Cryptic Roundup #11

So I’ve unfortunately fallen nearly a week behind–that is, I’m talking about puzzles that ran from the week of 4/18 to 4/25, and I should be up to those from 4/26 to 5/1. I don’t want to miss out on any great clues and puzzles, but I am going to have to abbreviate both my writing and solving until I’m back on track, so please don’t hesitate to reach out with what I missed. Anyway, still managed to solve eleven cryptics this week–but that’s out of something like forty or fifty? Tough task!


Brought back internet connection, when cleared of university’s network of crossed lines? (5) [Rackenfracker 3]

I’ve only seen three puzzles under the nom Rackenfracker thus far, but they’ve made a name for themselves with really solid surfaces and amusing variety grids. This clue (you’ll see many more in the following roundup) exemplifies their style: we’re talking about technology right up until the point at which we’re not. Word choice matters, which is why you see “lines” and not “wires”–that lack of specificity is what allows the actual answer, very distinct from the surface, to sneak through: P[-u]LAID<-. Also good is this self-referential clue from the recent Browser in which A. J. Jacobs (assisted by Sara Goodchild) plugs his book/contest The Puzzler with For example, give $10,000 Puzzler Hunt prize to sketch artist on the rise (6), which yields REWARD<-.


Unskilled ham at Eurovision’s entertaining (7) [SQP146, Mossberg]

“Entertaining” is an excellent indicator; in this surface, it confuses because it sounds amusing when it’s actually talking about hosting people–or the letters, in this case: hAM AT EURovision’s. Also nice is Neville Fogarty’s New Yorker line about “Overboard” segment: “Sink or Swim” (4), and it’s a sorry state of American television that I absolutely believed this might be a show and component therein. At any rate, that’s a neat way to hide oVERBoard.


Sondheim rearranged “Passion” for pleasure (8) [New Yorker 4/24, Fogarty]

Steve Mossberg mentioned this excellent dataset of cryptic crossword clues, and I definitely looked there to see if this one had been done before, because wow, talk about getting a gift in Sondheim’s name! It had, by Cox and Rathvon no less, but Fogarty’s version, which also works in one of Sondheim’s many musicals and some misleading punctuation to boot, is a masterclass in what an anagram should be: not extraneous, but core to the definition, which fits the bill for HEDONISM* (*Sondheim). Speaking of Cox and Rathvon, they know a thing or two about anagrams as the Post demonstrates: Self-tribute stirred up a case of nerves (11) speaks elegantly to itself for BUTTERFLIES* (*self-tribute). A few other good ones:

  • Play director’s demeanor stung cast (7,6) [SQP146, Mossberg]
    • “Cast” is the winner in this clue, with the stretchy definition for “play director” coming right behind it: DUNGEON MASTER* (*demeanor stung).
  • Fail-safe if I do troop manœuvers (5-5) [Everyman 3941]
    • Splitting a familiar phrase so that one part anagrams the other is fun: IDIOT-PROOF* (if I do troop).
  • Athlete’s snack refreshed Green Bay receiver, initially (6,3) [Browser 69, Jacobs & Goodchild]
    • A smart choice with surfaces is to follow your definition: if you’re talking about an athlete’s snack, make the cryptic about athletes as well: ENERGYBA*+R (*Green Bay).


Romantic rendezvous with intimate, married, and very tall Middle Eastern native (4,4) [Rackenfracker 3]

The language is so precise here: a “very tall Middle Eastern native” feels absolutely in place for a romantic rendezvous, or looks like it would help to be part of a charade–but no, it’s an arboreal reference to the DATE+PAL+M. Will Nediger has a similarly misleading reference in People say Octavia Spencer movie is scorching stuff (5), where it’s actually People, as in MAG+MA, and Cox and Rathvon have an evocative image of a Body in a belt: a body-builder? (8), which is about as far from weight training as it gets in A+STEROID. Other bangers:

  • Nowadays, timely journalist moved with the times (7) [Everyman 3941]
    • Love the use of “Nowadays” here–AD+APT+ED.
  • Willingly give permission to be unproductive (3,6) [NP 4/16, Cox & Rathvon]
    • The split of words here is neat: LIEF+ALLOW.
  • Student deserved to become erudite (7) [Everyman 3941]
    • Still getting used to this abbreviation; this is what it was made for: L+EARNED.
  • Pro combat squad ultimately heading to the front (7) [OOLF 108, Rick Marks]
    • Good connection with “the front” in FOR+WAR+D.


To a greater extent, involving recent science denier (4-7) [LEO #3, Payne]

Some people go for timely clues, others for funny ones, but I think a good cryptic is compelling regardless of the surface–it conveys something bigger than itself, and you don’t get much larger than a F(LATE)ARTHER. I think ZAMORCA of the Financial Times makes a similar but smaller point in calling out how Everything in programme’s lacking depth (7) in SH(ALL)OW. Look, this is a self-selecting bunch: if you’re smart enough to be solving this cryptic, you’re probably agreeing with these messages. Mossberg taps into that frustration on every level with this mildly crass Ass interrupting legit counterargument (8) for RE(BUTT)AL. A few others:

  • Stick food in front of refrigerator in apartment? Good (4,3) [OOLF 108, Rick Marks]
    • Nice definition and a real beaut of a container: CO(R)NDO+G.
  • Noises from a pen going without its cap, full of ink (7) [AVCX 4/21, Payne]
    • Might take a minute for this “pen” to “click,” but it’s worth it: [-g]O(INK)ING.


Judas has no alternative characteristic (5) [AVCX 4/21, Payne]

This one’s funny because it’s true–well, mostly. There have lately been a few musical attempts to flesh out Judas as a character, but at the end of the day, he, like a few other notable characters (like Aaron Burr), cannot escape the thing they’re most known for, in this case, being a TRAIT[-or]. I’ll be honest, I prefer deletions of multiple letters or from within a word–there’s more joy to the discovery for me–and that’s why I also highlighted The Rackenfracker‘s and Mossberg’s entries: Pass I bounced to one who wants the basketball? (5) and Steve’s sad–third of solvers blasted fill (5). Those both also have really fun clues, WA[-i]VER and I’M B[-l]UE. Of course, nothing wrong with a straightforward beheadment, as Payne’s LEO and Fogarty’s New Yorker can attest with Act poorly, pulling top off TV controller (5) and Long trench lacks drainage opening (4), yielding [-r]EMOTE and [-d]ITCH respectively.

Double Definition

Lay out what you need to play bridge (4) [New Yorker 4/24, Fogarty]

Let me tell you, there are some bridge clubs I’ve been at where your opponents might in fact lay you out in this sense: that’d be DECK. I find myself in complete agreement with The Rackenfracker on this point: the longer the surface for a double definition, the more impressed I am by it. That said, if you can find two very different uses (a verb and noun especially) to be connected tersely, as with The Everyman‘s offering Disciplined hospital employee (7), go for it, because ORDERLY is nice.


Succeed in part by charming (7) [FT 17,074, ZAMORCA]

Ah, the story of life, although if this is what it means to be WIN SOME, would that make someone losesome repellent? Equally short and sweet is The Rackenfracker‘s Put right at noon? (5) which details an AM END (as opposed, I guess, to a PM Start?). I think Mossberg’s playful Taking forever, like this crypti? (7) also falls into the punny category–all I can say is that quoting cryptics is difficult because I can’t insert a [sic] without making readers think that’s a part of the clue! Suffice to say, I checked my typing several times to make sure I didn’t chop off any part of the self-demonstrative ENDLESS.


“WHACK!” TV’s Batman declared victory (8) [Rackenfracker 3]

Holy Flashbacks To ’60s Television, Batman! Credit to this clue that even knowing that Adam West would play a part in the homophone, “WHACK!” still offered an engaging struggle to parse: CONQUEST /conk West/. Less hidden, but still sounding good is ZAMORCA’s entry from the Financial Times: Makes sure you’re pronounced fit (7), which is SEIZURE /sees you’re/.


According to Spooner, Beau sawed logs–it’s something to do in winter (9) [Browser 69, Jacobs & Goodchild]

I might’ve taken this a step further with “boyfriend sawed logs,” but that’s only because proper names feel a bit arbitrary. That said, spoonerisms can be tough, and it’s a good editorial move to give a solver some footholds into a clue or corner of the grid; either way, the joy of deciphering this one’s still there: SNOWBOARD /Beau snored/.


Yes, that will come out of noisy semis in need of repair! (9) [Rackenfracker 3]

Perhaps my favorite clue this week, this one perfectly describes itself–as an &lit must–and yields EMISSIONS* (*nois[-y] semis). But what I most appreciated about this Rackenfracker grid was that they didn’t provide just one example: they came out swinging with a brilliant charade and reversal as well in One that has spot with University of Massachusetts! (5) and You’re there when Los Angeles County’s around! (5). A cryptic already feels elevated above a crossword–clues like this just take it to the next level, with the effortlessness of AD+M.I.T. and SOC+AL<–. A shoutout as well to the Everyman for the succinct Doting, tender name? (10) for ENDEARMENT* (*tender name) and to Will Nediger for Nasty eye inclusion! (4), which indeed reveals a naSTY Eye.

Letter Bank

Sit recomposing bits of lied (3,4) [SQP146, Mossberg]

The only downside to a letter bank is that you may sometimes end up with similar words in your full answer, but at least as clued here, they’re pronounced differently enough that the solver should have no problem. And if they do, I suppose they should not lied > LIE IDLE, but rather should come up with their own, better version.


  • Head of school, in fairness, revised writing style? (4,5) [NP 4/16, Cox & Rathvon]
    • In fairness indeed, this clue needs that question mark: SAN(S)SERIF* (*fairness).
  • Reviving senior executive involves most of mini G&T (6,2) [Browser 69, Jacobs & Goodchild]
    • The thought of this surface in real life makes me laugh–and absolutely because it’s almost certainly been true: CO(MIN[-i]+GT)O. I also really like how the & can be ignored as punctuation but would have to be interpreted if spelled out.
  • Video game mockery turned into money maker (9) [LEO #3, Payne]
    • As a video game critic, I openly claim bias in including this one–though it’s certainly true if you browse what sort of feeds do best on Twitch: MIN(ECRAF<-)T.
  • Plead at the end of song in “High School Musical” (9) [New Yorker 4/24, Fogarty]
    • It takes gumption to hide a musical in “High School Musical,” but that’s the beauty of a cryptic (and a talented setter). I also admire cluing that moves the components of a charade out of order, so as to better serve the surface: H(AIR)S+PRAY.
  • Finally get judge’s agreement – court to stop road intersection (1-8) [FT 17,074, ZAMORCA]
    • Some clues win you over with their difficulty–that is, the pride they give you from being able to parse them: T+J+UN(CT)ION.
  • Boring thing beginning to overwhelm independent, withdrawn young woman (3,3) [AVCX 4/21, Payne]
    • The thing in question here would overwhelm most if not all of us, but the particulars here neatly fit the surface of an O+I+LRIG<-.
  • Almost certain last of group’s in time for jet (5) [FT 17,074, ZAMORCA]
    • A lot of tricky components in what looks straightforward; really enjoyed this setter’s command of language in S(P)UR[-e]+T.
  • For a gig, this is one-in-a-thousand: front of house at joint skirting sea in Ibiza, serving both royal and commoner? (6,6) [Rackenfracker 3]
    • By far the hardest clue this week, fighting me on every turn, so it feels real good to solve it. Amazing use of “gig” and “joint,” plus the clue for the person herself: MEG+H+AN(MAR)KLE.


  • Education is exhausting when drive fades, replaced by onset of tedium (8) [OOLF 108, Rick Marks]
    • Letter swaps are fun: {d/T}RAINING.
  • Delight in lute playing to eat by (5) [FT 17,074, ZAMORCA]
    • I’m still new to UK puzzles, so seeing “by” in this multiplicative sense is perhaps more clever to me than to others: E(X)ULT* (*lute).
  • Limited duration of a toe cramp: every second counts (4) [OOLF 108, Rick Marks]
  • Can’t unsee that! Zero odds I may be okay (2,4) [SQP146, Mossberg]
    • There are so many ways to signal how to take letters from a phrase and Marks and Mossberg both use colloquial phrases to get there, with the former counting only every “second” letter and the latter “zeroing out” the odds to leave only the evens: a ToE cRaMp and i MaY bE+YES.
  • Disturbed bird makes little sound, heads off (10) [Everyman 3941]
    • I fell for the obvious indicator, hook, line, and sinker. The definition is not disturbed, we are not taking the “heads off” two charades. Instead, the crossword clue is “heads off” and we’re anagramming the rest (with the “little” S): DISEMBARK*+S (*bird makes).
  • Ruined tug may be found thus? (5-2) [SQP146, Mossberg]
    • What do we call this? A literalism? A double definition/rebus? The crossword clue is “Ruined” but “tug”–gut in reverse–also demonstrates the desired answer, BELLY-UP.
  • Has one or another poet shaking head (4) [SQP146, Mossberg]
    • I’m not sure I like this one, actually. It’s a Schrodinger clue that solves its own dilemma by cutting off the ambiguous letter: [-{y/k}]EATS. Certainly interesting, though!

Beats Me

  • Recall artist repaired organ that’s church’s pride (9) [FT 17,074, ZAMORCA]
    • ARROGANCE is ever a person’s downfall, specifically mine. I see “organ” as an anagram here (“repaired”) but not how it would be contained, nor what that word would be.
  • Difficult catching a horse that’s stressed (7) [FT 17,074, ZAMORCA]
    • This feels like H(A+GG)ARD, but “GG” for horse doesn’t make sense to me.
  • Unwind by lake, feeding drunk advice to a frequent flyer (6,5) [AVCX 4/21, Payne]
    • I have this as T(RAVEL+L)IGHT, but that would make “drunk” into “tight,” which I don’t love.
  • Runs down with £1,000 for sporting coups (5,5) [Everyman 3941]
    • Something like G+RAN+D+SLAMS? My brain quit on this one.
  • Policeman to pen in protesters getting something for tea? (6,6) [Everyman 3941]
    • Only thing I can think is that protesters have a slangy name overseas, making this a double definition. Otherwise, I’m lost on COPPER KETTLE.

Thanks for reading this far–let’s see how long it takes me to solve and write-up the next batch from this week.

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