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As is traditional at this time of year, the last Sunday Times puzzle to appear before Christmas is a jumbo, and as is also somewhat traditional at this time of year, it’s a bit of a toughie. However for me this was a puzzle of two halves, the first very straightforward and the second much harder. So although I ended with a sense of having completed something very tough my overall time at 46:27 wasn’t off the scale. The Boxing Day puzzle was much harder.

Whatever the difficulty level I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable challenge, and everything was clear to me in the end. So thanks to Dean and best wishes to him and everyone else for 2019.

Edit: turns out that in spite of everything being clear to me I had an error. Drat.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (THIS)*, anagram indicators like this.

1 Father Christmas’s first year in job with special outfit
PAPACY - PAPA, Christmas, Y. An interesting way of defining the pontiff’s job. It also comes with a nifty company car, and infallibility must come in handy when the annual review comes around.
4 Small chocolate boxes secure small chocolates
9 Preserved wrapping paper that’s accumulated
DRIFTED - DRI(FT)ED. A great misleading definition, which refers to snow.
13 Phenomenon in sky or atmosphere, say
AURORA - sounds like ‘or aura’.
14 Such a campaign, even if successful, isn’t working
16 After Mass, avoid American waterfowl
SHOAL DUCK - I confess I looked this one up before entering it (just to be sure I had everything clear for blogging duty, you understand). ‘Mass’ is not the most helpful definition for SHOAL, and I had never heard of this particular duck. I am familiar with the concept of a shoal as a mass of rock near the surface of a lake that will destroy your motor if you drive over it but that seemed a bit niche in the context of a Times crossword.
17 Musical notes staff sent back to record company
DO-RE-MI - reversal of ROD, EMI.
18 Coloured glass therefore must contain whiskey
SMALTO - S(MALT)O. Another I looked up, conscientious fellow that I am. The wordplay seemed clear but the answer looked unlikely.
21 Tango I’d turned into sensible routine
TRADITIONAL - T, ID reversed inside RATIONAL.
22 Lost the race to rebuild primitive toilet
EARTH-CLOSET - (LOST THE RACE)*. A new term for me but a logical (if not particularly pleasant) alternative to the water closet.
24 Extend Noel after upsetting scandal?
ELONGATE - (NOEL)*, GATE (scandal). Has anyone called the scandalous goings-on at Tesla ELONGATE yet?
25 Where stock is kept for Christmas shopper, you might say?
BYRE - sounds like ‘buyer’.
26 King of Norway liking Louisiana — it’s fine outside
SAINT OLAF - SA(INTO, LA), F. SA is sex appeal, also ‘it’ in crosswords but nowhere else. I didn’t know Norway had had a king who was also a saint but it seemed perfectly possible.
28 Publication, one for Christmas travellers
29 Kindly reach island’s empty temple
31 Garden close to place where thieves gather
EDEN - placE, DEN.
32 Stocking fillers from shop in Soho
PINS - contained in ‘shop in Soho’.
33 They’re partial to fashion shopping
34 It may adversely affect one’s view of last year
STYE - another containment clue, this time in ‘last year’.
36 Not here holding can, so not drinking
37 Topless bar gets TV award
EMMY - jEMMY. A type of crowbar, to be precise.
39 Nanny turns around to feed baby
WET-NURSE - WEE (baby) containing an anagram of TURNS.
42 Tiny animals standing in time machine
TARDIGRADES - TARDI(GRADE)S. Fascinating creatures.
44 My turkey stuffing would be of no culinary use
45 What dove goes over to carry flying mammal.
COLUGO - CO(LUG)O. Knock knock. Who’s there? Doves go. Doves go who? No, silly, doves go coo, not who. (Also works for cows). A COLUGO is a flying lemur, which was news to me.
47 Stream circling power plant
48 See you crossing river with long insect types
TRACHEARA TRACHEATA - T(R, ACHE)ARA. Another word I didn’t know, and which isn’t in any of the dictionaries I have access to at the moment. Collins and Chambers give TRACHEARIA. Edit: it turns out I didn’t know it because it didn’t exist! The answer is in fact TRACHEATA. Not that I knew that either of course. I don’t know why I picked ‘tara’ for ‘see you’: perhaps because it has appeared recently, perhaps because I thought the resulting word looked more likely. ‘Tata’ is a more ‘normal’ choice though..
51 Boxer may want this reason to fight?
BONE OF CONTENTION - a straight definition with a canine cryptic add-on.
52 Advent calendar to be opened outside home — wow!
COMING - Calendar, OMG (oh my god, wow) containing IN.
53 Second present, mum’s new “single white male”, outside
SNOWMAN -S, NOW, MA, N. Nice definition.
54 Without thinking properly, nurses got off
ABSENTLY - AB(SENT)LY. ‘Give me a minute, I just need to get this email off’.
55 Right parts to be bought in spring
VERNAL - VE(R)NAL, where ‘to be bought’ gives VENAL.

1 Wrestles with God when worship is heard
PRAYS - sounds like ‘praise’. I don’t really understand ‘wrestles with God’. Surely wrestling requires some countervailing action from one’s counterpart, and even if you believe in the existence of said counterpart this surely isn’t how praying works.
2 Electronic device for a boy holding paper is real fancy
PERSONAL ORGANISER - PER (for a), SON (boy), (REAL)* containing ORGAN (paper).
3 A Christmas activity alternatively turned into job
CAROLLING - reversal of OR in CALLING (job).
5 Swimsuit on, reasonably concealed by dress
6 After some drinks, see about a song
7 Delay winter — the fire’s out
8 Hard to lance boil? Tinsel might do it
9 One escorted around part of supermarket
DELI - reversal of I, LED. A slightly odd definition in that a supermarket might have a DELI counter, but the word usually refers to a dedicated shop.
10 Wanting revenue, collecting penny rent
11 Minimal air traffic to hold back pilot
TRIAL - contained reversed in ‘minimal air traffic’.
12 Get into party given by Nag’s Head
DON - DO, Nag.
15 Glad tidings from Rome — no suitcases lost!
19 By the way, is this what lacking appreciation means?
OUT OF INTEREST - because appreciation is something that happens to a sum of money if it earns interest.
20 This dancer’s worried about work with female ice skater
CHRISTOPHER DEAN - (THIS DANCER)* containing OP, HER. I am just about old enough to remember Torvill and Dean.
21 Idiotically claim PET short for PET?
THERMOPLASTIC - (CLAIM PET SHORT)*. Polyethylene terephthalate being an example (indicated by the question mark) of this.
23 Mistletoe + friend + an unexpected freedom
26 Divers get warm out of water
27 Wrong shape for mine shaft
UPCAST - UP (wrong, as in ‘what’s up?’), CAST (shape). Another word I didn’t know.
30 They are using the Internet and getting on with it
35 Uproar at home — curry in place of Christmas meal?
38 Old men will keep turning to passion
MOTH-EATEN - M(reversal of TO, HEAT)EN.
40 Where Santa is, and not the welcoming people, oddly
41 Is it going to suggest voting results?
EXIT POLL - I’m not really sure how this is supposed to work. ‘Going’ is a word for EXIT… er I think that’s it.
43 Water flea, possibly an aphid
46 Fast, or primarily slow
LENTO - LENT (fast), Or.
49 Christmas tree decoration made by a new setter
50 I do a portrait
51 Public transport not quite working


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2019 01:22 am (UTC)
Drat! Failed to read one clue properly and entered DO_RE_ME, thus negating 1:41:04 of slog. I had to check lots of obscurities too. Thanks Dean and Keriothe.
Jan. 6th, 2019 03:05 am (UTC)
Isn't that TRACHEATA?
Jan. 6th, 2019 03:06 am (UTC)
Yes - I have just noticed that and edited the blog.
Jan. 6th, 2019 03:10 am (UTC)
I thought that was an awfully quick response! Why don't you erase this exchange?
Jan. 6th, 2019 03:16 am (UTC)
Yes I checked my solution on the club site and was correcting as you were posting. I’ll let the record of my jet lag stand!

Edited at 2019-01-06 03:17 am (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2019 03:19 am (UTC)
NHO SHOAL DUCK, NHO UPCAST, NHO TARDIGRADES, and couldn't think of anything useful from the wordplays. Also DNK MONOKINI, C. DEAN, SILVER SURFERS, SMALTO, & COLUGO, but managed to work those out. It was nice to see 'my' (44ac) not meaning COR for once. The only flying mammals I can think of are bats; colugos, and flying squirrels, glide. Lots of fun, as always with Dean, DNF notwithstanding.
Jan. 6th, 2019 03:29 am (UTC)
I suspect I lucked out with SHOAL DUCK and Dean just had in mind a SHOAL/mass of fish or people. On reflection this seems a bit loose. Similarly ‘standing’ for GRADE is a bit oblique, so I was lucky to know the creatures. I have watching Octonauts with my kids to thank for that, although I think they called them water bears.
Jan. 6th, 2019 07:58 am (UTC)
FWIW, Oxford Dictionary of English has "shoal" as "British informal A large number of people or things"
Jan. 6th, 2019 08:17 am (UTC)
Yes I did see that. I still think this is a bit of a three-point turn in the dictionary!
Jan. 6th, 2019 09:30 am (UTC)
Gliding is flying Kevin. Ask anyone who flies a glider!
Jan. 6th, 2019 07:32 am (UTC)
I remember really enjoying this. A lovely couple of hours with a four or five blanks left at the end that I'd never have got. I did cheat to get those after a while, because I didn't realise there was an extra week (and hey, there's always the chance of a nice pen). A typo of convention at 6d - ELI instead of ELY - did hold things up a bit for the BYRE at 25ac (page 8 out of 12 for ?I?E on crossword solver I think), but that's what you get for cheating.

If I had more spare time, and was prone to a certain form of animal cruelty, I would definitely try to engineer a cock fight between a colugo and a shoal duck. It would be marketed as a bit like a very slow session of test match cricket: two sides, little interest in interacting, and very much the better for it. (Proximity to an upcast mine is desirable more than necessary.)

Great stuff - thank you Dean, thank you keriothe!
Jan. 6th, 2019 07:55 am (UTC)
Hard work but very enjoyable, especially working out unknown answers from wordplay and finding them to be correct. The only ones I failed on and needed aids to resolve were TARDIGRADES and UPCAST. On reflection it's hard to understand why I let the former beat me as the TARDIS bit was a write-in.

Edited at 2019-01-06 07:56 am (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2019 08:13 am (UTC)
"it" in 26A as something "only in crosswords": I feel sure I've written this before, but … see "it" and/or SA in Oxford D of E, or read the "it girl" article in Wikipedia, which confirms that "it" has been used this way after the 1920s.

48A: if I'd noticed "tara" as an alternative to "tata", I'd have asked for a different clue, but "tracheara" typed into Google (which seems a likely action if you don't think of looking in Chambers) produces a "did you mean?" list including tracheata.

1D "wrestles with God" has some real-life use, so seemed OK on that basis. It turns out that this meaning, also in Chambers, is really "wrestle God" if you read their "with God" carefully, but I think we can defend "wrestle with" as an equivalent to "wrestle"

41D - setter's notes just day "going/exit".
Jan. 6th, 2019 08:34 am (UTC)
26a: I'm certain you've written that before, and I'm certain that I've written before that the 'it' in 'It Girl' is not only or even primarily sex appeal and so can't really be defined as such. You can justify it/SA with another three-point turn in a dictionary but it is IMO an equivalence between two obscure and/or obsolete usages that only survives because it is convenient to setters. Of course it's not the only thing you just have to learn to do these things but I remain of the opinion that it's past its sell-by date.
48a: yes, fair enough. As I said TRACHEARA does suffer from the problem of non-existence!
1d: thanks: I don't know how I missed this in Chambers, because I'm pretty sure I looked. It does say 'old'.
Jan. 6th, 2019 11:51 am (UTC)
I'll accept that "it" in "it girl" has other connotations, but if a dictionary says that "it" and "SA" both mean "sex appeal", as Collins, Oxford and Chambers all do, I cannot see how it=SA is a "three point turn".
Jan. 6th, 2019 12:21 pm (UTC)
That is precisely what you are describing! What I call a 'three-point turn in a dictionary' is defining X as Y on the basis that Z is defined as X and Y in a dictionary, in circumstances where you wouldn't naturally get Y from X. I don't think many people in the real world would deduce SA from 'it' or vice versa, since both are, as I said, obscure and/or obsolete usages. Only in crosswords.
The term 'three-point turn in a dictionary' was coined by our friend z8b8d8k, I believe, so I'm happy to stand corrected if I'm using it wrong!

Edited at 2019-01-06 12:23 pm (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2019 12:36 pm (UTC)
So if the technical "canine" and the informal "pooch" are both defined as "dog" in the dictionary, equating them is a three-point turn? If not, what is it that makes canine=pooch more "natural"? If it's just about meanings being old (but still encountered enough to be in a dictionary), well that's crosswords sometimes, especially when one member of the pair is as useful as "it".
If you banned all the tricks relying on old informal language, I think you might end up with some very dull cryptic clues.
Jan. 6th, 2019 02:26 pm (UTC)
The difference is that 'canine' and 'pooch' are both common words. What makes the equivalence natural is that most people would make it because they are familiar with both words.
Where one of the words is unusual, the solver should usually be able to get there from other elements of the clue and deduce that MALAMUTE might be a kind of pooch even if she's never heard of it.
Where both elements are obscure I think we venture into more dodgy territory, and dictionaries don't necessarily give us the whole answer. [digs around in Bradford's for a bit] 'Proll' and 'flimp' are both words meaning 'rob' that appear in Collins, but if you defined one as the other I'd be miffed. This sort of thing is an easy way of deceiving the solver but it's not really cricket. For me SA/it is in the same category and only survives because, as you say, it's useful.
As I said before I don't think it's an equivalence that many solvers would arrive at if it weren't an established convention. Witness the regular comments we get here from the uninitiated asking why SA is 'it'. From a practical point of view it doesn't bother me because I've just learned it, but it irritates me every time I see it.

Edited at 2019-01-06 02:31 pm (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2019 01:37 pm (UTC)
Wasn't Z talking about thesauruses not dictionaries? Identity is transitive--so if A is B and B is C, A is C--where similarity isn't--if A resembles B and B resembles C, it doesn't follow that A resembles C. And if Roget gives B as a synonym for A, and C as a synonym for B, it doesn't follow that A is a synonym for C.
Jan. 6th, 2019 02:27 pm (UTC)
Yes I think you're right. What I'm whingeing about is something similar but different. Apologies to z8!

Edited at 2019-01-06 02:28 pm (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2019 08:17 am (UTC)
Welcome to the Jumbo bloggers club, K. I enjoyed this a lot although I needed aids plenty of times to check my answers... and to find COLUGO, my last one in. About 10 clues got a tick on my paper copy as potential CODs, from which I pick RETAIL THERAPY. Thanks Dean and K.
Jan. 6th, 2019 09:03 am (UTC)
K-k-k Katie
90 minutes with aids used for SHOAL DUCK, TARDIGRADES, TRACHEATA and to check COLUGO. COD to BYRE, as that's what we always called the cowshed in the village I spent my early years in. Well worth the cheats and the effort. Thank you K and Dean.
Jan. 6th, 2019 09:50 am (UTC)
No idea how long it took me to get there, but get there I did, being lucky with TRACHEATA, where I was also tempted by "tara" but guessed correctly. Not many other question marks along the way, the unknown SHOAL DUCK being the most questionable of them, from what I remember.

Spent quite a while drifting through pictures of water bears on t'internet while skimming the odd fact from articles I didn't entirely understand...

FOI 9a DRIFTED, LOI 1d PRAYS, which as Pete mentions, I did at least find in Chambers afterwards to confirm.
Jan. 6th, 2019 11:15 am (UTC)
Your name for the Tesla scandal gave me a laugh Keriothe! For some reason I'd convinced myself that this was a Dean special that would be scored as a 15x15 rather than a jumbo (which may have happened under the ancien regime or may just have been my usual Christmas fog) so I decided to print and enjoy it in installments without bothering the clock. Also looked up the flying critter which I only knew as the name of a super-trendy baby-mover popular in the expensive parts of Brooklyn. And checked the skater. TAXIDERMIST was very neat. Since we didn't have Sotira's Christmas Turkey this year it was nice to be able to count on this.
Jan. 6th, 2019 11:39 am (UTC)
QC report
Nowhere near finishing this but I had some fun on the way.There were some big blanks in the middle but I did manage to construct Colugo. Failed to find the S-O-L duck despite having all the checkers. David
Jan. 6th, 2019 03:36 pm (UTC)
Fun puzzle; thank you, Dean. Fell down only on tardigrades; hadn't heard of them, and couldn't see the wp - I put the -dis of tardis as the last 3 letters :) Great blog, k, thanks.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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