Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations No. 933 – Grackles by Oxymoron

Posted by mc_rapper67 on October 2nd, 2010


I ‘missed the boat’ at first on this one – thinking it was referring to ‘grockles’, a mildly derogatory term for incomer, or tourist, in some parts of the UK, so I was searching for inserted, foreign, or travelling/transposed parts of words for a while. The solver is to apply thematic treatment to a whopping 18 answers (more than a third of the 49 in all), with letters from nine asterisked squares giving a clue to make things easier…well, at least there weren’t any quotations or extra letters in sight!

An extra pointer was that asterisked squares always contributed to at least one normal entry, and several of them only contributed to one entry, so these had to be normal. After a while on this tack, I came up with B?A?T?ILS for the asterisks, and then (with the help of a peek at Chambers) twigged that a grackle is actually a type of bird, also known as a ‘boattail’. This led to the thematic treatment being that 18 words needed their tails tweaking, to produce a boat – as in 1A – DRACONE becoming DR + CANOE.

From then on, it should have been plain sailing, except that with so many thematic clues – especially down in the South-East corner – it was a bit of a slog to finally complete the grid. A masterpiece of compilation, to fit so many thematics in there, combined with what I thought was some above averagely difficult clueing, made up a challenging, and enjoyable, hour or three over the past week.

To complete the rubric: 6D – SEAM-RENT was not in Chambers, but seemed quite deducible, even without SOED or Websters to confirm it; the foreign word in several phrases was 13A – NOIR; and one answer was to be a prefix – I had two candidates here, 39D – OSTE- and 36D – SUPRA-, although Chambers soon put me right – OSTE- is a ‘combining form’, whereas SUPRA- is a prefix. You live and learn.

Ahoy there!



Clue No Length   Solution/
Clue /
1A (7)   DRACONE
Doctor spots nothing inside a container shaped like a sausage /
DR (doctor) + ACNE (spots) with O (nothing) inside.
6A (5)   SKANK Dance abandoned with 1000 inside /
SANK (abandoned) with K (thousand) inside
12A (4)   GAEA Morag’s to work with a goddess /
GAE (Scottish, i.e. Morag’s, to go, or work) with A
13A (4)   NOIR This describes some café, definitely not Irish! /
NO (definitely not) + IR (Irish)
14A (7)   NIGHTIE
A woman wears this in bed, nearly a sleeper /
NIGH (nearly) + TIE (US for railway sleeper)
15A (5)   ARABA Horse in front of a carriage /
ARAB (horse) + A
16A (6)   SCRAGS Southern cliff’s rough projections /
S (southern) + CRAGS (cliffs)
17A (7)   SMARTIE The know-all merits a thrashing /
anag (i.e. thrashing) of MERITS + A
18A (8, 2 words)   WHITE OUT Subject to a blinding flash without energy being dissipated /
anag (i.e. dissipated) of WITHOUT + E (energy)
20A (5)   HAVER Northern oats holder /
double defn HAVER = holder, or owner, and also Northern dialect for oats
23A (6)   ECBOLE
Recess following executive committee digression /
EC (executive committee) followed by BOLE (recess)
24A (4)   ICES Independent tax cut freezes /
I (independent) + CES (tax, ‘cess’, cut short)
25A (5)   SLURP Slight soft sound when drinking /
SLUR (slight, or insult) + P (piano, soft)
27A (4)   SPET Rain for some is cherished /
S (contraction of ‘is’) + PET (cherished)
28A (6)   POSTIE Perth’s delivery man parking on old path /
P (parking) + O (old) + STIE (path) – double use of Perth, as ‘postie’ can be Scottish or Australian colloquialism for postman
32A (5)   EPACT
Agreement on electronic age of the moon /
E (electronic) + PACT (agreement)
34A (8)   BARBUSSE Kiss accepted by naked French writer /
BARE (naked) accepting BUSS (kiss)
37A (7)   DIMPLES Bubbles, dead simple to burst /
anag (i.e. burst) of D (dead) + SIMPLE
38A (6)   KATIPO NZ spinner leaves India humourless /
KAT (qat, or kat = leaves chewed or used as tea) + I (India) + PO (humourless). Katipo is a type of venomous spider native to New Zealand, not a Kiwi cricketer!
40A (5)   GROUF
Scots face squad lacking power and force /
GROU (squad, or group, without P – power) + F (force). Grouf being an obsolete Scottish word for the face, or front of the body generally.
41A (7)   ARREARS Annual return raises unpaid debts /
AR (annual return) + REARS (raises)
42A (4)   ROON Duck seen in river on Scottish border /
R (river) + ON with O (duck) seen inside. Roon being (yet another!) Scottish word, this time for a strip, or border, of material.
43A (4)   DRIP Penny saw a wimp /
D (old penny) + RIP (saw)
44A (5)   MOTEY The old prostitute returned with a blemish /
YE (the, old) + TOM (prostitute) returned
45A (7)   CACIQUE
Exclusive group gets a Conservative for Liberal boss /
CACIQUE = CLIQUE (exclusive group) with A + C (Conservative) for L (Liberal). Cacique being a political chief, or boss. Nice allusion to the current coalition government!
Clue No Length   Solution
Clue /
1D (4)   DANS Book society titles /
DAN (Biblical abbrev. for the Book of Daniel) + S (society)
2D (5)   REICH Spain in productive state /
RICH (productive) with E (Espana, Spain) inside
3D (7)   AVIATES Flies are destroyed within six seconds /
A (are) + VI (six) + ATE (destroyed) + S (seconds)
4D (7)   NAGGERS Shrews close to exhaustion facing mounds of earth /
N (last letter of exhaustion) + AGGERS (Roman, mounds of earth)
5D (6, 2 words)   EATS UP A pet out with us finishes the meal /
anag (i.e. out) of A PET + US
6D (8, hyphenated)   SEAM-RENT
Are men dancing in street with torn clothes? /
anag (i.e. dancing) of MEN ARE, in ST (street)
7D (5)   KARMA
One of the Bangles holds my destiny /
KARA (Sikh bangle) holding M (contraction of ‘my’)
8D (6)   ANGORA
A northern Himalayan animal, not primarily like a goat /
A + N (northern) + GORA (goral, Himalayan goat-antelope, without L – primary letter of like)
9D (6)   NOBBUT
VIP objection, only in places /
NOB (VIP, person of wealth, high social rank) + BUT (objection). Nobbut = dialect conjunction of no and but.
Commissioned book checked by engineers /
B (book) + RE (Royal Engineers, regiment) + VETTED (checked)
11D (4)   MERI Madam Elizabeth in the club? /
M (madam) + ER (Elizabeth Regina) + I (contraction of ‘in’)
Over dry ground stray cow eating fruit like some seaweed /
WHIPCO – anag (i.e. stray) of COW – with HIP (fruit) inside, over anag (i.e. ground) of DRY
19D (4)   FLEA An insect flourished by running water /
FL (abbrev of ‘floruit’, Latin for flourished) + EA (running water/drainage channel)
21D (4)   ATOC
Rising sloth leaves sterility in a female musteline /
ATOC = ATOCIA (sterility in a female) without IA (sloth, AI, rising)
22D (8, hyphenated)   ALE-BERRY A beverage made from extremely ripe barley /
anag (i.e. made from) BARLEY + RE (extreme letters of ripe)
26D (7)   PEACRAB
A marine creature, mostly quiet runs about, not seawards /
PEAC (mostly peace, or quiet) + R (runs) + AB (about, without ‘out’, or seawards) – and a secondary indication, in that a peacrab is a marine creature which would run about sideways…
27D (7)   STIPULE
A leafy appendage? It’s reflected on pipe /
STI (it’s, reflected) + PULE (pipe)
29D (6)   SAMFOO South American female wearing low outfit /
S (south) + AM (American) + F (female) in MOO (low, as in cattle). Samfoo being a jacket+trouser outfit, worn by Chinese women
30D (6)   TINPOT
Fool raised grass of poor quality /
TIN (nit, or fool, raised) + POT (grass, as in marijuana)
31D (6)   FASCIA
Fellow, once a copper, spies an old band /
F (fellow) + AS (Roman copper coin) + CIA (spies)
33D (5)   ELUDE Omit ninety out to escape /
ELUDE = EXCLUDE (omit) with XL (90 in Latin numerals) taken out
35D (4)   SIAM Mother lives up country /
SIAM = MA (mother) + IS (lives), up
36D (5)   SUPRA
Drink to god above /
SUP (drink) + RA (Egyptian sun god)
39D (4)   OSTE This indicates bone beginning to set in broken toe /
S (beginning of ‘set’) in anag (i.e. broken) of TOE

2 Responses to “Enigmatic Variations No. 933 – Grackles by Oxymoron”

  1. Jake says:

    mc_rapper67. Cheers ever so much for this blog. I see now why I didn’t manage to finish it. Apart from being idle and not asserting myself 100% I found this, or the setter to be more precise very tough!

    I had 90% completed, the alternative theme, but just could not dust it off.

    Well done mc_rapper67. How many calories were burnt off decoding/solving and completing it?



  2. mc_rapper67 says:

    Thanks Jake – not sure about calories, but a few grey cells were sacrificed, and a little thesauric/electronic searching for types of boat did ensue…maybe if it hadn’t been my blog week I might have run up the white flag and sailed off into the sunset.

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