Hints & Tips December 2020

December 2020 puzzle page

Clues by Enigmatist and Grid by etc

The background for this puzzle is a Graham Fox photograph showing a beautiful sunset with a crescent moon casting a little moonlight.

As creators of this grid, celebrating a 250th anniversary, we were delighted to see the final form of this puzzle. Enigmatist has orchestrated a mellifluous composition in perfect harmony with the central motif. Solvers should keep their eyes peeled for a number of variations of the hidden (and reverse hidden) clue.

Picture rebus by Frank Paul

If only I had looked at Frank Paul’s clue immediately I could have saved myself a lot of time playing with permutations for 13ba,10d,42ac. He tells us the solution is three words 6,3,9. [GS]

Day 2

A nut-tree’s first to bear my fruit! (5)

We get two letters from A and nut-tree’s first and these will contain (bear) a short word for my (as an exclamation). The definition is fruit, and beautifully in keeping with the surface. [N&SI]

Day 4

Top orchestra section not getting up fast (7)

It is a top orchestra, but top here refers to execute. Follow this with another word for a section without the ‘up’ and you get musically fast. [JP]

Day 9

What 40 wrote about Joseph’s passing so long after May (7) 

Poor Joseph need not detain us here. If we spell May in lower case we move from the month of the year to a modal verb. We are looking for another in the same family and coincidentally with the same number of letters. This is to be followed by an informal expression with the same use as “so long”. The solution is a musical composition. [GS]

Day 11

In which tensions ease and Macron’s half-heartedly made up (7)

Macron’s indicates a translation of and. Half-heartedly suggests deleting one of a repeated pair of letters at the centre of a word for made. In this down clue, up means reversing the whole lot to get a state in which tensions ease. [N&SI]

Day 18

Valtteri’s beginning to worry – lapping arch-enemy’s pitted (7)

A nice Formula 1 surface, but you don’t need to know anything about motorsport to solve this. Lapping suggests one part going round another: here a word for arch-enemy goes round Valtteri’s beginning and a word for worry. The answer is an unfamiliar word meaning pitted. [N&SI]

Day 21

Evil remark reinterpreted by overacting 36 piece of 40 (13)

Reinterpreted indicates that we want an anagram of evil remark to follow a short word for overacting. The answer is the name of a 36 piece of 40. It is also a foreign term for an early form of 36. [N&SI]

Day 25

Great Caribbean bat swallows very immature form (5)

Not the winged mammal but cricket with a name taking in an abbreviation for very to give an immature form. [JP]

Day 26

Secured head of Lexicography for one dictionary (7)

We need a two-letter “for one” between head of lexicography and a dictionary (4 letters rather than the 3 we usually see). The whole to mean secured. Yee-haw! [N&SI]

Day 30

A shaft used by a rower moving away loot (5)

You’re looking for the name of a part of an oar moving away (going backwards in the solution) to give a slang term for money. [JP]

Day 38

In India team draws it, right? Now I see extra time (5)

Ignore the sporting thought. Extra time refers to an abbreviation for time being inserted into a word for “now I see” following an abbreviation for right to give something drawn by a team. [JP]

Day 42

Arrangement of 9 in museum where 40 resided (6)

Once it is realised that this is not a reference to Day 9 but simply an anagram of the word itself then the rest is a morçeau de strudel! That leaves two more letters. Only one well known museum is often referred to by its initials alone. The solution is a place name. [GS]


We are grateful to other members of the Hints & Tips team: Garry Stripling (Gin) and Jim Pennington (Philostrate), and Alison Ramage & Andre Sonnet (Aramis).

Happy solving!

Nick & Sarah Inglis (etc)

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