DT 28616 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 28616

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 28616

Hints and tips by Falcon

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BD Rating – Difficulty ** / ***Enjoyment ***

Greetings from Ottawa where the weather seems to have been on a roller coaster lately. One day we are experiencing wind chills approaching -30° C and a couple of days later the temperature is +10° C.

While I can confidently say that today’s puzzle was definitely not compiled by RayT, I won’t venture a guess as to who did set it.

As this will be my final appearance here for this year, let me wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Joyous and Prosperous New Year.

The definitions are underlined in the clues and the answers can be revealed by clicking on the ANSWER buttons (so avoid clicking on them unless you really want to see an answer).

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought of the puzzle.


1a   Stop possible introduction of active figure around island (10)
IMMOBILISE — start with a (1’1,6) greeting that one might receive from (supposing it could talk) a hanging decoration made up of parts that are moved around by air currents; then use this result to envelop the two-letter abbreviation for island; I nearly invoked the “Call a friend” option on this one

6a   Some fantastic accompaniment to pasta? (4)
ASTI — some vino can be found hiding in the clue

9a   A mint spent in a covered place for acquisition (10)
ATTAINMENT — an anagram (spent) of A MINT takes shelter in the second A from the clue and a structure one might erect to protect guests at a garden party from the elements

10a   Mistake, dropping pound somewhere in church (4)
APSE — an error (in judgement, perhaps) with the symbol for a pound sterling removed

12a   A Greek accompanying this writer concerned with the arts of the land (12)
AGRICULTURAL — string together the A from the clue, GR(eek), a subjective self-reference, and an adjective denoting relating to the arts

15a   Common soldiers, for example, operating in state (6)
OREGON — a charade of soldiers not holding a commissioned rank, an abbreviated Latin phrase denoting for example, and the customary two-letter word for operating or functioning give a West Coast US state

16a   Mideast area fliers returning circling north, way off (3-5)
FAR-FLUNG — start by linking together an informal name for the region around a large body of water in the Middle East and the abbreviated name for British military flyers; then reverse the lot and wrap it around N(orth)

18a   Before long, nameless item is seen as restful (8)
SOOTHING — a word meaning before long with N(ame) removed followed by a synonym for an item or object

19a   Pickle  skin (6)
SCRAPE — double definition; the first, a predicament; the second; a minor injury

21a   English clubs still followed by supporter very happily (12)
ECSTATICALLY — concatenate E(nglish), C(lubs), a word meaning still or stationary, and a supporter or friend

24a   Semi-domesticated fish found in poor fettle (4)
ORFE — our first — and only — lurker of the day is hiding in the final two words of the clue (and perhaps also in your fish pond)

25a   TV genre popular among gloomy types (4-6)
MINI-SERIES — ironically, the usual suspect for popular is to be found in some habitually sad or bad-tempered persons

26a   Brood left in southern country (4)
SULK — L(eft) is placed in a charade of S(outhern) and an abbreviated country (which most of you will likely spot more quickly than I did)

27a   French article went out with holding fee adjusted without any losses (10)
UNDEFEATED — a French indefinite article followed by a verb meaning went out with or carried on a romantic relationship with into which is inserted an anagram (adjusted) of FEE


1d   Short distance to take in a prayer leader (4)
IMAM — a very short metric distance wrapped around the A from the clue

2d   Silence as change? No thanks! (4)
MUTE — a genetic change without a short informal expression of gratitude

3d   Consult authority in school and provoke a crisis? (5,2,1,4)
BRING TO A HEAD — a figurative expression meaning to provoke a crisis could literally mean to go to the top with an academic issue

4d   Clear troublemaker is wearing cap (6)
LIMPID — a mischievous child is placed inside an informal name for a type of hat (or the top of bottle)

5d   Remarkable  way one may be characterised? (8)
SINGULAR — double definition; the first being an adjective meaning extraordinary or exceptional; the second could be a grammatical classification

7d   Very strong criminal pusher on upper-class British Isle (10)
SUPERHUMAN — anagram (criminal) of PUSHER followed by (on in a down clue) the usual one-letter suspect for upper-class or posh and a British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea

8d   Belief systems in which goodies lie misguidedly? (10)
IDEOLOGIES — anagram (misguidedly) of GOODIES LIE

11d   Man given old lines say in church or military establishment (5,7)
STAFF COLLEGE — the first word is a verb meaning to man or provide with personnel; the second is a charade of O(ld), two instances of L(ine), the Latin term from 15a making an encore contained in the shortened form of the English state church

13d   South African grabs first over American, getting rowdy (10)
BOISTEROUS — a South African of Dutch descent is wrapped around a shortened version of first and then followed by the cricket abbreviation for over and a two-letter designation for American

14d   Female breaking rules Rome formulated is contrite (10)
REMORSEFUL — F(emale) contained in an anagram (formulated) of RULES ROME

17d   Contemplate victor in Northern Ireland amid rising din (8)
ENVISION — this is a Russian doll clue with a twist; first, place the letter represented by the NATO phonetic alphabet codeword Victor into the abbreviation for Northern Ireland; second, place the result in a reversal (rising in a down clue) of synonym for a din or harsh, disagreeable sound; Sidebar: ICAO apparently specifies that the pronunciation of Victor is the non-rhotic VIC-TAH (rather than the rhotic VIC-TOR)

20d   Ill-will in African country over college attended by European (6)
MALICE — a charade of a West African republic, C(ollege), and E(uropean)

22d   Secure time for beer? (4)
PINT — a word meaning secure or fasten and T(ime)

23d   Unoriginal description of senior NY Times staffer? (4)
USED — split (2,2) the solution could briefly describe a senior American journalist

Although the clues in this puzzle were almost without exception very well constructed with smooth surface readings, I had a hard time singling any out for special mention. After some contemplation, I am nominating 21a, 24a (I especially liked the “semi-domesticated fish” description) and 14d for podium spots with the laurels going to 14d. I will also give a nod to 1a as it deserves my respect for the stiff resistance it put up to being parsed.

66 comments on “DT 28616

  1. Don’t know what’s happened to all the adverts for expensive luxury items but we have a minor miracle today in that the back page crossword is actually on the back page of the paper

    I found this at the trickier end of the back page spectrum (it might be because it is so dark and dreary here my brain probably thinks it is the middle of the night) so I’ll be interested to see how others got on

    1. When reading the paper and I get to the crossword on the inside of the back page I fold the paper over to do the crossword. It gives me pleasure that I don’t see the advertisement that has displaced my crossword. Childish?

  2. Phew! That took an age. So long that I went back to sleep halfway through. I feel comments such as wrong envelope day may be mentioned. However it floated my boat nice and dandy. Some answers went straight in, others needed to be teased out and some bunged in because they fit with the checkers. Thanks to Falcon for helping me understand 1ac, 2d and 11d. Thanks also to our setter today. A wonderful teasing puzzle. Saint Sharon has gone Christmas shopping alone. I was keen to join her but sadly I cannot. I have to charge my mobile phone.

  3. I thought that this was the trickiest back-pager for some time but an enjoyable challenge. Top clues for me were 25a and 5d.
    Thanks to the mystery setter and to Falcon.

  4. 4* / 2*. Far too many verbose and tortuous charades for my taste but there were a few nice redeeming features, particularly 5d, my favourite. The NW held me up the most coupled with my complete inability to parse 1a (thanks for putting me out of my misery, Falcon).

    Thanks to the setter and to Falcon.

  5. Quite a few bung-ins this morning so finished in good time but then took a while trying to fathom what the setter was getting at, particularly in 1a which was my last in. 25a just gets my nod as favourite, and overall this was 3* /3* for me, the enjoyment quotient marked down a notch due to the difficulty in parsing the bung-ins. It was just about a fair fight.

    Thanks to the Thursday setter and Falcon, particularly for his explanation of the fiendish 1a.

  6. 8d. I haven’t started this one yet but I spotted the aphorism in the review and it reminded me of an old favourite of mine: You don’t get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what’s eating you!

  7. Have to agree with RD far to many long winded clues and not a lot of enjoyment along the way. Although I did like 3d and 5d. The only one I couldnt get was 22d, which really was one of the easier clues in hindsight. I think I might need a 22d after this puzzle. 4*/2*

  8. I’m with Rabbit Dave on this one. 1a was my last one in because it had to be from the checkers. Thanks to Falcon for the explanation. 25a was my favourite because it made me smile when the penny dropped.

  9. That was definitely the hardest back pager this year!! Two clues solved after the first run through is unheard of!! One of those though, when I look back, I don’t really understand why it took so long but probably 4*/2* for me. I don’t post very often so thanks to all on this excellent blog for all the help this year. It is amazing how often the comments reflect similar thoughts on the puzzles which is often comforting!!

    Happy Xmas to all.

  10. Strangely, I didn’t find this too difficult like some of you. Must be a wavelength thing. **/****. However, I could completely parse 1a and get the second ‘m’. Thanks Falcon – and Merry Christmas to you.

  11. ‘Hi, I’m mobile’ … what the ?? Thanks for sorting that one out Falcon. And 16a while we’re at it. That has worsened my man-flu headache. Some good moments though as others have said. Relatively difficult but good puzzle yesterday by the way, but the site was down. Incidentally, if anyone is short of something to do, take a look at 7d in Tuesday’s Guardian – of those I’ve seen, clue of the week for me.

  12. I won’t disappoint MP, definitely a wrong envelope day for me. A great deal of head scratching and some electronic assistance required. The SE corner was complicated by an alternate ending to 17d which made sense at the time. I ‘got’ the parsing of all the clues, but there was definite eye ‘rolling’ at some of them.

    Like some others – ****/**.

    No obvious favourite.

    Thanks to the setter and Falcon (here in The Peg, we are forecast to have a high of minus 25 degrees on the 25th, minus 37 degrees with wind chill).

    1. My daughter and her family recently moved from southern Ontario to southern Manitoba. I think they are in for a bit of a shock — they found Ottawa cold!

  13. Overall, I didn’t find this too hard, with exactly half the clues solved first time around. However, a few then held me up, and after banging my head for ***** time, I had to come here for 1a.

    Many thanks to the setter, and to Falcon.

  14. I’m definitely in the ‘phew, that took a long time’ brigade and, to be honest, I didn’t find it particularly rewarding to complete. Rather tortuous clues and somewhat lacking in humour was my overall impression.

    Still struggling a little to equate 25a with a specific ‘genre’ – doesn’t the answer refer more to schedule planning?

    3&5d quite appealed so take the honours here.

    Thanks to Mr Ron (Paul?) and to Falcon for the blog – all the very best of seasonal wishes to you.

  15. This wa serously hard work and only completed with an enormous amount of electronic help but I persevered and filedl the lights before consulting the blog. Thanks to setter for addling my antique brain and sincere thanks to Falcon for explaining my bung-ins. Off to have lie down with ice pack on my head.

  16. I found this tricky in places, but completed in a quicker time than yesterday. Favourite clue – 5d.

    Many thanks to the setter, and to Falcon.

  17. I tend to agree with Jane, it was something of a slog and I still can’t quite believe the parsing of 1a even though I concur with our blogger’s interpretation of it.

    My favourite (from a unusually short shortlist of one) was 25a.

    Thanks to today’s setter and to Falcon.

    1. I did first have to consult my British dictionaries to verify that ‘mobile’ was not some hitherto unheard of British slang for an “active person”.

  18. A bit of a ‘bung it in’ day today – I needed the blog to explain the wordplay for 1a and 16a – I’ve read the explanation of 1a several times and still don’t understand the explantion.

    Pretty tricky but all done by lights out last night – very enjoyable!

    The Boss was off to M&S at Brookfield Farm in Cheshunt at 8 am this morning – it’s all getting a little out of hand!

    1. Hi Mick,
      If you were introducing yourself to someone you might say ‘I’m Mick’ so, if you were an active figure (mobile) you would say………
      Take that and then bung in a 2 letter abbreviation for an island towards the end.

        1. Jane often does that Falcon. Jane explains lots of clues here and in toughieland with easily readable precision. But ask her to review a puzzle and she will run a mile.

    2. Hi Mick,

      My take is that a mobile (a hanging decoration made up of parts that are moved around by air currents) would possibly (if it could talk) introduce itself by saying “Hi, I’m mobile.”

      1. Someone I used to work with had a real bee in his bonnet about people introducing themselves like that. He said that although your name is whatever it is you are not therefore for me to say, “I’m Kath” is wrong and what I should say is, “My name is Kath”. Oh dear – don’t think I’ve put that very well, possibly because I never did quite ‘get’ what he was on about!

        1. I remember years ago meeting someone whose opening comment was “Hi, I’m Rich”, but he didn’t see the funny side when I told him the drinks were on him all night.

  19. I am now back online. I got up this morning, read the comments, went for breakfast and when I returned was unable to get back on the site. Fortunately, that did not happen when I posted the review in the wee hours this morning.

    It is interesting to see how many found this puzzle to be extremely difficult. Usually I am the one who struggles with puzzles described here as easy. As someone mentioned, it seems to be all about wavelength.

    I initially was unable to parse 1a and set it aside, wrote the entire review, and was about to send out a distress call when the penny finally dropped.

    1. F, 19a. Did you consider an alternative definition for “skin”? I parsed it as removing the skin from vegetables (carrots/new potatoes) by scraping (not peeling) with a sharp knife.

      1. I suppose it is much the same process whether one does it deliberately to vegetables with a knife or accidentally to one’s knee by sliding on the pavement.

  20. This is the kind of crossword that, were it to appear regularly, would result in my taking up trainspotting instead. A two thirds of it went in fine although there were too many flat-pack clues. The remainder was spoiled by buy a few clues like 1a (ugh!) – like most others, I could not parse it either.
    Possibly a trait of crossword addicts is that we don’t give up easily. So, I spent a long time wrangling for little pleasure. The pleasure I did get was from simply knowing I had got there by sheer persistence.
    It was not all bad – and I agree it could be a shortest-day-blues thing – for instance one clue which stumped me for a long time but which earned the ‘gong’ today was 5d.
    Its off now for tea and medals!

  21. This one was, quite frankly, way beyond my ken. Most of the RHS and a couple on the LHS were solved, then I resorted to electronic help. Alas, once I find myself using online crossword solvers for more than two or three, I lose interest. All right, I know I should show more robust character and persevere, but I can’t be bothered, I’m way too old.
    Thanks to the setter, I enjoyed the bits I solved, particularly pleased that I remembered 24a. Thank you Falcon for your unravelling where I failed.

  22. Certainly in the ‘trickier than usual’ camp today although festive revelry continues to blight and obfuscate my solving skills at the mo…

    Enjoyable after I’d sorted it all out. Thanks to Falcon and setter 3.5*/3.5*

  23. At the very difficult end of my ability, so very pleased to have done it without using the blog. Not helped by having the wrong answer in for 1a. Used the military term incorrectly before sorting it with 1d. Some excellent clues that stretched me right to the end. Thank goodness for the anagrams and lurkers to get a foothold. Last one in 4d? Overall a good challenge.

    Clue of the day 21a followed by 25a.

    Rating **** / ***

    Thanks to Falcon and the setter.

  24. :phew: For the second day running I’m very relieved to find that others found this difficult.
    I did, eventually, just about manage to untangle why 1a was what it had to be – the one that foxed me totally was 16a.
    13d also caused problems although I don’t have any excuses for that one.
    I’m not sure how (or why) anyone would ‘semi-domesticate’ a fish and anyway I thought it was a disease of sheep.
    I liked 19 and 25a and 3 and 5d.
    With thanks to today’s Mr Ron and to Falcon.

    Went to a well-known shop to get a couple of extra bits for little grandson this morning. In the queue in front of me was a young woman who looked as if she was several weeks overdue in producing her baby. She was buying vast amounts of stuff, some of it looked quite heavy so I offered to help her carry it all to her car. She glared at me and said, “I’m not pregnant, I just eat too many chocolates!” :oops:

  25. I didn’t mind this one but have to admit it was reassuring to have Falcon there on the knocker to sort out some parsing for me e.g. 16a, 7d and 13d (was unfamiliar with the South African). For some silly reason was trying to use Belize in 1a although I’m well aware it’s not an island. Surely the ‘country’ in 26a is a union of more than one country. Thank you Mysteron and Falcon.

  26. Agree that it was trickier than usual. 1a took some time to get the answer and then more time to parse. The checkers we had made us consider Bali as the island that was involved. Plenty to keep us engaged and amused.
    Thanks Mr Ron and Falcon.

  27. I’m also in the “trickier than usual” camp. I finished it but it took a long time. I had a lot of bung ins and really couldn’t be bothered to spend the time trying to parse them. Not a lot of pleasure for me in this one, but thanks very much to Falcon for the explanations

  28. Yep, I too failed to understand the 1a clue and resorted to a ‘bung-in’. When I read Falcon’s explanation I disliked it even more. It reminds me of that awful response when asking ‘How are you?’ only to be informed ‘I’m good’ Argh!
    The S African led to another ‘bung-in’ so it wasn’t one of my better days. 3/3* overall and 25a as good as it got for me.
    Thanks to Mr Ron, and definitely thanks to Falcon for his review.

  29. Gave up with this one in disgust. Far far too tricky for my level of crossword solving.
    For me *****/*
    Looking forward to tomorrow’s Giovanni, a setter who knows who to clue properly.
    Thx for the hints

  30. Some really good clues today in a challenging tussle.
    2 lurkers, I think if you include 6a. Setters must be running out of ways to clue this one?

  31. Relieved that I am not alone in finding this one very painful. To borrow the words of others posted above, I heartily concur with tortuous, verbose, ugh, and tricky. 1a was terrible. Thought flat pack was a clever description. I got most of the long answers early on, but then it became a slog. Like Merusa, I lose interest if I have to start looking for help. Thank you to Falcon for solving all the above. If it was given to me to do, I think I would go out and shoot myself…

  32. A long struggle today, so a most definite **** for difficulty, and a struggle that I thoroughly enjoyed. :-) All the answers staring you in the face once you’d spotted the definition and cryptic, which is as it should be, but getting there was another matter.

  33. Top end of 2* difficulty and 4* enjoyment. My favourites were 21a and 27a. It took ages for me to spot 9a; l was fixated on the “covered place for acquisition” being a mall. Thanks to the setter, and Falcon.

  34. I see the idiots have been attacking the site again…
    I was doing fine until I got to the NW corner, then hit the skids. Clues like 1a should be in the Toughie, Get a grip Mr/Ms new editor!!
    Thanks all.

  35. Very relieved to see that a lot of people on here found this one difficult.
    I may not be losing my marbles after all…may not…

    I was so far off the wavelength on this one that the tuning knob fell off.

    Thanks and huge respect to Falcon and thanks to the setter.

  36. I don’t post very often but thank you to all that do and for your help when I hit the wall. After several weeks of sailing through the last two days have been torture for me. I’d put it it down to over indulging in Christmas cheer but am very relieved to see I’m not alone. Today really stumped me and I only managed to complete about 25% over the course of the day before I came here for some much needed help. Thank you all!

  37. Far too difficult for me. It’s the first time in ages I’ve had to resort to clicking on several clues. I’m definitely not on the right wavelength. Thank you setter and Falcon.

  38. Thanks to the setter and to Falcon for the review and hints. I enjoyed what I could do, but found it impossible. Needed the hints for 25&27a and 4,5,17,22,23d. Was 4*/3* for me.

  39. I thought this one was excellent – a very worthy substitute for a non-Ray T Thursday. Good clues, a decent challenge, a fair bit of cogitation/head-scratching and a very enjoyable solve. 3.5* / 4*.

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