Fifteensquared

Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,149 (Sat 23 Oct)/Biggles – Jerk of fate

Posted by rightback on October 30th, 2010

rightback.

Solving time: 23 mins, one mistake (1dn)

This tough puzzle was a mix of good and bad, with some really clever wordplay devices and elegant surfaces intermingled with clues for which the cryptic reading is flawed. I commend the setter for his inventiveness but have to question whether the editor has really done his job properly this week (e.g. 11ac, 17ac, 20ac).

That said, I have no complaints over the mistake I made – although I didn’t know the answer phrase, if I’d seen the correct alternative then I’d have known my guess was wrong.

Music of the day: Loath as I am to pass over Radiohead’s wonderful Airbag (9ac), the nod goes to 4dn (Embrace) and All You Good Good People.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

Across
8 NOMOGRAM; MOG + RAM after NO – a weird engineering-style graph with loads of curves superimposed so that you can work out, for example, the maximum load on an aircraft given the temperature, altitude, air pressure etc.
9 AIR BAG; G[ood] + ARIA (= ‘number’) around B[ook], all reversed
10 [l]OATH
11 STREET ARAB; (BRAT SET CAPER – P.C.)*, &lit – this is almost a nice clue but the cryptic reading is ruined by the word ‘to’ in the middle of the anagram.
12 NEARER; rev. of RERAN around E[cstasy] – ‘nearer’ can mean ‘closer to’ as in ‘nearer the town centre’, so there’s no superfluity here, unlike in 10ac where ‘of’ is awkward padding.
14 CHARISMA; I’S in CHARM (= ‘spell’) + A – ‘politician needs this’ is probably a fair enough definition, although I can think of a few that disprove the theory, such as our last Prime Minister.
15 SKYDIVE; SKIVE around DI – I’m not sure if the intention here is ‘distance’ = DI (for which I can find no support) or ‘distance’ = D and ‘in’ = I (in the sense of Hall i’ th’ Wood, which is supported by Chambers but pretty obscure). [Edit: all rubbish - see comments #2, #3 etc. My apologies.] The definition ‘dangerous sport’ is reasonable if you’re talking only in terms of danger of death (although even then it’s probably safer than driving a car) but I would suggest that rugby is far more dangerous.
17 MEANING; (NINE A G.M.)* – I was, as always, fooled by ’9′ until I realised the answer was ‘airbag’ which couldn’t possibly be relevant. The anagram indicator here (‘crop’) might fit the surface but doesn’t really make sense cryptically, even if you accept a nounal anagram indicator.
20 GEOMANCY; GEY (= ‘very Scottish’) around OMAN + C – having discounted ‘Yemen’, the middle of this word had to be ‘Oman’ and I was very tempted by ‘yeomanry’ but fortunately smelt a rat and persevered. This is another clue whose cryptic reading I cannot accept as fair, unless I have misinterpreted it – the letter ‘C’ must come from ‘country’, so ‘Arab country and its leader’ = OMAN + C, but that doesn’t make sense (the leader of ‘Arab country’, if anything, is ‘A’). I wonder if ‘Arab’ was inserted as an afterthought to make the clue a little easier without anyone noticing that it would spoil the wordplay?
22 COLUMN (2 defs) – ‘situation for sculpture’ as in (e.g.) Nelson’s Column, I think, and ‘row’ as in a rank.
23 NEUTRALITY; “NEWT” (as in ‘drunk as a newt’), + LIT in RAY – I spent a lot of time here thinking the ‘alleged drunkard’ was George Best and that the answer would be something like ‘bestriding’ or ‘bestraddling’. I should have realised that was wrong – not only would ‘said’ then have no function but in Best’s case there was no ‘alleged’ about it.
24 SIDE (hidden) – some people think ‘has’ (or in this case, apostrophe-plus-s) is acceptable for a hidden indicator, others don’t. I’m in the latter camp, though this isn’t something I feel particularly strongly about.
25 IN TOTO; IN (= ‘home’) + TOT (= ‘drink’) + O (= ‘[a] round’) – ‘in toto’ means ‘entirely’, which is not quite the same as ‘That’s the lot’ in any sense, although you could argue that the clue is saying ‘The answer is [a word or phrase for] “the lot”‘.
26 ANTHOZOA; (AN OATH)* around OZ – anthos is Greek for ‘flower’, and these are plants such as sea anemones and corals.
Down
1 SODA BERK; SOD (= ‘Git’) + A JERK (= ‘a plonker’) – ‘a person who serves soda at a soda fountain’. I guessed ‘berk’ rather than ‘jerk’ which fit the wordplay but I strongly suspected it was wrong and so it proved.
2 LO[a]CH
3 ERASER; E.R. AS E.R. – nice wordplay.
4 EMBRACE; [figur]E + M (= 1000) + BRACE (= 2) – a justified question mark given the cheeky use of ’1002′ which I liked.
5 PALEFACE – as opposed to a Red Indian. I think this is ‘Post’ = PALE and ‘expressionist’ for FACE in the sense that face has expressions, although that’s pretty dubious. There may be a better explanation.
6 IRRATIONAL; (ITALIAN + O + R,R)* – where ‘love’ gives O and ‘rights’ gives R,R.
7 NAPALM; PAL in [Viet]NAM – good clue.
13 REDEMPTION; (TEMP)* in (DE NIRO)*
16 VINDALOO; V + “IN THE LOO” rendered in the mock-black vernacular of Ali G – not a clue I was likely to get without a couple of checking letters, but it amused me.
18 NAME-DROP; (PARDON ME)* – an excellent anagram. I had doubts over the part of speech of the definition but I think it’s ok considered as a gerund (i.e. a verbal noun) if you are prepared to accept ‘name-drop’ as a noun.
19 CYNICAL; C[harlie] + (IN CLAY)*
21 EYEING; YE (= ‘the old’) + IN (= ‘elected’) + G[overnment], all after [conservativ]E
22 COYOTE; [Sebastian] COE around rev. of TOY
24 SNOB (hidden) – a lovely clue to finish, with ‘dresses’ being a verb in the cryptic reading (and an implied ‘that’ after ‘cobbler’). A snob is an old word for a shoemaker.

51 Responses to “Guardian 25,149 (Sat 23 Oct)/Biggles – Jerk of fate”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks rightback.

    You say “I commend the setter…” which shows you aren’t aware of the identity of Biggles. “Biggles” comes from the author’s name W E Johns – “we Johns” and is in fact a team of the four setters whose first names are all John. Araucaria, Enigmatist, Paul and Shed. That explains the lack of homogeneity in the clueing; part of the fun is to work out whose signature is on each clue! A tricky bunch for the editor to deal with, I think! “Herding cats” comes to mind!

  2. Biggles A says:

    15. I thought DISTANCE here was yd (yard for those brought up in pre metric times).

    I enjoyed this one, thanks to the Johns and to rightback. My last two were the 24s and I kicked myself when at last the hidden answers emerged.

  3. NeilW says:

    15 ac I read as SKIVE around YD, abbreviation of Yard, which gives you the “distance”.

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback. I don’t think George Best would have said “drunk as….” I hope the Oxford Book of Quotations has this Best one: “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” Thanks also to Biggles, for a very likeable puzzle. 5 and 7d were both beauties. Knowing next to nil about Ali G, it needed a little googling for the penny to drop with 16d – but loved it, a great clue. Googling as an afterthought with SNOB as last one in, 24d, was also worthwhile to reveal the cobbler meaning. Would never have got SODA JERK without Webster’s, but it’s a fair clue and led to another good one, 15a.

  5. PaulG says:

    Thanks Rightback and Y.O.U. Johns.
    It was fun trying to work out which John had set which clue – 16d has to be ‘Paul’, I think!
    But what about the apparent nina? “sleeping bag neap belongings non”, going clockwise. Surely that can’t be a total coincidence but I can’t see any meaning in that as a phrase. Am I missing something?

  6. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback

    This was a real toughie which brought me down to earth with a bang after I had set myself the challenge of solving it faster than you.

    In the event, I took ages and eventually gave up with four undone.

    My only consolation is that it took four of them to ruin my ambition.

    Unlike Shed, I never even thought of SODA JERK;

    Unlike Enigmatist, I’d never heard of NOMOGRAM;

    Unlike Paul, I knew nowt about Ali G and anyway VINDALOO is too hot for my liking.

    But thanks Araucaria, SKYDIVE is worthy of you.

    Now, I’m trying to make sense of the Nina which PaulG has spotted.

    Will the torment never end?

  7. jetdoc says:

    SLEEPING BAG without NEAP = *(BIGGLES). BELONGINGS without NON = *(BIGGLES).

  8. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Jetdoc @7

    I would never have worked that out.

  9. Bryan says:

    Of course, Jetdoc is Mrs Enigmatist!

  10. cholecyst says:

    Thanks Rightback (and Mole – oops I mean Jetdoc!) I finished this quite quickly, largely thanks to inspired (= lucky) guesswork. Didn’t spot the nina, though.

  11. tupu says:

    Thanks Rightback and Biggles.

    A tough puzzle. I only learned after solving this about the unidentical quads who make up this side. NeilW’s point @1 re difficulty arising from this fact has also crossed my mind.

    I did notice the nina. Thanks to PaulG for that and to jetdoc.

    It is clear that not all of us are equally aware who’s who. The ‘best for puzzles’ site I mentioned last week is well worth reading on that.

    I agree with BigglesA and NeilW re sky diving and yd.

    I was fed up with myself re 26a because I should have guessed it- it is such a literal description! Instead I tripped over it while checking in Chambers to see if I was missing something re ‘coral’

    I needed to reassure myself with nomogram, geomancy (re dots) and soda jerk (lurking somewhere in my memories of old B gangster movies!).

    I much liked ‘street arab’ – I was so glad to get it and parse it that I did not notice rightback’s point re ‘to’. My other favourite was ‘paleface’. A minuscule nitpick rightback – A column is more of a ‘file’ than a ‘rank’ – at least in chess.

    As ever your solving time, rb, is magnificent.

    PS did any one else want to try ‘west’ for 24a?

  12. Sil van den Hoek says:

    So, this your big day, Carrots!
    What you always wanted to know about Biggles, but were afraid to ask … :)

    This was – as one might expect from these setters – a well-crafted and above all challenging crossword.
    There’s always the risk that a puzzle compiled by more than one setter leads to some kind of inconsistency, but I have to say: we enjoyed it very much!

    For us, it took off with 16d’s VINDALOO – obviously a Paul clue, which was immediately found because of being present in the Cryptica archives with a similar Ali G reference[1 Nov 09] – and I have to admit, this one’s better.
    The last one to almost nót go in was 5d (PALEFACE) – not our favourite of the day, and wonder who’s the one to blame …. :)

    In between these two there were a lot of clever and amusing clues.
    GEOMANCY was surely Araucaria [because of the typical use of brackets around ‘very Scottish’] as was in our opinion 12ac (NEARER) because of the use of ‘without’.
    17ac (MEANING) is so multi-layered ánd so incredibly clever that it must be one of Enigmatist’s clues.
    And Shed? We thought STREET ARAB (11ac) was his.

    Anyone else (except Bryan) out there inclined to find out who’s who or what’s what?
    [maybe 21d = Enigmatist, 23ac = Paul, 18d = Shed, 24d = Araucaria ??? – but I could be completely wrong, of course]

    Only a few more or less quibbles.
    A pity that in 3d (ERASER) the word ‘as’ [part of the construction] was already there.
    And Coral & Co for a large group of sea creatures – well, just OK (or a “fun kind of allusion”). Initially we thought, the solution would fit “coral” and “co” might be part of the construction.

    Although IRRATIONAL, CHARISMA an AIRBAG weren’t hard to find, the NE corner was absolutely the bottleneck of this crossword – which was a rewarding experience as a whole.

    And for once, I spotted the Nina – Hurrah!
    [but I did not see more than just ‘words’ - but now I know thanks to jetdoc @7]

    Well, well, rightback – 23 minutes, thát must be record?

  13. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Oh, and BTW, we saw MEANING (17ac) as follows:
    You take “from nine a genetically”, then you ‘crop’ (m-nine-a-g) out of it [like in photo software] which finally has to be modified.
    As I said, very very clever.

  14. Tony Davis says:

    We abandoned this, dispirited, with seven clues unsolved – only the second time this has happened in five years. We didn’t know the identities of Biggles, but now understand why the quality of the clues was uneven – some very dubious ones, we thought, of which 18dn was the worst. No, we are NOT prepared to accept ‘name-drop’ as a noun!

    Maybe we can console ourselves with the thought that with four contributors it’s difficult to get into the mindset(s) of the compiler(s), especially if you don’t realise you’re dealing with a hybrid creature :-(.

  15. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    Your reading of ‘meaning’ is ingenious. I had simply read it as the ‘crop = produce’ of ‘nine a GM’ modified.

  16. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Rightback.

    Only got about 3/4s of this last Sat and then forgot about it. The rest were straightforward today – with the benefit of the check button!

    Re the nina, I think “neap belongings” minus “non” is also an anagram of “sleeping bags” which I thought was the meaning until others helpfully pointed out the double name check.

    All good fun.

  17. Carrots says:

    PHEW! I`d metaphorically loaded my revolver in case kicking myself was inadequate retribution for the solutions to 26 Ac., 21 & 24 Dn., which Rightback revealed today. But, I need not have worried too much: 24D & 26A I`d never heard of and “EYEING”, to me at least, is what (e.g. a lion) does BEFORE pursuit and not whilst “in pursuit”. So I don`t feel too bad. I`d never have spotted the nina in a million years, but what a wonderful finishing touch to a puzzle which must rank among the unforgetables!

    Well, shortly the portals will part and, as the Grand Old Master has provided a nother prize puzzle to start, I shall embark upon getting myself into trouble all over again.

  18. tupu says:

    HI Sil
    I tried but failed to add a Ps to my comment @15. Please delete the final word ‘modified’.

  19. tupu says:

    re 11. Correction – I did NOT notice the nina.

  20. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dad’s Lad, re your interpretation of the Nina.
    As jetdoc pointed out “sleeping bag – neap” = “belongings – non”,
    because they’re both “Biggles”.
    A little bit of elementary maths give us:
    “sleeping bag” = “neap + belongings – non”,
    which is exactly what you said!

    Or when we turn the reasoning the other way around:
    what you said, should lead to “sleeping bag – neap” and “belongings – non” being the same. It takes just one step to actually do this subtraction (Bingo! Biggles!).
    You were nearly there – I wasn’t …. :)

  21. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Rightback. I found this tough but very enjoyable. I was relieved that I was familiar with most of the words, no parochial obscurities this time. I made life difficult in the top right corner by entering EMBOSOM for 4dn. A good match for the clue I thought, esp. the 1002 part, and Paulesque in style. But eventually I had to reluctantly accept that it didn’t work. PALEFACE was the last in and it took me a while to realise why.

    I saw the “Nina”, or at least some semi-readable words but would not have made the connection to the Setter’s name(s) without Jetdoc’s help.

    Re 1dn, I gather that the term “Soda Jerk” is not common in England. The Jerk part comes from the action of pulling the handle on the soda fountain. Probably not common anywhere these days.

  22. Thomas99 says:

    I only noticed the top of the “nina” (? new term to me) – thought it was just telling me to sleep in!

  23. tupu says:

    Further re ‘meaning’
    The annotated Guardian solution simply gives meaning NINE A GM (anag)which still seems simplest to me.

  24. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, tupu, that may be true.
    In that case though, I agree with rightback, this clue being unsatisfying, leaving us with a not so very good, if any, anagrind.
    I thought, my/our explanation was watertight [using "modified cropping"], making it an ingenious clue.
    What do you think, shall we upgrade it? :)

  25. Duke says:

    Thanks for explaining “eyeing” and “geomancy”, rightback, which defeated me.

    One small point – anthozoa are animals, not plants, I think.

    Now, can someone explain the word “nina” for me? Thanks.

  26. Thomas99 says:

    Re 23a
    Drunk as a newt? WTF? (which as you know means “What the bother?”)

  27. muck says:

    Duke: I found this by Googling Nina Crosswords. “A Nina is a special feature of the crossword grid: a word, words or phrase hidden within a pattern of cells in the completed grid.”

  28. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    Thanks for getting back. I must confess I don’t really know.
    In the past I have found myself defending one or two more complicated explanations which have ultimately had to yield to the relative simplicity of Occam’s razor. Here the boot is on the other foot.
    Your reading is, as I said, ingenious, and it makes good use of the photo-editing idea of cropping. On the other hand it involves a quite complicated mental manoeuvre (very, very clever or too clever by half?).
    My suggestion is much simpler and runs along directly with the surface of the clue. The anagrind is ‘(from) a crop (of)’ and the fodder is simply ‘nine (9) a G(enetically) M(odified)’.
    Rightback does not like ‘crop’ in that parsing and you are also unhappy with it.
    I was reasonably satisfied with idea of ‘crop’ as ‘produce’(n) – ie. the end result of a process of production.
    In the end, neither is probably wholly satisfactory. I am tempted though to side with rightback’s implied suggestion that the surface has dominated the logic. But perhaps that is selling our 4 ‘apocalyptic’ horsemen short.

  29. muck says:

    I didn’t finish this in 7 minutes, 7 hours or even 7 days! SOB
    The 15sqd blog and comments confirmed the toughness of this Biggles
    But I don’t mind a challenge now and then
    By comparison, this weekend’s prize concoction went down pretty quickly

  30. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Neither is probably wholly satisfactory, tupu?
    I am 100% convinced that a “modified crop” is exactly what is happening here [this afternoon my PinC wasn't even aware of the fact that it could be anything else].

    The other (and presumably) official explanation is in our opinion inferior, even if that’s the one intended.
    I don’t know whether the setter [Who Are You, Who Who (courtesy of The Who)] does agree – then fine by me (which it is anyway).
    But I like the idea that this is a multi-layered (cropping and modifying) Enigmatist clue. A perfect one, too.

  31. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    Thanks. I am still more open minded. I find two interlocking problematic elements in your explanation.

    1. How do you know what you have to crop? Do you have to try every series of letters from 1-7 to 14-20 for anagrams and then come up by chance with ‘meaning’. I don’t know what other anagrams are possible in this process.
    2. Or do you have to guess the word from its definition ‘import’, and then find those letters? In which case the clue is clever but it becomes more of a post-facto exercise rather than a solving method. This involves being ‘misled’ into thinking ‘crop’[noun] (= ‘produce’ – as a noun – or even ‘fruit’ of a production process) might be the anagram indicator, and then discarding the idea not because it could not possibly be, but because it feels uncomfortable. It also involves ignoring the fact tha GM is a standard abbreviation for Genetically Modified and treating those letters simply as component elements of the string to be cropped.

    I realise a mixture of these processes is possible, but in any case it seems a ‘helluvalot’ of bother for finding a simple answer that is available more directly.

    With regard to my suggestion (and as far as I can see the Guardian’s?), I think the clue would have been more satisfactory if it had ended with ‘production’ or ‘fruit’ (instead of crop). Nowhere near as deviously clever as your suggestion, of course, but a good clean surface and a better anagram indicator.

    At the same time it is clear from the nina that the four have wanted to set a very clever puzzle and are capable of doing so. Hence my worry about selling them short.

  32. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    In penultimate paragraph above, please read ‘product’ for ‘production’.

  33. John H says:

    The clues were divided into 4 groups of 7, in clue order. I’ll let you speculate some more before before I put you out of your misery!

    Enigmatist

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi tupu,
    what a long story about just one clue :).

    Just like you, I do, of course, see the simple solution [with an unsatisfying anagrind (but alas)] and that’s how it is, indeed.
    You say GM is a standard abbreviation. Yep, but it’s crosswordland and it could be a nice misdirection.

    But it’s just that I like to see [as in: I would enjoy it much more] the double-layered solution, with “modified” as an anagrind and “crop” as in fact a hidden answer indicator.
    In that case the word “from” is part of the fodder, which is a bit similar to last Thursday’s “as” in Gordius’ EYE clue [as you suggested yourself at one point].

    It is unusual, two devices in a row, I know, but who knows with all these devious minds around.
    And yes, you’re right, first we had the solution (MEANING) based on the definition and the letters n,i,n,e,a [gosh, I see there's NINA in it - "they" could have done something with that :)] and then the explanation came afterwards, which happens sometimes.

    Because I think that, of the four setters, Enigmatist is most capable of composing such a complex clue [not the first time that he would have done something multi-layered], I thought: that’s it then, and how clever!
    [Moreover the splendid use of the word 'import' [as definition/in surface] points in his direction, too]

    As I said, I just like/prefer to see it this way, even though I know that the official solution is different.
    It’s not about what’s right or what’s wrong.

    Sometimes there’s the pleasure of seeing an unexpected higher element in something that most people see as ordinary.
    It’s like reading a novel and discovering things that the writer didn’t mean at all.

    Yeah, what a long story about just one clue :).
    [and everything's been said by now, I guess]

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Crikey, Enigmatist, thát information reduces the number of possibilities significantly: from about 5×10^14 (a 5 with 14 zeros) to only 24.
    And if what we think is right, the Vindacloo is Paul’s, we’re down to only 6 possible ways.

    To be honest, looking back at the clues, it’s not even that easy.
    I have an idea now [and I'm not going to share it with the world], but I fear that my Dream World re 17ac is going to collapse with just one single stroke …. :)

  36. tupu says:

    Thanks Sil
    It’s kind of you to come back in such detail. Your comments have been very interesting and I end up open minded with a marginal preference.

    Your point about novels takes us into difficult territory. I don’t know if you have read Eco’s Name of the Rose and also his short ‘Postscript’. In the latter – which is extremely well-worth reading – he notes how some reviewers totally misunderstood the Latin poem from which the title is taken, but he also notes how some critics have seen structures in the novel which, if there, were not intended. He suggests humourously that perhaps an author should complete a work and then die!

    It may be that Enigmatist has already returned by now. I look forward to seeing what he has to say. And let me be the first to congratulate you if you turn out in due course to be right re that ‘just one clue’!

  37. tupu says:

    ps my 36 crossed with your 35.

  38. Mr Beaver says:

    Thanks for the blog to put us out of our misery. Just given up on this today with 5 left unsolved :(.
    But at least yesterday’s Araucaria was more generous, which was a relief.

    SODA JERK ?? I think obscure phrases are unfairer than obscure words – at least with a word you haven’t met, you can guess and confirm from a dictionary, or at worst look the crossing letters up in Word Wizard.
    But I have to concede the other four (17a, 23a, 21d, 22d were fair, if tough)

    Where’s Von Stalhein when you need him ?

  39. tupu says:

    Hi Mr B
    Thanks! I’d forgotten about Von S! I am reminded by Von Google that ‘He is clever, he is ruthless, he has a strange code of honour and his skills are highly respected by Biggles’!
    Just the man we needed now that Biggles has started to suffer from multiple personality disorder!

  40. Bryan says:

    John H @ 33

    After much speculating, I duly became much more miserable.

    However, I find that banging my head against a brick wall brings some welcome relief.

  41. John H says:

    In clue order,

    first seven clues Shed,
    second seven Araucaria,
    third seven Paul,
    last seven Enigmatist.

  42. Bryan says:

    Many thanks John H @ 41

    It was amazing how all of you managed to fit everything together and also to include the Nina.

    Well done!

  43. Eileen says:

    John H

    Very many thanks all round – for your part in a super puzzle and your hint at #33. With that bit of help, I cracked it! [You must have had some fun! :-)

  44. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, Enigmatist (or dare I say John), then I had at least the Across ones right (and so my Dream World collapsed :)).
    But I swapped Paul and you [I still feel that the last bunch of seven is more John the Other H. (not just because of Vindaloo)].
    Funny, isn’t it?

    Looking back at my first post (#12) I did 9 predictions: only 3 of them were right … !!
    [but poor Bryan (#6), he was completely wrong]
    And, although I hardly had any criticism: 2 out of 3 times Paul was the victim.

    I think, the result makes very clear that some styles and certainly those of you, more or less Libertarian topsetters, are very close or at least show an overlap.

    I will not express my feelings about who or what I liked most.
    It was a giant team effort, and so it shall be remembered.
    And I/we enjoyed it immensely – and look at that number of posts for a Saturday puzzle!

  45. Sil van den Hoek says:

    And there’s one more thing.
    I was just talking to my PinC when I asked myself who’s done the grid (including the words). For example, I can imagine that someone like the editor was responsible for that, giving each of the Johns their share (in which case we eg should unlink Paul and a word like Vindaloo).
    I’m sure our Gang of Four would have a good time together, but designing a grid together is a bit dullish, isn’t it?

  46. Carrots says:

    OK Sil….I`ll rise to the bait. What, exactly is a “PinC”? The only thing I can think of is “Partner-in-Crime”, but somehow I can`t imagine you as an Al Capone figure. (As Machine-Gun-Kelly maybe, especially when winding tupu up with scatter-shot!)

  47. Chris says:

    One mistake: you haven’t finished it yet, so the clock’s still running.

    Also the music of the day is obviously Buffalo Tom’s Soda Jerk,
    but obviously this is news to you.
    Good puzzle this one, though even for those of us who admit the time taked to slog it out.

  48. Dynamic says:

    This was a fascinating and challenging crossword with some vocabulary unknown to me that my PinC (for me, that’s “Partner in Crosswords” – I can’t speak for Sil) enlightened me about, and I missed the nina.

    Many thanks to all commenters, especially those with inside knowledge to elaborate on it – much appreciated, Mr & Mrs H.

    In the way that a setter might often start with theme words or favourite clues from their clue-bank to begin filling the grid (e.g. see Anax’s Actually Setting – The Anatomy of a Crossword for an example or his From The Top – the full story of setting a cryptic), I’d expect that when you’re aiming for a perimeter nina, after choosing a grid with an unchecked perimeter you’d put the nina in first then try to find words that fit and give interesting clueing options without causing bottlenecks or restricting the choice of checking solutions too much. Obviously there are other considerations at times, such as with Araucaria’s alphabetical jigsaw crossword in about September with RIGHT and BOTTOM on the two sides that don’t include the starting letters.

    I think variation in boundary conditions or methods of seeding the grid can add interest to the challenge of setting and sustain interesting variations for solvers too.

    Personally, I find ninas enjoyable from time to time, but also appreciate simple great clueing, interesting themes and mini themes and use of cross-references, as I also appreciate four-headed hybrid setters! So I’d say to all setters, keep up the variation and enjoy it and I’m sure we solvers will too far more often than not.

    It’s also fascinating to see that it’s not always that obvious even to seasoned solvers what looks like a “typical John Halpern” clue as opposed to a “typical John Henderson” clue. Clearly the constraints of the word in question and its wordplay possibilities ensure that the lines are blurred, and possibly it’s the grid fill as much as the clue construction that makes their characteristic styles shine through in single-setter crosswords.

    When a particular setter isn’t setting all the solutions in the grid, they’re not able to put in words that they’d personally have chosen, for example to suit John Halpern’s cheeky/risqué predelictions or to deliberately mislead or subvert (e.g. notice the trend for Henry = H and subvert it using Thiery Henry by using Thievery as a solution, or to set a grid filled with every kind of ‘flower’ clue you can think of, or a grid where each across clue ends as the next one starts, or every solution contains a double-letter, all of which I’ve seen recently, and all of which have caused enjoyment and admiration.

    I’d also suggest that the target publication’s setting rules and target difficulty will have an influence on clue style. For example, Ray T setting Telegraph Toughies as Beam (which he’s done twice) differs to a degree from his regular, but anonymous, Daily Telegraph cryptics.

  49. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dynamic, I only want to say that I am very impressed by your ‘lecture’.
    No not cynical, I really am.
    You hit many nails on their heads – very enjoyable to read!

  50. Shed says:

    Well, it’s gratifying to see we’ve kept the blogging classes occupied for over a week. If it’s any consolation, when the proof finally turned up, none of us could remember who had written which clues or how the nina worked, though with a bit of help from jetdoc we got there in the end. Credit to Enigmatist for having produced the grid: the rest of us just wrote our appointed clues.

    Having been outed as the author of 11ac, I personally think it’s OK to use ‘to’ as a ‘plus’ sign in an anagram (add this set of letters ‘to’ this set of letters and mix them all up). But I was half-expecting to be accused of racism for this one, so I can take redundant prepositions on the chin.

  51. Dynamic says:

    Thanks to Shed also for your valued comment, and your cluewriting in this memorable crossword. The willingness of esteemed setters to read our comments and reply makes the whole experience so much more rewarding. Once my PinC told me of the non-PC phrase, which wasn’t in my vocabulary, I thought 11ac was a particularly good clue, especially in that its surface reading acknowledges the solution’s undertones while providing the cryptic wordplay to lead to it.

    To Sil@49, I’ve also found a lot of interest when you’ve recounted your solving experiences and enjoyment in various comments over the last few months. Where they differ from my own it’s particularly interesting to me, especially as someone interested in the process from both sides – solver and setter, as one immersed in British culture and vernacular or otherwise. Hope nobody else minded my ‘lecture’ on a few revelations that everybody’s comments, brave guesses and official answers had given me.

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