Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6671/Virgilius

Posted by John on March 4th, 2008


Nice to have Virgilius back again. But where’s the Nina? I hope his cutting back isn’t extending to the clever things he does with the grids, and that it’s simply that I can’t see it.

1 STAB – 2 mngs
4 OVAL OFFICE – Not really sure about this, but I think the def. is “Room for C-in-C” [C-in-C = President of USA?]; “test location” is Oval [the cricket ground] and “in Antarctic Ocean” is “off ice”, because if you’ve fallen off the ice in the Antarctic you might be in the ocean.
10 ASSUME – as (emus rev.)
11 newspaPER I SHredded
12 INIMICAL – in 1 (claim)*
13 DELI(us)
16 (i)N (j)AIL
17 LION I think – (n oil) rev., refers to the star sign Leo. This was the last one I did, having to resort to going through the alphabet for the first letter. A plausible answer came when I’d reached L, so I stopped searching. Prematurely?
19 AMISS – Amis with his concluding letter repeated, although for a while I couldn’t understand “doubly”. The clue could omit it and still be sound, so far as I can see.
20 I ON A(tlantic)
23 IRVING – Henry Irving and Irving Berlin
24 POUR IN “pore inn”
25 A P(ER (knigh)T)URE
26 STALINISTS – (list in Tass)*
27 DASH – 2 mngs
2 THREE MEN IN A BOAT presumably, although I can’t understand it. What’s the “falling-out” about?
4 OMOPHAGIA – had to look this one up, never having heard the word, although the fact that it was (o pig a ham)* around o was fairly obvious.
5 AMERICAN INDIANS – (Canadian miner is)*. Evidently the plural of Chinook is Chinook.
6 r(OMANI)a
7 FUSTIAN – suit* in fan
8 COMPANION-IN-ARMS – def. “belligerent colleague”, in arms under companion. I couldn’t understand this and then discovered that there’s such a thing as a companion ladder.
18 NATURAL – 2 mngs
22 N IN ON

23 Responses to “Independent 6671/Virgilius”

  1. Testy says:

    I can’t find “companion-in-arms” in any on-line dictionary so will have to wait until I get home to check the definition but I expect it is sound (although rare). I liked “in arms” for “not ready to walk” as in a “babe in arms”.

    Your interpretation for 4A and 17 are the same as mine and, like you, I’m not sure about 2D.

    The central row does contain NINA O (maybe no Ninas? or maybe I’m reading too much into it)

  2. nmsindy says:

    Agree with you about OVAL OFFICE and LION (which was the first I’ve solved). Only guessing but maybe THREE MEN IN A BOAT has something to do with the plot of the book – I’ve not read it myself.

    Don’t see a theme either, but there have been very subtle ones in the past.

  3. nmsindy says:

    Good spot, Testy, that’s it, I’d say.

  4. Paul B says:


  5. Paul B says:

    Aha! It’s working. I was going to say, might be a Portuguese Nina.

    But …

  6. Testy says:

    I knew he wouldn’t let us down. On closer inspection the grid is actually peppered with hidden NINAs going up and down.

  7. Jon says:

    I notice that the paper version has dropped the answer phone line and is pointing to the on-line version instead for help! The Independent doing the decent thing, a result of falling revenues, or is there more money to be made from the on-site advertising / services?

    Not a lot here I really struggled with, though I’m still not sure you can really clue LION with ‘sign’…

  8. Testy says:

    I’ve only just twigged the definition for PERISH (being “fail to publish?”) which is a reference to the phrase “publish or perish” and very clever too. I assume that there will be an equally sound explanation for THREE MEN IN A BOAT and I look forward to someone explaining it (I hope that it is more than just a reference to the plot).

  9. Testy says:

    A rowing crew of four after one has fallen out perhaps?

  10. nmsindy says:

    LION = Sign of the Zodiac (LEO), I thought that would be well enough known for ‘sign’ alone to be OK as definition.

    Or maybe I was just lucky in solving it first.

  11. rightback says:

    I’m pretty certain Testy’s explanation of THREE MEN IN A BOAT is correct. I liked the Ninas.

  12. Paul B says:

    Collins defines Lion (not lion) in its own entry as the fifth sign.

    The boat one seems right as described at 9, since you can only have 1, 2, 4 or 8 rowers in modern competition.

  13. nmsindy says:

    I liked the NINAS too though I completely missed them – and I did look! Amazing that Virgilius fit them all in in what seemed quite an easy puzzle with no obscure answers.

  14. eimi says:

    I have it on very good authority that the horizontal NINA occurred entirely accidentally as a consequence of Virgilius trying to fit NINAs into all the vertical lines and I’m sure the original query “Where’s the Nina?” will have made his day.

  15. John says:

    So obvious. Like the best of Virgilius’s Ninas it stares you in the face once you know what it is. I assure you that my “Where’s the Nina?” was quite innocent.

  16. beermagnet says:

    Can someone please tell me where are these hidden NINAs going up and down peppering the grid. I’m looking and not seeing here. Rather, all I’m seeing is
    stpdlhps aorlosua bseii vmremi lnispt fsmrr iucaoiua eellageh
    sphldpts ausolroa iiesb imermv tpsinl rrmsf auioacui hegallee

  17. nmsindy says:

    Look at columns e.g. bambiNI NAtural etc.

  18. eimi says:

    They’re not in the unches, but in the down answers:
    2 Three MeN IN A Boat
    3 BambiNI 18 NAtural
    4 OmophagiA, 22 NINon <
    5 AmericAN INdians <
    6 OmaNI 15 NAstiness
    7 FustiAN 20 INvited <
    8 CompanioN-IN-Arms

  19. beermagnet says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    It really is astonishingly frustrating not to see these things when told they are there. And it is, as expected, so obvious when seen.

  20. Testy says:

    Given that even us experienced NINA hunters failed to spot this is there perhaps an argument for somehow highlighting them in the published solution (e.g. shading the cells that contain the Nina).

    Before I started using this site I had no idea Ninas even existed and I suspect the vast majority of solvers are oblivious to them too. It seems a shame that a big part of the setters’ skill is not appreciated by most people, or maybe that’s the point. Should these remain a secret subtlety known only to a privileged few?

    Highlighting the Nina will mean it will no longer be an in-joke but it might help pique people’s interest in crosswords a little more by adding an extra dimension (and one that obviously excites those who know about them).

  21. nmsindy says:

    I think there would be practical difficulties in doing this in the daily papers.

    Ninas too are slightly different to finding the theme in an advanced crossword such as Listener in Times, Indy Weekend, or EV in the Sunday Telegraph.

    You’ve still solved the crossword (maybe seen the Nina or maybe not) and some solvers might get frustrated next day if an extra layer was revealed in the solution.

    Virgilius’ one in this puzzle was up with very best I’ve ever seen (or not seen!).

  22. Paul B says:

    The Nina thing is by definition esoteric, shurely. The first one was a private nessage for the setter’s niece if I remember correctly, and people have been chucking stuff in from signatures in Times puzzle diagonals all the way to swearing at ex-employers.

    Maybe it’s also a bit of a problem drawing attention to these sorts of thing without making a spectacle of oneself. I would never do that …

  23. Testy says:

    It’s certainly esoteric at the moment but I don’t see why it can’t be made additional part of the game for the wider audience to play.

    Also, I think it’s a bit patronising to think that we don’t want to worry their pretty little heads about such matters.

    It may be that some setters want the Ninas to remain a treasure hidden to most, but if it was me I would want as many people to appreciate it as possible. It seems a shame that all that work is wasted on most people.

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