DT 28661 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

DT 28661

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 28661

Hints and tips by Mr K

+ - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

BD Rating  -  Difficulty ** Enjoyment ***


Hello, everyone, and welcome to a solid back-page puzzle.  Nothing out of the Tuesday ordinary here, which is fine with me.  I've been told that yesterday's was not like that, with an unusual grid that led both Rabbit Dave and silvanus to pose statistical questions to me in their comments.  I've addressed those questions here, thinking that they might be of wider interest.  So, if you are interested, just click on the following spoiler boxes to see the relevant data.

Rabbit Dave asked yesterday "Have we ever seen a back-pager with fewer than today's 5.07 words per clue"

RD's question is addressed by this histogram of the average number of words per clue for the last 16 years of back-page puzzles:


We see that, surprisingly, there have been many puzzles with fewer than 5 words/clue on average.  Here's the same chart magnified to make the outlying bars more visible:

In this set of almost 6,000 puzzles, 132 have been more concise than Monday's average of 5.07 words/clue.  The record is held by DT 25101 with just 4.31 words/clue.  That 2006 puzzle predates the founding of the blog, but it's available here on the Telegraph Puzzles Site. 

The other extreme is interesting.  The most verbose puzzle is Virgilius' ST 2557, with an average of 10.9 words/clue.  It's a special movie-themed puzzle featuring answers that included numbers as well as letters.  BD's hints are here and it's found here on the Telegraph Puzzles Site.


silvanus asked yesterday "Very unusual indeed to have only eleven across clues. When did that last occur in a backpager?"

Here's a histogram of the number of across clues per puzzle:

This is the same chart magnified to make the outlying bars more visible:

We see that there are no puzzles with 10 or fewer across clues and, before yesterday, only four puzzles with 11 across clues.  The most recent was DT 28303 on Wednesday, 21 December, 2016.  It's found here on the blog and here on the Telegraph Puzzles Site.  The others are DT 27698, ST 2567, and ST 2543.


In the hints below definitions are underlined, most indicators are italicized, and hyperlinks provide additional explanation or background.  Clicking on a button will reveal the answer.  Don't click on any pictures if cats aren't your thing.  Please leave a comment telling us how you got on.



3a    Track record originally set by champion, programme reveals (10)
RACECOURSE:  Putting together the first letter (… originally) of RECORD, a champion or expert, and a programme (of lessons, perhaps) reveals a type of track

8a    Sister crossing area by church in shade (6)
NUANCE:  A religious sister containing (crossing) the abbreviation for area and followed by an abbreviation for church

9a    Actress who played Norma Desmond -- good in last performance (8)
SWANSONG:  Take the actress who played Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and append the abbreviation for good.  The origin of the definition is explained here

10a   Calling urgently about one petitioner (8)
CLAIMANT:  An uncommon adjective meaning calling urgently containing (about) one in Roman numerals

11a   Set on fire in the course of campaign, it exploded (6)
IGNITE:  The answer is hidden in (in the course of) the remainder of the clue

12a   Soldiers initially observe German man breaking into military vehicles (5,5)
OTHER RANKS:  The first letter (initially) of Observe, followed by a German mister inserted into (breaking into) some tracked military vehicles

14a   In favour of person helping to produce rapid growth (13)
PROLIFERATION:  Concatenate a short word meaning in favour of, a person's existence, and a helping of something

20a   Heartless first leader disturbed one backing union of states (10)
FEDERALIST:  An anagram (disturbed) of FIRST without its middle letter (heartless) and LEADER

22a   Unfortunate result for province (6)
ULSTER:  An anagram (unfortunate) of RESULT

23a   One on raid given order before start of operation (8)
COMMANDO:  An order or directive placed before the first letter of (start of) Operation

24a   Sit astride and go off, following street on right (8)
STRADDLE:  The abbreviations for street and for right, with go off or become confused coming after (following)

25a   Ballesteros catching the French liner (6)
SLEEVE:  Golfer Ballesteros containing (catching) a French definite article

26a   Long leases arranged in US city (3,7)
LOS ANGELES:  An anagram (arranged) of LONG LEASES



1d    Complete rest period for Americans (4,4)
FULL STOP:  Synonyms of complete and of rest

2d    On the air, weird protagonist lacking traditional virtues (4-4)
ANTI-HERO:  An anagram (weird) of ON THE AIR

3d    Put right about item? (6)
REPAIR:  The usual word for about or concerning, and item in the romantic relationship sense

4d    Pitch  players used (4)
CAST:  A double definition.  Players used in a theatrical production, for example

5d    Is the old lady after cleaner that shows pulling power? (8)
CHARISMA:  IS from the clue and an informal word for the old lady both come after a usual cleaner

6d    Resembling a certain big animal from island nursed by remarkable nurse (6)
URSINE:  An abbreviation for island is inserted into (nursed by) an anagram (remarkable) of NURSE

7d    Reason fool imprisoned by state (6)
SANITY:  A usual fool is contained in (imprisoned by) state or utter

13d   Very much ungoverned, oddly defective (2,3)
NO END:  Just the even letters (… oddly defective) of UNGOVERNED

15d   In northern part of France, excavate beneath one (5,3)
INFRA DIG:  Stick together IN from the clue, the first half (northern part, in a down clue) of FRANCE, and a synonym of excavate.  The answer is a dated and informal short form of a Latin phrase meaning beneath one's dignity

16d   Not in good health? Corpulent editor may be unlucky (3-5)
ILL-FATED:  Cement together unwell or not in good health, corpulent or overweight, and the usual abbreviation for editor

17d   Steep decline in doves flying close to shore (8)
NOSEDIVE:  An anagram (flying) of IN DOVES, followed by the last letter of (close to) shorE

18d   Wasted opening in board game (6)
BLOTTO:  Fuse together the first letter of (opening in) Board and a game of chance

19d   Over-the-top articles about Western capital (6)
OTTAWA:  The abbreviation for over-the-top, then two grammatical articles sandwiching (about) an abbreviation for Western

21d   Engineers are absent from being lax (6)
REMISS:  The usual military engineers, and a word meaning "are absent from"

23d   One-roomed dwelling to dispose of, reportedly (4)
CELL:  The answer sounds like (reportedly) to dispose of something by exchanging it for money


Thanks to today's setter for a most enjoyable solve.  I particularly liked 14a, 1d, 3d, 6d, and 16d.  How about you?


The Quick Crossword puns:



81 comments on “DT 28661

  1. The DT Website had a bit of a wobbly today…
    0600 – Before leaving for work, I completed about 1/4 of the Back-Pager
    0700 – On the train, brand new Back-Pager and the Toughie is the same as the Back-Pager!! About 1/3 of the new Back-Pager completed on the train
    1000 – The same
    1100 – The original Back-Pager has returned with my answers!!, the Toughie is still the same, so I have done 1/3 of today’s Toughie which at first glance, appears easier than the Back-Pager!!
    Ho-hum, curioser and curiouser!!

    1. Cracked it!!
      For some reason there are TWO cryptics for today, numbers 28,661 and 1,968!!
      I’ll shut-up about this now…

  2. Completed in good order. Another well constructed puzzle lets hope the theme continues for the week. Thanks to Mr K and setter.

  3. ‘Shed’ might have been a nice fit for 23d on occasion when the ‘missus’ locks the front door!

  4. I found this a much stiffer test than many recent puzzles. I made 12a my favourite, closely followed by 10a, 1 & 16 d. Still trying to make complete sense of 14a, but as only one word fits, mine has to be correct. A very satisfying solve, completed well within my own particular ‘time limits’. Thanks to setter and Mr K.

  5. A very comfortable solve this morning, with 9a my last entry and 3d my favourite. All this and a double pun in the Quickie. I don’t remember that before, although if Mr K has the time and the data available he will no doubt shoot me down in flames. Overall 2* /3* for me.

    Thanks to the Tuesday setter and Mr K.

    1. It has been seen before and commented on. I wonder it it is the hallmark (if that is the right word) of a particular setter.

    2. It’s happened before on a Tuesday. Deep Threat pointed it out on a puzzle that I blogged, and then Gazza, who used to have the Tuesday back-page slot, added that he’d seen it before. So now I always solve the entire quickie and check the last row.

      As MP speculates, it’s a device used from time to time by one of the regular Tuesday setters.

  6. Fairly straightforward for me but slightly harder than yesterday’s, must admit I had never heard of the term in 15D but that’s what it had to be & Google confirmed it. I didn’t notice the second quicky pun & will put that down to getting completely soaked walking the mutts first thing this morning. Thanks to the setter & Mr k for the review.

  7. Love the double picture App for want of a better term, is this a first or have I missed it before today?

    1. Today is the first time I’ve used it for every pic, but it’s been there for a while. Sometimes it’s advertised and sometimes it’s just left as a surprise. Kitty also uses it over on her Toughie blog.

    2. Aren’t they great? It was Jane who first pointed it out for me and I now check every Kitty and Mr. Kitty pics, just in case.

      1. Thanks, Merusa. Did Jane also tell you about the “Click here!” button in the intro? (that was Kitty’s invention)

          1. :). Just something I started doing a while back, for my own amusement and as a surprise to anyone who might happen to click. Dutch does it too sometimes.

  8. Yet another well crafted crossword for us to enjoy! Good fun to solve. 12a was my top clue and 15d was a close second.
    2/4* overall.
    Thanks to the setter, and to Mr K for his review.

  9. We have been let off lightly again today but it was an enjoyable saunter. Was interested to know origin of 9a – thank you Mr.K – even if I didn’t know who played Norma Desmond. Calling urgently in 10a is new to me but obvious when clamour is considered. Hard to pick a Fav but nominate 3a, 1d and 3d. Many thanks Mysteron and MrK. Quickie pun amused.

  10. I think the Crossword editor must have heard my plea last week as so far both this weeks puzzles have been far less tricksy.
    My only problem today is that I had no idea who either the actress or Norma Desmond was in 9a although the 2nd part gave the answer. Needed Google to sort that one out. Best clue for me was 15d.
    For me **/***
    Thx to all

  11. Very enjoyable solve today, needed the hint for 10a , which was my last one in. Particularly liked 14a and 1d.
    Thanks to the setter and Mr K .

  12. Problem: Awful weather precludes shopping trip for the ‘just right’ Valentine’s Day gift for Mrs Hector.
    Solution: Central heating, Amazon, Renee Fleming’s arias and this very good puzzle.
    Double-ticked 6,8 & 18d and a new word learned at 10a. ***/**** with possibly and extra half-star on both sides of the slash due to being wrapped up in the music.
    I am in full approval of the new Crossword Editor I have decided.

  13. A **/**** seems about right today, apart from not equating’ life’ with ‘person’ in 14a ( thanks Mr K ) a straight forward solve with a high enjoyment factor.
    Thanks to Mr K for the pics- remembered the Star Trek pic in 13d, I think the episode was called ‘the trouble with tribbles’ or similar-I know they ate all the cereal !- the pic would also have worked for 14a.

    Regarding the second Quickie pun , where were the indicating italic letters -am I missing something ?

    1. Glad you liked the tribbles, Beaver.

      The clues for the second quickie pun aren’t italicized. But it appears to be a signature of one of the Tuesday setters, so now I always look for it.

  14. It was an easy x minutes for me today, 9a took a while and was last in. Pretty enjoyable though – will take a look at the toughie this afternoon

    1. Ooh dear, naughty naughty. The stating of solving times is a no no here. Most things are allowed though. Somebody will redact the part of your clue that states the time.

  15. Needed the blog to explain ‘clamant’ (if I’ve come across it before then I’ve forgotten). Always wondered about the origins of ‘infra dig’ as well – now I know. Probably liked 1d the most today. Thanks to the setter and Mr K.

  16. I totally agree with Toadson on COTD. I converse with many of our Left-ponders and get quite upset when they don’t understand British terms, but expect me to understand theirs.

    Overall a gentle workout today, with only 10a that held me up at all. I certainly haven’t come across that “calling” before.

    Many thanks to the setter and Mr. K.

  17. 2.5* / 3.5*. One or two elements took this over my 2* time today. I thought the puzzle was very enjoyable except for 9a which struck me as a slightly weird clue for which it was easier to get the answer from the definition first which then gave away who the actress was. I needed Mr K’s help to find out that “person” = “life” in 14a.

    1d was my favourite.

    Many thanks to Mr Ron and to Mr K, particularly for his usual very comprehensive answer to my query yesterday.

  18. This was an enjoyable start to the day today as was the Quickie puzzle so thanks to the setter for both of those. I missed the second pun which I believe may be this setters signature device. Thanks to Mr K for the review. For those who have not noticed all of the illustrations today have a second illustration which can be revealed by tapping or clicking on the illustration.
    There is an article on page 11 today about rescue cats being sent from Yorkshire to Battersea. I think they have stopped off here for a rest on their way.

  19. All fairly straightforward today.
    I missed the anagram in 22a which was pretty dim as it’s hardly the most difficult.
    18d was my last answer.
    I think in 14a the ‘in favour of person’ is ‘pro-life’ which is to do with the anti-abortion campaign.
    I liked 8 and 12a and 7d. My favourite was 1d.
    With thanks to today’s setter and to Mr K.

    1. I prefer your explanation, I’ve never seen ‘life’ used as a synonym for person. It’s still not a well put together clue.

      1. How about this (taken from the www):

        “Because of the bravery of the lifesaving crew, not one person was lost in all three wrecks”

        which I think also works as

        “Because of the bravery of the lifesaving crew, not one life was lost in all three wrecks”

  20. I’d award it more than 3 stars for enjoyment .
    I liked lots of clues , including 9,12 and 14 a and 15d but the clue that brought a wry smile is 22a. I suspect the setter is a remainer.
    Thanks to Mr kitty and the setter.

  21. My husband printed off two cryptics for me today. What a privilege. I guess one must be the quickie? I haven’t started that yet. The NW corner was last to fall in the main cryptic. I couldn’t get tanks out of my head for 12a, or toss for 4d, thinking it had to be some sort of ballgame where you pitch the ball. I have two favourites, 3a and 12a. Thank you setter and Mr Kitty.

  22. Failed to get 10a and 3d until I saw the hints.
    Think 10a is a bit unfair as it is hardly in common use…grumble, grumble…..and had thought of the answer to 3d but just could not parse it…..but the rest was lovely.

    Thanks to the setter and to Mr Kitty for his excellent hints.

  23. A pleasant solve. My favourites are 7d, 15d, 17d and 18d.

    I thought the setter brave to submit 16d for editing!

    Thanks setter and blogger.

  24. Very pleasant. I think 18d was favourite as it’s a bit topical in view of pommette’s absence and the Six Nations rugby :grin: Anyway, I deserve a beer or three as in her absence I’ve decorated the dining room and hallway and re-plastered half the kitchen ceiling which was in a poor condition after it leaked last year (and the year before!). I know – “What do I want, a medal or a chest to pin it on?”.

    Must have missed the previous discussions on double puns as I don’t remember seeing one before.

    Thanks to the setter and Mr K.

  25. Thanks to the setter and to Mr Kitty for the review and hints. A very nice puzzle, with a few to make you think. I liked 12a & 15d, but last in and my favourite was 18d. Interesting histograms at the top of the blog, nice to see the Tribbles, and very interesting about the double pun in the quickie, Thanks to Mr Kitty. Was 2*/3* for me. Time to dish up the curry.

  26. That’s interesting. I thought this was going to be hard but it proved to be spot on **/****. Very enjoyable. Liked 14a, not sure about 1d(? American) 6d not in my vocab and 9a (I presume this is a reference to an aged long since dead actor). Apart from that, excellent. Thanks to both and an interesting analysis.

  27. I thought this was a fantastic puzzle of very high quality indeed. Immaculate surfaces with tight and mostly succinct wordplay, all credit to the setter.

    My six ticks went to 12a (cleverly constructed), 1d, 4d, 15d, 17d and 18d.

    Many thanks to today’s compiler and to Mr K, thank you too for researching the answer to my question yesterday.

  28. We really have hit a rich seam of crosswords these last ten days or so. I was well into the bottom half before I found a way into today’s puzzle.
    All the more satisfying when you eventually complete. Lots of great clues,9a last one in.
    Thanks to the setter and Mr K.

  29. Enjoyed this one, there were some learning words for me, namely 10a (part) and 16d. Am I reading the hint for 1d wrongly? Maybe it should be synonyms of complete rest and a period in America?
    Anyway, thanks to setter and Mr K.

    1. Welcome to the blog, Chris.

      Apologies in advance if I’m telling you things that you already know. The answer to 1d is a noun formed from a synonym of complete and a synonym of rest. That’s the wordplay part of the clue. The definition part of the clue is “period in America” because Americans refer to that object as a period. Does that help, or am I misunderstanding your question?

      1. The period is a punctuation mark Chris. Called a period in American English. I bet Noah Webster had something to do with that.

  30. Very pleasant and entertaining solve, liked all the clues no issues at all. Last in 6d that caused some head scratching not familiar with the answer. Overall another good start to the week along with yesterday’s offering from Dada.

    Clues of the day: 12a / 15d both excellent I thought.

    Rating: 2.5* / 4*

    Thanks to Mr K and the setter.

  31. Not surprised that I didn’t understand 14a.
    Put Profileration as the answer.
    Very elegant clues in 23a,1d and 17d.
    Thanks to the setter and to Mr Kitty for the review.

  32. Didn’t have chance to comment before I went out this morning and have returned to discover that I appear to have been the only one to fall headlong into the trap at 12a. I thought ‘military vehicles’ was the definition and spent ages inventing remarkable new types of same along with conjuring up quite bizarre German boys names. Oh dear, as Kath would say!

    Smooth sailing elsewhere and my picks for the day were the cleaner with pulling power and the overweight editor. Like Kitty, I wondered how well the latter went down with our new crossword editor!

    Thanks to Mr Ron and to Mr K – both for the excellent blog and the latest round of fascinating facts. Particularly enjoyed the add-on pic of the inebriated pussycat!

  33. Another treasure! We are so very lucky, long may it last.
    A lot of red herrings here, e.g., 23d, my first answer was shed.
    Loved it all, I remember 9a, and I particularly like Mr. Kitty’s pics.
    Thanks to our Tuesday setter and Mr. Kitty for his usual educational review.

  34. This was a very enjoyable solve, bottom half filled in quickly then slowed down in the top half. Last one in 10a. Thank you to the setter and Mr K.
    Does anyone know if there has been more than one pun in the Quick Crossword before? I remember some time ago there were several answers which were rhyming couplets, including the top and bottom lines.

    1. For some previous double puns see the link included in my last comment in thread #5 up above. I don’t remember any rhyming couplets though – do you have a link for those?

      1. Thank you for the reference to thread #5. Unfortunately I do not know exactly when it occurred, may be three or four years ago. The entries were such as “boogie woogie” and may have been on the centre line and sides as well.

  35. 5d Saw an up to date picture recently of this striking girl with green eyes – I’m sorry to say the years have not been kind to her.1984 to 2018 is a long while in Afghanistan.

  36. Interesting puzzle agree with Mr K **/*** 😃 Favourites 9a & 1d. In 13a I immediately saw the word oddly I pounced on the odd letters ignoring the word defective 😬 stupid boy. Thanks to Mr K and to the setter and to Miffypops for explaining about the extra illustrations 👍

  37. Didn’t start too well at work but once I got home I picked up the pace and tbe SW seemed to show the most resistance but looking at it now I dont see why. Personal fave was 15d mainly because I have been quoting other latin phrases at work today “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”
    Thanks to Mr K and setter.
    Loved the cat pics and tve tribbles too.

  38. Now this felt a little tricky in places, and throughout I felt that any moment I might run out of ideas and grind to a halt, but I finished in * time, albeit with quite a few chucked in on definition, a glance at the wordplay, and crossed fingers and toes. And I got away with it which is all that counts, I suppose, but still… Perhaps not getting an answer until 11ac threw me. Perhaps not being able to justify 14ac didn’t help my confidence. But all’s well that ends well.

    9ac was one of those clues where I felt pleased to have learnt something just via solving the clue, without recourse to any references.

  39. Been away for the weekend, spending too much time talking, and no crossword time, so a little rusty today. However, enjoyed this one over breakfast and lunch, a good challenge but nothing silly. Did not know the word in 10a, and actually not old enough to remember the actress in 9a. But that was one of those instances where the answer comes to you first, and you make it fit the clue. Thanks to Mr Kitty for the hints.

  40. Very enjoyable. Lots of great clues. Like a few others, I put shed in 23d, pretty dim as it’s a homophone!!
    12a and 16d were the pick, but somewhat indecorous to single them out in such a great set of clues.
    Thanks to Mr K and R

  41. **/**. It would have been more enjoyable but for 14a which for me is poorly worded and the two arcane references in 10a and 15d, though I got the latter thanks to the clue

    Thanks for using Steve McCurry’s iconic photograph of The Afghan Girl to illustrate 5d even though it has little to do with the answer. Incidentally, NG did a fine documentary about McCurry’s search for the same girl many years later. She had no idea that she’d become famous. I think he found her eventually in a refugee camp in Pakistan

    1. I chose the striking Afghan girl photograph because I felt it was a good example of something with pulling power.

  42. I like an enjoyable doddle at this stage of the week! 1*/4* for my money, and 18d made me snort with laughter – to the surprise of my dear wife, who thought l was having a fit of some kind! Thanks to the setter, and of course Mr K.

  43. Enjoyable until I read the comments and realised I had 23d wrong. My last one in was 7d. Favourites 9 and 17a and 19 and 20d. Unusually for me I got all of the right hand side very quickly and then had to work at the others. Thanks Jay and Two K’s. Will try and work out 23d now. That is the problem when answer seems obvious and do not bother to parse properly!

  44. Missed the double pun in the quickie.
    Liked the proliferation of profiteroles in the hint.
    Ticks against lots of the clues in this puzzle:

  45. A week behind as usual, but want to thank Mr K for his excellent blog, his stats (I love stats) and the wonderful hidden cat pics. Which isn’t to say I don’t want to thank the setter as well, it’s a sound back-page puzzle with some smiles along the way.

Comments are closed.