Posted by bridgesong on January 5th, 2012
It was my privilege this year to solve and blog this puzzle whose theme was hinted at in the introduction:
“Many of the clues are of a kind and may not be further defined. They
relate to next year’s celebration of Spooner’s 43’s 10 part 1s.”
I thought at first that we might be looking at the royal diamond jubilee or perhaps the Olympics, but in fact it is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens in 2012. The undefined answers are all characters in Dickens novels and I have put those answers in bold. It’s an extraordinary achievement to be able to include so many, even in an enlarged grid.
There are a couple of answers involving Dickensian characters (I think) where the wordplay has defeated me. Hopefully all will be made clear by the annotated solution when it appears, but your suggestions are more than welcome. Many thanks to PeeDee for making his software available so that I could use it for this blog.
* = anagram.
First thing it was in London and Paris, getting software in early (4,2,5)
BEST OF TIMES
*SOFT in BETIMES. A broad hint as to the theme, referring of course to the famous opening of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.
Choose a lot of evil (8)
PICK WICK(ed). The first Dickensian character (in the puzzle).
Society broadcaster (5)
S(ociety), MIKE. From Nicholas Nickleby.
Cat’s weight (5)
Double definition, although the only place I’ve ever come across the feline meaning is in crosswords!
Illicit liquor doesn’t exist (9)
Double definition again.
Leading man in bed could be lit (7)
HERO in COT.
Cruel time for lake isle without leader to start with (5)
(C)APRI, L(ake). A reference now to Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land.
Startled to find circle in radial diameter (7)
O in SPOKE, D(iameter).
Measure of clay, also skim (4)
Cryptic definition. Claypole from Oliver Twist, and Skimpole from Bleak House.
Musician José drops it on backward Italian city (6)
(It)URBI, ON(reversed). The musician was Jose Iturbi.
Opposed to attitude of the Lady of Lake? (9)
A reason for not floating? (7)
Definition and cryptic definition.
St Robert’s opener (5)
Hidden in Saint Robert. Distinctly Araucarian, I thought.
Impasse for audience (7)
Sounds like “deadlock”. From Bleak House.
Sparky stuff to hoist (10)
FLINT, WINCH. From Little Dorrit.
High-rise heaven for 46? (10)
Cryptic definition, but I can’t explain the reference to 46 (Fagin). Skyscraper has various meanings in the OED, but none refers to criminal activity.
Chance of last year’s leaders including expert swimmer (7)
OTTER in L(ast) Y(ear). This clue seemed familiar: compare it with this one from a prize puzzle published a fortnight earlier: “Last year’s leaders keep carnivore on spec” – also by Araucaria. Unfortunate timing, although the two puzzles were probably composed much longer than two weeks apart.
Cryptic definition, from Martin Chuzzlewit.
Bind tight to make someone start to walk like a duck (7)
S(omeone), WADDLE. A nod to the Christmas story, perhaps?
Revolutionary stock house backed by the French (9)
CHE (Guevara), BYRE(reversed), LE. From Nicholas Nickleby.
Branch number provided in beam (6)
M, IF in RAY.
Writer nominating tuberous flower? (4)
The dahlia is named after Anders Dahl, a 18th century Swedish botanist. I have no idea if Roald Dahl is related to him.
I have killer’s backing (7)
EGO, ORC’S (all rev). From A Christmas Carol.
Work at home (5)
FAG IN. From Oliver Twist.
Taking a long time about writer (7)
PEN in SLOW. From David Copperfield.
Most of 33 follows tea lady (9)
CHAR, LOTTE(ry). There are at least two Charlottes in Dickens’s novels: Charlotte (Charley) Neckett in Bleak House, and Charlotte the maid to Sowerberry, the undertaker, in Oliver Twist.
Relating to the beginning of Zululand? (5)
Reason for cancellation at Newmarket, say? (5)
Sounds like “No gee-gees” or might do if spelled out in a particular way. A character from Nicholas Nickleby.
African country musicians (8)
CHAD, BAND. My route into the theme. From Bleak House.
Submerged piece of chain (11)
Cryptic definition (and not very cryptic, at that). Another character from Nicholas Nickleby.
Degree so fundamental? (5)
I go round Belgravia etc with Sam (as he said) (9)
SW1, “VELLER” (using the form of Cockney spoken by Sam Weller). Dick Swiveller is a character in The Old Curiosity Shop.
Part of month possible for king (6)
(Oct)OBER, ON. The king of the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Job for one in motion (7)
Cryptic definition. Job Trotter is a character from Pickwick Papers.
Fellow soldiers left in island (9)
MAN, TA, L IN I. Another name from Nicholas Nickleby.
Lead out (10)
Charade, from David Copperfield.
Quiet like Uriah with 10 part 1 from Oz (11)
P, ‘UMBLE, CHOOK. Uriah Heep constantly describes himself as “‘umble” in David Copperfield; a chook is an Australian term for a chicken. From Great Expectations.
Permission accordingly grasped by Tory novelist (7)
OK, SO in CON. Catherine Cookson was a prolific novelist.
Total failure at centre of power is followed by a loud cry (7)
(po)W(er), A SHOUT. A very nice surface reading.
Some potato — suck one rudely coming in for food (7,4)
*(SUCK ONE) in CHIP. I’m not entirely happy about “some potato” for CHIP.
Died in the embrace of 3 (6)
D in Merle (Oberon – film actress). From Little Dorrit. Beadle would have fitted the letters here as well, and was my first guess, but I couldn’t relate it to the clue.
Not serious drama, less than half empty? (7)
PLAY, FUL(l). So three-quarters of the letters of FULL means “less than half empty”.
Fish with ink (6)
Cryptic definition; from Dombey and Son.
Solomon’s flower (5)
Solomon (also shown as Soloman on some websites) Daisy is a character in Barnaby Rudge.
Recordings of debate without Brits or Yanks (5)
DISC(us)S. A clever clue, using two ways of showing US.
Insert more thread into agreement (6)
DARN, AY. From A Tale of Two Cities.
One among kings to distinguish German corner? (7)
A between K and R, TELL. The German form of “cartel”.
When it’s not observed beneath rich pickings (2,3,6)
IN THE BREACH
Little money put on the remaining runners (11)
COPPER, FIELD. From the eponymous book.
Union girl involved with a derivative (10)
*(UNION GIRL A).
Another month in (for example) a Somerset village (9)
*(MONTH IN EG).
Absolutely easy to carry? Bull’s-eye! (9)
DEAD LIGHT. Although Chambers only gives this in its plural form, the OED uses the singular (although all of its examples are in the plural). A bull’s eye can refer to the thick glass of a lantern.
Acting family see you reported fire (6)
C U (sounds like “see you”), SACK. I assume the reference is to Cyril Cusack and his four actor daughters, but there is also an American acting family of the same name.
Searched for truffles given to older characters (7)
* (TO OLDER).
Insect eating amphibian gets a nourishing drink (4,3)
EFT in BEE, A. An eft is an old word for a newt or lizard.
Pasta shooter, possibly? (7)
A fusil is a flintlock musket. Given that “fusilli” is a plural form, the cryptic part of the clue should really have reflected this.
Request to turn pale? Eat away (6)
Flower in which we serve (5)
Hidden in “we serve”. A river in Germany.