January 11th, 2020

Times Cryptic Jumbo No 1417 - 28th December

You know how some dishes, like a good curry, become more tasty after keeping for a bit? Well that's what I found with this Jumbo, solving on the day and then revisiting over a few sessions to do the blog. In all it took me about 50 minutes to solve, which is just a little over average for me for a Jumbo, I think, so we are in the goldilocks zone of difficulty if my experience is anything to go by. There are plenty of tasty morsels to tickle the tastebuds that I only really savoured properly on a second helping. Witty surfaces, wordplay and sneaky definitons abound, yet there are plenty of easily digestible appetiser clues to whet the appetite and get your juices flowing for the chewier bits. Some favourite bonbons for me were the "unmarried mum" at 21A, the "former queen" at 43A , the "bones" at 52A, "being liable to change" at 1D, the topical Test Match reference at 2D and, for afters, the pasteurised cheese at 40D (although I'd have preferred some Stilton). Lovely stuff. Thanks you setter, and more like this, please, editor. So how did you all get on? And what were your favourites?

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Times Cryptic No 27552 – Saturday, 04 January 2020. Through a smoke haze darkly.

Again, I found this puzzle hard to start and then relatively easy to finish.

In other news, Australia is still here. We were planning a family trip to Canberra next week, but had to cancel because the air pollution there is 15 times the hazardous level. I’ve learnt more than I ever expected about P2 face masks and HEPA filters! But the dreadful smoke and the heat of the fires is a terrifying taste of what we will all face if the world doesn’t act on climate change.

The clue of the day was clearly 5dn, for its relevance to my previous paragraph! 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].

Across
1 Some show anger around champ (4)
GNAW – reverse (‘around’) hidden answer (‘some’) in [sho]W ANG[er].
4 The easiest way out of jumper, perhaps, is not to wriggle about (4,6)
SOFT OPTION – OF TOP (jumper, perhaps) with (IS NOT*), ‘wriggling’ ‘about’ (i.e. outside) it. Complex wordplay, but it works.
9 Deter a tour abroad that caravans might have taken (5,5)
TRADE ROUTE – (DETER A TOUR*), ‘abroad’.
10 Go out to lunch to reflect (4)
STAB – BATS (out to lunch, i.e. crazy), ‘reflected’.
11 Servile types deported son — one from a Middle Eastern country (6)
YEMENI – here are the YES MEN again! Take out S for son, tack on I for one.
12 Free time can start to subside, in general (3,5)
LET LOOSE – T for time, then LOO for can and S as the start of Subside, all in General LEE.
14 Pure water (4)
MERE – double definition.
15 Basic flat is next to alleyway (5-5)
ENTRY-LEVEL – ENTRY (alleyway), LEVEL (flat). At first I thought ‘flat’ might be EVEN, but that led nowhere.
17 Cover in rocks, initially showing disinterest (10)
STOLIDNESS – LID in STONES, then S[howing] ‘initially’.
20 Tax record taken from subordinate (4)
DUTY – take EP from DEPUTY.
21 Departs for hotel in airport’s final waiting area? (5,3)
DEATH ROW – change an H to a D, and HEATHROW will never seem the same!
23 At first, life is good in French capital (6)
LISBON – L[ife], IS, BON (‘good’, in French).
24 Just open a beer (4)
AJAR – with spacing, A JAR. Also, a chestnut, but it makes me smile every time.
25 Crazy Irish sailor turned fifty, touring Scottish island (10)
IRRATIONAL – IR[ish], TAR ‘turned’, L (fifty), all around (‘touring’) IONA.
26 Soldier by river cases the opposition (10)
ANTITHESIS – ANT, then ISIS ‘casing’ THE. I love it when they talk dialectically.
27 Black book kept by one that's devious (4)
EBON – B (book) ‘kept by’ (ONE*) ‘that’s devious’.

Down
2 Administrative hub is under review, regularly lacking focus (5,6)
NERVE CENTRE – every second letter (regularly lacking) of uNdEr ReViEw, then CENTRE (focus).
3 Scoundrel joins club — a means of achieving higher standing? (5,4)
WEDGE HEEL – WEDGE (golf club), HEEL (scoundrel).
4 Weather's certain to close in around six, see? (7)
SURVIVE – SURE ‘closing in’ VI (six, in Roman numerals), V (vide=see).
5 Used when tack goes into foot, for example? (4-6,5)
FOUR-LETTER WORDS – An &lit. clue (see glossary), packed with examples of four-letter words, literally but not metaphorically, and defining when the metaphorical type might be used.
6 Holding bottom of hat, too obviously (7)
OVERTLY – OVERLY (too, as in ‘too familiar’), holding T (bottom of ‘hat’).
7 Start popular movement that’s lively, mostly (5)
INTRO – IN (popular), TRO[t] (lively movement, mostly).
8 August 27 — heading north to take in loch (5)
NOBLE – 27 across is EBON. Write it backwards (‘north’, since this is a down clue), and insert L for loch,
13 We stop to eat cooked food (5,6)
SWEET POTATO – (WE STOP TO EAT*), ‘cooked’.
16 Manage to support extremity with large medical device (9)
ENDOSCOPE – COPE supporting END (extremity) and OS.
18 Having reformatted hard drives, one spinning wildly (7)
DERVISH – (H DRIVES*). ‘reformatted’. H is for hard.
19 Commends regiment that has captured large truck (7)
SALUTES – S.A.S. captures L UTE.
21 Play diamonds and stick with ace (5)
DRAMA – D (diamonds), RAM (stick), A.
22 Figure on a small island drinks whisky (5)
AWAIT – A, AIT (small island) drinks W (whisky). As in ‘I figure on/await an outburst soon’.