Sunday Times Jumbo Cryptic No 5091 by David McLean — all unwrapped

This fruitcake is chock-full of seasonal nuttiness, with a good number of clues that wouldn’t work nearly as well at any other time, which makes it generally quite easy, with two grid-spanning answers that you will probably get as soon as you have just two or three letters, as I did, and no others longer than 13. The few unusual words and more difficult parsings really stood out—there are two three-letter entries that use basically the same ruse, but the workings of one of them had me seriously puzzled.

I indicate (Ars Magna)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 “Lethal head-shrinker gangs run amok” (Standard, Dec) (4,3,6,6,4)
HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING    (Lethal head-shrinker gangs)*
13 A knight captivated by end of awful pain (6)
14 Drop in network, second for satellite dish (7)
LASAGNA    LA(SAG)N+sAtellite
15 They often patronize soldiers (8)
16 Nordic-looking IT novice makes bloomer (4-4,4)
BLUE-EYED MARY    BLUE-EYED, “Nordic-looking” + MARY, “IT novice,” i.e., a virgin. That Mary.
18 Delivery of Congressional results? (5)
ISSUE    CD   That kind of “congress,” nudge, nudge, say no more…
20 Port and lemo{n a ha}berdasher holds (4)
NAHA    Hidden   A Japanese city
21 Tail game by yard covered with stunted trees (8)
23 Sit on fence in a British spot (7)
ABSTAIN    A + B(ritish) + STAIN, “spot”
24 Chance of shower, one missed by flipping ministry (6)
RANDOM    RA[-i]N + MOD<=“flipping”
25 Revolutionary books consumed by new Crucible director (10)
BERTOLUCCI   (Crucible +[OT<=“revolutionary”])*
28 What on earth is often called for these days? (5)
PEACE    CD   …Why is this message so hard for some to get?
29 Small pen, coffin nail and mesh (articulated) (6)
CYGNET    “Cig,” “coffin nail” + NET, “mesh”—or “cig net”
30 Instrument of pain ran God ragged (5,5)
GRAND PIANO    (pain ran)*
32 Insects in tree bite legs without restraint (5,7)
TIGER BEETLES    (tree bite legs)*   …without the “restraint” of having to spell those particular words, I guess
34 Smelly line of soldiers anger female at front (12)
FRANKINCENSE    F(emale) + RANK, “line of soldiers” + INCENSE, “anger” (verb)   I have it on good authority that “Smelly,” as a noun, is a slang term for INCENSE in Great Britain, though it has yet to make it into any of our usual dictionaries. (Edit: See Peter B.’s comment below. I never thought to look for the word in the plural.) FRANKINCENSE was the smelly among the three gifts of the biblical Magi to the baby Jesus, the others being gold, signifying that he was “over us all to reign,” and myrhh, whose (to quote a song also referenced in this puzzle) “bitter perfume breathes / A life of gathering gloom / Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying / Sealed in the stone cold tomb.” (Sleep tight, kid.)
36 Severely criticise fool making alternative Xmas meal (5,5)
ROAST GOOSE    ROAST, “Severely criticise” + GOOSE, “fool”
38 Birthday boy in court is hard, contrary teacher (6)
40 Seasonal worker police force brought onto firm (5)
COMET    That is, one of Santa’s reindeer. CO, “firm” + MET, “police force”
41 Assumed union delayed date on Xmas cards? (10)
POSTULATED    POST, “Xmas cards?” + U(nion) + LATE, “delayed” + D(ate)
42 Has young girl at last entered grottos? (6)
44 Country river almost overwhelmed by fish (7)
TUNISIA    TUN(ISI)A   That river is ISIS, and actually part of yer Thames.
46 Five  with Last Christmas? (8)
FESTIVAL    (Five + last)*
48 Leading light found ultimately lacking (4)
STAR    STAR[-t]
49 Filled with bewilderment in the main (2,3)
AT SEA    This chestnut has been roasting on an open fire so long it’s burnt.
50 Our recent end perplexed Met unexpectedly (12)
RENCOUNTERED    (Our recent end)*
52 I see one cutting spruce for Yuletide, say (8)
NATIVITY   NATTY, “spruce” with I then V, “see” (vide) + I, “one” carved into it
54 Getting used to offending, judge must retire (7)
55 One hanging by door or heading to exit in anger (6)
57 Eighteen ornate fireworks out for doorstep delivery? (2,5,5,2,6,3)
WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE    (Eighteen ornate fireworks)*   Because carolers might treat you with this one.
 2 I glance nervously like one on top of tree? (7)
ANGELIC    (I glance)*
 3 Understand only half of what’s said (3)
KEN    spoKEN
 4 Buddy plant (5)
HOLLY   DD, if a first name can count as one. Anyway, you get it.
 5 Old hat picked up by grass for Christmas? (7)
 6 Fancy arts fair attended by a religious type (9)
RASTAFARI    (arts fair + a)*
 7 Extras ask for stories Spooner narrates (3,4)
LEG BYES    “Beg lies”
 8 Tune a Wagnerian may put in a new arrangement (4,2,1,6)
AWAY IN A MANGER    (a Wagnerian may)*
 9 A Fish Called Wanda essentially left out on reflection (3)
GAR    RA[-n]G<=“on reflection”  N is “Wanda essentially” as the middle letter in that name. “A” is unnecessary for the definition, but can be part of it under these circumstances (the 1988 movie starred John Cleese, who also codirected, and Jamie Lee Curtis).   …LOI, though I saw it long before, and last one parsed!
10 For example, wife wearing king’s stockings? (7)
11 Piece of music in the style of 433 that follows vespers (6,5)
SILENT NIGHT    SILENT, “in the style of 4′ 33″” + NIGHT, “that follows vespers”   No performance of John Cage’s 4′ 33″ is ever actually silent, nor is it intended to be. No instrument is played—or, rather, an instrument is pointedly left unplayed. The idea is that audiences will be impelled to attend to whatever ambient sound there is.   …In my notes, I’ve supplied the correct typographical marks for the minutes and seconds indications.
12 Help, or not, to sort out sacked worker’s home (5,4)
NORTH POLE    (Help or not)*
17 Protein one German eats after every starter? (7)
ELASTIN    EIN, “one[,] German” taking in LAST, “after every other starter”
19 You might say an eye and nose doctor enrages sons (5,6)
SENSE ORGANS    (enrages sons)*
22 Writer everyone associates with black spot (9)
BALLPOINT    B + ALL, “everyone” + POINT, “spot”
26 Disruptive kid has no time to make mistake (5)
27 Minerals found in choc-ice: salt, surprisingly (11)
CHALCOCITES    (choc-ice: salt)*
28 Piece of ivory smuggled in plain case (7)
29 Yuletide snacks head wrapped in boxes (9)
31 Mate on train on about what Pine has on? (13)
ORNAMENTATION   (Mate on train)*
33 Relations out of bathroom … result! (5)
ENSUE    ENSU[-it]E   The second appearance here of “it” meaning (sexual) “Relations”
35 Digital decoration? (4,7)
37 Shimmering river rising over a track (7)
OPALINE    PO<=“rising” + A + LINE, “track”
39 For a change, rather eat pulse (5,4)
HEART RATE    (rather eat)*
41 Person who might bring you up in simple row (9)
PLAINTIFF    PLAIN, “simple” + TIFF, “row”
43 One in delivery facility’s resistant to change (7)
STABILE    STAB(I)LE   …Here the word is defined as a variant of “stable,” but it also means a kind of sculpture that is associated in particular with Alexander Calder.
45 They might cause a stink after Christmas dinner (7)
SPROUTS    CD   …I feel grateful that this was very cryptic to me, as apparently it has to do with postprandial flatulence.
46 Fine type who enters John Lewis? (7)
FLOGGER    F(ine) + LOGGER, “type who enters”   …The John Lewis I knew of was not the founder of the eponymous UK supermarket chain but a civil rights icon and a US congressman.
47 A superior assistant (7)
51 Aussie immigrant born outside of West Indies (5)
53 American Tyson finally knocked out jabber (3)
YAK    YA[-n]K
56 Pedant’s oddly dismissed worry (3)
EAT    pEdAnT

22 comments on “Sunday Times Jumbo Cryptic No 5091 by David McLean — all unwrapped”

  1. 32: smellies is in both our reference dictionaries as “fragrant products”, and the singular version is perfectly logical though not often used in real life.

    52: v indicated by “see” is surely “vide”, the word recorded under v in dictionaries, rather than videlicet = viz.

  2. DNF
    Never got SCRABBLY or STABILE (DNK; didn’t get ‘delivery facility’), or ELASTIN. I put in FLOGGER without knowing why (DNK John Lewis), ditto FESTIVAL, COMET, & GAR. DNK smelly, DNK that SPROUTS were part of a Christmas dinner. DNK CHALCOCITES, which wasn’t in ODE, but was in my English-Japanese dictionary, which often fills in ODE gaps for me.

    1. SPROUTS as a traditional part of the British Christmas dinner is an odd one because allegedly most of the population is said to hate the things and they are often
      overcooked until they turn almost to mush. Jokes abound about putting them on to boil hours if not days before the meal. They are rarely to be found on restaurant menus at any other time of the year.

      1. See also turkey! Two things nobody eats at any other time. To be fair a good-quality turkey is absolutely delicious, and the things are just too big for almost any other occasion. And I adore sprouts, but they have to be crunchy.

  3. SeeThere were some tricky clues here but enough easy ones to provide checkers and keep up momentum.

    My unknowns were BLUE-EYED MARY, SCRABBLY as covered with stunted tress (I’d have said ‘scrubby’), NAHA, CHALCOCITES, RENCOUNTERED, and SENSE ORGANS. I wondered if the last of these was in ‘green paint’ territory, but it’s in Collins. When I checked SOED it had ‘sensory organs’ instead, and I realised that’s the term I would have expected to see.

    On the subject of ‘smellies’, I’ve heard that used mainly with reference to fragrant products such as soap, face powder, oils and other bathroom products for personal use. It’s a word that might go on someone’s list of ideas for gifts at Christmas or birthday. Guy mentions ‘incense’, and you will sometimes hear of rituals in the higher Anglican and Catholic churches as being conducted with ‘smells and bells’, especially by those who disapprove.

  4. For me the reference to the Virgin Mary as IT novice was verging on the tasteless if not blasphemous. That let this otherwise excellent crossword down.

    51dn: why Aussie? I couldn’t find any reference to NEWIE being an Aussie term. I consulted Chambers, Wiktionary and other online sources but couldn’t see any reference to an antipodean origin. I haven’t yet checked the OED. I guess I should do that.

    1. Collins has NEWIE as Australian and, in specific reference to a person, also US.

      As an atheist, I consider “blasphemy” a nonissue.

      The whole notion of the virgin birth seems to have been a result of a translation error in the first place, FWIW.

    2. Surely only blasphemous if she’d been clued as an IT ‘expert’? Perhaps it did verge on tastelessness but ‘it’ seemed to be preying so much on this setter’s mind that it worked as part of the running joke.

  5. Despite what Collins claims, I have never heard of NEWIE as a term for immigrant here in Western Australia. Perhaps beyond the Nullarbor those strange Eastern-Staters use it?
    SPROUTS and MARY as an IT novice were unexpected but got Christmas cheers.
    The scoring system for this crossword seems based on a standard 15×15, not a Jumbo, which is clearly an error.
    Just under an hour.

  6. Enjoyed doing this amidst the usual Christmas stuff. Some answers baffled even as I wrote them in. Didn’t get the Mary ref at 16ac, nor the “congress” ref at 18ac (I’m such an innocent!). And NHO of 21ac’s SCRABBLY nor RENCOUNTERED at 50ac. Surprised myself by getting LEG BYES at 7d – finally getting the hang of the cricket thing? 11d a total over-my-head punt. But all done, no time recorded because it was so patchy (I do it in the print edition). Thanks to all for another year’s guidance and entertainment. Guy, I love your blogs!

  7. A very enjoyable exercise to fill in the slow times over Christmas. I managed to complete it all in the end but am grateful to the blog for 4/5 parsings I just couldn’t see. GAR was chief of these as I found it so hard to look through the surface. Thanks setter and blogger.

  8. 43:43. A satisfyingly chewy solve, just right for the occasion, with a nice mix of easier clues, unknowns where I needed the wordplay, and appropriate seasonal references.
    I was familiar with ‘smelly’ meaning perfume, but was a bit surprised to see it here so looked it up. I was even more surprised to find that it wasn’t in any of the usual dictionaries, and it never occurred to me to look for the plural.
    I thought ‘IT novice’ was excellent. TFW you come up with a hasty story to placate your husband and end up inadvertently founding a millennia-spanning global religion.

    1. Do we know he was placated? And is there an official position on whether, after the birth was out of the way, he finally got his marital rights?

      1. Do we know whether anything in the two mutually contradictory nativity stories (and genealogies) in the gospels is even true? Rhetorical question.

      2. He was and he did; the Gospels are quite clear on both points. Mathew I:18-25 is one easy reference.

  9. I have to admit I was a bit miffed there wasn’t a regular Xword. This one was too much writing, and a mixture of difficult vocab and lots of gimmes. Is SCRABBLY a word? It seems to be in the usual sources. Is Bertolucci widely known to people who don’t watch foreign-language films?
    Wiktionary: “rencounter
    (archaic, transitive) To meet, encounter, come into contact with.
    (obsolete) To attack hand to hand.”
    Not in my cheating machine so DNF double-time.
    I don’t want to just be negative, and it’s only once a year, so all is forgiven.

  10. Thanks so much for taking us through this one!

    Still don’t understand how “worry” is a definition of “eat”…?

  11. I concur re ‘newie’ and I am a strange Eastern-stater. It sounds like a word the Brits think would be an Aussie word.

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