Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7321, Sat 3 April – Merlin

Posted by petebiddlecombe on April 9th, 2010


One of those grids that tells you there must be a theme – more black squares round the edge than usual, and a pair of black zigzags in the middle.

It took a while to twig what was going on after solving – the perimeter unches don’t spell out a message, and at 25 down, my initial thought was “eras? – but the thematic elements are fonts”. It was only when checking the fonts for this report and realising there were more than I thought, that I remembered that Eras is a font. As there are hundreds of fonts around, it’s not difficult for a setter to put a good collection into a puzzle, but Merlin took a more difficult option. If you’ve got the latest edition of Chambers, the first page for each letter of the alphabet has an alphabet in a font whose name begins with that letter of the alphabet. All the fonts included by Merlin have one of these names.

A moderately difficult puzzle which you could probably solve without spotting the theme at all, though you’d feel from the 25D clue that you were missing something.

Later note: there’s potentially more theme content – althought they’re not among the Chambers illustrated fonts, Google searches found me fonts called Afghan, Capital, Garbo, Grendel, and Lipstick. Including the ones where the names differ from dictionary entries by a single letter, that’s a total of 16.

7 HOM(1,C.I.D.)E
8 A,F(G,H)AN – afghan being a type of heroin in the drug-crazed world of crossword setters
10 ROLLS – 2 defs
11 HELVE = handle, TIC(k) – Merlin is also strict enough to insist on grid entries that are words in the dictionary, so this as close as we can get to Helvetica
12 Y=yards,EARL=one highly bred,IN,G=acceleration – Yearling is our next font
14 LYDIAN = (lady in)* and another font
15 BASKERVILLE = (several bilk)* – Conan Doyle murder victim and font – which has an entry in Chambers. It’s frankly ludicrous that Arial, Courier and Helvetica don’t.
20 QUORUM – hidden word and font
22 OPTIONAL – made by removing “era”=”one of 25″ from OPERATIONAL
24 UNIVERSE = (in revues)* and one letter away from another font – Univers
26 ROT = bull, IS – rotis are Indian breads and Rotis is another font
27 JENSON = SO in JENN(y) and another font
1 CO., URI (Geller) = bender,ER = ‘little hesitation’ – another font, of course. Though one of the first things I do with any Windows application using a monospaced font is to replace Courier with the much clearer Lucida Console, which resembles a typewriter’s letters only as much as it needs to.
2 MIL(L)ER – we’ve had nothing else starting with M yet, so no surprise that it’s another font
3 LIPSTICK – dipstick = fool, with L = a pound replacing d=an old penny.
4 M,ESH = (he’s)*
5 HALLAL = reversal of L,Allah
6 C(A PIT)AL – not a font, but font-related
9 GRENDEL – REND = tear in rev. of LEG=limb
13 GARB=costume,O=Oscar (radio alphabet) – there is no Garbo (or Grendel) font listed in Chambers.
16 ARRIVES = (raver is)*
17 INTER (Milan) = ‘Italian team’,V.= versus = against,A(rsena)L – not a font, the I one being ‘Isbell’
18 TUR(N=née=born)KEY
21 MAR(1)NE
23 OPT,1,M.A. – another font
25 ERAS = times – our final font, with a clue that should help you to see what’s going on.

3 Responses to “Independent 7321, Sat 3 April – Merlin”

  1. flashling says:

    Good grief, my ex wife was a typographer and I was exposed to these all the time. Hangs head in shame in not spotting it. Phil

  2. nmsindy says:

    I knew there had to be something more to this, esp, as you say, from the clue to 25D. I did not see it though I tried hard, but still solved the puzzle correctly. The one other clue I did not understand was YEARLING which you have explained, Peter, thanks. “A moderately difficult puzzle which you could probably solve without spotting the theme at all, though you’d feel from the 25D clue that you were missing something” – that describes it exactly as I found it, Peter. I very much enjoyed it all as indeed I was pleased to meet Merlin for the first time at the recent annual Listener dinner in Chepstow.

  3. Simon Harris says:

    That one sentence exactly describes my solving experience too. I’ll dig the grid out of the recycling in the morning to appreciate it anew!

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