Sunday Times Christmas Crossword by Dean Mayer (4673)

Well, my friends, don’t know about you but I found this quite a challenge! I was expecting the usual 15×15 Sunday grid, when suddenly a 23×23 popped up (and just to add to the terror, set by The Dean…) But once I’d managed to rearrange my Christmas shopping plans and settle in for an extended period of torment, I found the whole thing massively enjoyable in a masochistic kind of way. But, Jeez it was hard!

A handful that I struggled to parse fully (15a, 20a, 27a, 50a, 8d & 31d) but, whilst such a gaggle would have left me embarrassed on a usual Sunday, I felt this was not too bad given the magnitude of the challenge!

Much to enjoy here, with 32a, 41a, 52a, 10d and 30d all being outstanding. And the others were pretty damn good too! But, out of them all, 30d was (in my view, as a long time Python fan) priceless. Thanks very much to our esteemed setter for a terrific festive offering, and seasonal wishes to all the gang.

1 Box containing one black key, large one (5,3)
SPACE BAR – ACE (one) + B (black) inside SPAR (box)
6 How to replace one part of beverage in soup (7)
CHOWDER – HOW replaces I (one) in CIDER
10 Pirate fencing a new shelter (6)
CANOPY – A + N (new) ‘fenced’ by COPY (pirate)
13 Pipe feature, a sort of bend in it (6)
FAUCET – U (a sort of bend) enters FACET (feature)
14 To Fagin, present is somehow handy (2,4,10)
AT ONES FINGERTIPS – *(TO FAGIN PRESENT IS), with “somehow” as the anagrind. A fine anagram
15 Making festive soup that’s not filling? Apparently, fish to eat (11)
BESPANGLING – BE ANGLING (apparently, fish) ‘eats’ SP (soup minus its filling). At least, I think that’s what is going on here – the “apparently” threw me a bit…
16 Prudent Dasher with gift for re-delivery (3-7)
FAR SIGHTED – *(DASHER + GIFT) with “re-delivery” as the anagrind
19 “Love Through Jesus” by Queen singer (9)
CHORISTER – O (love) inside CHRIST (Jesus) by ER (Queen). Reasonably straightforward once you’d noted that Mercury did not fit.
20 A money order? (4,3)
TIDY SUM – Cryptic, but not quite sure what the A is doing here – I fear I may be missing a layer of subtlety…
22 Lines up in reverse order – something to do with 29 (4)
PULL – LL (lines) + UP reversed, and show me a person so mean of spirit they do not enjoy pulling a Christmas cracker and I will show you a humbug merchant
23 Inferior deputy has run off (4)
POXY – PROXY (deputy) loses its R (run off)
24 Resolute leader of squad is in goal (9)
INSISTENT – S (leader of squad) + IS inside INTENT (goal)
27 Child prison on an island (8)
MINORCAN – MINOR (child) + CAN (prison). Not sure I fully get the definition – maybe it’s just that if it’s on Minorca, it’s on an island and is Minorcan.
29 One’s content to entertain winning opponent (9,7)
CHRISTMAS CRACKER – Tentatively put this down as a Cryptic & Lit, on the basis the winning puller gets to read the joke (rarely a privilege, but hey…)
31 Open present – posh prawn cocktail (6)
UNWRAP – *(POSH PRAWN) with “cocktail” as the anagrind. Had one this Christmas lunchtime, and was instantly transported back to the ’60’s
32 What do you do? Speed? (6)
CAREER – DD, the first delightfully cryptic. Superb clue, I thought
33 Criminal, not sure how to, can’t get it all wrong? (3,4,3,6)
CUT ONES OWN THROAT – *(NOT SURE HOW TO CANT), with “criminal” as the anagrind
35 Servant slaughtered by a relative of the emperor (8)
TSAREVNA – *(SERVANT) with “servant” as the anagrind, + A, giving us the term for the wife of a Tsar’s oldest son. And there was I trying to find some sort of penguin for far too long
37 Skinned elephant in new flat? (9)
RECUMBENTjUMBo (skinned elephant) in RECENT (new)
38 Eats stuff (4)
TUCK – DD. Cue image of Bunter sauntering into the tuck shop whilst stuffing his shirt into his trousers
39 Indian city area, 50% free (4)
AGRA – A (area) + half of GRAtis (free). Every time I see or hear of Agra I instantly think of Dean’s “sex in the city” / Viagra clue from a few months ago…
41 Effective delivery not yet confirmed with baby to collect (3,4)
DOT BALL – DOLL (baby) ‘collects’ TBA (to be arranged – i.e. not yet confirmed). In case anyone is wondering, in cricket a dot ball is one which the batsman fails to score from (and is therefore ‘effective’ from the bowler’s perspective). Brilliant clue provided you had the requisite cricket knowledge – probably totally baffling if you did not. Fortunately I did, although I dished up very few of these myself as a somewhat erratic leggie…
43 College supporter has nothing in mind (9)
BRASENOSE – BRA (supporter) + SENSE (mind) with an O (nothing) in it, an oddly named establishment in Oxford which has David Cameron (inter alia) as an alumnus
45 Sybarite returned to employment in another time (5-5)
LOTUS EATER – OT (returned to) + USE (employment) in LATER (another time)
47 Unholy folk the Magi don’t appreciate (4,5,2)
MAKE LIGHT OF – *(FOLK THE MAGI) with “unholy” as the anagrind. Very nice.
50 Not able to show this disorder? (5,11)
SPLIT PERSONALITY – If they’ve “split”, they’ve gone and therefore cannot be shown. At least, that’s my take on what I found to be a highly cryptic clue! Better offers appreciated…
52 One playing in duet (6)
UNITED – *(IN DUET) with “playing” as the anagrind. Trademark Dean Mayer clue, I thought – elegant and economical
53 Gin‘s characteristic source very American (6)
GENEVA – GENE (characteristic source – lovely!) + V (very) + A (American)
54 Almost endless energy left when cutting a decoration (7)
AGELONG – E (energy) + L (left) ‘cutting’ A GONG (decoration)
55 Dotty gets kiss boarding winter vehicle (8)
SPECKLED – PECK (kiss) inside (boarding) SLED (winter vehicle)
2 Dish that batter will stand on (5)
PLATE – Cryptic & Lit baseball reference
3 Racket from policeman’s house between Christmas and New Year, primarily (9)
CACOPHONY – COP (policeman) + HO (house) ‘between’ CANY (first letters – primarily – of Christmas And New Year)
4 It shows illegitimacy over wrongness is essential to club? (5-8)
BATON SINISTER – Heraldic device indicating wrong side of the sheets, as my grandmother used to say. I’m struggling with the parsing here and would appreciate a hand! I originally thought we had BAT (club) ON (over) SINISTER (wrongness), but that is to ignore “essential” (which I assume must be doing something, since all of Dean’s clue words generally do!) Maybe the “wrongness” is SIN, followed by IS, but then that leaves us with TER somehow hanging there. Will someone kindly put me out of my misery?! Thank you…
5 Concrete parking area set aside again (7)
REALLOT – REAL (concrete) + LOT (parking area)
6 Top lawyer‘s triumph, and not about words removed (5,10)
CROWN PROSECUTOR – CROW (triumph) + NOR (and not) go around (about) PROSE (words) + CUT (removed)
7 With spouse providing support, nothing to be paid (4)
OWED – O (nothing) ‘supported’ by WED (with spouse)
8 Turkey sandwiches useless fare for do (7)
DEFRAUD – DUD (turkey) ‘sandwiches’ *(FARE) with “useless” as the anagrind
9 Somewhat intolerant shouts (5)
RANTS – Hidden (indicated by “somewhat”) in intoleRANT Shouts
10 Minister honest about topless party before Mass (9)
CLERGYMAN – CLEAN (honest – as in no criminal record) goes around (about) ORGY (topless party) + M (mass). Great surface, triggering memories of (I think it was) Bernard Levin’s observation that the biggest problem facing the C of E today is that “vicars” rhymes with “knickers” (his point being that the church was suffering excessive ridicule in the red top press regarding naughty vicar stories because they presented a headline gift to sub-editors)
11 Head teachers (3)
NUT – DD (NUT being the National Union of Teachers)
12 Talent show runner keeps dressing up (3,4)
POP IDOL – DIP reversed (dressing “up”) inside LOOP reversed (runner – as in running knot, I assume – “up”)
17 Perfect decoration where tree may be put up (3-6)
TOP DRAWER – POT (where tree may be) + REWARD (decoration) both reversed (‘put up’). Very cunning – stared and growled at this for a long time before getting it
18 Goddess of heathen ancestry (6)
ATHENA – Hidden (indicated by “of”) in heATHEN Ancestry
19 I’m deaf, a fool isn’t (5-4)
CLOTH EARS – CLOT HEARS (a fool is not deaf) – lovely stuff
21 Belt used by British private in uniform (3,6)
SAM BROWNE – BR (British) + OWN (private) in SAME (uniform) – reference to the military gun belt designed by Mr. Browne who sounds to have been a remarkable character straight out of the Boys’ Own – look here if interested in learning more…
25 Old marine guide found guarding bow (4,5)
STAR CHART – START (found) around (‘guarding’) ARCH (bow)
26 Offer a challenge – somehow ask me to be upset at dinner (4,4,7)
TAKE SOME BEATING – *(ASK ME TO BE) with “somehow” as the anagrind, + EATING (at dinner)
28 Big snowfall seen in a border around hotel (9)
AVALANCHE – A VALANCE (a border) ‘around’ H (hotel)
30 Alcoholic, one “very naughty boy”, caught? (9)
INEBRIANT – I (one) + NET (caught) around BRIAN ( “he’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy!”) Brilliant
31 Their decision, that is, to wrap lover’s present (2,2,3,6)
UP TO THE MINUTE – UP TO THEM (their decision) + IE (that is) goes around (to wrap) NUT (lover – but do not know why: help appreciated!)
34 Cut short, see well (6)
NICELY – NICk (cut short – minus last letter) plus ELY ( the see – bishopric)
36 Awful prudes breaking through (see above) (4,5)
VIDE SUPRA – *(PRUDES) – with “awful” as the anagrind – inside (breaking) VIA (through
38 Thin piece of wood insufficiently able to absorb pressure (9)
TOOTHPICK – TOO THICK (insufficiently able) with a P inside (absorb pressure)
40 Pastry – good with a drink, that is (4,3)
GALA PIE – G (good) + A LAP (a drink) + IE (that is). Possibly unknown outside the UK – a staple food in summer from my childhood, a cold pie of veal and ham (at least, that was the theory) with a hard boiled egg running through the middle. Served with salad cream and a bit of garnish – perfect…
42 Solvent made from cool air (7)
ACETONE – ACE (cool) + TONE (air). Slightly perplexed by both definitions, but I’m sure they are fine. Just me being a Novice…
44 Animals in trees understood the end of this (3-4)
AYE AYES – AYE AYE (yes – understood) + S (end of thiS) giving us the cute lemur creatures that hang around in trees
46 A hearing won’t finish in courts (5)
ATRIA – A TRIAl (A hearing won’t finish)
48 Huge decorations on base of tree (5)
OBESE – OBES (decorations) on E (base – last letter – of treE)
49 Might love dressing (4)
MAYO – MAY (might) + O (love)
51 Rocks regularly found in circles (3)
ICE – Every other letter (‘regularly’) of cIrClEs

17 comments on “Sunday Times Christmas Crossword by Dean Mayer (4673)”

  1. Two wrong on this one, DOT BALL (DNK) and STAR CHART. I wondered if 27ac should have a ? to account for ‘child prison’. No problem with 42d (‘ace’=super, tops, etc., has appeared a number of times; and ‘tone’=attitude=air), or 31d (‘nut’=fan=lover). I think I just figured out BATON SINISTER (knew bar and bend, not baton): ‘club’=BAT TER, not just BAT.
    1. Thanks Kevin – obvious now you point it out. I was fixated on the noun rather than the verb…

      Dot ball was a tough one for folks not fully versed in cricket (irrespective of geographic location). On a personal note, thanks very much for all your supportive and helpful comments over the year on both my Sunday and QC blogs – really appreciated. Best wishes, Nick

  2. Well done on blogging this monster Andy! A few points:

    > In 20ac I think the idea is that to TIDY is to ‘order’
    > In 50ac a NOTABLE (personality), is split to give ‘not able’.
    > 31ac is of course an anagram of U, PRAWN.
    > 4dn is ON, SIN, IS inside BATTER (club, which I read as a verb).
    > A NUT is a lover in the sense ‘golf nut’.

    I opened this on the Sunday morning, saw it was a jumbo, and immediately put it aside because I didn’t have time to finish it at that point. This meant I was able to savour it properly over a couple of days without worrying about my time. I enjoyed it immensely as a result, which brought home to me how silly this preoccupation with time is.

    Edited at 2016-01-03 09:42 am (UTC)

    1. Thanks very much for the hand with these Keriothe (I assume the reference to Andy was just a slip! I am light years away from being a Linxit…) Anyway, best wishes for 2016
      1. Sorry Nick: I think I read Andy’s blog just before yours and got a crossed wire. This sort of thing happens to me a lot: my kids are used to being called by the names of their siblings!
        The same to you for 2016.
  3. A wonderful surprise for me when I saw this, a nasty one for you though Nick!

    50ac a very clever clue: a notable = a personality, so no table = a split personality…
    in 31dn a nut = a fan = a lover as in a crossword nut
    12dn is difficult but I suspect it may be DIP rev. in POOL, rather than loop (Chambers: a deep part of a stream or river where the water runs very slowly)

    .. I see Keriothe has beaten me to it, never mind, great minds…

    Edited at 2016-01-03 09:45 am (UTC)

    1. Thanks for explaining 50a – totally missed that. As you say, very cunning clue. Best wishes for 2016
      1. Thought it was a military definition and too much reliance on scant knowledge of dress protocol.
        1. The clue is no more implying that a Sam Browne is worn by a private than 1ac is suggesting that a space bar is black. For those who know their military dress protocol this counts as misdirection but I suspect this is a minority of solvers!
  4. Thanks for the blog, nick, reminded me I’d managed to do this on a dodgy tablet in spite of simultaneously ‘entertaining’ two small granddaughters. It was a lot of fun and didn’t require any post solve checking out. DOT BALL was a goodie.
    1. Thanks Pip. Knocking this one over whilst dealing with a couple of granddaughters is quite a feat!~ best wishes for 2016
  5. Hi Nick – many thanks for the blog and a Happy New Year to all.
    Last weekend was an odd experience. On Saturday the blog for my previous weekend’s Anax (puzzle) appeared on 225, followed by the original post of this here one. Both puzzles had extended deadlines and were pulled; not sure if one setter has had that happen on consecutive days! Sadly the Anax one hasn’t resurfaced, but I guess the puzzle is long forgotten anyway.
    Just to clarify 29a, it was an attempt to use ‘content’ as ‘items contained’.
    1. Thanks very much Dean. I had managed to rumble 29a whilst solving, but then by the time I reached that point in the blog I’d forgotten my reasoning!

      Thanks again for all the fun and challenges that you have provided through 2015 – love your work! Happy New Year.

  6. Thanks John – and thanks for all your encouragement over the year. All the best for 2016

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