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Independent 6348/Nimrod and Tilsit – Double the fun

Posted by neildubya on February 20th, 2007


A new name for the Independent but one our regular readers will certainly recognise! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crossword attributed to more than one setter before, although the Guardian does occasionally publish puzzles by Biggles, which is apparently 4 different people, all called John (the Biggles books were by WE Johns or “we johns”).

Anyway, this was very enjoyable and being a Tuesday, there’s a theme although there’s more going on here than you might at first think. Answers on a postcard please.

1 L,(v)ILLE – possibly the most unlikely of all the thematical answers!
4 hidden in “inforMAL FOR ME Darling” – excellent hidden clue which took me far too long to spot, I think because the phrase “a bit informal” is so natural and therefore deceptive.
9 OUCH in VE,D
10 GLASGOW – the Glasgow Kiss, aka a headbutt. Not my favourite clue because it’s not a particularly cryptic definition.
11 OR in REST – I guess that “haunted” is used punningly here, as “haunt” can mean a place frequented by certain types of people.
13/29 (CREAM’S THEN)* – a fairly easy anagram but what’s the surface doing? Surely a favourite, thematically speaking.
20 TIE CLIP – “tyke lip”. “Tyke” is slang for a number of things, including a Yorkshireman.
23 L,ON,DON – well represented, thematically speaking.
26 V,(INEPT)*,PE – a useful tip for beginners is that “training” or “exercises” will usually indicated PE or PT.
30 PHI,L,(VIP)* – PHI is of course a reference to Mr Friday-but-occasionally-Saturday in the Indie.
31 ON in ALE,CRAB< – one of the bigger names, thematically speaking.
2 U in LOIS – know your superheroes! Lois Lane is Clark Kent’s main squeeze.
4/16 MAD,RID – underperformers, thematically speaking.
5 MA in(LONG)* – nice punning use of “feller”.
6 ONAGER – had to go straight to the source (or one of them) to understand this one. The wordplay is O,REGAN (a princess in King Lear)< and the defintion is here.
7 MAGI,(CROWD)* – excellent clue I thought.
12 VAC,CINE – another nice definition, “preventing solution”.
19 EIN,DH,(NOVE)* – the best clue of them all I reckon. Hard to parse and with a nice surface reading. Maybe one to watch, thematically speaking?
21 OP in (PLUS IM)* – nice anagram but to me the wordplay part and definition element don’t really gel together.
28 WI< ILL

23 Responses to “Independent 6348/Nimrod and Tilsit – Double the fun”

  1. says:

    The theme would have been more explicit, but the setters have crammed so many answers into the grid (to accommodate the thematic element in its entirety – which is some achievement) that all references in the clues had to change to “city,” otherwise the paper would have had to come with a free magnifying glass.

  2. says:

    The extra bit of the theme: every city with a football team in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League. Plus of course a football score. All of which justifies the outrageous ORBIER = rounder and obscure (for me) DOWNA = cannot.

  3. says:

    Very nice puzzle with some tough clues – congrats to Tilsit.
    Taking into account the positions in their words of the checking letters of London and Eindhoven, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a 6-3 victory for Arsenal over PSV tonight.
    Can you explain how 25, 17 works? The clue is ‘Playwright halved lines, having no score’. It seems to be ONE NIL. I can see how O’Neill with lines halved could give ONE IL, but where does the other N come from… and shouldn’t ‘having no score’ define NIL NIL? I can see I’m missing something.

  4. says:

    Thanks for the comments and to Nimrod for the collaboration.

    As for 25/17, it’s O’NEIL(L) with N for No (as in Y or N)

  5. says:

    It’s funny you mentioned N for No — I was doing an American cryptic today which used N for No as well… I went to check Chambers and couldn’t find it. It makes perfect sense to me that it would be acceptable — but I’ve never encountered it in a UK cryptic before.

  6. says:

    Y = Yes and N = No are not in my copies of Collins or the Concise Oxford either. But this seems like one of those cases where the abbreviation is common enough in everyday life not to worry.

  7. says:

    Because of commitments, only got to this late in the day – great fun and easy if you got the theme as I did – accurately described by Peter. Easy clues for those hard words, verified now. Was expecting Virgilius to return for Tues so thought there might be a reason and of course it’s when the Round of 16 starts after Champions League hibernation. But maybe Wed would have helped the non-footie types as they’d see nearby, reports on the 4 Tues games, and previews of the 4 Wed games! Slightly off-topic but brought to mind by the puzzle using cities is that the only capital city in the 5 major European football countries (ENG, ESP, FRA, GER, ITA) to have won the CL or its predecessor, the European Cup, in its 51 seasons, is Madrid.

  8. says:

    PS Not the first Indy by more than one setter. In the very early days, solvers were asked to submit clues and a puzzle was published with the pseudonym ULOT.

  9. says:

    S & P too, Peter?

  10. says:

    Great puzzle, guys – congrats esp to DT, and – dare I say it – to Man U. Arsenal will of course triumph in Operation Restore Justice at the Emirates.

  11. says:

    Didn’t like this one at all.

    Poorly constructed grid, “theme” entailing over-checked and obscure (DOWNA, ORBIER, SPATHE, ONAGER, ETHERNET) words, a dubious construction (PHILIP V)and excess of three-letter words (six in a blocked puzzle!).

    The theme’s certainly of interest to those whose interest in the world extends to cities where there are football clubs.

  12. says:

    How can you say the grid was poorly constructed?? And actually there weren’t 6 3-letter answers as several combined to make longer words.
    Admittedly a puzzle probably of more satisfaction to football lovers, but I felt it was sufficiently entertaining to be of wide appeal.

    There’s no pleasing some 😉

  13. says:

    I had no idea it was about football, since all the cities are familiar names. This took me ages for some reason, and I still don’t understand one of the clues: How does L,ON,DON explain the clue “City lecturer describing colleague?”

    And can anyone explain for me the function of the ? in cryptic clues?!


  14. says:

    L is lecturer (see Chambers), ON (describing), DON (who would be a lecturer’s colleague).

    Question marks may be used to indicate that the clue may not be strictly interpreted – some might say not being fair – or possibly to indicate that the word is only an example of a class of things. Sometimes the clue simply reads better as a question.

  15. says:

    Re. Bannsider’s comment:

    “How can you say the grid was poorly constructed?”

    Let me explain:

    A convention in 15×15 blocked puzzles in the daily broadsheets, which has always seemed to me a reasonable one, given the other convention (which this puzzle also breaks) that the words are likely to be known by people with a reasonable education and vocabulary, is that checked letters alternate with unchecked letters.

    In this puzzle, some words have two checked letters in a row. This would be more acceptable if it meant that some of the obscure words benefited from the heavy checking, making them easier to solve. But they don’t. The only word that thus benefits is VACCINE! The three letter words that have two checked letters in a row are fairly simple ones, and don’t need the added checking help.

    Can someone explain whether there is a good reason for breaking these conventions?
    (I can think of a bad one, namely that introducing obscure words etc. was the only way to get all the names the compilers wanted to into the puzzle). To me, this seems like a classic example of over-ambition… It’s possible to conceive of a weekend puzzle that would accommodate this theme. I don’t consider it a very interesting one, but that’s a matter of opinion…


  16. says:

    Re Sarah’s point, ideally some or all of CHAMPIONS, LEAGUE, LAST, SIXTEEN could have appeared in the grid. But, after fitting all those cities in, I guess this would have been difficult/impossible.

  17. says:

    Throwing a couple more sticks on the fire …
    There seem to be two types of “theme puzzle”. Ones like Dac’s on Wednesday where you can enjoy and solve the puzzle without even noticing that there is a theme, and ones like, say, Nimrod’s Countdown one where the theme is such an integral part of the puzzle that you would find it really difficult to solve without spotting the theme. Maybe this one fell in between – you could hardly fail to notice that something funny was going on, but you could fail to notice exactly what it was.

    At the risk of giving people extra work and relying on bits of text that can be lost, I wonder whether a short explanation printed with the solution the next day would be a good idea. Where the only “theme” is a message hidden in the grid, that can be left for the xwd chattering classes to discover.

  18. says:

    Well, the puzzle has provoked some interesting discussion.

    At the end of the day, Gary, it’s a game of two halves. I think the lads Nimrod and Tilsit done great. They gave 110 per cent for the boss.

    I’m bewildered by Al’s comments. I would like to see what he comes up with when challenged to get the 14 cities into the same 15×15 grid. Notice that many puzzles, including my own, have only 7 out of 15 checked (every other) – this puzzle doesn’t – all entries check at least equal numbers of letters. Additionally, you don’t have to know anything about football to solve it.

    Al, consider the gauntlet thrown down.

  19. says:

    Has this set a new fifteensquared record for the number of comments on one blog entry? As Oscar Wilde (or was it Monty Python?) said “There’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.” As this blog becomes more well-known I’m sure people will come here for clarification of themes etc.

    As Pete says, there are themed crosswords in which the theme is not referred to at all, such as a recent one by Virgilius which contained SNOW, WHITE and all 7 (Disney) dwarfs. In the case of this puzzle it obviously helped if you spotted the theme, but it wasn’t crucial to the solving of it.

    There are more themes and Ninas next week, but I’m not telling when.

  20. says:

    This is the 20th comment on this post, which does indeed make it a record.

  21. says:

    21 now: One clue I don’t see mentioned is 3d, Eagle has time to eat the old medium (8) Ethernet, which I broke down as E/the/rne/t. Why ‘old medium’?

  22. says:

    Good point, which is why I changed it to ‘connector’ in the published version

  23. says:


    I hope your gauntlet’s been in the laundry.

    Seriously, I wouldn’t even try to get fourteen cities in a 15×15 square blocked puzzle.

    (One of my Indy weekend puzzles had, I think, 12 cities (not football related) in a 12×12 barred puzzle, and they were difficult enough to fit in…)

    As I say, for the reasons I have stated above, over-ambition was the atmosphere I got from the puzzle- nothing wrong with that per se- what some people regard as over-ambition others regard as under-ambition.

    It’s OK if the level of ambition works. In my opinion, again for the reasons I stated above, it didn’t work here.


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