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A personal take on the best dozen Times crossword clues from the last 5 years
Part six of a thirteen-part series of blogs

Posted by Andy Brown on 11 December 2017

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8th position (from Jumbo crossword puzzle number 1171)

On Saturdays and bank holidays the Times publish a Jumbo crossword, with a grid of 27 x 27 squares rather than 15 x 15.  Occasionally these yield gems like this:

Draw on such fresh morning air? (4,6)

One of the most common types of cryptic clue is the anagram, where letters are reshuffled to make a defined word or phrase.  Consider these clues (I've capitalised  in each case the word indicating that an anagram is required):

Puzzle Clue
26039 Amundsen was wearing no PANTS (9)
26245 What St. George needs if dragon's RAMPAGING? (9)
26453 Chemical process stops this honey BECOMING RUNNY (14)

Each of these clues is brilliant in its own right, providing an amusingly plausible surface reading.  I'll put the answers at the bottom of this page, to give you chance to see if you can work them out yourself.

For the moment, though, back to our clue.  Here the word FRESH indicates that an anagram is required.  This leaves us with:

Part of clue Purpose
Draw on such The letters to be mixed up
morning air The definition

The answer is DAWN CHORUS, using "air" to denote a song, rather than a gas.  This clue is just about perfect, containing all the things I look for in a cryptic clue:

  • A misleading definition;
  • A smooth (but misleading) surface reading;
  • Good wordplay.

Oh, and the answers to the clues above are NORWEGIAN, SANGFROID and PHOTOSYNTHESIS.

I think the genius of the setter in each case is not spotting the anagram, but working out how to accommodate it in a clue.  PHOTOSYNTHESIS may be an anagram of STOPS THIS HONEY, but it's not at all obvious where to go from there!

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