Crossword roundup: the first Biden clues

A new president to conjure with in our pick of the best of the broadsheets’ cryptic puzzles

The Perito Moreno glacier in Argentinian Patagonia
Crosswords can take you to ICE WATER, like the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentinian Patagonia. Photograph: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters
Crosswords can take you to ICE WATER, like the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentinian Patagonia. Photograph: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

Last modified on Mon 1 Feb 2021 06.03 EST

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

Yes! It is one of the semi-regular disruptions to our regular schedule. There are two dates approaching in the crossword calendar that mean today is another roundup-cum-competition.

The newest US president will, I presume, not feature as frequently in puzzles as his predecessor – and many of us will appreciate the change. His name is still made of decent letters, though, as we see in Paul’s clue

12ac US politician in priest turned rotten (8)
[wordplay: president’s surname (“US politician”) inside (“in”) name of Old Testament Israelite (“priest”), both reversed (“turned”)]
[BIDEN in ELI, both reversed]
[definition: rotten]

… for INEDIBLE. If you prefer your puzzle to offer escape and distraction, Gozo has an FT puzzle in which every across clue …

26ac Well before summer (6)
[double definition]

27ac This melt-down transformed one wet acre (3,5)
[wordplay: anagram (“transformed”) of I (“one”) with WETACRE]
[definition: something that has melted down]

… is a geographical feature such as a SPRING or ICE WATER that you could imagine you’re on, in or somewhere near.

Puzzling elsewhere

On that topic, the Lake District puzzle we anticipated here with Simon Evans is now available to solve. The relevant JustGiving page is live, too.

Our latest offering of Healing Music Recorded in 2020-21 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to is from Simon’s fellow Lake District fan, Taylor Swift.

Listen to Exile by Taylor Swift, featuring Bon Iver.

Latter patter

I especially enjoyed the alarming imagery Carpathian offered in her clue

10ac Crib rails gape badly around infant’s head (10)
[wordplay: anagram (“badly”) of RAILSGAPE, containing first letter (“head”) of INFANT]
[definition: the verb form of crib)]

… for PLAGIARISE, because “plagiarist” used to mean …

Plagiarism definition from old dictionary
An entry from The Century Dictionary of 1895.

... a kidnapper. Let’s turn instead to a less criminal sense of CRIB and a game that was supposedly invented by the cavalier poet John Suckling.

I have recently been hugely enjoying the reports of Suckling’s antics, especially the one where he sent decks of cards to various stately homes with the rules of his new game. He then turned up at them to play and made £20,000 on account of having marked the cards he had sent.

So, reader: how would you clue CRIBBAGE?

Cluing competition

Thanks for your clues for TURKISH DELIGHT. Special mentions to BethLacan and TonyCollman for dodging anything obvious in “Sweet schadenfreude when Greeks lose?” and “Edmund’s temptation behind the wardrobe”.

And among strong competition, the audacity award goes directly to PeterMooreFuller for “Sweet little candle reminiscent of a highland dagger, says Spooner”.

The runners-up are ComedyPseudonym’s stark “Thug hired kilts for dancing – sweet!” and Croquem’s touching “Sweet kid hurt his leg playing at road junction”. The winner is Catarella’s sensible “Incredible Hulk gritted his teeth threatened by this, perhaps”.

Kludos to Catarella. Please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – and any of your picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below.

Clue of the fortnight

You will let me know if we would rather avoid the topic, but Nutmeg assumes a forward-looking tone in her clue

1d Lastly, shake anti-viral fluid before opening it (7,8)
[wordplay: anagram (“fluid”) of final letter of (“lastly”) SHAKE and ANTIVIRAL, then (“before”) synonym for “opening”]
[anagram of EANTIVIRAL, then MOUTH]
[definition: it]

… for the drink that, as we noted in our roundup of boozy clues, is still referred to as “it” in crosswords: ITALIAN VERMOUTH. Cheers.

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

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

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