Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6374/Merlin

Posted by neildubya on March 22nd, 2007


More wizardry from Merlin. A couple of “adult” clues and some up-to-the-minute pop culture references, along with some excellent clues. There were a few I wasn’t sure about though (1A, 16A, 10D), and one I don’t understand (17D).

1 SOPS – a concession is obviously a SOP but I don’t get the rest of the clue.
9 AL(L for BERT),SQUARE – at first I thought there was a mistake here as I read the clue as “take Bert away from Albert Square”, which leaves AL SQUARE. However, “when Bert’s left” should actually be read as “when Bert is left”. “Quits” is misleading too, making this a very clever clue.
12 SECOND DEGREE – a second degree could be a doctorate but it could equally be a Master’s, so the question mark at the end of the clue is needed here.
15 I’S in RING – I can’t really see any justification for the capital B in boxer.
16 CORSE,TED – Corse is the French name for Corsica and I guess the defintion is corset/stay pun but I don’t understand why it’s “stays in. The reverse”. Any offers?
21 RIGHT ON in BROCK – another great clue with a misleading surface. “One is set” is a badger (brock).
26 HEAVY METAL – double definition.
1/2 SHAG,PILE – a rather saucy clue of a type that we usually only see in the magnificent Private Eye crossword.
5 HEIDI in TOT – hands up anyone that’s managed to get through Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot”.
6 (DRESS POLE ACT (-i)N)* – a very clever &lit and more Private Eye-style sauciness.
7 R in BIG BOTHER – extremely apt surface reading given the recent controversy.
8 (TODDIES FED)* – took me two goes to get the spelling of this right. The EISTEDDFOD (not Eistedfodd) is the Welsh folk festival.
10 QUEEN OF THE MAY – I’m not sure this one works quite right, unless I’ve misunderstood it. “Guitarist Brian” is obviously Brian May of Queen (not The Queen) so swapping this around would lead to Queen of May, not QUEEN OF THE MAY. Either I’ve got that wrong or I’m making too much of the fact that the band is called “Queen” not “The Queen”.
14 hidden in “wASP I DISTRActed” – we’ve had a couple of excellent hidden clues in the Independent crossword recently and I think this is up there with the best of them.
17 ENDORSEE – is this right? Can’t explain why if so.
20 GR,APPA(l)

17 Responses to “Independent 6374/Merlin”

  1. says:

    Pretty tough – over 15 mins. I wavered over CORSETED at the end and can’t add anything to your explanation of this clue, or 10dn. I like ‘One in set’ = BROCK!

    1ac – SOP = significant other person, e.g. a cohabiting partner (Chambers).

    17dn – END (= back) + OR + SEE (= watch) [I think – don’t have access to the clue here].

    15ac – I think the capital B on Boxer might be an allusion to Animal Farm, but I’ll stop there lest my literary shortcomings be exposed.

  2. says:

    Sops – could it be op for ‘co’ habiting partners s & s ?

    (Please excuse poor use of xwd jargon/shorthand etc, not quite got the hang of it yet)

  3. says:

    ENDORSEE is SEE after END + OR

    The uppercase B of Boxer is surely there to refer to the Boxer rebellion. It’s usually accepted that a word can have its initial promoted to a capital but a word that needs a capital can’t have it demoted.

    I agree about the failure of QUEEN OF THE MAY. I think this was one of those good ideas that just didn’t quite work. There is a slight link between ALBERT SQUARE and this answer as Brian May is married to the actor who played Angie Watts in the soap opera.

  4. says:

    SOP is significant other person (cohabitee). CORSETED is “in stays” contrasted with “stays in”. END OR SEE. Thanks for explaining ALL SQUARE which to me seemed to have an extra letter though I knew there had to be some explanation.
    The usage in the clue for 1 down is a new departure for the Indy in my experience.

  5. says:

    oh bugger! Just saw Rightback’s explanation. Get it now.

  6. says:

    [This comment edited to remove duplication and some botched formatting]

    EISTEDDFOD is a classic instance of getting help from consistent spelling in other languages – Welsh DD is a ‘th’, so once you’ve heard ‘eyestethfod’ and know the rules, there’s no doubt. But F and FF are different – it’s the double F that sounds like F – Welsh single F is our V.

    CORSETED -I think the idea is that some clues go {wordplay} in {def} or the other way round, and that “stays in” needs to be “in stays” to get to this format.

  7. says:

    Sorry, I posted the above before seeing the other replies, which cover some of the ground.

  8. says:

    I thought long and hard about 1/2 Down (no, don’t titter), but decided not to use the blue pencil, particularly as it appears the same day as The Indy’s Sleeping Around column.

    Re: 10 Down, when I first read it I thought it wasn’t quite right, but if you read it as The May of Queen it works fine.

    I thought 5 Down was wonderful too.

    I look forward to discussing this and other matters over a glass or two this evening.

  9. says:

    Ah yes, Sleeping Around. What a great column that is. “Look at me. Look at me please. I sleep with lots of different men, you know. And I write about it afterwards. Aren’t I great?” Expand to 400 words. Repeat. Every. Single. Week.

    Mind you, it’s not as bad as Cooper Brown. That really is awful.

  10. says:

    Merlin’s puzzle Olde Treasure Hunt was voted Listener Puzzle of the Year for 2006 at the recent Listener Dinner. Decided on by the 14 “all-corrects”

  11. says:

    Merlin has been a close friend of mine for over 35 years. I am no prude and I enjoy the Private Eye puzzle. However, I hope that he won’t now feel that he should try to enhance his reputation with any sort of in-group by ‘doing dirty’ as one or two others seem to want to do. He doesn’t need to do that – he is simply brilliant the way he normally is!

  12. says:

    “Doing dirty”: crossword editors seeem more relaxed about this kind of stuff than they used to be, so by “doing dirty” Merlin and others may just be grabbing the chance to use some clues that couldn’t be used before.

  13. says:

    I’m sure they are, but I stand my ground!

  14. says:

    Times change and the world moves on, sometimes in ways one might not prefer.

  15. says:

    I must say I’m rather intrigued by the idea of an “in-group” that like naughty words in their puzzles. Who are these people, and how do I join their group? Is there a form you have to fill in?

    On a more serious note, I agree with nmsindy. And besides, the occasional SHAG/SCREW in a puzzle hardly represents a dramatic collapse in moral standards.

  16. says:

    I await Quixote’s (or anyone’s) clue for DICKINSON with interest – I doubt whether I could resist.

    Saw ‘slash’ = wee in Grauniad from Shed, which read as innocuous in surface. That I thought done cleverly, but cf. a past Gordius clue for GO/ SSIP (anag) which was overt and, since a down clue, quite possibly missed a trick.

    The only other one I can remember this early is down clue for BONK, by a friend who likes pies (hello, mate!): let’s just say he handled his erection splendidly.

  17. says:

    Lovely puzzle from an all-too-infrequent setter – I loved the Albert Square clue and the long anag. & lit. (a Merlin trademark). And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of rudery every now and then -remember Azed’s WATER-DRINKER clue a few months ago?

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