In the sample clues below, the links take you to explainers from our beginners series. The setter’s name often links to an interview with him or her, in case you feel like getting to know these people better.
The news in clues
From Paul, a curious claim …
13a Conservative: I win having lost Conservative city (5)
[ wordplay: abbrev. for “Conservative” + I + synonym for “win” (as a noun) – synonym for “Conservative” ]
[ C + I + VICTORY – TORY ]
[ definition: city (as an adjective) ]
… in a clue for CIVIC, and from Tramp, one who might make such a claim …
Three goodbyes. Bob Gregory created puzzles for the New Statesman, Saga and others as described in our delightfully lively Q&A in 2019. In the Spectator he was Smurf, and I enjoyed Doc’s portrait of him in a feature on the magazine’s setters. He leaves us an awesome – disparate – archive of puzzles, and last year celebrated the Jewish Chronicle’s thousandth puzzle, remarking: “I make no apology for the use of snippets of Yiddish, because that language of the shtetls is fast dying out in today’s younger generation.”
Nimrod, known locally as Enigmatist, created a Friday Independent puzzle that appeared unthemed to some solvers but which quietly assembled a portrait of Sid Thomas, a member of the real-life (and latterly Zoom-based) events where broadsheet setters and solvers overlap.
On which note, the Financial Times’s Tuesday puzzles were until recently dissected at the Fifteensquared blog by Grant Baynham, who also died recently. His songs were a That’s Life! staple: you can watch Grant in performance below.
Carpathian’s clue …
23d Stylish rector with appeal to unknowns (5)
[ wordplay: abbreviation for “rector” + synonym for “appeal” + two letters used as mathematical variables (“unknowns”) ]
[ R + IT + Z and Y ]
[ definition: stylish ]
… for RITZY prompts me to ask: is there any finer example of an anecdote where you wonder whether it’s exaggeration or fiction than the one about César Ritz’s first job?
As an apprentice aged 15, we’re told, he was fired with the words: “You’ll never make anything of yourself in the hotel business. It takes a special knack, a special flair, and it’s only right that I tell you the truth: you haven’t got it.”
It could only be more perfect if the patron had added: “And your surname will never be sung by Fred Astaire”. If you know a taller tale, let us know; in the meantime, how do you find a word for “ritzy” that’s even ritzier? You put it, bien sûr, in French. Reader, how would you clue DE LUXE?
Many thanks for your clues for CHOP SUEY. The audacity award goes to JasCanis for making us think of “suey” as meaning “likely to sue” in “Cut litigious contents of ‘Sprouts, Shoots & Leaves’, perhaps?” (and it should be noted that JasCanis also gives us the unaudacious and splendid “Awfully shy couple skips end of communal Chinese meal”).
The runners-up are Harlobarlo’s plausible “Chinese food so cheap you ordered a round to go” and RobSimmo’s striking “Contents of anchovy capsule Freyja used in dish”; the winner is the sly “Dish, originally Cantonese, having odds and ends of shrimp, beansprouts, tofu, cabbage and celery”; kludos to Montano.
Please leave entries for the current competition – as well as your non-print finds and picks from the broadsheet cryptics – in the comments, below.
Clue of the fortnight
Again, it’s one where you have to chop the clue in places that aren’t obvious. From the mysterious Alfie in the Times’s quick cryptic …
… a clue for HARMED in a puzzle with a twist. Take care.
Find a collection of explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs at alanconnor.com
The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop