Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6288/Mordred – Fishy

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.
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.

5 Responses to “Independent 6288/Mordred – Fishy”

  1. says:

    This I found very difficult and, thanks Rightback for explaining 4 wordplay elements that I did not understand though I got the answer right viz:- EBULLIENT, DE LUXE, LIGHT and IMPINGED. Also saw the MEDDLE/PEDDLE alternatives and will find out tomorrow. After looking in dicts, went for MEDDLE. Solving time: 60 mins and am in awe of rightback for doing it in 12 mins plus some seconds.

    Was stuck for a long time on the same pairs that he mentions.

    I agree that wordplay and some vocabulary are much harder than usual for a daily cryptic, but I did enjoy this challenging puzzle quite a lot. Was there some discussion on this board about easy puzzles on Mondays?

  2. says:

    27 Dog (like tail!) = is a verb meaning “to follow” – so LETS = “shall we” follows TRIP = dance. London and “up”: “up” is used in this way for any big or important place, especially in the phrase “up train”. Not a very easy Monday puzzle – 10:37 for me.

  3. says:

    I also dithered over MEDDLE/PEDDLE – and went for the latter. Didn’t get the wordplay for 26A but with D?L?X? your options are very limited. Agree with everyone else that much of the wordplay was subtle and complex but very enjoyable all the same.

  4. says:

    I must admit that I didn’t see PEDDLE as an alternative when I was checking the puzzle, but I think that although both answers can work for ‘trifle’ (Chambers includes meddle under the definition of trifle), MEDDLE is clearly the better answer for the first part of the clue. But not a situation you’d want in a prize puzzle, certainly.

    As many will know, Mordred is very well respected for his advanced cryptics and the blocked puzzle is a new departure for him. I tried cold solving the original version of this puzzle and got stuck. I ran a few clues past Monk on the I4 meeting weekend and he couldn’t understand them either, so this is the revised, simplified version. Clearly still very difficult, but it wouldn’t be Mordred without a bit of trickery.

  5. says:

    I’ve just discovered that The Harry Lime Theme (see 6dn) was Christmas #1 in 1949.

    For some reason I don’t seem to able to include a link in a comment, but it’s available here:

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