ST 2981 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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ST 2981 (Hints)

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2981 (Hints)

Hints and tips by Senf

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

A very good Sunday morning from Winnipeg, where it is getting cooler.

Hmm – 3 weeks ago – 102 comments, 2 weeks ago – 133 comments, last week – 62 comments, this week – ??

Joint favourites – 26a and 3d.

Don’t forget to follow BD’s instructions in red at the bottom of the hints!

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:


1a Bit of a nag and that’s the whole thing summed up, so to speak? (12)
A homophone (so to speak) of a descriptive term of a number of fractions that summed up make unity.

9a Book is written on characteristic units (7)
IS from the clue after (written on) the characteristic units that define us individually .

13a Disturbing the peace, louder hi-fi console by all conclusions (5)
The last letters (by all conclusions) of five words in the clue.

16a Stunner or shocker? (9)
A double definition, the second could be considered metaphorical.

19a Meat and gravy brought home? (5)
A second double definition – a type of meat or a synonym of gravy when it is ‘brought home.’

23a Out to lunch — as setter might be? (7)
The setter is the four legged variety.

25a Almost everyone sent back, call for strike (4,3)
A synonym of everyone with the last letter removed (almost) and reversed (sent back) and a synonym of call.

26a Big fish — try to catch majestic lot by old boat (7,5)
A synonym of try containing (to catch) the plural (lot) of a majestic person and an old boat that contained pairs of animals.


1d Waste food (7)
Another double definition – the second is a type of fried food.

3d Dance in yard, about to come over unwell (9)
An abbreviated synonym of yard and the familiar two letters used for about containing (over) a synonym of unwell.

4d Needle nipping top from sausage (5)
A slang/informal synonym for sausage with the first letter removed (nipping top from).

7d Token expletive in aggressive response (12)
A synonym of token when it is an item used in a board game and a mild expletive.

15d Approaching cups, might these be chipped? (4,5)
What are hit by a particular type of shot when getting close to (approaching) one of eighteen ‘cups.’

18d Some beer belly toned? (3-4)
A quantity (some) of beer that can also refer to a toned belly.

19d Person trained to serve in Italian city’s territorials (7)
A (southern) Italian city (no geographical error this week) including the possessive S and the two letter abbreviation for territorials.

22d Make money, as most experienced member (5)
A synonym of make and an Asian currency.

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

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The Christmas number one from 1977, it started a 9 week run at number one on December 3 of that year:

64 comments on “ST 2981 (Hints)

  1. Well I’ll start the comments off (unless someone gets there first)

    I thought at first this was going to be tricky but once the brain got on the correct wavelength, it took the sort of time I’d expect to spend on a Sunday crossword, with several things that made me smile

    Thanks to Dada and Senf

    On the subject of comments – the review of the first Dada Sunday cryptic produced 15 comments and the second 5 comments. I wonder whether Gnomey’s reviews of the next two will revert back to the days of no comments at all?

    1. I shall comment Sue, if only to pass on my admiration to anyone who can untangle this. 10d is obviously one of the ‘easier’ clues, I have the answer but I have absolutely no idea why it is correct. A good example of why these are beyond me, though I have not given up…yet!!

  2. I can only endorse the comments of CS above .

    Lots of favourites eg across 8 , 23 & 26 : down 1,10 & 20 .

    Thanks again to everyone .

  3. Still for me incomprehensible. Definitely one for the Toughie category. Wish we could return to the previous Sunday setter whose puzzles were tough but understandable. This guy is just way too far out there for me.
    Thx for the hints but I’m still all at sea.

  4. First read through had me thinking that this was going to something of a battle but the grid slowly filled from East to West.
    A couple of definitions had me checking with the BRB and I came across one unknown but everything else just required a bit of lateral thinking.

    Quite a few smiles along the way with the two word clue at 1d taking my vote for the day.

    Thanks to Dada and to Senf for the blog – loved the sight of the pipe band marching along the beach in the Wings clip.

  5. This certainly took some unravelling, but it was certainly possible to solve all the clues with some careful thought, and very rewarding to complete. Some very good constructions and several contenders for top clue. I think 3d just takes the accolade from 1a.

    Many thanks to Dada for the challenge and to Senf.

  6. This was very tough again, which, in my opinion, is a real shame when there is only one Telegraph cryptic on offer on a Sunday. I had to stop and come back to this several times and I found the SW corner particularly challenging.

    1a was my favourite.

    Thanks to Dada and to Senf.

  7. Much as I miss Mr Greer on a Sunday, I am happy with the current setter being slightly more challenging.

    Thoroughly enjoyed, thanks Dada and Senf

  8. Actually completed this today, which makes a change from previous weeks when I didn’t really get started. Recently they have been to me more like the Toughie standard, with today’s at last at the more accessible end.
    Thanks to Senf; and to the setter for an enjoyable Toughie, but for one I still miss Virgilius I’m afraid.

  9. I don’t know if it’s Dada getting a little kinder, or me getting onto his wavelength, probably a bit of both,but this went in fairly quickly. My only significant hold up was 7d. I had another token in my head and I couldn’t see past it. Duh moment came half way through the dog walk. Must have been the extra oxygen getting to my brain.
    Thanks to Dada and Senf

  10. First three reads through revealed a complete blank – the first time this has ever happened to me in many years of solving. I have demoted myself to division three. Once I got one, picked up the wavelength and with a little electronic help though I managed to complete it, with many ‘ah’ moments.

    Still don’t understand 6d – the very dry part – any hints please?

    I believe I have proved my hypothesis that if I submit my prize solutions from abroad I receive a 0/30 mark. Last weekend I got zero for the Saturday solution ( submitted from the Caribbean) and all correct for Sunday, submitted when I returned home on Monday.

    My only other concern about this remains – did both of them make it into the draw?

    1. 6d S American port covering very dry Italian dish (7)
      A South American port includes a word meaning very and an abbreviation (2) meaning dry or abstemious.

      1. Thanks for the hints… the pic for 19a Looks like you went to Vicky’s diner and snapped your side order. Do you only export your national variety eh?

        Mr T

        and I am allergic to American breakfasts

    2. Just a question really John. Where does the 0/30 (or whatever) come from? I submit 90% of the time from overseas. Maybe this explains why my pile of Amazon vouchers is so vanishingly small…

      Btw, this one we found very fair. Tough, but an enjoyable Sunday workout.

      1. Hi Pete, and anyone else who shares my marking concerns. If you visit the solution page of the online version the following weekend you will see a mark for your previous effort. I usually get the answers all right, but occasionally get awarded a zero. This seems to occur if I submit my solution when I am abroad. I haven’t been able to establish whether getting a zero precludes me from being eligible for a prize in the draw?

        1. Amazing. I have been doing the digital edition since it started. And I had no idea that page was there!!

          But I haven’t got any 0/xx. Most recent submissions have been from Spain.

        2. A further thought on the prize draw. A sensible algorithm would not send all answers in for the draw. It would just send your email address and a code meaning “all correct”. Sending all answers would require checking, and that can be done automagically at our end, probably with the same mechanism which is present in weekday puzzles.

          So I suspect maybe the disconnect is somehow occurring at your end because you are overseas?

          I have numerous problems with the digital edition locking me out when I have poor internet connectivity outside the UK. But that’s a topic for another forum.

  11. A tad easier than the past couple of Sundays, but still Toughie material. If the DT wants to throw in an extra Cryptic (as they did last Monday), it would be preferable if they did it on Sundays, for us thickos who are struggling with these latest offerings. I did do better today with several clues answered, but I am not going to be able to finish without help, which defeats the purpose for me. I want to exercise my brain, not my keyboard. Like Hoofit I also got 10d without understanding why. Thanks for hints Senf. Like Brian, I am still at sea.

  12. I .managed 9 clues on the first attempt, this morning but had lots of other things to do, so didn’t complete the puzzle until this afternoon. I am still none the wiser about 5d and missed the point in 15d due to total ignorance of the subject matter. It’s a good job I don’t submit the puzzle as so many of my answers were half guesses and bung ins. I really cannot say that it was an enjoyable exercise.

  13. No more than average back page difficulty for me – no obscure GK or unusual vocabulary and several easy gateway clues to get you started. I think lots of people have talked themselves out of this before they even started rather than just solving what is in front of them.

    1. Congratulations!! You have just won the most ridiculous post of the year award. Sorry, and most patronising.

    2. That doesn’t seem very fair Rick. Sometimes you’re on the wavelength and sometimes not. A lot of people on here here, including me, having been solving these puzzles for years but are finding these Sunday ones hard. I haven’t used a single hint this week. Today on first pass I got one single clue in. It’s good to encourage people to try but not to put them down.

      1. I don’t take kindly to being called ridiculous and patronising.
        I gave what I thought was an honest and balanced appraisal of today’s puzzle. I thought the setter might appreciate a more positive comment for a change.
        Still Hoofit need fear being patronised no longer; this is the last post I shall make on here.

        1. Hi Rick – it’s fine to say how you found the puzzle, and I get your point, but it’s the suggestion that people who struggled didn’t try hard enough which could be construed as a little less than flattering, slightly pompous even.

          This is not a place for casting aspersions over other solvers, and certainly not a place for getting upset, in any way, about a crossword or another commenter.

          It’s a case of text coming across badly, that’s all – I look forward to seeing your feedback on future puzzles, as it is valued.

          Just ‘Sorry, didn’t mean to cause any offence’ would have done, and wouldn’t have hurt.

        2. For what it’s worth, Rick, l fully agree with your assessment. I scored it on the 1/2* cusp for difficulty, and a healthy 3* for enjoyment. That’s a decent back-pager standard. I got only two at first pass, but – as other contributors have observed – it all fell into place quite readily therafter. I don’t post much these days; l found it became more of a (self-imposed) duty than a pleasure, so have taken a bit of a holiday.

    3. It is easy to see how a reader might interpret the original comment in just about anyway they wish.

      I thought it was a positive comment that balanced some of the negative comments about the difficulties solving Dada’s puzzles. A few weeks ago someone even suggested that Dada “… was half as much fun as he used to be…” (the witty bluntness made me chuckle).

      I would suggest that you all plead guilty and enjoy some of my home made sausage rolls in the naughty corner – I am also making some gluten free versions with coconut flour for the health conscious amongst us…

      Mrs T

      And please do not get Mr T started on his allergies.

  14. Well I really had fun with this one.

    I got off to a spectacularly wrong start by being overconfident and putting in my thought for 9a. Then I was all smug and got 4d. Only that didn’t work. I had the wrong book. Same type of book but the wrong one just the same. That will teach me to be cocky.My next screw up waas mispelling 6d.

    So I had a cup of tea and wandered outside to check on LSH who has almost completed the rebuild of our deck, yes in sub-zero temperatures. He just loves it when I make helpful suggestions…. ;-) I was holding a spirit level in place as he tightened bolts when I suddenly said ‘Oh!’ He said ‘What, is it out?’ I said ‘No I just realised when the crossword clue is!’ So I beat a retreat and having seen the error of my ways managed the rest though I did need help with 26a and 7d though once I got them they did make me smile.

    Favourite is 23a because I can relate.

  15. Recent social and work commitments have restricted recent posting but thought I ought to comment today… if only to get the post count up😳

    I thought today’s crossword was great. More approachable than recent Sundays but some top class clues along the way. Too many good clues to list in fact.

    It is a virtually impossible task to fill Virgilius’ shoes and we should salute Dada for taking on this daunting task and, based on today’s offering, he’s well up to the job in hand.

    Many thanks to Dada and to Senf for the hints.

  16. Thanks to Dada and to Senf for the hints. A nice puzzle, but still very tricky, though not as tough as last week. Needed the hints for 26a&7,15,18,19d. Was 4*/3* for me. Favourite was 8a.

  17. I have got there with Senf’s help. Thanks for the hints. I am beginning to get on wavelength with our new Sunday setter. Still I have some work to do but I will persevere. Thanks to Dada too.

  18. Just shows what a few weeks does. I finished this with a few smiles on the way. A ***/**** for me. My favourites were 1&26a and 17d. Thanks to Dada and Senf.

  19. What a terrific crossword! Very satisfying to solve with several clues bringing a smile. I’ll go with 1a as my favourite.
    Thanks to Dada for the challenge, and to Senf for the hints.

  20. After giving up half way through earlier, I did come back and finished it, but only with electronic help. It is most definitely a wavelength thing for me, as the answers weren’t that obtuse, but I was always going down a different fork in the road. And I still can’t parse 10d either 🙂

  21. A bit late here today – popped in earlier and wrote a comment which disappeared and have been busy since so back again now.
    After my first read through of all the clues I had two answers and thought, “Oh dear, here we go again, I can’t do this”, but decided to ‘perservate’ and got going.
    Most of the top was completed before more than a handful of answers was in the bottom half.
    I think that I’m definitely on a different wave length to Dada – perhaps in time I’ll tune in as I did, eventually, finish this one and enjoyed it too.
    Lots of good clues and ones that made me laugh which is what, to me anyway, makes a good crossword.
    I particularly enjoyed 1 and 21a and 1 and 18d. My favourite was 23a.
    With thanks to Dada and to Senf.

  22. Great fun, for me, requires serious thinking time.
    Just stuck now on my last one, 20d but I never give up and will not peep at the hints, kindly provided by Senf.
    **** for difficulty.
    Many thanks, Dada, looking forward to next Sunday.

  23. I,m in Spain so I took a picture of my grid to check against CS’s review in case I get zeroed

  24. I must be getting on the right wavelength as I found this tough but solvable with a number of what I thought were very clever clues. Didn’t take much more time than usual but started very late as we’ve been out for most of the day.

  25. On the (very) hard end for me…. completed, but only by spending far too long on it, and e-help and hints! Last in 20d which I still can’t parse…

    1. 20d Wind opening clasps over ornaments, primarily (7)
      A narrow opening contains the abbreviation for over and the first letter of ornaments.

      1. Thanks, see it now… I’m familiar with the word, but a different definition…. and I couldn’t get past ‘opening clasps’ being a pointer to the first letter of the answer!

        1. Oh YES! I see it now. Thank you so much Gazza. And to the crafty setter and to Senf. Quite a workout . . . .

  26. I must’ve been roughly on wavelength based on some other comments, as it took me about the same time to solve as last Sunday’s puzzle, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest that it was straightforward.

    Thanks to Senf and Dada 3*/3.5*

  27. Recently have been completely unable to get on Dada’s wavelength and today was no different. Needed help with more than fifty percent of the clues so no satisfaction at completing. If any 1a was Fav and I also liked 5d. IMHO 24a was a no-no and 15d far-fetched. I will draw a veil over today’s effort and look forward to hopefully a different kettle of fish tomorrow. Thank you Dada and Senf.

  28. I’m always so sad when someone leaves the blog on a huff.
    I too could say that if I can solve a Dada, any of you should be able to do so, being French and all.
    But it does take some time to crack the devil in him.
    His définitions are often very well hidden and the wordplay quite intricate but always a pleasure to unfold.
    I was so happy to see him on the prize Saturday Guardian and the Sunday Telegraph.
    Made my weekend.
    Thanks to Dada and to Senf.
    btw, 10d is a lovely charade of a word meaning jumping without the final g as in the clue, how you might pronounce the next word and a three letter synonym for worried as in consumed.

  29. Am I wrong in thinking that the Telegraph puzzles use Chambers as the reference? I think all of the weekday variety do. Bot not these recent Dada ones. 13a is a good example, where the answer is an alternative to the Chambers’ definition, (but still quite acceptable).

    Sometimes it’s nice to put a tick in the box, but with these type of answersthat’s not always possible.

    1. Yes – Chambers is the crossword ‘bible’ but I am not sure that I understand your comment about 13a.

  30. The people missing Virgilius might wish to know that his alter ego Brendan provides today’s Guardian cryptic

  31. Got there at last … would never have done it without the hints, so thank you, Senf … and thank you, Dada, for a major brain work-out. Now that it’s finished I can’t quite understand why I found it so difficult.

  32. Im in the difficult to solve group. Did about half without hints. Then lost interest. Completely illogical to me. I probably won’t bother to attempt it next week. Give me boolean algebra any day.

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