Crossword roundup: who wants to be kicked upstairs?

Alan Connor
·4 min read
<span>Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

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

Let’s look toward solutions, such as the cheering and unexpected appearance in a puzzle from Pasquale

25ac Man bitten by dog? One may indicate disease (9)
[ wordplay: abbrev. for Isle of Man, inside (‘bitten by’) how you might describe a dog ]
[ IOM inside BARKER ]
[ definition: something that may indicate disease ]

… of a BIOMARKER. Meanwhile Vulcan’s clue …

23d Explosion, after which children all fall down? (7)
[ cryptic definition ]

… for ATISHOO is a sign that we no longer should expect our puzzles to be 100% free of coughs and sneezes.

For me, that particular jig was up late last year when I realised that a Listener puzzle had as its theme colony collapse disorder, defined by Chambers as “a serious and unexplained disease capable of bringing about the complete destruction of bee colonies”. All the letter “B”s needed to be removed from clues or answers. An engrossing workout: not quite the abstract escape I’d come for, but as the setter Ares remarks at solvers’ blog Listen With Others:

The idea for producing APIS within the final grid was to make the point that, by making a change, we can still ensure there are bees about.

Well, quite. Onwards?

Puzzling elsewhere

If you save your Guardian puzzle until lunchtime some weekday, you can solve along with comedian Guy Kelly, as suggested by @TeaAndSleep. The fun takes place on streaming app Twitch, channel Brainimage. Full disclosure: a) when I have popped in, the language has been salty even for me and b) starting my own live-solving has been on my to-do list now for 50 weeks but is unlikely to make it near the top soon.

Latter patter

This week, I’ve been pondering this timely Twitter query.

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Here, we should probably concentrate on such newer uses, but we tend to go in the other direction. For example, here’s a charming clue from many fine people’s weekend go-to, the Jumbo in Saturday’s Times:

20ac Ostensibly promote excitement by winning flight (4,8)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘excitement’ next to (‘by’) synonym for ‘winning’ (as adjective) and synonym for ‘flight’ (as noun) ]
[ definition: ostensibly promote ]

Having never been sure whether being kicked upstairs is a sign that your new job is bogus, unearned or prematurely awarded, I enjoyed what I think is a letter written on 15 March 1754 about an apparently ambitious idiot named Fox.

I haven’t been in a boardroom for a while, but I suspect that kicking upstairs is one of those phrases with various vague senses that include the subject of our next challenge: a ruminant that once might have got away. Reader, how would you clue SCAPEGOAT?

Cluing competition

Thanks for your clues for KERFUFFLE. I suppose I should have anticipated what three “F”s might solicit from a frustrated and fundamentally fettered folk. Forgiven.

The audacity award could have been invented for NoMoreMrNice’s “Uproar to do with a hyphen?”, which comes with an explanation for those who may take as long as I did to notice the audacity.

I was also thrilled to see that these unwelcome letters provided, from Lizard, a startling jumbo-line (were we solely in print) clue-in-op-ed in the form of “‘Free’ UK thrilled – fine, having flourished all round? The opposite – there’s discordant chaos!”

The runners-up come from Steveran, despite the unwelcome cameo – “Sadly keel over as Trump inspires force in commotion” – and from TonyCollman, because of the connecting tissue – “Ruff that’s on fleek stirred up brouhaha”; the winner is Dunnart’s extraordinarily plausible “Flurry as thousands get free flu shot around start of February”.

Kludos to Dunnart; please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and any of your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below. And the latest addition to our Healing Music Recorded in 2020-21 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to, from Manchester Camerata, is “a reflective piece on the year gone by”.

Thank you also to TonyCollman for prompting thoughts on unrhymable words. Regarding “wasp”, is there a sadder page in any reference work than this, from the second edition of the New Oxford Rhyming Dictionary?

Other candidates are, of course, more than welcome.

Clue of the fortnight

Here’s a trick I relish, whether I fall for the misdirection or not. It’s Matilda …

23ac Tintin’s struggling with Haddock’s sixth sense (8)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘struggling’) of TINTINS & sixth letter of HADDOCK ]
[ anagram of TINTINSC ]
[ definition: sense ]

… and the answer is INSTINCT. Stay safe.

The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book by Alan Connor, which is partly but not predominantly cryptic, can be ordered from the Guardian Bookshop.

Here is a collection of all our explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs.