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In the sample clues below, the links direct you to explanations from our series for beginners. The name of the smuggler is often linked to an interview with him, in case you want to know these people better.

News in clues

The story that continues to give the gates of crosswordland appears in a collection of three linked clues from Tees…

1/5y Bad girl at ease dancing around the piano in 27 20 events? (7.7)
[ wordplay: synonym for “bad” + anagram of (“dancing”) GIRLATEASE containing (“round”) musical abbrev. for “piano” ]
[ ILL + EGALARTIES containing P ]
[ definition: events in the location referenced in clues 27 and 20 ]

27/20a Alcohol is flowing quickly, the smuggler vandalized hub 3 (7.6)
[ wordplay: synonym for “quickly necking booze” + anagram of (“vandalised”) SETTER ]
[ DOWNING + STREET ]
[ definition: 3d is GOVERNMENT, so government hub ]

12a Penalty for attending 1A 5A in 27 20? Well! (4)
[ double definition ]

… for ILLEGAL, DOWNING STREET and FINE GAMES. Only time will tell if Keir Starmer’s beer fires the public imagination enough to produce such an avalanche of clues.

A marvelous puzzle and its page companions

‘Welcome to another great puzzling Sunday’ proclaims the title of the Sunday Telegraph’s puzzles section, and it’s fair to say that the paper leads the pack: eight pages of beautifully laid out puzzles…

…including the incomparable Enigmatic Variations crossword puzzle, which has given me great comfort and amusement over the past two years (beginners are directed to this piece).

I don’t see why the newspaper would consider losing this series, which topped the 1,500 mark last year. I remember the moment in 1998 when the Telegraph decided that its cryptics had to be put together by computer. The response was not favorable and the human setters resumed their normal work. Speaking on behalf of the newspaper, Boris Johnson said: “Despite the advantages the computer possesses, the machine has been doomed for a fatal lack of soul” and poser Roger Squires celebrated with a hint…

Submit to pressure and return to base (9)
[ double definition ]

…for UP. Crossed fingers.

Confusing elsewhere

You may have recently received articles about how those of us whose brains in 2022 feel hazy need to do more crossword puzzles. We’ve already talked here about the strange phenomenon that psychological research not involving crossword puzzles is published, and then some media coverage or press release specifically tells us that crossword puzzles prevent dementia or the like.

It still happens! Here’s the feel-good piece with the usual “A recent study provided five ways to improve basic brain health…crossword puzzles, math problems…” etc. Cognitively Stimulating Activities and Brain Health,” which…

Unfortunately, this hypothesis has not yet been demonstrated.

…and mentions the crossword exactly zero times.

Funnily enough, there’s a link to a recently posted puzzle that’s probably the weirdest crossword you’ve ever solved. Here it is, from the journal BMC Medical Education. It has one theme, namely the role of anticoagulants in cardiovascular therapy; the even more interesting part is that the puzzle was created to research whether medical students found the subject “more enjoyable” when crosswords were involved, rather than looking at the effect the puzzles had on their brains.

Naturally, they did: a reminder that you don’t need an excuse to solve a problem. Pleasure (along with the occasional frustration) is the reward.

In the meantime, let’s join in making our next challenge a word that could be an answer in this niche puzzle: reader, how would you say ANTICOAGULANT?

Index competition

Thank you very much for your hints on DODDLE. The prize for audacity goes to Catarella for the impressive extension “Three daughters, the first two claiming love, their father an abdicating king?” It’s easy’ and enjoyed the collegiate conversation around JasCanis’ apt ‘Minister cuts welfare as easy option’.

Finalists are Sheamlas’ non-daring “One Turning Round in Stirf Wind” and the devious “Picnic party crowd lost?” by Lizard. The winner is Thepoisonedgift’s pleasant review “It’s easy to get lost drinking rum”.

Kludos to offer. Please leave the entries for this fortnight’s contest – along with your unprinted finds and picks from the large-format cryptics – below.

Fortnight index

As often happens, we end with a hint where most of the words seem to be doing something quite different from their true intent. Nutmeg shows us his trademark sleight of hand in this clue…

24a The fluid feeder we left on the terrace ends up getting drier (3.5)
[ wordplay: synonym for “fluid feeder”, then WE (“we”) + abbrev. for “left” next to (“on”) last letter of “(“ultimately”) PATIO ]
[ TEAT, then WE + L next to O ]
[ definition: drier ]

… for TORCHON.

Valley Shed

Finally, a farewell to the inimitable Shed. The Guardian archives contain over 200 of his riddles dating back to 1999 (he first started the paper in 1984) and I fondly remember this exchange in 2012:

How do people react when you tell them you do crossword puzzles?
“A what?”

And if you weren’t a crossword puzzler, what would you be?
Even grumpier than me.

Read the whole thing and this obituary by Guardian crossword editor Hugh Stephenson.

Find a collection of explanations, interviews and other useful material at alanconnor.com

Alan Connor’s partly but not primarily cryptic shipping forecast puzzle book can be ordered from the Guardian Bookstore



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