April 11th, 2020


Times Cryptic Jumbo 1431 - If that bird comes near me I'll break its neck and your b****y arm.

This puzzle felt quite tricky in places but took about 50 minutes including working out all the parsings so was probably just on the harder side of average, with a goodly amount of GK required or needing to be guessed/assumed.  As I was writing up the blog it seemed to me that there were several gratuitous question marks.  First in was MALAPROPISM and last, for reasons we'll come to, was TREATMENT.

I hope it helped you all to fill some time during lockdown, wherever you may be.  No doubt many more people are attempting the jumbi these days so I'm expecting thousands of visitors to the blog.  Feel free to ask if something still doesn't make sense.

Clues are in blue with the definition undelined.  Anagram indicators are in bold italics.


DD: Double definition

CD: Cryptic definition

DDCDH: DD/CD hybrid where a straight definition is combined with a cryptic hint.

&Lit:  "all in one" where the entire clue is both definition and wordplay.

(fodder)* denotes an anagram of the letters in the brackets.

Rounded brackets are also used to add further clarity

Squiggly brackets {} indicate parts of a word not used

Deletions are struck out

Square brackets [] expand an abbreviation or shortening like N[orth]



Restricts little person that's a bit of a jumper? (11)

CHAINSTITCH - CHAINS, TITCH.  Just in case "titch" is a Britishism it's a nickname for somebody of limited stature


A learner needing a supporter is hugged by maidens saying the wrong thing (11)

MALAPROPISM - A, L[earner], A, PROP (not BRA!!!!!!), IS in M[aiden] x2.


Establishing standard old room in local (9)



No time for speech with men showing fatigue (7)

LANGUOR - LANGUage, O[ther] R[anks]


Rows of headless corpses (5)



Soldier and reformer meeting a king (6)

HUSSAR - HUSS, A, R[ex].  Jan Hus, c. 1372 – 6 July 1415), sometimes anglicized as John Hus or John Huss, and referred to in historical texts as Iohannes Hus or Johannes Huss, was a Czech theologian and philosopher who became a church reformer... That's where I stopped reading.


Behavioural science Hoyle got wrong (8)

ETHOLOGY - (Hoyle got)*. I'll bet good money that I'm not the only one who, never having heard of ethology, bunged in theology, and then wasted effort trying to justify "the shires" at 5d.  Come on, own up!  Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour and is not linked to Ronology.


Rage, having to eat a dry fish (3-4)

RAT-TAIL - RAGE around T[ee]T[otal].  Rat-tails are also known as genadiers.  I'm no Jaques Cousteau or Rick Stein but I've never heard of them.


In Barbados, say, how you’d get the measure of the enemy? (8,8,4)



Steps to keep the Queen uncontaminated (7)

STERILE - STILE around E[lizabeth] R[egina].  The surface reading suggests that H, Claire, Lee and the others are doing their bit during the Coronavirus crisis by disinfecting the loos at Buckingham Palace.


Pioneer crossword compiler entertains only third of solvers (7)

SETTLER - SETTER around the third letter of {sol}V{ers}


Research specialist only half way through stories (7)



Light colour of old city church to the west (4)

ECRU - UR, C{hurch of} E{ngland} reversed.  One of those colours that only women can differentiate from all the other beiges like sand, taupe and fawn.


Girl's best friend in a suit? (8)



Biblical tribe, possible adherents of a god of wealth, dismissing leader (9)



Community travel entangled after reversing set of instructions (9)

DECALOGUE - E[uropean] U[nion], GO, LACED, all reversed


Papa dislikes aspects of birthday celebrations (8)



A guerrilla gets hurt (4)

ACHE - A, Che (Guevara)


Uses swearword when coming across cat (7)



Walked, bumping into Peg in the tube (7)

TETRODE - TROD in TEE.  Whether you know a tetrode as a thermionic valve similar to a triode with the addition of a screen grid to protect the control grid, as a dynatron or as a dual-gate MOSFET, I think we're all agreed that we can't manage without one.


Onion in English allotment (7)

SHALLOT - hidden


Like good guys supporting the LA baseball team? (2,3,4,2,3,6)

ON THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS - DDCDH. I needed checkers to figure out if the last word was going to be angels, saints or summat else.  I know my American Football teams but my knowledge is a bit sketchy where basketball, baseball and ice hockey tems are concerned and the expression itself isn't familiar to me.


Something frightening, British, and not half unattractive to put up with (7)

BUGBEAR - B[ritish], UG{ly}, BEAR.  I only knew bugbear as an object of annoyance or dislike but the dictionaries have it as something frightening too.


Car well able to convey limited number, offering independence (8)

AUTONOMY - AUTO, MY (as in goodness!) around NO.


Fashionable philosopher put to rest? (6)

INHUME - IN, HUME (David of that ilk, who could out-consume Hegel).


Turmoil when duke meets a divine being in India (5)

DRAMA - D[uke], RAMA


What get hot and black: ships carrying fuel (7)



Arguing about a boy, one no good (9)

REASONING - RE, A, SON, I, N[o] G[ood]


What is evident in weighty section of song (6,5)

MIDDLE EIGHT - One of those clues where the answer is in the clue and vice-versa, sort of - the middle of wEIGHTy is EIGHT.


Heeding Lent, possibly, being wise? (11)

ENLIGHTENED - (heeding lent)*



Study church with a shell-like structure (6)

CONCHA - CON, CH[urch], A.  I didn't know the word but it wasn't a huge leap of faith away from conch.


Where naughty children run riskily in slum area (6,3,6)



A peasant organised home to be very clean and tidy (4,2,1,3)

NEAT AS A PIN - (a peasant)*, IN


Holiday mishap (4)



Don’t move into these inadequate rural areas (3,6)

THE STICKS - STICK in THES{e}.  As mentioned previously I was trying to justify THE SHIRES on account of a wrong across answer.


Assist goddess with petulant expression (4,3)

HELP OUT - HEL, POUT.  Hel is/was a Norse goddess


Rainy season's coming before long in Mediterranean country? No thanks! (9)

MONSOONAL - ON SOON (coming before long) in MALta. The 's is vital for the definition.


Envy destroying three leading characters? That's very bad (5)



Some game requiring quiet skill, game without leader (9)

PARTRIDGE - P[iano], ART, bRIDGE.  Aha!


Surpassing dodgy dealers, first to last? Excellent! (12)

OUTSTRIPPING - TOUTS with the first letter sent to the end, then RIPPING (as in Yarns).


Extend home and start to fall behind schedule (7)



Menu's beginning with a cold dish, mostly spicy stuff (6)

MASALA - M{enu}, A, SALA{d}


Male talking thus may be grumbling (8)

UTTERING - A rare example of a clue where the definition isn't at the start or beginning of the clue.  It's also another of those clues that sort of works in reverse.  If you add M[ale] to the asnwer you get MUTTERING.


Floridly rhetorical poet given honour, not the first (7)



Man joining the girl in risky enterprise that may help the rest (8)

BEDSHEET - ED, SHE in BET.  I can think of many other things that aid rest nore than a bedsheet but I guess it just about works.


Bird, needing drink, had to go inside (8)



Not, we may deduce, travelling quickly (3-2)

TON-UP - And here's another where the answer contains the clue, as it were.  TON written up would give you NOT.


Political lion somehow traps you and me — it's not what it seems (7,8)

OPTICAL ILLUSION - (political lion)* around US


Prominent men wanting girl to undress (not showing bottom though) (7)



Old-fashioned office worker, good person one upset (5)

STENO - S[aint], ONE reversed


Wasn't Emu naughty bird? (4,4)

MUTE SWAN - (wasn't emu)*.  Great clue, but overseas and younger solvers might not get the joke.  Go on youtube and look for "1976 Rod Hull and Emu on Parkinson"


Secret observer won't half yell when rumbled (3,2,3,4)

FLY ON THE WALL - (won't half yell)*


Displaying message opposing capital punishment? (7,3)

HANGING OUT - DDCDH.  Shades of "Down with this sort of thing" a la Father Ted.


Always kept in outhouse, as car needs to be (9)

STEERABLE - EER (the poet's always) in STABLE


Discussion of tricky matter with Treebeard? (9)

TREATMENT - (matter)*, ENT.  Now I've read LOTR so I knew about Treebeard but I'd completely forgotten that he was an ENT.  So I was reluctant to put the answer in unparsed and was worried that treebeard might an alternative name for some parasitic plant or some such.  Anyway, a quick Google of Treebeard provided enlightenment.


Terrible male here should keep quiet, being “here today, gone tomorrow” (9)

EPHEMERAL - (male here)* around P[iano]


Vigilant when a ground can get out of control (2,5)

ON GUARD - (a ground)*


Expression of disgust about head’s artifice (7)



This writer's about to wait in the same location (6)

IBIDEM - I'M around BIDE


“Deeply” powerful male? (3,3)



Imitating a sort of sound (5)

APING - A, PING.  Of course we all know that the Welsh word for microwave is meicrodon, and not popty ping.


Made a call, cutting row short (4)


  • brnchn

Times Cryptic No 27630 - Saturday, 4 April 2020. Back to front.

Winter is approaching this side of the globe, and so the crossword now appears in time to tackle, and in this case to finish, before lunch. Joy!

I often find the quickest way into a crossword is via the last few down clues, which are at least sure to have short answers. (Someone even suggests the setter may have been tiring. I can’t believe that!)

In any case, so it was with this one – my FOI was 24dn, as soon as my eye fell on it. Things went smoothly from there until I found myself with only 8dn and 12 ac to go. Neither of them that hard as it turned out. I guessed 8dn but couldn’t see how it worked, and was doubtful 12ac would end with an O, until at last I realised it was an anagram. Thanks to the setter for a very enjoyable puzzle.

There were a lot of delightful and clever clues here: 1ac, 5ac, 26ac, 8dn and 18dn for a few. Also, a generous supply of double definitions. Just the thing to do during a pandemic lockdown. How did you all get on? Keep safe!

Notes for newcomers: The Times offers prizes for Saturday Cryptic Crosswords, so this blog is posted a week later, after the competition closes. So, please don’t comment here on the current Saturday Cryptic. Clues are blue, with definitions underlined. (ABC*) means ‘anagram of ABC’. Deletions are in [square brackets].
1 Grand, but inferior to Greene character? (7)
SUBLIME – a reference to Harry Lime, a key character in The Third Man, a film written by Grahame Greene.
5 This is a bird I don't know — check on the wings (7)
DUNNOCK – I could have underlined “I don’t know” as part of the definition as well as the wordplay. What’s that bird? DUNNO.  C[hec]K.
9 Canaries perhaps shrewd changing goalie — first of penalties held (11)
ARCHIPELAGO – ARCH, (GOALIE*) ‘changing’, P ‘held’.
10 Religious festival from the east is long (3)
DIE – EID is the festival. This was one of those annoying clues where I felt one could defend either EID or DIE as the answer. Luckily, a glance at 7dn was enough to resolve the dilemma.
11 Published workfor audiobook, it may be turned down (6)
VOLUME – double definition, the second a little cryptic.
12 Flawed character broadcasting on the air (8)
ANTIHERO – ‘broadcasting’ (ON THE AIR*). A nice clue: ‘broadcasting’ and ‘on the air’ both had me looking for homophonic wordplay.
14 Very absent-minded, perhaps, badly singe butts in failure to move? (13)
INTRANSIGENCE – IN TRANCE with (SINGE*) ‘badly’ ‘butting in’.
17 Freaking out, affected by grass (5-8)
PANIC-STRICKEN – double definition, the second cryptic and referring to panic, a grass I’ve only ever met in crosswords.
21 Surplus trouser pockets superficially attractive (8)
LUSTROUS – hidden answer.
23 Horse getting into pen to roll around on ground (6)
WRITHE – H for horse in WRITE.
25 Blade decapitated pig (3)
OAR – [b]OAR is the pig.
26 Guardian's role beyond 2020? (11)
SUPERVISION – 20/20 is the standard for normal vision. ‘Beyond 2020’ must surely be better!
27 Politician captivated by Head of French resistance, one making attractive offer (7)
TEMPTER – MP in TETE (French for ‘head’), then R for resistance.
28 Busy preparing for match? (7)
ENGAGED – double definition, to do with phones or weddings.

1 Staff maintaining right to deprive of food (6)
STARVE – R in STAVE. I’ve seen this recently in another puzzle.
2 Sick, I take taxi, laid up — by these? (7)
BACILLI – ILL, I, CAB all ‘laid up’ (i.e. backwards, in this down clue).
3 Foolish keeping mum, in a manner of speaking (9)
4 Fallen woman sinking to new level (4)
EVEN – EVE, N[ew].
5 Policeman sceptical of outside agency helping solve problems (10)
DIAGNOSTIC – DI (detective inspector), AGNOSTIC.
6 One complains to the top woman (5)
NAOMI – I MOAN ‘to the top’ (i.e. backwards, in this down clue). Naomi appears so regularly, ‘complain’ is enough to make us look out for her.
7 Familiar address in historic Lima? (3,4)
OLD BEAN – self explanatory.
8 Fall vegetable may be produced by this (4,4)
KEEL OVER – if ‘leek’ is the vegetable, ‘keel over’ could be a (rather easy) cryptic clue for it.
13 Cobbler's materials required for carpenter's farewell (4,6)
LAST SUPPER – cobblers use lasts, and one might have a cobbler for supper I presume. Is there more to this? Since it’s Easter, it’s clear which carpenter is meant! On edit: I like Paul's suggestion in the first comment, that cobbler's materials are lasts and uppers. Thanks!
15 Energy and skill embodied by man who's pre-eminent in motor sport (2-7)
GO-KARTING – energy is GO, skill is ART, to be inserted in KING.
16 Explain what temporary release from prison will mean? (5,3)
SPELL OUT – another double definition, the second cryptic.
18 Preferred treatment answering question as to whether one should pluck? (7)
NOSTRUM – should I pluck? No, NO, STRUM, please!
19 Zero marking when first piece of homework’s put in (7)
NOTHING – H from homework in NOTING.
20 A drink and a nap (6)
PERNOD – PER (for a … ), NOD.
22 I'll interrupt break to take over? (5)
24 At last felt regret to be genuine (4)
TRUE – T from [fel]T, RUE.

Sunday Times Cryptic 4897, by David McLean — That rainy day feeling again

Not only am I (are we) virtually confined to quarters—at best allowed out for a little while each day to STRETCH ONE’S LEGS—but my ancient printer has decided to die on me, so I haven’t been able to print out any puzzles for a few days. I’ll buy a new printer, soon, and have it delivered (which will take longer than usual), but in the meantime I’m going to have to try an app or two. Besides catching up with the Times, I have to work two new ones—as a test solver—by Joshua and Henri, the former creators of the Nation puzzle, whose new Patreon website, “Out of Left Field,” premiered on April 1. It will be good to be able to curl up with a puzzle again, even if it has to be on my phone.

I remember this excellent offering as posing no big problems, a steady, enjoyable solve. I counted at least three little pigs (at least two of them related to mendacity), in 11, 2 and 4. Since 4 also has HOG in the answer, you could maybe count that as four porcine appearances. But then there’s also (suivez mon regard)…

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

 1 Sick of being rained on? (5,3,7)
UNDER THE WEATHER — With a literal interpretation of the figure of speech
 9 Fiery bird Ovid originally dismissed (7)
FLAMING — ”flamingo” minus the O starting “Ovid”
10 Totally incompetent celebrity (7)
11 Porky dog needs to be picked up (4)
TALE — Shortened form of the Cockney Rhyming Slang “porky pie” for “lie”; “dog” in the sense of “tail”
12 Over time, no real man dances for show (10)
ORNAMENTAL — Tell that to Mick Jagger! (no real man)* taking T(ime)
13 One spotted adulterer in conversation (7)
CHEETAH — ”Cheater”
15 Character in record store close to Bonn (7)
EPSILON — EP, “record” + SILO, “store” + [-Bon]N
17 Draw a model-type that’s a bundle of nerves (7)
ATTRACT — A + T (one of the historic Ford car models) + TRACT, “bundle of nerves”; “that’s” is merely connective tissue.
19 Treat flying saucer with bit of scepticism (7)
DISCUSS — I certainly would… DISCUS, “flying saucer” + S[-cepticism]
20 Most ostentatious criminal steals ship (10)
SPLASHIEST — (steals ship)* On reflection, this may be my COD, a smashing anagram.
22 Country fellow swaps daughter for piano! (4)
CHAD — The country name in question becomes a word for “fellow”—“chap”—if you trade the D(aughter) for P(iano). This threw me at first, because when you trade A for B, A is what you have and B is what you get in return, but it’s not the “fellow” who is doing the swapping.
25 Unforgettable air of war Rome aroused (7)
EARWORM — (war Rome)*
26 Good-natured female taken in by a story (7)
27 Longer chess test arranged as exercise (7,4,4)
STRETCH ONES LEGS — (Longer chess test)*

 1 Ill-equipped force brigade encircles (5)
 2 Seriously, pork pies and Tango can be most toxic (9)
DEADLIEST — DEAD, “Seriously” + LIES (“pork pies” again!) + T(ango, NATO alphabet) I had a MER at the definition for DEAD here, but I think “Seriously” like DEAD can be used as an intensifier; “dead easy” is an example in Collins.
 3 Check about bar closing earlier than usual (4)
REIN — RE, “about” + IN[-n]
 4 Painter painting in pig and horse (7)
HOGARTH — HOG, “pig” + ART, “painting” + H(orse)
 5 Hopeful embargo will be lifted in fall (7)
WANNABE — WAN(BAN<=“lifted”)E
 6 Lock tackled by expert southern players (9)
 7 Some pious types get into this addiction (5)
 8 Bearded tits led singer astray (9)
REEDLINGS — (led singer)* Heretofore unknown bird, easy anagram
13 Egalitarian conservative girl? Not so much! (9)
14 Fun follows after Queen punches brown bear (9)
TRANSPORT — I’d like to see that! T(R)AN + SPORT, “fun”
16 A huge ball thrown for comic (9)
LAUGHABLE — (A huge ball)*
18 Hit Republican leader hard around lunchtime? (7)
TRIUMPH — That’s I, or 1, PM surrounded by the name of a politician that I will not spell out here (I was really hoping it was Teddy Roosevelt), and ending in H(ard).
19 Belittle one’s lawyer during row (7)
DISDAIN — D(I’S)(DA)IN Slight cognitive dissonance here, as DISDAIN means to feel (or the feeling) that something or someone is beneath one, to have contempt for it or them, whereas to “belittle” generally means to express such a feeling, to present something in a derogatory light.
21 One likely to bait lake and two rivers (5)
LURER — L + URE + R In reference to Times Cryptic 27632, Jackkt remarked, “I consider ‘lurer’ a bit of a dodgy agent noun anyway; it’s in Collins but the Oxfords and Chambers have no truck with it,” and here I am a concurrer.
23 Get into gear and drive East with sons (5)
DRESS — DR, “drive” + E(ast) + SS, two “sons”
24 American takes out nobles, not Tory leader (4)
OFFS — [-t]OFFS I wasn’t aware that the term was a specifically US usage.