Monthly Club Special No 20278 – Nov 2023

It’s time for the blog of the best crossword of the month again. Another great exploration of the dusty corners of the dictionary and clever wordplay to match… and a pangram too. COM to the “only do’s” in 14A and WOM to the unlikely looking 11D. Thank-you clever setter.

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

1 State in final letter one’s innocent? That holds weight (8)
ZIMBABWEZ (final letter) I’M (one’s), BABE (innocent) holding W (weight).
5 Determination of gender perhaps involves fine split in several parts (6)
SEXFIDF (fine) in SEX ID (determination of gender, perhaps).
9 Heavy footwear’s benefit questionable if initially swapped (4,4)
MOON BOOT – BOON (benefit) MOOT (questionable) with first letters swapped. No mention of Dr. Spooner, for a change.
10 Start to saw one’s very old tree (6)
SISSOO – First letter of Saw, I (one) ‘S SO (very) O (old).
12 Old king’s doctor appearing in two seconds (5)
IDRISDR (doctor), in II (two in Roman numerals) S (seconds).
13 Getting damp in Stratford? I bet Gwent rarely gets that (9)
BEWETTING – (I bet Gwent)* [rarely]. A Shakespearean term, hence the “in Stratford”.
14 Fish, pricy, for cooking only do’s? (12)
CYPRINODONTS – (pricy)* [for cooking], NO DONT’S (only do’s). Nice one.
18 During legal proceedings, writer has dip with cream (8,4)
PENDENTE LITEPEN (writer) DENT (dip) ELITE (cream).
21 Not being sole leader maybe, one in flight agency gets the worst of all worlds? (9)
CACOTOPIACO-TOP (not being sole leader, maybe) I (one), in CAA (Civil Aviation Authority; flight agency).
23 Plant that’s fine, but alas always out of bounds (5)
INULA -Inside letters, [without bounds], of fINe bUt aLAs.
24 Choice of cases for jurymen, hesitant, each turning to find God (6)
NJORTH – Outside letters of JurymeN, HesitanT, both reversed – and a choice between them, OR in the middle -> NJ OR TH.
25 Record light on Asian peak and measure of radiation (8)
KILOGRAYKI (K1; Asian peak) LOG (record) RAY (light).
26 Paycheque regularly concealed in some vinyl shoe? (4-2)
LACE-UP – Alternate letters of pAyChEqUe in LP (some vinyl).
27 Utterly boring text article that’s beginning “Dear Space Traveller”? No (8)
SMALLSATALL (utterly) in SMS (text), A{rticle} T{hat} [‘s beginning].
1 Man-years tunnelling through heart of arid zone recalled as ferment (6)
ZYMOIDIOM (Isle of Man; man) Y (years) in middle letters of ariD Zone, all reversed. Very sneaky, needing a separation of man-years. Clever.
2 African runners in mile: fit of depression as gold is withheld (6)
MHORRSM (mile), HORR{or}S (fit of depression) without the OR (gold).
3 May the Baggies in first half notice rivals holding hands? (9)
ALBESPYNEALB{ion}  (West Bromwich Albion; the Baggies) [first half], ESPY (notice) N E (North and East; rivals in bridge; rivals holding hands). I liked the “rivals holding hands”.
4 Without taking too much, hide then sort for print (12)
WOODBURYTYPEW/O (without) OD (overdose; taking too much) BURY (hide) TYPE (sort).
6 Turn out crime victim’s pockets (5)
EVICT – Hidden in crimE VICTim.
7 All things ring true at first, as if in a spin (8)
FISTIANA – (t{rue} as if in a)* [spin]. Boxing ring, that is. “ring true” is another phrase that needs separation.
8 As young gangster turned round ring road, some US military hard in pursuit (8)
DROOGISH – O (round) O (ring) RD (road) all turned -> DROO, GIS (some US military) H (hard).
11 Variable gain somehow is malign reformer’s doctrine (12)
ZWINGLIANISMZ (variable) WIN (gain) (is malign)* [somehow].
15 Fool that’s forgotten party and upset PM once, quietly abandoning election (9)
DOTTIPOLLDO (party), PITT (PM once) [upset] -> TTIP, {p}OLL (election) without the P (quiet). “That’s forgotten” indicates the answer is an obsolete word.
16 Bloomer in bygone days, using digging tool to break glass up (8)
SPICKNELPICK (digging tool), in LENS (glass) [up] -> SNEL.
17 Sensible preference, ignoring tips, scarcely reverberating (8)
ANECHOIC – {s}ANE (sensible) CHOIC{e} (preference) without the outside letters.
19 Hunt mostly outside ends for Sir John Mills (6)
QUERNSQUES{t} (hunt) [mostly] outside last letters of SiR JohN.
20 Italians broadcasting Flower of Scotland sent up Asian peasant (6)
RAIYATRAI (Italian broadcasting corporation), TAY (flower of Scotland) [sent up] -> YAT.
22 S American native in body armour I’m obliged to wound in the heart (5)
TATOUTA (I’m obliged) TO woUnd [in the heart]. An armadillo has “body armour”.

4 comments on “Monthly Club Special No 20278 – Nov 2023”

  1. Thanks John

    First time I’ve done one of these Club Monthlies though used to have a bash at the Mephisto. My rule is that I am happy to check words in a dictionary but a word checker is obviously verba non grata.

    On that basis I was a DNF. Managed most of it okay but I didn’t know the Italian broadcaster so was left with _A_YAT and would never have thought of horrors to be able to get the African runners. The only other one was ALBESPYNE. Knew what I was looking for but (a) was trying to force WBA in and (b) was slightly confused by the Baggies playing at the Hawthorns. Never thought of the Albion as the key.

    Thanks for the blog!

    1. Thanks for commenting. The NW corner was where I finished, having to correct an unparsed ZYMASE to get IDRIS. MHORRS and ALBESPYNE were my last two in.

  2. Do you think you could ever figure out all the answers to MCS, without a super-dictionary and a comprehensive anagram solver, as well as the help of Wikipedia?

    1. No I can’t. I think it fair to look up African capitals for example and a dictionary is a must – I have both Chambers and ODE online.

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