Fifteensquared

Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7345 by Nestor – Sat 1st May

Posted by petebiddlecombe on May 6th, 2010

petebiddlecombe.

Just about the perfect Saturday puzzle for me – challenging enough to take my Times average time plus 50%, but not hard enough for there to be any serious doubt about finishing it. Lots of interesting words in the grid, with only 10 EMCEE and 20 EVADES seeming like standard grid-fill. And a there’s a running theme of popular fiction or modern culture – I think only Hindu reincarnation and the Biblical Aaron’s Rod hark back further than 1900 (OK – let’s add mention of “Tess” in the surface of 1A).

Across
1 GHOSTBUSTERS = (Tess’s brought)* – an anagram which might have sped up my solution considerably had I seen it early on.
9 MENTAL AGE – cryptic def taking advantage of sayings like “You’re as old as you think/feel”. The “inspired guesswork” part of my solving brain remembered the Chambers def for MIDDLE-AGED (“between youth and old age, variously reckoned to suit the reckoner”), but the rational analysis section just managed an overrule to stop me writing MIDDLE AGE in the grid.
10 EiMi,ClEvEr = host – surface meaning about Eimi’s relatively low number of puzzles for an xwd editor who could put himself in to bat as often as he wanted, I guess
11 (op)AC(U)ITY
12 BRUSSELS – reverse hidden in “seemS LESS URBan”
14 BEAVER AWAY – cryptic and plain def – the IG brain cells came up with “beaver”, possibly aided by study at LSE
16 KI(L)N – “first of loaves” helped quite a lot here I think
18 SURF = furs* – browse=surf from the technology you’re using to read this, of course
19 LONE RANGER – CD mentioning two of his attributes
21 N=note, ONE VENT=”a certain release of emotion” – worked out with the help of the checking V, I think (one of 7 in the grid, just in case that was something we were supposed to notice)
22 V(A,R)IED
25 SHRE(k),D – I think I had enough checkers to spot this from the def and then enjoy ogre=Shrek
26 IMAGINARY = (aiming ray)* – the surface is maybe about some sci-fi death ray, but the “let’s just count letters for possible anagram fodder” brain section chipped in here
27 DE(SPE(RAT)ED)AN – we’re off to the comics now, with hints of Robin Hood in the surface, though we actually need a different forest.
Down
2 HIND=back,U=united – I struggled with this despite H???U only having this and HAIKU as feasible answers – guess which one I thought of first …
3 STAR(TRE(e))K – the ultimate “travel show”, which for some reason I loathed as a kid – I can remember feeling quite cross when the promise of a mission limited to five years was not fulfilled
4 B(RA)Y – “from the agency of” is novel for BY, but the humble artist=RA and a checking letter should be enough to help you get the rest.
5 S = son(s),HEAR,WA(s)TER – A tricky def for the first S, but HEAR in a word for a bird only really offers one option (and a little echo for those remembering the previous Saturday puzzle)
6 E=”highest of equerries”,VERSO=left page (of a book). Any other takers for my view that stuff like “top of equerries” takes the “vertical” theme of down clues too far? Someone for whom recto was new in a recent puzzle elsewhere said they would remember “verso” – it wouuld be nice if they’d solved this one and enjoyed the moment.
7 SICKENING – for those who haven’t read any of Richmal Crompton’s William books, Violet Elizabeth Bott was a spoiled brat whose catchphrase was “I’ll thcream and thcream ’till I’m thick”, so “cornflour, say” = thickening meaning SICKENING
8 PERSON FRIDAY = (pay for diner’s)* – “second” here is an assistant, as at a duel or boxing match
9 MEAN=average,BU(SINES=ratios)S
13 MAYONNAISE – another long reverse hidden – in sometimES I ANNOY AMbassadors
15 AARON’S ROD – a staff and a plant (well several plants, it seems from a Google image search)
17 MAN(ALI),’VE – the “famous boxer” should be your way in here – just as a river is going to be the Po or Dee rather than the Susquehanna or Guadalquivir, “famous boxer” is unlikely to lead to Max Schmeling or Barry McGuigan. Using “My” as a definition for any expression of surprise is a fairly well-worn trick in Times puzzles, and ‘VE for “have” is just more of ” ‘s” = “is”/”has” which we probably get every day – see 23D (apologies for the apostrophes at all angles – we seem to have “intelligent” quotes turned on)
20 E(xpense),VADES=saved* – an up-to-date surface, but otherwise straightforward
23 IV=four,AN,A=ace – Ivana is the former partner (business and marital) of Donald Trump
24 CAVA = cheap and cheerful Spanish fizz, or the French “ça va”

8 Responses to “Independent 7345 by Nestor – Sat 1st May”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Very comprehensive blog, Peter, many thanks. I don’t finish many Saturday puzzles in the Indy, but I did manage this one, with the last few clues going in over Sunday morning coffee. I liked SHRED, with its reference to our friendly ogre; and talking about how the brain works, I couldn’t for ages see why CAVA was the answer to 24 down – and I speak French, for goodness’ sake!

    ‘E’ for ‘highest of equerries’ and the like? It doesn’t bother me that much as long as it’s reasonably clearly clued, and I suppose it gives setters a bit of leeway with the word concerned to develop a clever surface.

    Good challenge, thank you Nestor.

  2. Duggie says:

    There were at least a dozen superb clues here, most of them among the Downs. Top marks IMHO go to the amazing 10-letter reversed hidden ‘mayonnaise’. And the last 2 clues of all were also very good, keeping me thinking for ages, then blinking in surprise when the light dawned. Thanks Nestor.

  3. nmsindy says:

    Yes, tip-top puzzle. Esp liked MENTAL AGE, LONE RANGER, NONEVENT, SHEARWATER, MEAN BUSINESS.

  4. sidey says:

    Mayonnaise as a reverse hidden appeared in Guardian 24,628 / Pasquale, Feb 2009. It must be tempting with that ‘annoy’ in it.

    Some excellent cluing, most enjoyable.

  5. walruss says:

    You know your Pasquale, you do! Do you keep a shoebox full of old puzzles I wonder!

  6. Polly says:

    In 17 down, does MAN represent both ‘My’ (exclamation) and ‘staff’ (as in manservant)?

  7. eimi says:

    I hope it hasn’t taken you 26 days to finish, Polly :-)

    My = the defintion for MAN ALIVE

    staff = used as a noun in the clue, but actually works as a verb = (to) MAN
    +
    have = ‘VE

    to restrain (containing)

    famous boxer = ALI

  8. Polly says:

    I’m afraid it has (got a bit of a backlog here, going back to 7339 Tees). Thank heavens for anonymity…

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