Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6504/Virgilius

Posted by neildubya on August 21st, 2007


Thematically, there seems to be quite a bit going on in this puzzle. We have horses/ponies (1A, 10A, part of 14A, 17A, 21A and part of 26A, along with a reference to a horse race at 4D), trees/shrubs (9A, 12A, 23/13A,25A, part of 2D, part of 4D, 15D, 16D, 20D 22D), birds (11A, 27A, 28A, 29A, 7D, 18D, 19D,24D) and a couple of references to dogs (17A, 5D and 6D). In fact, the only non-thematic answer I can see (apart from 6A which I couldn’t get but must be a bird of some description) is 8D.

Birds and trees are something of a blind spot for me so there was a fair bit of guessing going on here. To be honest, I was pleased to be left with just the one missing answer as there were 3 or 4 left that I didn’t think I was going to get.

1 (STENDHAL)* – SHETLAND. Good spot – I don’t recall ever seeing that anagram before.
8 S?E? – couldn’t get this one. The full clue is “Singular call of gull or other seabird”.
10 DING in (LEGS)* – the definition has to be “runners” but I don’t know what “but not otherwise!” appears at the end of the clue. Is it something to do with a GELDING being not sound as a bell in other areas of their, ahem, anatomy?
14 CHESTNUT in HORSES – a CHESTNUT is a reddish-brown horse, hence “a particular type”.
17 DOG-AND-PONY SHOW – I don’t think I’ve heard this phrase before but as I’d got 1A and 6D it wasn’t too difficult to guess. It apparently means an “elaborate display or presentation”.
21 MARE – a “mare’s nest” is a confused or disordered place.
27 DU(N for B)LIN – again, this was new to me so I waited until I had all the checking letters before filling in DUNLIN.
28 TERN – I filled this in from the definition but realised, post-solving, that a “bittern” is also a bird. So, “bit this one [i.e. the answer to clue]” is bitTERN.
29 S,CREAMER – another new bird to me but more easy wordplay.
3 THE OAKS – there are 5 “classics” in English horse-racing: THE OAKS, the 1000 Guineas, the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger.
4 AT SEA – a double definition clue as “white horses” are the white wave crests on a choppy sea.
5 DOG,GONE – I think this is a pun on “spotless”, spot being the stereotypical name for a dog.
6 Z in (HIS HUT)* – SHIH-TZU.
7 (b)EAGLE
18 (EG HENRY)* – the GREY HEN is the female of the Black Grouse. I didn’t know this bird so this was a guess.
19 A HE in PENS
22 E in ABLE

4 Responses to “Independent 6504/Virgilius”

  1. Rufus says:

    I think 8 across is SMEW (singular=s; call of gull=mew; other bird=Smew – a merganser).
    I always enjoy this setter – my favourite!

  2. Colin Blackburn says:

    Rufus is right about 8 across though the clue claims it to be a seabird, which I’m not sure it is. Smew

    8dn is thematic if you consider the puzzle to be more generally about flora and fauna, wild and domesticated.

  3. neildubya says:

    Thanks. I didn’t know about MEW or SMEW so I would never have got that one.

  4. Chris says:

    Speaking as a birdwatcher, it’s definitely very misleading to call a Smew a seabird. It’s nearly always found in fresh water (and on the numerous occasions I’ve seen them it’s always been fresh water). Indeed, I’m not sure you’d ever see one in the sea unless it had got lost. It’s certainly not a seabird anyway.

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