ST 3139 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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ST 3139 (Hints)

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 3139 (Hints)

Hints and tips by Senf

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

A very good Sunday morning from Winnipeg where I have heard a totally illogical Covid fact – while care workers in residential care homes are not required to be fully vaccinated, subject to frequent testing if they aren’t, ‘care workers’ looking after the ‘residents’ of the Winnipeg Zoo are required to be fully vaccinated – never has my flabber been so gasted!

Keep staying safe everyone.

For me, Dada might have forgotten that it is the Season of Goodwill.  I counted eight anagrams (seven partials), no lurkers, and two homophones – all in a symmetric 32 clues; with 16 hints ‘sprinkled’ throughout the grid you should be able to get the checkers to enable the solving of the unhinted clues.

Candidates for favourite – 15a, 24a, 3d, and 6d.

As is usual for the weekend prize crosswords, a number of the more difficult clues have been selected and hints provided for them.

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

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 Group of waiters prompt, did you say? (5)
One of the homophones (did you say) of a synonym of prompt (given to a forgetful actor?) – and the waiters may not be what you are thinking of.

4a Acid test: Ireland shuffled mess around (9)
An acid test (or should it be the result of an acid test?) followed by an anagram (shuffled) of IRELAND.

11a King referring to case of mogul in citadel (7)
Four Lego pieces required – the chess notation for King, the two letters used for referring to, the first and last letters (case of) MoguL, and IN from the clue.

15a Morning sickness beginning to grate in house (8)
The first letter (beginning to) of Grate inserted into (in) a former Royal house.

23a Fruit a necessity, as on the counter (7)
A (1,4) phrase equivalent to a necessity and AS from the clue all reversed (on the counter).

24a Male has broken tool person held (7)
A term for a four-legged male (hunted in Scotland?) inserted into (has broken) a type of (garden) tool.

28a Go and strip in game (9)
A synonym of go (as in leave a relationship?) and a synonym of strip – both of the required synonyms appear to come from Dada’s personal thesaurus.

29a River runs through marquee (5)
The single letter for (crickety) runs contained by (through) a term for what a marquee is a type of.


1d Sucker bringing fleet onto beach (9)
A synonym of fleet (as in speed) and a synonym of beach.

3d Slope in squiggly foreign letter (7)
An anagram (squiggly) of SLOPE IN – I had to include this one just for the anagram indicator.

7d Dread playing with wicked, reckless type (4-5)
An anagram (playing) of DREAD and (with) a synonym of wicked.

14d Red spike in root, twisted (5,4)
A type of spike (perhaps quite small) and an anagram (twisted) of IN ROOT.

16d Works performed by company, object to show (9)
The short form of works performed by a (travelling?) company and a synonym of object.

19d Second ruled out, begin to crumble (7)
A two letter term for second (as in a short period of time) and an anagram (out) of RULED.

23d Sour note (5)
A double definition – the second is musical.

25d A group of players whispered remark (5)
A from the clue and the single word for a group of (sports) players.

Quick Crossword Pun:


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Close enough for government work!  In the Northern hemisphere, Astronomical Winter begins when the Winter Solstice occurs at 15:58Z on Tuesday.  So, here is the first movement, Allegro non molto, of Tony V’s fourth concerto of the suite known as Le Quattro Stagioni played by by Cynthia Miller Freivogel and the Early Music ensemble Voices of Music (who we have seen before):

50 comments on “ST 3139 (Hints)

  1. 2*/4.5*. This was a very enjoyable puzzle with nice brief clueing. I thought there were two distinct halves in terms of difficulty – the top half went in quickly and smoothly, but the bottom half needed a lot of teasing out with the parsing of 24a the final penny to drop.

    2d is in the BRB so fair game for setters, but it is a manufactured word that I just can’t warm to.

    My top three today were 4a, 15a & 17d, with its nicely disguised definition earning 15a first place.

    Many thanks to Dada and to Senf.

    P.S. Senf, I haven’t got my BRB handy but both the meanings needed for 28a appear in Collins online,

    1. Thanks both. In my haste on my Saturday evening I tend to rely too much on the Small Red Book and an on-line thesaurus.

  2. It took me longer to complete the SE quarter of thos puzzle than to finish the remaining three quarters but I got there im the 2nd and enjoyed the challenge (4*/4*) as I usually do with Dada’s crosswords. 4a and 11a were joinr Clues of the day. Thanks to Dada for another great Sunday puzzle and to Senf for tthe hints. I particularly needed the hint for my bung-in at 28a, where the synonyms were not immediately apparent to me.

  3. Another superb puzzle from Dada, slightly trickier than of late I thought.
    In a very strong field I’ve gone for 4&11a plus 1d as podium placers but top spot goes to 15a.
    Many thanks to our esteemed setter and Senf
    It was a good clue but the surface read of 24a conjured up a rather unfortunate image!

  4. Like RD and CC I found the bottom half much trickier than the top.
    Couldn’t see the second half of 28a and still can’t even after the hint.
    Agree with Senf’s picks with 24a (which I had wrong at first) my COTD.
    To Dada thanks for the year’s puzzles and a Merry Christmas.
    To Senf thanks for the hints. The zoo example just shows how apparently illogical the decision-making re Covid has become. Every variant seems doubly more transmittable than the last & we have gone from Beta (our last year’s “present” from the virus) to Omicron in 12 months. When it comes, will we catch it purely by leaving the house? We are both double jabbed and boosted but coming up to 80 & “vulnerable”, just how safe is it for Mrs LrOK & I to go into a small coffee shop ? I don’t know but we just don’t take the risk. To have any sort of life perhaps we are going to have to I guess.

      1. As LrOK has acknowledged your ‘extra’ hint it is too late for redaction but it would have been.

        1. Sorry SL, as I say to Mrs LrOK you were only trying to help.
          I’ll accept the mince pie on the naughty stair on your behalf. Looks like our first Virtual Redaction Senf!

    1. I wouldn’t worry, the virus is following the usual path for zoonotics by becoming ameliorated when passing through a human host. It’s just that this one is a little more tricky than usual. It is becoming the perfect virus by infecting it’s host but only causing mild disease. A virus that kills its host quickly is not a successful one.
      It is doing a great job of mopping up the anti-vaxxers, serves them right for putting the rest us at risk.

      1. Thanks Brian. Certainly the data starts to support your analysis. (Comparing our number of serious case compated to Germany & France and the number of tests we do compared to them).
        Bit of a critical decision though for us old crumblies.

    2. We are not far behind you LROK, double vaccinated and boosted. We’re not yet under any extreme lockdown measures here (we usually lag the UK by 2-3 weeks). We both mask up when in shops, and have yet to eat indoors at a restaurant. I agree, it’s a difficult balance between being sensible and not wasting the previous years we have left.

  5. I enjoyed this a lot but just as others have said bottom half held me up for ages. Had to look up 20a and 19d to make sure they were real words. I originally thought there must be a medical term for morning sickness but then the penny dropped. Thank goodness we never joined the Euro as a ‘cent drop moment’ just sounds stupid. I’m watching my juvenile moorhen paddling in my pond -I’ve called him Pillock for making me look one. Thanks to all for the fun.

      1. So sorry CS, I think I have sorted it – I didn’t realise it had changed as it was ‘saved’ – I’m not very techie.

        1. Halfway through yesterday afternoon, you added an ASA at the start of your email address. It is now back to normal

    1. Joined you in needing to join a bird identification club yesterday seeing what I termed a heron on a rock in the river at Alness only to be corrected that it was a cormorant waiting patiently for its next meal.

      1. I was bemoaning the fact that the starlings were stopping the smaller birds getting to the bird table when a sparrowhawk flew down and caught one of them and took it home for Sunday lunch!

        1. I get a lot of sparrowhawks raiding my birdfeeders. Sometimes they demolish and eat their prey on my neighbours’ fencepost, which is really grisly. I feel a bit resentful sometimes buthey are a part of thenatural world too and need to feed themselves and their chicks. The flocks of birds tend to disappear for days after the sparrowhawks have been around.

          1. Last year a sparrowhawk shot over the bird feeder and came through the RHS open glass door to the kitchen and landed on my kitchen floor. We stared at each other and I gently picked up a drying up cloth and wafted it like a matador – he got the message and flew off only for exactly the same thing to happen the following day. Hasn’t happened again.

  6. I too found the top half easier than the bottom. I don’t suppose I thought of 27a as a rodent but the clue was clear.
    Lots of booze and general shenanigans today no wonder Dada has a 15a.
    I will pick 29a today as it reminded me of “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean – a passable early Brad Pitt film but better as a book IMO.
    It is grey and gloomy here today, so much so that the outdoor tree lights keep threatening to turn on, and it is not even noon yet.
    Thanks to Senf and Dada and a Very Merry Christmas to all here

  7. A game of two halves for me. All complete & parsed but made a right dog’s dinner of the bottom half so it took me to ***** time before the fog lifted down south. I went down anagram blind alleys at 14d & 24a, was painfully slow to clock the right definition context at 21d & can’t recall ever seeing 19d as a verb before. As is often the case with JH I struggle with some synonyms (first bit of 14d & latter one at 28a). I don’t know about personal Thesaurus but they don’t readily come to mind, or mine anyway.
    As usual a very entertaining & quality puzzle. Ticks for me: 1,4,9,11,15&24a plus 14&21d.
    Many thanks to D&S

  8. This is a definitive Curates Egg. The top was clever, elegant and made sense. The bottom was a real swine.
    I at least understand all the clues when I see the answer except for 9a which makes little sense to me.
    Thx for the hints and to Google!
    Very difficult to rate so I will divide in two:
    Top ***/****
    Bottom ****/**
    Thx for what hints there are (the ones I needed were as always missing!).

  9. As others have found, it was the lower reaches of this puzzle that caused problems with my personal stumbling block being 14d.
    Clever clues from our setter, top three here being 4,15&24a.

    Thanks to Dada for the Sunday brain teaser and to Senf for the hints and the enjoyable piece from Tony V!

  10. Entertainingly tricky for a cold and grey Shropshire morning. I loathe the word at 2d, but otherwise this was well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable. 24a and 22d were my final entries, with 15a the pick of many fine and well-disguised clues.

    Many thanks to Dada for the challenge, and to Senf.

  11. Last night, I rejoiced in having finished a very challenging NYT Yuletide jumbo puzzle much too soon because I hit a brick wall in the SW quadrant of today’s Dada. Needed two hints from Senf to unblock the rest. The top half went quickly; the rest…well, I literally slept on it, most worrisomely, then returned this morning and still struggled. But this may be the finest Dada puzzle I’ve ever attempted. I just wasn’t up to it. Too many favourites to begin listing. Thanks to S and D. *****/*****

  12. A welcome return to a more challenging Sunday Dada puzzle, with much enjoyment had during the solve, and satisfaction on completion. East before West, North before South, and the extremely genrous dollop of anagrams gave plenty of checking letters for the more cryptic clues. Impressively concise clueing, every clue scrupulously fair. Dislike 2d as a word rather than 2-letter acronym, but at least that wasn’t as bad as ‘koing’ in Friday’s Toughie!

    HMs to 11a, 23a and 16d; COTD to 15a.

    2.5* / 3.5*

    Many thanks indeed to Dada and to Senf.

  13. A Christmas Cracker from Dada!
    Thanks, as ever, to Senf for the blog ‘n hints.

  14. Thank you sir, but illustrated hints, a hint for 29a {good grief), but not for 20? I’m a tt. Still many thanks to BD and Senf

    1. Illustrated hints – FAQ 9.1.

      Hint for 29a – regardless of perceived difficulty, the first and last in each direction are always hinted in a Prize Puzzle.

      20a – selection of clues to hint is always somewhat subjective.

  15. Found this weeks Dada offering on the tricky side for the bottom half. Top went in pretty smoothly, but the bottom esp. the SE was my stumbling block. 2.5*/**** for me today.
    Clues for favourites include 1a, 4a, 15a, 28a & 14d with winner 4a
    All were good and it is so hard to pick one standout clue really.
    A fun solve for me over Saturday night and then Sunday morning for the bottom half.

    Thanks to Dada and Senf

  16. Definitely not a Dada Christmas gift today. Having said that, I did rather like 1a. But as I have only managed 8 answers on my own so far I’ll have to set aside. Perhaps I will have some eureka moments later, but suspect I’ll go back to Kate Mephan’s Giant Christmas puzzle instead. Thanks to Dada and Senf.

    1. Glad to see I improved my solved count from 8 to 23 unaided, but finished only with some help. Still don’t understand 24a. And most of my later entries were from using the checkers. Definitely tricky today.

      1. 24a is definitely on the wide-ranging side as far as male is concerned – all kinds of species should be considered and then ‘hold’ it with a tool.

  17. I have a letter in all the squares but I’m not sure they’re right. Considering it’s a Dada offering, I thought I did quite well until I got to the SW where I was way out of my depth and had to go in for a hint or two from Senf, I also relied heavily on e-help. I’ve not read all the hints nor the comments, I don’t think I’ve done that before. Some of the answers I have are so way off base, I’m not at all sure they’re right, e.g. 23a and 26a, but I can’t think of anything else. Fave was 11a, but 20a amused too.
    Thanks Dada, all I can say is whew, and much appreciation to Senf, how on earth did you unravel that lot. Maybe the animals in the zoo are more important than the people, but didn’t they tell those in charge that animals don’t get Covid?

    1. In reality, the care home/zoo vaccination difference probably comes down to the fact that care homes are Provincially regulated, and vaccination not mandatory applies across all health care facilities, and the Zoo is administered/regulated by the city.

  18. I worry that they might start getting it, the results would be unimaginable. All those people who throw out pets for no reason, give them a reason and our world will be awash with stray dogs and cats. Oh, please don’t let it happen.

  19. Mean Mr Mustard today … lots of unnecessary redactions in my opinion. They were just extra hints.

    1. As crypticsue wrote in Comment 24 in yesterday’s blog:

      Please remember that this is a Prize Puzzle so we can only give limited hints about the clues, . . .

      BD’s blog is the only crossword blog where hints are given for Prize Puzzles on their day of publication. We wouldn’t want to reach a point where too much help is given and the DT requests that we delay any blog about the prize puzzles to after the closing date for entries.

      1. Well said Senf (and crypticsue)
        I suspect Stan was just looking for a chance to post some rather pleasant Beatles as you have only exercised your red pencil once today. It is important that we respect the DT as this community is too good to lose.
        and apologies for any infractions I have added to the naughty step.

  20. Another tremendous offering from Dada with the north being more friendly than the south. Thank you also to Senf as always

  21. Dada at his usual dour self hasn’t provided many lighter moments. SW last in. 9a continued to baffle me – bunged in. 24a and 28a are no nos IMHO. My Fav when penny dropped about waiters was 1a. Thank you Dada and Senf.

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