In other circumstances, I think the presence of those three consecutive four-letter words might have been just enough to nudge me in the right direction, but the wanton damage and looting in Ealing the previous evening had left me feeling very low and not really in the mood for crossword-solving. Even so, I can't remember a similar case in recent years where a clue has consisted of wordplay for a word which is the definition of the required answer. I'm pretty sure clues of this sort must have appeared occasionally in the past, perhaps in the 50s or 60s and maybe even as late as the 70s; however, the Times for the Times blogger for the day (dorsetjimbo, another very experienced solver) was "by no means certain that it would have been allowed years ago".
An Anonymous commenter thought it was a great clue, and asked "Isn't it merely a cleverly hidden & Lit or am I missing something?" I could be missing something myself, but I can't see this as an & Lit. If it really is, then I don't see how anyone can object to it. But even if it isn't, I feel I should have got it, and I'll be on the look-out for anything similar in this year's Championship!
I'd be interested to hear from anyone who can
- Justify the clue as an & Lit, or
- Provide an example of a similar Times crossword clue from the recent past (let's say the last 20 years), or
- Provide an example of a similar Times crossword clue from the more distant past.