Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6,811/Scorpion

Posted by Ali on August 14th, 2008


This was a stiff challenge for a weekday I thought, particularly the right-hand side of the grid which was all but empty after my first attempt. Managed to chip away at it eventually, but admittedly needed to check one or two answers along the way. A pat on the back for the setter though, there are some very neat clues here with some excellent surface readings.

1 ETRUSCAN – (TRUE)*,SCAN – A very nice surface reading, though I have never seen ‘passed’ used in this way before
5 PAMPER – M[-useum] in PAPER
11 ASHFORD – ASH,FORD – Very tricky. Ashford (in Kent) is, I believe, the point at which the Channel Tunnel starts!
12 MACAW – MAC[-c]A,W – ‘Singer’ is the neat definition here. I’ve never seen ‘unfulfilled’ as an indicator to remove a letter before, but it works fine for me
13 TAKE STOCK – AT rev.,(TESCO)* in KK – Lovely clue
14 PIET MONDRIAN – (DAMIEN,[hi]R[st],ON,TIP)* – Not an easy clue to work out by any means, though it reads very nicely
18 TOP OF THE POPS – Arguably the easiest clue of the day, and a nice big help for opening up the SW corner
25 OLOGIST – [t]O[o]L[b]O[x],GIST
26 STRATA – TART in AS rev.
1 ENTOMB – ENT,O,MB – I’m used to seeing ‘sawbones’ for doctor rather than just ‘bones’, so this one threw me for quite a while
2 REFECT – REF[-l]ECT – Had never come across this word before, though it stands to reason given words like REFECTORY
3 SKEWWHIFF – S,KEW,WHIFF – A word I can confidently say I have never had cause to write (and would have had no idea how to spell!), but the clue is bulletproof
4 ALAN TITCHMARSH – Can’t quite piece this one together. ‘Longing to go on bog’ gives us ITCH,MARSH, but not quite sure how to get the ALANT. ‘Inclined’ suggests LEANT, but how does ‘dispel wind’ fit in?
6 ATHOS – [-p]ATH,OS – I’d have had a lot more joy with the NE corner if I hadn’t assumed that [-p]LAN,OS was a place in Greece!
7 PHOTOFIT – Fantastic clue, with both meanings of PC being used very deviously indeed
8 REDSKINS – D,S-tal]K in REINS – Ref. American football
15 DIPHTHONG – i.e. the ae double vowel sound in words such as encyclopaedia
20 RECTUS – C[-arpe]T in (SURE)* – I should know well enough by now to think ‘anagram’ whenver I see the word ‘ground’ in a clue, but still took far too long to work this one out

18 Responses to “Independent 6,811/Scorpion”

  1. nmsindy says:

    ALAN TITCHMARSH I think it may be ASLANT less S (South wind)

  2. C G Rishikesh says:

    Re 4d

    aslant (inclined) minus s (south, wind), ‘dispels’ being deletion indicator?

  3. Pat says:

    Most enjoyable, I thought, and well blogged. I have never seen S for South wind before, and just wondered whether S might be “wind” as in turn, rather than as in what blows

  4. conradcork says:

    Lots of very good surfaces here but 13 across is sheer laugh-aloud brilliance.

    And I appreciated no mention of cheese in the wordplay for 10 across!

  5. rayfolwell says:

    Very enjoyable. The higher than usual number of proper nouns added to the interest.
    14A defeated me though. I’ve never heard of Mr Mondrian and having the first letter of both names unchecked made it tough.

  6. nmsindy says:

    Re comment 3, Pat, I think you may well be right. Scorpion has a very original approach. I, too, found it a hard puzzle, and I’d to go for help with some of the proper names.

  7. Duggie says:

    Re S in 4D: I think Pat’s got it. Collins suggests S is ‘something shaped like an S’, so S = bend = wind? Pushing it a bit maybe, but why quibble with what’s an otherwise brilliant puzzle, full of fun and discovery, and not a full anagram in sight. The vision conjured up by 4D itself was funny enough on its own!

  8. Steve H says:

    What threw me was the questionable use of ‘diphthong’. A dipthong is a phonetic term, and strictly speaking has nothing to do with the ‘ae’ grapheme, although it does get used that way occasionally.

  9. rayfolwell says:

    Chambers has “diphthong – (loosely) a digraph; the ligature ae oe”

  10. Kieron says:

    I travelled to and from France on the You’re-a-star last week. I did it twice, in fact, both times departing from Ashford (the last stop in England before the tunnel, i.e., “the gateway to the continent” as the announcers proudly tell you a million times). And I still didn’t get 11A. Grrrr.

    A nice puzzle, though. I was charmed by 13A and the ticklish 19D. Good work Scorpion, and Al.

    Didn’t like “singer” in 12, if I can add a little gripe. Yes, if the answer were a songbird. But surely there is a more defining feature to parrots than their singing. It threw me anyway. I would have allowed “vocalist”, though, and I think it would have been better all round! I’m obviously brilliant, though.

    Now if only I could clue 20 odd answers a day, with words that perfectly intersect in a rotationally symmetrical grid, and repeat the process over about 1,000 times for decades, I could be a professional setter!

  11. Sara-H says:

    Quite new to the whole crossword thing, so puzzled by skewwhiff – both my OED and online dictionaries all spell this skew-whiff (with hyphen)or even as two distinct words, never as one. Should this be indicated in the clue?
    Appreciate an explanation from all you experienced puzzlers!

  12. nmsindy says:

    Looking at my dicts, Sara-H, it’s given as one word in Collins (2003). While I can’t speak for crossword editors, maybe they’d have gone for this so as not to give too much away.

  13. Ali says:

    Hmmm, Chambers gives it as skew-whiff as well. I never thought twice about it when solving the puzzle. As a rule of thumb, advanced puzzles like Azed and the Listener very rarely if ever indicate hyphenated words (much as I wish they would sometimes!), but daily puzzles usually do, so unless Scorpion and Eimi have a different dictionary to the rest of us, this might be an error.

  14. Ali says:

    Or they might have Collins 2003!

  15. C G Rishikesh says:

    I can’t give an explanation but certainly I can express an opinion.

    Indeed ‘skew-whiff’ is hyphenated in all the dictionaries that I checked.

    I don’t know the origin of the word but it seems to have been made up from two distinct words. And with two consecutive w’s in it, I think it makes sense that the hyphen is there!

    Sometimes online versions of crosswords have strange variations from paper versions. I don’t know if the enumeration appeared as 4-5 in the in-print edition.

  16. eimi says:

    Collins is my weapon of choice in deciding whether a word should be hyphenated, other than in the Beelzebub puzzle where use of Chambers is taken as read. This tends to mean that fewer hyphens are used, which certainly helps when space is at a premium.

  17. Fletch says:

    Before I started doing Indies fairly regularly, I always used to read here that Scorpion was hard. I did my first puzzle of his shortly before Christmas and another couple since and found them reasonably straightforward. This one however was in another league!

  18. davey b says:

    12 ac macaw. Since when did parrots sing?

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