Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6430/Merlin – Sticky ends.

Posted by neildubya on June 2nd, 2007


Last Saturday’s Monk puzzle was difficult enough but I thought this offering from Merlin was even tougher. This was mainly due to the theme of the puzzle – all but two of the down clues made reference to a Saint and, more specifically, how they died their horrible deaths. As themes go this was very original (and an amazing achievement to get them all in the grid and even come up with clues which echoed the deaths – 2, 5 and 6) but it did the make the puzzle a difficult solve and it could only really have appeared on a Saturday, when it’s assumed that solvers have access to references. Despite all of that, I really enjoyed and there were some excellent clues.

8 ALAN in CATS – got this straight away, which made me think I was in for a quick solve. If only. Non-native solvers, or those without TVs, will probably want to know who Alan Partridge is.
9 E,LEG IT – pretty tough, although the definition “writ of execution” was not really disguised.
11 HIC in ORTON – another toughie and a new word to me. One of the last few I filled in so I think I had O?T?I?O? – ORTON immediately sprang to mind as the playwright.
19 (ICEBERGS)*,N – this, and the previous 3 or 4 clues were pretty easy, which came as something of a relief.
23 ((OH EDIT IT)* – anyone read this? You’re braver than me if you have.
24 LONERS – is this right (nothing else that I can think of fits)? If so then the wordplay is lost on me. The full clue is Fellow shunned by Cockneys, they prefer their own company (6).
25 BLIT,HE – A B Lit is a Bachelor of Literature degree, hence “well-read graduate”.
26 IV in IN VASE
1 A,WOMA in SAWN IN HALF – St Simon the Apostle (AKA St Simon the Zealot ) was put to death with a saw. “Twaveller” for WOMA (Roma gypsy) was cheeky but fun.
2 LANCE in BAD – I think the Thomas here is Thomas Becket, who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. I’m guessing he was stabbed to death with some kind of LANCE.
3 DARTS – or, strictly speaking, arrows.
4 A,STONED – Saint Stephen was stoned to death and ASTONED appears in Chaucer. All of which makes it a deceptively tough clue.
5 MEN,(s)TATION – you’ve probably already worked out by now that Saint Pancras had his head chopped off. Excellent clue, helped enormously by the fact that St Pancras is luckily now a train station.
6 NAILED (going up) – this is very clever. Saint Peter was crucified (NAILED) upside down – DELIAN, which also happens to be a word for someone from the Aegean island of Delos.
7 DIG ONE’S OWN GRAVE – Saint Phocas was decapitated and buried in a grave he had dug himself. Was a bit surprised that ONE’S appears in both the clue and answer.
14 ME (upside down),BROILED – Saint Lawrence was apparently grilled to death. Anyone feeling queasy yet? He is supposed to have said, at the point of death, “I am done on this side. Turn me over and eat!”, which would have come as something of a disappointment to the guards who were torturing him for information.
17 R in (AGONIES)* – “Terrible agonies” sums up the deaths in the last 8 clues pretty well.
18 FELT TIP – poor old Saint Cassian. Stabbed to death by his students with the implements they used to mark their wax tablets. And they say teachers have it rough these days…
20/22 SAINTS ALIVE – i.e. none of these poor souls.

5 Responses to “Independent 6430/Merlin – Sticky ends.”

  1. says:


  2. says:

    Four knights – Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Traci, and Richard Brito – ‘interpreted’ (say historians intent on absolving the monarchy) Henry’s comments about turbulence in the clergy as a Royal Command, and went off to Canterbury. There they attacked Becket with swords, inflicting fatal head wounds.

  3. says:

    Like most solvers I learned a lot (more than I wanted to know, perhaps) about the deaths of saints in researching this. The Thomas in question is actually the apostle, ‘Doubting’ Thomas. According to one version of his death:

    “At the foot of this cross was a rock where Saint Thomas, while praying fervently, suffered his martyrdom by a blow from the lance of a pagan priest. This happened, according to the Roman Breviary, at Calamine, which is in fact Meliapour”

  4. says:

    Aha. Clue thus reprieved.

    The other well-known ‘Saint Thomas’ is More, beheaded 1535. He was lined up to be hung, drawn and quartered, but kindly old King Henry commuted that one to the lesser sentence of death by beheading.

    More is alleged to have said a number of witty things to various people on the day, notably:

    See me safe up: for my coming down, I can shift for myself.

    And, to the executioner, he is believed to have remarked that as his beard was completely innocent of any crime, and did not deserve the axe, could he reposition it so that it would not be harmed?

    They were tough, them ole martyrs.

  5. says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen a puzzle quite like this in the Indy series. An extremely talented setter (who won the prize for puzzle of the year in the Listener for 2006). All the clues were bullet-proof, original and thematic (the downs). This solver failed on two – now fully understood. I should have realised that St Pancras was just that, not just a railway station…

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