Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7249 (Saturday 9 Jan) – Bannsider

Posted by petebiddlecombe on January 16th, 2010


I found this puzzle very difficult, and gave up unaided solving after 35 minutes with 6 and 18 remaining – I got 6 from a Chambers hunt, but needed a wildcard search for 18. There were plenty of interesting and challenging clues, but one or two which I thought had problems or at least found very difficult – and one (22) which I got wrong.

1/27 ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER – clued by a cryptic def using misleading meanings of “present” and “send”. I suspect some will have guessed the phrase from word lengths and a bit of inspiration, but I needed checking letters which took about half the solving time to arrive – after that there was some good progress though not smooth completion.
9 TEAR GAS – another ingenious CD – an annoying one as I thought of “tear” early on but didn’t see the rest
10 F(AU,XP)AS(t) – XP is clued by “Windows”. I wondered whether this was fair, but I wouldn’t mind something like VW = Golf though it’s officially a VW Golf, and I Windows = Windows XP is much the same.
11 GO=turn,OGLE=stare,W,HACK=journalist – difficult, but quite a relief when “one hit wonder” didn’t mean some obscure pop singer. A Googlewhack is a phrase which gets exactly one hit on Google. “Eduskunta Bannsider” might be a Googlewhack for this page when their “spiders” have reached it
12 BRA = “even [letters] from Aberfan” – “one supplying lift to Bristol” is a nice variation from the fairly routine “support”
13 BOB MAJOR = changes – this fits my limited campanological knowledge, but the Chambers I’m using for this just says, for bob, “a term in bellringing, e.g. bob minor is rung on six bells, bob major on eight [...]” – the word “changes” never quite appears, and “a term in bellringing” isn’t much help. Back at the wordplay, we have O inside (Bye bye = BB from cricket, MAJOR = Prime Minister)
15 (S,N) = team bidding (bridge), OOZE = to escape slowly
17 NEXT TO = almost – OXEN = steers, around TT from TighT, all reversed – one of my favourite clues here as the surface is vey smooth – “Almost steers round the outside of tight turns”
18 PI = first class, RAN = managed, HAS = tricks. Defining piranhas as ‘ “Finnish” strippers’ is devious in a good way, especially when you’ve just been battling with 6D, but I can’t buy {PI = first class} – “pi” is “obtrusively religious, sanctimonious”, which isn’t the same. I wonder whether it started as “very good” – Chambers has good=pious, so {PI= very good} would be hard but fair – I suspect it might still have fooled me. With the first letter unchecked, PI didn’t occur to me as a possibility, and not having seen through the def, I needed the wordplay. Enough moaning already. Correct explanation in comments.
20 WAD(e) – Virginia = Wade rather than VA
21 TROJAN HORSE = (to John’s rear)* – an angram that should have been much easier than it was – arbitrary names in fodder usually give the game away.
24 DURRELL – reverse hidden in “caller rudely”. For younger readers, Gerald Durrell wrote books like “My family and other animals” which were popular in the 60s and 70s, and ran Jersey zoo.
26 LO(LL)OPS – a nice word, well-clued
1 ANTI-G – from first letters of words in clue – I wonder whether there are any other (4-1) possibilities. This unusual feature may have helped to hide the simple wordplay for a while
2 SHADOW = dog, BOXED = in trap
3 NIGEL = Bond taking cue (a snooker player) – and “NI gel” = “agent holding firm in “Belfast” – Bond/agent makes a good surface meaning
4 EASTWOOD – hidden word, and town in Notts, if memory serves
5 AFFRAY – FF = fines (from F on pencils), in A RAY
6 EDUSKUNTA = (UN asked, T,U)* – the single-chamber Finnish parliament, says Chambers, which I had to use to find this answer. Without all the checking letters I couldn’t find a convincing “best guess” to go for unaided.
7/19 TOP DOLLAR = (old portal)* – another anagram which I should have got faster than I did
8 EN = “Lyon’s inside” (i.e. French for inside), S(L)AVERS – good footballing surface
12 BRO(THE (R=Rex) HO. = house)OD
13 BAND = orchestra, WI(D)TH – with=and
16 DI(S)AL,LOW=down – S = “suspicion in West End”, “West end” being the leftmost character – a fiendish first letter indication that provides a large chunk of the surface meaning
22 HALLO – though HULLO and HELLO would also fit “welcome” and the checking letters. The wordplay is “United leaving Old Trafford turf to their fans”. I thought this must be about “Hull 0″ as part of a football score, so put HULLO, but with little confidence. I can’t see how HALLO is arrived at, so help with wordplay gratefully received – just got it – WED = united is deleted from the “hallowed” turf. I should have got that.
23 (t)EASER
25 RIA – a flooded valley and reversal of “air” = breeze

18 Responses to “Independent 7249 (Saturday 9 Jan) – Bannsider”

  1. Fletch says:

    6 and 18 were my stumbling blocks too. Stuck in hospital without any solving aids I was unable to make an educated guess at 6 despite having all bar one crosser. I gave up with 18, unable to see the def. Still, no complaints, it certainly kept me occupied!

  2. nmsindy says:

    I think this is about as hard as the Indy gets, some excellent clues. I also failed with HALLO. Eastwood is the birthplace of DH Lawrence.

  3. Bannsider says:

    Apologies for the sweat and tears this induced. P1 is primary one btw!

  4. anax says:

    Aaaah. I was wondering if PI was a reference to motorsport where P1 means Position 1, i.e. first place.

  5. sidey says:

    Way beyond my abilities.

    Someone said they’d a script to convert Indies to pdfs. Any chance of sharing it please?

  6. petebiddlecombe says:

    “Eduskunta Bannsider” is now a googlewhack.

  7. Bannsider says:

    Fantastic! I hope Dave Gorman is aware of this :-)
    I’m ashamed to say “eduskunta” is a very reliable googlewhack partner …

  8. petebiddlecombe says:

    For those as slow as me (after e-mailing Bannsider), “Primary one” is your first class at school in some parts of the UK.

  9. Allan_C says:

    I was one of those who, as petebiddlecombe suspects, “guessed 1/27 from word lengths and a bit of inspiration” which put me well on the way. Got there in the end with some help from google (eduskunta was almost a googlewhack on its own!) and wildcard searches, and a few clues not understood but the answers couldn’t be anything else. Great stuff, though!

  10. Duggie says:

    I felt quite proud, having finished this in about 90 mins. This was the master at his best, i.e. hardest. And nice to hear HMV explaining what I too thought was a slight liberty with PI. It’s great to see new ways of cooking old chestnuts and it’s not often you get two Finnish clues in one puzzle.

  11. Quixote says:

    I got through this largely through intuition based on years of experience as a solver and setter — and may have even been quicker than Peter. There are two schools of thought about Saturday puzzles. The Telegraph’s approach seems to be to make Saturday’s relatively easy and encourage entrants and hence maybe newspaper circulation. If the Indy’s policy is to make the puzzle so hard that no one buys the paper, it may be succeeding if the declining circulation figures are anything to go by! I hope I’m only being funny, dear eimi — because I for one quite like these near-impossible 15 by 15 challenges once in a while. (Besides which I also work for the Indy and like it as a paper.)

  12. Emrys Williams says:

    For 18ac, I sat and thought for about ten minutes about piranhas. The “ran” looked right but I really couldn’t make the rest of the clue work. Oh, well, at least there is more to learn yet.

    I found eduskunta by clicking through the category of parliaments of Europe in wikipedia. I was so shocked when it fitted the anagram! Did _anyone_ know the word without looking it up? Are there any native Finns who do the Indy crossword?

    Lovely, challening, rewarding puzzle, even if I couldn’t quite finish it. Thank you very much!

  13. Paul B says:

    Shhhurely the tradition – however flimsy it may be these days – is to make weekend (not to mention Bank Holiday) puzzles harder. If not just hard. Twas that way in the Grauniad (bit unpredictable now), what with That Araucaria and his wiles, and Times also is reputed to follow a line of ever-increasing difficulty through the week.

    At least in some puzzles, however hard, the cluemanship will justify solvers’ hard graft.

  14. Quixote says:

    Actually the Saturday puzzles in The Times are not always the hardest, and the crossword editor doesn’t make difficulty the sole criteria. Nor,as you say, are the Saturday Guardian puzzles necessarily the hardest (Araucaria can be relatively easy). I would guess, however, that The Indy goes to the greatest extreme in the Saturday-is-hardest direction. While the setter’s skill may on occasion merit the graft, there is a large body of solvers (underrepresented on our rather nerdy blogs!) who won’t see it that way — do try to meet a few of them!
    Market forces, alas dear chap, market forces!

  15. anax says:

    I’m with Don on this although, as Paul B indicates, the tradition of harder puzzles for the weekend is less rigorously adhered to now than it used to be.

    The editors with whom I’ve corresponded say their choice of Saturday puzzle has more to do with the fact that, generally, more time can be devoted to a weekend solve than a weekday one, so there’s no harm in offering more of a challenge. However, that isn’t based on out-and-out difficulty through obscurity; more, it’s based on the setter’s success in “hiding things in broad daylight” via clever and/or original wordplay and/or definitions.

    My experience of Bannsider’s puzzles is that, on seeing the answers I missed, I kick myself for having not seen through his subterfuge. Very rarely is it a case of “I wouldn’t have got that in a million years”. EDUSKUNTA – no, I wouldn’t have got that, but my lack of knowledge is no yardstick by which to judge whether or not others would have known it.

    As to whether a very tough puzzle has adverse effects, I don’t know. My only observation is that having an array of weekend papers whose crosswords are spread over wide levels of difficulty can only be a good thing in terms of consumer choice.

  16. Quixote says:

    Consumer choice is great to be sure, but expectations for 15 by 15s are not generally the same as those for barred puzzles and we need to be careful. The choice is wonderful at present (never been better!) but beware of 15 by 15s finding too small a market segment! What makes me worry is seeing quite often the names of people I know (or the same names) as prizewinners of 15 by 15s. For maybe different reasons, this is a worry with The Indy on both Saturdays and Sundays!

  17. anax says:

    I feel a poll coming on.

  18. petebiddlecombe says:

    I can see the argument for harder puzzles at the weekend because people can look things up, but I’ve also come across a few people who tell me that they only do crosswords at the weekends. For them, a “hardest on Saturday” policy seems potentially discouraging.

    (The “ever increasing difficulty” has never been a publicly stated policy at the Times. 20-odd years ago there was apparently an “easy starter on a Monday” policy, but the current xwd ed claims not to follow it.)

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