DT 25986 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 25986

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 25986

Hints and tips by Gazza

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***

If you like cryptic definitions you’ll love this puzzle which has lots, some much better than others. It’s challenging and entertaining, the two qualities you most want from your daily fix.
As usual the answers are hidden inside the curly brackets – just select the white space to reveal them if my hints prove to be totally inadequate!

Across Clues

1a  Character study, perhaps (11)
{COMPOSITION} – I’m not totally sure of what the setter is getting at here [see comment from RayT, the setter, below on what he intended], but I think it’s a cryptic definition of a painting or photograph of carefully arranged people, such as The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp by Rembrandt.


9a  Derisive call back, almost getting rocket (7)
{BOOSTER} – put together BOO (derisive call) and STERn (back, with last letter dropped, i.e. almost) to get the first stage of a rocket.

10a  Come to from anaesthetic? (6)
{NUMBER} – double definition, one of them cryptic – a verb meaning to come to or to amount to (as in the size of a crowd, say) is also a cryptic way of describing an anaesthetic, i.e. something that deprives one of feeling or makes one numb.

12a  Declare former Conservative leader weak, say (7)
{EXCLAIM} – a verb meaning to declare or cry out is constructed from EX (former), C (leader, i.e. first letter, of Conservative) and a sound-alike (say) of LAME (weak).

13a  Useless group admitting single’s louder (7)
{SHOWIER} – one of the catch-phrases of the comic actor Terry-Thomas was “You’re an absolute SHOWER!” – a term applied to a group of people (useless group) of whom one disapproves. Insert (admitting)  I (single) to get a comparative meaning flashier or louder.

14a  Beaten senseless, holding tight (5)
{TENSE} – an adjective meaning stretched tight or strained is hidden (signalled by holding) inside beaTEN SEnseless.

15a  Card game’s in course (9)
{NEWMARKET} – when I was a youth the card games I played could be divided into two categories, those I played with ageing aunts and those I played with my contemporaries. This gentle game is one of the former and its name is also the town where there is a racecourse which hosts two of the classic horse races each spring.

17a  Walk beside the seaside (9)
{ESPLANADE} – either I’ve missed something significant or this is just a pretty weak cryptic definition of a long flat walking area at a seaside resort.  Walking beside the sea was a very popular activity in Edwardian times when this song was composed:

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside,
I do like to be beside the sea,
I do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom,
Where the brass bands play

20a  ‘Blur’ band ends, forming other group initially (5)
{BEFOG} – a verb meaning to blur is made from the initial letters of Band Ends Forming Other Group.

22a  Star’s cooler place? (7)
{SUNSPOT} – a cryptic definition of a dark patch on the surface of our very own star, the sun.

24a  Party leader progressed, containing resistance (7)
{CAMERON} – put R (resistance) inside CAME ON (progressed) to get the surname of the party leader who wants everyone to call him “Dave”. A good, relevant surface reading.

25a  Protect old company in swindle (6)
{COCOON} – a swindle is a CON – put inside this O (old) and CO (company) to form a verb meaning to wrap up for protection.

26a  Characters tending towards the right (7)
{ITALICS} – cryptic definition – for characters read letters and this is how they are leaning to the right.

27a  Rare to get drunk after endless pub quiz (11)
{INTERROGATE} – start with INn (pub without its last letter, endless) and add an anagram (drunk) of RARE TO GET and you have a verb meaning to question or quiz.

Down Clues

2d  To argue madly, leading to assault (7)
{OUTRAGE} – an anagram (madly) of TO ARGUE gives us a term meaning violation or assault.

3d  A burning passion? (9)
{PYROMANIA} – a cryptic definition of an obsessive urge to start fires.

4d  Small butts providing thrills (5)
{SENDS} – a very amusing charade of S(mall) and ENDS (butts) forms a verb meaning affects with powerful emotion or rouses to ecstasy (thrills).

5d  A fair lottery? (7)
{TOMBOLA} – a cryptic definition of a sort of lucky dip which you would find at a fair or fete.

6d  Bloke is wrecked finding needle (7)
{OBELISK} – an anagram (wrecked) of BLOKE IS produces a tall tapering pillar, an example of which is Cleopatra’s Needle on the embankment in London.


7d  It’s not working (11)
{ABSENTEEISM} – cryptic definition of regularly staying away from work, often without good reason.

8d  Also heard before prison, getting bird (6)
{TOUCAN} – start with a homophone (sound-alike) of TOO (also) and add CAN (American slang term for prison) to get this bird with a large bill and bright plumage, which used to feature in some clever advertising for Guinness.

Guinness toucan Poster

11d  Recast, so got part in title role (11)
{PROTAGONIST} – an anagram (recast) of SO GOT PART IN produces the leading character (title role) in a book, play or film.

16d  On the pull, around end of bar, pulling (9)
{WRENCHING} – a term meaning looking for female companionship (on the pull) is WENCHING – insert the last letter (end) of baR to get a synonym for pulling.

18d  Bridge game (7)
{PONTOON} – double definition – a makeshift bridge, constructed by tying together a number of flat-bottomed boats, and a card game (this time not one suitable for playing with ageing aunts) also called vingt-et-un or blackjack.

19d  A very gentle stroll back (7)
{APPROVE} – a charade of A, PP (very quiet or gentle, musical notation) and ROVE (stroll) leads to a verb meaning to endorse or back. A clever use of “back”, tempting you to look for a non-existent reversal.

20d  Wind from explosive on a street (7)
{BOMBAST} – a term meaning pompously inflated language (wind) is constructed from BOMB (explosive) on top of A and ST (street).

21d  Passionate female with extraordinary drive! (6)
{FERVID} – start with F (female) and add an anagram (extraordinary) of DRIVE to get an adjective meaning very enthusiastic or passionate.

23d  Note we hear from singer (5)
{TENOR} – we end with an old favourite from a singer who sounds like (we hear) a TENNER (note).

I liked 24a, 3d and 19d, but my clue of the day, because it made me laugh, is 4d. What do you think? – leave us a comment!

31 comments on “DT 25986

  1. Gazza,
    Hmm, not sure of some of those cryptic defintions, some worked, and some I felt did not. 17a is terrible, because there is another word PROMENADE which fits the clue better and when I put it in to begin with I thought it was the obvious answer. Only to find later that it wasn’t. I wonder how many other people will get caught the same way?
    In fact here’s the relevant definition’s from Chamber’s
    a walk, ride or drive, for pleasure, show or gentle exercise
    a paved terrace on a sea front

    1. libellule
      I think that I would have fallen into the same trap if I hadn’t already got some checking letters. My major gripe with this clue is that it is barely cryptic.
      The clue which I had most problems in understanding is 1a. Do you agree with my interpretation of this one? Perhaps the setter will drop in later and let me know if I’m right!

      1. Re 1a, I think you are probably right, the only other possible variant that may work, is the use of the word for an exercise in writing prose or verse…

    2. Yes, I fell for that, too, initially. But, I suppose that’s the cleverness of the clue. Although, for either of the two possible answers, it’s almost a straightforward definition. As is 5d.

      1. I suppose you could say its clever to use the “other” word, but then instead of it being a true cryptic double definition for example, it simply becomes a straightforward definition as you say.

    3. Libellule,

      Now this is one of mine. For ‘walk’, Chambers gives: footpath, path, walkway, avenue, pathway, promenade, alley, esplanade, lane, drive, track, pavement, sidewalk, but I have to agree with you and Gazza that it’s pretty weak. I hope that the rest of the clues make up for it!

        1. Gazza,

          It was intended as a double definition. ‘Composition’ – ‘character’ as in ‘constitution’, and ‘composition’ – ‘study’ as in ‘painting’, for example. Having tried to explain it, it does now seem rather ‘laim’!

            1. Vince
              I think that RayT was making a cryptic reference to the sound-alike in his 12a clue.

              1. Gazza,

                Yes, of course I was. You’re not convinced by my explanation for 1a, I take it!

                1. RayT
                  It’s your puzzle so you must be right!
                  I have put a reference to your comment in the hint, but, so far, I’ve left the rest unchanged because I was hoping to attract a few more comments.

                2. I must be in a minority, as I liked 1 across.

                  If I have an issue with any, it is the use of non-existent homophones such as LAIM for LAME.

                  But then if I wasn’t a pedant I wouldn’t enjoy crosswords as much as I do!

    4. I’m glad someone else put in PROMENADE. I was sure 19D was PONTOON, which does not fit with PROMENADE, and spent a long time working out which was right and wrong. Not very exciting overall, I thought.


  2. Gazza, I could not see how the answer to 1a can be arrived at from the clue. I got the answer from the checking letters. I could only find the one word that would fit.

    1. Rollo
      I’m glad that I’m not the only one who struggled with this clue. I got the answer the same way as you, and, even now, I’m not sure how the answer fits the clue.

  3. finished, but being an ignoramus I always thought sunspot was the hottest place to be, I have now had it explained by my brother who is the ‘brains’ in the family!! :)
    we are both not sure about esplanade as opposed to promenade

    1. methinks….. I must be the only person who didn’t know the hotspot was actually the cold spot…. yes?

  4. Well, like everyone else it seems, I had to undo promenade in favour of esplanade – and muddle my wat throught to composition.

    But the one that really threw me was 4d. Making use of some experience on the consumer end of the being trade I reckoned that a small butt (108 gallons)would be a ‘pin’ (4 1/2 gallons), which lead me to ‘spins’ which approximates well enough to ‘thrills’. That then made an impenetrable mess of 10a …

    sends=thrills? still can’t see it.

      1. Paul
        According to Chambers the meaning of “send” is “to rouse (someone) to ecstasy” and it originated from jazz.

        1. Thanks gazza. Can’t say it is a use I have ever come across, which would explain my bemusement.

  5. 17a got me as well. I suppose that this could be a new (to me at least) type of clue. The solution has only one instead of the usual two clue elements, but there is a deceptive incorrect solution which does have two.

    I liked 26a but it would have been better if the solution to 25a could have been, say, Osborne or Major, making a nice triplet of 24a, 25a, 26a.

  6. i have to say that 4 down and 10 and 13 across eluded me but then i am a tad sniffy about the importation of americanisms such as “butts ” to signify rear ends – a propos de quoi i recommend the hilarious You -tube clip of President BO and the more vertically challenged Sarko checking out a young Brazilian “butt” that caught their respective – but not too respectful – eyes at a recent summit.
    Finally as i was brought up five minutes walk from Worthing beach i was not long detained by esplanade – even if the prom was the first to come to mind – it was soon despatched by the unavoidable – and equally nautical ” pontoon “.

    1. Welcome to the blog Jason

      I’m afraid I am not at liberty to pass on email addresses, but I’m sure you could contact Telegraph enquiries via their website.

      The setter, RayT, has already acknowledged the ambiguity in 17 across. It is unfortunate that if you only see the “correct” answer then you are likely to miss the other potential answer and vice versa. This is certainly not the only clue in recent crosswords that has more than one answer if you disregard the checking letters, but then it is a puzzle not an English examination.

      Don’t forget that you can always check your answers here on the blog. All of the bloggers enter the puzzles on the CluedUp website so you will get the correct answer even if, sometimes, we don’t give the correct wordplay!

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