Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6265/Virgilius

Posted by petebiddlecombe on November 14th, 2006


Solving time: 11:30

First step: have a look at the grid. Notice that starting at the black cross next to 12, and emerging at the other side in the one next to 22, you can draw a line that only goes through two white squares – the 6th in 3D and the 7th in 11D (duck through the ‘diagonal gaps’ in between). Confident in the knowledge that Virgulius wouldn’t use a diagram with this fault for a plain puzzle, watch for a theme. Sure enough, there is one – crosses – the word cross appears in the 10-letter entries on the edges, and two types of cross are answers at 12 and 21. And of course there are four black crosses in the grid (one referred to in 21’s clue, so they definitely count), plus arguably two black St Andrews crosses in the middle. Brian Greer, the man behind Virgilius, is based in the US and seems to have picked up the “thematic elements at symmetrical positions” principle and applied it in many of his recent thematic puzzles. A nice cross-fertilisation echo of crosswords crossing the Atlantic 80-odd years ago.

6 FLAK(y)
9 UNABRIDGED – not 100% sure of this, but seems to be the only word that fits, and Monty would be the “abridged version”.
15 EX(PO,S)E – two classic xwd rivers make the beginner’s clue of the day
18 RHODES,I,A – this mixture of a particular island and a different form of the word “island” is a classic setter’s trick.
19 CIRC(U)S – circs = slightly dated slang for circumstances. Very close to a clue I messed up in a tie-breaker for a place in a Times champ final – something like “Oxford and Cambridge have them in London” – ?I?C?S?S. Stupidly rushed into DIOCESES and it still niggles 11 years later!
24 IBIS – rev. of sib,I – sib = sibling
25 FIR,ERA(I)SER. Very smoothly done.
3 SPREAD SHEETS – one of the last two entered, along with UNABRIDGED
5 SHERATON – the anag. of “another’s” is one of those curiosities like orchestra/carthorse that keep on appearing from time to time.
7 L,IPSER=anag. of praise less A,VICE=not a virtue – an &lit. clue
8 KING’S CROSS – refers to the cross usually found on top of the king in a chess set.
11 ADHESIVE TAPE – (anag. of I have pasted),E
13 R(ECROSS = anag. of scores)ING – operas = (Wagner’s) Ring
14 OPPOSITION – rev of (I’s Op.) in option
17 LIVE(LIE)R – pork pie = lie – today’s rhyming slang
22 O(S(kilfu)L)O – a favourite city for setters, for obvious reasons. Should possibly be considered for any four-letter word with ‘city’ in the clue.

9 Responses to “Independent 6265/Virgilius”

  1. says:

    The theme usually makes Virgilius that bit easier as the theme emerges. Solved this in 19 mins. A bit puzzled too about UNABRIDGED – wondered if it might be some reference to “A bridge too far” but I think your explanation is the right one. Really liked the cross references between the Open University and the Open Golf at St Andrews, which made that (12 across) my favourite clue in the puzzle. Must be getting old, Peter, I use “circs” all the time.

  2. says:

    I think UNABRIDGED might be a reference to “the full Monty” (whether the film or the colloquial phrase most often, in my experience, applied to cooked breakfasts in transport cafes).

  3. says:

    So how did Brian Greer arrange to have two puzzles with similar grid-based themes appear in two papers on the same day? Are crossword editors colluding? I wouldn’t put it past them!

  4. says:

    I don’t think there’s any collusion. More a case of BG knowing that the same sort of puzzle is keeping two editors (and as far as we can tell, two sets of solvers) happy. I suspect both editors know that he’s currently Mr Tuesday in two places. Solvers who don’t visit this kind of site may never realise this, unless they solve both puzzles and start to notice the similarity of themes. Owners of Azed’s A-Z book can discover that BG also sets some puzzles for the Times and Telegraph, so in theory he could have all four on one day, though these two aren’t so keen on obvious themes.

    I do wonder whether Indy setters other than Monk, Nimrod and Virgilius are allowed to send thematic puzzles, or whether they’re supposed to keep to plain ones.

  5. says:

    Don’t forget Math at the chessboard last week.

  6. says:

    Re: themes – I don’t want to give too much away, but they’re pretty much all at it. As for collusion with other editors goes, if we were to collude it would probably be to prevent the same setter appearing in different publications on the same day.

  7. says:

    As far as I can tell, Rufus aka Dante appears reguarly on Mondays in both The Guardian and The FT… and if I’m not mistaken I think he has the Monday slot at the Glasgow Herald as well. I wonder if this is by design given his consistency and relative gentleness (Monday being the day we all dread to go back to work)

  8. says:

    Incidentally just noticed on: that based on the 2nd photograph, looks like Roger Squires (who I think is the real RFS) is also the Monday Telegraphy setter. Which means that he has 4 UK puzzles on Monday?!

  9. says:

    The current Guardian crossword editor has said in one of his newsletters that he uses me on Monday as I am more straightforward (i.e. easier) than most and he wants setters to have an easy ride on Mondays. The FT have always used me on Mondays since I joined in 1981; The Times always used me on Mondays in the ten years 1993 to 2003. In the Telegraph from 1986 I have appeared on every days but for the last ten years on Mondays. The Herald use me on Mondays and Wednesdays because that is what I allocated myself as crossword editor of the Birmingham Post for 22 years when the Post used to provide their puzzles, and now they just continue. I hope the reasons are as suggested in ilancaron first message above!

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