ST 2850 (Hints)

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2850 (Hints)

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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As is usual for the weekend prize crosswords, a number of the more difficult clues have been selected and hints provided for them.

Don’t forget that you can give your assessment of the puzzle. Five stars if you thought it was great, one if you hated it, four, three or two if it was somewhere in between.

Most of the terms used in these hints are explained in the Glossary and examples are available by clicking on the entry under “See also”. Where the hint describes a construct as “usual” this means that more help can be found in The Usual Suspects, which gives a number of the elements commonly used in the wordplay. Another useful page is Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, which features words with meanings that are not always immediately obvious.

A full review of this puzzle will be published after the closing date for submissions.

Some hints follow:


1a    A bad return, with debt, ruined livelihood (5-3-6)
An anagram (ruined) of A BAD RETURN with DEBT

11a    Strong position seen in one part of London paper, initially (4)
One of the two initial letters of a London financial newspaper could be expressed in this way (1,2,1)

12a    Recovered, having brought in one’s specialist for treatment after break (10)
An adjective meaning recovered or improving around (having brought in) ONE’S

17a    Got through part of year as wife in the red without husband (8)
W(ife) followed by IN T[H]E RED without the H(usband)

18a    What makes diamond something useful when dating? (6)
When followed by dating, this element, one form of which is diamond, gives a useful process when dating organic material

21a    Is a bit less wobbly? (10)
This anagram (wobbly) of IS A BIT LESS gives a verb meaning is a bit less wobbly or more steady [Thanks Gazza, I missed the anagram]

25a    Soft leather is relatively satisfactory? (7)
Split as (4,3) this could mean is satisfactory and relatives, hence “is relatively satisfactory”, although, in my opinion, this is one of Virgilius’s weaker clues

26a    It’s quickly run away from when fired (8,6)
A cryptic definition of a device used to begin a race


1d    Cheese provided nourishment — gave instructions in case (7)
A French cheese followed by a verb meaning provided nourishment

2d    Be covering up for each current mad scientist (15)
A five-letter verb meaning to be around a word meaning “for each”, the symbol for electric current and an adjective meaning mad

4d    Naval hero injured more than once in hold when fighting (6)
Two definitions


6d    Beat first of teams in friendly of little significance (10)
A three-letter verb meaning to beat followed by the initial (first) letter of T[eams] inside an adjective meaning friendly

13d    Female trapped by foreigner after exchange of two letters — that could be a pointer (10)
The answer is all there in the clue – F(emale) inside FOREIGNER with two of the letters swapped around

17d    Is taken in by setter’s direction, extremely clever (6)
… this setter is not the compiler but the sun!

20d    Veteran on board turns up without notice (3,3)
The reversal of some turns or attempts around (without) a two-letter notice – my dislike of without meaning surrounding is well documented

23d    Highly elusive monster still on island (4)
This monster which is said to live in the highest part of the Himalayas comes from a charade of an adverb meaning still followed by I(sland)

Could new readers please read the Welcome post and the FAQ before posting comments or asking questions about the site.

As this is a Prize crossword, please don’t put any ANSWERS, whether WHOLE, PARTIAL or INCORRECT, or any ALTERNATIVE CLUES in your comment.

Please read these instructions carefully. Offending comments may be redacted or deleted.

  I have been doing this birthday slot for so long, it has wrapped around and the same names are coming up, so I will use it in future for some great pop songs from yesteryear.  
  I looked back to my Sunday hints for five years ago, and this clue popped up:  
  Hold, using force of arms, naval commander (6)   


  1. Gazza
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent stuff as usual – thanks to BG and BD. 21a is an absolutely superb all-in-one and is my runaway favourite.

  2. Rabbit Dave
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    3*/4*. Another fine Sunday puzzle, although I agree with BD that 25a seemed a bit uncharacteristic. 12a was my last one in, and the ingenious 13d was my favourite.

    Many thanks to Virgilius and to BD.

  3. George
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    Usual great Sunday fare. Some great long words and a good mixture of easy and moderate clues.

    2*/4* for me.

  4. cat
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    I enjoyed this, **/*** for me. Some of the longer words looked a bit overpowering initially but gradually broke down and made complete sense. I particularly liked 13a but found 11a a bit obscure, although the hint confirmed my guess.

  5. Senf
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    Very straightforward, but I do agree on 25a and, perhaps, 11a falls into the same category. Having got the answer with checkers, I also had some bother parsing 2d but got there in the end.

    An oldie but goodie in 14a and, possibly, 6d.

    Four nominations for favourite – 18a, 21a, 28a, and 7d. While I agree with Gazza on 21a, my winner is 18a.

    My morning will start with the Monaco Grand Prix to see if Hamilton and Rosberg can avoid wiping each other out again, especially on the first lap, then the England – Wales game will take precedence.

    If only the Exeter Chiefs had ‘shown up’ in the first half the way the did in the second half yesterday.

    Thanks to Virginias and BD.

    • Senf
      Posted May 29, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Apologies to Virgilius, I did not notice the ‘auto-correction’ before edit time ran out.

  6. Una
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    21a stands out , a marvelous clue.I also liked 24a and 18a among others.
    Thanks V and BD

  7. Jane
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thought there were a few in here that didn’t come up to the usual high standard we’ve come to expect from our Sunday setter – 11&25a plus 4d.
    Small gripes in an otherwise splendid puzzle.

    Thanks to Virgilius and to BD for always being there with the hints for the weekend crowd.

  8. Heno
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Virgilius and to Big Dave for the hints. A very enjoyable, well crafted puzzle as usual on a Sunday. I must say that 11a doesn’t really work for me, I’m probably missing something :-) I took a guess at 19d. I liked 20d, but my favourite was 13d, but would have been 21a if it hadn’t have gone straight over my head. Last in was 6d, which I needed electronic help to solve. Was 2*/4* for me. Dull and chilly in Central London.

  9. Posted May 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Poor Virgilius: when one is consistently awesome, it is noticed when one is merely brilliant.

    21a is indeed beautiful. Others I noted included 18a, 2d, 6d, 13d and 17d. 12a made me laugh for some reason.

    Many thanks to V and BD.

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Lovely stuff as usual from our Sunday setter. Favorites are the super 21A and 13D, though 2D is also up there. Tanks to Virgilius and BD.

    Off to work on my flower bed retaining borderbefore the thunderstorms that are as traditional a part of Memorial Day as beer and barbecues arrive.

  11. AMan
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great crossword and thanks for the hints. I am not certain about the purpose of the birthday slot today. You could have made it cryptic by adding one from Bowie…..they both share the same birthday.

    • Posted May 29, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Well I enjoyed the clips. Especially the first (which will now be in my head for at least the remainder of today).

      • Merusa
        Posted May 29, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I agree – in any case, I’m a huge Elvis fan and need no excuse to listen to a clip of his!

    • Posted May 29, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I am not continuing with the birthday slot – five years ago I wished happy Birthday to La Toya Jackson and Noel Gallagher and they have come up again today. In future I am going to be self-indulgent and post some of my favourite pop songs – look out for Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Duane Eddy, Brenda Lee, Janice Martin, Eddie Cochran, Lloyd Price, Johnny Preston, Chris Montez, Richie Valens, Johnny Burnette, Freddie Cannon, Carl Perkins and many, many more. Sorry but my halcyon years ended somewhere around 1967, and, apart from the truly dreadful “Laughing Gnome”, Bowie came later.

      • AMan
        Posted May 29, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thank you BD. It now makes sense. I believe Bowie would have agreed with you about the Laughing Gnome.

      • stanXYZ
        Posted May 29, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens … maybe you should change your name to the Big Bopper?

        The day that music died ……

        • AMan
          Posted May 29, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Big Bopper…..lovely!

  12. Tedgar
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to setter and BD for the blog which I needed to clear up one or two parsings. I must not have been on the right wavelength today as the CDs didn’t sparkle for me, but I thought 21A was excellent.

  13. Vancouverbc
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    *-**/****. Really enjoyable solve and right up my street. Really liked 17&21a and 13d. Thanks to the setter and BD for the review. We actually had proper rain yesterday and very welcome it was too apart from having to dry the dogs off.

  14. Merusa
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Another superb Sunday offering from Virgilius.
    Lots of fun clues, loved 21a, but I think 13d takes the prize.
    Thanks to Virgilius and to BD for the hints today.

  15. Gwizz
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Because of this damned sunshine stuff I had to do this crossword outside with a pen and paper! And much to my surprise when I had finished I saw that there were only three blotches on the grid.
    Lovely Sunday fare from Virgilius…. I nearly said as usual but that might be looking for trouble! 18a was my personal fave. Overall 3/4*.
    Thanks to Virgilius and to BD for the hints. (Can’t wait for Freddy Cannon’s ‘Palisades Park’… one of my youthful faves)

  16. pommers
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Perhaps not the best Virgilius ever but I did really enjoy it. Thought 11a and 25a were a bit weak but that’s just nit-picking. Agree that the splendid 21a is runaway favourite.

    Thanks to Virgilius and BD.

  17. neveracrossword
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    in 25a I took it that relatives were the object of the verb. (Cf,”That will ** me”).
    Thanks to BD and to Virgilius for some splendid clues.

  18. Robin Newman
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    enjoyed this one-restored my confidence after forays at the quickie

  19. BusyLizzie
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Don’t always finish Sunday offerings, but did today, hooray and thanks to Big Dave for the ones I needed some help on. Favorite was 7d, and last in was 6d. 31C here today under clear blue skies, our summer is definitely just around the corner…

  20. Salty Dog
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I took a few minutes to get a foothold, but completed well within 1* time. Maybe 3.5* for enjoyment, which proves that the peerless Virgilius is human (l can’t remember when I last gave less than 4*!). As for my favourite clue, while I was tempted by 25a the only possible choice for me was 20d. Thank you, Virgilius and BD.

  21. paso doble
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We enjoyed this one and the most amazing thing is that we have a French student
    staying in our house at the moment and he managed to get 4d quite easily after never
    being introduced to a cryptic crossword…***/****
    Thanks to Virgilius and BD for the hints.

  22. Frank
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    No clue for 15a and no comments about it either, Baffled here.

    • Gazza
      Posted May 29, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

      15a How I try frantically holding line in righteous way (8)
      It’s an anagram (frantically) of the first three words containing the abbreviation for line.

      • Frank
        Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink | Reply

        Thank you Gazza, I had that worked out and the answer. It made no sense because of my misspelling of the 6d clue. No ****** in that one! If you see my mistake.

        • Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink | Reply

          Please don’t explain mistakes you have made in prize puzzles as it serves to confuse others.

  23. Jon_S
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 10:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As good as ever. 21ac particularly so, worth the price of admission alone.

  24. Sheffieldsy
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    1.5*/2* from us. We didn’t really enjoy this too much for no apparent reason. Too many really simple clues, like 11, 18, 22 and 26 across, 1, 3, 4, 8d. Surely it shouldn’t be quite so straightforward for a prize crossword?

    Favourites were 6d and 26a.

    Thanks to BD for the hints and Virgilius.

  25. Kath
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Better late than never, or maybe not.
    I’ve done this one in dribs and drabs whenever a few minutes appeared with no-one else in the kitchen.
    I didn’t really understand 11 or 25a so I’m glad to see that it’s not just me.
    I don’t want to nit pick but I’m not sure that I’d call 24a ‘pebbles’ – more like very coarse sand, but who cares.
    Lots of good clues but the run away favourite for me was 21a.
    With thanks to Virgilius and to BD.
    Night, night all and sleep well.

  26. HoofItYouDonkey
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    Gosh, that was hard. I just don’t get onto this setter’s wavelength at all, he must be Ray-T’s brother!!
    Many thanks, BD for the hints, I would never have left the starting blocks without your help.
    I have to say, that even having read the hint, I still don’t understand 6d. I must have the answer wrong.
    I feel a bit like Robert The Bruce’s spider with crosswords at the moment, and I am trying to convince myself that I am not going backwards.
    Thanks to the setter, and particularly BD, without whome…etc. etc.
    Have a good bank holiday everyone, though the weather in South London at the moment is pretty miserable.

    • HoofItYouDonkey
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink | Reply

      Penny finally dropped with 6d, I misread the hint.

  27. Nigel Burin
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I often go on the site to read the comments, or for some help, though I rarely comment as there is not usually any more I can add to what has already been said. I felt I did want to comment today though, as I found it such an excellent crossword. Some great clues which made me smile, especially 18a, 21a, 7d, 15d and 17a. There was also a mix of some quite straightforward clues and some really tricky ones. I especially wanted to comment as there were a few negative reviews, so I wanted to redress the balance. Who is the setter, please?

    • Gazza
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      You’ve expanded your alias, Nigel, so your comment needed moderation. Both varieties should work from now on.
      The Sunday setter (usually the best back-pager of the week, in my opinion) is Brian Greer, also known round here as Virgilius. You can read all about him here.

  28. Nigel Burin
    Posted June 2, 2016 at 12:38 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, Gazza. I shall follow up the links.

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