DT 30399 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 30399

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 30,399
Hints and tips by Shabbo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment ****

Greetings from sunny Hertfordshire, which makes a pleasant change after a pretty miserable July and August. The children who are able to return to school this week might justifiably feel slightly aggrieved, as the improvement in the weather has coincided with the end of their holidays.

I found this puzzle to be tough, but immensely rewarding. I had ticks all over the place. Really clever stuff. Good surface reads throughout, which can make some of the parsing hard to spot, but when you read it carefully, everything is present and correct, of course, and not a single word is redundant. It also pays to remember that the definition element is always at the beginning or the end of the clue, not in the middle. No doubt I will now be bombarded with examples of where this is not the case, but such instances are very rare.

In my blog below, the definition element of each clue has been underlined (you can check my statement above if you having nothing better to do!) and anagrams are CAPITALISED. The answers are concealed under the “Click Here” buttons. Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought of the puzzle.

Across Clues

1a Old lady keeps plant perhaps in shade (7)
MAGENTA: another word for “plant” (think spy) inside an abbreviation for mother (old lady).

Book vessel shortly leaving America, heading west (7)
OMNIBUS: an abbreviation for a submersible vessel followed by three short words meaning “shortly”, drop (leaving) the A for America and then turn the whole lot around (heading west) to find your book. Tricky.

9a Body part seems regularly covered with hair (5)
FEMUR: every other letter (regularly) of “seems” in the middle of (covered by) a synonym for animal’s hair.

10a Popular shop worker mostly accepts student becoming permanent (9)
INDELIBLE: take a deep breath: a two-letter synonym for popular or fashionable + synonym for a posh shop + a worker (think insect) without the end letter (mostly) outside (accepts) abbreviation for student or learner.

11a King visits a show I’m in, playing someone from Dublin? (10)
IRISHWOMAN: anagram (playing) of A SHOW I’M IN + R (king).

12a Token scratch (4)
CHIP: double definition – think casino and damage to paintwork on car.

14a Parallels with my family (12)
CORRELATIONS: three-letter expression of surprise + another word for family.

18a Obsessive lepidopterist that one can wind up? (9,3)
BUTTERFLY NUT: double definition, first one semi-cryptic.

21a River conceals large shellfish (4)
CLAM: – Phew – an easier one! The river that runs through Cambridge outside (conceals) an abbreviation for “large”.

22a Describing Ruby, occasionally resorted to coarse language (5-5)
SERBO-CROAT: anagram (resorted) of TO COARSE outside (describing) every other letter (occasionally) of RuBy.

25a Horse Oliver maybe welcomes being put on again (9)
REMOUNTED: former bibulous actor outside (welcomes) synonym for horse.

26a Just time for item in sports programme (5)
EVENT: word meaning “just” + abbreviation for time.

27a Cross over marshland, turning back having sunk (4,3)
DONE FOR: a noun meaning “cross” outside (over) a three-letter synonym for “marshland” all reversed (turning back).

28a Unfolds sexy item Andy repeatedly discovered sweetheart’s opening (7)
EXTENDS: remove first and last letters (repeatedly dis-covered) of words 2, 3 & 4 and then add the first letter (opening) of sweetheart.

Down Clues

Cake females will feed Greek character at home (6)
MUFFIN: two abbreviations for female between (will feed) a letter from the Greek alphabet and the usual synonym for “at home”.

2d Move using compass, good to begin with (6)
GAMBIT: abbreviation for “good” + synonym for “compass”.

3d Organised trek with Rhona touring old country (5,5)
NORTH KOREA: anagram (organised) of TREK and RHONA outside (touring) abbreviation for “old”.

4d This writer’s upset when framed by past friend (5)
AMIGO: another way of saying “this writer is”, turn it upside down (upset) and put it inside (framed) a synonym for past.

5d Former Strictly winner denied charge in court (3,6)
OLD BAILEY: surely we don’t need to know former Strictly winners, I thought to myself this morning. Well actually we do, but fortunately the answer is very gettable without that knowledge. I worked backwards from the definition, which is the Central Criminal Court in London. The parsing asks us to take the name of a past Strictly winner (2020 apparently), put it after a three letter word for “former” and then remove the dancer’s given name (denied charge).

6d Mounting loneliness envelops banker (4)
NILE: a river (banker) hidden (envelops) in “loneliness” upside down (mounting)

7d Do a hobby developed in infancy (8)
BABYHOOD: anagram (developed) of DO A HOBBY.

8d Embarrassed that woman and husband after records one breaks (8)
SHEEPISH: a lego clue. Pronoun for “woman” + abbreviation for old vinyl singles + I (one) inserted inside (breaks) said records + abbreviation for “husband”. Join them all together and then have a well-earned lie-down.

13d Most devoted aunt’s excited to be given box (10)
STAUNCHEST: anagram (excited) of AUNTS followed by another word for a box.

15d “Judge meets serial killer” reported Mirror (9)
REFLECTOR: football “judge” + homophone (reported) of the surname of a fictional serial killer.

16d Masked son old boy, restored to health, hugs (8)
OBSCURED: abbreviation for a school “old boy” and a synonym for “restored to health”. In the midst of this (hugs), insert the abbreviation for “son”.

17d Want arms to be different for scarecrow (5,3)
STRAW MAN: anagram (to be different) of WANT ARMS.

19d Only Macron to appear gutted and glum (6)
SOLEMN: another word for “only” + the first and last letters (remove/gut ACRO) of Macron

20d Position figures on plinths with no end of care (6)
STATUS: Synonym for “figures on plinths” and remove (no end of) the last letter of “care”.

23d Mark of tailless creature (5)
BADGE: nocturnal animal (I saw my first live one the other night!) without its final letter (tailless)

24d Advertise type of pastry (4)
PUFF: a fairly gentle double definition with which to finish.


74 comments on “DT 30399

  1. A real Joe Bugner of a puzzle today. At first reading I reckoned it wasn’t worth me going on, but steadily got into the setter’s wavelength and thought it might be worth a go. All went well, albeit like crawling through tar dragging an anvil, until I was left with three in the NE corner.
    Even reverted to calling Mrs TC to ask about previous SCD winners, which held me up further as two of them had three letter Christian names beginning with ‘O’
    Eventually the penny dropped when the court reference became clear.
    Still can’t see how 5a and 10a really work out, but they’re pretty obvious from all the other letters, so will read the hints. Thought 12a was a bit tenuous, but loved 22a. Many thanks to the setter today, great fun.

    1. Just read the hints for 5 and 10a, would never have worked them out on my own, cryptic with a capital K.

  2. A great puzzle- I was pleased to see 4!
    No tricks, obscurities ….
    More like this please.
    Thanks to setter.

  3. Very enjoyable indeed with some nice misdirection combined with clean uncluttered surface reads throughout and plenty of variety. What’s not to like.
    I have lots of ticks but I’ll mention 1(plant..very smart) 5,14&28a plus my favourite the excellent 15d.
    Good stuff.
    Many thanks to the setter and Shabbo.

  4. Hmm, Beam not on Toughie duty but this back pager is almost certainly not a Ray T production, multi-word clues in the Quickie for example, even if the setter did ‘try it on’ with sweetheart in 28a. Having said that, a very enjoyable puzzle just right for a Thursday – 3*/4.5*

    Based on the above, my two half-crowns are itching to be placed on Silvanus as today’s setter.

    Candidates for favourite – 14a, 18a, 27a, 15d, and 19d – and the winner is 15d.

    Thanks to Silvanus, or whomsoever if my five bob goes down the drain, and thanks to Shabbo.

  5. It was interesting to read what Shabbobsaid about the definition being at the beginning of the clue. With this puzzle, I found myself ignoring the, to me, impenetrable wordplay in favour of homing in on the definition and finding an answer to fit the checkers parsing was done by rwverse engineering and, whilst I finished the guzzle, there were several ckues in which the parsing eluded me. So thanks to Shabbo, I shall now read rhe hints . It was a bit of a slog, but rhere were some good clues, notably the geographical anagram at3d and the two anagrams at 11a and 13a. COTD for me was the cryptic definition at 18a. Thanks to the compiler, it wasn’t my cup of tea butcyou win a few and lose a few I guess. Lotds of people will really enjoy this puzzle.

  6. Read through half the across clues before finally getting one in. Slowly but surely came together. Had a bit of a slog in the SW corner with the ‘language’ taking a while to get. Great puzzle and a thoroughly enjoyable challenge. 15d is my COTD with many other contenders. Thanks Shabbo and our setter.

    p.s.did anyone else notice in the app early this morning that the clue for 3a in the Quickie was the actual answer? Tut tut!

  7. Outstanding!

    I had to work for it but very rewarding when I crossed the finish line.

    There are so many good clues that I would need an Olympic ice hockey podium to fit them all on. I do have to mention 5a though as it is clearly on steroids!

    Many thanks to Shabs and I’m guessing Silvanus.


  8. 2.5*/5*. I was wrong last week when I stuck my neck out and wrongly attributed a puzzle to Silvanus, but my money is on this one being one of his compilations, and what a brilliant one it is too with 14a my favourite of many ticked clues.

    My only real hold-up was parsing my answer to 5a but the penny eventually dropped.

    Many thanks to (probably) Silvanus and to Shabbo.

  9. Something of a challenge today, enjoyable from start to finish. A good variety of clues with brilliant surface reads and misdirections. I managed unaided eventually though the parsing of 5a eluded me. Thank you Shabbo! Very difficult to choose a favourite today but I’ll go for 27a supported on the podium by 22a ( yes, I know it’s an anagram!) and 8d. Thanks to our setter and Shabbo.

  10. What a terrific puzzle for a sunny Shropshire morning. Every one a winner in the clue department, with 14a in top spot. Great fun.

    Thanks to our setter for an entertaining challenge and to Shabbo.

  11. Goodness me this was tough but I got there unaided. Having said that I shall now read the hints to see how I did it! Thanks to Shabbo and the setter – an excellent guzzle.

  12. Very enjoyable indeed – many thanks to the setter and Shabbo.
    My shortlist from a pruned longlist of top clues contains 1a, 5a, 18a and 15d.

  13. So much to praise.
    Got there unaided but
    Spent an inordinate amount of
    Time parsing.
    A shared podium of all
    But say a few.
    Many thanks,indeed, to the setter
    And to Shabbo.

  14. Thanks to the setter for the workout and Shabbo for the hints.
    Some fabulous learning opportunities or us mere mortals!

  15. I love a puzzle like this – so rewarding when you finally work out the answers to what at first seemed impenetrable clues. I still needed Shabbo’s help to parse 5a. 5d was brilliant and I loved the actor reference in 25a but my joint COTDs were 1a and 22a. Thanks to the setter for a thorough Thursday workout and to Shabbo for the hints.

  16. I doubt there’ll be many complaints about today’s back-pager being too easy but my goodness it was satisfying to reach completion, even though 22a did its best to prevent that happening! Such smooth surfaces would suggest that it was penned by one of my favourite setters and the podium here is packed with winners. Top marks went to 14,18&27a plus 5d with many others in contention. 18a takes the gold star for making me laugh out loud.

    Many thanks to Silvanus (must be!) and to Shabbo for making such an excellent job of the review.

  17. An excellent puzzle! Great clues, a pretty stiff challenge and a cracking tussle. Favourite of a first-rate bunch: 5a. 4*/4.5*.

    *5d. I never watch Strictly but I do remember trailers/reports about the guy that won it. A better description for me would be: Musical stand-up comedian.

  18. Bit outclassed today but all fair. Didn’t know the Strictly winner had won. Good excuse for a trip to youtube before this afternoon’s activities.

  19. A non RayT Thursday this week, but nonetheless a fun puzzle to work through. NW was my hold up area and took almost as long as the rest of the puzzle. Lots to like here and many that brought on a smile/chuckle too.

    2.5*/4* for me. Without the NW hold up more likely 1.5*

    Favourites include 14a, 18a, 27a, 1d, 8d & 17d — with winner 14a

    Thanks to setter (Silvanus?) & Shabbo for hints/blog

  20. Way out of my range. This would stretch the Toughie solvers. Shame that the DT has nothing but contempt for those of use who don’t want to sit in a dark room with a cold wet towel.
    Good manners precludes me from giving my opinion of this offering.

  21. Yes, hard work but most satisfying. My last one in was 22a, I was so fixated in a Ruby Murray curry – nice one. I didn’t need the hints but thank you Shabbo, it is so comforting to know you are there. I am still slowly nibbling away at Sundays Toughie. It is really hard to pick a favourite- 22a, 15d, 14a? I think I am going for 18a. Many thanks to the setter and Shabbo.

  22. That was tough and not my cup of tea at all. I found 5d incomprehensible along with 5a. I have never associated the word at 24d with advertising but it is in Bradford. I will now forget it.

    Thank you for the puzzle, Miss Tree Setter – you you beat me fair and square. Many thanks, Shabbo for making sense of it for me.

  23. North was OK but South was a different story – a slog in fact as others have said. Don’t watch Strictly so needed Google help with 5d and likewise 2d as I don’t play chess. 25a actor penny didn’t drop so bunged in. Grinned when “my” dawned on me for 14a so that’s my Fav today. Thank you Mysteron (I rarely identify setters) and to Shabbo.

  24. Am doing well this week, 4th day in a row completed on the same day, although I have to admit to having to seek help for much of the SE corner. Like others, several I could not parse such as 5a, 25a and 28a. Totally flummoxed by 14a. 22a, 13d and 15d so was very appreciative of the hints that explained these clues. But normally on a Thursday I sit blindly reading the clues and rarely solving anything, so am chuffed that either this week my brain is in crossword mode or I’m improving – time will tell which.

    Many thanks to the setter and to Shabbo for the much needed hints.

  25. Many thanks to Shabbo for his Hints and Tips and to everyone commenting. I’ve just popped out to the supermarket and it was bliss lingering in the frozen food aisle with the weather being so warm outside.

    I could have almost predicted word for word what Comment #22 would say, even before I had read it. At least he could have expressed some gratitude to Shabbo, but that’s clearly asking too much.

    1. Thanks for popping in Silvanus. Loved today’s puzzle (as did 99% of commentators thus far) – many thanks. And thanks to Shabbo for unravelling a couple of parsings (1a, 5d).

    2. Thanks Silvanus for a terrific puzzle. #22 stands out like a sore thumb but Brian always makes me smile with his polar-opposite views 👍😁

    3. Thank you for the puzzle, silvanus. I couldn’t solve it but that is not your fault. I must work harder! :grin:

    4. Having gone all in it was one of yours last Friday I’d have happily reinvested my new pot that it was one of yours. Great puzzle.
      Remember you have had the occasional good review from Brian – successive ones if memory serves

  26. Good afternoon
    Well….it took a good while, but I made it. Several contenders for a Crikey! and for COTD; 8d is the former, 22a the latter; special mention for 15d.
    Wasn’t sure about the parsing of 5a, but having consulted Shabbo above, I get it. Thanks to Shabbo for the hints, and to Silvanus for the brain exercises!

  27. I went from thinking I could not even get started to eventually finishing, although there were several clues I needed help to pass eg 5a. It is such a skill to be able to write such seemingly impossible clues that then gradually become clear, you of course do need to have time to go away and come back (at least I do). I really enjoyed the challenge today and liked many of the clues but particularly 22a which was my favourite.

    Many thanks to Silvanus and to Shabbo for helping me understand my answers

  28. I have to agree with Brian. Also, at the time of writing, there are 29 comments on here, and just 5 on the Toughie. Ergo, if tough cryptics are so popular why are most people on here and not there? Having wasted good paper and ink on this I am not going to also waste my time. Sorry **** puzzles have no business being posed as a backpager. Congratulations to Shabbo on solving this and anyone else who managed unaided and without the hints.

  29. A perfect back-pager for Thursday.

    I did anticipate that the usual moaners and groaners would think otherwise! Maybe, they should read the hints and then learn something about cryptic crosswords?

    Thanks to Silvanus for yet another brilliant puzzle. Thanks, also, to Shabbo for the review … especially for explaining the “book” in 5a.

    1. I have expressed my views before on those who moan that a puzzle is too hard to be on the back page. I agree with you, Franco – use the hints to learn. That’s what I did.

      Tomorrow is another day.

  30. It was just about OK. Finished fairly quickly but had several queries regarding full parsing. There were extra words in some clues which obscured the meaning and made it unnecessarily more difficult. E.g. “to appear” in 19d. “Meets” in 15d. “denied charge” In 5d. Phrases like “in a mo” and “cor” for “my” will always stump me.
    Tanks to Silvanus and Shabbo for the hints
    **/*** ignoring parsing failure.
    Ps. Loved 18a

  31. This was so far beyond me that it was embarrassing
    When I first looked I thought I was just a bit dozy and that things would improve – I was wrong!
    I can see that most of the answers are really clever but I’d never manage for myself.
    I’ve done a few answers but I think I’ll leave it at that – on and upwards, or something . . .
    Thank you to Silvanus for the crossword (whether or not I can do it) and to Shabbo for the much needed hints (and answers sometimes).

  32. Thank you Silvanus. I loved this puzzle and love it more now that it has **** I must have tuned in to the wavelength. I find the toughie a whole different level and only venture down that route when someone here tips the wink that it might be doable. I am also more apt to tussle till it’s done with the back pager while I give in to the hints too early with a toughie as I’m convinced I can’t do it! Thank goodness for hints! I disagree with previous comments saying that tough back pagers shouldn’t be allowed – surely that’s how we all progress? Thanks to Shabbo for his hints.

  33. Defeated by 22A and needed the hints to understand the parsing for a couple. This was a long, hard slog for me and I’m happy to get almost home. Thanks to Shabbo and Silvanus.

    For those of you over there without air conditioning, take heart: Autumn will be here before you know it.

  34. I managed to solve this with minimal aid from Mr Meringue (he guessed 5d then I remembered the Strictly winner.)
    I needed help with parsing 5a, guessed from the checkers.
    Overall, very enjoyable and satisfying.

    Thanks to Shabbo for the hints and to Silvanus.

    Haar down here all day today, so our temperatures are nothing like the rest of the country….which actually is OK by me as heat doesn’t suit. Tomatoes could do with more sun to ripen them, though…..but the apple crop is huge. I keep trying to give them away but everyone seems to have their own. Have to dig out the juicer, the desiccator and the freezer bags.

  35. Oh – I did a short comment which seems to have disappeared – never mind!
    It’s probably not worth to write it again.
    This was way beyond me although I could see that it was very clever – I’d never manage to sort everything out for myself.
    Thanks to Silvanus for the crossword, whether or not I could do it, and to Shabbo for the much needed hints, and sometimes the answers too!

    1. Rats – this comment disappeared but seems to have come back – so I wrote it again!!
      Sorry everyone – I’m really not losing my marbles!!! :unsure: must be the heat . . . .

  36. Best crossword of the week. I seemed to get right on the wavelength from the off. Silvanus at his best, showing his mastery of clue compiling with reversals and insertions indicated in the smoothest of surfaces. Only struggled with the parsing of 5 down as I hadn’t come across charge as a synonym of name before. Many thanks Silvanus for the fun and Shabbo for the clarification.

    1. Hi Jeemz
      Apologies. I didn’t explain that very well. Charge = Bill, the given name of our dancing comedian.

  37. Many thanks to Silvanus for a splendid puzzle. I clearly had the fortune to tune in to his wavelength from the very first, because the puzzle only took a minute or so longer than the backpagers we have had so far this week. Working AC from the NW the answers flowed steadily, finishing with 5a.

    The generous scattering of helpful and straightforward anagrams, precise and very fair clueing, and the smooth surface reads all contributed to a very satisfying solve. Hon Mentions to 14a, 27a, 5d & 19d.

    1* / 4*

    Thank you to Silvanus and Shabbo

  38. Managed to probably solve four clues and realised I was wasting my time.

    I am in awe of the people who solved this. You must breeze through the toughies.

    1. I solved it, very slowly, and had to see the hints when I’d finished to parse my bung ins. See SC at 31 above – wise words. I rarely can do the Toughie and never attempt an Elgar who CS says is a very nice person.

    2. Don’t despair,, Bananawarp. Although managed to finish this puzzle, it was with great difficulty and I always find it difficult to understand Silvanus’ puzzles. As for the Toughie, I rarely attempt it as it takes too long to do that and the backpager. I think it’s probably intended for all those superior solvers, who describe ordinary backpagers as ‘ a light delight’, a coffee break puzzle’ or ‘over much too quickly’.

  39. Horses for courses! I found this one of the most solvable Thursday puzzles for a long time 😃 ***/**** Favourites were 5d, 23d and 12a. I have never solved a Toughie in my life 😳 and nowadays no longer try to, life is too short 🤗 Many thanks to Shabbo and to the Compiler

  40. Managed most of this. Convinced,like others that our Ruby was a curry. 22a was therefore a no show
    I’m not sure we should remember strictly winners. By now there are a lot of them if you count the professionals
    COTD was18a

  41. Solved early doors before a long day out playing in a seniors pairs open at the rather splendidly scenic Chiltern Forest GC where we were extremely well looked after. Today’s sweltering heat & humidity would have made a flat track arduous enough but you needed to be an ibex for this one.
    Great puzzle today – the toughest & for me the best of the week thus far & by a margin. 15d pips 27a as my fav with the usual abundance of ticks elsewhere.
    Thanks to S & S – have only read the comments but will read the review later

  42. Rather nice to get a mention in 11a.
    Like Chriscross at 6 above , I solved it by working from the definition.
    A pleasure to solve.
    Thanks to th setter and Shabbo.

  43. I found this quite difficult, but I did enjoy it!

    I guessed the 25a Oliver straight away; I have good memories of chatting to him on a few occasions when he would appear at a couple of pubs in Wimbledon at around last orders (going back roughly 30 years); a pub called the Hand in Hand was one of them.
    His son, Mark, a very nice man used to live in Wimbledon too.

    Thanks to Silvanus, and to Shabbo.

  44. It was a slow but steady solve over lunch, leaving a few in the SE and NW corners, a coffee and cookie gave me the inspuratiin to finish the SE but had to resort to Shabbo’s excellent hints to see the light on 1a and 2d
    We used to call 18a wing nuts and it became a nickname for anyone unfortunate to have protruding ears, Gary Lineker and the FA Cup seem to have taken over that mantle.
    I thought there was a Sid who did rather well at Strictly and trying to fit him in held me up there.
    Thanks to Shabbo and Silvanus for a midweek masterclass in blogging and setting

  45. Needed the hint to parse 5a and 5d was a bung in and I’m none the wiser as to the identity of the strictly winner as I’ve never seen it and can’t be bothered to look it up. 22a was a ‘could it be that’ moment and looked it up and it was. Apart from those I quite enjoyed this. Favourite was the splendid 18a. Thanks to Silvanus and Shabbo. The toughie will have to wait until tomorrow having spent half the day risking life and limb driving several miles to the garage with petrol pouring out of the fuel filter so it can be fixed and then trying to find a hire car, very kindly picked up and ferried about by my friend and neighbour Jason.

  46. A great challenge, solved in **** time but needed Shabbo’s comments to understand some answers so grateful thanks there!

  47. What a gloriously wonderful puzzle. It took a while but I loved working through it. Every clue neatly constructed. The parsing of 5a eluded me until I read the hints and then it became my favourite. I also failed to parse 15a because I got stuck on thinking judge = reflect and couldn’t find a serial killer with the last 2 letters!!. Thank you Silvanus and Shabbo. I love your hints Shabbo, so very clear and each carefully explained.

  48. Wow, that was tough. Didn’t help putting TIFFIN for 1d (I now realise that “ti” isn’t a Greek letter).
    Thanks all.

  49. Many thanks to all compilers and providers of hints. I have been a ‘lurker’ for some time, have greatly improved and managed to finish Thursday’s crossword completely unaided (albeit in 2 sittings), so was surprised to see it classed as a 4*! The hints were very useful in helping me understand some of the solutions. This blog is wonderful and I always enjoy reading the comments.

    1. Welcome to the blog, JT.
      Now that you’ve introduced yourself I hope that you’ll become a regular commenter.

  50. A late comment from me just to say how very much I enjoyed this truly excellent crossword. My fave was 15d followed by 14a and 27a and a host of others…
    Thank you very much Sylvanus. Your crosswords are beautifully crafted and I always enjoy them. And a most appreciative ‘thank you’ to Shabbo for an appropriately excellent review. Lovely clear expanations. Very well done!

  51. 3*/5* ….
    liked 19D “Only Macron to appear gutted and glum (6)” , amongst several others.

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