Posted by rightback on December 11th, 2006
Solving time: 12:37, held up by two pairs at the end; one mistake (1dn), or perhaps two (19dn).
I think this is Mordred’s second puzzle in the Independent. Like his first, this contained lots of pretty modern references and a couple of things that overseas solvers might have struggled with. Lots of the clues contained very complex wordplay, and in several cases I wrote in the answer from the definition and had to work out the wordplay after finishing the puzzle.
The two pairs that held me up were 19dn/27ac and 12ac/1d. I’m surprised at the difficulty of part of the wordplay to 1dn (and not surprised that I got a 50/50 guess wrong, as usual), and I’m still not sure of the correct answer to 19dn.
Beginners’ tips of the day: ‘obstruction’ = LET, ‘each’ = EA, ‘pong’ = BO (body odour) (or HUM).
* = anagram.
|1||BASIL + ICA – Basil is Mr Fawlty in the incomparable British sitcom. I think the ICA is the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.|
|5||PLAN(C)K – Max, the quantum physicist whose constant h appears from time to time.|
|9||NEWSGIRL – somewhere between a cryptic definition (punning on ‘latest’) and a double definition; ‘child’ seems a bit isolated at the end of the clue.|
|12||(GIRTH)* inside TOPE – apparently a tightrope can mean figuratively a ‘middle course between dangerous or undesirable alternatives’. I didn’t know this, or the fish TOPE (which is a type of shark) so this was a bit of a guess, but the anagram part was fairly clear so I had -IGHTRO-E, meaning that ‘pope’ didn’t look realistic for the fish (and neither does ‘sole’ which didn’t occur to me).|
|13||LOT (prize won) + TO (at) – TO for ‘at’ is standard in (e.g.) The Listener but much rarer in the dailies.|
|14||WITCHING HOUR – cryptic definition.|
|18||(UP IN MALI CITY)*|
|21||EA (each) inside IBM – an I-beam is another word for the I-shaped cursor that appears on your computer screen.|
|22||BU(L + LIE)N[g] inside E.T. – complicated wordplay, though the individual elements are mostly standard fare; ‘backhander’ = BUNG is a bit harder. I was lucky to spot this from the definition and the initial ‘E’.|
|24||(TRAGE[d]Y)* – I think ‘D’ is ‘an earlier piece’ in the sense of an old British penny (standing for the Latin denarius).|
|25||B + T (middle letter of ‘captain’) inside (BESIDE)*.|
|26||EXUL[t]ED reversed – easy definition (especially with the enumeration and crossing ‘X’), very difficult wordplay that I worked out only after stopping the clock. ‘Crew’ is the past tense of the verb ‘to crow’, meaning to gloat or exult; ‘screening’ here means ‘hiding’, though it could also mean ‘going around’ in the sense of protecting.|
|27||TRIP (dance) + LETS – this was one that held me up, though the wording ‘birthday’s joint’ instead of ‘birthday joint’ should have been a clue. I don’t really understand what ‘dogs’ is doing in the clue: it can be slang for ‘feet’ but I’m not sure what that adds. [Nonsense - see comments. Thanks to Peter B.]|
|1||B.O. (pong) + NIT (egg) + O (= of, as in ‘o’clock’) – in my second display of piscatorial ignorance I’d not heard of the bonito (a Spanish word). I’m sure I’ve never seen ‘of’ indicate O in a daily crossword before, and I didn’t think this would be allowed, so decided that the definition must be ‘of big fish’ and that the answer must be an adjective, so went for ‘bonite’ in the hope that ‘nite’ was another word for ‘nit’. It isn’t.|
|3||[f]LIGHT – a flight is a division of an RAF squadron. F is to ‘fighter plane’ as ‘B’ is to ‘bomber’. The deceptive definition is ‘Perhaps pilot’, as in ‘pilot light’.|
|4||CARBON (diamond) + COP(I.E.)S|
|6||LIME + LIGHT (falling short) – Harry Lime seems to be a character from Graham Greene’s The Third Man. It didn’t really matter to me as I hadn’t heard of him anyway, but ‘Harry’ for LIME seems very, perhaps unfairly, vague.|
|8||KEY (basic) + BOARD – a ‘deal’ is ‘a fir or pine board of a standard size’.|
|15||IN + CO + MET + A + X (variable) – again, straightforward definition with a complex wordplay, though none of these individual elements are difficult.|
|16||[l]IMPING + ED (last letters of ‘strode ahead’) – ‘game’ = ‘lame’ = ‘limping’ is hard, especially given the number of possibilities for sporting games. I think the word is connected to ‘gammy’.|
|19||MEDDLE – or is it PEDDLE? I think this clue is a double definition, with the former being better for ‘have a finger in the pie’, and the latter closer to ‘trifle’. Either way, the definitions are more or less the same root wood so this is not satisfactory. More likely is that there is some wordplay, or perhaps a better third alternative, that I am missing.|
|20||STASIS – double definition, the second meaning ‘cessation, arrest esp of growth’ or ‘a state of equilibrium’.|
|23||LET (obstruction) + UP (on the line to London) – why do people say ‘up’ to London? I always go ‘down’ from oop North, but maybe I’m just not a city slicker.|