Monthly Club Special No 20269 – Feb 2023

Quintessentially quirky with quite a quantity of Qs, including a queue of them in the middle of a diagonal. Yes it’s the Monthly Club Special providing, once again, cruciverbal entertainment like none other – from “surely that’s not a word” to forehead-slapping PDMs when the wordplay is finally decoded. Thank-you clever setter. How did you all get on? [Update: See the comments – not only is there a chain of 4Qs on the diagonal, there is a parallel set of 4 Is, making a set of 4 IQs across the middle!].

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, {deletions} and [] other indicators.

1 Old sponge, superb one that’s reversible (7)
TOSSPOTTOPS (superb) SOT (one; another ‘sponge’) all reversed.
5 Ruined fortress rebuilt as a dam (6)
MASADA – (as a dam)* [rebuilt].
8 When covered, bedding most of very large milkweed (9)
ASCLEPIADAS (when) CLAD (covered) including, [bedding], [most of] EPI{c} (very large).
9 Group that drops keys in the middle of soul music (5)
ULMUS – Hidden in soUL MUSic. Ulmus is the genus of elm trees.
11 Inter Milan’s final comes after spell in retirement (5)
ENURN -RUNE (spell) [in retirement] -> ENUR, MilaN‘s [final]. The meaning of rune here is “an aphorism, poem, or saying with mystical meaning or for use in casting a spell“.
12 Not baptised before church, rector initially breaks agreement after shortening Mass (9)
UNCHRISOM -My last one in. An old word (hence ‘before’) for unchristened. CH (church) Rector [initially] in, [breaks], UNISO{n} (agreement) [after shortening], M (mass).
13 Operatic parts left one cold, all but the first in review (8)
LIBRETTIL (left) I (one),  B, ITTER (cold) [all but the first] reversed, [in review], -> RETTI. Clever wordplay with BITTTER.
15 More than once, quality assurance protects western homeland (6)
QWAQWAQA (Quality Assurance) outside, [protects], W (western) twice [more than once]. “Surely that’s not a word or the answer”, I thought. But it is! A bantustan in the central eastern part of South Africa. Nice one!
17 Fried food: the object is to flip on eggs (6)
ROESTIROE (eggs) IT’S (the object is) [to flip] -> STI.
19 Uneasy driver under instruction beside motorway stop violently seizes (8)
QUALMISHL (learner; driver under instruction) MI (M1; motorway) inside QUASH (stop violently) [seizes].
22 In Notre-Dame, I pack in years, holding Irish prayer bead (9)
JEQUIRITY – Another lovely word. JE (French for I; In Notre-Dame I) QUIT (pack in) Y (years), [holding] IR (Irish).
23 Scots bully foolish people from the east (5)
SNOOL -LOONS (foolish people) reversed [from the east].
24 Younger drip daughter’s torn apart no more (5)
YRIVDYR (Younger) IV (intra-venous drip) D (daughter). An old word for riven.
25 Identify current part of Ukraine cell that’s unlike neighbours (9)
IDIOBLASTID (identify) I (symbol for current in physics) OBLAST (part of Ukraine). I think we are maybe owed a ? to indicate the last is a definition by example. “An administrative and territorial division in some republics of the former Soviet Union“, says Collins of OBLAST.
26 Bluey-green substance R&D used to replace centre of soft, smooth surface (6)
VERDETVE{lv}ET (soft, smooth surface) with the centre replaced by RD.
27 Garden pest, tail-first, gets into middle of molecast produced by soil (7)
EDAPHIC – APHID (garden pest) moving the last letter to the front, [tail-first] -> DAPHI, inside, [gets into], [middle of] molECast. Clever.
1 People tangling with judge in unimportant matter, seeing old man’s beard (10,3)
TRAVELLERS JOYRAVELLERS (people tangling) J (judge), in TOY (unimportant matter).
2 Die from cold that black stuff caught by hanky carries over (7)
SUCCUMBB (black) MUCUS (stuff caught by hanky), [carries] C (cold), all reversed, [over]. I liked the “stuff caught by hanky”.
3 Phosphorus explosive attached to arrow in armour (5)
PHEONP (Phosphorus) HE (high explosive) ON (attached to). A heraldic term.
4 Cut down nettle, chopping around group standing for creation, preservation and destruction (8)
TRIMURTITRIM (cut down) URTI{ca} (nettle) without, [chopping], the CA (around). “The triad of the three chief gods of later Hinduism, consisting of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Sustainer, and Siva the Destroyer“.
5 Italian house’s primitive charm saving lowest quarter (6)
MEDICIMEDICI{ne} (primitive charm) without [saving] the last 2 of the 8 letters [lowest quarter in a down clue]. A clever novel wordplay device. It took me a while to work that out!
6 Rider’s spiked wheel very easily almost covers engine’s hum (4,5)
SPUR ROWELSO (very) WEL{l} (easily) [almost], outside PURR (engine’s hum).
7 Diamonds and pound secured by a measure of cleverness for local capital in Syria (7)
DIMASHQD (Diamonds, the suit in cards), MASH (pound) [secured by] IQ (measure of cleverness). Oo look. Another Q.
10 Itchy palms to shakes, having swallowed unknown blood pressure drug (13)
SYMPATHOLYTICY (unknown) in (itchy palms to)* [shakes].
14 With no love for Portuguese resort, visited weaver (9)
ESTRILDIDEST{o}RIL (Portuguese resort) without the O [with no love], DID (visited, as a tourist does). The weaver being a bird, the weaver finch.
16 As Piers said, crucial sign of online approval (8)
QUAYLIKEQUAY, sounds like KEY (crucial), LIKE (sign of online approval). Sneaky definition!
18 Tablets with 25 sheets of paper, one over a page? (7)
ESQUIREES (tablets) QUIRE (25 sheets of paper). A page’s boss of yore.
20 Don’s in Hawaii, getting up in line with consistent bed height (7)
ISOPACHCAPO’S (Don’s) in HI (Hawaii) reversed [getting up]. I tried in vain for some time to get ISOBATH  (which fits the definition and checkers) to work before looking further in the dictionary to find the answer.
21 Question Time hosts four geniuses centrally that could be worsted (6)
QIVIUTQ (question) T (time), outside IV (four) genIUses [centrally]. “The soft wool of the undercoat of the arctic musk ox“. Our sixth and final Q and another great unlikely-looking word.
23 Husband in evil action cut up string of prayer beads (5)
SUBHAH (husband) in ABUS{e} (evil action) [cut] all reversed, [up].

7 comments on “Monthly Club Special No 20269 – Feb 2023”

  1. Surely there is nothing sadder than a blog on which time and effort have been spent, but which receives no comments. Does a tree which no-one sees exist? So allow me to be the first to greet this. Not that I attempt the monthly special – way way above my pay grade – but I do enjoy reading how the more challenging clues work.

    I do note though the strange word Roesti reappearing. It was an answer in a recent QC and engendered many comments about Rösti/Rosti being the more expected form. Has anyone ever seen Roesti with this spelling on a menu?


    1. Give us a break! The blog has only been up for nine hours, most of which in the UK were in the middle of the night.

      Thanks, John, for the blog. Slightly easier than usual, I felt, though still a great test, and lots of fun unravelling the wordplay to create some unlikely-looking words. UNCHRISOM was actually one of the first to drop, coming out of the deep recesses of what is left of my mind.

      Thought the setter missed a trick at 23a. “Scots bully their laddies fae the east” would be neat, as LOON is an Aberdeenshire term for LAD.

      1. Thanks David. I thought it was easier than usual too. I like your alternative clue for SNOOL.

    2. Thanks Cedric. I did think when it came up in the QC the other day that I had seen ROESTI recently, but didn’t remember where until I checked my blog before publishing yesterday.

  2. Thanks, John. A couple of points:
    The estrildid is a bird (weaver finch), not a spider.
    The diagonal Qs are paired with Is to make IQ x 4 across the diagonal.

    1. Thanks. I don’t know how I got the reference to the bird wrong. I even looked it up when solving. Misremembered when I later wrote the blog, I think. As for the Is… I should have spotted the IQs across the middle. Very nice! Blog updated.

  3. Re 20D – I also tried in vain to get ISOBATH to work but then put it in anyway as I didn’t see the alternative! Oops.

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