Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7352 / Punk

Posted by Gaufrid on May 10th, 2010


NealH has business commitments today so I agreed to stand in for him, thinking that it would make a change to cover an Indy.

An interesting approach today, with all the down answers and all bar three of the across ones containing one or more A’s. I wonder why Punk didn’t make the answers to 11ac and 14ac TAE and GNAT respectively which would have just left 29ac as the odd one out.

I have a very minor quibble with 28ac and a slightly more serious one with 4dn but apart from that I found this to be an enjoyable solve, even if I did have to do some research to confirm a couple of answers (1ac and 28ac).

1 MARACANA  M[oves] A (ace) in ARCANA (tarot cards) – arcana, either of the two divisions of a pack of tarot cards and the Estádio do Maracanã
6 AJAX  A JA (European ‘yes’) X (vote) – a mythological Greek hero
AVAIL  homophone of ‘a veil’ (a mask)
10 ALOHA  A HOLA (Spanish greeting) reversed
11 TIE  dd – as in a ‘drawn game’ and a ‘cup tie’
13 ARAB STATES  *(BREASTS AT A[nything]) – an amusing misdirection from the allusion to the ex-model Katie Price, formerly known as Jordan
14 KNOT  dd – a reference to the bird and something one would 11ac
16 AGA SAGA  A GAS (talk) AGA[in] (once more missing in) – a popular novel in a semi-rural middle-class setting
17 CANADA  CAN (toilet) ADA (girl)
19 AVATAR  A VAT (vessel) A R (river)
21 ALABAMA  A LA (state, Louisiana) BA MA (degrees)
24 ALAS  SALA[d) (something tossed) reversed
25 BANANARAMA  BANANA (former African leader) RAM (sheep) A – Canaan Sodindo Banana, the first President of Zimbabwe and Bananarama
27 ARM  dd – arm = gun = piece
28 AGANA  A G[h]ana (country less hot) – this should have been ‘former capital of Guam’ as the capital is now called Hagåtña
29 HEINZ  HE (man) *(ZIN[c]) – ‘handle’ as in ‘name’
30 LAVA  LAV (toilet) A – for once ‘flower’ does not mean a plant that produces blossoms or a river
31 AMASSING  hidden in ‘drAMAS SIN Generously’

2 ATACAMA  AT (towards) A CAM (river) A
3 ABLE SEAMAN  A B (black) SEAM (source of coal) in LEAN (tip)
4 AGAR-AGAR  RAGA RAGA (scales) reversed – I think the use of ‘scales’ is rather loose since the definition of ‘scale’ in Collins is “a group of notes taken in ascending or descending order …” whereas ‘raga’ is defined as “any of several conventional patterns of melody and rhythm that form the basis for freely interpreted compositions …”. Chambers and COED show a similar discrepancy.
5 AVOCET  VO[i]CE (one distanced from opinion) in ‘AT (Cockney’s 23)
6 ADAM  A DAM (mother)
7 ANTENNA  ANT (soldier) ANNE (girl) reversed
8 TARAMASALATA  TA-RA (farewell) MASALA (Indian food) TA (thanks)
12 EXTRAVAGANZA  EX (old) *(VAGRANT A) ZA (couple of extremes)
15 CALABASHES  CAL (state) ABASHES (shames)
18 MAHARAJA  AJAR (open) A HAM (piece of meat) reversed
20 ANAEMIA A A1 (perfect) MEAN (average) reversed
22 ACADIAN  A CAD (rotter) IAN (Scotsman) – “of or relating to the Acadians or their dialect of French, or to Acadia, former name for part of E Canada including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick” (Chambers).
23 PANAMA  dd – a brand of cigars and a type of hat
26 PARA  PAR (what’s expected on course) A

14 Responses to “Independent 7352 / Punk”

  1. Richard Palmer says:

    The puzzle has a vast number of As in checked positions, so TAE and GNAT would not be thematic. There are alternatives for 7 down with further As in the checked positions but they are probably too obscure for a daily puzzle.
    It is a pretty amazing construction as it is.

  2. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Richard
    There are other A’s in unchecked positions (12dn and 22dn) so I don’t think TAE and GNAT would necessarily break the theme.

  3. sidey says:

    Interesting puzzle. The Sunday Telegraph once did a puzzle with every checked letter beig ‘E’. Nowhere near as good though.

    Second quibble with 4d, agar-agar is the medium on which cultures are grown as it is inert to [most?] bacteria, but never mind.

  4. dac says:

    I remember an Araucaria puzzle which appeared on the 1st of April in 1970-something, in which the only vowel in the entire grid was A; central crossing answers were (if my memory serves me correctly) Panama Canal and the rather odd Banana Salad.

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks for a comprehensive blog, Gaufrid. Gave up with a couple that I couldn’t see, despite the theme, but I don’t normally get that far with a Punk, so pleased with that. It’s a very clever construction, but for me a few too many obscurities, so it didn’t really float my boat today.

    But happy to have learned AGA SAGAS, which is a delightfully evocative phrase.

  6. scarpia says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.I thought this was great fun and like youI had to check 1 and 28 across.
    Re 4 down – a raga can be,rather loosely, defined as a scale see .
    I only came across this while trying to solve an Ithos puzzle in Araucaria’s subscription magazine 1 Across.

  7. Richard Heald says:

    Further to Dac’s comment #4, I remember a (different?) Araucaria puzzle in which A was the only vowel used not just in the grid but also in the clues themselves! It appeared in one of the Guardian books published in the ’90s.

  8. Gaufrid says:

    Hi scarpia
    Thanks for the link. Music theory is not one of my strong points and I’m always pleased to learn something new.

    My observation was based solely on the definitions given in the three usual references and I didn’t think to google ‘raga scale’. Had I done so I would have found (as I have now) many references to raga being a scale so I withdraw my reservation about this clue, though I think sidey’s quibble in comment #3 is valid, I had the same thought when solving but then got side-tracked by raga when writing my post.

  9. Ali says:

    Nice puzzle. On the subject of other similar puzzles, I think there was a recent Guardian Genius in which clues were given in alphabetical order of their answers, the trick being that they all began with A.

  10. scarpia says:

    Hi Gaufrid,
    I’m sure you and sidey are correct about agar agar.I vaguely remember growing cultures in it in school science lessons but science is definately not one of my strong points!

  11. flashling says:

    Didn’t get agana, never heard of it and blew (!) 23 with havana as no references to hand but it half seemed to fit, oh well. Still easier generally than usual Punk especially once all the As started to appear.

  12. walruss says:

    I agree with Richard’s theory where words would only be thematic with an A in a checked square. Very good puzzle too.

  13. Ian says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.

    It wasn’t my intention today to attempt The Independent crossword but for the fact that the restaurant I visited for lunch offered a complimentary copy to its guests.

    Three hours later and a little worse for wear, I took a peek at this effort by Punk.

    Maracana & Atacama were first in. Surely not I thought, a grid with all solutions containing only the vowel A!

    Completed in 133 minutes and looking back I spent far too long assuming no other vowel was present, having already rejected ‘Tie’ for 11 ac. That changed with Anaemia and I moved on a little disappointed that the theme was broken.

    The whole exercise still quite an audacious feat with much to admire. Chief among them are ‘Adam’ (how good is that), ‘Lava’, ‘Alas’, ‘Heinz’ and ‘Bananarama’.

  14. Moose says:

    Having got 1a and 8d early on thought there was a predominance of ‘a’ However didn’t finish as too many answers I didn’t know aga saga and agar agar for example.Never heard of 15d.Happy with finishing about 3/4 of it.Really liked 25a!

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