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ST 2978

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2978

A full review by crypticsue

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This puzzle was published on 18th November 2018

BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

The first paragraph below is an edited version of my comment made on publication day

I tried very hard before I started solving to forget that it was Sunday, and that we had a different setter. If my first one in hadn’t been 26a, then I’d have been able to quote one of my creche and his immortal phrase ‘you know you’re in trouble if the first clue Sue gets is 23d’ which actually wasn’t that far behind in the solving experience. Looking at the crossword while preparing my blogging notes, I noted that we had a couple of chestnuts, a couple of easy ones and a considerable number of head-scratchers. If I’d been giving the hints, I’d have had problems trying to work out which clues to leave out

Revisiting my draft review ten days on, and having re-read all the comments made on the day – I’d agree with BD that it was tough but solvable [but in my view, would have been more suited to the Toughie slot].  I had a discussion with one of the Sunday Times setters several years ago and we both agreed that a Sunday puzzle should be just as entertaining as a weekday crossword but a bit gentler, as people don’t normally have as much time on a Sunday for a prolonged crossword battle. I’m not the only one who thought that the Dada crossword which appeared in the middle of the paper on Tuesday 20th (it definitely wasn’t a you-know-what) would have been a perfect Sunday Prize Puzzle, being both solver-friendly and with the sort of fun we expect from a Halpern cryptic crossword. A quick shuffle round of the ‘envelopes’ might result in a lot more happy Sunday bunnies in the future.

And now, for all those people who’ve remembered why there’s a knot (or two) in their hanky, here are the explanations:


1a    Italian city not quite maintaining already disagreeable relationship with host (10)
PARASITISM – Not quite all of the Italian city of PARMa into which is inserted (maintaining) AS IT IS (already)

6a    Snapper in pot, did you say (4)
CROC – A homophone (did you say) of CROCK (pot)

9a    Where litmus paper may be found in red, or a blue (10)
LABORATORY – LAB (Labour, red) OR A (from the clue) TORY (Conservative, blue)

10a    Hit hard, covers ripped off before returning book (4)
EMMA – Rip off the ‘covers’ of lAMMEd (hit hard) and then reverse (returning) the remaining letters

12a    Container in heaven, high (6)
STINKY – TIN (container) in SKY (heaven)

13a    Composition with citrus twist (8)
LIMERICK – LIME (citrus) RICK (twist in the sense of sprain)

15a    Creator strained Job’s patience (5,7)
JACOB EPSTEIN – An anagram (strained) of JOBS PATIENCE

18a    Playground where one might attempt to remove hooks from swings (7,5)
DRIVING RANGE – Somewhere to practice your golf swings – according to the BRB, hooks are golf shots you make ‘inadvertently’

21a    After swallowing that’s disgusting, is this the best medicine? (8)
LAUGHTER – LATER (after) ‘swallowing’ UGH (that’s disgusting)

22a    Motherly character? (6)
NATURE – A cryptic definition of the things that surround us

24a    Suit informally with flower clipped at the front (4)
EXEC – My last one in – here you have to know that suit is an informal term for a business person, as is the solution. The river (flower) EXE and the ‘front’ letter of Clipped

25a    Enthralling work required, send for artist (4-6)
PAGE-TURNER – If you needed (required) an enthralling work then the best thing to do would be to PAGE (send for) the artist TURNER

26a    Caught in eye, tiny hairy thing proving elusive (4)
YETI – Lurking (caught in) eYE TIny

27a    Conscious, put on one’s thinking cap (10)
DELIBERATE – A double definition, the first one an adjective, the second a noun


1d    Perfect language (6)
POLISH – The first of two ‘old friends’ of the crossword solver

2d    Overseen by teacher, student ultimately poor performer (6)
RABBIT – And the second – the T that is the ultimate letter of studenT ‘overseen by’ or placed under RABBI (teacher)

3d    Check match works well! (6,1,5)
STRIKE A LIGHT – Check that a match works…

4d    Sugar daddy, say, dispensing with capital (4)
TATE – I did like this one – Henry RATE was a sugar refiner before he joined up with Mr Lyle – all you need to do here was ‘dispense’ with the letter at the start of sTATE (say)

5d    Soldier handles climbing about right, weakness following (10)
SERVICEMAN – A reversal (climbing) of NAMES (handles) about R (right) and VICE (weakness)

7d    Left in sore state (8)
REMAINED – The American state of MAINE goes in RED (sore)

8d    Super solving! (8)
CRACKING – I liked this nice friendly double definition too

11d    Critical mark in block of flats, perhaps (3,9)
KEY SIGNATURE – KEY (critical) SIGNATURE (mark) The key signature is a group of sharps or in this case, a group of flats, that tells you the key of written music

14d    Solid flanks good in huge rally (10)
CONGREGATE – CONE (solid) ‘flank’ G (good) inserted into GREAT (huge)

16d    Breach of faith true, lady not to be trusted (8)
ADULTERY – An anagram (not to be trusted) of TRUE LADY

17d    Poisonous, half a dozen law books (8)
VIRULENT – VI (six in Roman numerals) RULE (law) NT (New Testament, books)

19d    Old rhino somewhere in western Africa (6)
GUINEA – Nice surface reading although here rhino refers to money – the name of somewhere in Western Africa is the same of an old coin

20d    Oh no, river has consumed weapon (4,2)
DEAR ME – The river DEE has ‘consumed’ ARM (weapon)

23d    Military cap held briefly upon head of infantryman (4)
KEPI – Almost all (briefly) of KEPt (held) goes upon the I at the head of Infantryman

15 comments on “ST 2978

  1. Thanks CS .
    I managed to finish but agree it was difficult .
    I do a little team quizzing and questions are easy if you know the answer but impossible if you do not . It is surprising how easy/difficult varies in our team . The principle applies to crosswords as getting a few key answers leads onwards .
    Variety is the spice of life .

  2. Many thanks Sue, very informative. I for one am happy to hold my hands up and say that Sundays are going to be beyond me and will look for a challenge elsewhere.
    Respect for anyone who could do this.
    Btw isn’t ‘hairy’ part of the definition in 26a??

  3. Had to join forces with the cleverer half to get this licked. (Have you ever given five stars?) Enjoyed it, thank you to the setter.

    Some people like me have more time on Sundays than weekdays, some don’t. If the editor decides it’s time for a tough prize, so be it.

    I had a look at the blog you mentioned for the last Dada Toughie to see what you thought, and couldn’t find a comment. Nor for the last few Dada Toughies, so perhaps you’re not a fan.

    1. I have given 5* for difficulty but rarely on a weekend crossword – I did toy with awarding 5* for this one.

      I am a fan of Dada (and his other aliases in other places) but I don’t always comment on Toughies, especially on days when they aren’t at all tough

  4. Thanks Sue for the explanation of 1ac which has eluded me for nearly two weeks now. I couldn’t see the Italian city and am not sure I have ever heard of it. As for the rest of the parsing….. I am going to enjoy Sunday puzzles a lot more if this level of difficulty prevails.

  5. I think I said at the time that I gave up half way through this, then went back to finish it with a fair bit of electronic help. From my perspective, if, after a couple of passes, I have only completed half a dozen clues, I immediately go into fight or flight mode. I decided to do the former having initially taken the easy option of running a mile.

    Yes, this was decidedly difficult, but doable and a big step on a steep learning curve to get to know Dada’s setting style. Last Sunday I finished it in half the time taken for this one. I sincerely hope that the level of difficulty levels out to give a fair challenge for the Prize Crossword.

  6. Thanks for the review Sue. As for ‘trying to work out which clues to leave out’ in the Sunday hints a dart board would have been useful for the first two Dada’s.

    I would like to think that Messrs Lancaster and Halpern have been reading the last two Sunday blogs and taking note but it is unlikely that we will ever get to know that has happened.

    I have also been thinking, yes I know it’s dangerous, and have come up with a theory that the ‘departure’ of Brian Greer was quite ‘sudden’ and for the last two Sundays we have had a couple Dada Toughies that were conveniently available.

  7. I managed to finish this, but it took a lot longer than it should have done, and was far more complicated than I expected. I will miss Brian Greer.

  8. Ah – this one was SO difficult that I kept the paper version – as for knots in hankies – well, are you having a laugh – what’s a hanky – try tying a knot in a bit of loo paper . . .
    I took hours and hours to do this and never did quite manage to finish it mainly due to a fatal error – ‘smashing’ for 8d which seemed fine so I didn’t question it but it screwed up that corner.
    I also didn’t know the 24a ‘suit’ but have put that in the memory bank now and as we’ve had it again recently will now remember it.
    I found this one very much more Toughie level than ‘suck your thumb and relax on Sunday’ level – not impossible but jolly tricky.
    Anyway, that’s it for now so thanks to Dada for the challenge and to CS for solving it and doing the review.

  9. I’ve just got around to looking at this final review and have decided that I’ll never, ever be on Dada’s wavelength. The clues are so convoluted and esoteric, my brain is just not that devious.

    I had time today as I decided not to bother with the crossword, to do my part in saving the environment by not wasting paper. I did look at the comments and see that I made the right decision.

    What is strange is that I believe I did find some Dada weekday puzzles to be very entertaining in the past.

    Thanks Sue, you must have a megabrain!

  10. 5*/2*…….
    liked 26A (caught in eye, tiny hairy thing proving elusive)…
    seem to be more comments than usual for the Sunday full review !

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