Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6689/Merlin

Posted by John on March 25th, 2008


I didn’t do this quickly, although looking at it now I bet some people did. One problem was that I wrote an answer in the wrong place, and when I transferred it to the right place wrote it in backwards, so there were some delays. Merlin makes use of the latitude afforded by The Indy to do things that a Times setter couldn’t do: to use “a” for one (3dn) and to refer to living people (2dn, 25 ac).

1 S(CR)APPER. All this talk from irritated customers about how hopeless the websites are, and on this occasion the website has it correct: “fighter”; the printed version omits that word’s first letter.
6 SAMSON – (M(andible) ON ASS)*. Excellent semi-&lit.
11 OCCASIONAL TABLE – (conceal sailboat)*
12 PROSPER O. A Shakespeare reference.
14 ARTIST I think, but I must be missing something. What’s going on?
15 STRAIT – the Torres Strait, nothing to do with the footballer. I’m never very comfortable with these linked clues, but it seems that “special” is an anagram indicator for the answer to the previous clue. Not sure where “characteristic” fits in.
17 DETERRED – “de-turd”. For a while I had been trying to make “deferred” (= de-furred) work, on the erroneous assumption that the Indy would be politer.
19 WEAR SEVERAL HATS – (valet’s shareware)*, with “employing” the anagram indicator. If I’m correct, isn’t that a bit dodgy?
22 SOCIETAL – (1 locates)*
23 INVERT(ebrate)
24 WON TON. I don’t like this clue, because the answer could perfectly well be “not now”, indeed the clue seems to me to lead more naturally to this. As it is, it seems the word “for” should have been omitted.
25 WILL’S ELF, referring to Puck in MND
4 P(ennsylvania Avenue) RESIDENT I think, although I’m a bit uncomfortable with “‘s foremost” to give the first letter of a pair of words; if indeed that is what’s happening.
6 thiS IS A Long
7 MA X-FACTOR. Nice definition.
8 ORACLES – (so clear)*
14 ACTUA(AIR rev.)L
16 T(R.E.M.)O LO
18 ENTER AL. In what sense does “admit” = “enter”, rather than “allow to enter”?
20 oncE AT ENormous. An excellent hidden, which defeated me until the very end.
21 HIVES – 2 defs. Why “lots and lots” rather than simply “lots”?

13 Responses to “Independent 6689/Merlin”

  1. Testy says:

    14A I think is really an anagram of STRAIT. The definition is “One showing great skill” and the wordplay is that it could become… STRAIT (which is the answer to the next clue).
    15A Special gives the S along with TRAIT=characteristic.
    19A I think “employing” is justifiable in that the answer employs all the letters of “valet’s shareware”.
    24A I agree.
    25A I thought this was great
    4D I agree that it seems to be indicating the first letter of the pair of words. It’s unusual in crosword land but by no means unjustifiable.
    7D This was brilliant too.
    18D I didn’t pick up on this when solving but I agree that “enter” and “admit” don’t tally.

  2. nmsindy says:

    WON TON I thought this was OK. I think “for later” is used to mean ‘not now’ e.g. that’s for later. Also I thought the “that’s” pushed the definition to the ‘Chinese food’. Re PRESIDENT, it seems unusual but looking at the clue the ‘s refers to the two words so I think it is completely correct. I broke into this puzzle quickly but took a while to get 5 down (something I was not familiar with and had to verify) so I was slower to finish. I agree with Testy re ARTIST/STRAIT.

  3. Jon says:

    A very fast time for me (and certainly faster than any previous Merlin), and would have been quicker still if I hadn’t stopped to ponder the typo in 1ac, or also gone for ‘deferred’. The possibility of a Skakespearean theme did panic me for a moment given my lack of knowledge in that area, following 12ac / 25ac and, almost, 5d, but thankfully I was let off the hook.

    Both 14ac and 4d were, I thought, very close to being straight definitions.

  4. Mick H says:

    24a I think WON TON is OK. I read it as {Chinese food that’s brought back} for [later], with ‘for’ as a joining word, normally used ahead of the definition. To work as a clue for NOT NOW it should read ‘Chinese food that could be brought back for later’.
    21d A hive = lots of bees, hives = lots and lots?
    4dn Not keen on Pennsylvania Avenue’s foremost for P, but I can see how the +lit must have seemed irresistible.
    Like 25a, 7d a lot too.

  5. Testy says:

    I don’t think that the “that’s” forces the “Chinese food” bit to be the definition at all. The most obvious reading of the clue to me as that it is “Chinese food” that is “brought back” in order to provide the answer “later” hence giving NOT NOW. In order to read it to get WON TON you have to interpret it as “Chinese food” that you would have to bring back in order to get “later”. This seems a much less natural interpretation.

    If it wasn’t for the checking letters I would have thought the most logical reading of the clue would produce NOT NOW. At best it is ambiguous.

    However, crosswords have intersecting letters for a reason and they should always resolve these potential ambiguities (as it did here).

  6. Testy says:

    P.S. The reason 14A and 4D were very close to being straight definitions is because they were &lit.

  7. willbe says:

    Agree on NOT NOW: that clue cannot indicate WON TON. Had to press REVEAL.

    Agree on P with RESIDENT too, as it’s very hard to see what the compiler means until the answer is sitting in front of you. Had to press REVEAL.

  8. Richard Palmer says:

    Regarding the comments on WON TON, I agree the clue is somewhat ambiguous but, firstly, NOT NOW is not a proper phrase listed in the dictionary so is unlikely to be the answer. Secondly, if it was the intended answer the clue would have been ‘Brought back Chinese food for later’ which is quite unambiguous. Unfortunately that does not work for WON TON as ‘Chinese food later brought back’ does not make sense in the surface reading. If it had been a down word ‘…brought up’ would have been OK but in questionable taste. If the clue had been ‘Chinese food brought back later’ it would have been ambiguous but NOT NOW would have been the more natural meaning. I added the link words to make it lead more naturally to WON TON (see comments from NMSindy and Mick H). I agree that it is possible to read the clue as leading to NOT NOW but totally disagree with Willbe who says it cannot indicate WON TON.

    Regarding admit/enter, Chambers gives ‘admit’ as one of the meanings of ‘enter’ (as a transitive verb) so it must be OK.

    Also, 6A is a full (not semi) & lit – Samson killed a lot of Philistines with the jawbone of an ass) and 14A is not an & lit but a plain definition combined with an anagram of the following answer.


  9. eimi says:

    Apologies for the missing F in the first clue – at least the internet version was able to offer some help to some baffled solvers.

    I really enjoyed this. Impolite or not, 17 Across is my laugh-out-loud clue of the year so far. I also thought the disguise of the definition is 7 Down was brilliant.

    Merlin has answered several queries. Reversal clues are often open to two different interpretations, but, as has been pointed out, it is a crossword and the answers have to cross other answers.

    On the matter of ‘one’ for a, former Times and Indy crossword editor Brian Greer (Virgilius) has written that he sees no problem with this and neither do I.

  10. petebiddlecombe says:

    I was going to say that WONTON was a win for those who try intersecting Down clues as soon as we get any Across answers, and should therefore have some checking letters by the time we get to the bottom row. But I spoiled this by thinking that a STAIRCASE might be what a flight of stairs fits into at 13D. (It’s the frame and the flight, in fact. STAIRWELL is arguably OK though.) So this was “checking letters to resolve a CD” rather than “checking letters to resolve a reversal”. Merlin’s ‘What would the clue be if this was the answer?’ approach is worth remembering for future use.

  11. Al Streatfield says:

    I parsed WON TON in a different way from Mick H.

    The way I read it was: Chinese food (WON TON) that’s (i.e. that is, consists of) (brought back for later- NOT NOW Rev.). In this parsing the “for” seems rather redundant. Isn’t the opposite of “for later” “not for now”?…

  12. Al Streatfield says:

    Sorry, I meant: “Isn’t the meaning of “for later” “not for now”?

  13. John says:

    Richard Palmer: you say that 6ac is a full &lit. Is this so? If it is, then how does “He used” contribute to the wordplay? I thought that in a full &lit. the whole clue had to provide both the wordplay and the definition.

    Eimi: my comment “Merlin makes use of the latitude afforded by The Indy to do things that a Times setter couldn’t do:… ” was never meant as a criticism, merely an observation on the different house rules of The Times and the Indy.

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