Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7297, Sat 6 March – Nimrod

Posted by petebiddlecombe on March 12th, 2010


This was a fairly easy puzzle for Nimrod, solved in 12 minutes. My first instinct on sight of the grid, with two black corners and big T’s in the middle, was “there must be a theme” – Nimrod was obviously not playing his other game of trying to set a record for the lowest number of answers and/or black squares.

But when solving I was in too much of a hurry to notice the whole thing. I did see two black-something answers plus nightshade and a famous criminal (Ronnie B) suggesting a general air of darkness and criminality. I failed to see that the grid has both halves of “Artful Dodger”, forgot ALI BABA’s forty associates, and noticed Raffles but confused him wrongly with the Singapore hotel, which takes its name from a real, different, and apparently blameless Raffles.

7 V,ILL,ON=at work – Villon is a French poet whose name was about all I know about him. Wikipedia tells me his best known works were written in prison, so he’s part of the theme, not just some obscure bloke filling a space in the grid.
8 ALI(BAB)A – W S Gilbert is “Bab” as in Bab Ballads, and alia as in “inter alia” is “others”
10 B=bishop,LACK=to be without,BEAR=stand,D(iocese) – I remembered from somewhere that pirate Blackbeard‘s surname was Teach
11 F=feminine,ACE
12 NE(L.S.=Lowry)ON – Nelson is a town in Lancs as well as a naval hero – no crime connections I know about. Fortunately someone else does – see comments – this is the first part of BABY FACE NELSON for a full set of thieves in the acrosses
14/20 THE KNAVE OF HEARTS – cryptic def referring to knave=honour from bridge and similar games, and some fictional crime – tart-stealing in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
16 RONNIE BIGGS – BIG in (nose-ring)*. Biggs was released from prison on health-related compassionate grounds last August. His response to doubts about the seriousness of the illness was “”I’ve got a bit of living to do yet. I might even surprise them all by lasting until Christmas, that would be fantastic.” Still with us as far as I know.
22 ARTFUL = (ultra,F=fine)*
23 BA=scholar,BY=in reserve – as in “put one by for me” to a shopkeeper
25 PRO=for,ME=Maine,THE US = USA – “bound or unbound” refers to Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, based in turn on Prometheus Bound, attributed to Aeschylus. Thematic as <>a href=””>he stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals.
28 RAF=service,FLES = rev. of self=personality – another fictional criminal
29 DO(D.G.)ER – the BBC is run by a Director General
1 FI = rev. of if,ELDER=tree – “extra cover” being a cricket fielder
2 BLACK’S = Boycott’s,TONE=accent – Tessa / Baroness Blackstone – a “dark-eyed evil genius” with a brother convicted of insider trading in 2003, so possibly thematic, possibly another case of “serendipity strikes again”.
3 SNOB – hidden in “is no baby” after replacing ’23’ by the answer to that clue – a snob is a cobbler as well as someone craving upper-class connections
4 RAJA = rev. of ajar=open
5 RIDDLE – 2 defs
6 N,A,IF=”Kipling’s output” – he wrote the poem of that name
13 NUN=”none”
14 (s)TRESS
15 NIGHTSHADE = (dashing, the)* – thematic if we’re associating darkness with criminality.
17 ITA – hidden twice (hence “repeatedly”) in “irritation hospital’s”
18 AFFAIR = raffia*
19 SUTURED – (D,uterus)* – minor quibble here, as there’s nothing to indicate that D=daughter is part of the anagram fodder rather than somethiing in front of uterus*. That said, with the two Us nailed down from checking letters, the right answer is hard to miss
21 RIPPLE – riddle with old pence converted to new ones
24 YAFF – never heard of this “Scottish scold” but it has to be – another hidden word after cross-ref replacement. Chambers tells me it’s scold (vb.)
26 OUSE = O USE = “no use” – the “chocolate teapot” version of the expression in the clue is more familiar to me but clearly has the same meaning
27 EDDY – I assume from “current motion” – with my feeble popular music knowledge, Eddy Grant was new to me (and I hasten to add, has no criminal record as far as I can tell).

9 Responses to “Independent 7297, Sat 6 March – Nimrod”

  1. jmac says:

    All the across clues refer to thieves -BABY FACE NELSON supplying the final one. I found this very entertaining although it took me much longer to sove than 12 minutes. I also didn’t spot the theme until after I had finished, but I don’t think that impaired my solving.

  2. petebiddlecombe says:

    Well spotted – some more editing for me ….

  3. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Pete, is it pushing the theme too much to suggest that all the across clues after the first – VILLON – are villains?

    Couldn’t finish this one but enjoyed the bits I did manage.

  4. petebiddlecombe says:

    I think you’re in the serendipity zone now (i.e. more theme than the setter intended) – partly as the Fr. pronunciation must be “vee-yon” with nasalised N. Cue message from Nimrod stating otherwise …

    Ina similar vein, I like the fact that we have a link to an FT puzzle by “Sleuth” on this page.

  5. jmac says:

    K’sD, Although Prometheus committed an act of theft, from a human perspective he would have to be considered a benefactor rather than a villain.

  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Ah well, that’s what cryptic thinking does for you – trying to find things that aren’t there. Not a useful habit in real life, obviously.

  7. Jake says:

    12 mins.

    Thats a fantastic time. I had managed a few clues down the bottom of the grid
    and really did not like this puzzle.

    12 mins mr Biddlecombe, fantastic….

    My hat off to you sir.

  8. sidey says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this despite missing the theme. Villon does seem to have had more than most people’s encounters with the law [Google Timeline]

  9. nmsindy says:

    I enjoyed this puzzle a lot also tho missing the theme in its fullness.

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