seems to remember Jimmy from a decade earlier, and who is skilled in magic as old as the rivers and mountains of this young America. This is a terrific story – certainly a highlight of the book – but is sadly let down by an ending which feels at odds with the message it was trying to convey. Somtow would later develop this story into his novel Darker Angels, which I might have to seek out.)

The Timbrel Sound Of Darkness – Kathe Koja & Barry N. Malzberg (2/5 – The ghost of Jack the Ripper (or Springheel Jack, take your pick) takes to haunting Sir Arthur Sullivan (one half of Gilbert & Sullivan). Well, “haunting” is perhaps a bit strong. “Floats about telling Sullivan how shit and worthless his work is and will be in the fullness of time” may be a better description. A bit like me with this pointless story, I guess.)

Also collected in Ligotti’s “Noctuary”

The Tsalal – Thomas Ligotti (3/5 – The exhausted people of Moxton are desperate to leave town but find their every effort to escape is thwarted. Something is repelling them. Something is sucking the life out of Moxton, its people and seemingly all existence itself. The only one not affected is Andrew Maness, a man who possesses a book of knowledge called The Tsalal. This is another Lovecraftian effort from Ligotti, who seems here to have shifted from his usual lush storytelling style to the kind of stale, overly-verbose and hopelessly tangled prose you’d normally expect of H.P. himself. It’s a shame because, once you have hacked your way through the turgid first half of the story, The Tsalal really comes alive. Not his best, but worth sticking with.)

In The Still, Small Hours – Charles Grant (4/5 – Lucas is unable to accept that his other half, Joan, has perished in an air crash. He haunts the observation deck of a mostly empty airport nearly every week in the still, small hours. He watches as the last few planes descend and land, waiting for her. There he meets a mysterious man called Daryl, who Lucas assumes has recently landed. It seems Daryl knows a lot about the airport and its workings. Incredibly he also seems to know something about Joan. This was a fine ghost story that was initially a little slow but came to life once Daryl entered the scene. Grant also has some fun messing with your head: not every ghost in this airport is necessarily a person, for example. It’s an effective diversion. Just when you’re mentally separating the real from the ethereal, Grant slots in another of his wonderfully chill endings.)

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

Ice House Pond – Steve Rasnic Tem (4/5 – Bear with me here a moment, folks. Some of you might remember a while ago when TV executives hit upon a weird little phenomena: slow TV. Whether it was two hours of unbroken footage taken from the driver’s seat of a train, or an unhurried and voiceover-free look at someone blowing glass, these shows succeeded in finding a steady audience. This novella is like that, and it absolutely works. The story focuses on Rudy Green as he seeks to rebuild his life following the death of his wife and unborn child. Rudy purchases a rundown house isolated in its own winter wonderland and begins to clear it out. A large frozen pond dominates the immediate landscape, its thick ice a shifting swirling grey. A channel of near-black water runs from the lake to the ice house adjoining the residence. When a neighbour swings by suggesting Rudy harvest the ice, to restock the ice house and to restart an old tradition of building a house of ice with the excess, Rudy agrees. After the horror show of Safe At Home, earlier in the book, this is a much better offering from SRT. Very much worth your time.)

Also collected in Etchison’s “The Death Artist”

The Dog Park – Dennis Etchison (4/5 – This British Fantasy Award-winning short finds a writer called Manning visiting the local dog park on the off-chance he’ll find his lost pooch. The park itself is a thinly-veiled cover for the movers and shakers of the TV and movie industry to gather and network, a scene Manning is all too happy to quit. The local homeowners overlooking the park from their expensive designer pads are keen to close the whole thing down, and they’re certainly not the kind of people to worry about the occasional dog being snatched by the park’s wilder animals. This was a good story but I was surprised to learn it was an award winner.)



Also collected in Wilson’s “The Cleft and Other Odd Tales”

The Marble Boy – Gahan Wilson (5/5 – Two boys break into a graveyard for a ruddy good rummage about the place. They soon find a life-size marble statue of a boy encased in glass. They assume the statue is of a boy buried nearby, a boy in a grave whose stone lid appears to have split in two. Much to George’s horror Andy levers the halves of the stone lid apart and reaches inside the grave. Bad, bad move. This is an excellent horror short that delivers with every paragraph, building up the atmosphere and tension wonderfully before delivering a truly spine-chilling climax.)



Also collected in Ellison’s “Slippage”

Mephisto In Onyx – Harlan Ellison (5/5 – As with the previous book, Best New Horror 5 closes with a barnstorming award-winning novella from a seasoned pro who really knew what he was doing. Rudy Pairis is a mindreader who is asked by Ally, a long-time friend, to help her acquit a convicted mass-murderer, Henry Lake Spanning. Ally confesses she is in love with Spanning, which Rudy finds utterly bizarre given how Ally was the prosecuting attorney who built the case against him in the first place. With only days to go before Spanning’s execution, Rudy very reluctantly agrees to visit him, and so a deadly game commences. Ellison’s writing positively crackles in this twisty-turny tale. Rudy is a great character armed with a number of laugh-out-loud opinions, descriptions and turns of phrase. (A security guard being “seven foot in any direction”, is a personal favourite.) It’s worth seeking out a copy of Best New Horror 5 for this story alone.)

And so we reach the end of another mega review of Best New Horror. Thanks for reading! If the stories take your fancy then you shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding a second-hand copy of the book on the interwebs, failing that you should be able to find an eBook copy on all the major platforms.

All being well, I’ll see you soon with a run-through of book 6. TTFN!


Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1380

It seems we have an easier puzzle to round off the Bank Holiday weekend, though there were a handful of tricky buggers to contend with. Still, not a bad one, and no repeats! As ever, you’ll find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope you find them helpful.

If you have an old Times Jumbo Cryptic knocking around with a few gaps then my Just For Fun page might help you. If horror fiction is your bag then my Reviews page might interest. To give you a flavour of what that is all about, you’ll shortly see a review of Best New Horror 5 following this post.

And so to the solutions. I’ll be back in a jiffy!


Across clues

1. Eastern country’s occupied by cold rodents (11)

Answer: CHINCHILLAS (i.e. “rodents”). Solution is CHINA’S (i.e. “eastern country’s”) being “occupied” by CHILL (i.e. “cold”), like so: CHIN(CHILL)AS.

7. Being terribly sinful, ceded, having no-one else to blame? (4-7)

Answer: SELF-INDUCED (i.e. “having no-one else to blame”). “Being terribly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SINFUL CEDED.

13. Like the writer existing with aspirations? Wow! (2,1,4,3,7)

Answer: AS I LIVE AND BREATHE. Solution satisfies “like the writer existing with aspirations” – “the writer” indicates this is from the setter’s point of view, so “like the writer existing” becomes AS I LIVE; meanwhile “aspiration” can be another word for breathing – and the exclamatory “Wow!”. A well-worked clue, if a rather clunky explanation.

14. Small statues said to be in old parts of Egypt? (5)

Answer: NOMES, which can mean provinces or departments of Ancient Egypt or modern Greece, i.e. “old parts of Egypt”. “Said to be” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of GNOMES (i.e. “small statues”). This was a new one on me, so score one to my Chambers. Took some finding, though!

15. Port? Buy it when taking course at Oxford (6)

Answer: DIEPPE (i.e. a fishing “port” of northern France). Solution is DIE (i.e. “[to] buy it”) followed by PPE (i.e. “course at Oxford” – specifically Philosophy, Politics and Economics, in case one subject wasn’t enough).

16. Country hollow in which a storage chest is buried (8)

Answer: PAKISTAN (i.e. “country”). Solution is PAN (i.e. a “hollow” in the ground that can collect rainwater) “in which” A and KIST (i.e. “storage chest” up in Scotland or Northern England, though not one I’m familiar with) “is buried”, like so: P(A-KIST)AN.

17. Worker briefly engaged by woman in Muslim territory (7)

Answer: KHANATE (i.e. “Muslim territory”). Solution is HAND (i.e. “worker”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “briefly”) and placed in or “engaged by” KATE (i.e. “woman”), like so: K(HAN)ATE.

19. About to enter cult, one has to be tight-lipped (9)

Answer: SECRETIVE (i.e. “tight-lipped”). Solution is RE (i.e. “about”, like you get on email replies) “entering” SECT (i.e. “cult”) and followed by I’VE (i.e. “one has”, i.e. a contraction of “I have”), like so: SEC(RE)T-IVE.

21. Best quality regularly associated with one chum (8)

Answer: ULTIMATE (i.e. “best”). “Regularly” indicates we take every other letter of QUALITY, which is then followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and MATE (i.e. “chum”), like so: ULT-I-MATE.

23. English theologian introducing a series of stories (4)

Answer: EDDA, the name of two Scandinavian books, the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, the former of which collect together a “series of stories”. Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) followed by DD (i.e. “theologian”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of Divinitatis Doctor, or a Doctor of Divinity) and, finally, A, like so: E-DD-A. I have the hundreds of hours spent playing Skyrim to thank for this one. I knew it would be worth it someday.

25. Devices restricting personal freedom in prisons or clubs (5)

Answer: IRONS. Solution satisfies “devices restricting personal freedom in prisons” – as in “clapped in irons” – and “[golf] clubs”.

27. Character who may offer terms to residents? (6)

Answer: LETTER. Solution satisfies “character” – as in one of the letters A-Z – and “who may offer terms to residents” – as in one who lets property.

28. Aura surrounding Conservative, one knowing what will happen in future? (10)

Answer: PRESCIENCE (i.e. “knowing what will happen in future”). Solution is PRESENCE (i.e. “aura”) “surrounding” C (a recognised abbreviation of “Conservative”) and I (Roman numeral “one”), like so: PRES(C-I)ENCE.

30. Captive in small room in home counties in terminal situation (8)

Answer: ENSLAVED (i.e. “captive”). Solution is LAV (i.e. “small room”, specifically a recognised abbreviation for a lavatory, sometimes called the smallest room in the house) which is placed “in” SE (i.e. “home counties”, i.e. the South East of England), which is in turn placed “in” END (i.e. “terminal situation”), like so: EN(S(LAV)E)D.

31. Dicky is mad on oratory – it involves listening to many a star (5,9)

Answer: RADIO ASTRONOMY (i.e. “it involves listening to many a star”). “Dicky” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IS MAD ON ORATORY.

34. Gutted economist in action of castigating the abolition of gold standard? (14)

Answer: DEMONETISATION (i.e. “the abolition of gold standard”). Solution is ET (i.e. “gutted economist”, i.e. the word “economist” with all its middle letters removed), placed “in” DEMONISATION (i.e. “action of castigating”), like so: DEMON(ET)ISATION.

35. Blissful course regularly taken by one female in charge (8)

Answer: BEATIFIC (i.e. “blissful”). Solution is BEAT (i.e. “course regularly taken”, often in relation to police officers) followed “by” I (Roman numeral “one”) and F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) and IC (ditto “in charge”), like so: BEAT-I-F-IC.

38. Expert’s treatise shows what can help a handicapped person (10)

Answer: PROSTHESIS (i.e. “what can help a handicapped person”). Solution is PRO’S (i.e. “expert’s”) followed by THESIS (i.e. “treatise”).

40. Secret agent, good person in trouble (6)

Answer: MOLEST (i.e. “[to] trouble”). Solution is MOLE (i.e. “secret agent”) followed by ST (i.e. “good person”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “saint”). This was the last clue I solved, and I only got it once I’d finally convinced myself it really, really, really wasn’t going to be “covert”. Well played, setter.

41. Christmas month has gold ornamentation (5)

Answer: DÉCOR (i.e. “ornamentation”). Solution is DEC (i.e. “Christmas month”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “December”) followed by OR (i.e. “gold” in heraldry, often used by crossword setters in their solutions).

43. Regular competition – waste of time (4)

Answer: EVEN (i.e. “regular”). Solution is EVENT (i.e. “competition”) with the T removed (i.e. “waste of time”, T being a recognised abbreviation of “time”).

44. Where fares are lowest always in part of journey (8)

Answer: STEERAGE (i.e. “where fares are lowest [on a passenger ship]”). Solution is E’ER (i.e. “always”, specifically a poetic contraction of “ever”) placed “in” STAGE (i.e. “part of journey”), like so: ST(EER)AGE.

45. Most superior fellows looking down on a bit of St John’s Wood? (9)

Answer: OVERLORDS. Solution satisfies “most superior fellows” and “looking down on a bit of St John’s Wood”, i.e. OVER LORDS [cricket ground].

48. Lady’s indication – test 75% complete (7)

Answer: SIGNORA (i.e. “lady” in Italian). Solution is SIGN (i.e. “indication”) followed by the first three letters of ORAL (i.e. “test 75% complete”) like so: SIGN-ORA.

49. Schools with prime requirement for ticking box (3,5)

Answer: TEA CHEST (i.e. “box”). Solution is TEACHES (i.e. “schools”) followed by T (i.e. “prime requirement for ticking”, i.e. the first letter of “ticking”).

50. Go astray, as one type of bird around November (6)

Answer: WANDER (i.e. “go astray”). Solution is WADER (i.e. “one type of bird”) placed “around” N (i.e. “November” in the phonetic alphabet), like so: WA(N)DER.

53. Gas from individual on the east side of Australia (5)

Answer: OZONE (i.e. “gas”). Solution is ONE (i.e. “individual”) placed after or, this being an across clue, “on the east side of” OZ (i.e. “Australia”), like so: OZ-ONE.

54. Novel performance of warder in prison show? (3,4,2,3,5)

Answer: THE TURN OF THE SCREW, a  short “novel” by Henry James. Solution also satisfies “performance” – or TURN – “of warder in prison” – or SCREW.

55. Secretarial skill sorting out thorny pages (11)

Answer: STENOGRAPHY (i.e. “secretarial skill”). “Sorting out” indicates anagram. Solution is anagram of THORNY PAGES.

56. Odour about troublemaker socialist oblivious to others? (4-7)

Answer: SELF-CENTRED (i.e. “oblivious to others”). Solution is SCENT (i.e. “odour”) placed “about” ELF (i.e. “troublemaker”) and followed by RED (i.e. “socialist”), like so: S(ELF)CENT-RED.

Down clues

1. Secret tribe doomed to come to premature end (11)

Answer: CLANDESTINE (i.e. “secret”). Solution is CLAN (i.e. “tribe”) followed by DESTINED (i.e. “doomed”) with the last letter trimmed (indicated by “to come to premature end”), like so: CLAN-DESTINE.

2. This person’s plan to ban a chemical (5)

Answer: IMIDE (i.e. “chemical”). Solution is I’M (i.e. “this person’s” – ignore the misleading possessive ‘s and read it as “this person is”) followed by IDEA (i.e. “plan”) with the A removed (indicated by “to ban a”), like so: IM-IDE. I knew this would end in IDE, but needed to dip into the dictionary to get the second letter.

3. Charlie, unconventional character in fast-food outlet (7)

Answer: CHIPPIE (i.e. a “fast-food outlet” serving fish and chips). Solution is C (“Charlie” in the phonetic alphabet) followed by HIPPIE (i.e. “unconventional character”).

4. Day when one meets fate, not insignificant! (4)

Answer: IDES, which is the middle of the month (more or less). Anyway, “day”. Solution is I (Roman numeral “one”) followed by DESTINY (i.e. “fate”) once TINY has been removed (indicated by “not insignificant”), like so: I-DES.

5. Property managers providing light over a toilet (4,6)

Answer: LAND AGENTS (i.e. “property managers”). Solution is LAND (i.e. “[to] light [upon]”) placed “over” – this being a down clue – A and GENTS (i.e. “toilet”).

6. Military personnel unessential but in action (14)

Answer: SUBLIEUTENANTS (i.e. “military personnel”). “In action” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of UNESSENTIAL BUT.

7. Place in which to find provider of milk and soft mineral (8)

Answer: STEATITE, another name for soapstone (i.e. “soft mineral”). Solution is SITE (i.e. “place”) “in which is found” TEAT (i.e. “provider of milk”), like so: S(TEAT)ITE. One I got from the wordplay, if I’m honest.

8. Reveal the French fashion (3,2)

Answer: LET ON (i.e. “reveal”). Solution is LE (i.e. “the French”, i.e. the French for “the” being LE) followed by TON (i.e. “fashion” – I’ve seen this usage before in crossword clues, but I can’t visualise a sentence where “ton” is used to mean fashion).

9. Kit ceases to work – things essential for some sporting competitors (3,6)

Answer: ICE SKATES (i.e. “things essential for some sporting competitors”). “To work” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of KIT CEASES.

10. Renunciation of study, learner of highest standard being upset (6)

Answer: DENIAL (i.e. “renunciation”). Solution is DEN (i.e. “study” as in a room rather than the act of studying) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “learner”) and AI (i.e. “of highest standard”, a play on A1 using the Roman numeral I) which are reversed (indicated by “upset” – this being a down clue), like so: DEN-IA-L.

11. COBRA when lacking support gets this military supremo initially (10,7)

Answer: COMMANDING OFFICER (i.e. “military supremo”). Solution is derived by taking BRA away from COBRA (indicated by “when lacking support”), leaving CO. “Initially” indicates this should be expanded to obtain the solution.

12. Some French person half cut off at cathedral site, showing hopelessness (11)

Answer: DESPERATELY (i.e. “showing helplessness”). Solution is DES (i.e. “some French”, the French word “des” translates as “of the”), followed by PER (i.e. “person half cut”, specifically cutting away the second half), then AT and then ELY (i.e. “cathedral site” being the cathedral city of Ely).

18. Bound to swallow untruths, most typical of a lass? (8)

Answer: GIRLIEST (i.e. “most typical of a lass”). Solution is GIRT, the past participle of gird (i.e. “bound”) “swallowing” LIES (i.e. “untruths”), like so: GIR(LIES)T.

20. Spoil plans – for self-catering facility at Christmas? (4,8,5)

Answer: COOK SOMEONE’S GOOSE. Solution satisfies “spoil plans”. Within the context of the clue, this could for example involve cooking someone else’s Christmas goose. You get the idea.

22. Holy woman’s heartless alien from another planet! (6)

Answer: MARIAN, a devotee of Mary (i.e. “holy woman”). Solution is MARTIAN (i.e. “alien from another planet”) with the middle letter T removed (indicated by “heartless”).

24. Final bit of letter I sent off offered a smart reply (8)

Answer: RIPOSTED (i.e. “offered a smart reply”). Solution is R (i.e. “final bit of letter”, i.e. the final letter of “letter”) followed by I then POSTED (i.e. “sent off”).

26. Get stuck in street with any number jammed in an entrance (8)

Answer: STAGNATE (i.e. “get stuck”). Solution is ST (a recognised abbreviation of “street”) with N (i.e. “any number”) “jammed in” A GATE (i.e. “an entrance”), like so: ST-A-G(N)ATE.

29. Suppress the employees or fail to take action? (3,2,4,5)

Answer: SIT ON ONES HANDS. Solution satisfies “suppress the employees” and “fail to take action”.

32. Attempts outside to dispose of written agreements (8)

Answer: TREATIES (i.e. “written agreements”). Solution is TRIES (i.e. “attempts”) placed “outside” of EAT (i.e. “to dispose of”, albeit a little weakly), like so: TR(EAT)IES.

33. Aim revealed by creature with venom and anger (6)

Answer: ASPIRE (i.e. “aim”). Solution is ASP (i.e. “creature with venom”) followed by IRE (i.e. “anger”).

34. So is spender suffering mental problems? (11)

Answer: DEPRESSIONS (i.e. “mental problems”). “Suffering” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SO IS SPENDER.

36. Port’s rough and ready, we hear? Bottle stoppers may have been this (11)

Answer: CORKSCREWED (i.e. “bottle stoppers may have been this”). “We hear” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of “Cork” (i.e. a “port” in Ireland) made possessive with ‘s, and “crude” (i.e. “rough and ready”).

37. Feel so rum, distraught after end of affair – and maybe this? (10)

Answer: REMORSEFUL. Solution is an anagram (indicated by “distraught”) of FEEL SO RUM which is placed “after” R (i.e. “end of affair”, i.e. the last letter of “affair”). Within the context of the clue, one may feel remorseful after the end of an affair.

39. Remover of spear carrier, short performer on stage? (9)

Answer: EXTRACTOR (i.e. “remover”). Solution is EXTRA (i.e. “spear carrier” – a nickname for a minor acting part) with the last letter removed (indicated by “short”) and followed by ACTOR (i.e. “performer on stage”), like so: EXTR-ACTOR. A very well worked clue.

42. A few lines in newspaper on fellow enthralling a country (8)

Answer: PARAGUAY (i.e. “country”). Solution is PARA (i.e. “a few lines in newspaper”, specifically a recognised informal abbreviation of “paragraph”) followed by GUY (i.e. “fellow”) which includes or “enthrals” A, like so: PARA-GU(A)Y.

46. Affair’s trouble, after upsetting one child? (7)

Answer: LIAISON (i.e. “affair”). Solution is AIL (i.e. “trouble”) which is reversed (indicated by “after upsetting”, this being a down clue) and followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and SON (i.e. “child”), like so: LIA-I-SON.

47. Manage without, because of self-esteem (6)

Answer: FOREGO (i.e. “manage without”). Solution is FOR (i.e. “because of”) and EGO (i.e. “self-esteem”).

49. Hint about group of countries in affiliation (3-2)

Answer: TIE-UP (i.e. “affiliation”). Solution is TIP (i.e. “hint”) placed “about” EU (i.e. “group of countries”, specifically the European Union), like so: TI(EU)P.

51. Some are rude about Renaissance painter (5)

Answer: Albrecht DURER (i.e. “Renaissance painter”), and very good he was too – even if his rhino was a little trippy. Anyway, “some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “about” suggests the solution is reversed, like so: A(RE RUD)E.

52. Smart bird getting bottom pinched (4)

Answer: CHIC (i.e. “smart”). Solution is CHICK (i.e. a baby “bird”) with the final letter removed (indicated by “getting bottom pinched”).

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1379

A slightly tougher one this week with a few more exotic solutions, but at least they’re actual words. There is another repeat, which I’ll grump about later, and there are a couple of niggly clues I’d take issue with. All in all, though, this is another good ‘un. Question is, what have we in store on Monday? An easy one or a real stinker?

Anyway, blathering aside, you’ll find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. Just a bit of housekeeping before we begin. If you’d like solutions to recent other Times Jumbo Cryptics, hop over to my Just For Fun page. If horror fiction is your thing, then my Reviews page might pique your interest. I’ll have a review of Best New Horror 5 up once I’ve published Monday’s solution. (Assuming I get that far, obviously.)

Right, here you go. I hope this helps! I’m off to watch Match of the Day.


Across clues

1. Small growths extremely likely to fill small cracks (6)

Answer: POLYPS (i.e. “small growths”). Solution is LY (i.e. “extremely likely”, i.e. the first and last letters of “extremely”) “to fill” POPS (i.e. “small cracks”), like so: PO(LY)PS.

4. Experiences fellow feeling, with English politician at his tablets (10)

Answer: EMPATHISES (i.e. “experiences fellow feeling”). Solution is E (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) followed by MP (i.e. “politician”, specifically a Member of Parliament) then AT HIS and finally ES (i.e. “tablets”, specifically ecstasy tablets), like so: E-MP-AT-HIS-ES.

10. Representing noble of the French state (5)

Answer: DUCAL, which is representative of a duke (i.e. “representing noble”). Solution is DU (i.e. “of the French” – the French for “of the” is “du”) and CAL (i.e. “state”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of California).

14. Criminal female comes in handy with debtor’s notes (9)

Answer: NEFARIOUS (i.e. “criminal”). Solution is NEAR (i.e. “handy”) with F (a recognised abbreviation of “female”) “coming in” and then followed by IOUS (i.e. “debtor’s notes”), like so: NE(F)AR-IOUS.

15. Suspect streak in hugely rich sport on wheels (6-7)

Answer: ROLLER-SKATING (i.e. “sport on wheels”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “suspect”) of STREAK placed “in” ROLLING (i.e. “hugely rich”), like so: ROLL(ERSKAT)ING.

16. Ace is away boxing, causing worry (7)

Answer: AGONISE (i.e. “worry”). Solution is A (i.e. an “ace” in cards) followed by GONE (i.e. “away”) which is “boxing” IS, like so: A-GON(IS)E.

17. Mentioned poet providing woman’s undergarment (7)

Answer: SPENCER (i.e. “woman’s undergarment” – not one that rings a bell. I’d do a Google Image search but… no). Solution is also a homophone (indicated by “mentioned”) of sixteenth century “poet” Edmund Spenser, who is responsible for all manner of screwy alternative spellings that litter modern-day dictionaries. To be fair, setters have largely resisted using these in their grids.

18. Umpteenth rally more than enough to reveal rivet (7)

Answer: ENTHRAL (i.e. “[to] rivet”). “More than enough to reveal” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: UMPTE(ENTH RAL)LY.

19. Swimmers should avoid this Iberian armed ship (10,3-2-3)

Answer: PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR. Solution satisfies “swimmers should avoid this” – a proper nasty-looking jellyfish – and “Iberian armed ship” – Iberia describing Spain and Portugal and man-of-war describing a warship. I think the solution to this one sprang to mind from an episode of QI I’d watched some years ago. It’s weird what I remember sometimes.

21. Originally the supreme autocrat, leader of Russia (4)

Answer: TSAR (i.e. “leader of Russia”). Solution is TSA (i.e. “originally the supreme autocrat”, i.e. the first letters of “The”, “Supreme” and “Autocrat”) and R (i.e. “leader of Russia”, i.e. the first letter of “Russia”). A nifty bit of recursion there.

24. Acclaim legend about fencing clubs (5)

Answer: ECLAT (i.e. applause or “acclaim”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “clubs” used in card games) being “fenced” by TALE (i.e. “legend”) which is reversed (indicated by “about”), like so: E(C)LAT. (Sighs.) We’re barely a third of the way into the year and this is already the third time this solution has appeared, popping up in puzzles 1359 and 1374. Evidently this a go-to word for several setters. Or, more likely, this is the result of the grid-constructing software they’re using.

26. Starving old American pursues crow (8)

Answer: RAVENOUS (i.e. “starving”). Solution is O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and US (i.e. “American”) following or “pursuing” RAVEN (i.e. “crow”), like so: RAVEN-O-US.

27. Shuffles fish during drinks (5-3)

Answer: SHAKE-UPS (i.e. “shuffles”). Solution is HAKE (i.e. “fish”) placed “during” SUPS (i.e. “drinks”), like so: S(HAKE)UPS.

29. Graduate, lout and English guy cross fine sea area (3,2,6)

Answer: BAY OF BENGAL (i.e. “sea area”). Solution is BA (i.e. “graduate”, specifically a Bachelor of Arts) followed by YOB (i.e. “lout”), ENG (a recognised abbreviation of “English”) and AL (i.e. “guy”, as in a man’s name) wrapped around or “crossing” F (a recognised abbreviation of “fine”), like so: BA-YO(F)B-ENG-AL.

30. The most timid avoid eastern unit in national park (11)

Answer: YELLOWSTONE (i.e. a “national park” situated (mostly) in Wyoming, USA). Solution is YELLOWEST (i.e. “the most timid”) with the second E removed (indicated by “avoid eastern” – E being a recognised abbreviation of “eastern”) and followed by ONE (i.e. “unit”), like so: YELLOWST-ONE.

32. Rodney plugs terrible sweetener (6,5)

Answer: GOLDEN SYRUP (i.e. “sweetener”). “Terrible” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of RODNEY PLUGS.

35. Old warship had go and turned unexpectedly (11)

Answer: DREADNOUGHT (i.e. “old warship”). “Unexpectedly” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of HAD GO and TURNED.

37. Tea during the present time? That’s definitely out (2,6)

Answer: NO CHANCE (i.e. “that’s definitely out”). Solution is CHA (i.e. “tea”) placed “during” NONCE (i.e. “the present time”), like so: NO(CHA)NCE.

39. Where film would be kept secretly (2,6)

Answer: IN CAMERA. Solution satisfies “where film would be kept” and “secretly”.

40. Time when Powell has gained power, replacing Nationalist (5)

Answer: EPOCH (i.e. “time”). Solution is ENOCH “Powell” with the N (a recognised abbreviation of “Nationalist”) “replaced” by P (ditto “power”). A rather well-worked clue.

43. Pupils no longer returning after a punishment (4)

Answer: ASBO, an acronym for Anti-Social Behaviour Order (i.e. “punishment”). Solution is OBS (i.e. “pupils no longer”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “Old Boy” which is then made plural) and A placed “after”, then the whole lot reversed (indicated by “returning”), like so: A-SBO.

44. Spare no effort to play the pipes at full volume (4,3,3,3,5)

Answer: PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS. Solution satisfies “spare no effort” and “to play the [organ] pipes at full volume”.

47. Pretend deal includes song (7)

Answer: PLAYACT (i.e. “pretend”). Solution is PACT (i.e. “deal”) “including” LAY (i.e. “song” – one of the word’s many meanings), like so: P(LAY)ACT.

48. New displays in gallery the lady’s backing with dread almost (7)

Answer: REHANGS (i.e. “new displays in gallery” – a bit of a weak ‘un for me, unless I’m missing some gallery lingo somewhere). Solution is HER (i.e. “the lady”) reversed (indicated by “backing”) and followed by ANGS (i.e. “dread almost” – i.e. the word “angst” with the last letter removed), like so: REH-ANGS.

50. Ring about gunmen casing home, blow it! (7)

Answer: OCARINA (i.e. “blow it”, as in a musical instrument). Solution is O (i.e. “ring”) then CA (i.e. “about”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “circa”) then RA (i.e. “gunmen”, specifically the Royal Artillery) “casing” IN (i.e. “[at] home”), like so: O-CA-R(IN)A. What’s that you say? Did I get this from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time?
(Looks to camera.)

51. Priest in church has men close to pulpit for Albert, say (6,7)

Answer: PRINCE CONSORT (i.e. “Albert, say”). Solution is PR (a recognised abbreviation of “priest”) followed by IN, then CE (i.e. “church”, specifically the Church of England), then CONS (i.e. “has [somebody]”), then OR (i.e. “men”, specifically the Other Ranks of the army) and finally T (i.e. “close to pulpit”, i.e. the last letter of “pulpit”), like so: PR-IN-CE-CONS-OR-T. Phew!

52. Main man eats one like some Glasgow chocolate bars? (4-5)

Answer: DEEP-FRIED (i.e. “like some Glasgow chocolate bars”). Solution is DEEP (i.e. “main”, both words for the sea) followed by FRED (i.e. “man”) “eating” I (Roman numeral “one”), like so: DEEP-FR(I)ED.

53. Poles brought in money for viola (5)

Answer: PANSY (i.e. “viola”, as in the flower rather than the musical instrument). Solution is PAY (i.e. “money”) with NS (i.e. “poles”, i.e. recognised abbreviations of north and south) “brought in”, like so: PA(NS)Y.

54. Busy Italians accepting revolutionary firm’s withdrawn (10)

Answer: ANTISOCIAL (i.e. “withdrawn”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “busy”) of ITALIANS “accepting” CO (i.e. “firm”, i.e. a recognised abbreviation of “company”) which is reversed (indicated by “revolutionary”), like so: ANTIS(OC)IAL.

55. Plucky one locked in iron enclosure (6)

Answer: FEISTY (i.e. “plucky”). Solution is I (Roman numeral “one”) placed between or “locked in” FE (i.e. chemical symbol for “iron”) and STY (i.e. “enclosure”), like so: FE-(I)-STY.

Down clues

1. Long drink filled with very soft fruit (9)

Answer: PINEAPPLE (i.e. “fruit”). Solution is PINE (i.e. “[to] long”) followed by ALE (i.e. “drink”) filled with PP (i.e. “very soft”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of pianissimo), like so: PINE-A(PP)LE.

2. Firefly Leo and I manoeuvred, making excellent time (4,2,5)

Answer: LIFE OF RILEY (i.e. “excellent time”). “Manoeuvred” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FIREFLY LEO and I.

3. Border stitch that is used at the front (7)

Answer: PURLIEU. My Chambers has this everyday word as “in plural, borders or outskirts”, so this clue feels a little cheaty.  Why “border” and not “borders”? Anyway, the solution is PURL (i.e. “stitch”) followed by IE (i.e. “that is”, i.e. … well, i.e.) and U (i.e. “used at the front”, i.e. the first letter of “used”).

5. Lawmaker takes a stroll, avoiding Yankee (5)

Answer: MOSES (i.e. “lawmaker” – I’ll let the internet argue that one among themselves). Solution is MOSEYS (i.e. “takes a stroll”) with the Y removed (indicated by “avoiding Yankee”, being Y in the phonetic alphabet).

6. Two kinds of screen for part of Heathrow (3,8)

Answer: AIR TERMINAL. Solution satisfies “two kinds of screen” – as in two meanings of the word “screen” (AIR as in to screen or broadcast something; TERMINAL as in a computer screen – another cheat for me as a terminal represents the computer not the screen… anyway, world keeps spinning) – and “part of Heathrow”.

7. Batter felt raunchy, making good score (4-7)

Answer: HALF-CENTURY (i.e. a “good score” in cricket or one’s age). “Batter” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of FELT RAUNCHY.

8. Vow to give up fade after last of hooks (5,3)

Answer: SWEAR OFF (i.e. “vow to give up”). Solution is WEAR OFF (i.e. “fade”) placed “after” S (i.e. “last of hooks”, i.e. the last letter of “hooks”), like so: S-WEAROFF.

9. Englishman and SAS chase criminal around north (9)

Answer: SASSENACH (an often derogatory term for an “Englishman” all the way up there in Scotland.) Solution is SAS followed by an anagram (indicated by “criminal”) of CHASE which is placed around N (a recognised abbreviation of “north”), like so: SAS-SE(N)ACH.

10. Note conductor’s deficiency (6)

Answer: DEARTH (i.e. “deficiency”). Solution is D (i.e. “[musical] note”) followed by EARTH (i.e. “conductor”).

11. Like artwork in Fifty Shades of Grey? (11)

Answer: CHIAROSCURO, which is a black-and-white painting, hence the clue. If I’m honest I got this from the publisher of ChiZine magazine, but I was rather pleased to find it also fitted the clue. Anyway, if you’d like to see a really good example of chiaroscuro at work, check out Rudolph Stingel’s Untitled (After Sam) on Google Images. I was damn-near hypnotised by this painting (yes, it’s a painting) when I visited the Whitney Museum of American Art a few years ago. Absolutely stunning. Anyway, I digress.

12. It’s acceptable for one article to appear between lines (5)

Answer: LEGAL (i.e. “it’s acceptable”). Solution is EG (i.e. “for one” – read as “for example”) and A (i.e. “article”) “appearing between” L and L (recognised abbreviation of “line” pluralised), like so: L-(EG-A)-L.

13. On radio, what makes one stud’s leading part? (12)

Answer: FOREQUARTERS, which is the front portion of a side of meat (i.e. “leading part”). “On radio” indicates homophone. Solution is a homophone of “four quarters”, which I’m taking to mean “a limb with adjacent parts of the trunk, especially of the dismembered body of an executed person, or of an animal carcass”. Collectively they’d make “one stud”, I guess. Except for the head. Whatever. I’m seldom a fan of these wishy-washy clues, if I’m honest.

20. It recalled silver in highly uncivilised state (8)

Answer: SAVAGERY (i.e. “uncivilised state”). Solution is AS (i.e. “it”, though I can’t immediately think of a good example of using one instead of the other) reversed (indicated by “recalled”) and followed by AG (chemical symbol of “silver”) placed “in” VERY (i.e. “highly”), like so: SA-V(AG)ERY.

22. Admire scripture cult absorbing pressure (7)

Answer: RESPECT (i.e. “admire”). Solution is RE (i.e. “scripture”, i.e. Religious Education) followed by SECT (i.e. “cult”) which has “absorbed” P (a recognised abbreviation of “pressure”), like so: RE-S(P)ECT.

23. Second opener for Kent is to run sports venue (3,5)

Answer: SKI SLOPE (i.e. “sports venue”). Solution is S (a recognised abbreviation of “second”) followed by K (i.e. “opener for Kent”, i.e. the first letter of “Kent”) then IS then LOPE (i.e. “to run”).

25. Cloths in which to wrap up oily cheeses? (8)

Answer: TAFFETAS (i.e. “cloths”). Solution is FAT (i.e. “oily”) reversed (indicated by “up”, this being a down clue) and followed by FETAS (i.e. “cheeses”), like so: TAF-FETAS.

28. Obscene call for former dancing girl (8)

Answer: BLUEBELL (i.e. “former dancing girl” – a quick Google revealed that the Bluebell Girls were a dance troupe during the mid-twentieth century). Solution is BLUE (i.e. “obscene”) followed by BELL (i.e. “[to] call”).

29. Almost clear off one initially aggressive plant (7)

Answer: BEGONIA (i.e. “plant”). Solution is BEGONE (i.e. “clear off”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “almost”) and followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and A (i.e. “initially aggressive”, i.e. the first letter of “aggressive”), like so: BEGON-I-A.

31. Authority in east London built square (3-9)

Answer: OLD-FASHIONED (i.e. “square”). Solution is OLD (i.e. “authority in east London”, i.e. the word HOLD with the H dropped) followed by FASHIONED (i.e. “built”). This took me way longer to solve than it ought to have done. Well played, setter.

33. Late study of lutetium, copper and boron quota (11)

Answer: LUCUBRATION (i.e. “late study”, i.e. what most students do the night before their exam). Solution is LU (chemical symbol of “lutetium”), CU (ditto “copper”) and B (ditto again “boron”) followed by RATION (i.e. “quota”). Nice word. I like it.

34. Leg reduces impact of aids for sewers (11)

Answer: PINCUSHIONS (i.e. “aids for sewers”). Solution is PIN (i.e. an informal term for “leg”) followed by CUSHIONS (i.e. “reduces impact of”).

35. Confusing enigmatic ad showing oddly attractive quality (11)

Answer: DIAMAGNETIC (i.e. “showing oddly attractive quality”). “Confusing” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of ENIGMATIC AD.

36. Global subject, say, upset old, old drunk cutting images (11)

Answer: GEOPOLITICS (i.e. “global subject”). Solution is EG (i.e. “say”, as in “for example”) reversed (indicated by “upset”, this being a down clue) and followed by O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”). It’s then followed by O (ditto) and LIT (i.e. “drunk”, or, as Wodehouse would have it, pickled to the gills) placed in PICS (i.e. “images”), like so: GE-O-P(O-LIT)ICS. Convoluted? Yes. Yes it is.

38. Marine arthropods covering hole in one area (9)

Answer: CRUSTACEA (i.e. “marine arthropods”). Solution is CRUST (i.e. “covering”) followed by ACE (i.e. “hole in one”) and A (a recognised abbreviation of “area”).

41. Farming hours now and then on group lines (9)

Answer: HUSBANDRY (i.e. “farming”). Solution is HUS (i.e. “hours now and then”, i.e. every other letter of the word HOURS) followed by BAND (i.e. “group”) and RY (i.e. “lines”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “railway”).

42. Wine inspires latest member of orchestra (8)

Answer: CLARINET (i.e. “member of orchestra”). Solution is CLARET (i.e. “wine”) including or “inspiring” IN (i.e. the “latest”), like so: CLAR(IN)ET.

45. Pinch a bit (7)

Answer: SNAFFLE. Solution satisfies “pinch” – as in to steal – and “a bit” as in a piece of riding gear. I didn’t know that.

46. Religious publication cautious about credit (3,3)

Answer: WAR CRY (i.e. “religious publication” of The Salvation Army). Solution is WARY (i.e. “cautious”) placed “about” CR (a recognised abbreviation of “credit”), like so: WAR(CR)Y.

47. Children’s drink more costly, like some of their books? (3-2)

Answer: POP-UP. Solution satisfies “children’s drink more costly” and “like some [childrens] books”.

49. Hindu workers, 500 in part of Koran (5)

Answer: SUDRA, a member of the fourth and lowest of the great Hindu castes (i.e. “Hindu workers”). Solution is D (Roman numeral “500”) placed “in” SURA (i.e. a chapter or “part of Koran”). Cor, this was a right old trawl through my Chambers!

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1378

A good puzzle this week with a few really well-worked clues and only a handful of exotic solutions. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them. I hope they help.

As usual, some housekeeping before we begin. If you’d like solutions for previous puzzles then jump over to my Just For Fun page. If horror fiction is your thing then I have a few Reviews that might take your fancy. I should have a review of Best New Horror 5 coming soon, you lucky people.

Right, I won’t keep you any longer. Here you go.


Across clues

1. Being a good husband to Verity? Or less than faithful? (10,4,3,5)

Answer: ECONOMICAL WITH THE TRUTH. Solution satisfies “being a good husband to Verity” – husbandry can mean economical management, while verity is another word for truth – and “less than faithful”. A rather well worked clue.

13. Something to chew on: setter’s getting stick! (6)

Answer: CUDGEL (i.e. “stick”). Solution is CUD (i.e. “something to chew on”) followed by GEL (i.e. “setter”, as in something that sets).

14. Grass skirts so long? That’s not ringing a bell! (3-1-3)

Answer: RAT-A-TAT. Solution is RAT (i.e. “grass”, as in to rat on someone) “skirting” TA-TA (i.e. “so long”), like so: RA(TATA)T. Within the context of the clue, a “rat-a-tat” would suggest someone has used a door knocker rather than ringing a doorbell.

15. Sink to fill? Revealing plunger perhaps! (8)

Answer: NECKLINE (i.e. “revealing plunger perhaps”, as in garments with a plunging neckline). Solution is NECK (i.e. “[to] sink [a drink]”) followed by LINE (i.e. “to fill”).

16. Variety of cheese they sell excluding one European country (3,10)

Answer: THE SEYCHELLES (i.e. “country”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “variety”) of CHEESE THEY SELL once one of the Es as been removed (indicated by “excluding one European”, E being a recognised abbreviation of “European”).

18. Having pins and needles of metal, hideous but lead free (6)

Answer: TINGLY (i.e. “having pins and needles”). Solution is TIN (i.e. “metal”) followed by UGLY (i.e. “hideous”) with its first letter removed (i.e. “but lead free” – a nice bit of misdirection), like so: TIN-GLY.

20. Ghastly rotter claims to have pinched half of ours (10)

Answer: CADAVEROUS (i.e. “ghastly”). Solution is CAD (i.e. “rotter”) followed by AVERS (i.e. “claims”) which has “pinched” OU (i.e. “[the first] half of ours”), like so: CAD-AVER(OU)S.

21. Song a small bird relies on (2,4,4,2)

Answer: AS TIME GOES BY (i.e. “song”). Solution is A then S (a recognised abbreviation of “small”) followed by TIME (i.e. “bird” – both alternative words for a prison sentence) and GOES BY (i.e. “relies on”).

24. Press home point first (6)

Answer: INSIST (i.e. “press”). Solution is IN (i.e. “[at] home”), then S (a recognised abbreviation of “south” – i.e. a “point” on a compass), then IST (i.e. “first”).

26. Succumbing idly, eg in exercises (8)

Answer: YIELDING (i.e. “succumbing”). “Exercises” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IDLY EG IN.

28. Brilliance of one with strong desire to be heard (6)

Answer: LUSTRE (i.e. “brilliance”). “To be heard” indicates the solution is a homophone of LUSTER (i.e. “one with strong desire”).

30. Event in which twin mounts challenge? (3-5,4)

Answer: TWO-HORSE RACE. “Mounts” in this context meaning horses rather than mountains.

31. Minor US oil works producing fuel (10)

Answer: ORIMULSION, which, it says here, is an emulsion of bitumen, water and detergents used as a “fuel”. A new one on me. “Works” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MINOR US OIL.

33. Poison sample found in school square (10)

Answer: STRYCHNINE (i.e. “poison”). Solution is TRY (i.e. “[to] sample”) placed “in” SCH (a recognised abbreviation of “school”) and followed by NINE (i.e. “square”, specifically 3×3), like so: S(TRY)CH-NINE. Another well-worked clue.

34. Novel keeping (at first) prose writer father in a job (6-6)

Answer: WORKER-PRIEST (i.e. “father in a job”). “Novel” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of K (i.e. “keeping (at first)”) and PROSE WRITER.

35. Brings boat in from Islay, Stornoway (4,2)

Answer: LAYS TO (i.e. “brings boat in”). “From” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, like so: IS(LAY STO)RNOWAY.

37. Spy’s outside tracking account in French, very theatrical (8)

Answer: ACTRESSY (i.e. “theatrical”). Solution is SY (i.e. “spy’s outside”, i.e. the first and last letters of “spy”) following or “tracking” AC (a recognised abbreviation of “account”) and TRES (i.e. “in French, very”, the French for “very” being “tres”), like so: AC-TRES-SY.

38. Always following band parade (6)

Answer: SASHAY (i.e. “[to] parade”). Solution is AY (i.e. “always”, taken here to mean “yes” or “aye” or its alternative form “ay”) “following” SASH (i.e. “band” – think beauty contests), like so: SASH-AY.

40. Back doctor to provide supporting role (6,6)

Answer: SECOND FIDDLE (i.e. “supporting role”). Solution is SECOND (i.e. “[to] back [someone]”) followed by FIDDLE (i.e. “[to] doctor [something]”).

41. Dramatist maybe misses meeting with dignitary (10)

Answer: John GALSWORTHY, who wrote, among other things, The Forsyte Saga (ask your grandparents, kids). Anyway, “dramatist”. Solution is GALS (i.e. “maybe misses” – misses as in unmarried women) followed by WORTHY (i.e. “dignitary”).

43. Hungarian woman’s hat size not oddly recalled more than once (3,3)

Answer: ZSA ZSA Gabor (i.e. “Hungarian woman”). “Not oddly” indicates the solution is hidden in the even letters of HAT SIZE once they have been reversed (indicated by “recalled”). “More than once” then indicates ZSA is repeated. I can’t help but think the setter rather painted themselves into a corner here.

45. Henry buys into risk, after altering his past assessment (7,2,4)

Answer: HISTORY IS BUNK, a quote attributed to Henry Ford (i.e. “Henry…his past assessment”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “altering”) of H (for “Henry”) and BUYS INTO RISK. Taking into account the context of the quote, this is an excellent clue – probably the best since I started posting these solutions.

48. Skin condition initially affecting within month those with spotty faces (8)

Answer: JAUNDICE (i.e. “skin condition”). Solution is A (i.e. “initially affecting”, i.e. the first letter of “affecting”) placed “within” JUN (i.e. “month”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of June) and followed by DICE (i.e. “those with spotty faces”), like so: J(A)UN-DICE. Another good ‘un.

49. A hanky pictured when you hear this? (7)

Answer: ATISHOO. Solution riffs on how this sounds like A TISSUE (i.e. “a hanky”).

51. Saw investigators turning away from corporation (6)

Answer: DICTUM (i.e. “saw”, which can mean a motto or a saying). Solution is CID (i.e. “investigators”, specifically the Criminal Investigation Department of the police force) reversed (indicated by “turning away”) and followed by TUM (i.e. “corporation” – an alternative meaning of the word is the belly), like so: DIC-TUM.

52. Relish holding the k-keys? (8,6,8)

Answer: THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING (i.e. “relish”). Solution riffs on how K is often used to represent a thousand, and how “keys” can be a group of islands.

Down clues

2. Vintage Times brain teaser! (4)

Answer: CRUX (i.e. “brain teaser”). Solution is CRU (i.e. “vintage”) followed by X (i.e. “times”, as in the multiplication symbol).

3. Ailing rhythm’s turning out like a bad dream (13)

Answer: NIGHTMARISHLY (i.e. “like a bad dream”). “Turning out” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of AILING RHYTHMS.

4. Chap has taken notes in foreign language (7)

Answer: MALTESE (i.e. “foreign language”). Solution is MALE (i.e. “chap”) having “taken” TES (i.e. “notes” as in the doh-ray-me scale – can be spelled TE or TI), like so: MAL(TES)E.

5. Tail short for a dog (3)

Answer: CUR (i.e. “a dog”). Solution is CURT (i.e. “short”) which has been “tailed” (i.e. the last letter removed – to tail something can mean to remove the tail from it).

6. Milky fluids after hours mostly taken with cold dishes (7)

Answer: LATICES, which is the plural form of “latex” (i.e. “milky fluid”). Solution is LATE (i.e. “after hours”) with the last letter removed (indicated by “mostly”) and followed by ICES (i.e. “cold dishes”), like so: LAT-ICES.

7. One collection of books fellow’s muddled up (2,3,6)

Answer: IN THE SADDLE (i.e. “up”, as in someone who is a focus of interest, e.g. “who’s up next?”). Solution is I (Roman numeral “one”) followed by NT (i.e. “collection of books”, specifically the New Testament of The Bible), then HE’S (i.e. “fellow’s” – think of it more as “the fellow is” rather than the possessive form) and ADDLE (i.e. “muddled” – the past tense appears to be misleading here). Not a classic.

8. Place to stay in Arnhem after November? (5)

Answer: HOTEL (i.e. “place to stay”). Solution riffs on how, in “Arnhem”, the letter H (“hotel” in the phonetic alphabet) is “after” N (“November” in the phonetic alphabet). Another well-worked clue.

9. To give a few is generous (8)

Answer: HANDSOME (i.e. “generous”). Solution is HAND (i.e. “to give”) followed by SOME (i.e. “a few”).

10. Implied some lacking in sophistication turned up (5)

Answer: TACIT (i.e. “implied”). “Some” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “turned up” suggests the solution has been reversed, this being a down clue, like so: SOPHIS(TICAT)ION.

11. Swede’s chasing university place – they’re living the high life! (9)

Answer: UPLANDERS (i.e. “they’re living the high life”). Solution is ANDERS (i.e. “Swede”) placed after or “chasing” U and PL (recognised abbreviations of “university” and “place” respectively), like so: U-PL-ANDERS.

12. Impressive hair grip for someone who’s 7? (9,9)

Answer: HANDLEBAR MOUSTACHE. Solution riffs on how someone in the saddle (referenced by “7 [down]”) of a bike would “grip” a handlebar, and how handlebar moustaches are indeed “impressive hair”.

17. Before collecting pants, son wearing synthetic material (5,5)

Answer: EPOXY RESIN (i.e. “synthetic material”). Solution is ERE (i.e. a poetic form of “before”) “collecting” POXY (i.e. “pants”, as in rubbish), then followed by S (a recognised abbreviation of “son”) and IN (i.e. “wearing”), like so: E(POXY)RE-S-IN.

19. The latest, if far from the best, careers? (3,4,7,4)

Answer: BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST. Another riffy clue, this. “The latest” can mean NEWS; “if far from the best” suggests it’s BAD NEWS, while “careers” can mean TRAVELS FAST. Stitch them all together and voila. I’m not often keen on these wishy-washy kind of clues, if I’m honest.

22. Indian restaurants opening for function one’s to hold (9)

Answer: TANDOORIS (i.e. “Indian restaurants”). Solution is DOOR (i.e. “opening”) placed in TAN (i.e. “function”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “tangent”, one of the six trigonometrical functions) and I’S (Roman numeral “one” made possessive), like so: TAN-(DOOR)-IS.

23. Liberal MP laughs wildly, strides exultantly (9)

Answer: GALLUMPHS (i.e. “strides exultantly”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “wildly”) of L (a recognised abbreviation of “Liberal”) and MP LAUGHS.

25. Pair keeping gold chain round middle of cedar tree (9)

Answer: TORCHWOOD, a variety of “trees” whose wood make rather good torches. Solution is TWO (i.e. “pair”) “keeping” OR (i.e. “gold” in heraldry) and CH (a recognised abbreviation of “chain” (a linear measure of 100 feet it says here), then followed by O (i.e. “round”) and D (i.e. “middle of cedar”, i.e. the middle letter of “cedar”), like so: T(OR-CH)WO-O-D. I guess an anagram of Doctor Who would have been too obvious.

27. Welshman, key journalist, gradually faded (9)

Answer: EVANESCED (i.e. “gradually faded”). Solution is EVAN (i.e. “Welshman”) followed by ESC (i.e. “key”, specifically the Escape key situated top-left of a keyboard) and ED (i.e. “journalist”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “editor”).

29. Lycée flics stormed: lots of changes resulting (4,6)

Answer: LIFE CYCLES (i.e. “lots of changes”). “Stormed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of LYCEE FLICS.

32. The excitement you get from cutting out certain actions in swimming? (8,5)

Answer: SCISSORS KICKS. Solution satisfies “the excitement [i.e. kicks] you get from cutting” and “certain actions in swimming”.

34. Kind Cockney home raised money for Iranian monument (3,8)

Answer: WAR MEMORIAL (i.e. “monument”). Solution is WARM (i.e. “kind”) followed by OME (i.e. “Cockney home”, i.e. the word “home” after the H has been dropped) reversed (indicated by “raised” – this being a down clue) and followed by RIAL (i.e. “money for Iranian”), like so: WARM-EMO-RIAL.

36. Irish party men end letter with word of appeal, suddenly emphatic (9)

Answer: SFORZANDO (i.e. “suddenly emphatic” – I had a funny feeling this was going to be a musical term – chalk one to my Chambers Thesaurus for bagging me this one). Solution is SF (i.e. “Irish party”, specifically Sinn Fein) followed by OR (i.e. “men”, specifically the Other Ranks of the army) then Z (i.e. “end letter”) then AND (i.e. “with”) then O (i.e. “word of appeal”, e.g. in “O Brother Where Art Thou?”), like so: SF-OR-Z-AND-O. Bloody hell.

39. Aussie football team te-heeing rudely (8)

Answer: EIGHTEEN (i.e. “Aussie football team”). “Rudely” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of TE-HEEING.

41. Monster crackling finally on line: call terminated early (7)

Answer: GRYPHON (i.e. “monster”). Solution is G (i.e. “crackling finally”, i.e. the last letter of “crackling”) followed by RY (i.e. “line”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “railway”) and PHONE with it’s final letter removed (i.e. “call terminated early”), like so: G-RY-PHON.

42. Aspiring to listen to small forest insect? (5-2)

Answer: WOULD-BE (i.e. “aspiring to”). “To listen” indicates the solution is a homophone of WOOD BEE (i.e. “small forest insect”).

44. Nice friends the last to reappear inappropriately (5)

Answer: AMISS (i.e. “inappropriately”). Solution is AMIS (i.e. “Nice friends” – Nice as in the French city – the French for “friends” is “amis”). “The last to reappear” indicates the last letter of AMIS is repeated.

46. Was crawling, maybe, in front of one’s teacher (5)

Answer: SWAMI (i.e. “[Hindu] teacher”). Solution is SWAM (i.e. “was crawling, maybe”, as in the swimming stroke) followed by I (Roman numeral “one”).

47. Child of five seen in case of strabismus (4)

Answer: QUIN (i.e. “child of five”). A strabismus is a fancy name for a squint, which, as you can see, contains the solution: S(QUIN)T.

50. Gorge above delta, a long way from common (3)

Answer: ODD (i.e. “a long way from common”). Solution is OD (i.e. “gorge”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “overdose”) followed by D (“delta” in the phonetic alphabet).

Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword 1377

As suspected, today’s puzzle was a bit of a stinker, but we’ve certainly had worse. Some of the wordplay was a little exhausting to solve but at least the grid wasn’t plugged with umpteen dead people, plants and musical terms. You can find my completed grid below along with explanations of my solutions where I have them.

As usual, some housekeeping before we begin: if you’d like solutions for previous Times Jumbo Cryptics, jump over to my Just For Fun page. If you have a soft spot for horror fiction, my Reviews page might have something of interest.

Right, I won’t keep you any longer. Enjoy! I’m off to watch Game of Thrones.


Across clues

1. Large rat goes around, one providing diversion (9)

Answer: DEFLECTOR (i.e. “one providing diversion”). Solution is L (a recognised abbreviation of “large”) with DEFECTOR (i.e. “rat”) “going around”, like so: DEF(L)ECTOR.

6. Publisher rebuffed piece of writing that’s rot (13)

Answer: DECOMPOSITION (i.e. “rot”). Solution is ED (i.e. “publisher”, specifically an abbreviation of “editor” – a bit of a stretch in my less-than-humble opinion, but we’ll let it slide) reversed (indicated by “rebuffed”) and followed by COMPOSITION (i.e. “piece of writing”), like so: DE-COMPOSITION.

13. As some say, Dorothy or Charlie’s coat (5)

Answer: PARKA (i.e. “coat”). “As some say” indicates the solution is a homophone of “Parker”, surname of Dorothy (the poet) and Charlie (the jazz saxophonist – fans of John Connolly may suggest otherwise).

14. One’s repeated no fun getting drunk – as these are (9)

Answer: INFUSIONS (i.e. “drunk – as these are”). “Getting drunk” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of I’S and I’S (i.e. “one’s repeated”, as in the Roman numeral – ignoring the misleading apostrophe) and NO FUN.

15. Retired flier delaying one achievement (7)

Answer: EXPLOIT (i.e. a deed or “achievement”). Solution is EX-PILOT (i.e. “retired flier”) with the I knocked back a couple of notches (indicated by “delaying one”, as in the Roman numeral).

16. Rascal adapts ancient game without hesitation in book (6,6,7,3)

Answer: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (i.e. a “book” by John Le Carré). Solution is TINKER (i.e. “rascal”) then TAILORS (i.e. “adapts”) followed by OLD (i.e. “ancient”) and I SPY (i.e. “game”) placed around or “without” ER (i.e. “hesitation”), like so: TINKER-TAILORS-OLD-I-(ER)-SPY. A rather well-worked clue.

18. Cricket side with test location for players (2-6)

Answer: ON-SCREEN (i.e. “location for players”). Solution is ON (i.e. “cricket side”, sometimes referred to as leg side) followed by SCREEN (i.e. “test” – as in how certain things are screened for suitability on things like phone-ins).

20. Worry about old figure producing plant hydrocarbon (8)

Answer: CAROTENE (i.e. “plant hydrocarbon”). Solution is CARE (i.e. “worry”) placed “about” O (a recognised abbreviation of “old”) and TEN (i.e. “figure”), like so: CAR(O-TEN)E. One I had to look up, as I couldn’t get past seeing “gasoline” given the letters _A_O_E_E.

21. Deliberately hands round a board game (5)

Answer: LARGO, a musical term meaning broad and slow (i.e. “deliberately”). Solution is L and R (i.e. “hands”, as in recognised abbreviations of “left” and “right”) placed “round” A and then followed by GO (i.e. “a board game”), like so: L(A)R-GO.

23. Seat in empty gallery likely to snap? (6)

Answer: GRUMPY (i.e. “likely to snap”). Solution is RUMP (i.e. “seat”) placed in G and Y (i.e. “empty gallery”, i.e. the word “gallery” with all its middle letters removed), like so: G(RUMP)Y.

24. One’s charged for not retreating (6)

Answer: PROTON (i.e. “one’s charged”). Solution is PRO (i.e. “for”) followed by NOT reversed (indicated by “retreating”), like so: PRO-TON.

25. Dog circles stallion dropping head in fatigue (9)

Answer: LASSITUDE (i.e. “fatigue”). Solution is LASSIE (i.e. “dog”) “circling” STUD (i.e. “horse”) with its first letter removed (indicated by “dropping head”), like so: LASSI(TUD)E.

28. What distracts ruddy husband, misbehaving (3,7)

Answer: RED HERRING (i.e. “what distracts”). Solution is RED (i.e. “ruddy”) followed by H (a recognised abbreviation of “husband”) and ERRING (i.e. “misbehaving”).

29. Nation’s first person sought office (4)

Answer: IRAN (i.e. “nation”). Solution is I (i.e. “first person”, as in I am (first person); you are (second person); they are (third person)) followed by RAN (i.e. “sought office”).

30. Scrap books with divine pieces inside (7)

Answer: ODDMENT (i.e. “scrap”). Solution is OT (i.e. “books”, specifically the Old Testament) with DD (i.e. “divine”, DD is short for “Deo dedit”, which is Latin for “gave to God” – chalk one for my Chambers) and MEN (i.e. “[chess] pieces”) placed “inside”, like so: O(DD-MEN)T.

32. Conservative admitted to fondness for defeat (7)

Answer: LICKING (i.e. “defeat”). Solution is C (a recognised abbreviation of “Conservative”) “admitted to” LIKING (i.e. “fondness”), like so: LI(C)KING.

34. In the auditorium, didn’t catch film (4)

Answer: MIST (i.e. “film”). “In the auditorium” indicates the solution is a homophone of MISSED, i.e. “didn’t catch”.

35. Litter in saloon for American President (5,5)

Answer: SEDAN CHAIR (i.e. “litter”, as in a seat held up on horizontal poles). Solution is SEDAN (i.e. “saloon [car]”) followed by CHAIR (i.e. “American President”, the position rather than anyone in particular).

38. Two strikes, one pushing back litres in kitchen vessel (5,4)

Answer: PUNCH BOWL (i.e. “kitchen vessel”). Solution is PUNCH and BLOW (i.e. “two strikes”), the latter having L (a recognised abbreviation of “litres”) “pushed back” a few notches. Though the clue doesn’t scan particularly well, I liked the word play behind it.

39. Extract from Biblical figure quoted (6)

Answer: ELICIT (i.e. “extract”). Solution is ELI (i.e. “Biblical figure”) followed by CIT (i.e. “quoted”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of “citation”).

40. Bug spies used to trap villain (6)

Answer: CICADA (i.e. “bug”). Solution is CIA (i.e. “spies”) “trapping” CAD (i.e. “villain”), like so: CI(CAD)A.

43. Oscar, in trouble, beginning to imbibe the sauce (5)

Answer: AIOLI (i.e. “sauce” – a garlicky mayonnaise, and rather nice too). Solution is O (i.e. “Oscar” in the phonetic alphabet) placed “in” AIL (i.e. “trouble”) and followed by I (i.e. “beginning to imbibe”, i.e. the first letter of “imbibe”), like so: AI(O)L-I.

45. Understood piece of pottery is reserved (8)

Answer: TACITURN (i.e. “reserved”). Solution is TACIT (i.e. “understood”) followed by URN (i.e. “piece of pottery”).

47. Enduring wish to be given name (4-4)

Answer: LONG-TERM (i.e. “enduring”). Solution is LONG (i.e. “wish to be”) and TERM (i.e. “given name”).

49. Kind of speech by one still defending unusually realist aim, in theory (11,11)

Answer: DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM, which is “Karl Marx’s view of history as a conflict between two opposing forces, thesis and antithesis, which is resolved by the forming of a new force, synthesis”. Ain’t philosophy fun, kids? Setting aside how overly simplistic a view that might be for a moment and getting back to the clue: “theory”. Solution is DIALECT (i.e. “kind of speech”) followed by I (Roman numeral “one”) and CALM (i.e. “still”) wrapped around or “defending” an anagram (indicated by “unusually”) of REALIST AIM, like so: DIALECT-I-CAL(MATERIALIS)M.

52. Key expert’s hint about wrong answer completely rejected (7)

Answer: PIANIST (i.e. “key expert”). Solution is TIP (i.e. “hint”) placed “about” SIN (i.e. “wrong”) and A (a recognised abbreviation of “answer”). The whole lot is then reversed (indicated by “rejected”), like so: PI(A-NIS)T.

53. Moving to Fair Isle, fixing sort of gate with even more reason (1,8)

Answer: A FORTIORI (Latin for “even more reason”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “moving”) of TO FAIR and I (a recognised abbreviation of “isle”) placed around OR (i.e. “sort of gate” used in electronics), like so: AFORTI(OR)I. I knew from the (1,8) that this was going to be a Latin phrase but, finding that “a posteriori” was too long, had to trawl through my Chambers until I found a similar phrase. Probably the toughest clue in the grid.

54. In Djibouti, putting away every second mug (5)

Answer: IDIOT (i.e. “mug”). “Putting away every second” indicates the solution is hidden in every other letter of IN DJIBOUTI. Another clue that doesn’t scan terribly well, but where I liked the wordplay.

55. Shyster, one who gives you a hand on horse (7,6)

Answer: WHEELER DEALER (i.e. “shyster”). Solution is WHEELER (i.e. “horse”, specifically one closest to the wheels of the vehicle its pulling; also known as a wheelhorse) and DEALER (i.e. “one who gives you a hand [of cards]”).

56. Drink with students, going over grim experience (9)

Answer: SUNDOWNER (i.e. “drink”, specifically one drunk around sundown. I need no such excuse.) Solution is NUS (i.e. “students”, specifically the National Union of Students) reversed (indicated by “going over”) and followed by DOWNER (i.e. “grim experience”), like so: SUN-DOWNER.

Down clues

1. Swim with hot swimwear in sound (9)

Answer: DIPHTHONG which, as repeated a few weeks ago in puzzle 1373, is a two-vowel “sound” pronounced as one syllable. Solution is DIP (i.e. “swim”) followed by H (a recognised abbreviation of “hot”) and THONG (i.e. “swimwear”).

2. Those who execute reverse if bike follows circles (6,5)

Answer: FIRING SQUAD (i.e. “those who execute”). Solution is IF “reversed”, then RINGS (i.e. “circles”) “followed” by QUAD (i.e. “bike”), like so: FI-RINGS-QUAD.

3. Bill wearing woman’s skirt (5)

Answer: EVADE (i.e. “[to] skirt”). Solution is AD (a recognised abbreviation of advertisement, i.e. “bill”) “wearing” EVE (i.e. “woman” – ignore the misleading possessive S), like so: EV(AD)E.

4. Frenzied rite thus engulfs ill-omened figure (8)

Answer: THIRTEEN (i.e. “ill-omened figure” – one I’m somewhat familiar with, ahem). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “frenzied”) of RITE placed in THEN (i.e. “this”), like so: TH(IRTE)EN.

5. After service lift provided by a basket-maker? (6)

Answer: RAFFIA (i.e. “basket-maker”, as in the ribbon-like fibres obtained from the Raphia palm). Here’s one where the setter loses me, so watch out. RAF might be “service”, as in the Royal Air Force, but the rest leaves me stone cold. Next!

6. Being untrue is dashed silly today (10)

Answer: DISLOYALTY (i.e. “being untrue”). “Dashed” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of SILLY TODAY.

7. Something indicating Kiss title track is running (5-7)

Answer: CROSS-COUNTRY (i.e. “running”). Solution is CROSS (i.e. “something indicating kiss” – ignore the misleading capitalisation) followed by COUNT (i.e. “title”) and RY (i.e. “track”, as in a recognised abbreviation of “railway”).

8. White part of gazelle, somewhat towards the top (7)

Answer: MOSELLE, which is a German “white” wine. “Part of” indicates the solution is hidden in the clue, while “towards the top” indicates the solution is reversed, this being a down clue, like so: GAZ(ELLE SOM)EWHAT. One I got through the wordplay, if I’m honest.

9. Unsophisticated trash is in no lemonade (3-11)

Answer: ONE-DIMENSIONAL (i.e. “unsophisticated”). “Trash” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of IS IN NO LEMONADE.

10. Like some rulers dismissing a risk (7)

Answer: IMPERIL (i.e. “risk”). Solution is IMPERIAL (i.e. “like some rulers”) with the A “dismissed”.

11. Counterpart right to block popular tune that’s mistimed (11)

Answer: INOPPORTUNE (i.e. “mistimed”). Solution is OPPO (i.e. “counterpart”, as in an informal abbreviation for one in opposition) and R (a recognised abbreviation of “right”) “blocking” IN (i.e. “popular”) and TUNE, like so: IN-(OPPO-R)-TUNE. The mirror opposite of this clue amusingly appeared in the previous puzzle a couple of days ago.

12. Mark in college raised (4)

Answer: NOTE (i.e. “mark”). Solution is ETON (i.e. “college”) reversed (indicated by “raised” – this being a down clue).

17. Guide Europeans over pitch (8)

Answer: POLESTAR (i.e. a director or “guide”, also known as Polaris or the North Star). Solution is POLES (i.e. “Europeans”) placed “over” TAR (i.e. “pitch”). My Chambers had this as two words. Hardly the seventh seal being broken, I know, but there you go.

19. Retailer, quiet about poor line, is to stock up again (9)

Answer: REPLENISH (i.e. “to stock up again”). Solution is REP (i.e. “retailer”, specifically a recognised abbreviation of a “[corporate] representative” – a weak one, this, so I might be wrong) and SH (i.e. “quiet”) placed “about” an anagram (indicated by “poor”) of LINE, like so: REP-(LENI)-SH.

22. Family member left complaint involving attacks (5,3)

Answer: GRAND MAL, a French term for a violently convulsive form of epilepsy (i.e. “complaint involving attacks”). Solution is GRANDMA (i.e. “family member”) followed by L (a recognised abbreviation of “left”).

25. Garments of swimmer on lake (8)

Answer: LINGERIE (i.e. “garments”). Solution is LING (which is a kind of fish, i.e. “swimmer”; did a Google Image search – not a looker) followed by ERIE (one of the five Great “Lakes” in the US).

26. Accusing Punjabi’s group can end in snag (9)

Answer: INDICTING (i.e. “accusing”). Solution is INDIC, which is the Indian branch of Indo-European languages (i.e. “Punjabi’s [parent] group”), followed by TIN (i.e. “can”) and G (i.e. “end in snag”, i.e. the last letter of “snag”), like so: INDIC-TIN-G.

27. One predicting development of giant root crops (14)

Answer: PROGNOSTICATOR (i.e. “one predicting”). “Development” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of GIANT ROOT CROPS.

28. Look around in theatre, place for acting (4,4)

Answer: ROLE PLAY (i.e. “acting”). Solution is LO (i.e. “look”, as in “lo and behold”) reversed (indicated by “around”) and placed “in” REP (i.e. “theatre” – “rep” is a recognised abbreviation of a repertory theatre, which has “a repertoire of plays and a stock or permanent company of actors”, it says here) and followed by PAY (i.e. “place”), like so: R(OL)EP-LAY. Bloody hell, that took some figuring out.

31. Plant extract which art collector has to have? (9,3)

Answer: ESSENTIAL OIL. Solution satisfies “plant extract” and, cryptically, “which art collector has to have”. I had this down as “sunflower oil” for too long before finally accepting it wasn’t to be. Sorry, Vince.

33. Make firm study works for one partner (11)

Answer: CONSOLIDATE (i.e. “make firm”). Another where the setter loses me, so watch out. I get that CON is an archaic word for “[to] study” and I DATE could be “[Roman numeral] one” and “partner”, but that’s about it. Next clue please.

36. A rebel here in France engaged by servant for painter (11)

Answer: ACADEMICIAN (i.e. “painter”, e.g. a Royal Academician, often abbreviated to RA by setters for use in their solutions). Solution is A, followed by Jack CADE (who led a rebellion against Henry VI a couple of years ago, i.e. “rebel”) and ICI (i.e. “here in France” – the French for “here” is “ici”) “engaged by” MAN (i.e. “servant”), like so: A-CADE-M(ICI)AN.

37. More confused with metric gauge (10)

Answer: MICROMETER (i.e. “gauge”). “Confused” indicates anagram. Solution is an anagram of MORE and METRIC.

41. Old lady overwhelmed by change, being old school (4,5)

Answer: ALMA MATER (i.e. “old school”). Solution is MAMA (i.e. “old lady”) “overwhelmed by” ALTER (i.e. “change”), like so: AL(MAMA)TER.

42. Force Cicero to wriggle about (8)

Answer: COERCION (i.e. “force”). Solution is an anagram (indicated by “to wriggle”) of CICERO followed by ON (i.e. “about”), like so: COERCI-ON.

44. Dislike current lines by bard (3,4)

Answer: ILL WILL (i.e. “dislike”). Solution is I (used in physics to represent an electric “current”), then L and L (recognised abbreviations for “lines”), followed by WILL (i.e. “bard”, specifically William Shakespeare).

46. Bends stick broken by Roman here (7)

Answer: CHICANE (i.e. “bends”). Solution is CANE (i.e. “stick”) “broken by” HIC (i.e. “Roman here”, the Latin for “here” is “hic”), like so: C(HIC)ANE.

48. When climbing, wears bits of leather (6)

Answer: STROPS (i.e. “bits of leather”). Solution is SPORTS (i.e. “wears”) which is then reversed (indicated by “when climbing”, this being a down clue).

50. Foreign ally questioning whether he can proceed? (5)

Answer: AMIGO, Spanish for “friend” (i.e. “foreign ally”). As for the latter half of the clue, said ally could be said to be asking “AM I GO?”

51. Expel from school’s front bench (4)

Answer: SPEW (i.e. “expel”). Solution is S (i.e. “school’s front”, i.e. the first letter of “school”) followed by PEW (i.e. “bench”).