Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7437/Mordred

Posted by John on August 17th, 2010


All sorts of slightly odd things have occurred recently: Quite often Phi hasn’t been as usual on Fridays, although that is explicable because of the various anniversaries; Virgilius hasn’t appeared on Tuesday for a while — he must be on holiday — and now we have Mordred, one of the harder setters and usually confined to Thursdays or Saturdays I think, appearing on a Tuesday. Whatever next? Anyway this puzzle was quite accessible and my initial sinking feeling didn’t last long. One or two I’m not sure about, but no doubt …

8 ATLAS — 2 defs, one of them referring to the Atlas mountains
9 ISOTROPIC — (or topics I)* — a word I had to look up, but the wordplay was quite easy
11 EX-CRETE — sort of 2 defs I suppose — ‘ex-‘ means ‘straight from’ in one sense, as in ‘ex-factory’
12 STIR (R) UP
13 LANOLIN — (in llano)*, &lit., because sheep possibly gambol on the llano, a high plain in South America
14 SAMPLE STock — although I’m a bit vague about the definition here: if something is most ample is it more than enough? I should have thought it was too ample
15 A BAG OF BONES — (beanos)* around a bag of — ‘some fish’ is ‘bag’, as in catch, and it’s o{r} f{owl} — I suppose this is an attempt at an &lit., although if someone is a bag of bones it might medically not be the best thing for them to have free beanos etc — this explains the question mark
20 ASSUAGE — (sausage)*
22 SUB JOIN{t} — to subjoin is to append (as I discovered)
24 IVORIES — “Ivory’s”, referring to James Ivory
26 A GNAT {t}IC{k} — didn’t know this word, although I knew ‘agnate’ and obviously this is similar
28 AN {{nerv}e}VIL
1 PAT ELLA — I’d always thought it was just a kneecap, but this (with caps) is another sense
3 OS TEAL — I can’t see what the final parts are: surely osteal means relating to bone?
4 PIGEON HOLE — referring presumably to a bird and a golf course — you might see a birdie (one under par) at a hole, although this seems a bit vague
5 TOTS — 2 defs
6 BRAIN{e} PAN — referring to John Braine, author of ‘Room at the Top’, a major work of my youth, and the American (?) term for the upper part of the skull
7 SPAR(S)E — the capital C is there to mislead and to help the surface
10 CAPITA{l}
14 AMBASSADOR — ‘he’ is short for ‘his excellency’, although I should have thought it was HE (certainly is in Chambers), and to say that ‘represents in capitals’ is an indication that ‘he’ is to be represented as ‘HE’ is not quite good enough I think — pity, because it’s a very nice idea
17 SPORTIVE — (it proves)* — but where is the definition (indeed where is the anagram indicator — ‘to be’ is no good in my opinion)?
18 Ray A Daisy Is Unfurling, Slowly
19 KNUCKLE — 2 defs I think
21 SPOUSE — (ops)rev. use
23 BANJAX — ban “jacks”
25 SPUR — reversed in stirRUPS, the answer to 12

31 Responses to “Independent 7437/Mordred”

  1. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for the blog, John.

    Like you, I found this rather more more straightforward than some of this setter’s puzzles – but …

    I’m still puzzling about 3dn.

    I think 17dn is &lit. with ‘sportive’ being the anagram indicator.

    I wasn’t aware of the limpets, either, being more familiar with Roger Squires’ classic clue for this word: ‘Two girls, one on each knee’.

  2. Gaufrid says:

    Re 3dn. The ‘centrepiece’ of this puzzle is 15ac, the ‘final parts’ of which are ‘of bones’, the definition of OSTEAL.

    15ac also refers to the left and right hand columns (and 12 & 28ac) which are all types of bone.

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid!

  4. Pandean says:

    And thanks from me also, Gaufrid. I spotted the ‘centrepiece’ link to 15ac, but hadn’t seen the bag of bones around the grid. I am now wondering if the bag may not be completed symmetrically by 8 & 24ac? Chambers gives ‘atlas’ as ‘the first cervical vertebra, supporting the skull’, and also describes a tooth (ref. ivories) as ‘bonelike’.

  5. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Pandean
    Agreed. We could also add 6dn and 16dn which are both bone related.

  6. Pandean says:

    Indeed. Good spot! And an impressive grid construction by Mordred.

  7. Eileen says:

    Perhaps bordering on the recherché now but I remember my husband having a bone SPUR on his heel. I can’t find it in any dictionary but it’s here:

    I wasn’t going to mention it, because I could see no symmetrical equivalent – and then I found, in Chambers:

    TOT [sl.]: a bone!

  8. Scarpia says:

    Thanks John…and Gaufrid for explaining 3 down.
    Although I managed to complete,I didn’t really enjoy this puzzle.
    That is not to say that it was a bad puzzle,but after solving today’s Araucaria and reading Eileen’s post (with Roger Squire’s super clue),I think what this puzzle lacked,for me,was wit.
    I noticed that a few of the answers were “bones”,but this type of themed puzzle,which I’m sure is difficult to set,doesn’t make up for the rather dull clueing.
    I did like 13 across and the wonderfully terse 17 down.

  9. Kathryn's Dad says:

    It all looks very cleverly put together, but it was way too hard for me today. Might have sat better as a Prize Puzzle, maybe?

  10. Jake says:

    I thought this puzzle was great, solved this morning (still 1/2 asleep) and in bed.

    I found this neat little program that allows one to print off the Indy crossword, for those who don’t want to sit and do the online version and do not purchase the paper either, it’s available for mac and pc. It allows you to open the online version in the application and print it off!

  11. pat says:

    I could not get into this at all, and found it a real chore until I finally gave up. Straightforward? NO!!!

  12. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Jake.
    That’s brilliant!

  13. Jake says:


    no probs, I don’t know how many people have heard of it? It’s a cool app, thats for sure.

  14. Myrvin says:

    KD, Too tough for me too.
    Lots of cheats to get to the end.
    Didn’t have time to ponder a lot, I think.
    Several words I didn’t know.

  15. walruss says:

    Many thanks to Jake, and also to Mordred for a tough challenge.

  16. nmsindy says:

    Interesting variation in comments on this. I thought it was v hard indeed, in fact my slowest solve for an Indy puzzle successfully solved this year. But while many of the words were perhaps unfamiliar, the clueing was scrupulously fair and I’d no doubt that I was right when I had finished. Esp liked RADIUS, AMPLEST, and SPOUSE. I did not spot the bones theme tho, maybe that would have made it easier, congrats to the setter for fitting all that in.

  17. flashling says:

    I’m lost in admiration for folks who found this easy. Really struggled to get going. Happy with the cluing in the end but obscure words and meanings left this poor soul for dead.

  18. Eileen says:

    Hi flashling

    Looking through the comments, I can’t see one that calls this puzzle easy!

    My own comment #1 ‘rather more straightforward than some of this setter’s puzzles’ was certainly not intended to mean that. Looking back through the archive, I see that I didn’t do the last Mordred puzzle, because of holidays but the one before that, along with Kathryn’s Dad, I completely gave up on – so I was speaking only comparatively!

    I shared John’s sinking feeling initially and was therefore surprised to finish it – but totally missed the theme!

    Thanks anyway, Mordred!

  19. flashling says:

    Eileen I was referring to Jake’s done in bed while half asleep! I know I was tired after a long day at work, but… Has Tuesday become the new thursday tricky? I know I blogged last Tuesday’s quickly but lots of folk struggled.

  20. Jake says:


    it was tough, only my second Mordred. I did have Bradford’s on my bedside table (which was needed) for 100% confirmation.

    I take it that it’s Dac tomorrow?

  21. Eileen says:

    Sorry, flashling, I was diverted by Jake’s program and overlooked his comment! :-)

  22. flashling says:

    Let’s hope it’s a normal(ish) Dac for tomorrow. I do the dead tree version and pay twice as I have subscription to my home and live away for work, so I’m paying for at least one of you who do it one line too. All contributions accepted. :-)

  23. flashling says:

    on line damn it!

  24. Simon Harris says:

    Or maybe you’re paying for the free copy I get through work 😉

    Found this remarkably hard myself, didn’t finish despite spotting the theme. Particularly troubling really, as I don’t think I’ve struggled with this setter before.

  25. Anne says:

    I’ve followed this blog for a while, but never contributed. Thought I would mention that stirrup and anvil are also bones, in the ear. I didn’t spot the bone theme until I looked here, which I did because I found it quite a hard puzzle and needed to check a few answers which defeated me.

  26. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Anne
    Welcome and please contribute again. I think you will find that 12 & 28ac (stirrup and anvil) were mentioned in my comment #2 as being relevant to the theme. Agreed, this was a hard puzzle and the full theme did not become apparent until several people had contributed to the blog. Sometimes several heads are better than one (except for various items designed by a committee 😉 ).

  27. beermagnet says:

    I still can’t see how 27A SOSTENUTO works
    Notes to tune playing thus? (9)
    It seems to be an &Lit with an anagram (AInd: playing) of NOTES and half of TUne with SO from thus, but how do we know how to choose the fodder?
    I wrote it in with a associated “?” next to the clue.

  28. DorothyS says:

    beermagnet @ 27

    SOSTENUTO = SOS (plural of SO, a variant of sol in the sol-fa notation), plus (TO TUNE)*. Tricky, I agree.

  29. MikeS says:

    I read 27A as sos = notes as in do re mi fa so etc. I think it is more normally spelled ‘sol’ but apparently sometimes ‘so’ as well. Then we have ‘to tune’ as the fodder and ‘playing’ the anagram indicator.

    Mordred is still too tough for me alas, I had to cheat a bit down in the SE corner!

  30. beermagnet says:

    Thanks both – I should’ve thought of the Do,Re,Mi “notes” but was completely misled by NOTES potentially being part of the anagram. As you see I had a sleepless night worrying about it 😉

  31. Simon Harris says:

    beermagnet – you and me both! Many thanks to all involved for the explanation.

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