Times Cryptic Jumbo 1648 – 16 December 2023


Hello again. This Jumbo, – the first of a positive flurry of jumbos, an entire Christmas herd, and more to come – I thought was not too difficult, but with some fine clues, especially some of the anagrams.

Please, do feel free to ask questions or comment as required.

I use the standard conventions like underlining the definition, CD for cryptic definition, DD for a double one, *(anargam) and so forth. Nho = “not heard of” and in case of need the Glossary is always handy

1 Perfectly execute piece by Queen in tense situation (9)
NAILBITER – NAIL (perfectly execute) + BIT (piece) + ER, the Queen, of course.
6 Naturally upright piano is pinched by bailed criminal? (7)
BIPEDAL – P(iano) in *(BAILED). Bipedal only means having two feet, and it seems a bit of a leap from there to naturally upright. Is a gorilla naturally upright?
10 Extent of some musical exercise (5)
13 Less interesting to carry first piece of pine for joiner (7)
STAPLER – P(ine) in STALER, less interesting.
14 Party with only bottles? That’s impossible! (2,3,2)
NO CAN DO – A party with no cans might have bottles only..
15 Young ladies help in section of clothes shop? (7)
MAIDENS – AID (help) in the MENS clothing section..
16 Folk at hairdresser to rent film? (7,2,3,4,3)
17 Unlimited wine served by new tavern (3)
INN – (w)IN(e) + N for new.
18 Nullify weapon, once called outside? (6)
NEGATE – GAT (US slang for a weapon) in NEE, maiden name. A borrowing from French, past participle of  naître, to be born.
20 Stir unknown drink (6)
WHISKY – WHISK (stir) + Y
21 Cathedral with no time to get wine in the morning service, finally (5,4)
NOTRE DAME – NO + T(ime) + RED (wine) + AM + (servic)E. A classic charade clue.
23 Falls when carrying sauce around: something for teatime? (5,5)
SUGAR LUMPS – RAGU, rev., in SLUMPS, falls; like my shares have, for example.
25 Posh fireman adapted light opera (3,8)
HMS PINAFORE – *(POSH FIREMAN). Another fine anagram
29 Frequently seen back in internet forum (5)
OFTEN – hidden, reversed, as indicated.
30 Potter’s vehicle picks up everyone for dance venue (8)
BALLROOM – ALL (everyone) inside BROOM, allegedly Harry Potter’s vehicle of choice, though it ALL seems a bit far-fetched, to me..
31 Mess about with egg on plant (8)
LARKSPUR – LARK (mess about) + SPUR (egg on). Another word (as I learnt from another crossword, only this morning) for a delphinium.
34 Yearns to get trendy? It’s unlikely to succeed (4,4)
LONG SHOT – LONGS (yearns) + HOT, trendy.
36 Cheeky minx undressed by stretch of water (8)
INSOLENT – m(IN)x + SOLENT, the channel between the IoW and civilisation.
37 Moorland is common spot for a fire — there’s no end of tinder! (5)
HEATH – HEA(r)TH, the r being the end of tinder…
39 To the east of city, sailor with a large can produces ruckus (11)
HULLABALLOO – HULL (city) + AB (sailor) + A L(arge) + LOO (can, lavatory)
41 Custom metal road I designed (6-4)
43 Pound next to main place for stray dogs? (9)
BATTERSEA – BATTER (pound) + SEA (main). Not the hardest clue today, at least for British solvers.
45 Briefly rest at night, initially wearing hat (6)
CATNAP – AT N(ight), inside CAP (hat). My cats don’t catnap, they flake out dead to the world, just saying ..
47 Digit I got wrong in binomial equation at first (3,3)
BIG TOE – *(I GOT), in B(inomial) E(quation)
49 Miner’s strike in Korea? (3)
ORE – hidden, as indicated.
50 Detective and soldier wearing item of clothing next to one reptile (7,12)
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR – PRIVATE IN VEST, + I GATOR. It all sounds like something from a Carry On film.
52 After the setter retreats, couple cuddle (7)
EMBRACE – ME (the setter) rev., + BRACE, a couple
53 Anxious people may have these pets (7)
KITTENS – A DD I suppose, a reference to the well-known phrase “Having kittens,” often used, especially by folk that don’t know much about felines.
54 Worry use of computers is set in stone (7)
AGITATE – IT in AGATE, a stone, an impure form of quartz.
55 Magical being dividing two irrational numbers by 11? (5)
PIXIE – XI in between Pi and E. E, or e, is a transcendental number used as the base for natural logarithms. Thank you, setter, for avoiding the usual drug reference.
56 Homework includes beginning to trim brown plant (7)
DITTANY – T(rim) + TAN (brown) in DIY, home work.
57 Sneaked about between two points, exhibiting nudity (9)
NAKEDNESS – *(SNEAKED) inside N & S, two compass points
1 Around London area, there’s no call for jewellery (4,4)
NOSE RING – SE, that area of England that contains London, inside NO + RING (call). A primitive form of bodily decoration.
2 Middle-Easterner occasionally fiery on a TV trivia show (5)
IRAQI – (f)I(e)R(y) + A QI, a rather good quiz-type show.
3 News update — paintings heading north inside fast vehicle (6,5)
BULLET TRAIN – ART (paintings) rev. inside BULLETIN. A term originally applied to the Shinkansen, Japanese high-speed trains but now applied to a number of similar services.
4 Defeat not considered after article is cut short (6)
THRASH – TH(e) + RASH, unconsidered
5 Freedom to explore factory? That’s standard (3-2-3-4)
RUN-OF-THE-MILL – not sure anyone will need my help with this very biffable one
6 Composer — American — pens introduction to concerto for God (7)
BACCHUS – C(oncerto) inside BACH, + US. Bacchus is the Roman name for Dionysus, one of the more interesting Greek gods.
7 Outplays the Toon after smashing finale of match? (7,5-3)
PENALTY SHOOT-OUT – *(OUTPLAYS THE TOON). The latter a fairly regular event in recent years, so I understand, but things seem to have picked up lately and Newcastle Utd (for they are aka The Toon) are 7th in the Premier League, at the time of writing.
8 Has meal, eating scraps and chips, ultimately producing fatigue (10)
DROWSINESS – ROWS (scraps) in DINES (eating) + (chip)S
9 Criticise meat with a stew — half’s missing! (7)
LAMBAST – LAMB (meat) + A + ST(ew)
10 Picky person mostly returned fish (11)

This clue is interesting, because STICKLEBACK happens to be the subject of the last weekly clue competition. So you can see lots of different takes on how to clue it. I prefer this one to the winner of the competition, which was very clever but just a little too subtle for me. My favourite was Joe Jenkinson’s (sorry Ian!), very neat. I like the clue competition, but it is a rarified environment; many of them would not stand up well in an actual daily cryptic, too much “work” has had to go into them. Imo, of course..

11 A chap hosting another chap over coffee (9)
AMERICANO – ERIC (another chap) in A MAN, a chap, + O. How on earth did our American cousins somehow manage to assume ownership of straightforward filtered black coffee? Theft, that is what it is, nothing less. I call it “coffee.” All else is deviant.
12 Spirit from church beneath German city (7)
ESSENCE – ESSEN +  CE. Another clue not hard to fathom. Essen is in the Ruhr, and although I am sure it has some picturesque bits, I didn’t see them when I went there
19 Muscle reduced on heavyweight pig (7)
22 Drink drivers perhaps raised fuss (4,4)
CLUB SODA – CLUBS (drivers perhaps, or putters) + ADO, fuss, rev. Another American term, that means soda water.
24 Choristers with grant to reform music group (6,9)
STRING ORCHESTRA – *(CHORISTERS + GRANT). There seems to be something about the word orchestra that lends itself to felicitious anagrams.
26 Not doing anything in first part of play being shown (8)
INACTION – IN ACT I + ON, showing. My ideal Christmas.
27 Attention! Your old Yankee is rather coarse (6)
EARTHY – I had trouble with this, do I have it right? EAR (attention) + THY (your, old). But then what is the Yankee for?
28 Green tower rising above a hotel (6)
MOOLAH – LOOM (tower, rev.) + A + H(otel). Green, apparently another Americanism, for money. It wouldn’t work here, as ours isn’t.
32 Praise extremely punctual inspection (7)
PLAUDIT – P(unctua)L + AUDIT, an inspection. Sometimes, anyway. Sometimes just a pretence of one.
33 Shop needs elastic pants? (12)
DELICATESSEN – *(NEEDS ELASTIC). Neat clue! Even if the surface needs a little stretch
35 Will the poet seek a phrase that’s unusual? (11)
37 Funky composer picked up small flier (11)
HUMMINGBIRD – HUMMING (funky, apparently) + BIRD, sounds like Byrd, a fine composer so they say, though before my time.
38 Quick to secure a target in shopping centre (4,6)
FLEA MARKET – A MARK (target) in FLEET, quick.
40 Place for post improved security, according to Spooner (6,3)
LETTER BOX – “Better locks,” according to the invaluable Rev. Spooner. He was sixty years an Oxford Don, and wrote “The Moral Philosophy of Aristotle,” but fat chance of him ever being remembered for that. Probably just as well.
42 Brave? Not nearly so much around summit of Everest (8)
FEARLESS – E(verest) in FAR LESS, not nearly so much
43 Drinking session with bar turned upside down and filled with slime (5-2)
BOOZE-UP – OOZE (slime) in PUB (bar) rev. Not the most convincing surface ..
44 Dispatch contains a bit of extra money for allowance (7)
STIPEND – TIP, a bit of extra money, in SEND, dispatch.
46 One on a beach, perhaps close to ugly factory (7)
TANNERY – a TANNER might sunbathe on a beach, it would bore me silly but apparently some like it. Oh, + (ugl)Y
48 A trooper’s first strategy — charge! (6)
ATTACK – A + T(rooper) + TACK, a strategy.
51 Make fun of Oolong and Darjeeling, say, in speech (5)
TEASE – “Teas.”

Author: JerryW

I love The Times crosswords..

13 comments on “Times Cryptic Jumbo 1648 – 16 December 2023”

  1. I didn’t care much for this one, although there were indeed some impressive anagrams. I didn’t know what BATTERSEA has to do with dogs, but I didn’t need to. Ditto for PENALTY SHOOTOUT (I did know ‘penalty shot’.)
    I’ve never heard AMERICANO to mean just ‘coffee’, and it would be an odd coinage for an American. Collins gives it as espresso diluted with hot water, and has it as a borrowing from Italian. (In Japanese, amerikan means weak coffee.)

    1. Black coffee = Americano is universal in English coffee shops. Just asking for a coffee gets you nowhere! You have to know the vocab., these days

      1. As I said, it would be an odd coinage for an American. I haven’t drunk coffee (of any sort) in the last 30 years, but I can imagine going into Starbucks and asking for one, and getting a blank stare from the guy behind the counter.

      2. That isn’t right, Jerry. An Americano is, as Kevin says, an espresso with hot water in it. It may seem universal because many coffee shops don’t have any other way of making coffee these days, but some do also serve filter coffee and if you ask for that, then that’s what you’ll get.
        As Kevin also says the term ‘Americano’ originates in Italy, and it carries with it (or used to) a sense of disapproval, since putting lots of hot water in an espresso is a sacrilege almost on a par with drinking a cappuccino after midday.

  2. I wrote ‘one session, one hour’ on my print-out. Other than that the only annotations in the margins query the superfluous ‘Yankee’ at 27dn and ‘green’ as slang for ‘money’ at 28dn. I made the association with ‘greenback dollar’ and moved on, but I note Collins also has it as slang for ‘money’ in the British entry. I guess it may have been used here when we had our own green currency – the pound note.

    1. So it does. But the US entry states it is US slang, and so does the OED. It is not a word I have ever heard used in that context myself..

  3. 53:42. I whizzed through this one in my second best ever recorded time for a Jumbo. I spent time on EARTHY with its extra Y (yankee) that isn’t part of EAR + THY. There is almost an anagram (coarse) of Y + RATHER, but that doesn’t lead anywhere. So I moved on, which is usually a mistake when I simply discard part of the wordplay. LOI SUGAR LUMPS, COD NAILBITER or WHISKY.

    On edit. I forgot to say thanks for the splendid blog

  4. I lurk on these blogs every week, as since the start of 2023 I’ve been trying to solve the cryptic jumbo every Saturday, and they’ve been immensely helpful to me – I went from managing a handful of clues to finishing most weeks (although never in a single sitting and often with aids). I definitely knew of green as slang for money from American rap songs though! Anyway a big thank you to all of you for these helpful explainers that have improved my skills no end.

    1. Welcome, and thank you to you too .. we jumbo bloggers don’t get inundated with comments, and I really appreciate hearing that we are not just talking to thin air!
      I would say more than one session is what jumbos are designed for .. often I put them to one side, and do a clue here or there over the week, whenever time permits.

  5. In keeping with my recent habit, I am late to this one, so I can comment with it fresh in my mind. This enables me to make the scintillating observation that it was an enjoyable puzzle that I didn’t find too hard.

  6. re 27d the print version has “crude craft: what’s keeping it seaworthy, ultimately?” which I parsed as EH (= what) containing (‘keeping’) ART (= craft) plus Y (last letter of seaworthy)
    Earthy = Crude

    1. Interesting.. the clue as above is what the online version has, so clearly at some point the clue has been changed, and not for the better.
      To be honest both clues seem clunky to me; but your version is at least technically better.
      Thank you for pointing that out! There are a lot of clues in a jumbo, so I think the occasional lapse is understandable.

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