Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6269 by Merlin – Hard to smoke out that Frenchman (and an error!)

Posted by nmsindy on November 25th, 2006


This was really tough.  Merlin has a monthly slot in  the Indy. As a solver who tackles the Times Listener Crossword every week, Merlin is familiar to me in that context also as a very talented setter.  Of all the Listeners I’ve tackled, his Royal Flush at the time of the Golden Jubilee in 2002 remains my favourite.

The number of themed Indy cryptics seems to be rising fast.  When I saw the grid, I thought it was going to be themed too, especially because there were words with less than 50% checking. For new solvers, I might explain that a checked square in an answer is one that is crossed by another answer. Those that are not are said to be unchecked (they’re known sometimes as “unches” for short). Usually a minimum of 50% checking applies.   However, unless I’ve missed something (and I often do!), this is a normal cryptic i.e. there is no theme.  And it was in one of those words with less than 50% checking that I came to grief!  I should explain that, unlike Peter B and others I remain in awe of, I do not have a “no dictionaries” approach.  I’ll usually solve without them (and would expect the editor to use familiar words or an easy clue to a hard one).  If I’m stuck, after mentally going through all the letters of the  alphabet, I’ll go for aid.   I’ll be disappointed then if it’s a word I already knew.  Here I came to grief on  26 Down “Pitch yielding second run” so it was just as well this posting could not go up till the solution had appeared.  I’d guessed ELOPE = run but it’s SLOPE (a meaning of pitch I did not know) and s + lope.   When working out average times, I include only solved puzzles, so this will go in as an error, the 11th such puzzle of 2006 for me i.e. where I made error(s) or could not finish. My biggest difficulty, apart from that, was the top NE corner and in particular RASPAIL who I found eventually and then got the intersecting BLEARS.

9  PASTEUR  Past = former EUR = European.   A deceptively easy start.
10 RASPAIL   The wordplay was not too difficult when I eventually found it a+sp in rail = banter.   It was the word itself.   He’s a French revolutionary but not of the 1789 vintage – his heyday was in the 19th century.  And like PASTEUR, he was also a chemist. Since Collins dropped their biographical entries, my source for names has been the excellent Chambers Biographical Dictionary, which has thousands of
authoritative entries.  But none for RASPAIL as far as I can see.   However, as I searched further, found he must be well-known in his native country anyway as a station in the Paris Metro is named after him.
12 OPERA  Refers to answer 15 (Rome) i.e. it also means “works” in Latin. Liked that.
15 ROME  First letters “originate” and redolent of the proverb “All roads lead to Rome”
17 LIEGE  Cricket knowledge needed here – one side of the pitch is the “on” or “leg” side, the other being the “off” side so it’s I in leg + E = English
23 CONCORDE  Traffic diverter = cone (that’s good) containing cord = line. One of the last I solved.
24 TEMPLE   Temp = worker standing in.  Anyone else trying at first to put a word meaning worker into something?
30 PIGALLE  A sculptor as well as an area of Paris. Gal in pile = stately home.

1  UPLANDER  Liked this.  Alp climbing i.e, going up in under = subject to
3  HER NIBS  My favourite clue.   He + n in rib’s (rib = wife) flawlessly constructed.
6  OSMOSES  More chemistry   OS = Old Style + Moses (prophet)
8  BLEARS  Very difficult especially as it crossed RASPAIL.   Maybe I’m not yet attuned to the mention of living persons, now firmly established in the Indy.  This refers, I think, to the Labour MP, (Hazel) Blears
22 REVENGE  Another one I liked a lot.   It’s hidden in “Your even-getting”. The indicator is entails and whole clue is the definition too.  Easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be very good.
23 CROSBY  Bing CROSBY   Mostly annoyed = cross less its last letter and by appears as itself
25 PRIMLY  Ply around rim – like is in the definition because it’s an adverb
26 SLOPE (not ELOPE)  Aargh!

4 Responses to “Independent 6269 by Merlin – Hard to smoke out that Frenchman (and an error!)”

  1. says:

    Your initial instinct was right – there is a theme but it’s quite subtle. I had to be told that there really was one. If still stumped after looking again, take the text below to a rot-13 decoder like the one at

    Nyy npebff nafjref ner fgngvbaf ba gur Cnevf Zrgeb flfgrz.

  2. says:

    Thanks, Peter. That was very good and, as you say, subtle. Interesting that, while not seeing it, my review does refer to the theme! Would not have helped with SLOPE, though, which I’m disappointed I missed!

  3. says:

    Subtle indeed. I completely missed it.

  4. says:

    Showed solution grid to a non-crossword person (not French) who’d lived in Paris for a few months. Spotted it in seconds.

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