September 5th, 2021

The Sunday Times Cryptic Crossword Book 1

I’m delighted to tell you that the first book of ST cryptic crosswords since 2006 was published on Thursday - cover price £6.99.

Not long after starting at the Sunday Times, I asked Harper Collins about the possibility of restarting the cryptic crossword books (or others), but the answer then was no thanks.  And to be fair, with at least one book of both Times cryptic and jumbo crosswords each year, they had plenty. There was some change of heart a few years ago, with a request for a book of our concise crosswords. After three of those and two of the general knowledge ones, the one I wanted most is here at last.  It has 100 puzzles, mainly from 2011 and 2012, but with 5 five puzzles each for the setters who started after 2012, so that the last part of the book represents the current team.

The biggest challenge was my attempt at the “beginner’s guide to cryptic crosswords” content which appears in the similar Times books. I wangled some extra pages for my version of this, but still struggled to squeeze in everything I wanted to say.

One note for those who produce the puzzle indexes for books here: you don’t need to bother — the introductory content recommends looking at the blog reports as help for beginners, and includes a puzzle index showing the original number and publication date for each puzzle.

  • glheard

Mephisto 3183 - Paul McKenna

Greetings barred-grid fans!

Tricky workout from Paul McKenna this week - a few clues with multiple components and a 90-degree grid which led to some answers being fully-checked, but the 12-letter entries all having three unchecked letters.  It was a rare example of me completing the top row pun as a part of solving the puzzle, since I got 4 across at a first reading, and there was an obvious word to complete the pun on NON SEQUITURS

In Mephisto puzzles, definitions (the most direct of which is underlined) can be confirmed in Chambers so I will focus on wordplay here.

Away we go...

1 Quondam top pigeon (3)
NUN - tricky double definition - a NUN can be a spinning top, and a type of pigeon.
4 ____ in southeast are involved with cuts (9)
SECATEURS - anagram of SE(southeast), ARE and CUTS
11 Sweet talk tart, foolish sort short on deceit (7)
FLANNEL - FLAN, then NELLIE(foolish sort) minus LIE(deceit)
12 Store on disc legal document or the equivalent in return (7, two words)
WRITE TO - WRIT(legal document) and OTE(or the equivalent) reversed
13 Oh to hold centre-half in persistent pain (4)
ACHY - AY(Oh) containing CH(centre-half)
14 Right before food stuck into Scots supplement for chuckie? (6)
EIRACK - R(right), AC(ante cibum, before food) inside EIK(Scots version of EKE, supplement). Chuckie is a small hen.
15 The Devil is behind European law degree (5)
EBLIS - IS after E(European) BL (Bachelor of Law)
17 Work up lather and put one in a wide-awake state (12, three words)
18 Process of disengaging clapped out trailer (7)
RETIRAL - anagram of TRAILER
23 Previously bullied having wheels punctured by one (7)
TYRANED - TYRED(having wheels), containing AN(one)
24 Backing one Rector up beat international chorus making moral (12)
PURITANISING - reverse I(one), R(Rector) UP then TAN(beat), I(international) SING(chorus)
26 Those of an inferior sort body-swerving good old hostel (5)
ENTRY - GENTRY(those of an inferior sort) missing G. I don't think I've seen "body-swerving" as a deletion indicator before
27 Lord! A party returned Hislop, for example (6)
ADONAI - A DO(party) then a reversal of IAN Hislop. At the time I couldn't remember where I knew that name from, but he wrote a lot for Private Eye in the 80s.
29 Tincture or a material used by Lock & Co, et al (4)
SOLA - SOL(tincture of god, sence or) and A. Thanks to Midas for clearing up a little group confusion.
30 Sharing a parent’s computer I network in limited scope (7)
UTERINE - hidden inside compUTER I NEtwork
31 Most calm prime of womenkind beside comfy home (7)
EVENEST - EVE(prime of womenkind) next to NEST(comfy home)
32 Primate’s reach ain’t appointed (9)
33 Flesher’s dead meat is close to rank (and for les bouchers?) (3)
KET - last letter of ranK, then ET(and in French). Another Scots word indicated by a Scots term for butcher
1 We’re one up playing some states from the east (9, two words)
NEW EUROPE - anagram of WE'RE ONE UP
2 Stupidly ruin a word for less mature? (7)
UNRIPER - anagram of RUIN, then PER(a)
3 National broadcast for some Keralans (4)
NAIR - N(national), AIR(broadcast)
4 Mephisto, eg, is natural when rising (5)
SATAN - NAT(natural) and AS(when) all reversed
5 I could feasibly make letter copy well? (12)
ELECTROTYPER - a nice all in one - anagram of LETTER,COPY then ER(well?)
6 Single embracing friend? No, without anybody as it as was (7)
ALONELY - ONE(single) inside ALLY(friend)
7 Be diligent about appropriate apparent outing at work? (12, four words)
TAKE A PRIDE IN - TAKE(appropriate), AP(apparent), RIDE(outing), IN(at work)
8 Sanction overturning misery that’s in plea (6)
ENABLE - a little stuck on the wordplay here - i think it is BANE(misery) reversed, then and then the middle letters in pLEa, but that seems awkward
9 Relative before being grubby (7)
UNCLEAN - UNCLE(relative) AN(before)
10 Cunning owl leaving leisurely (3)
SLY - SLOWLY(leisurely) missing OWL
16 Most heavy sod, it gets rotavated (9)
19 Biting rent in an open case full of sweet bits? (7)
TARTLET - TART(biting), LET(rent)
20 Only just about accepted pressure in can (7, three words)
AT A PUSH - A(about), then A(accepted), P(pressure) inside TUSH(can, American for rear end)
21 Hardship in western port when zone is closed off (7)
PENANCE - the western port is PENZANCE, remove Z(zone)
22 Ferocious fish set up an absolute slaughter (6)
PIRANA - AN, A(absolute), RIP(slaughter) all reversed
25 Rail is very much supported by port of entry (5)
SOREE - SORE(very much) and the left(port) letter of Entry
28 Rob can bust with deuce! (4)
NICK - four definitions - steal(rob), jail(can), arrest(bust) and the devil(deuce)
29 Dry secretary’s party dumping it (3)
SEC - two definitions and a wordplay - dry as of wine, abbreviation for secretary, and SECT(party) minus 'T(it)

Sunday Times 4970 by Dean Mayer

24:28. I found this really tough, and absolutely brilliant. Going back over the clues to write the blog none of it seems desperately hard, but I was thoroughly fooled by some of the misdirection. Great stuff, thanks very much to Dean and here’s how I think it all works.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (TIHS)*, anagram indicators are in italics.

1 Sounded loud in Germany
FATHOMED - F (loud), AT HOME (in), D (Deutschland, Germany).
6 Thus spies left party
9 Wind up with a closing passage
CODA - COD (hoax, wind-up), A.
10 Fellow in tie carrying book
11 Cavern reached when crossing river
12 Ditch and a river with two channels
13 Agency plan to retain English Bible
INTERVENTION - INT(E, RV)ENTION. RV = Revised Version, not to be confused with a recreational vehicle. I found this definition a bit odd, but Lexico has ‘action or intervention producing a particular effect’, and gives the example ‘canals carved by the agency of running water’. I still find it a bit odd (can running water really be said to ‘intervene’?), but I’ll have to take my complaint up with the Oxford lexicographers.
16 Convict escapes, bars open, risk uncertain?
19 Turkey is part of this region in retreat
21 Great band on the radio?
AIRING - AI RING. A definition by example – since it could also be on the TV – indicated by the question mark.
22 Cabin not used by Captain Hook
ROUNDHOUSE - a bit of an odd one this. A ROUNDHOUSE is ‘a cabin on the quarterdeck of a sailing ship’ but I can’t find any evidence that it isn’t (or is) typically used by the captain. But the device is very clever. A ROUNDHOUSE is also a hook in the sense of a type of punch.
23 To work soil
24 Talking without interruption? Shut up!
INTERN - sounds like ‘in turn’. If you speak in turn, you don’t interrupt one another. Very neat.
25 Heavy chain carried by tennis player
HENCHMAN - Tim HEN(CH)MAN. ‘Chain’ here is a unit of length equal to 22 yards (Gunter’s chain) or 100 feet (engineer’s chain).
2 A way to hold a scarf on
3 Well, just pay for it
HEALTH INSURANCE - CD. If you’re well, you don’t use this, you just pay for it.
4 Second time to stuff cushion, usually
5 Appeal to stop building tower
DRAWBAR - DRAW (appeal), BAR. ‘Building’ here is just a link word.
6 Wise person, I’ll see you shortly
SOLON - SO LONg. Solon was an Athenian statesman and the word means a sage or wiseacre according to the OED.
7 Qualify with equal score?
8 Autocrat, possibly one initiating operation
14 Enthusiasm keeps injured one in battle
EL ALAMEIN - ELA(LAME, I)N. I was a bit surprised by this definition of ELAN too, but Lexico to the rescue again: ‘energy, style, and enthusiasm’. Collins has a definition more in line with what I would expect – ‘style and vigour’ – but includes ‘enthusiasm’ as one of the definitions in its American edition.
15 Worry about oriental private capital
FREETOWN - FRE(E)T, OWN. Capital of Sierra Leone.
17 Gag about South African guy’s perfect shot?
RETOUCH - RET(OU)CH. OU, a South African term for a man, is a bit Mephistosih. The ‘shot’ here is a photograph.
18 Crashed again with learner in old Ford
20 Like a producer of egg white