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

Posted by Andy Brown on 11 December 2017

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12th position (from puzzle number 26670)

In 12th position, a clue which seems to be about a flight of health workers landing safely (the number in brackets shows how many letters there are in the answer):

Hear the district nurses got to ground safely (7)

A cryptic clue should have two readings.  One (the surface reading) should ideally tell a story which has got nothing whatsoever to do with the final answer; the other reading typically contains a definition of the answer, and some wordplay leading you to it.

So let's try this clue again - but this time I've put the definition in capitals:

Hear the district nurses GOT TO GROUND SAFELY (7)

This gives the answer: EARTHED.  You can see this more clearly with more capitals:

hEAR THE District nurses GOT TO GROUND SAFELY (7)

So another way to read this clue is that the phrase HEAR THE DISTRICT nurses a definition of the phrase GOT TO GROUND SAFELY.

A hidden clue like this is one of the less common types of cryptic clue.  The Times crossword has a self-imposed limit of at most one hidden clue per puzzle.

Now you've got the idea, see if you can solve these hidden clues:

Puzzle Clue
25538 Academic rose, condemning boxing in an instant (11)
25591 Run out of gear? Avoid lending clothes (4)
26258 Devastate a fort, wounding a number inside (3,3,3)

Note that there always has to be an indicator that you're looking for a hidden word: in the above clues, this is BOXING, CLOTHES and INSIDE respectively.

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