Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6587/Virgilius – Tuesday 26.11.07 – Recurring Melodies

Posted by John on November 27th, 2007


The usual brilliant crossword from Virgilius. His clues are consistently excellent, but there is nearly always a very clever theme, which is usually signposted by the fact that the grid is a bit unusual (although recently we have been having quite a lot of sub-50% checking). For this theme see below.

7 LET THEM EAT CAKE. This refers to the remark attributed to Marie Antoinette, which has given her a reputation that is possibly undeserved. See here.
9 Apparently BRATWURST, but I can’t understand why. Presumably a brat is a “child contemptuously”; are we to pronounce “wurst” in the German or the English way? In neither case can I find anything that sounds like a word meaning “expert”. The closest seems to be worst = get the better of = something that an expert can do, but …
10 HE-MEN. When “vet” surrounds “hemen” you get a word that means “forceful”.
11 A N(THE)M.
13 E L(IT)ISTS. I have to admit that I could only do this one with a bit of electronic help. Chambers gives as a rare meaning of “lists” “the boundary of a jousting-ground or similar area, hence the ground itself …”, something of which I was only very vaguely aware.
17 H I’D DEN.
18 THE MES. Me as in do-re-me. The theme is found in 17 and 18 Across, and THEME is hidden in all the across lines. Nice idea. I think that’s all, but you never know with Virgilius.
20 MER(ED)IT H. Twice in this crossword “without” means “outside” rather than “on the outside” or simply “missing”.
21 E MER(G)E.
23 Hidden in GobLET HEre. Lethe is the river of forgetfulness.
26 MEANS (= imports, the verbal meaning “signifies”) TESTS (as in cricket).
1 MEGA, a gem rev.
2/22 This is apparently simply HENRY JAMES; Henry and James are names of English kings, and Henry James was an American author.
4 UTAH, which is pronounced “you-taw” and is close to “you taught”.
6 TENNIS, being “sin net” rev.
8 (WE HATE ODD)*. I had to check “Tow-headed” afterwards, although it’s pretty obvious.
9 BEAN (2 defs).
12 T(R)IER.
14 THE(R)MOSES. Rather an odd word, but no doubt inevitable in view of the theme.
15 SP(E)AR.
16 UNSTAMPED, being (m[ad] and upset)*. “Represented” is really “re-presented”. This is standard, but is it OK? Perhaps it’s only Chambers that gives the spelling with the hyphen.
20 M ALIGN. Very good clue. Cleverly-obscured definition (Speak critically about), and dress = align doesn’t immediately occur. Not to me, anyway.
24 TU TU. A tutu is a short skirt, so it provides limited cover for the legs.
25 EATS, being both (K)eats and (Y)eats.
27 Hidden in earliER GOspel.

17 Responses to “Independent 6587/Virgilius – Tuesday 26.11.07 – Recurring Melodies”

  1. conradcork says:

    An expert will be well ‘versed’ in his/her subject.

  2. An old pal of Dr Greer says:

    Please give your Henry James idea (wonderful though it is especially in the 2 Kings version) a decent Christian burial!

  3. Testy says:


    Are we supposed to be writing our comments in a cryptic form now?


  4. nmsindy says:

    Great as always from Virgilius (with happily not too obscurely HIDDEN THEMES) – favourite TUTU and thanks for explaining EATS.

    Comments 2 and 3 above totally mystifying – elucidation for the uninitiated much appreciated.

  5. Testy says:

    Sorry. I was feeling a little testy after reading comments that seem to be deliberately written to confuse rather than clarify things. I know that we are supposed to be reasonably well “versed” in deciphering cryptic clues but I don’t think it helps anyone when the explanations/comments themselves are written in gobbledegook or code (hence “I’M FED” up being a cryptic sigh of exasperation).

  6. nmsindy says:

    I see it now, you were perhaps making the same point as me about comment 2 (though somewhat more cryptically…)

  7. An old pal of Dr Greer says:

    Sorry – just a friendly hint that the HJ idea has been used once (I think possibly more than once) by the same setter before!

  8. nmsindy says:

    Thanks, may have seen it before myself and did solve the clue straightaway. Nice idea – did think the 2 Kings Version quoted in comment 2 might be a biblical reference but can see now it’s probably not.

    Good ideas can be used again, I think, if not maybe word for word (or, if so, the Daily Telegraph would maybe have got away with it on that famous occasion when, happily, they were beaten off!).

  9. eimi says:

    I liked Testy’s fed up. I’m also amused by the fact that some people can be upset at the praise Virgilius recieves (does old friend mean former friend or simply old dodderer?). I had no preconceptions when I took the job at the Indy, but I have to say that, despite the breathtakingly brilliant clues that other (Indy) compilers have produced in that time, I think that Virgilius (Brian Greer) is the best compiler that I have ever attempted to solve. He’s also a great bloke and a force for good in many in other areas.

  10. eimi says:

    i before e except after c

  11. Testy says:

    Personally I don’t think that Virgilius/Brendan gets enough praise. Peoples opinions about Araucaria are probably the most strongly held but generally divided, whereas opinions about Virgilius seem to be more pretty unaninimous but more quietly expressed (his crosswords often tend to generate the least amount of feedback). I put this down to the fact that they are so fair and well written that there is nothing to complain about and very little to say other than how great the puzzle is.

    His grid construction alone is something to marvel at even before you get to the clues.

    As someone who doesn’t normally buy the Indy, the day I most often break the habit is Tuesday.

  12. nmsindy says:

    I do not like drawing distinctions between Indy setters and also must allow for overall editorial control. But I can only endorse all the above comments re Virgilius. Clues are bullet-proof and always seem to have a freshness. Also I hope the puzzles will attract new solvers as, quite apart from all their other qualities, they are on the easy side maybe because they are so skilfully crafted as to leave no doubt. And I’ve not even mentioned the themes which are always so clear.

  13. Testy says:

    I’d be interested to know how much editorial control is exercised over crosswords.
    I understand that papers such as the Times, which don’t give the setter’s identity, try to maintain a certain consistency and so I would presume that the editors intervene fairly frequently.
    Do other papers tend to just edit out errors and reign in setters when try to push the envelope a bit too much, whilst retaining the individual’s style? How much of the finished puzzles reflect what the setter wrote and so how much praise should we be lavishing on the setter and how much on the editor?

  14. eimi says:

    All the praise should go to the editor, obviously. Seriously though, Testy has it about right in my case. I have no wish to homogenise the Indy crossword or seek to impose Ximenean purity on non-Ximenean setters. As the crosswords have a byline, solvers will get to know what to expect from a particular setter. The finished puzzles are almost entirely as the setter wrote them, although I may have asked them to rework or replace certain clues.

  15. Fletch says:

    I’ve got a very good idea who the ‘Old Pal of Dr Greer’ is, I recognise that style.

  16. neildubya says:

    I could tell you exactly who it is, but maybe some things are best left unsaid.

  17. Testy says:


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