Cryptic clue solutions: January 2020

If you follow me on Twitter, you may know I more-than-occasionally tweet cryptic crossword-style clues. Usually these have some relevance to passing events. I figure that, if I’m going to snark about the news or rave about the football, I can at least earn it by putting a bit of creative work in.

Anyway, rather than flood my Twitter timeline with answers and explanations, I thought I’d cynically try to drive a few clicks through to my blog by putting the answers here instead.

Btw, do remind me to explain a bit about why cryptic crosswords have come to be so important to me. I’m not very good at them, but it’s true just the same. But I think I may have more of a setter’s brain than a solver’s one. I’m even more of a beginner at it, but I’ve always liked coming up with puzzles and games. I like the way it feels to live inside my head when I’m doing it.

I’m not going to go into detail in explaining the different kinds of clue that exist. Rob Jacques’s How to solve a cryptic crossword does that much better than I could. I’ll try to use the same terms. Besides, I’m pretty sure they’re all anagrams anyway. All the same, I’ve written this to be beginner-friendly, so I do go on a bit, sorry. Here we go!

Order or pantheism for hater of humanity? (11)

The answer is MISANTHROPE, a hater of humanity. The cryptic part of the clue is an anagram (indicated by “order”) of “orpantheism”.

A note on anagram indicator words: “that almost any word indicating activity, movement or destruction can be used as an anagram indicator, and many other inflections are possible” – from Cryptipedia. The same page lists many anagram indicators, which I find very useful when making clues.

I tweeted this today because of the news. Let’s say no more about it.


Python! Maybe Indiana is after a nappy? (5,5)

Ooh! This one’s not an anagram, but a charade (see clue type 2).

The answer is TERRY JONES, who was of course, in one sense at least, a Python (definition). Here “maybe Indiana” is meant to nudge you towards JONES. Cryptic clues usually go with “perhaps” but I think there’s room to modernise, hence “maybe”. Confusingly, perhaps can also indicate an anagram, but it’s more commonly used to indicate a word which is an example of the clue.

Chambers (the dictionary and thesaurus people) has it that a nappy can be called a terry, short for terrycloth. The “is after” is meant to tell you to switch the parts of the clue around.

I was quite pleased with the surface reading here. The surface of a cryptic clue is its apparent meaning when read as a sentence, which of course rarely has much to do with what the clue is doing. Perhaps the hardest part of getting started with cryptics is putting the surface meaning out of your mind while you figure out what is actually going on. Once you have the answer you can come back and enjoy the misdirection of that superficial reading. Indiana Jones fans will know that the character is famously afraid of snakes.

As an extra clue, I posted this as a retweet comment on Kieron’s anagram for the same answer. RIP, Terry, needless to say.


Ken besots pissed-up cricketer (3,6)

I tweeted the answer to this, but for the sake of completeness, here it is: BEN STOKES. An anagram of “kenbesots”, indicated, pleasingly to me at least, by pissed-up. You won’t see that in the paper! Ben Stokes is a cricketer, hence cricketer’s the definition. I think he’d just done something good in the sportsball when I tweeted this.

Let us continue…

Frazzled grandma hints “time out” from royal residence (11)

Anagram alert! I was quite pleased with this surface too, if I’m honest. When it comes to pleasing myself I’m easily pleased, apparently. Answer: SANDRINGHAM. If you quickly spot that “Frazzled” is the anagram indicator, you may spot that “royal residence” is the likely definition (since the definition is always the very first or very last part of the clue, except, er, with er, cryptic definitions when the whole thing is the definition and the cryptic wordplay (see clue type 6).

Next let’s note that in crypticland, time frequently indicates the letter “t”. There are many similar examples of words indicating letters, and this may seem annoyingly arbitrary till you look up individual letters in the dictionary and see that, in various fields, they do formally stand for those things.

So here we have an anagram of “grandmahints” but without the t, as indicated by “time out”. I tweet this on the day of the royal summit of Hazzer, Wazzer, Prince Chazzer and Her Mazzer which took place at Sandringham.

Let’s plough inexorably on…

Out of position trio bore in-form number 9 (7,7)

Another sportsball anagram, sorry. Liverpool had just beaten Spurs, and the surface here would have worked better if, say, the Spurs defence had had only three players, but anyhow…

The answer is Robert Firmino and the admittedly tricky definition here is “number 9”. “Out of position” is the anagram indicator, and “trioboreinform” the so-called anagram fodder. I liked that the anagram included “in-form” as Firmino certainly is that at the moment. Arguably it’s doing double-duty as anagram fodder and part of the definition. Bit weak, cryptically-speaking, having the surface be footbally when the answer is also footbally, though, perhaps.

Annoying if you don’t follow football, I’m sure, but these are exciting times for us Liverpool fans.


State leaders in rare apology news (4)

Ooh, another non-anagram. This is a kind of hidden word clue (see clue type 8) – an acrostic. The answer is IRAN, from the definition “state”. “Leaders” tells you we’re dealing with the first letters of “In Rare Apology News”.

The country was in the news that day, its leaders having issued an apology for shooting down an aeroplane in an apparent case of mistaken identity.

Whatever next?

Lily, a maid/cook, scourge of the Sussexes (5,4)

Perhaps the trickiest surface here, because the anagram indicator is quite well hidden. I later tweeted that the answer was DAILY MAIL, using the letters of “lilyamaid”. Cook is the anagram indicator, the misdirection being that, as an indicator, cook is a verb, but in the surface it reads as a noun. The stroke doesn’t help either. Strictly, I think the indicator should have come before the fodder but we live and learn. The definition here is “scourge of the Sussexes” because the Daily Mail had been giving the formerly royal couple a particularly hard time.

I think that’s it for the January tweets. I’ll see you in 4 weeks for the next edition of Britain’s Most Annoying Tweets Explained. Have a wonderful February!

Author: James

Founded upon the observation of trifles