Monthly Club Special No 20,220: Right on the Left Staircase

An uncommonly gentle MCS in parts, with a run of clues towards the end that made me think that I was doing a “straight” puzzle, and quite a few others that had generous pointers in their wordplay. Don’t worry though, there were a fair few stinkers too. I’ve talked about my experiences of the individual clues a lot below, so all that remains is to thank the setter for another fine example of the genre!

1 Sponges on one endlessly day after day, American feller! (10)
MONAXONIDA – ON I DA{y} after MON, AX. I saw the “AX” immediately, but the rest took considerably longer to arrive, sue to my sorely patchy sponge knowledge.

6 Sea vessel getting thus to harbour area (4)
SAIC – SIC [thus] to “harbour” A [area]. A useful ship to know, given that it comes up in barred puzzles a fair amount.

10 Listening device, one about to be replaced with a fibre (5)
WATAP – take WIRETAP [listening device], and replace its I RE [one | about] with A. I was on the right track for how this clue would work, but was looking for a listening device with I C, perhaps beginning MIC-. Oh well!

11 Workers, abuzz, gather in this seedy Cairo club (9)
CORBICULA – (CAIRO CLUB*) [“seedy”]. Not the undead leader of the Labour Party, but some kind of receptacle for the generously signposted bees.

12 Area of pitch out left covered by female magician (8,6)
STRIKING CIRCLE – STRIKING [out] + L [left] “covered” by CIRCE [female magician]. I’m not sure I would have described Circe as a “magician” as such, but of course turning sailors into pigs is quite a good trick.

14 Increasingly convinced earlier tablet’s lacking bite (7)
MORSURE – MORE SURE is “increasingly convinced”], a tablet is an E, remove the earlier instance of such to derive the answer.

15 Fuel recycled, since uninitialled order returned (7)
ASTATKI – AS [since] + reversed {d}IKTAT. A petroleum-distillation residue of which I was not aware.

17 Nonjurors maybe people getting on with case for unions (7)
USAGERS – AGERS [people getting on], with (after) U{nion}S. I spent a long time hoping this might be AGERSUS, so a real d’oh moment. The dictionary definition of this is “One of the Nonjurors who maintained ‘the usages'”, which confirms the answer to be correct without leaving me any the wiser about what’s going on.

19 Fashionable binding round middle of area of foot (7)
CHOREIC – CHIC [fashionable] “binding” O {a}RE{a}. Apparently this is just the same as the more familiar “trochaic”.

20 Instrument requiring practice in it by 5th of October — no later (7,7)
SAUSAGE BASSOON – S.A. USAGE [practice in it], by {octo}B{er} AS SOON [no later]. What an amazing name for an instrument, which according to the dictionary makes a real rackett!

23 Bores, first rate, and without blame, lacking heart, and never ending (9)
AIGUILLES – A1 [first rate] + GUIL{t}LES{s}. The French word for needles seemed like a write-in for “bores”, even if I didn’t know the specifics.

24 Eleven in Rome putting forward old philosopher (3,2)
LAO ZI – LAZIO [eleven (football players) in Rome] with the O “put forward” a couple of positions. Obviously I wanted this to contain an XI, which made it instant COD material when the 1000-lira note finally dropped.

25 The same, gracious, description of church roof? (4)
DOMY – DO. [the same] + MY [gracious!]

26 Fizzy drink readily available after second one’s flat? (10)
SHANDYGAFF – HANDY [readily available] after S [second] + GAFF [one’s flat?]. The first six letters of this answer, at least, were instantly obvious to this inveterate pubgoer.

1 Last article dispatched before raising a female tree spirit (4)
MOWA – take A WOMAN, “dispatch” the final indefinite article to be left with A WOM, and reverse. Not a dryadic but a drinkable tree spirit. Nice clue in that you can probably derive the answer from the cryptic (with the W in place, anyway) without having to know the word.

2 Revolutionary solarium’s offering to put in some opera and swimming facilities (9)
NATATORIA – reversed TAN [solarium’s offering] + TO “put in” ARIA [some opera]. Another answer that is totally gettable by just working through the cryptic components.

3 Team quietly welcome, with signs of hesitation, boxer’s muscle (14)
XIPHIHUMERALIS – XI P HI [team | quietly | welcome] + HUM ER [(two) signs of hesitation] + ALI’S [boxer’s]. All fairly familiar bits of cryptic wordplay, combining beautifully into the less well-known but very plausible looking word.

4 Mineral appearing in certain ground (7)
NACRITE – (CERTAIN*) [“ground”]. Once I decided this wasn’t “ceratin” or “carnite”, it was quite easy.

5 Manager runs in upset to provoke a little laughter (7)
DAROGHA – R [runs] in reversed GOAD [to provoke] + HA [a little laughter]. I find these the toughest type of MC clues, medium length obscure words that have to be described from multiple steps of nontrivial wordplay. I really wanted this to end with reversed ANGER and so got stuck for ages, especially as I eventually decided it needed to be a football manager I hadn’t heard of. It’s not even in the Collins dictionary app, which is cruel and unusual.

7 A debt collector caught with a crook (5)
ADUNC – A DUN C [a | debt collector | caught]. I spent a non-negligible amount of time wondering how a “dunk” could be a debt collector.

8 Catch vizier slyly dismissing one royal heir (10)
CZAREVITCH – (CATCH VIZIER*) [“slyly”], minus I for one. The anagrammatic equivalent of a tongue-twister, where you know roughly what you’re trying to achieve, but the letters keep gravitating to the wrong places.

9 Offend first king in speech about son being a right twister! (14)
SINISTRORSALLY – SIN 1ST R [offend | first | king] + ORALLY [in speech] about S [son]. Confusingly, despite the word containing obvious lefty roots, that which is sinistrorsal turns to the right as it spirals upwards.

13 Character joining Welsh and UK politicians sharing Mass on odd Sundays (7-3)
AMPUSSY-AND – take an AM and an MP and have them share their M [mass] to form AMP, then append (SUNDAYS*) [“odd”]. An ampussy-and is just our old friend &, but clearly a superior term for it than the one in common usage. Definite WOD.

16 Dinosaurs in modern times mostly bound to embrace queen (9)
THEROPODA – in TODA{y} [modern times, “mostly”], HOP [bound] to “embrace” ER [queen]. Hardest wordplay of the puzzle; seeing what needed to be nested in what took me a while.

18 Half-inch tip cut from article in secrecy (7)
STEALTH – STEAL [half-inch] + TH{e} [“tip cut from” (the definite) article]. Wouldn’t be out of place in a 15×15.

19 A number of Poles performing after tea (7)
CHANSON – N S [(two) poles] + ON [performing] after CHA [tea]. A second “normal-strength” clue in a row! This doesn’t happen often in the Club Monthly.

21 Stop sticking smug nurse’s exhibits up (5)
UNGUM – hidden reversed in {s}MUG NU{rse’s}. That makes three!

22 Two shakes detaching bottom from type of bag (4)
JIFF – or JIFF{y}. I’m going to say that’s four in a row. What’s going on? I may need a lie-down…

One comment on “Monthly Club Special No 20,220: Right on the Left Staircase”

  1. such sterling work deserves comment

    now I know how the QCers feel when faced with a 15×15
    I managed ½ a dozen before resorting to aids, and then only another couple before coming here
    I could see how some of the clues were going to work but maybe 50% flew straight over me

    I remain in awe

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