May 1st, 2020

verlaine

Monthly Club Special 20,235: A Stroll In The Woods

I thought this puzzle made for a strong counterargument against those who think that the MCS is an unnecessary exercise in wilful difficulty and obscurity. Yes, there was a handful of Scots dialect, and a few "hard" words are 24ac, 25ac, 2dn and 13dn - but all of the latter were totally gettable from crossers via the normal-strength wordplay. Many of the other clues wouldn't have been too far out of place in a 15x15 - maybe not all at the same time - but the point is they're all good, solid, inventive constructions, with maybe just one extra layer of "stuff you have to think a bit about" to them.

COD goes without hesitation to 20dn for its utterly brilliant use of "spaff" as an anagram indicator; but construction of the day to 1dn's "with secondary deductions", an amazing spot for a seemingly hard-to-clue word like SCHIZOTYPY indeed. My hat, as ever, off to the setter!

ACROSS
1 Destroyer in a lake overlooked by spit (4)
SIVA - take S{al}IVA [spit], and have it overlook A L. Siva the Hindu destroyer deity, part of a trinity with Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver.

3 Scot’s variation in complexion if recently perplexed (10)
FERNYTICLE - (IF RECENTLY*). This is just a Scots word for a "freckle". Does that count as an "obscure foreign word clued by an anagram"? keriothe would know. I will say that deciding where to put the non-crossing letters without looking things up was particularly difficult in this case and, reader, I looked things up.

9 Partially privatise hospital conception system, getting around contrary opponent (4,3)
HIVE OFF - H + IVF [in vitro fertilisation = conception system] around reversed FOE. First one in, as IVF came to mind quickly.

11 The creature I spotted in greasy spoon was a louse (7)
CAITIFF - IT I [the creature | I] in CAFF. Second one in, as it had to be CAFE or similar.

12 Faith in Spanish retailer of clothing, so svelte with small inset (13)
ZARATHUSTRISM - ZARA THUS TRIM, with S "inset"

14 Platter with food originally banned in strict diet (5)
TRAYF - TRAY + F{ood}. The opposite, I believe, of kosher.

15 One rarely takes action against head demon? (9)
IMPLEADER - or IMP LEADER. As suggested, a rare word for one taking (legal) action.

17 Strait-laced person adopts uncertain expression to hold over French conciliator (9)
PRUDHOMME - PRUDE "adopts" HMM "holding" O. I had assumed this was a historical Prudhomme such as Louis-Marie or Sully, not stopping to worry about what exactly they might have conciliated. But I was wrong! A prud'homme is, in France, "a member of a board for settling labour disputes".

19 Classically elegant trellis with sides lopped (5)
ATTIC - {l}ATTIC{e}

21 Weber composed Erika with discordant framing in unspeakable style? (13)
JAWBREAKINGLY - WB + (ERIKA*) "framed" by JANGLY. I think a jawbreaker here is just a word hard to pronounce, rather than something that renders you unable to speak by actively breaking your jaw! Most setters are peaceable sorts after all.

24 Yoghurty drink US hacker smuggled into satellite (7)
MADZOON - ADZ in MOON. This is popular in Armenia, apparently. My first crack at an answer to this clue resulted in IAXMANO, which sounds tasty to me but is sadly not actually found anywhere.

25 Beside Devon river, nine shrubs needing little water (7)
TAMARIX - TAMAR + IX. Trust the wordplay!

26 Sets out anew, going over mountain face in second year (10)
REDISPLAYS - reversed ALP SIDE [mountain | face] in S YR

27 Men from S Africa’s classic race given voice (4)
OKES - homophone of OAKS, a flat horse race run at Epsom Downs, maybe even a race in Kentucky too.

DOWN
1 Such is zloty, pay with secondary deductions leads to mild disorder (10)
SCHIZOTYPY - S{u}CH I{s} Z{l}OTY P{a}Y. An inventive cluing device!

2 Examination to check stray civet (7)
VIVERRA - VIVA "checks" ERR. Again, trust in the straightforward wordplay!

4 Performed badly, cut up about pet, one producing stink (9)
EFFLUVIUM - MUFFE{d} reversed about LUV I [pet | one]

5 Turn weak, entering constant darkness up north (5)
NICHT - reverse THIN, then enter C [the immutable speed of light]

6 Short slip with US volume on radical Islam’s Semitic feature (13)
TRILITERALISM - TRI{p} + LITER + (ISLAM*). So this is a feature of Semitic languages where words have roots of three consonants. (Trust the wordplay.)

7 “Vital energy connected to river/sea”, local tweeted (7)
CHIRMED - CHI + R MED. Not CHIRRED as I originally essayed, but fortunately there was a helpful crosser here. My dictionary app doesn't actually list this as regional, but it's certainly not that normal, is it?

8 Top-to-bottom change in personality needed for Shakespearean tangles (4)
ELFS - Take SELF [personality] and put the top letter to the bottom. Think elf-locks.

10 Safe inversion of Sondheim show? (3,2,3,5)
OUT OF THE WOODS - The Sondheim musical being, of course, "Into The Woods".

13 Experiencing pain when wearing undergarment with raised boundary and short line of symmetry (10)
BRACHYAXIS - I saw ACHY in BRA at once, but needs some crossers to see that "raised boundary" was not MIR or MEH but a reversed cricketing SIX.

16 Composition of doggerel from Old French and in Danish, say (9)
POETASTRY - O ET [old | French "and"] in PASTRY

18 Fresh university location for Newark and even parts of Land’s End (7)
UNJADED - U + NJ [location for (America's) Newark] + {l}A{n}D{s} E{n}D

20 UK right to spaff money overseas (7)
TUGHRIK - (UK RIGHT*). As all quiz list-learners will know, the tug(h)rik is the currency of Mongolia and made up, somewhat mercilessly, of 100 mongos.

22 No end of interest in payment for use of an organ (5)
RENAL - REN{t}AL [payment for use], subtracting the last letter of {interes}T.

23 Perth’s wet weather in which spirits must be kept up (4)
SMUR - reversed RUMS. As so often in these things, this is Perth in Scotland, not the Antipodes.

Quick Cryptic 1604 by Teazel

This was a somewhat odd concoction. Heavy on the double definitions and with quite a few clunky parsings. Can't say I found it easy at 11 minutes.


Across
1 Packed, to be on the safe side (2,4)
IN CASE - double definition
4 Charm of mummy’s bed (6)
MASCOT -  MA'S + COT
8 Maybe phrase looks wrong on page (7)
PERHAPS - anagram ('looks wrong') of PHRASE added to P for page
10 Communist rejected by town (5)
DERBY - RED backwards + BY
11 Leading, and winning by this margin? (5)
AHEAD - A horse can win a race by a head.
12 Meat cooking in ovens (7)
VENISON - anagram ('cooking') of IN OVENS
13 Tomb’s dreadful curse — help! (9)
SEPULCHRE - anagram ('dreadful') of CURSE HELP
17 Pressure by chief barrister presenting case (7)
PLEADER - P + LEADER
19 Stop running and stand in the market (5)
STALL - double definition
20 Opens mouth, but runs out of fruit (5)
GAPES - G[r]APES
21 A bit depressed, having inflammation (7)
WHITLOW - WHIT + LOW. A fingertip infection usually caused by Herpes Simplex I
22 Large fish seen in Gibraltar pond (6)
TARPON - hidden word GibralTAR PONd
23 Not so bad, I’ll wager (6)
BETTER - double definition

Down
1 Given a role, still on the field (2,4)
IN PLAY - double definition
2 Cleaner, one in tears after reprimands (6,7)
CARPET SWEEPER - CARPETS (reprimands) + WEEPER
3 Such a comic not suitable for sitcom? (5-2)
STAND-UP - Not sure how to describe this. A weak pun.
5 University opens a study for poet (5)
AUDEN - A DEN with U inside
6 Dancers lie at first in bed, pectorals rippling (5,2,6)
CORPS DE BALLET -  anagram ('rippling') of BED PECTORALS with L inside
7 Judging is exasperating (6)
TRYING - double definition
9 Son has a nasty argument: he may be suited here (6,3)
SAVILE ROW - S + A VILE ROW. Street in London famed for its tailors
14 Hotel is extraordinarily unfriendly (7)
HOSTILE - anagram ('extraordinarily') of HOTEL IS
15 Bung soldier up into position (6)
SPIGOT - GI backwards inserted into SPOT
16 Blossom beginning to fall down (6)
FLOWER - F + LOWER
18 Party food is cold? Not entirely (5)
DISCO - hidden word: fooD IS COld
verlaine

Times Cryptic Jumbo 1434: Operation Undersolved

I was happy to have this done inside of 20 minutes - and then submitted to see a dreaded pink square, as I'd submitted with SPILLATE for SPILLAGE for no apparent reason, maybe having taken 56ac a little too much to heart. Life is of course too short to double-check every clue in a Jumbo, so you just shrug your shoulders and move on.

Not overly much to say about the cluing here - I liked the triple def of course and COD to 7ac for being an interesting word that I didn't know! Thanks to the setter, and here's to all our squares and pastures being green henceforwards!

ACROSS
1 Superior agent bringing government security (7,4)
PREMIUM BOND - PREMIUM [superior] + BOND [agent, James, shaken not stirred]

7 Two police informers that could feed many behind bars (6,5)
CANARY GRASS - CANARY and GRASS are both words for police informers; canary grass is grown for birdseed.

13 Past master following surgeon's work, an invasive procedure (9,8)
OPERATION OVERLORD - OVER LORD [past | master] following OPERATION [surgeon's work]

14 Coat in two sizes gaining appreciation (5)
SMEAR - S M [two sizes, small and medium] + EAR [appreciation]

15 Agrees fares, as passenger does (4,2)
GETS ON - triple def

16 What's lost by guru bottling medicine? (8)
SPILLAGE - SAGE bottling PILL, semi-&lit

17 Concert stars from Emirates, heading off abroad (7)
MAESTRI - ({e}MIRATES*) ["abroad"]

19 I invested in second family home minimally well covered (9)
SKINNIEST - I in S KIN NEST

21 Claiming everyone died escaping from border (8)
ALLEGING - ALL + E{d}GING [border, minus D for died]

23 College coach not head of athletics (4)
TECH - TE{a}CH [coach, minus A{thletics}]

25 Tea service, third of plates going west (5)
ASSAM - MASS {pl}A{tes}, entered east to west

27 Turn against one splitting party from the start (2,4)
DE NOVO - reversed V ONE "splitting" DO

28 Jazz musician's men briefly recalled playing piece (4,6)
FATS DOMINO - reversed STAF{f} + DOMINO [playing piece]

30 Issue rebounding sound when phone card's installed (8)
EMISSION - install SIM in NOISE then reverse

31 Get the better of twenty fielders not performing well (5,6,3)
SCORE POINTS OFF - SCORE [twenty] + POINTS [fielders] + OFF [not performing well]

34 Large whisky, say in local producing bad language (6,8)
DOUBLE NEGATIVE - DOUBLE [large whisky] + E.G. in NATIVE

35 Pallid quality a bad sign in clarets, perhaps season's first (8)
WAXINESS - A X in WINES + S{eason}

38 Missile launchers stolen on board with prior support from medic (10)
SLINGSHOTS - HOT [stolen] inside SS, after SLING [support from medic]

40 Particular hamper engineers disposed of (6)
STRICT - RESTRICT [hamper] minus R.E.

41 Right page in incorrect order? (5)
RECTO - hidden in {incor}RECT O{rder}

43 Weeper's last, dying tear (4)
REND - {weepe}R + END

44 Sound measures to seize half Russian's capital (8)
BRUSSELS - BELS [sound measures] "seizing" RUSS{ians}

45 Beguiled consultant's discipline criticised (9)
ENTRAPPED - E.N.T. RAPPED

48 Pizza dish from region east of Golden State (7)
CALZONE - ZONE east of CAL

49 With united soul, wandering like a cloud (8)
CUMULOUS - CUM U (SOUL*)

50 Several hands needed for this dental work (6)
BRIDGE - several hands, as in hands of cards

53 Civet spied in grass, often retreating (5)
FOSSA - hidden reversed in {gr}ASS OF{ten}

54 Centenarian hermit, funny old man of verse (3,7,7)
THE ANCIENT MARINER - (CENTENARIAN HERMIT*)

55 "Loos" misread in translation as more exclusive facilities? (6,5)
LADIES ROOMS - (LOOS MISREAD*), semi-&lit

56 Chance inaccuracy from tabloid (E for I) backing organised party (6,5)
RANDOM ERROR - M{i->E}RROR "backing" RAN DO

DOWN
1 Stars helping to create something groundbreaking (11)
PLOUGHSHARE - PLOUGH [stars] + SHARE [helping]

2 European clubs wearing black kick out (5)
EJECT - E + C "wearing" JET

3 One in a state needing aid on a horse, desperately (7)
IDAHOAN - (AID ON A H*)

4 Within minutes, trunk road's put out of action (4)
MAIM - A1 within M M

5 Tempt with onion crackers, supremely strong (10)
OMNIPOTENT - (TEMPT + ONION*)

6 Unravelling vital code saved Vatican official (6,8)
DEVILS ADVOCATE - (VITAL CODE SAVED*)

7 GPs might welcome these queries regularly during visits (4-4)
CURE-ALLS - {q}U{e}R{i}E{s}, during CALLS

8 Ring through snout a form of restraint (5)
NOOSE - O through NOSE

9 Beginnings of weak energy seen in puniest creatures (9)
RUDIMENTS - DIM E seen in RUNTS

10 Records in diary reflected evangelist's message (6)
GOSPEL - reverse all of EPS in LOG

11 Achievement of a parent full of energy engaged in short flight (1,7,2,4,3)
A FEATHER IN ONES CAP - A FATHER, "full of" E, IN ON ESCAP{e}

12 Homeless aristo given a hearing forthwith (8,3)
STRAIGHT OFF - homophone of STRAY TOFF

18 Convict's singular ambition reduced (4,4)
SEND DOWN - S END DOWN [singular | ambition | reduced]

20 Having started outside, a lion is somehow confined (17)
INSTITUTIONALISED - having INSTITUTED outside, (A LION IS*)

22 Drink that's right during interval? Pop (6)
GRAPPA - R during GAP, plus PA

24 On cruise ship, disheartened, drink more stout (8)
PORTLIER - on LI{n}ER, PORT

26 Dress badly, something actor should never do, we're told (8)
MISALIGN - homophone of MISS A LINE

29 Junior in service reserved bread for nursery breakfast? (7,7)
PRIVATE SOLDIER - PRIVATE [reserved] + SOLDIER [to dip in soft-boiled eggs]

32 Disorganised at home, like philanthropist (2,1,5)
IN A STATE - IN [at home] + AS TATE

33 A fixed silver mounting for gemstones (6)
AGATES - A + reverse all of SET AG

34 Inspector's benevolence, almost total, is shocking (11)
DISGRACEFUL - D.I.'s GRACE + FUL{l}

36 Public official, speech back to front, to support queen (5-6)
SWORD-BEARER - WORDS, with the final letter moved to the font, + BEAR E.R.

37 The unmissable "Sparkling sequin" by prolific author (4,3,3)
SINE QUA NON - (SEQUIN*) + ANON

39 Sprinter runs bearing singlet, one gathers (9)
HARVESTER - HARE R "bearing" VEST

42 American word for depot? (8)
TERMINUS - or TERM IN U.S.

46 Scots town has equipment for stylist wanting all-round trim (7)
AIRDRIE - {h}AIR-DRIE{r}

47 Elevated accountant given exclusive housing as compensation (6)
SOLACE - reversed C.A. "housed" by SOLE [exclusive]

49 Socialist bound by firm principles (5)
CREDO - RED "bound by" CO

51 Thailand's last queen raised money abroad (5)
DINAR - {thailan}D + reversed RANI

52 Bishop put in a flash reading desk (4)
AMBO - B put in A MO