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I found this tough. The lower half went in slowly but the upper part took an age, in spite of having the longer answers quite early on. It requires significant general knowledge as well as some diligent deciphering of wordplay, if you're going to get there without a biff or a guess. Looking back, there's nothing really unfair or UK-centric, but I just wasn't on the wavelength. I can't give you a time because I took two stabs with an interval.

1 One of twelve put away, including American author (4,6)
JANE AUSTEN - I went astray for ages here, having the initial J and thinking the first word must be JOHN, one of twelve apostles, then looking for a writer with AM or US in his name. But no! JAN is one of twelve months, EATEN for 'put away', insert US.
6 Lead removed from copper, say, and the rest (2,2)
ET AL - METAL = copper, say; remove the lead as rhymes with deed (not the lead as rhymes with dead).
9 Convoluted nature? Follow fences to get out (10)
COMPLEXITY - Insert EXIT (get out) into COMPLY (follow).
10 Film talks (4)
JAWS - Double definition. 1975 Spielberg movie called Les Dents de la mer in French, not quite the same snappy title, ha ha. Same music, though; remember it?
12 Final communication from landlord on overpriced toilet (4,4,6)
DEAR JOHN LETTER - A real groaner. DEAR = overpriced, JOHN = toilet, in America, LETTER for landlord. Thought to have originated in WW II but allegedly the most such letters were sent during the Vietnam War.
14 More free time for reading (6)
LESSON - If you have more free time, you have less on, and a LESSON is a reading from the Bible.
15 Official state welcoming back king, say, shortly (8)
MAYORESS - I fooled about with MASS. for Massachusetts for a while, but I think it is not that; MESS = state, as in 'what a state you're in'. Insert ROYA(L) reversed, being 'back king say shortly'.
17 One kidnapped by another monstrous villain (8)
ANTIHERO - Insert I into (ANOTHER)*.
19 Music producer, a scorcher? (6)
SINGER - Double definition, same spelling different pronunciations.
22 Little in surprisingly bad scoreline (14)
24 Transport system, however revolutionary, ultimately late (4)
TUBE - BUT = however, reversed, add (LAT)E.
25 Criminal, female punching Humphrey Bogart, perhaps? (10)
MALEFACTOR - F for Female inserted into MALE ACTOR such as Bogie. Seen this before somewhere recently.
26 Subsequent ten caught? (4)
NEXT - X for ten, caught in NET.
27 Consider jail, might you say? (10)
DELIBERATE - If you DE-LIBERATE someone you might be sending them to jail, geddit?.

1 Raise the flag (4)
JACK - Another double definition, flag as in Union Jack.
2 More than one song book (7)
NUMBERS - Yet another double definition.
3 Uncompromising Reykjavik parliament holding service in minor chamber (3-2-7)
ALL-OR-NOTHING - If you knew the ALTHING is the Parliament of Iceland, founded 930, it makes this easier to decipher. Into said parliament insert LOO = small chamber then insert RN = service into that.
4 Dish in the other cooking vessel (6)
SEXPOT - Political correctness where are you? SEX = 'the other' as in a bit of. POT a cooking vessel.
5 National service initially embraced by schoolboy (8)
7 secure oven opens for hot snack (7)
TOASTIE - OAST for oven, inside TIE = secure.
8 Hopelessly lost, tears consuming gambler finally — one more throw of the dice? (4,6)
LAST RESORT - (LOST TEARS R)*, the R from gambleR.
11 Old actress in alcove cavorting with rake (8,4)
VERONICA LAKE - (IN ALCOVE RAKE)*. I hadn't heard of this sweetie, but Mrs K had, and now I've read her up on Wiki, I'm nearly smitten. She entitled her autobiography "The Autobiography of Veronica Lake", very imaginitively, wanted to be a surgeon, and died an alcoholic.
13 Wretched, somehow able to get into suit, some figure! (4-6)
FLEA-BITTEN - (ABLE)* inserted into FIT (suit), TEN (figure).
16 Daughter has time after shower for removal of water (8)
DRAINAGE - D(aughter), RAIN = shower, AGE = time.
18 Gather buffet is source of schoolboy’s lunch? (4,3)
TUCK BOX - TUCK = gather, material; BOX = buffet. I was at school about 60 years ago, and we had lunch boxes, I think tuck boxes were more Billy Bunter.
20 Celebration drink for statuesque maiden (7)
GALATEA - GALA = celebration, TEA = drink. Galatea was a white statue (galataea = Greek for milk-white) who somehow came alive, all to do with Polyphemus. Verlaine will explain.
21 Arabian folk captivated by timeless Himalayan legend (6)
YEMENI - MEN are captured by YE(T)I.
23 Support mechanism put before European bank (4)
BRAE - Here we go again. BRA is supporting, I suppose it is a sort of mechanism, in some cases at least. E for European. Wiki says BRAE is Scottish for a protector of high lands? But I am none the wiser.

Quick Cryptic 797 by Tracy

Thankfully the bottom half was straightforward, as the top (and particularly the NW corner) caused a bit more head scratching. My FOI was 15ac, which conveniently alerted me to the possibility of a pangram, borne out here, and which I can only assume is more difficult to achieve in the smaller grid. Anyway, I had at least one good reason to bung in 7ac!

Definitions underlined.

3 One-piece garment bound to fit (8)
JUMPSUIT - JUMP (bound) and SUIT (to fit).
7 Nothing unloaded from heavily ornamented sailing ship (6)
BARQUE - BARoQUE (heavily ornamented) after taking away (unloading) O (nothing).
8 Posted home, the Spanish guard (8)
SENTINEL - SENT (posted), IN (home) and EL (the, in spanish).
9 Silence leader in Africa, slightly crazy (4)
GAGA - GAG (silence) and first letter of (leader in) Africa.
10 Wood stored in cloakroom (3)
OAK - hidden (stored) in clOAKroom.
11 Sink crossing turbulent weir that forms a barrier (8)
FIREWALL - FALL (sink) surrounding (crossing) anagram of (turbulent) WEIR.
13 French fellow, OK penning verse? (4)
YVES - YES (ok) surrounding (penning) V (verse).
15 Ardour shown during craze, a lot (4)
ZEAL - hidden in (shown during) craZE A Lot.
17 Choose with great care labourer with rock-breaking tool (4-4)
HAND PICK - HAND (labourer) and PICK (rock-breaking tool).
19 Bird of the poultry kind — not female bird (3)
OWL - fOWL (bird of the poultry kind) excluding (not) F (female).
22 Ready to complain once head of government's left (4)
RIPE - gRIPE (to complain) once first letter (head) of Government’s been removed (left).
23 Beverage teenager brewed (5,3)
GREEN TEA - anagram of (brewed) TEENAGER.
24 A boy enthralled by my illness (6)
MALADY - A LAD (a boy) surrounded (enthralled) by MY.
25 Page item, tiny piece (8)
PARTICLE - P (page) and ARTICLE (item).

1 Bet on 'A' team reserve (3,5)
LAY ASIDE - LAY (bet) on A and SIDE (team).
2 Old-fashioned, this place in town? (6)
SQUARE - double definition.
3 Son tossed in fountain for a joke (4)
JEST - S (son) inside (tossed in) JET (fountain).
4 Chap, old, playing popular instrument (8)
MANDOLIN - MAN (chap), an anagram (playing) OLD, and IN (popular).
5 Awkward? Cane boy's bottom (6)
STICKY - STICK (cane) and last letter (bottom) of boY.
6 Mountain goat from heart of Tibet, and last of lynx (4)
IBEX - middle letters (heart) of tIBEt, with last letter of lynX.
12 Wild cat, lithe and muscular (8)
ATHLETIC - anagram of (wild) CAT LITHE.
14 A duke boarding flight for a lark (8)
ESCAPADE - A and D (duke) inside (boarding) ESCAPE (flight).
16 Miss one ahead of time and give way to violent anger (4,2)
LOSE IT - LOSE (miss), I (one), and T (time).
18 Liberal accepted by association, up to a point (6)
PARTLY - L (liberal) inside (accepted by) PARTY (association).
20 A short cut in neighbourhood (4)
AREA - A, and all but the last letters of (short) REAp (cut).
21 Plucky in match (4)
GAME - double definition.

Quick Cryptic 796 by Alconiere

Early solving of the two long clues at 3 and 8dn could produce a quick solve of the whole. This is only theoretical as I struggled with both, came in at 13 minutes and found it all rather tricky.
Having said this, most of the clues seem fine on reflection although 2dn, 6dn, 13ac and 15ac could be said to be less than obvious.


1. Scarcity - it's not enough. Disfigure (SCAR), large town (CITY).
5. Miss - double definition.
9. Allow - permit. A (A), large (L), bovine cry (moo=LOW).
10. Brigade - group of soldiers. Ordered (BADE) to carry gear (RIG).
11. Ivy - climber. (I)s (V)ery (Y)oung.
12. Roast beef - meat. Anagram (minced) of SAT BEFORE.
13. Hourly - very often. If applied to flights to America then 'very often' would be hourly. However if my washing up of dishes (see last week's blog) produced one clean plate per hour I suspect my better half would not describe this as 'very often'.
Pi (HOLY), divided by universal (U), radius (R).
15. Stayer - horse - one which stays (strong) throughout the race.
Queen (ER) on visit (STAY).
17. Hardliner - fanatic. Had ship (HAD LINER) crossing river (R).
19. Tender - bid - as in offer. Last bit of lam(B) I had =I'd (ID) or possibly lam(B) (I) ha(D).
20. Saviour - person who delivers (saves as opposed to pizzas). Anagram (changes) of VARIOUS.
21. Halle - the orchestra. Lobby (HALL), (E)ntertainment.
22. Yelp - pained cry. You (YE), record (LP).
23. Shoppers - people purchasing. Small (S), jumpers (HOPPERS).


1. Spanish - West European. Bridge (SPAN), is (IS), (H)igh.
2. Alley - double definition. The passage is obvious - the marble less so. It's a large marble and the term comes from a shortened form of alabaster.
3. Cowardly lion - cryptic definition. The lion from the Wizard of Oz.
4. Tabla - drums. Loc(AL BAT)talion carries the answer upwards/backwards. These drums feature quite a lot in Crosswordland.
6. Irately - seeing red. It's easier to associate 'seeing red' with 'irate' but I suppose it works OK. Anagram (to be repaired) of RAIL YET.
7. Sheaf - bundle. He (HE) put in mostly secure (SAF)e.
8. Dictatorship - it's often a harsh form of rule (see comments re washing up!). Anagram (clumsily) of I DROP A STITCH.
14. Unravel - sort out. A in French (UN), composer (RAVEL).
16. Redress - correct. Re-dress - get one's kit back on.
17. Husky - the dogs which pull sledges. A husk is a shell so husky=contains/full of shells.
18. North - point of the compass. Anagram (damaged) of THORN.
19. Bilge - nonsense. Say (EG) and Liberal (LIB) both brought upwards.

Times 26684

I thought this was going to be quite straightforward but time started to run away as I progressed around the grid and after about 40 minutes I came to a grinding halt with several incomplete answers in the NE segment. After spending ages on these I eventually resorted to aids to finish it off. I was very distracted by what turned out to be mistaken thoughts about 4dn and, to a lesser extent 16dn, and I think this added to my problems completing the grid. I'm only pleased that I realised my errors in this regard before expressing misgivings about the clues in public.

Here's my blog...Collapse )

Times 26683 - Done Like a Kipper

I had all bar three (19, 20, 25) done in less than 13 minutes (or thought I had), but then took ages to finish that corner off, only to find on submission (on the Times website puzzle page) that I had one wrong. I couldn't find that after a few minutes hunting about, and then, after clicking the Reveal button, I was red-faced to see I'd fallen for the old 'I know what the answer is, I won't bother to parse the clue properly' - or 'until the ruddy end', as CS Lewis used to say - trick.

I wonder how many of you will join me in donning the Dunce's Hat today, and how many suffered from a terrible bout of vocalophobia (fear of vowels) in the SW corner.


1. SOBER - OBE in SR.
8. CLAUSTROPHOBIA - anagram* of AT CLUB OR SHOP + I + A; not claustrophobic!
10. NOTORIOUS - O + RIO in NOT + US.
11. YAHOO - OO on HAY reversed.
12. COIN-OP - whimsical clue for a great British institution.
14. ANTEROOM - ANT + E + MOOR reversed.
17. UPPER-CUT - a type of pugilistic punch.
18. OBERON - [s]OBER + ON reversed.
20. IDOLA - plural of idolum; DO + L in IA. Generous cluing for those who had forgotten this one.
22. LEASTWISE - 'at any rate'; E in LAST + WISE (way once)
24. APPLE CHARLOTTE - C (key) + HARLOT (working girl - no char here) in LATE PPE*. Clever, if rather wasted, wordplay.
25. HUMANELY - 'with sympathy'; sounds like HUGH + MAINLY.
26. DWELT - WEL in DT; 'well' as in 'They live well and vote Labour'.


2. BOAST - S in BOAT; a pram is a dinghy with a snub nose, as it were.
6. WOOZY - WOO + ZY.
13. IMPROMPTU - um, it's I'M PROMPT + U.
15. EMBATTLED - 'in conflict'; E + MB + [r]ATTLED.
19. VAGARY - AG in VARY; seems so easy now...
21. ALLOA - ALL + O + A; a place known to most Sassenachs c/o James Alexander Gordon.
23. ISTLE - T in ISLE; more generous wordplay prevents further embarrassment.

Quick Cryptic 795 by Flamande

I always find Flamande's puzzles entertaining, even if they are rarely at the difficult end of the spectrum, and this was no exception, with an enjoyable set of surfaces and little to quibble with in either parsings or definitions. COD to 14A for making me require three stabs before finally hitting on the correct way to interpret the wordplay.

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17:08. I made slightly heavy weather of this one, putting GO OFF ON A TANGENT at 8dn and then not reconsidering it for far too long. This made 17ac difficult. I eventually sorted that out but never noticed – even when checking my answers – that I had typed TENGENT, so I won’t be winning a fancy pen this week.

I thought this was a smashing puzzle though, full of wit. 22ac is delightfully naughty, for instance, as are 27ac and 6dn. 28ac is neat, and topical. Clue of the day to 8dn though, for its cheeky reference to the world’s most terrifying orange man. You have to laugh, or you’d cry.

Credit to Harry also for what I think is probably the first appearance of RT/retweet. Good to see the Sunday Times crossword reflecting the development of the language.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (THIS)*.

1 Name in sets of clothing and some woollies?
5 Daring to go out dressed like a queen
10 All aboard on rail at Barking central today?
11 Dismiss time-consuming Danish construction firm?
12 What’s this torture … love?
HELLO - HELL, O. In the policeman – ‘allo ‘allo ‘allo, what have we here, let’s be ‘avin’ you – sense.
13 Fifteen go mad driving on course
14 Information such as O is circular?
NEWSLETTER - NEWS (information), LETTER (such as O).
17 Hurried to eat seconds, sign of liking one’s food?
FAST - FA(S)T. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that this was going to be a word meaning ‘hurried’ containing S to give a word meaning ‘liking one’s food’. But it isn’t.
19 Retweet for an audience into theatrical stuff
ARTY - sounds like ‘RT’, which is short for ‘retweet’ on Twitter. Somewhat to my surprise it’s in both Collins and ODO. Chambers is holding out.
20 Company bringing gas into Europe, perhaps
CONTINGENT - CONTIN(G)ENT. I was a bit surprised by G for ‘gas’: I don’t remember seeing it before. It’s in ODO though.
22 Extremely drunk bishop caught in palace in pants
INCAPABLE - (PALACE IN)* containing B (bishop), with PANTS as the anagrind.
24 Pub entertainment said to raise a smile?
IN FUN - sounds like ‘inn fun’. Because if you say something ‘in fun’ you are saying it to raise a smile.
26 Best put down roofing material around back of house
ELITE - reversal of TILE, housE. ‘Put down’ is just filler, I think: an instruction to ‘put down’ the elements of the wordplay. Nothing wrong with that, I hasten to add.
27 Party with old judge on ecstasy — tell me more!
ELABORATE - E (ecstasy), LAB (still a party at the time of going to press), O, RATE.
28 Not so happy the hard left U-turned over bill
SADDER - reversal of REDS containing AD.
29 Never ever enter houses showing great respect
REVERENT - contained in ‘never ever enter’.

1 Advisory groups upset I can’t be in sketch
KITCHEN CABINETS - (I CAN’T BE IN SKETCH)*. I struggled with this clue: eventually I had to get up from the computer and find a piece of paper to write the letters out on.
2 Altogether naked when everything’s said and done?
IN ALL - ‘naked’ here is an instruction to remove the outside (the clothing, as it were) of fINALLy.
3 Just following desire? In a way that’s immoral
WANTONLY - WANT (desire), ONLY (just).
4 Roughly round
6 Farron’s low point? Cable supporters going topless in tights
NYLONS - farroN, pYLONS. The last letter of ‘Farron’ is its ‘low point’ because this is a down clue.
7 A hundred bottles I put by river — beer logic?
8 Suddenly change course and sternly reprimand Trump?
GO OFF AT A TANGENT - or a TAN GENT. The colour is a bit off and the word GENT is questionable but the clue is still a cracker.
9 One supporting new tree and hedges close to ash
ADHERENT - (TREE AND)* containing asH.
15 Big-bellied husband? Awfully wild itch to hug him!
WITH CHILD - (WILD ITCH)* containing H.
16 Russia’s ready to occupy Telford’s outskirts — worried?
TROUBLED - ROUBLE (Russia’s ready) contained in TelforD.
18 One against school taking English? Quite the opposite!
ANTIPODE - ANTI, POD (school, see also GAM), E.
21 A round figure? That girl must tuck into supper regularly
SPHERE - SuPpEr (supper regularly) containing HER.
23 What ends séance after hours to raise spirits
ELATE - seancE, LATE.
25 Spoil brought up in iron support structure
FRAME - MAR (spoil) reversed inside FE (iron).

Mephisto 2951 - Tim Moorey

I found this one very very difficult - very few that went in without a trip to the dictionary. And even then I was digging myself into a hole, by confidently putting in IN CASE for 16 across and leaving it there for far too long. I put TOGO in the wrong spot as well, but that's neither here nor there (it's in Africa).

Having written it all up, there's nothing unfair, just a lot of obscurities, both in wordplay and in definition.

Away we go...

1CLACHAN: CH,A inside (thrusting) CLAN
6BUDGE: remove the end of BUDGET
10UPDO: UP(amiss), DO(finish)
11ALLEY-OOP: ALLEY(back lane), OOP(s) - a flashy play in basketgame
12ISINGLASS: Muscovite being a type of mica here - IS, ING(meadow), LASS(sweetheart)
15NEBS: S,BEN all reversed
16TO BOOT: double definition
17LEETLE: ELT(young sow) and EEL all reversed
20ENCASEMENT: E(English), N(Northern) and then Roger CASEMENT who has popped up here before
24BEEPER: BEE(B, second character), PER(a)
25EVITES: E, VI(six), then TES(t) - ducks as in avoids
29PANTIHOSE: POSE(model) containing A, and an anagram (neglige,scruffy) of THIN
30BEAR-LEAD: BEAR(press), LEAD(intiative)
31EGER: EER containing (somethin)G
32ASCUS: I think this is AS(like), then CUSS(stubborn or awkward person) missing an S
33CLAROES: poor CLARES surrounding O
1CUITTLE: I inside CUTTLE fish
2ADIT: DIT(old term for words of a song) with A(are) on top
4HAGS: SHAG(nap) with S moved to the bottom
6BESEEN: SEE inside BEN(a better room)
7DOMETT: DOT(mark) around MET(found)
8GORBLIMEY: anagram of BOY and GIRL surrounding ME
9EPOS: SCOPE reversed, missing C(about)
13BOANERGES: Jorge Luis BORGES surrounding ANE(archaic version of AN)
14ALIMENTAL: Muhammad ALI, then MENTAL(mad)
21CELIAC: anagram of ALICE,C(ooper)
22SEPALS: SE(London area), PALS - viola being the flower here
23NICHER: NICHE(recess), R(resistance) - I'm used to seeing this as NICKER but Chambers gives both spellings
26ARBA: sounds like 'ARBOUR
27SIDA: S replacing D in DID, A
28TOGO: or TO GO

Times Jumbo 1254

Another (probably) not-exceptionally-difficult Jumbo.

As always, * indicates an anagram.

1 REFECTORY - alternate letters of bEeF, in RECTORY
10 ORIEL - OR + IE + L
14 ON THE SPOT - double definition
15 HEELTAP - HE + E +LT, + pa (reversed)
16 TWELFTH - priesT, + (left)* in W + churcH
18 PAMPHLETEERS - P in (team helpers)*
23 JUNTA - JUN (short for June) + TA
24 SEED PEARL - SEE EARL, around D + Purchase
25 SHE-BEAR - SHE (the H. Rider Haggard novel) + BEAR. "Rupert's mother" refers to the long-running UK cartoon strip for children
26 CITY SLICKER - (cricket is lowkey)*
28 CHRONOMETER - on mantelpiece in (the corner)*
30 SIGHT-READER - READER ("senior lecturer") after SIGHT
34 ROADBED - ROBED around AD
36 NOTORIOUS - NOT US, around O + RIO
38 IMPEL - IE around MP, + L
39 WISHY-WASHY - (why his way seems)*
46 BUTTERY - UTTER, in B + Youth
49 DESPERADO - DES + ADO, around rep (reversed)
50 AUDACIOUSNESS - A + U, + cad (reversed), + NESS after IOUS
52 EASED - E + AS ED[itor]
53 DUKEDOM - Distinguishing + UK, + mode (reversed)
54 OBSTINACY - OB (Old Boys), + TINY around AC

1 ROSE-HIP - or (reversed), + SHIP around E
2 FORGET-ME-NOT - TOT around MEN, after FORGE
3 CLEFT - CLEF + collectT
4 OCTUPLE - (couple + abouT)*
5 YET - Trust after YE
6 STONECROP - STONE, + COP around caR
7 OSSIFY - hidden in crOSS IF You
8 OTORHINOLARYNGOLOGY - (on orgy looting royal hospital)*. The beauty of a Jumbo puzzle is that it can include lovely 19-letter words like this!
9 FATIGUE - FAT + GUy, around I, + E
10 OBEDIENCE - ONCE, around BEDE around I
12 LATTE - LATE around T
16 THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK - THE NEW KID (both Billy and KID refrrring to goats), + ON THE BLOCK
19 HEADSET - HE + SET, around AD
22 MANCHU - hidden in RoMAN CHUrch
25 SONATAS - SON + AT + Abingdon School
27 RARITY - RAT + Y, around RI
31 GLASSHOUSES - double indication
33 LEPIDOPTERA - (dire to apple)*. At the risk of seeming pedantic (oh all right then, I admit it, I'm pedantic!), the LEPIDOPTERA are an order of insects, not a class of insects - they're part of the class Insecta
35 BOYFRIEND - FRIEND (member of the Quakers or Society of Friends) after BOY ('my' here indicates an exclamation)
42 GASEOUS - Employed Only, in GA + S US
44 STRAND - double definition
48 ASSAI - A + S + S + AI
51 COO - double definition
As I start this blog I still have three answers unexplained: 1ac, 11ac, and 12dn, although given the checkers I think all three answers are clear. I hope the penny drops soon. (Aha – 1ac is very clever!)

Even though there were no Dickensian or Shakespearean references,  the whole thing felt like more of a struggle than usual to me, but perhaps I came to it tired from other commitments. Or maybe it was just the setter’s artistic work that wrongfooted me so often in parsing the clues.

Looking at the leaderboard, I see that at the time of writing, the 100th best time was nearly 21 minutes compared with 15 or 16 minutes on a typical Saturday – so it does look like it was a little harder than usual.

Clues are reproduced in blue, with the definition underlined. Anagram indicators are bolded and italicised. Then there's the answer IN BOLD, followed by [the parsing of the wordplay]. (ABC)* means 'anagram of ABC', {deletions are in curly brackets}.

1 Recording capital exchanges, party fudges ledgers (9)
CASHBOOKS: A Spoonerism of BASH COOKS and, refreshingly, without actually mentioning the good Reverend. Finally got it. Well done, setter!

6 Sacred song, second to be introduced to mate before mass (5)
PSALM: S in PAL before M.

9 A female splitting collection up (5)
ALOFT: A then F in LOT.

10 Re-open hut, possibly, with that (9)

11 Task ends, hemming length on stretch covers (9,6)
PATCHWORK QUILTS: WORK [task] then L [length] in QUITS [ends], all preceded by PATCH [stretch]. “Of course!”, he says, tongue in cheek.

13 Busybody going round with doctor's plant (8)

14 Spare silver slipped between adjacent notes (6)
MEAGRE: AG [silver] in ME RE [adjacent notes as in “do re me”].

16 Poster displaying US author (6)
MAILER: FOI. Norman Mailer, author of 12 novels and other works, none of which I’ve read. Nor will I, I expect.

18 Hardly any, it's said, idle under Medieval system (8)
FEUDALLY: sounds like “few dally” – I don’t expect many objections to that as a homophone!

21 Bumbling moth let out when we got it (5-4,6)
LIGHT-BULB MOMENT: (BUMBLING MOTH LET*). I saw “light” as soon as I had a few helpers, but the whole expression was elusive.

23 Demand for product on ground-breaking course (9)
NEWMARKET: MARKET [demand for product] after NEW [ground-breaking].

25 Lines bridging tiny distance forming connector (5)
MODEM: ODE [lines] in MM [tiny distance]. The thing that connects your computer to the internet.

26 Each end of race precise (5)
EVERY: {rac}E VERY [precise, as in “the very thing”].

27 Stained metal dart ultimately pierces better (9)
TINCTURED: TIN [metal] then {dar}T inside CURED.

Not familiar with “tinctured” in this sense, although tincture of iodine for example would certainly stain anything it came near!

1 Restrict stuff on page (5)
CRAMP: CRAM [stuff] on P [page].

2 Having a Scotch, perhaps, en route's a weakness (11)
SHORTCOMING: SHORT [Scotch, perhaps] COMING [en route].

3 British formed pairs, heading off in a group (7)
BATCHED: B [British] {m}ATCHED [formed pairs, heading off].

4 Established novelist makes short broadcast (8)
ORTHODOX: ORTHO [certainly sounds like “author” in some, but admittedly not all, accents] DOX [clearly sounds like “makes short”].

After the vigorous debate last week over the pronunciation of “tortoise”, I’m going to say that as long as the suggested pronunciation is in reasonably common use, it’s fine with me.

5 He stops believer becoming leader of another faith (6)
SHEIKH: HE in SIKH. Saw quickly I needed to put “he” in something, but took a while to work out what. I suspect the spelling of “sheikh” made it harder to see!

6 Pawn? Come back to take it (7)
PRESUME: P [pawn] RESUME [come back]. For a while I contemplated “pledgee”, as in PLEDGE=to pawn, followed by E={com}E back. It’s in Chambers, but happily it was another red herring.

7 Arsenic, poisoner's top killer (3)
ASP: AS [chemical symbol for arsenic] P{oisoner}.

8 Flash queen confined to vile single-sex establishment (9)
MONASTERY: MO [flash] ER [queen] in NASTY [vile].

12 Cash that must be taken on reform, tip included (5,6)
LEGAL TENDER: LEG [“on” at cricket] then END [tip] in ALTER [reform].

13 Show enables MC to appear in new guise (9)
SEMBLANCE: (ENABLES MC*). I had some doubt about which end of this clue was the anagram indicator, and which the definition!

15 Proscribed part of speech frequently lacking force (8)

17 European royal house detailed unknown form of English (7)
ESTUARY: E [European] STUAR{t} Y [unknown].

Wikipedia: Estuary English is an English dialect or accent associated with South East England, especially the area along the River Thames and its estuary … Estuary English shares many features with Cockney, and there is some debate among linguists as to where Cockney speech ends and Estuary English begins.

No doubt a hint of the pejorative? Ah, why can’t they be like we were – perfect in every way!

19 Party men, dull, not the type to fight back (7)

20 Alien following ship in publicly funded trip (6)
JUNKET: JUNK [ship] ET [the canonical alien].

22 Shrinking fabric finally cut up (5)
TIMID: DIMIT{y} read backwards.

Eminently buffable, but I was slow with this … I thought the “T” came from “finally {cu}T”, and then searched for evidence that DIMI was a fabric. D’oh!

24 Trouble's over between playing partners (3)
WOE: O{ver} between W{est} and E{ast}. Clearly many setters are bridge players. Is the same true for solvers?
A beautifully set puzzle here, absolute cryptic economy combined with terrific surfaces across the board. I was really impressed by the synergy between wordplay and definition parts in multiple places - 14ac, 21ac, 2dn, 3dn, 4dn, oh, I could keep on going. Can't even complain much about the TLS quotient either, as we have gorgeous George, Isak Dinesen, Shakespearean histories and a legendary jazzman making cameo appearances here. I wish I hadn't tackled this post-pub as probably could have done with a clear head, but my wife is off to Morocco tomorrow morning so I've got a week of abstemiousness ahead of me, had to get them in while I could, resulting in an unlucky-for-some time of 13 minutes today.

LOI was that regular encounter in crossword puzzles (not so much in the real world any more, as far as I know?) HYDRO. Loads of contenders for clue of the day but I'll give it to the lovely, smooth-surfaced charade at 14ac. Three cheers for the not at all 11ac or 27ac setter!


1 Thinks about one’s exploits (7)
MISUSES - MUSES [thinks] about I'S [one's]
5 “Land”: good advice if this is damaged? (7)
WINGTIP - WIN G TIP [land | good | advice], semi-&lit. Referring to the wing tip of a plane, not to a shoe, probably.
9 Panda or cat playing with polar bear’s tail (6,3)
PATROL CAR - (CAT + POLAR {bea}R*) ["playing"]
10 Fleece blooming clean! (2,3)
DO OUT - DO [fleece] + OUT [blooming]. Unfamiliar to me, though I recognise DO UP.
11 Render “disjointed” maybe with it? Hardly (5)
UNHIP - a HIP is a join, to UN-HIP would be to render dis-jointed. Maybe!
12 Maybe caution’s unlikely where work’s picked up? (9)
BOOKSTALL - BOOK [maybe caution (in a sporting context)] 'S TALL [unlikely]
14 CCTV unit one joins to formulate viewers’ complaint (14)
17 Say nothing: fuss reveals condition (5,2,7)
STATE OF AFFAIRS - STATE O FAFF AIRS [say | nothing | fuss | reveals]
21 Be injected with elbow out? (3,4,2)
GET SHOT OF - double def, more or less (get shot of penicillin, vs get shot of unwelcome person)
23 Come by home with vicious dog (5)
INCUR - IN [home] with CUR [vicious dog]
24 Historically, love to do origami? (2,3)
OF OLD - O [love] + FOLD [to do origami]
25 Found cipher kit in a note (9)
ORIGINATE - O RIG IN A TE [cipher | kit | in | a | note]
26 Part I required for a VIP (7)
27 Dreadful article: Times hits back (7)
ABYSMAL - A BY [article | times] + LAMS reversed [hits "back"]


1 Parent with sullen look making plan (3,3)
MAP OUT - MA [parent] with POUT [sullen look]
2 Armstrong chats excitedly on leaving moon (7)
SATCHMO - (CHATS*) ["excitedly"] + MO{on} - Louis Armstrong, not the moon-suggested Neil
3 Big woolly Liberal’s joy, Pope having reformed (6,3)
SLOPPY JOE - SL [Liberal] + (JOY POPE*) ["having reformed"] - in my household a sloppy joe is something you eat, but it also seems to be a big jumper
4 Payment of 100k to be in crime identikit (4,7)
SICK BENEFIT - C K [one hundred | K] + BE in SIN E-FIT [crime | identikit]
5 Duke abandoning minor conflict (3)
WAR - WAR{d} ["minor", with D abandoned]
6 Some dressed — unusually, on reflection? (5)
NUDES - hidden reversed in {dres}SED UN{usually} &lit
7 Prostitute grabbing prisoner got up as Henry IV (3-4)
TWO-PART - TART [prostitute] grabbing POW reversed [prisoner "got up"]
8 Harsh hiding Scrabble letters among foreign ones (8)
PITILESS - TILES [Scrabble letters] hidden among PIS [foreign letters]
13 Picture no longer having travelling fair around (3,2,6)
OUT OF AFRICA - OUT OF [no longer having] + (FAIR*) ["travelling"] + CA [around]. 1986 Meryl Streep film of the book.
15 Sex with flair: what a goer has? (9)
VIABILITY - VI [sex, as in the Roman number] + ability [flair]
16 One’s defensive error leads to defeat for the line (8)
ISOGLOSS - I'S O.G. [ones | defensive error] leads to LOSS [defeat]. An isogloss is a line on a map dividing, e.g. places where they pronounce "scone" correctly from places it rhymes with stone.
18 Boy topping class in music or poetry? (3,4)
ART FORM - ART [boy, as in Arthur] topping FORM [class]
19 Take back allegation about heads (7)
RECLAIM - CLAIM [allegation] (which) RE [about] heads
20 English author’s goldmine? (6)
ORWELL - OR WELL [gold | mine]
22 Screen series for audience in hotel (5)
HYDRO - homophone ["for audience"] of HIDE ROW [screen | series]
25 Cockney’s hollow word of encouragement (3)
OLE - a Cockney says 'ole for hole

Quick Cryptic 794 by Izetti

Not much to say today.  I think it was on the easier side, and I can't see much that would raise a solver's hackles.  Took me 4:56.

Thanks Izetti.  Here's how I parsed it all.  Clues are reproduced in blue, with the definition underlined.  Anagram indicators are bolded and italicised.  Then there's the answer IN BOLD, followed by the parsing of the wordplay.  (ABC)* means 'anagram of ABC'.
1 Part of leg in young animal (4)
CALF - Double definition
A gentle start to proceedings.
4 Descent from pier edge looking tricky (8)
Descent as in ancestry.
8 Exotic bordello you ring from outside (8)
9 Eject some notorious terrorist (4)
OUST - Hidden (some) in (notoriOUS Terrorist)
10 Adornment of one of five Kent children? (6)
SEQUIN - A quintuplet (one of five children) in the South-East (Kent) would be a S E QUIN
11 Very tired, he had to lie at back of vehicle (6)
BUSHED - HED (he had) at back of BUS (vehicle)
12 I'm involved with trade event's promotion (13)
16 Stick together in this place having joined firm (6)
COHERE - HERE (in this place) having joined CO (firm)
17 Trace of drug found in journey (6)
DERIVE - E (ecstacy, drug) found in DRIVE (journey)
E for drug is very much a crossword standard these days.
19 Part of foot to get better reportedly (4)
HEEL - Homophone (reportedly) for HEAL (get better)
About as homophonic as homophones get, I'd have thought, but someone will point out that they're pronounced differently in Upper Volta.
20 Relegation? There's strong feeling shown by crowd finally (8)
DEMOTION - D (crowD finally) + EMOTION (strong feeling)
21 Rat? Something the waiter brings in beer! (8)
BETRAYER - TRAY (something the waiter brings) in BEER
22 Refusal by a husband to be a man of rescue (4)
NOAH - NO (refusal) + A + H (husband)
Boat-builder and crowd-control genius.
2 A person with little energy in home? (5)
ABODE - A + BOD (person) + E (little energy)
3 A lot of money with cashier, one predicts (7-6)
FORTUNE-TELLER - FORTUNE (a lot of money) + TELLER (cashier)
Dodgy profession, great song.  "Now I get my fortune told for free!"
4 Heathen god receiving each hymn of praise (5)
PAEAN - EA (each) inside PAN (heathen god)
Ok, this might be an obscurity to some.
5 One born in Leeds upset French composer (7)
DELIBES - I (one) + B (born) in (LEEDS)*
If you don't know the composer, the most likely arrangement of the letters (given the crossers) happens to be the correct answer.
6 A dragon aims to, changing into a very helpful person (4,9)
7 Terribly earnest Japanese? (7)
More northern from where I'm sitting, but you get the gist.
10 Country that’s abandoned in spring (3)
SPA - SPAin (country) without IN
13 See dreadful comedies getting no end of criticism (7)
DIOCESE - (CO{M}EDIES)*  M (end of criticism) not included
14 Time to tidy up a dusty office finally (7)
TUESDAY - [A DUSTY E (office finally)]*
Hmmm, "time" to clue "Tuesday".  On Wednesday the 15x15 had "period" to clue "October".  Nothing wrong with it of course, just not the first thing to spring to mind.
15 Cup match that gives inconclusive result (3)
TIE - Double definition
17 Object when strange journalist turns up (5)
DEMUR - [RUM (strange) + ED (journalist)] reversed (turns up)
18 Woman’s stringed instrument (5)
VIOLA - Double definition
....or The Magic Fishbone

This is no normal TLS, and there are clearly those at t'Club who dislike it simply because everything in it is from Dickens. The extraordinary determination of Praxiteles to give every clue at least a bit of Dickens wordplay, if not a Dickens answer, means that for everyone, except those with an Hafizic knowledge of the canon plus a photographic memory with easy access, needed to engage Google early on at least for confirmation. Maybe it's possible to do this on wordplay alone, and you certainly don't need all the detail to fill every vacant square. That's what I'm for. Many "hard" times were recorded, and I suffered the additional indignity of a simple error relying on grammar rather than wordplay and dropped still further down the list. There were also a couple of clues where I failed to crack the wordplay before submitting (in more ways than one).
I’m not complaining: far from it, this was a terrific challenge and a real tour de force of teeth-gritted setting, reminiscent of P’s Shakespearefest in TLS 1122. I might go so far as to describe it as a real pip, though perhaps with no great expectations of everyone agreeing.
Here, as far as Google, Project Guttenberg and I can make it, is the untanglement.
Clues, definitions, SOLUTIONS


1 25 being one of his characters  (7)
DICKENS  Works as a straight definition clue, since (spoiler alert) Mr DICK (25d) is indeed one of Chuck’s characters, but it’s also a bit cleverer than that: ENS being Latin for – um – being, added to DICK thus giving the hero of the puzzle.
5 How Monks described Oliver, as brat ill-used by Dodger initially  (7)
BASTARD Might not get past the censors (didn’t on the Club). From Oliver Twist, as are all the characters mentioned. AS BRAT is ill used in such a way as to give BASTAR, and The Artful’s first letter supplies the D
9 Register at start of “Tale …” that the Woodman’s was muffled  (5)
TREAD  Register READ, start of Tale... T. From ...of Two Cities Ch 1: “But that Woodman [...] went about with muffled tread”
10 Turned out badly like Betty Higden’s mind  (9)
UNTUTORED  An anagram (badly) of TURNED OUT. Our Mutual Friend “There was abundant place for gentler fancies too, in her untutored mind”
11 What’s revealed by Dolly Varden, tirelessly thorough  (6)
ENTIRE  Hidden in VardEN TIRElessly. Dolly is in Barnaby Rudge, and cheerfully donated her name, via a brightly coloured dress, to a Californian trout and several US sports teams (sic).
12 Sensations making Tappertit audibly stomp about (8)
SYMPTOMS  SIM(on) Tappertit is in Barnaby Rudge, and provides the SYM sound to add on to an anagram of STOMP
14 “The howling of tabular statements” (Hard Times) (5)
OCEAN  Know it (!), look it up or guess it from O?E?N. It’s in Hard Times and appears to be an expression relating to the mathematical way in which Gradgrind’s mind works, without imagination or wondering. Perhaps a native Accountant can explain.
15 Comfortable miser discomfited in a manner of speaking (9)
WELLERISM  my last in, because I wouldn’t give up working at the wrong end of the clue. Comfortable WELL, MISER “discomforted” ERISM, for Sam Weller’s (Pickwick Papers) distinctive way of speech.
18 Turner perhaps, name of 25  (9)
SWIVELLER  Dick of that family turns up in The Old Curiosity Shop, and despite what his name suggests turns out to be the good guy. Charade on Turner.
20 Answer to what “The Chimes” may give - a watery ring  (5)
ATOLL  The Chimes (the next Christmas story after the Carol) might give A TOLL, though since a toll is a single bell ringing that seems unlikely. Not sure if “answer” is meant to supply the A: works for me either way.
22 Father Jack, guest in the Haunted House  (8)
GOVERNOR  So not Craggy Island, then. Jack Governor appears in “The Mortals in the House”, a short story in the Christmas book of 1859, collectively The Haunted House.
24 Tiny Tim shortly to tell about description of Oliver’s friend, name of 25  (6)
LITTLE  An anagram (I think) of TI(m) and TELL. Oliver Twist’s friend Dick at the orphanage was described as “little”, as was Oliver. And Dorrit. and Paul and Florence (D&S). And Wackford Jr. And Nell....
26 Pegler is confused about part of oratorio he composed  (9)
PERGOLESI  Pegler is our only Dickens reference here, from Hard Times. His name plus IS and the O from oratorio together supply PERGOLESI, 18th century composer and musician
27 Lachrymose manservant has no hesitation in identifying lover of Miss Manners  (5)
TROTT  Job Trotter was manservant to Alfred Jingle in the Pickwick Papers, given to using tears as a means of persuasion. Take away ER, his hesitation, and you have Alexander TROTT, who elopes with Julia Manners in the Great Winglebury Duel, one of the sketches by BOZ. Phew.
28 Medic with letters describing what Mr Sapsea does at the Dean  (7)
DRESSES  Wordplay is simple: DR for medic and ESSES for letters. It was a characteristic of Mr Thomas Sapsea (Edwin Drood) that he dressed in imitation of the Dean of Cloisterham Cathedral,  and that provides the allusion. I can’t make the grammar work - should that “at” in the clue be “as”?
29 Children’s family like the gloves that Kenwigs sent out for  (7)
KIDSKIN  A double definition: Children’s family are KID’S KIN, and Mr Kenwig in Nicholas Nickleby sent out for a 1s2d pair of white KID(skin)  gloves in order to muffle a door-knocker. Don’t ask.


1 Note the children in this fictional Yorkshire village  (9)
DOTHEBOYS  Scene of the notorious School run by the foul Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby, based on the real Bowes Academy. Note DO, the THE, children BOYS. Dickens at his most transparent in nomenclature, as if Wackford Squeers is going to be the nice guy.
2 Game will we hear involve hop-grower  (7)
CHESTLE Indeed a hop-grower, who seizes the eldest Miss Larkins from the affections of David Copperfield. That’s all I can tell you, because that’s all there is. Sounds like chess’ll.
3 Assembled under one church; Tappertit thought there were bounds to his (9)
ENDURANCE  reassemble UNDER to produce ENDUR, then add AN for one (don’t argue) and CE for Church. “’There are bounds to human endurance’ Thus thought Sim Tappertit” cf 12ac.
4 Where Mrs Jarley’s penurious poet might live  (4)
SLUM Dicken’s imaginative name for a poet with minimal means who might well live in a – um – SLUM. From The Old Curiosity Shop
5 Flirtatious maidservant harassed by stalker about entrance to chamber (5,5)
BETSY CLARK  Who is as described, in Sketches By Boz. An anagram (harassed) of BY STALKER with a side helping of C(hamber)
6  ’Tis perhaps what John Hutley did with the patient all night  (5)
SIT UP  Well it could have been SAT UP apart from the wordplay. ‘Tis, after all, in a down clue is SIT “UP”.  John Hutley turns up in the Stroller’s Tale, part of the Pickwick Papers, and does indeed sit up all night with a dying actor, far gone in ravings.
7 Monks found here mostly in best type of reasoning  (1,6)
A PRORI  Monks returns from Oliver Twist and 5ac, except that it’s not him, it’s people who might live in a PRIORY, its end stricken and its whole surrounded by AI for “best”
8 Gullible ones ruined by Dodson yielding term in prison  (5)
DODOS  An anagram (ruined) of DODSON without (yielding) the N from the end (term) of prison. Dodson is half the legal partnership of Dodson & Fogg who attempt to swindle Mr Pickwick and land him in prison, making the clue a rather neat précis of the story. And not Charles Dod(g)son who also wrote about dodos
13 “… the of oysters alone are not gregarious” (American Notes)  (10)
SWALLOWERS  It just is. And not Charles Dodgson who also wrote about oysters.
16 Briefly medicated one badly, like Smike at the end  (9)
EMACIATED An anagram (one badly) of MEDICATED sold short. Smike from Nicolas Nickleby is perpetually thin and dies of TB.
17 City businessman becoming a lord in an Oxford college  (9)
MALDERTON  Ah yes, got it. It’s A L(or)D in MERTON. A city slicker in Horation Sparkins, Sketches by Boz
19 How Mrs Hunter described a dying amphibian? Quite the opposite!  (7)
INVERSE Mrs Hunter, in Pickwick Papers, regaled her salon with The Expiring Frog, written, of course, IN VERSE.
21 What Mr Crisparkle climbed at Cloisterham Weir, exposed to the air  (7)
OUTLOOK Exposed: OUT, air: LOOK. A vantage point at Closterham Weir in Edwin Drood. Not, I think, where Crisparkle picked up his emails.
22 How greengrocer yawned in front of Mr Tuckle (about page 500)  (5)
GAPED  And caused much feigned offence to Tuckle and company in The Pickwick Papers. An anagram (about) of PAGE and D (Latin for 500)
23 Over which twisted housebreaker fled, otherwise retreating from society  (5)
ROOFS  The Twisted housebreaker must be Bill Sykes, twisted because he is taking Oliver with him (geddit?). Otherwise (or) retreating RO, from OF, S(ociety). Didn’t understand this at the time of solving.
25 Surname of fool recurrently occupied by Charles’s head  (4)
DICK  Mr Dick in David Copperfield, rescued from an asylum by Betsy Trotwood, obsessed with King Charles 1 and his disconnected head. I knew this! There is some back-up wordplay contained in the clue: Fool, KID recurrently gives DIK, get the inserted C from Charle's head Clever stuff, though you could, like I very nearly did, ignore the wordplay.

Quick cryptic No 793 by Hawthorn

Through this in 12 minutes at 05:30 this morning, which kept my mind off the events of yesterday at least for a while.  With about another million people, I was within half a mile of Westminster when I was alerted to the incident by the sirens and helicopters.  I avoided the temptation to make a reference when looking at 5d, but taste prevailed, although I have now done it here.  My thoughts and sympathy to anyone who has been affected.

Returning to this blog, I was lucky to get both the long down answers very early, which helped with a time comfortably within my target.  Thanks Hawthorn, it wasn’t too thorny!

Saucy letters delivered by the ladleful? (8,4)
ALPHABET SOUP – Not something with which I have personal experience, but a nice easy cryptic &lit clue to start
Tea in tsarina’s samovar (5)
ASSAM – Hidden answer in {tsarin}AS SAM{ovar}
Saw run completed, breaking personal best (7)
PROVERB – R{un} with OVER (completed) inside (breaking) P{ersonal} B{est}
10  Toboggan going around field was glittering (8)
SPARKLED – The toboggan is a SLED which surrounds (goes around) PARK (field)
10  Hot year grips area, creating dried grass (3)
HAY – Select first letters, or abbreviations of H{ot} and Y{ear} and put A{rea} between them
11  Left in Santiago, desperately yearning for the past (9)
NOSTALGIA – Anagram, indicated by ‘desperately’, of [SANTIAGO] and [L] for L{eft}
13  Rubbish doctor initially seems so retrogressive (5)
DROSS – DR for doctor followed by first letter (initially) of S{eems} and SO reversed (regressive) in the middle
14  Pleasant hosting European relative (5)
NIECE – Pleasant is NICE holding (hosting) E{uropean}
16  Disincentive to make mistake in almost complete detente (9)
DETERRENT – To ERR is to make a mistake, inside DETENT{e} (almost complete meaning missing last letter)
17  After word of refusal, daughter gets gesture of assent (3)
NOD – NO is the word of refusal, followed by D{aughter}, and a NOD’s as good as a wink to a blind bat in a thunderstorm – see the Monty Python blind bat sketch!
19  Discipline Conservative – and hurry up about it! (7)
CHASTEN – C{onservative} and HASTEN
21  Fashionable pet hopelessly clumsy (5)
INEPT – IN (fashionable) followed by an anagram (hopelessly) of [PET]
22  Injudicious legwear with eight artificial diamonds  (5,7)
SHORT SIGHTED – Legwear is SHORTS with and anagram of [EIGHT] (indicated by artificial), and D{iamonds} for the final flourish

1 A party gives cause to feel embarrassed (5)
ABASH – A (a) and BASH (party)
What moves a cat to sit on the fence? (9)
PUSSYFOOT – A double definition, the first cryptic.  To sit on the fence is to avoid making a decision, usually between two alternative choices, whilst to PUSSYFOOT is to act in a cautious or non-committal way, to move warily or stealthily.  They are roughly synonymous, but I can’t really make my mind up about it.
3  Transmit radio plays for organiser (13)
ADMINISTRATOR – Anagram, where the anagrind is ‘plays’ and the anagrist is [TRANSMIT RADIO].  It was nice to see this virtually instantly, giving a good start to the solve – I usually look at the long ones first.
Reveal employees’s tips for grasping XP operating system (6)
EXPOSE – The tips are the first and last letters of E{mploye}E, which grasp (contain) XP and O{perating} S{ystem}.  XP (also known as Whistler) was all the fashion in 2001 when released by Microsoft
Act unscrupulously and go through red lights, zebra crossings, etc? (4,2,7)
STOP AT NOTHING – Another double definition, this time with the second definition being the slightly cryptic one.
Employ some housemaids (3)
USE – Hidden answer in {ho}USE{maids}
7  A bishop with zeal for reform is extremely fiery (6)
ABLAZE – A (a) B{ishop} followed by an anagram of [ZEAL] where the anagrind is ‘for reform’
12  Judo grade that can’t be improved upon? (5,4)
GREEN BELT – Double definition, the second one referring to the current ban on developing GREEN BELT land in the UK
13  To work out, I’d bend muscles at regular intervals (6)
DEDUCE – Alternate letters (at regular intervals) of {i}D {b}E{n}D {m}U{s}C{l}E{s}.
15  Commit fault by net after returning – in this sport? (6)
TENNIS – To commit a fault is to SIN with NET and the whole thing reversed (returning)
18  Went out with old hat (5)
DATED – Straightforward double definition
20  Tree has nuts (3)
ASH – Anagram with anagrind ‘nuts’ and anagrist [HAS]
Solving time : 14:04, but with a typo, which was initially distressing because I had a few I was not 100% on, though it turns out I had put an extra T into 4 down.

I found this one very tricky - there's some obscure words and not always the most helpful wordplay, such as 19 down where an ancient city is given as an anagram, and what I can only take to be a cryptic definition at 15 across. On the other hand we have new wordplay for an old word at 8 down, and an interesting use of a character from Siegfried at 11 across.

Away we go!

1SUMMERTIME: I'm trying to wrap my head around this clue - it is either a straight-out cryptic definition, or a double definition with Summer Time being a standard in many countries. I could be missing something. And of course I am - thanks to vinyl1, the song Summertime from Porgy and Bess is a standard
6IBIS: SIB(family group) and I(island) reversed
10STOIC: I in STOC(k)
11PANTOMIME: PAN(god), TO(nearly shut), MIME(one of the dwarfs in Wagner's Ring Cycle)
12MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: another long charade - MA(mother), KEA(parrot), NIGH(close), TO, FIT
15AIRLINE: cryptic definition - "concern" here meaning business
17HACKSAW: HACK(bad writer), then WAS reversed
19MEGABAR: A, GEM(stone) reversed, then BAR - a lot of pressure, since atmopheric pressure is just over one bar
23BATTALION: BATT(felt used in hatmaking), A, LION(hero)
24EULER: E, then RULER missing R
25EASY: remove SPEAK from SPEAKEASY. I don't know if it has made it to the UK, but the US and Australia have gone cuckoo for speakeasy style bars, for example there is Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco where to get in you have to get the password from a guy in an alley and give it at a voicebox outside an unmarked door in a windowless building
2MYOPATHIC: MY, O, PATH(walk), then the first letters of I(s) C(onsequence)
4TOPKNOT: TOP(first), KNOT(rate for sailors) - now called a man bun and still looking ridiculous
5MANAGUA: MAN(work at) and the center of (Par)AGUA(yan) - the capital of Nicaragua
7BRIEF: F(musical note) after BRIE
8SWEETHEART: S, ART(skill) surrounding WEE(small), THE(article)
9FORTHRIGHTNESS: RIGHT(just) between FORTH(Scots river) and loch NESS
13FATHOMABLE: doubting THOMA(s) inside FABLE
18WOLFISH: FLOW(current) reversed, IS, H
19MYCENAE: anagram of MANY and EEC
21LOTUS: LOUS(e) around T(ulip)
About 25 minutes of amusement for me with this delightful puzzle, nothing unknown, a less obscure than usual "safari animal", a cricket reference, lots of word truncation clues, nothing too UK-specific I think. All in all a fine example of the art of setting; what more can I say? No chemistry, but you can't have everything.

I am experimenting with adding the clues and definitions underlined, so let me know if it needs more tweaking.

1 Fast runner in leading position backed, covered by stake (8)
ANTELOPE - POLE reversed inside ANTE
5 Endlessly put off covering a mark and smear (6)
DEFAME - DEFE(R), insert A M(ark).
8 Without yen, very little money (3)
TIN - TINY = very little, remove the Y(en).
9 Architect listened to great applause for modernising (10)
RENOVATION - REN sounds like WREN the architect, then OVATION = great applause.
10 Jacks in the drink: it’s bitter (8)
ABSINTHE - ABS for JACKS, sailors, IN THE.
11 Playwright pulling back from boundary (6)
BARRIE - BARRIER = boundary, pull off the back. J M Barrie.
12 Was told to ignore Resistance leader (4)
HEAD - HEARD = was told, ignore the R.
14 In drink, German is beside himself (10)
DISTRAUGHT - DRAUGHT = drink, insert IST = German for 'is'.
17 Conjuror’s rueful remark, losing his stick occasionally?
NOW AND THEN - &lit: A conjuror's rueful remark being 'no wand, then'.
20 Bird’s tight feeling in stomach? (4)
KNOT - Double definition.
23 User of acid as anaesthetic about to be arrested (6)
ETCHER - ETHER being an anaesthetic, insert C = about.
24 Unlike you, in play I act badly (8)
25 In the shade, running water and glass that’s got left out
BURNT UMBER - BURN = running water, TUMBLER = glass has the L out.
26 Grassy area is a little piece of greenery short (3)
27 Go round one place several times (6)
TRIPLY - TRY for go, around I PL = one place.
28 Jargon on lease reinterpreted (8)
LEGALESE - LEG side - ON in cricket, (LEASE)*.

1 Incorrectly rank hat as lambskin (9)
ASTRAKHAN - (RANK HAT AS)*, typically used for warm hats.
2 Land fish: is one going to tuck in? (7)
TUNISIA - TUNA a fish, insert IS I.
3 Speaker’s cat catching a rook (6)
LARYNX - A R(ook) inside LYNX = cat.
4 God, number one of that name? I believe in them all (9)
PANTHEIST - PAN a God, THE IST = the first, number one.
5 Coupling a disadvantage as pair finally go for run (7)
DRAWBAR - A DRAWBACK is a disadvantage, substitute R for the CK = pair finally go for run.
6 Outlaw’s skill: poultry beheaded at end of day (5,4)
FRIAR TUCK - FRI = day, then ART = skill, (D)UCK for poultry beheaded.
7 Shark not female, like 6 (7)
MONKISH - A MONKFISH is an ugly looking fish in the shark family; Delete the F(emale). Monkish, i.e. like Friar Tuck.
13 Walk quietly up, skirting unusual threat from this? (5,4)
DEATH TRAP - PAD = walk quietly, set reversed around (THREAT)*. &lit, of a sort.
15 Losing footing, go down hard on board? It’s not beyond
TREATABLE - TREA(D) = go hard down on, losing D, TABLE = board.
16 Tickle bird, badly worried (9)
TITILLATE - TIT = bird, ILL = badly, ATE = worried.
18 Commander right about alternative to Hamlet, period (7)
OCTOBER - OC = commander, officer commanding, R = right; insert TO BE as in Hamlet (or not to be).
19 Too dry and hot unfortunately for visitor to Oz (7)
DOROTHY - (TOO DRY H)*, the H for hot, Dorothy as in the Wizard of Oz, no Australian climate involved.
21 Part of prison: a cell extended for engine casing (7)
22 Practise fighting soldiers: no comfort here (6)
SPARTA - SPAR = practise fighting, TA = soldiers.

Quick Cryptic 792 by Flamande

I thought this was a reasonably gentle offering from Flamande with a good variety of clue types. Nothing obscure, but a couple of the clues (18ac and 19d) might present newcomers with a good challenge in terms of the detailed parsing.

A nice anagram in a particularly elegant clue at 5dn gets my nod for COD, and the surface reading at 16ac provoked an intriguing mental image that gave me a chuckle. Thanks to Flamande for an enjoyable puzzle. I will be on the road Wednesday morning so might not be able to field any queries until later in the day, so apologies for that but I'm sure the usual crew will weigh in to sort out any issues.

Definitions underlined: DD = double definition: anagrams indicated by *(--): omitted letters indicated by {-}.

7 Vegetable dish and a half-portion of tofu (6)
POTATO - POT A (dish and a) + TO (half portion of TO{fu})
8 Person installing carpet maybe is better qualified (6)
9 Daily charge reduced by a third (4)
CHAR - CHAR{GE} loses two of its six letters (charge reduced by a third)
10 Male wearing a dated, knotted tie (4,4)
DEAD HEAT - HE (male) wrapped around by (wearing) *(A DATED) - with "knotted" as the anagram indicator. Nicely constructed clue that sent me down the wrong (sartorial) path for a while.
11 Book a certain school principal provided for dunce (8)
BONEHEAD - B (abbrev. book) + ONE (a certain) HEAD (school principal)
13 Animals kept by Bram Stoker (4)
RAMS - Hidden in (kept by) bRAM Stoker
15 Very tired? Try a small drink(4)
SHOT - Triple definition, as I read it
16 Still, grandma is admitted to men only entertainment in
the end (8)
STAGNANT - NAN (grandma) introduced into (admitted to) STAG (men only) + T (entertainmenT in the end). And I hope the old girl enjoyed it!
18 Teacher with very bad back getting hot and bad-tempered
LIVERISH - SIR (teacher) + EVIL (very bad) reversed (back) with H added (getting hot)
20 Squad initially merry after drink (4)
TEAM - M (initially Merry) comes 'after' TEA (drink)
21 Free meal regularly offered by the French woman? (6)
FEMALE - Every other letter (regularly) of FrEe MeAl + LE (the French)
22 Remember to drop round again (6)
RECALL - In addition to the main definition, we also get 're-call' from the cryptic wordplay 'drop round again'

1 Scorn A A Milne character more than once (4-4)
POOH-POOH - A double helping of the bear. If one "pooh-poohs an idea" then one dismisses it in a high handed way - this expression used to figure commonly in everyday speech, but I'm not sure if it is so widely used these days.
2 Took responsibility: went in search of petrol after running
CARRIED THE CAN - DD, the second one being mildly cryptic and depicting one of life's more embarrassing moments
3 Dog daughter found in Dorset town (6)
POODLE - D (daughter) inside POOLE (seaside town in Dorset)
4 Worried leader's gone missing in RAF attack (6)
AFRAID - 'Leader' (i.e. first letter) missing in {R}AF RAID
5 Redeployed the cartoonist with very little warning (2,5,6)
AT SHORT NOTICE - *(THE CARTOONIST) with "redeployed" pointing to the anagram. Rather neat.
6 Name of woman a cleric raised (4)
VERA - A REV reversed (a cleric raised)
12 Leads for amazingly competent thespians in play (3)
ACT - First letters (leads) of Amazingly Competent Thespians
14 People add up without using pencil and paper? (8)
MENTALLY - MEN (people) + TALLY (add up) are the wordplay components of a cryptic definition. Fond(ish) memories of quick fire bouts of mental arithmetic at 9 in the morning that started off every schoolday when I were a lad - quite an effective way of getting the mind going (but not as much fun as an early morning cryptic crossword...)
16 Ladies unexpectedly went by boat (6)
SAILED - *(LADIES) with "unexpectedly" pointing to the anagram
17 Stick bill on top of present (6)
ADHERE - AD (bill - as in advertisement) sits 'on top of' HERE (present)
19 Couple that is getting married - about time (4)
ITEM - IE (that is) + M (abbrev. married) goes around T (about time)

Quick Cryptic 791 by Teazel

Just over the 10 minutes being held up by a couple at top and bottom of the RHS. Here and there some vocabulary which isn't in everyday use but nothing untoward. For no apparent reason it also took a while to see the playing card reference at 21. So - a QC which was quickish and with something to think about - thanks Teazel.


1. Wake - double definition. The first being how one stirs oneself in the morning, the second a boating reference.
3. Harpoon - weapon (not found in your everyday Western/war film). Keep talking tediously (HARP ON) about old (O).
8. Shooting stars - meteors falling through the Earth's atmosphere. Also how one could dispose of a star of the screen or stage.
9. Gas - fuel. Part of usin(G A S)olid. Full marks for deception putting solid and fuel together when gas isn't.
10. Duple - double. Line (L) crossed by patsy (DUPE) - someone could probably list some old gangster movies which used the term.
12. Tankard - from which one drinks (messily or otherwise). Thanks (TA), anagram (messily) of DRANK.
14. Parches - gets very dry. Trims (PARES) around church (CH).
16. Shell - which protects a tortoise. A woman will (SHE'LL).
17. Ash - wood. Like (AS), hard (H).
20. Reception room - party venue. Anagram (must circulate) of PORT ONCE MORE I.
21. The Arts - cultural activities. Adop(T), playing card suit (HEARTS).
22. Fawn - double definition. To fawn upon someone - try to please. Young deer - fawn.


1. Washed up - double definition. Feel all washed up/do the dishes.
2. Know - be aware. Homophone (has been announced) of refusal - no.
3. Honest - truthful. Anagram (deceptive) of THEN SO.
4. Rise and shine. Double definition.
5. On a plate - easily. Also how you'd find your car registration number.
6. Nosh - a light meal (dictionary definition) - 'to get some nosh'. Numbers (NOS), hot (H).
7. Stage whisper. Cryptic definition.
11. Particle - tiny bit. Page (P), piece of writing (ARTICLE).
13. Dalesmen -the term for a male living in the (usually Yorkshire) Dales. Anagram (for change) of SLAM NEED.
15. Satins - materials. Anagram (dreadful) of STAINS.
18. Trot - gentle run. Wrong (TORT) upwards.
19. Toga - classical garment. Took a while to click the measure of warmth (TOG - re duvets), a (A).

Times 26678

This one took me a few minutes over the hour though I think I may have dozed off briefly at one point - no disrespect to the quality of the puzzle intended, just that I was very tired. I found generally a very good mix of clues, some of which were of the highest standard, but there were some easy ones to keep things moving along, and a couple of very loose definitions were made accessible by helpful wordplay. There are quite a lot of geographical references today, and two scientists so our Dorset correspondent will be pleased!

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Times Quick Cryptic 790 by Mara

I finished this in 8 minutes. I think most of it is straightforward but we shall see if others agree.

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