In the sample clues below, the links take you to explainers from our beginners’ series. The setter’s name often links to an interview with him or her, in case you feel like getting to know these people better.
The news in clues
Last time, we said we’d keep a lookout for Paralympian references and Mev in the Independent obliges with a full-on theme, placing …
2d Tie French plaits up originally (2,3,5,5)
[ definition: originally ]
[ wordplay: anagram (‘up’ meaning excited) of TIEFRENCHPLAITS ]
… IN THE FIRST PLACE among the long entries. Meanwhile, a less healthy figure is conjured in Picaroon’s imagery …
10a It ensures well-rounded character votes for Boris? (9)
[ definition: what a writer creates for characters ]
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘supports Conservative’ (‘votes for Boris’) ]
… for BACKSTORY.
A term from elsewhere in recent newspapers migrates to a puzzle from Pasquale:
8d Bizarre ban – all I must eat’s a Scotch egg, some claimed (11,4)
[ definition: what some claimed a Scotch egg was example of ]
[ wordplay: anagram of (‘bizarre’) BANALLIMUSTEATS ]
Yes, it’s our friend the SUBSTANTIAL MEAL. I’m partial enough to the scotch egg to have made it the subject of an episode of Jam on It, the cookery-and-music podcast that I co-host with Pandora Colin, where I semi-patiently spell out that if you disassembled the dish and laid on a plate a slice’s worth of bread, a sausage or two’s worth of meat, and an egg, the argument would disappear as quickly as a hearty scotch egg doesn’t get devoured. If in doubt, though, serve them the way they came in the 19th century: hot, with plenty of gravy.
I’m glad the egg has retained its nationality. The scotch pancake seems as often now to be called a drop scone; welsh and scotch rarebit were always really the same thing, but the former dominates. And as for the anchovy-and-egg scotch woodcock? Simon Hopkinson notes, in a paean to toast, that it “is now rarely encountered outside grand hotels of a certain period and gentlemen’s clubs”.
So let’s celebrate one that remains and make it the subject of our next challenge. Cooking times vary from mere hours to most of the day: reader, how would you clue SCOTCH BROTH?
On the subject of podcasts, this is a medium that has been missing in our recommendations. Let’s fix that.
Off-Grid is the “not-really-about crosswords podcast”, which uses a puzzle (most recently, one of Imogen’s) as a starting point, with your hosts Dave and Void (the aforementioned Mev) and sundry guests; the links you need are here.
Thanks for your clues for FOXGLOVE. I hoped that the combination of letters would not thwart our creativity; it did not. And I’ve been enjoying watching the development of some clues, sometimes from more than one hand, such as HairApparent and TonyCollman’s “Flower trick that finishes burgeoning romance”.
In a strong field, the audacity award goes to Montano for the wildly misleading “‘F’ plus ‘lower’ with a light touch makes ‘flower’”.
The runners-up are Newlaplandes’ pugnacious “Border dweller to throw gauntlet” and Battledore’s creepy “Poisonous plant, of unknown quantity, put in pea soup by ‘sweetheart’”; the winner is Steveran’s deft “Growth of confusion with map marking buried treasure”.
Kludos to Steveran; please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below. And the latest in our collaborative playlist Healing Music Recorded in 2020-21 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen To is the Staves, in the Watford kitchen of their childhood.
Clue of the fortnight
It usually takes me a while to see what’s going on in clues like this one from Boatman …
2d Six-footer humming middle of sestet in key’s first error (5,3)
[ definition: six-footed creature that hums ]
[ central letters (‘middle’) of SESTET + IN (‘in’) + first letter of KEY + synonym for ‘error’ ]
[ ST + IN + K + BUG ]
… so when I see the STINK BUG, the pleasure is all the greater. Stay safe.
The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop.