ST 2861 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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ST 2861 (Hints)

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2861 (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.

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:


7a    Modified boot early in season for American sport (8)
An anagram (modified) of BOOT inserted after the first letter (early) of the American word for one of the seasons of the year

9a    Call after close of play, at hour to be arranged (6)
The person who could be called on to the stage at the end (close) of a play is an anagram (to be arranged) of AT HOUR

11a    E.g. game dramatist inserting line provided (8)
The name of a famous dramatist goes around (inserting) L(ine) and our usual two-letter word meaning provided

15a    Returned power tool that buzzes (4)
The reversal of P(ower) and a tool

17a    Difficult, though less hard after start (5)
Start with the word T[H]OUGH and drop the H(ard) that appears just after the start of the word

23a    British writer of picaresque novels placed in covers, say (8)
One for the cricket lovers – a word meaning, for example (say), placed in the covers – the other well-known author with the same surname doesn’t quite fit the bill of being a writer of picaresque novels

27a    Place for the old lady to retire, lucky thing (6)
Split as (2’1,3) this could be a place for the old lady to retire for the night

28a    So led astray by sailor’s navigational aid (8)
An anagram (astray) of SO LED followed by one of our usual sailors


1d    Merchant of Venicethat needs eight players (4)
Not Shakespeare’s fictional merchant, but a real one is also the name of a game between two sides, each of four players

2d    Creator of prints and such that female supports (6)
The abbreviation for “and such” followed by (supports in a down clue) the pronoun meaning that female

3d    Sounded sad to those listening (4)
Sounds like (to those listening) an adjective meaning sad – you just need to pick the right homophone indicator!

4d    Small settlement for dramatically wronged prince (6)
Two definitions – a settlement that is smaller than a village (traditionally one without a church) and Shakespeare’s dramatically wronged prince

6d    Female I spotted in study, poet’s lady friend (10)
F(emale) and I between a verb meaning to study and a classical poet

8d    Present for employee, not always on time, making effort (7)
A two-letter preposition meaning present followed by a non-permanent (not always) employee and T(ime)

13d    Old writer upset about a form of Latin from place in Italy (10)
The reversal of O(ld) and a writing implement around the A from the clue and followed by an anagram (form) of LATIN

18d    Cricketer’s feat that’s repeated after first of May for MCC (7)
The value associated with the Roman numeral that appears twice (repeated) after the initial letter (first) of M[ay] in MCC

22d    Fashionable way to work on course (6)
The two-letter abbreviation for a way of working followed by a course at the dinner table

26d    State absorbing Western influence (4)
A verb meaning to state around W(estern)

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29 comments on “ST 2861 (Hints)

  1. To quote the master, I found this difficult, though less hard after start. Great entertainment as ever from Virgilius. Thank you BD and setter.

  2. I sat on 9a for ages, trying to fit the solved anagram to the first part of the clue, but as a non theatre-goer I didn’t appreciate this happened often. Anyway, an enjoyable romp from one of my favourite compilers. Thanks to BD as usual for the confirmatory hint. Also stuttered on 23a trying to insert the creator of Bondage.
    **/**** from me.

  3. Not often you have to start with the Downs on a Sunday, and I don’t think I’ve ever solved any crossword while a Spitfire, Lancaster and Hurricane flew over our house, but that’s what happened to me today.

    Thanks to Virgilius for another fine Sunday solving experience – now to type the draft blog and then persuade Mr CS that he’s spent enough time on the swing seat in the sunny garden.

  4. Another Sunday delight – two 14 letter anagrams to wake us up and 27a was so awful it was funny. New words learned from 23a and 28a but sadly will probably be soon forgotten by my ageing mind. I really should try to use picaresque at least once in conversation 😂
    Many thanks to all involved.

  5. Thanks to Virgilius and to Big Dave for the hints. I found this very enjoyable but very tricky. Needed the hints for 11a,1&6d,and electronic help for 21d which was last in. Favourite was 18d. Now back to the ⚽ and 🏏. Was 4*/3* for me.

  6. Gosh, I found this really hard in places, especially the two 14 letter answers. I did finish without help but it took longer than the usual for a Sunday. I found 21D hard to parse, then the penny dropped. Lots to smile about , and I ticked 27A, 8D, 14D and 18D. Thnks to Virgilius and BD.

  7. Just too difficult to solve without help with SW corner . My lack of literary knowledge laid bare by 23a. Almost ashamed to say I missed the cricket connection as well. 21d a guess.
    Thanks to BD for needed hints & setter for the stern exam.

  8. I found this puzzle tricky to get started with but a delight to solve.

    I’m not sure if it’s me, but the overall difficulty level of Sunday’s puzzles seems to have increased a bit and I’m not sure that I could’ve solved this one a year or so ago.

    Thanks to BD and Virgilius ***/****

  9. The supertoy and I struggled valiantly with this delightful Sunday offering from Mr. G (thank you for stimulating my ageing brain) but I agree that it feels as though things are getting more difficult bit by bit each week. The thesaurus has been sorely tested today but I refused to look at hints until either I had finished or given up so grateful thanks to BD for confirming my doubts where necessary. :phew:

  10. This was tougher than the usual Sunday fare. Enjoyable solve but 21d was for me contrived. Thanks to all.

  11. I always look forward to the Sunday puzzle and this was no exception.
    Learnt a new word in the clue for 23a, I guessed the answer but had no idea why the “placed in covers”, natch, it had to do with cricket.
    I think I’ve got 21d right, but not sure. Very unusual with a Virgilius puzzle not to know without doubt if your answer is right or wrong.
    Thanks to Virgilius and to BD for his hints.

  12. I’m not trying to be bloody-minded or even just plain difficult (there again why change the habits of a life-time?) but I thought this was less tricky than usual for a Sunday.
    Two cricket clues – oh dear – but did, eventually, manage them even though I spent a while asking Mr Google about the MCC in18d.
    1d was my last answer, mainly because it was such a little short word that I didn’t spot the fact that I hadn’t done it – please could we add the answer to the list of things that Kaths can’t do?
    I liked 8 and 14d and my favourite was 27a because it made me laugh.
    A great crossword so thank you to Virgilius and thanks to BD, specially for the BF – loved him – my favourite of his was “Once upon a Dream”.

  13. I admit to going round in circles for a while with 22d and 25a. And I made hard work of 9a by not thinking properly! It’s the heat, guv. Honest.
    Otherwise another excellent Sunday crossword from the maestro.
    My fave once I had unraveled it was 25a. 3/4* overall.
    Thanks to Virgilius, and BD for the hints.

  14. More brilliance from the Sunday maestro, although I would like to take him to task for putting in TWO cricket clues! 18a took a while anyway because I was desperately trying to fit an ‘M’ into the answer but the last one to fall was 9a.
    Thought 20a was a good use of that particular type of clue but my top three were 2,8&14d.

    Many thanks to Virgilius and to BD for the Sunday hints.

  15. Enjoyed this crossword very much.

    Needed electronic help with 11a and 23a….draw whatever conclusions you like from that!

    Cannot believe that a relatively short time ago I was lucky to get 3 or 4 answers in.

    Thanks to the setter and to Big Dave for the hints.

  16. I’m with Kath today – didn’t find this more difficult than usual for a Sunday. A little hard to compare because I allowed myself the luxury of printing it out, and as is worth doing with a Virgilius puzzle, took my time to savour each clue, working corner by corner – which is slower but more satisfying.

    I did have trouble with the crickety bit of 23a and checked BD’s excellent hints to make sure my guess was correct. Thanks to him and to the superb Sunday setter.

    It’s been a hot day, made hotter by running and then doing some painting of my parents’ shed (even I can be useful occasionally). On top of a liberal base coat of Sun GooTM, I have reached an impressive level of filthy.

  17. Do people really shout “??????” after a play? I’ve never heard it. But then, I’ve probably never been to a show where the writer was in the building.

  18. Got quite excited when I filled in the first 8 clues I attempted, but should have known better. It didn’t last. Struggled and still stuck on 11a and 27a.

  19. Maybe I was distracted by the culmination of Olympic golf and gymnastics, but this took me just into 3* time. I very much enjoyed the tussle, though (particularly 23a and 2d), so 4* for enjoyment. Many thanks to Virgilius and BD.

  20. Definitely felt harder than par for a Sunday, but on the other hand it’s been a long weekend so it could just be me. :-) Lots to like as ever from Virgilius, so top marks for entertainment value.

  21. Brilliant but difficult. I completely failed to understand the parsing of 21d.
    Thanks to Virgilius and BD.

  22. Thanks to BD for the hints, a fair few of which were needed to complete this enjoyable puzzle. Dragged both 28a and 21d out of the depths of consciousness, the latter helped by a trip to Japan a few years ago. Enjoyed the cultural references provided by Virgilius making this a thorough mental workout!

  23. Even with BD’s hints I could only do about half of this???
    22d a good example, I have all the checking letters, but I have no idea what a two letter way of working is, or a four letter course of dinner is, or a word that means ‘fashionable’. Apart from that, I have it all worked out!!!
    Best move on to Monday,,
    Thanks BD and the setter

    1. Got there in the end via BD’s hints, internet crossword solving websites, etc.
      I still can’t parse some of the answers, 16d, 21d, 22d (first part). Bad hair day, I guess.
      Thanks to all.

  24. Olympics “Sensational Sunday” meant that I only got around to this late today once many tedious chores had been achieved. I found it definitely testing but with a little help from electronic friends managed to complete although I did find several clues a bit far-fetched and not entirely ‘parsable’. Anyway thank you Virgilius and BD. ****/***.

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