Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 13,378 / Phssthpok

Posted by Gaufrid on May 6th, 2010


This is now two tricky ones in a row. Whereas yesterday’s puzzle was hard(ish) but fair, today’s was made more difficult by some decidedly dodgy clues. I may appear to be a little harsh in my observations that follow but I do believe that it should be possible to verify all parts of a clue (wordplay and answer) in one of the three usual references (Chambers, Collins or COED) and that the correct parts of speech should be observed. I’m afraid that I found this puzzle lacking in both respects.

I am more than happy for some liberties to be taken in clues if it improves the surface reading but in this puzzle the surface of several clues made little, if any, sense.

Having said all that, I will be more than happy if someone can correct me if I have misinterpreted a clue, or failed to correctly identify the meaning of certain words, so that I can amend the blog to remove any unjustified criticism.

1 FORTUNE COOKIES  FOR COOKIE (computer file) in TUNES (music)
10 APPLY  cd&d – a repeat of yesterday’s non-existent adjectival form of apple.
11 CARPETBAG  CAR (wheels) TBA (to be added) in PEG (label) – I assume this is the intended parsing but I am not happy with ‘car’ being clued by ‘wheels’ (OK, you can say “Have you got wheels?” meaning ‘have you got a car’ but not ‘have you got car’). TBA is not given as ‘to be added’ in any of the usual references, Chambers has “to be advised or announced”, Collins “to be arranged” and COED ” to be announced or arranged”. Presumably ‘peg’ is being used in the sense of ‘to mark with a peg’ which could just about be ‘to label’ but it is a little loose for my liking.
12 PARVENU  *(UP V NEAR) – no indication for reducing ‘very’ to V in the anagram fodder though it is an abbreviation given in Chambers.
13 DESCENT  [incan]DESCENT (burning with ‘of native people’ lost)
14 SWORD  SW OR D – again this is an assumption, ‘sword’ can mean war which is combat and SW is a direction (one way) as is D.
16 NUTMEGGED  NUT (crazy) M[an] EGGED (urged) – this is a football term with which I was not familiar. Apparently ‘nutmeg’ means to kick the ball between the opponents legs. There is a flaw in this clue in that ‘man’ needs to be used twice since ‘nut’ can mean a crazy person but ‘crazy’ on its own would equate with ‘nuts’ or ‘nutty’.  Edit: ‘nut’ and ‘crazy’ both mean ‘a crazy person’. Thanks mike04 for putting me straight, I was not aware that ‘crazy’ could be a noun.
19 EYEBALLED  homophone of I (compiler) bawled (wept)
20 TROPE  T (time) ROPE (painter) – how many people spent some time trying to think of an artist with a four-letter name?
22 CRINGED  NG (no good) in CRIED (screamed) – what is ‘before’ doing in this clue and shouldn’t ‘invasion’ be ‘invading’?
25 LAMBENT  LA (the French) MBE (award) NT (a Bible) – the New Testament (abbreviation NT) is the second part of the Christian Bible, not ‘a Bible’, and ‘lambent does not mean ‘bright’ or ‘being bright’. It is just the opposite, “softly radiant, glowing or (esp of wit) light and brilliant” (Chambers). Here ‘brilliant’ is being used in the sense of ‘sparkling’, not ‘superlatively bright’. Or as Collins defines ‘lambent’, “flickering softly over a surface; glowing with a soft radiance”.
27 MELODRAMA  *(OLDER) in MAMA – ‘is getting’ as an insertion indicator?
28 GORGE  G[astrointestinal] in GORE (gut) – one of the definitions of ‘gorge’ is ‘throat’ which of course leads to the oesophagus (gullet) but I can find no support whatsoever for gut=gore in any of the usual references.

3 THYME  THY (you) ME
4 NOCTURNAL  NOCT (homophone of knocked {smacked}) URN (vase) AL (gangster) – a reference to Al Capone.
5 CURED  dd
6 OVERSPENT  OVERS (some cricket) PENT (held up) – but ‘pent’ means ‘held in’ not ‘held up’ (or even just ‘held’ in which case the ‘up’ is redundant).
7 IMBUE  I’M (I am) B[l]UE (depressed when left out)
8 SIGHTED  homophone of ‘cited’ (quoted)
9 CAMPUS  MP (politician) in CAUS[e] (detailed motive)
15 DRAGGED ON  RAGGED (worn to shreds) in DON (put on clothes) – where is the insertion indicator? Is ‘worn’ intended to do double duty? In which case it should be ‘wearing’ but this would indicate ‘don’ in ‘ragged’ not the other way around.  Edit: ‘clothes’ is the insertion indicator. Thanks mike04 for jogging my memory.
18 GEOMETRIC  E (Europe) in GO METRIC (convert from imperial measurements) – ‘geometric’ does not equate with ‘studying figures’, it’s the wrong part of speech for a start!
21 ENTRÉE  EN (measure) TREE (woody shrub) – normally an ‘entrée’ would be considered to be a starter or a course between say the fish course and the main course but Chambers confirms that it can also be the main course itself. However, is it right to clue ‘tree’ as ‘woody shrub’ since Chambers defines ‘shrub’ as “a low woody plant smaller than a tree, a bush, esp one with little or no trunk” and Collins defines ‘tree’ as “any large woody perennial plant with a distinct trunk giving rise to branches or leaves at some distance from the ground”?
23 IGLOO  GI (soldier) reversed LOO (smallest room)
24 DEALT  D[r]E[w] A[s] L[o]T[s] – this is intended as an &lit but ‘to deal’ is simply to distribute or apportion cards where as ‘draw lots’ is defined as “(of two or more people) to draw from a set of different but unseen or superficially indistinguishable objects as a means of singling out one person” (Chambers).
26 MOGUL  MO (doctor) GUL[ped] (swallowed half)

8 Responses to “Financial Times 13,378 / Phssthpok”

  1. mike04 says:

    Gaufrid, many thanks. This crossword must have been very difficult to blog!
    I would agree with most of your observations.

    16ac: ‘crazy n (inf) a crazy person’ is given in Chambers.
    15dn: I think ‘clothes’ is the insertion indicator, with ‘don’ meaning ‘to put on’.

  2. Gaufrid says:

    Hi mike04
    Thanks for that. With all the other checking I did I didn’t think to look to see if ‘crazy’ could be a noun. When solving I parsed 15dn as you have done but by the time I came to write about this clue in the blog I completely forgot about clothes being the insertion indicator (my brain was becoming a little addled by then!). I will amend the post accordingly.

  3. mike04 says:


    11ac: TBA (To Be Added) can be found in on line.

    14ac: Did you mean D(Down) for the other way?

    22ac: I read the subsidiary indication as meaning ‘before an invasion of NG, we have a word for screamed’.
    (This may be much the same as your interpretation).

  4. Gaufrid says:

    Hi again mike04
    11ac That is as maybe but it is not a recognised reference for UK puzzles.

    14ac Yes, I was thinking of D=down but I now see that this abbreviation is not included in Chambers, Collins or COED so another quibble. In fact there doesn’t appear to be an abbreviation for down.

    22ac I see what you are trying to get at but I still don’t think it works (at least not for me). It might just have done if the clue had been “Before no good invasion screamed and after recoiled”.

  5. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Gaufrid. I understand your frustration with the apparent sloppiness with many of the clues but I think many are legitimate in some acceptable context.
    11ac – Those are ‘my wheels’ = ‘my car’
    TBA – I think PHSSTHPOK (what sort of name is that?) should have used ‘to be advised’ but To Be Added is a common misreading of TBA and will probably be in the next edition of Chambers.
    22ac – I agree with mike04. Before the invasion of ‘no good’ it was a word meaning screamed and (now) it is a word meaning recoiled. I have seen many dodgier surfaces than that.
    28ac – Gutted in its literal meaning has a sense of the extreme of gored, as in by a bull.
    3dn – I think thy is the old form of your with thou meaning you. I suppose I can accept ‘for you’ as thy.
    18dn – With geometric used as an adjective to describe “pertaining to geometry”, then ‘studying figures’ is close enough for me (M.Sc. Mathematics, 1974). ‘Figure-studying’ would be better but doesn’t read so well.
    21dn – Like it or not, most of the English-speaking world now calls a main course the entree. Ludicrous I know, given the origin of the word, but stripped of its acute accent, it has become a porterhouse steak. And how else would you describe a tree without using the word ‘tree’?

  6. Paul B says:

    Er …:

    The first half of the book follows the path of a Pak named Phssthpok who has travelled from the Pak homeworld in search of a colony of Pak in the distant system of Sol (our solar system). Upon his arrival, he captures a Belter (a worker from the asteroid belt) named Jack Brennan, who is infected by Phssthpok’s store of tree-of-life root and is transformed into a protector (or at least a human variant). They land on Mars where Brennan kills Phssthpok and is rescued by two humans, Nick Sohl and Lucas Garner, who had set out to meet the alien. The first half of the novel ends with Brennan telling his story to the humans before he heads for the outer reaches of the solar system.

    That’s the sort of name it is.

  7. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Tokyo Colin
    I appreciate your defence of this puzzle but cannot agree with some or your comments.

    11ac not valid. You cannot say ‘those are my car’ or ‘that is my wheels’ so wheels and car are not interchangeable in your example. However, I would be happy to accept that ‘a set of wheels’ can equate with ‘car’. I have never met anyone who has misinterpreted TBA so I am not sure where you get your ‘common’ from and I don’t think we should need to anticipate what might or might not be included in a future edition of a dictionary.

    22ac As I indicated earlier, had the clue been ‘and after’ or, as you have indirectly indicated, ‘and now’ then I would have no problem with this clue.

    28ac Sorry, I definitely cannot agree with you on this one, the two words do not mean the same thing. In all the standard dictionaries, ‘gore’ is defined as “(of an animal such as a bull) to pierce or stab with a horn or tusk” whereas ‘gut’ is defined as “to remove the internal organs (of a fish or other animal) before cooking”. I have used the definitions from COED in this instance but Collins and Chambers are similar.

    3dn You have picked up on one I missed first time round. ‘Thy’ is the possessive pronoun or adjective meaning ‘of thee’ or ‘belonging to or associated with thee’, in other words an archaic version of ‘your’. It does not therefore mean ‘for you’ or just ‘you’ so another quibble to add to the list.

    18dn I acknowledge your greater depth of knowledge regarding mathematics but ‘geometric’ is, as you say, an adjective meaning ” of, relating to, or following the methods and principles of geometry”. ‘Studying figures’ cannot be used as an adjective which in my book rules it out as a definition, and I am struggling to find an example where your alternative ‘figure-studying’ would be suitable as an adjective. It certainly wouldn’t in the usual usages such as ‘a geometric shape’ or ‘geometric progression’.

    21dn I didn’t object to ‘entrée’ being defined as ‘main course’. As indicated in my blog it is in Chambers. It is also defined this way in COED and Collins but both Collins and Chambers indicate that this usage, as opposed to a dish served before the main course, is chiefly confined to the US or N. America.

  8. Stephan K. says:

    3d ‘Thy’ represents ‘for you’ rather than ‘you’

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