Toughie No 2423 by Serpent
Hints and tips by Gazza
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BD Rating – Difficulty *** – Enjoyment ****
Thanks to Serpent for a fun puzzle where the difficulties come from tricky wordplay rather than obscure vocabulary (just the way I like them). A few of the surface readings do relate to the current health problems.
Do leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of the puzzle.
1a Head of college locks position for its senior staff (5)
CHAIR: the first letter of college and the sort of locks that one can’t get cut in these times of social distancing.
4a Old person somehow beginning to improve, right after avoiding hospital care (9)
GERIATRIC: an anagram (somehow) of I[mprove] RIG[h]T CARE. It makes a change to clue this word without referring to a Spice Girl.
9a Honour nurses taking risks lacking clothing related to treatment (9)
MEDICINAL: an honour or gong contains a present participle meaning ‘taking risks’ without its outer letters. Excellent surface covering the current shortage of PPE.
10a Winner has tea with politician (5)
CHAMP: join an informal word for tea and our usual elected politician.
11a Large spike in approval is preceded by brief career (7)
OBELISK: inside an informal term of approval (2) we have to put IS preceded by an informal verb to career or move swiftly without its last letter.
12a Hard Rock Cafe finally faced by one blocking subsidy (7)
GRANITE: the final letter of cafe is preceded by a subsidy or handout containing the Roman numeral for one.
13a Resented contest separating half of field (6)
ENVIED: a verb to contest or compete goes inside the second half of a verb to field (e.g. in the manner of a football player fielding a cross from an opposition corner kick).
15a Hound arts graduate that is cursed primarily with doctrinaire manner (8)
DOGMATIC: string together what a hound is a type of, an arts graduate and the primary letters of ‘that is cursed’.
18a Broadcaster is keen to provide accommodation for star (8)
ASTERISK: hidden in the clue.
20a Rasher guards last to observe warning signal (6)
BEACON: an edible rasher contains the last letter of observe.
23a Chat inanely following introduction of this platform (7)
TWITTER: a semi-all-in-one. The first letter of ‘this’ is followed by an informal verb to speak at length about nothing very important.
24a Fabulous animal that’s product of agricultural college? (7)
UNICORN: split the answer 3,4 and it could be a cryptic description of a strain of cereal developed at an agricultural college.
26a Cultured pearl is less vivid (5)
PALER: an anagram (cultured) of PEARL.
27a Concession opening shortly is hardly raising awareness (9)
SOPORIFIC: bolt together a synonym for concession and a general term for a bodily opening without its last letter.
28a Row about company call terminating early, ending in disarray (9)
CACOPHONY: assemble a 2-letter abbreviation for about or approximately, the abbreviation for company, a verb to call without its last letter and the final letter of disarray.
29a Good spirits falling short of ecstasy (5)
MORAL: a word meaning spirits or self-esteem without the abbreviation for the drug ecstasy.
1d Period drama’s central character subjected to no peer pressure (6,3)
COMMON ERA: the central letter of drama goes after someone who’s not a peer.
2d Go off with naked canoeist? (5)
ADDLE: remove the outer letters from a word for a canoeist (based on how he or she moves the canoe through the water).
3d Lie about copyright policy (7)
RECLINE: string together a preposition meaning about or concerning, the letter used in a copyright symbol and a synonym of policy or stance.
4d Growth of goods to eat in — passable when served up (6)
GINGKO: this is an deciduous Chinese tree. Two occurrences of the abbreviation for good contain IN. After that reverse a short adjective meaning passable but not great.
5d Faith in generalissimos restored after purging rebellious masses (8)
RELIGION: remove the unordered (rebellious) letters of MASSES from GENERALISSIMOS and make an anagram (restored) of what remains.
6d Triumph one’s driven to celebrate (7)
ACCLAIM: you probably have to be of a certain age (and not live abroad) to remember that this was the name of an undistinguished Triumph car in the early 1980s.
7d Pragmatic article is in need of editing (9)
REALISTIC: an anagram (in need of editing) of ARTICLE IS.
8d Policemen reported rather sticky situation? (5)
COPSE: if ever a clue was deserving of its question mark this one is! What sounds like an informal word for police officers (NB not policemen in this day and age) could very cryptically be a stick-y (or wood-y) location.
14d Break up civil riot expressing considerable bitterness (9)
VITRIOLIC: an anagram (break up) of CIVIL RIOT.
16d Cycling picture screened by commercial channel is authorised (9)
CANONICAL: cycle the letters of a religious picture contained inside a channel used (mainly in the past) for commerce or the transportation of goods and materials.
17d President stops oil company producing black fluid (8)
ESPRESSO: an abbreviation for president goes inside the trading name of a US oil company (the name coming from the initial letters of Standard Oil). A very perceptive clue since the US oil price has recently gone below zero for the first time in history.
19d Two artists quietly drinking dry type of gin (3,4)
RAT TRAP: two occurrences of our usual recognised artist’s abbreviation and the musical abbreviation for quietly contain the letters used for dry or ‘on the wagon’.
21d Gnome mounted horse to cross gorge (7)
EPIGRAM: reverse a female horse and insert a verb to gorge or overeat.
22d Outfit with a fluid approach (6)
SUPPLY: double definition, the first a verb to provide with equipment.
23d Dispenser of alcohol has raised tense issue (5)
TOPIC: raise the abbreviation for tense in a device for dispensing a standard measure of alcohol.
25d Tender assassin? (5)
OFFER: double definition, the second deriving from a US slang verb to kill.
I ticked 18a, 1d and 17d but my favourite has to be 9a. Which one(s) earned your acclaim?