Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 13,370 / Neo

Posted by Agentzero on April 27th, 2010


Another collection of devious clues from Neo.  I am unfortunately stumped on two of them; I am sure help will be forthcoming shortly.  And it was, from Rishi (inside two minutes!) and Eileen.  Corrections are below.

10 CHAIR H[otel] in CAIR[o] (African capital)
11 MR CLEAN RC (Popish) L (line) in MEAN (cruel)
12 RUMBLED UMBLE (Uriah Heep was this) in R[oa]D (small way).  Anyone else remember the rock band named after the Dickens character and their album “Very “eavy, Very ‘umble”?
13 VIA A IV (4) reversed
14 TRISYLLABLE *(BY LEAR STILL).  Took me a little while to figure out what could be defined by “humorous as an example.”
17 PITON P[rivate] + IT (sex appeal) ON (leg, in cricket)
18 TOE  “Member of some standing” is the definition and after that I am lost and the subsidiary indication is TOPE (drink heavily) minus P[enny] (“money goes”).
19 VALET ALE (beer) in VT (Vermont)
21 ISAAC NEWTON I (one) + ACNE (spots) in *(TOWN AS).  Nicely defined as “lawmaker.”
23 NAP PAN (horny god) reversed
25 OFFICER Reverse anagram: OFF “ICER” could be ERIC
27 COWSLIP COW (woman, unpleasant) SLIP (fault)
28 ELITE hidden in thE LITErati
29 MENAGERIE N (new) in *(GAME) + ERIE (the lake)
1 ASIMOV AS (like) I (self) MOV[e] (change position with E (drugs) removed)
2 PIE CHART PIE (confused type) CHAR (daily, as in daily help) T (Telegraph leader)
3 SUPERTONIC SUPER (marvellous) TONIC (shot in the arm).  A supertonic is one full step above the tonic: as re is to do, for example.
4 BARN BA (British planes) RN (ships)
6 SCUM SCRUM (riotous struggle) without R (queen)
7 GAY LIB A (one) Y (year) in GLIB (smooth)
8 GRADIENT *(RED GIANT) This misled me for a while; “steps up – or down” had me looking for something to be reversed
17 PRISONER PR (proportional representation) IS ONE R[ight]
20 LANDLORD AND (also) in DROLL (comical) reversed
22 AFFAIR A F-FAIR Can’t say that I’m a fan of “stuttering” clues
24 POPPET PP (very quietly) in POET ([Andrew] [M]otion, say).  I do not have a problem with capitalizing a word not normally capitalized in order to make it appear to be a proper name and thereby mislead the solver.  However, I am not sure it is kosher to de-capitalize a proper name
26 CREW This is the other clue that defeated me.  I think the definition is “team.”  “Gave shrill cry” may indicate a homophone but I cannot see it dd; “crew” is past tense of “crow” (“gave shrill cry”).
27 CANE Homophone of CAIN (first killer).  “Caught,” in the sense of “heard,” is the homophone indicator

23 Responses to “Financial Times 13,370 / Neo”

  1. Rishi says:

    crew – past tense of crow (utter a shrill cry)?

  2. Agentzero says:

    That didn’t take long, Rishi!

    You are right: Collins gives it as an alternative to “crowed.”

  3. Eileen says:

    Hi Agentzero

    18ac: TOPE [drink heavily] minus P[enny].

    I had the same reserrvations about ‘Motion’.

  4. Rishi says:

    I think it’s TOE.
    P (penny, money) deleted from TOPE (drink heavily).
    Member of some standing – the big toe or the little toe, part of the foot (forgetting other members of our body)

  5. Rishi says:

    Point taken about decapitalisation of motion. But when we utter the name of a person, capitalisation of any letter is of no consequence. So would the setter’s use of ‘say’ be considered an extenuating circumstance?

  6. Eileen says:

    I did think of that, Rishi, but thought the ‘say’ was needed for Motion as an example of a poet. The decapitalistion is certainly not Ximenean – but neither is Neo! :-)

  7. JamesM says:

    Thank you for the blog Agentzero. I think that this puzzle must have been pretty hard to understand fully and therefore to blog. Well done.

    Everyone (well Rishi and Eileen anyway) gives the impression that this was a walk in the park. I thought that it fully tested GK and was a thorough work-out!

  8. Eileen says:


    I’m very sorry for giving that impression [I’m not sure how!]. I was too ready to give Agentzero an explanation and so didn’t dwell on the puzzle.

    This was by no means a walk in the park – except that I found it very enjoyable!

    There was inventive cluing, as we would expect, and some amusing story-telling: I particularly liked 11, 13, 14, 21, 23, 25ac and 1, 6, 8 dn. 20dn deserves a special mention, I think, because there are so many much more banal ways it could have been clued.

    [Forgetting about Heep, I first thought of HITTITE for 12ac – but, of course, couldn’t justify it!]

  9. walruss says:

    This one presented more of a challnege than today’s Guardian, I am pleased to say, with a lot of invention as Agentzero says. I felt it was operating at a different level. One of the best for me is the BA and RN split for 4 down, that was nicely done. Only the one flaw with that ‘motion’ usage.

  10. Neo. says:

    Many thanks for the kind comments, and for the excellent blog.

    Whilst putting in the odd dodgy clue seems to be a good way to get more comments around these parts, I’m afraid I can’t lay claim to any such clever strategic thoughts. Rather I agree with other contributors, and would never knowingly remove capitalisation from a proper noun. Accordingly, the clue originally submitted for POPPET was:

    Small child very quietly strangled by Morpurgo say

    … with the gag being that Morpurgo is a recent Children’s Laureate.


  11. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Neo – odd that that was changed, then: it makes an even better story-telling clue!

  12. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I am a bit low profile recently in these places, mainly because there seems to be more discussion on airplanes, ships and constellations (well, in the Guardian section) than on the crosswords as such.

    But this one deserves to get Three Hurrays, for indeed some very inventive clueing.
    Especially liked the unusual definition of 14ac (TRISYLLABLE), the use of ‘letter’ in 20d, the ‘cow’ in 27ac (even though I am far from a sexist), the fine 1d, the ‘b-blonde’ in AFFAIRS, the great definition of PIE CHART and the nicely misleading use of ‘caught’ as the homophone indicator in 27d.
    Oh, and the reverse anagram of 25ac: great.
    I think, that’s quite a lot altogether!

    We had the same mini-problem with ‘motion’ as others, while my PinC was annoyed by the lack of a comma between ‘motion’ and ‘say’.

    Only clue that we found really weak was LIVING WAGE (16d).
    But then the territory of cryptic definitions is like a minefield.
    We thought Neo is so good at other devices, he could leave cd’s out.

    Hence, Great Stuff – and as far as I am concerned for the third time in a row [did my first Neo last February].
    And good to see the well-deserved admiration for it today!
    [first Alberich, then anax/Loroso and here’s candidate #3 for The Guardian]

  13. Agentzero says:

    Thanks, Neo, for stopping by, as always. I didn’t think “motion” seemed like you! Did the editor think Morpurgo too obscure, I wonder.

  14. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Too obscure, well maybe – but probably too rude as well.
    But I like it, these kind of story-telling clues.
    And from a TOV there would be a capitalised M in Neo’s original clue: ++.
    Hard job, crossword editor.
    IMHO, they shouldn’t be allowed to edit clues on content.
    [I know, the person is called an ‘editor’, but crossword compilers are creative people and you can’t just slaughter their brainchildren for other reasons than ‘admin’ ones and correcting ‘mistakes’ (like twice in recent Mudds – that is, the FT editor forgot to correct it), but apparently they do].

  15. Sil van den Hoek says:

    TOV should be TPOV (P being Point)
    Sorry Mr Editor …

  16. eimi says:

    In defence of my fellow crossword editor, and with due deference to the excellent Neo, I can see why the original clue was rejected, as it would have been if Tees submitted it in an Indy puzzle. Paul himself has been unhappy about a setter in another place and his lighthearted references to subjects such as terminal cancer. I have to view infanticide and child cruelty in the same category and editors have to consider matters of taste as well as accuracy.

  17. eimi says:

    Oops, that will that teach me to comment without reading the crossword first. I still wouldn’t have passed the original clue though – Mr Morpurgo’s lawyers might have had something to say too.

  18. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, eimi, that’s fair enough.
    The original clue is, of course, rather cruel (even distasteful) and indeed, people might be offended by it.
    [but I can’t help finding it an appealing clue purely from a crossword point of view – not from the point of view of finding the image of Mr Morpurgo strangling children attractive]

    But then, the revised clue refers to another poet (Andrew Motion) which still might be lacking taste.
    Or is this the reason that the FT editor wrote ‘motion’ in lower case? As a kind of compensation for that.

    And if a clue is rejected on its content, wouldn’t it be a better idea to hand it back to the setter, asking him to write (instantly) a more appropriate alternative? In which case it would still be completely the setter’s brainchild [singular, this time … :)].
    Or is this what normally would happen? I am just curious.

    But as I said, I do fully understand the reason for rejecting 24d.

  19. eimi says:

    Hi Sil

    You’re correct and that’s what I would normally try to do in such a situation. As I was discussing with one of the setters the other day, it’s amazing how many of the clues picked out in the blogs as people’s favourites are those which have been returned to the setter for amendment.

  20. Agentzero says:

    It’s fascinating to hear about the politics of referencing real persons in a clue.

    Maybe the solution would have been to use a dead poet (“strangled by Dante, say”). Would the fact that Dante is also the pseudonym of a co-setter have made it better or worse?

  21. Neo says:

    Whilst taking on board comments above, made largely by persons far wiser than myself, I would ask people to consider whether or not there is at least a subtle difference ‘tween having a bit of a play – esp in light of Afrit’s Injunction – in SI, and plastering, or (from an editor’s POV) allowing someone else to plaster e.g. TERMINAL CANCER all over the grid.

    In any case, strangulation (despite what Collins says) is not necessarily fatal, as perchance our rubber-clad brothers and sisters may joyfully attest. You know who you are.

  22. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Paul, I am surely not one of those far wiser than you, and certainly not in Crypticland, and just like I can see the editor’s POV to reject some clues, there is the other side of me that says: “My God, it’s only a crossword clue”.
    If I read the first part of your post well, you say that it’s just fun to play with the naughty (and perhaps, slightly provocative) surface of the clue, in which Morpurgo was only used for thát purpose, and in which the living person with the name Morpurgo [certainly a nice child-friendly man] is not ridiculised or even worse, accused of whatever form of malpractice.
    If I have to read it like that, I agree with you.
    It might even be that Mr Morpurgo himself finds it trisyllable, say.
    As I (twice) said before, I find the original clue appealing and one that makes one smile – even if it’s from a editor’s POV unacceptable.
    Maybe it’s because I come from a more “liberal” country, but I sometimes find people here a little too sensitive in this respect, at times even somewhat scared.
    [while at the same time the tabloids break into people’s life in a damaging way, day after day after day – compared to which the case Mr M is quite harmless, IMHO].

    All the same, I found eimi’s words above, seen from his perspective, reasonable.
    In the end, it’s all about where one draws the line between good and bad.
    I agree, that your “terminal cancer” example is quite unlike the “strangling” clue, but then different people have different perceptions.
    I think a clue can be ‘distasteful’ and fun at the same time, in which case it is just a matter of what’s more important. And whether the intention of the clue is to cause damage or not.
    [recent clues on Gordon Ramsay, Graham Norton [one that I found so-so], Simon Cowell and Jonathan Ross’s speech were not filtered out]

    In the meantime, while having this IMHO interesting mini-discussion, we shouldn’t forget that the crossword of which 24d was only a tiny little part, was a delight!

  23. Neo says:

    Cripes Sil, you must have long legs. I wish I could come down on both sides of the fence like that!

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