January 4th, 2020

Times Cryptic Jumbo 1415 - 21st December 2019

Jumbo New Year’s greetings to you all.  I hope you enjoyed the festive period whether or not you spent it in festive fashion (I did and didn’t, respectively) and look forward to meeting the challenges of 2020.  If I were one for making resolutions I might resolve to prepare these Jumbo blogs a little more in advance.  But I’m not, because I’ve realised it’s all pointless.  Er, yes, Happy New Year!

Some of the content here was on the edge of or outside my knowledge, but the wordplay enabled me to reach into the recesses of the seasonal leftovers of my brain and find the truffles amongst the wrapping.  In the end there were a couple I didn’t manage unaided, but the whole exercise took me around an hour, which for me marks a Jumbo more soft-centred than nutty.  I immensely enjoyed the experience, with a real variety of subject matter and clues which were a pleasure to solve.  Many thanks to the setter for 40d!

Definitions are underlined in the clues below.  In the explanations, quoted indicators are in italics, [deletions] in square brackets, and I’ve capitalised and emboldened letters which appear in the ANSWER.

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Times Cryptic No 27546 - Saturday 28 December 2019. Fire, fire everywhere.

Millions of hectares (over ten million acres) ablaze. Over a thousand homes destroyed. People dead. Tens of thousands evacuated. Smoke giving our cities have the worst air quality in the world. And climate denialist politicians saying, “We’ve always had bushfires.” True, but never remotely like this. Hard to say Happy New Year in Australia this week!

However, you're here for the crossword. My first pass through these clues got me nowhere, and gave me the feeling this puzzle might be a beast! Then I got a toehold in the lower right and everything flowed smoothly in a clockwise direction. So, in the end, quite a friendly creature, all finished in double quick time.

My clue of the day was 3dn, for its lovely surface. I don’t think it’s often we have two &lit. clues like 3dn and 7dn in one puzzle. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’. Deletions are in [square brackets].

1 Standard to recall Irish officer during trip (9)
TRICOLOUR – RI (IR for Irish, ‘recalled’), COL (officer), all ‘during’ TOUR.
6 Spot large place to stop over (5)
MOTEL – MOTE, L[arge].
9 Hives can be this hostile when bee’s flown out (5)
ITCHY – [b]ITCHY. The hives you get from an allergic reaction.
10 Grass worker who's playing well? (9)
11 Place to learn Polish — something pupils like? (9,6)
FINISHING SCHOOL – double definition: the first has a capital P to mislead us, the second is a truism.
13 Secure last of mouldy meat for terrier (8)
14 Glass obtained with bulges occasionally in it (6)
GOBLET – GOT (obtained) has B[u]L[g]E[s] in it.
16 Redundant seaman severs old hawser (6)
OTIOSE – OS (seaman) severs O (old) TIE (hawser). ‘Otiose’ is a word whose meaning I never bothered finding out, but here it is: ‘redundant’!
18 One steering apple cart around heading for street (8)
COXSWAIN – COX (apple), WAIN (cart) around S[treet].
21 Charge crew under canvas for code on tablets (3,12)
TEN COMMANDMENTS – COMMAND (charge) MEN (crew) in TENTS (under canvas).
23 Outwit remaining authority (9)
OVERREACH – OVER (remaining), REACH (authority). ‘Overreach’ is more familiar in the sense that leads to falling on one’s face, but the ‘outwit’ meaning is in the dictionary.
25 Learning to conserve one foreign flower (5)
LOIRE – LORE (learning) ‘to conserve’ I (one). As so often, a ‘flower’ in Crosswordland is a river.
26 Topping device shortly to be returned by European (5)
NOOSE – NOOS (SOON, ‘to be returned’), E (European).
27 Some lumps, maybe, appearing back on a spring plant (9)
ASPARAGUS – A SPA (spring), RAGUS (SUGAR, ‘appearing back’).

1 Criminal: one infiltrating the force? (5)
THIEF – I (one), ‘infiltrating’ THE F (force).
2 Charm people in Peru once, embracing tango (11)
INCANTATION – the INCA NATION ‘embracing’ T (tango).
3 Poem about Ulysses centrally with ugly conclusion? (7)
ODYSSEY – ODE ‘about’ [ul]YSS[es], ‘with’ [ugl]Y. A beautiful &lit. or all-in-in-one clue, since the Odyssey is of course about Odysseus, known to the Romans as Ulysses.
4 Master one spirit during test (8)
ORIGINAL – I (one) GIN (spirit) in ORAL.
5 Shelter whistle-blower, say, superior hauled up (6)
REFUGE – REF, UGE (E.G. U, ‘hauled up’).
6 Originally read old volume in low hide (7)
MOROCCO – R (initially Read), O (old), CC (a measure of volume), all in MOO (low).
7 Tips of plant like camellia? (3)
TEA – spelt out by the last letters of each word. I guess there’s no reason that the tips can’t be on the right, not the left!
8 Tongue a little spoiled ingesting a starter of nuts (4,5)
LATE LATIN – (A LITTLE*), ‘spoiled’, then ‘ingesting’ A, followed by N (the ‘starter of nuts’).
12 Perhaps landscape lining patio needs replacing (3,8)
OIL PAINTING – (LINING PATIO*) ‘needs replacing’.
13 After brief stop, service stock item (9)
SHORTHORN – SHORT (brief), HO (stop: Chambers says this use is obsolete, and Westward Ho the Wagons certainly sounds more like go than stop), R.N. (Service). Nicely disguised definition.
15 Community retains hospital surrounded by dump (8)
TOWNSHIP – OWNS (retains), H[ospital], ‘surrounded by’ TIP.
17 Flog business during sudden upswing (7)
SCOURGE – CO ‘during’ SURGE.
19 Specimen from sewer more than enough to stop sister (7)
SAMPLER – AMPLE in SR. Needlework.
20 Food for Africans sometimes stored in Blenheim Palace (6)
IMPALA – hidden answer.
22 Kind that is lacking details (5)
24 Conceit, and energy in two forms (3)
EGO – E, GO.

Sunday Times Cryptic 4883, 29 XII 2019, by David McLean — Oh, just see what a glorious fill

As I had never blogged a Jumbo before, I was glad to find, once I got started, that this was all fairly straightforward, and a real holiday gift rather than a chore. We have every kind of clue here, from hidden words to the &lit (only one of those, but at least no half-assed “semi” or “sorta” variety!). Now, there are a few that I had to check with a dictionary, having never heard of ACATOUR, SEGETAL or ACADEMIC DRESS, but their shape was discernible through their wrapping. All will have noticed, of course, the sprinkling—almost a blizzard, actually—of holiday and wintry references in the clues as well as the answers.

I indicate (asangram)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 So smart to air choir’s boisterous seasonal music (9,8)
CHRISTMAS ORATORIO — (so smart to air choir)* J.S. Bach, 1734
10 Gift Mark’s given to freezing leader (5)
SCARF — SCAR, “Mark” + F[-reezing] The definition would no doubt not be deemed sufficient if it weren’t for the season of this puzzle’s appearance.
13 First of goodies one royal put in king’s stockings? (7)
LEGWEAR — LE (G[-oodies] + WE, “one[,] royal”) AR
14 Damn icy winds, with great strength (7)
DYNAMIC — (Damn icy)*
15 Good children could produce this twinkle (7)
GLITTER — G(ood) + LITTER, “children”
16 Relative laughing about upper-class outrages (9)
BROUHAHAS — BRO, “relative” + U(pper class) + HA HAs
17 Wife knocking rag that covers seasonal offerings (8,5)
WRAPPING PAPER — W(ife) + RAPPING, “knocking” + PAPER, “rag”
18 Pull cracker’s end with energy after everyone united (6)
ALLURE — ALL, “everyone” + U, “united” come before [-cracke]R + E(nergy)
19 Antiquated facilities toured by overworked man on board (3-7)
OLD-LOOKING — OLD, “overworked” on one side of LOO,” facilities,” and, on the other, KING, “man on board”
22 Quarrel over uninspiring presents (3-2)
RUN-IN — Hidden, indicated by “presents”
24 Group painting turns on crummy American shows (11)
ILLUSTRATES — SET, “group” + ART, “painting” <=“turns” on ILL, “crummy” + US, “American”
27 Secret agent unlikely to be seen here? (6,5)
CENTRE STAGE — (Secret agent)* &lit
29 Retired chap scoffed about tip for seasonal greeting (7)
NAMASTE — MAN, “chap” <=“retired” + A(S[-easonal])TE, ATE being “scoffed”
31 At front, snow by massed artillery is backed-up two feet (5)
IAMBS — Initial letters (“At front”) in reverse (“backed-up”); “two feet,” though any number over one would’ve done
32 Without oxygen, doctor animates bodies (9)
ANATOMIES — (animates + O)*
33 Song covered by piano act is a gift for the kids (9)
PLAYTHING — P(LAY)THING, THING being “act” in the sense of (Collins) “that which is done, has been done, or is to be done” (but, of course, the play’s the thing!)
34 Woman at work in grassland (5)
LEONA — LE(ON, “at work”)A
35 Movie set at Christmas I’d heard must be broadcast (3,4)
DIE HARD — (I’d heard)* I had no idea during what time of year the action in that story was supposed to have occurred.
37 Contrary youth with last of yule post shows hostility (11)
DETESTATION — TED<=“Contrary” + [-Yul]E + STATION, “post”
39 Dispatch calls on the radio that we might hear at Christmas (6,5)
SLEIGH BELLS — SLEIGH sounds like (“on the radio”) “slay,” or “Dispatch” + BELLS—Collins says BELL is British slang for “telephone call”
41 Those finishing turkeys imbibe top Asti then a shot (5)
SEPIA — Final letters in five words, interrupted by “then”
43 With cutlery, pare outer part of joint (10)
SILVERSKIN — SILVER, “cutlery” + SKIN, “pare”
45 Might one be seen in Bow this Christmas? (6)
RIBBON — CD. At last a clue referencing Bow that involves no dropped aitches!
47 Really weak royal, but with sound views (5-8)
50 Fire axe (9)
52 Old caterer and a jazz fan associated with US (7)
ACATOUR — A CAT, “jazz fan” + OUR, alternative spelling for “acater,” which means means (Collins) “a buyer of and supplier of provisions; caterer”—which is news to me
53 Successful runner the Spanish support going round city (7)
ELECTEE — EL, “the[,] Spanish” + TEE, “support”
54 Religious book written by European model (7)
EPITOME — E(uropean) + PI, pious, “Religious” + TOME, “book”
55 Those under feet of snow regularly empty large spades (5)
SOLES — Alternate letters in SnOw, L[-arg]E, S(pades)
56 Say John and Paul score hit discs and flip out? (9,2,6)
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST — (score hit discs + flip)* This one has a slightly “green paint” feel to me; “Disciples of Christ” is the proper name of a denomination, so in that sense the phrase would have “dictionary status,” but the reference to John and Paul here is more generic.

 1 Star helping to provide New Year shindig? (11)
CELEBRATION — CELEB, “star” + RATION, “helping”
 2 Kid at party left with large Christmas present (7)
RAGDOLL — RAG, “Kid” + DO, “party” + L(eft) + L(arge)
 3 Agricultural workers pressure woman to be put up in outhouses (9)
 4 Fragrance belonging to one’s theologian husband (5)
MYRRH — MY, “belonging to one” + RR, “theologian” + H(usband) I take RR to be “Right Reverend,” which is a title of respect (not the name of an office) for an Anglican or RC bishop; “theologian” made me try to fit an academic degree.
 5 Idling pet sits awkwardly, producing great mirth (4-9)
SIDE-SPLITTING — (Idling pet sits)*
 6 Resurrection authentic!—short report inside (7)
RENEWAL — I guess this isn’t the Skeptical Inquirer, eh? RE(NEW[-s])AL
 7 Maiden seen in bar with a port (5)
 8 Function in part of a hotel (9)
 9 One accompanying one across Ohio river on rearing horse (5)
ORGAN — The instrument can be heard during 1A! O(hio) + R(iver) + NAG<=“rearing” EDIT: Thanks to Johninterred for pointing out what “one across” is doing here.
10 A very risky course is a must-have for skiers (8,5)
SLIPPERY SLOPE — A straight def and one cryptic
11 Law university about to hold power and influence (3,4)
ACT UPON — ACT, “Law” + U(niversity) + ON, “about,” clasping P(ower)
12 Those in van in support of European on skis (11)
FORERUNNERS — FOR, “in support of” + E(uropean) + RUNNERS, “skis”
20 Bring on the end of Christmas and Boxing Day etc (9)
OCCASIONS — OCCASION, “Bring on” + [-Christma]S
21 Wreaths and the like, secure in outbuilding (10)
23 Fantastic arc in sales for anti-cancer drugs (10)
ARSENICALS — (arc in sales)*
25 Severely reprimand a saint following Jesus? (7)
LAMBAST — “Jesus” is the LAMB, with A S(ain)T at his heels
26 Appearance of medium and bishop, live in a spiritual event (9)
28 Girl in massive trouble after avalanche at summit (7)
ABIGAIL — A[-valanche] + BIG, “massive” + AIL, “trouble”
30 I faint as costs build up for settlements (13)
SATISFACTIONS — (I faint as costs)*
32 Don clothing? (8,5)
ACADEMIC DRESS — CD Cap and gown, mortarboard… this is supposed to make you look serious.
33 Present said to change folk eschewing transport? (11)
PEDESTRIANS — (Present said)*
36 It isn’t deer flying around top of stacks in fairness (11)
DISINTEREST — (It isn’t deer + S[-tacks])*
38 One speaks ill of British people, for example (9)
ISLANDERS — Bigot! I (1, “One”) + SLANDERS
40 Somewhat happy being somewhat smart (9)
42 Feature of ancient Mandarin is something difficult to follow (7)
PIGTAIL — PIG, “something difficult” (Collins has this, as “British informal”) + TAIL, “to follow”
44 Some flipping snail ate gessneria growing in crops (7)
SEGETAL — Reverse hidden Said of weeds; from Latin seget-, seges field of grain, crop
46 Piece of music one group knocked up for famous soprano (7)
BARTOLI — BAR, “Piece of music” + I (“one”) LOT (“group”) <=“knocked up”
48 King and queen seen in shrouds on occasion (5)
HEROD — ER, the queen (long may she wave), is here found inserted among alternate letters (“on occasion”) of sHrOuD.
49 Old people at home must get up after Frost (5)
ICENI — ICE, “Frost,” before IN, “at home”<=“must get up” British Celts!
51 One supporting quiet little chap Santa employs (5)
SHELF — SH, “quiet” + ELF, the “little chap…”