Monthly Club Special No 20279 – December 2023

Happy New Year to one and all! Blimey. This was a toughy, taking me in the region of 1hr 50 minutes. But none the less enjoyable for that with plenty of PDMs when I finally cracked the intricate wordplay and peculiar vocabulary. How did you all get on? Thank-you clever setter.

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

1 Sheep-faced figure hit in the jaw by boxing reprobate, nursing mouth (10)
CRIOSPHINXCHIN (hit in the jaw) X (times; by), outside [boxing] RIP (reprobate; informal, dated) outside OS (mouth). What a mind-bender to start with!
6 A helping of baba ghanoush in an Indian garden (4)
BAGH – Hidden in, [a helping of] baBA GHanoush. My first one in.
9 Central American roaming Lithuania but never India (7)
NAHUATL – (L{i}thuan{i}a)* [roaming], losing the Is (never India). An MCS word if there ever was one. I needed the crossers to see how the other letters might fall into place and still had to check I’d got the word right.
10 Plenty of Scots more enthusiastic to roll up, regularly expressing resistance (7)
WAMEFULWA{r}ME{r} (more enthusiastic) FU{r}L (roll up an umbrella) losing [regularly expressing] the Rs (resistance). Another that took some finding.
12 Reprobate turned violent, an act exposing British king (10)
CADWALADERCAD (reprobate), RED (violent) A LAW (an act) [turned] -> WALADER. Cadwalader was king of Gwynedd in Wales from around 655 to 682 AD. But then you knew that already, didn’t you? Not that I did.
13 Life forces pizza topping from one’s mouth? (3)
QIS -More commonly spelt CHIS. Sounds like CHEESE (pizza topping).
15 Straight ticket without mark of approval stops man in the lead (6)
HETERO – {tick}ET without the TICK (mark of approval), in HERO (man in the lead). Clever, but I’m not sure I understand the surface meaning.
16 US department store sent round one fresh cut mulberry tree that Luke mentioned (8)
SYCAMINE – MACY’S (US department store) [sent round] -> SYCAM, I (one) NE{w} (fresh) [cut].
18 Wedge-shaped copper centre in juicer stays clean (8)
CUNEATICNEAT (clean) in CU (copper) [centre in] juICer.
20 Local hack has folios seized by member for Hull (6)
KEFFELFF (folios) in KEEL (member for hull).
23 A lot of connected pages are taken from cave to return (3)
WEB – BEW{are} (cave; Latin for beware as in Cave Canem) without the ARE, [to return] -> WEB.
24 Heedlessness of diversion when cycling by lake (10)
ETOURDERIE – DETOUR [cycling] -> ETOURD, ERIE (great lake).
26 Industrial city left to change course suddenly after setback for turnover, say (7)
LEIPZIGL (left), PIE (turnover, say) [setback] -> EIP, ZIG (change course suddenly). Another surface I found impenetrable.
27 Third of sugar’s to sift on surface for baking (7)
GRIDDLE – [Third letter of] suGar, RIDDLE (sift).
28 Ace attempt to make pasty (4)
ASHYA (ace) SHY (attempt; e.g. at dislodging a coconut).
29 Outwardly and fully visible, looker caught in New York is not seeing state (10)
CECUTIENCYC{utie}E [outwardly] and [fully visible] CUTIE (looker), C (caught) in NY (New York). Very clever. That took me ages to work out.
1 Compare curbs attached to online forum (4)
CONFCF (compare) outside, [curbs] ON (attached to). My Last One In.
2 Around House of Lords area, I ignore sound of German (3-4)
ICH-LAUTI CUT (ignore) around HL (House of Lords) A (area).
3 Swindler keeps breaking law and a mark, unknown, traps employee after vacating suit in S Asia (7,6)
SHALWAR KAMEEZ – I remembered this from a Saturday 15×15 earlier this year, when it caused some consternation, but we don’t mind obscure words here, do  we? There it was clued as an anagram, but here we have (law)* [breaking] in SHARK (swindler), and E{mploye}E [after vacating] in A M (mark) Z (unknown). Cracking wordplay. Bravo!
4 Henry after Saudi money (6)
HALALAHAL (Henry) A LA (in the style of; after).
5 Currently votes against preserving old stuff (8)
NOWADAYSNAYS (votes against) outside O (old) WAD (stuff).
7 Legal expert has an interrogation shortened under uneducated Australian bloke (7)
ALFAQUIALF (uneducated Australian bloke) A QUI{z} (interrogation) [shortened].
8 I’m very annoyed the man’s going to cheat Society, collecting billions (5,5)
HELLS BELLSHE’LL (the man’s going to), B (billions) in SELL (cheat), S (society). Great surface.
11 I did America, wandering round Maine; she was in charge of France (5,2,6)
MARIA DE MEDICI – (I did America)* [wandering] around ME (Maine). Hmm. The surface seems like a bit of  anon sequitur. Or have I missed something?
14 Presumably the person in charge of steak for large lizard (10)
CHUCKWALLA – Double definition, the first a cryptic hint referring to a WALLA (person in charge) of CHUCK (a cut of steak). Lovely word.
17 Fabrication needing injection of yen with African capital (8)
LILONGWELIE (fabrication) outside LONG (yen) W (with). The capital of Malawi. I confess I googled African capitals to find the answer to this.
19 Incompetent person’s decline in ecological role, with no end in sight (7)
NEBBICHEBB (decline) in NICH{e} (ecological role) [with no end in sight].
21 Female with simple bomb carried by published US feminist (7)
FRIEDANF (female), IED (improvised explosive device; simple bomb) in RAN (published). The feminist in question is Betty Friedan.
22 Both endless food and larva? (6)
GRUGRU – What a great word… and a great &lit clue. It’s GRU{b} (food) [endless] and GRU{b} (larva) [endless]. An edible weevil grub
25 Scott’s boring covers for telephone directory (4)
TEDY – Outside letters of, [covers for], T{elephon}E D{irector}Y. A word used by Walter Scott.

7 comments on “Monthly Club Special No 20279 – December 2023”

  1. Thanks for the blog. I found this a bit more straightforward than one or two of the recent MCS’s. Agree that some of the clues were a bit forced and laboured, to the detriment of the surface reading. However, GRUGRU was brilliant.

  2. Possible way to make sense of the surface for MARIA DE MEDICI is to think of a husband and wife team researching a travel book that included U.S., France and maybe other countries. Curious link or possibly coincidence is that Maine is a region of both countries.

  3. The presence of a few words I actually knew, including the eastern garb (goodness me, that wordplay was complex!) made this a tad quicker, but it still pushed over an hour.
    Happy memories of LEIPZIG from 1975, driving straight into a military base in the centre of town to the consternation of dozens of Kalashnikov toting squaddies. Swift retreat avoided bullet holes: might have helped that the Polish version of my Fiat 125 was a Party bigshot’s car.
    For an MCS, relative fun. HELLS BELLS, indeed.

  4. Tricky here and a DNF. Didn’t know the Aussie so a couple of gaps there; also in C_I_SPHINX whilst NEBBICH eluded me completely (still dont understand the ecological reference). The other missing letter was the first of CECUTIENCY which I just couldn’t parse. Otherwise pieced together with the help of the dictionary though the eastern garb’s appearance in that Saturday puzzle was sufficiently recalled which helped

    As always a massive thank you for the blog (and especially this month that c)

    1. Thanks for commenting. The Niche definition.. from ODE:
      ▶ noun
      1. A comfortable or suitable position in life or employment: ….
      2. A specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service…
      Ecology a role taken by a particular type of organism within its community: the niche left vacant by the disappearance of wolves.

  5. Re the surface of 15ac, a straight ticket is a ballot cast in which all of a person’s votes are for candidates in one party.

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