Ring Cycle by Hedge-sparrow

The unclued entries are the partial titles of six of a set of seven thematic items.  In the filled grid, solvers must draw a curved line through eight contiguous cells which spell out the partial title of the final member of the set, forming a shape that can be used to complete all the thematic items.  Extra letters (to be removed before solving) from nineteen clues spell out a phrase (two words) which, together with two other entries clued by wordplay only, provide the context.  Chambers 2016 is the primary reference:  15 is in Collins.  Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable may also prove helpful.


8 Melia balm relaxes (4)
9 Yankee tattler’s long conversation?  Not half! (5)
11 Plug hole (6)
12 Stair up to a lake in NZ (5)
13 Antique instrument, subject to abuse after gate’s bolted (4)
15 Stonier ground yields old form of female hormone (7)
17 Dine in Scotland with Moray’s chief judge (4)
18 St Francis having left the country, hides from view (7)
19 Soldier suffering fright at European WWI battle-site (5)
20 Perhaps hind quarter is causing distress for poet (5)
22 Duplicity shown by former boxer in taxi (7)
25 Once in France, as before, bring to nothing (4)
26 Arch serves to protect priest (7)
27 Starter to accompany fish jelly (4)
28 Chain variant includes low-expansion metallic alloy (5)
29 Mystery I manage to unravel (6)
31 Endless Chinese black tea precedes afternoon dance (5)
32 Disciple knocked back bottles at temple (4)

1 Steam rising off one’s trolley (3)
2 Murder victim Isabella has buried in St Clair? (4)
3 Youth getting up around nine is a wise judge (6)
4 Newt I noted having ends of feet pointing inwards (6)
5 Axes applied to damaged elm’s woody tissue (5)
6 Spirits are essentially undamaged in goods washed up on shore (6)
7 Pen note about top of aspidistra growing out (5)
10 Coarse fibre that’s generally recognized as safe for Americans wearing toques? (11)
14 Sticking fast, top of fan becomes hot in consequence (9)
16 Thing that keeps admirer extremely eager (6)
21 Old Uncle Reg prepared to come out (6)
23 Throw out North Sea breaches (6)
24 Violent pains when cycling, bound for the Highlands (5)
25 Former pope’s in the city (5)
27 Nun upholding Japanese swimmer’s language (4)
30 Smile before old women make grimaces (3)
To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format including the content of the curved line, to ccpuzzles@talktalk.net before 8th January 2022. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book from the Chambers range, which has been donated by Chambers.