Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 6863/Morph – Little Pigs

Posted by John on October 14th, 2008


This little pig went to market,
This little pig stayed at home,
This little pig had roast beef,
This little pig had none,
And this little pig cried, Wee-wee-wee-wee-wee, I can’t find my way home
(The Famous Tommy Thumb’s Little Story Book (c. 1760))

Not the exact words that I remember, but the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is probably more reliable than my own vague memory. One needs to have this verse at one’s 4acs as one solves this puzzle. Morph does well to fit in so many thematic answers.

1 EDGE — ‘edge, and I suppose a reference to the current crisis, since 12 is MARKET
4 FINGERTIP — (fringe)* tip
9 UGLIER — rug lie with r(ight) moved to the back — excellent clue
10 REDOUBLE — bridge term, re do(UB)le — UB doesn’t seem to be an abbreviation on its own, but in UB40 it is
11 TOERAG — not sure about this: parents recite the rhyme to small children as they tweak the children’s toes, and a rag can go round toes, but it all seems a bit vague
12 M(ARK)ET — ref. line 1
14 ALL THE SAME — 2 defs
15 HEEL — 2 defs
16 H(OM)E — ref. line 2
17 CRO(I(nsult))SS ANTS — ref. ‘Let them eat cake’
19 PIG OUT — but I don’t understand ‘like third or first’
21 WEE-WEE — ref. line 5, although in my version it should be ‘two-fifths of the way home’. No doubt Morph is using a different one
22 ATTEND TO — at ten (dot)* — lovely clue
24 INTROS — in (sort)rev.
25 ROAST BEEF — t in (as before)*, ref. line 3
26 R(U)ED — although I don’t like this: ‘red’ doesn’t mean ‘debt’, even though ‘in the red’ means ‘in debt'; the COD comes closest to what is needed, giving ‘the red’ as ‘the situation of having spent more than is in one’s bank account’, but ‘the red’ isn’t simply ‘red’
2 DIGITAL COMPUTER — (product age limit)*, ref. the whole verse
5 N(ER)O — nice &lit.
6 END GAME — another nice clue, ref. chess
7 TRUNK — 2 defs
8 PULL THE OTHER ONE — ref. the whole verse; ‘get out of here’ doesn’t seem to be in the dictionaries, but one can imagine one being used to mean the other on EastEnders
13 BA CON — ref. the whole verse
15 HEEL — 2 defs
17 CO(U)LD N(u)T — I think this is the explanation
18 SHERIFF — (h (fire)rev.) in SF
20 GRETA — great with at reversed; presumably if one is being familiar with Garbo one calls her Greta
22 NONE — “nun” — ref. line 4

18 Responses to “Independent 6863/Morph – Little Pigs”

  1. Paul B says:

    Like your ‘Simply Red’ gag, John – first rate.

    And perhaps, with the U actually being in RED, something like ‘owing’ would have worked more neatly? Or ‘victim of crunch’?

    But Greta … sorry, great puzzle, with super clues and a feat of griddling on a par with the mighty Radian.

  2. Eileen says:

    Goodness, these little pigs get about: they’re in the Guardian, too!

    19ac: suggestion: the third little pig has roast beef, i.e. pigs out and the first goes to market, so is a pig out, unlike two, who stays at home.
    My version is “cried ‘wee, wee, wee’ all the way home.”

  3. Geoff Moss says:

    19a “but I don’t understand ‘like third or first’”

    The first pig went to market so he was out (pig out). The third pig had roast beef so he was pigging out.

    11a Chambers gives the probable derivation of ‘toerag’ as coming from the strips of rag used by tramps to wrap round their toes in place of socks which fits in with the clue.

  4. nmsindy says:

    Tough, an excellent themed puzzle with some great clues e.g. NERO, HOME, BACON. When theme became apparent, had to go to Wikipedia to refresh very ancient memory.

  5. Quixote says:

    This was a very easy Morph for me, but with a pleasing idea — and a really beautiful clue for NERO (why didn’t I think of thet?). However, I really don’t like the subnormal checking in BACON. But I fear that less than 50% checking is something we seem to have to endure with all these thematics. The compensation is that the themes /ninas often make the puzzles much easier, often by adding in effect a third form of indication.

  6. Paul B says:

    I expect Morph is glad indeed he’s managed to please you Don, but you point to the one light with more unches than not out of 30-odd – is that really such a big problem for us? Do we genuinely ‘endure’ such a minor aberration? I didn’t notice, I must confess! And with the clue for BACON so amenable …

    And is it really ‘all these thematics’ (Independent ones?) that so brutally besmirch our solving experience? Again, I must be pretty thick-skinned cos I haven’t had too much trouble.

  7. Quixote says:

    In reply: Well, I am not the first to be unhappy about _A_O_ though I confess I did once use a grid with such an aberration to pay a centenary tribute to my father in the Daily Telegraph.

    Of course I don’t think thematics ‘besmirch’ our solving experience, but I think our crossword editor probably likes to have more of them than I do — and I fully respect that. Eimi is a first-class crossword editor doing a great job — he has saved my blushes in the IOS on a number of occasions! As I have already said, if you are on the lookout for themes and ninas they can sometimes make the puzzle almost too easy. I also think that in some cases themed puzzles have diagrams that are only on the edge of acceptability.

    These are general observations, and of course you are quite entitled to think that I am talking a lot of nonsense! In general I prefer not to comment on my colleagues’ puzzles, but the ease with which I happened to sail through this one reminded me of some points I’d wanted to make for a while. And this seems to be the right forum for an intelligent discussion.

  8. Paul B says:

    I’m am sure you are quite at liberty to disagree with the editor on these points. Perhaps luckily I do not share your reservations, and always love to see the variety of ideas and presentations for which the Independent daily puzzle has in recent times become known. I do not feel that the grids used in such artistic efforts are necessarily all that odd, and some seem most elegant.

    There we are. Horses for courses, as they say in places that serve horsemeat. But let me say in closing that I was glad, as I’m sure others will have been, to hear about your own puzzle, a ‘Centenary Tribute’, in which you accommodated – by your own standards – an inappropriate light.

  9. Fletch says:

    Regarding Ninas, I have noticed on occasion that an unnecessarily obscure word is used to accommodate one.

  10. Paul B says:

    I’ m assuming you mean that, on these occasions, an alternative, less obscure word could have been used. Oui?

  11. Fletch says:

    Yes, sometimes I think the desire to incorporate a Nina can take over to the detriment of the puzzle as a whole, forcing the use of obscure words. You can get to a stage in solving where you’ve not yet spotted the Nina but think, hang on, this looks like an unusual word – aha, I bet that’s been chosen to accommodate a Nina.

  12. Paul B says:

    Aha – I did misunderstand you, as should be clear.

    You may well be right, but I think a decent daily compiler will struggle like a drowning cat to get away from obscurity, if it is at all possible, where a Nina is to be accommodated.

    Shame on those incredibly naughty compilers, who would put a word of extreme darkness into their un-Nina’d puzzle just for the nonce.

  13. John says:

    I’m with Don on subnormal checking — I don’t like it (there’s a grid that The Telegraph often uses which has several 40% words). But when Ximenes made his pronouncement he was surely referring to straight cryptics. It seems to me that if there’s a Nina and so something extra there, which gives added help and makes up for the fact that an answer is subnormally checked, then that’s OK.

  14. Quixote says:

    I think that’s right, John — but of course Mr Man in the Street may not know about ninas like we do, so isn’t on the lookout and for him the checking may still be unfair. This unfairness applied to my own indulgent centenary puzzle. I do think we are allowed indulgences occasionally, but maybe (just maybe) the nina indulgence is in danger of being overdone. Time for me to shut up!

  15. Mick H says:

    Thanks for the blog, John, and all the comments. Re 21ac, I’ve always thought of it as ‘wee-wee-wee’ but I suppose you could have five wees and the rhyme would still scan.
    As for 13dn, I’m not a great fan of 3/5 unching, and groan if I see a regular grid in which such patterns predominate. In the case of this one word, I made the clue easier at the suggestion of my editor to compensate for the _A_O_ pattern.

  16. Allan_C says:

    I wasn’t all that sure about 8dn. To me it refers to leg-pulling. Someone tells you something you don’t believe, i.e. you think it’s a leg-pull and you invite them to pull the other one. I don’t think “get out of here” is exactly synonymous with that. But an enjoyable puzzle and I twigged the nina fairly quickly. (Why is it called a nina, by the way – is it an acronym for something?)

  17. Mick h says:

    Strictly I wouldn’t use ‘nina’ to describe this kind of explicit theme, which plays a part in the solution. A nina is an extra message spelt in the grid somewhere, or a thematic link between various words in the grid (e.g. the four seasons recently). I think what marks out a nina is that it’s possible to complete the whole puzzle satisfactorily without ever tumbling the theme (I often don’t get it until I read these pages). It’s a little added pleasure for the setter and those solvers who find it.
    For explanation of how Al Hirschfield started it, see this earlier discussion (comments 7 on) and link provided there:

  18. Paul B says:

    No. Al Hirschfeld would hide the name of his daughter – Nina – in many of his cartoons.

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