December 31st, 2020

Linus van Pelt
  • z8b8d8k

27862 Thursday, 31 December 2020 And so, the end is near...

I went to 18.27 with this one, hampered at the last by a misplaced letter in a crossing clue which made the author at 10 cross impossible to work out. Once sorted, the guy was familiar enough. There’s a decent balance of lightweight arts and sciences stuff, though some of the geography might give pause for solvers.
We’re gearing up to celebrate the passing of the old year embraced in a version of tier 4 that has got some extra bits included, such that locally kids will not be returning to school next week. Epping Forest district rarely manages to be top of anyone’s league, but apart from Basildon it has achieved that unwanted greatness, and the stay indoors advice does at least seem to be both necessary and heeded. From behind closed doors I wish you as fine a hogmanay as can be managed, and the very sincere wish that 2021 will bring early liberation and wellbeing.
Meanwhile, here’s my analysis of a decent enough gentle stroll of a puzzle, with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS

1 Can’t hope to change something in Whitehall (8)
CENOTAPH The Whitehall example of an “empty tomb” is the focus for the annual Remembrance Parade, with wreath laying by the great, good and ordinary.  It was briefly under threat of vandalism by the iconoclasts of anti-slavery and anti-empire movements. It’s designed by Edward Lutyens and built of Portland stone, but for our purposes the setter asks us to construct one by change-ing CAN’T HOPE
9 Naive, taking no coin to pub (8)
INNOCENT The pub is an INN, to which you take 0 (no) CENT (coin).
10 Author’s appeal to remain (8)
SALINGER JD of that family, responsible for Catcher in the Rye. Appeal is S(ex) A(ppeal) and remain LINGER
11 Stop-go manoeuvre in snow (4,4)
STEM TURN “A turn performed by stemming one ski and bringing the other ski down parallel with it”. Obviously. Anyway, stop gives STEM , and go gives TURN, as in it’s your go to roll the dice.
12 St Paul’s type, perhaps, man racked with tension (10)
MINNESOTAN It helps if you know where St Paul is (it’s actually the capital of Minnesota), and ignore the apparent reference to the “least of the Apostles”. Take racked as the anagram indicator, and apply to the letters of MAN and TENSION.
14 Passing mention had effect on nothing (4)
OBIT Cute definition. Had effect BIT attached to 0 (nothing) in the appropriate order
15 Plainly written name in iced cake (2,5)
EN CLAIR N(ame) turns up in the confectionary fashioned from choux pastry, cream and a (usually) chocolate flavoured icing. That’ll be an ECLAIR
17 Poet in turn welcomed by fat cat (7)
LEOPARD The poet you need is Edgar Allen POE, “quoth the raven” and all that. Turn (reverse) him and smother him in LARD for fat.
21 Verse with a line to alter (4)
VARY Simple. Just V(erse) with A R(ailwa)Y line
22 Innovators recycling DNA at grave (5-5)
AVANT GARDE recycling prompts an anagram effort, this time using the letters of DNA AT GRAVE
23 Member of drug squad? No, another branch (5,3)
SPEED COP Well I suppose a policeman detecting drugs might be a speed cop, but a traffic policeman going after motorists going a mile or more PH over the limit certainly would be.
25 Behind this door, books are essential (8)
INHERENT If you are behind this door, you are IN HERE. NT for New Testament is common in these parts for “books”.
26 Shape up to buy a suitcase (3,1,4)
GET A GRIP Wondering if “get a (6?) pack” might be a thing slowed me at this point, but while the GET A is right for “buy a” the suitcase is a GRIP.
27 Avoided players given cards at ground (8)
ESCHEWED Players for our purposes are opponents at bridge, E(ast) and S(outh), then ground provides CHEWED

2 Forcing payment without a fight (8)
EXACTION I think this is the version of EX that means without (as in ex dividend) plus ACTION for fight
3 Unusual exam conceals one trap (8)
ORIGINAL  An exam might be an ORAL, here “concealing” I (one) GIN (trap)
4 Old ship’s slow movement leaving loch (4)
ARGO We had L for Loch a couple of days ago, and here it I again instead of the more common Lake. It leaves LARGO, a musical slow movement to leave Jason’s ship in Greek myth. The golden fleece gig.
5 Woman’s clothes said to be shaggy (7)
HIRSUTE  Sounds very much like HER SUIT and means hairy.
6 Detention of gunman finally in act of disposing of body (10)
INTERNMENT Just take the last letter of gunman, and introduce it to INTERMENT for burial, disposing (neatly) of a body
7 In shadow, exercise without feeling the power in the sun? (8)
PENUMBRA You could pass Geography exams by drawing an illustration of the moon producing a partial eclipse shadow, which is what this is. PE is execise, NUMB is without feeling, and the (Egyptian) power in the sun is RA.
8 Off on holiday here, stuck originally between two short men? (8)
STANSTED For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the M11, in Essex (UK) Stansted is London’s third, fourth or possibly 5th airport mostly used by such as Ryanair, Easyjet and such on holiday flights. S(tuck) (originally) is caught between two random men STAN and TED, both (short) abbreviations.
13 Part of vital passage where island crop is transported (6,4)
SPINAL CORD “Transported” signals an anagram, here of ISLAND CROP. Not wholly convinced by the “vital passage” definition, which is more suggestive of the spinal canal through which the cord passes, but it will have to do. Took ages to stop looking for a trachea or windpipe.
15 Imagine no end of malice against one guru (8)
ENVISAGE Just realised I biffed this. The malice in question is ENVY with no Y end, and one guru is I SAGE
16 Brother briefly security-checked in ship (8)
CORVETTE Setters  take a bit of a liberty in their selection fo exclamations to lead to COR. Here its (o) brother. Sevcurity checked is VETTED, again without its end (briefly)
18 Possible source of Conference’s sparkling repartee (4,4)
PEAR TREE It helps if you know that a Conference (with capital) is a type of pear. Then the sparkling (anagram) of REPARTEE is easy to work out.
19 At a certain angle, church is gleaming (8)
RADIANCE It helped me to remember that a RADIAN is pretty much the same as a degree when measuring angles. Add C(hurch of) E(ngland).
20 Record one bogey at the start holding golfers up — in play, one’s squeezed (7)
BAGPIPE. So, record is EP (extended play), one is I and bogey at the start is B. The golfers are the P(rofessional) G(olfers’) Association. Assemble as instructed and turn the whole lot upside down (“up”)
24 Sweet, part of lunch occasionally? (4)
CHOC Today’s hidden (part of) is in the last clue. Not hard to spot.

Times Quick Cryptic No 1778 by Orpheus

I had one of those frustrating solves - not often a fault of the setter - where you rattle through most of it before getting stuck on the last one or two clues: here I had all but 8ac and 10ac polished off by the 6 minute mark, and then spent half the time again staring at two very gettable clues. Oh yes, and then came the Unlucky! sign thanks to a mis-biffed 11d. Let's hope for a happier new year, and many thanks to Orpheus!

1 Parrot originally making a sound like a crow (5)
MACAW - M ("originally" Making), A, CAW (sound like a crow)
4 Reportedly how one may ill-treat a dog? (7)
WHIPPET - sounds the same (reportedly) as WHIP IT.
8 Heavenly body in need of a man-made hormone (7)
STEROID - aSTEROID (heavenly body) in need of/lacking A
9 Journalist given position in the French city (5)
LEEDS - ED (journalist) given position in LES (the, French)
10 Incident Elgar associated with pomp? (12)
CIRCUMSTANCE - as in Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches. Sometimes helps just to read the words for what they are!
12 Originally living under tree, like a wolf (6)
LUPINE - L U ("Originally" Living Under) PINE (tree)
13 Pulverised earth (6)
GROUND - double definition
16 Ditzy type can test briar, surprisingly (12)
SCATTERBRAIN - anagram (surprisingly) of CAN TEST BRIAR. A briar can be either a prickly wild rose or a pipe made from its root, but the surface is mysterious as to which.
18 Artist is easy at first to uplift (5)
RAISE - RA (artist) IS E (Easy "at first")
20 Guards losing head finding gates, perhaps (7)
ENTRIES - sENTRIES (guards) "losing head"
21 Plant listening device in pub, catching English bête noire (7)
BUGBEAR - BUG (plant listening device in) BAR(pub), catching E(nglish). Originally an evil spirit/creature said to eat naughty children.
22 Astute woman in outskirts of Coventry (5)
CANNY - ANN (woman) in CY ("outskirts" of CoventrY)

1 Extraordinary claims surrounding university entertainment (7)
MUSICAL - anagram (extraordinary) of CLAIMS surrounding U(niversity)
2 Choosing the best job on the fruit farm? (6-7)
CHERRY-PICKING - double-ish definition
3 Thriller turned out down in hut (9)
WHODUNNIT - anagram (turned out) of DOWN IN HUT
4 Fairly broad bowl used by women’s organisation (6)
WIDISH - DISH (bowl) used by WI (women’s organisation)
5 Unhealthy part of rail link (3)
ILL - "part of" raIL Link
6 What we may have on our mind before work? (13)
7 Throw drunkard over top of seawall (4)
TOSS - SOT (drunkard) over = reversed, S ("top" of Seawall)
11 Boat race oddly grips one — like spectacular flying! (9)
AEROBATIC - anagram (oddly) of BOAT RACE  grips I (one). Fits the definition slightly better than ACROBATIC.
14 Extremely dodgy, unpleasant line of hereditary rulers (7)
DYNASTY - DY ("extremely" DodgY) NASTY (unpleasant)
15 Archdeacon always displaying specious refinement (6)
VENEER - VEN[erable] (Archdeacon) E'ER (always)
17 Caterpillar food? (4)
GRUB - double definition
19 Farm animal the present solver talked of (3)
EWE - talked of = sounds like YOU (the present solver)

Times 27,863: Seafood Diet

Happy New Year! 2021 gets off to a gentle start with this five-minuter (from where I was sitting) - probably best not to risk anything too challenging when people are nursing their hangovers from Hogmanay. I enjoyed the salty sea-creature-y flavour throughout but my favourite clue was probably 26ac for having found persimmon in imprisonment; honourable mention to 18dn, which raises the intriguing possibility that the Times setters could submit pictures of their lockdown manes to us to be judged, Am I Hot Or Not? style. Thanks fetchingly hirsute setter, and as for the rest of you, how's your year going so far?

1 Vigorously hearty drinking by rugby players (12)

8 Negotiator in better condition importing goods (7)
HAGGLER - HALER, "importing" G(ood) G(ood). FOI

9 Criminal's partner from America caught a slug? (7)
MOLLUSC - MOLL US C [criminal's partner | from America | caught]

11 Strength enlivens pirouettes lacking in energy (7)
STAMINA - reversed ANIMAT{e}S

12 Duck stores protein regularly in type of feather (7)
TERTIAL - TEAL "stores" {p}R{o}T{e}I{n}

13 Fateful date: the 6th of August, to be specific (2,3)
ID EST - IDES + {augus}T

14 Miss Roman cutting short boring appeal (9)
SIGNORINA - IGNORIN{g} "boring" S.A.

16 Side with marks, ripe bananas showing surface (9)

19 Lover ultimately may be represented thus? (5)
ROMEO - the last letter of lover is R, which is Romeo in the phonetic alphabet

21 Old restaurant keeping cold fish out (7)
EXTRACT - EX TRAT "keeping" C

23 Fabled island, not island with a city, abroad (7)
ATLANTA - ATLANT{is} with A. For some definitions of "abroad"

24 Eric leaving spice and cooking ingredient in chaos (7)

25 Terror regarding painting technique (7)
IMPASTO - IMP [(little) terror] AS TO

26 Diced persimmon in new tin getting put in can (12)

1 Pride, perhaps, in a relegation six-pointer? (3,4)
BIG GAME - double def: lions, or something mystifying to do with crucial sportsball fixtures

2 In Paris, it’s wrapping bad back for player (7)
CELLIST - C'EST "wrapping" reversed ILL

3 A grass runs wild, problem growth in the main (9)
SARGASSUM - (A GRASS*) + SUM. Initially I thought the problem was an SOS

4 University supporting case of assisted grant (5)
ADMIT - MIT [university, though some readers may vociferously disagree], supporting A{ssiste}D

5 Capital of China — Rome, strangely? (7)
PALERMO - PAL + (ERMO*). Capital of Sicily

6 Around Uist's edge, catch isle's sea creatures (7)
NAUTILI - around U{is}T, NAIL I

7 One's wearing simple pieces, time for dressing down? (12)

10 Protocol laboratories will show fellow worker (12)
COLLABORATOR - hidden in {proto}COL LABORATOR{ies}

15 Development, say, around transport hub (9)

17 When schools are open, including one for acting? (7)
INTERIM - IN TERM, "including" I

18 With hair swept back, Times compilers' charm (7)
ENAMOUR - reversed MANE + OUR

19 Run, pass and turn poorly again (7)

20 Rubbish I send, filling empty Microsoft Outlook (7)
MINDSET - (I SEND*) "filling" M{icrosof}T. LOI

22 Relations picked up tea and other drinks (5)
TALES - T as a homophone of TEA, + ALES

Monthly Club Special 20,243: Strange Currencies

Very hard indeed, but very good indeed, and quite an education in obscure currencies from all around the globe. COD to the ingenious Italianate stylings of 4ac, but I also very much liked À LA GOY in 10ac even if YOGALATES sounds rather too much like hard work. Many thanks to the setter for seeing out my 2020 on a high, and here's to twelve more amazing CMSes in 2021!

1 Conserve and start to grow short evergreen tree (5)
JAMBU - JAM [conserve] + BU{d} [start to grow, "short"]

4 A siciliana could include this, con potenza (ma non forte) (8)
SCAMORZA - SCAM [con] + {f}ORZA [potenza, minus F{orte}]

8 Opium fiend’s letter in early hours with Arab account (14)

10 It may make one fit regressive group, not in Jewish style? (9)
YOGALATES - SET À LA GOY, all reversed

11 Duke from Transcaucasia, mostly a shocking one? (5)

12 Joburg city has oddly banished African rhino (6)
OUGIYA - {j}O{b}U{r}G {c}I{t}Y {h}A{s}. The currency of Mauritania

14 Note a sporting partner aboard Boston trolley for service? (3,5)
TEA WAGON - TE A WAG ON [note | a | sporting partner | aboard]

17 Stop benefit withdrawn by two male relatives (8)
DIAPASON - reversed AID + PA and SON

18 Some carp about editorial my young men set in stone? (6)
KOUROI - KOI about OUR [editorial my]

20 See returns, by being hedged, briefly ineligible for bonus (2,3)
EX DIV - reversed VIDE "hedging" X [by]

22 Scottish shellfish company hosts testing site, near complete (6-3)
CLABBY-DOO - CO "hosts" LAB BY DO [testing site | near | complete]

24 Short story from Volume One that follows artist keeping duplicate of empty ink case (5-5-4)
RIKKI-TIKKI-TAVI - V1 that follows RA "keeping" I{n}K KIT twice

25 French food standard broken by plant’s abnormal growth with hard wood (8)
AGALLOCH - AOC "broken" by GALL + H(ard)

26 Holyrood’s somewhat revolutionary blackballer as an illustration (5)
GEYAN - reversed NAY E.G. [blackballer | as an illustration]

1 Suitor embracing daughter’s after wee supper alone in Perth (5,7)
JIMMY WOODSER - WOOER "embracing" D'S after JIMMY (Riddle). A solo drinker in Australian parts

2 How one works on garment for Lassie? (5)

3 Winter festival organised à la Yule around hostelry (2-5-2)
UP-HELLY-AA - (A LA YULE*) "around" PH

4 Points in Ascension Island necessary for southern islanders (6)
SENITI - reversed TINES [points "in ascension"] + I. Currency in Tonga

5 Groups influenced by media hoarded after promotion of last shop’s opening (8)
AD-MASSES - AMASSED with its last (letter) "promoted", + S{hop}

6 Topsy-turvy Home Office drama continued (5)
ONNED - reversed DEN NO [home office | drama]

7 Take a new tack to stop decline in zirconium and silver coin (9)
ZWANZIGER - ZIG [take a new tack] "stopping" WANE [decline], in ZR. Former Austrian currency

9 Kind and polite male descendant entertaining current Scotsman (12)
GRANDISONIAN - GRANDSON "entertaining" I, + IAN. From a Samuel Richardson novel

13 Gum doctor now on top of gingiva: this keeps another band in place (5,4)
GUARD RING - GUAR DR IN [gum | doctor | now] on G{ingiva}

15 What person, objectively flash, is causing disorder in the country? (9)
WHOMBLING - WHOM BLING. Nothing to do with the Wombles of Wimbledon apparently

16 As soon as inside court, against brilliant turn of phrase (8)
CONCETTO - ONCE "inside" CT, + TO

19 Arabic city runs out of old money from Helsinki Hotel (6)
MAKKAH - MA{r}KKA + H(otel)

21 Indian ambassador related losing base in variant reading (5)
VAKIL - AKI{n} in VL [varia lectio]

23 Pet needs area for centre of attack (5)
DEARY - take DE{C}RY [attack] and replace its centre with A(rea)