Dave Does the Crossword – Scotsman Cryptic 2015-05-14

First one of these, so a bit of general background first. I started doing cryptics about a year ago, and one thing I really could have used was examples of someone actually trying to work out the clues, and their reasoning behind the answers they gave.

I try to do the Scotsman cryptic every day now (try usually being the operative word there), and I thought it might help both me and others if I were to start posting what I’ve managed each day, along with the reasoning.


The state of play thus far




Today’s puzzle is by Hugh Johnson, who is my cryptic nemesis. Progress has not been great.

Clues I’ve solved


3/34 Commit to memory, and leave with some enthusiasm (3-2-3-2)

A) Get up and go. Not 100% sure of the logic on this one. It definitely fits the clue phrase (with some enthusiasm), “go” fits with (leave), and I guess “get” kind of fits with (commit to memory) if you stretch it.

Seems to fit, but I never like an answer I’m not sure of.

11 Aimed to drink gin up, as one visualised (8)

A) Imagined. Straightforward anagram of “aimed” (up) with “gin” inserted in the middle (to drink). Clue phrase is (visualised)

12/28 Was everyone ready and champing at the bit (3, 3)

A) All set. Relatively straightforward word substitution. “All” (everyone) and “set” (ready). Clue phrase (champing at the bit)

13 In relation, writer got back in front of hack (6)

A) Nephew. This one took me ages, and may need a little more deconstruction. Word substitution with a couple of added tricks. “Pen” (writer), (got back) gives us “nep”, (in front of) means it goes before “new” (hack). Clue phrase (relation)

Hated this one

14 Advance with assurance, using borrowed term (8)

A) Loanword. Confident I’m right, but not 100% on my logic. Clue phrase is definitely (borrowed term), and I reckon the rest is substitution. “Loan” (advance) + “word” (assurance). It’s the second part of that I’m not sure of, as it seems a bit tortured and an odd use of a primarily American idiom.

19 Famous dignitary, in particular, just can’t operate (7)

A) Notable. Quite liked this one as I got it by a stretch and then realised there was a more obvious route. My initial way to the answer was a slightly tortured “no table” for (can’t operate), by way of operating table.

Soon as it was in, I realised the right way to get it was probably “not able” for (can’t operate).

Clue phrase (famous dignitary)

23 Refuse to go to a place in Northern Ireland (4,4)

A) Turn down. Another one I’m not 100% on. This is why I hate Hugh Johnson – he makes me doubt myself, and I’m rarely happy with even a correct answer.

It fits with the clue phrase (refuse), but I’m not sure where the “turn” comes in – maybe for (go to), but that’s a bit of a stretch. Second part is fine, “down” for (a place in Northern Ireland).


3 Understands a method to follow, so manages to escape (4,4)

A) Gets away. Another substitution one – “gets” (understands) + “a way” (a method). (To follow) simply tells us that “a way” is the second part of the answer. Clue phrase (manages to escape)

4 Excites first two thirds, getting over small streams (7)

A) Thrills. Took ages as well. (Excites) is the clue, (first two) (thirds) gives us “th” and (small streams) are “rills”. (Getting over) tells us that “th” comes first.

Horrible, nasty, tricksy hobbit of a clue.

5 Find a ferocious fish in US state I drove into (6)

A) Pirana, I think. Really unsure here. Pretty sure (US state) gives us “PA”, which I think is Philadelphia. (I drove) gives us “I ran”, and (into) tells us that goes in the middle of “PA”.

(Ferocious fish) then is the clue phrase, but Hugh Johnson must be using a variant spelling, WHICH IS JUST NOT COOL. Or I’m massively wrong.

6 Hold a formal examination of a survey in an editorial (6)

A) Review. Pretty sure I’m right, and I think this is just a case of giving us two clue phrases which kind of mean the same thing, (formal examination) and (editorial).

An aside – one of my favourite ever clues was simply “spice club” (4), which is a classic example of this form. (Spice) and (club) are both clues which fit the answer, “mace”

13/16 Nearly time to line up to get retirement wear (5,5)

A) Night dress. (Nearly) gives us “nigh”, plus (time) is “t”, and (to line up) gives us “dress” – think the second part is in a military sense of the word. Clue is (retirement wear), which does this lovely thing of leading you down the wrong path unless you read the term “retirement” in the alternate sense of retiring to bed.

Basically all cryptic setters are barstuds, but especially Hugh Johnson.

(Also I’ve never liked the thing of using a word, like “time”, to stand for a single letter. Sometimes, as possibly in this case, it’s justified – I think t for time comes from notation in physics maybe – but other times it’s a bit of a guessing game)

15/18 It’s all right, as there’s nothing wrong with it (3,3)

A) Not bad. Clue phrase here, I think, is (all right), reread as “alright”. (Nothing wrong with it) gives us “not bad”.

21 Worried about mixing gin and soda with the last wine (8)

A) Agonised. A relatively straightforward anagram of (gin) (soda) and “e” (the last) (wine). Clue phrase (worried about).

22 In the place of a new set of farm buildings, not in good order (7)

A) Instead. This is fucking awful work. (Set of farm buildings) gets us “steadings”, and in the twisted mind of Hugh Johnson, (not in good) is a perfectly acceptable way to tell us to remove the letter “g” before treating it as an anagram (order). Clue is (in the place of).

24 Moneylender was certain to be accepted by an ancient city (6)

A) Usurer. Quite liked this one. Clue is (moneylender), (certain) gives us “sure” and (an ancient city) is “Ur”. (Accepted) tells us to put t’one inside t’other.

26 Would some modern Homer take a vow of silence (6)

A) Omerta. First use of this type of clue. (Vow of silence) is the clue, and (some) usually tells us that the answer is hidden in the text. In this case, it’s inside (Homer take)


I was going to do my speculations on the ones I haven’t got, but this already took longer than expected.

Hopefully someone find this useful / entertaining. Next one won’t be quite as detailed, having hopefully established the pattern here.


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