Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 13,557 / Cinephile – SO tricky

Posted by RatkojaRiku on December 1st, 2010


A late-night log-on to the FT site revealed that my first blog here would be devoted to one of Cinephile’s thematic puzzles in the series “XX has the same meaning throughout”: in other words, a daunting, albeit highly entertaining, prospect in store. True to form, Cinephile did not disappoint. A lovely way to end my Tuesday and start my Wednesday!

It took me longer than usual to crack the theme of this puzzle. 1a was the first thematic clue that I solved, which told me that the theme was either card games or Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas. Given the sheer length of some of the thematic entries, the latter was more likely. The anagrams at 6,7 and 17,18 soon followed and then 4 and 30, for which the wordplay took longer to unpick.  The references to partial names of comic operas in 28 and especially 10 kept me guessing a good long while.

Incidentally, although I solved the puzzle on the assumption that the initials SO stood for Sullivan Operas, I am reliably informed that they actually stand for Savoy Operas.


1             PATIENTS – thematic: homonym of “Patience”, G&S comic opera

5             EPOPEE – POPE in E, E (2x ecstasy); EPOPEE is lyric poetry; Alexander Pope was a renowned translator of Homer’s epic poetry

9             PEDAL BIN – P (=quiet) + ED (=editor) + ALBIN[0] (=unnaturally white object, cut short); a pedal bin is an item to be found in the kitchen

10           PRINCE – thematic: “PRINCEss Ida”, G&S comic opera (=part of SO); reference is made to 25, and to the song “I stole the Prince” in “The Gondoliers”: part of the plot involves the Grand Inquisitor stealing a prince and entrusting his upbringing to a gondolier. If anyone has any alternative interpretations of this clue, I would be keen to hear them as I am not convinced that my reading is the intended one.

12           FIRST SLIP – FIRST (=prime) + SLIP (=error); first slip is a fielding position in cricket

13           TIARA – I (=one) inside TARA; Tara is the name of the O’Hara family’s plantation in “Gone with the Wind”

16           VESICLE – replace H (=hour) with S (=second) in VEHICLE (=transport); vesicle is a biological term for a container for serum, a fluid sac, e.g. seminal vesicle

19           ECHOISM – EC (=City, i.e. East Central district of London) + HO (=house) + IS + M (= my opening, i.e. first letter of “my”); I was not familiar with this word but it revealed itself to me via the wordplay.

21           BUFF – double definition + cryptic definition; to buff = to polish, a buff = a fan; to be in the buff = to be nude

24           MAGUS – MAG (=periodical, abbreviation of magazine) + US (American); a magus is a Persian priest or Eastern magician; I wondered about the word order in the wordplay here.

25           GONDOLIER – thematic: GONDOLIER[S] (singular SO, i.e. the plural ‘s’ is dropped); *(OLD + I(=one)) in GONER (=lost one); “The Gondoliers” is a G&S comic opera

27           NAAMAN – N/A (= not applicable) + A + MAN (=male); the story of the leper Naaman is to be found in the Old Testament in 2 Kings; this reference was new to me.

28           PINAFORE – thematic: “HMS Pinafore” is a G&S comic opera

29           FIDDLE – double definition; to fiddle the books = to falsify the accounts

30           IOLANTHE – thematic: [V]IOL + ANTHE[M]; VIOLA (=instrument) loses its first letter (=topless), while ANTHEM (=piece, of music) loses its last letter (=endless); “Iolanthe” is a G&S comic opera


1             POP OFF – FOP (=dandy) in FOP (=hides himself, i.e. one fop is to be contained within another fop), all reversed (“when resurrected”)

2             TUDORS – *(STROUD); “emerging from” is the anagram indicator

3             ECLAT – hidden in “thE CLATter”

4,14       TRIAL BY JURY – thematic: A in TRILBY (=hat) + IN (injury is non-resident, i.e. not in, so IN is dropped, leaving JURY); “Trial by Jury” is a G&S comic opera

6,7          PIRATES OF PENZANCE – thematic: *(FASTEN CANOE + ZIPPER); “turns to” is the anagram indicator; The Pirates of Penzance is a G&S comic opera

8             ELEVATED – EV (E = letter 5 of the Roman alphabet, V = 5 in Roman numerals, hence 5-5) in ELATED (=overjoyed); vintage Cinephile wordplay

11           SPIV – VIPs (=top people), reversed (“being raised”)

15           UNINSTALL – UNI[o]N’S (= TUC’s lost love, i.e. O is dropped) + TALL (=hard to credit, e.g. a tall story); TUC is the British Trade Union Congress

17,18     YEOMEN OF THE GUARD – thematic: YE (=solvers) + OMEN (=sign) + OF + *(DAUGHTER); the anagram indicator is “errant”; “The Yeomen of the Guard” is a G&S comic opera

20           MEGA – A + GEM (=stone), reversed (“turn”)

21           BENDIGO – BEND (=change of course) + I + GO (=leave); Bendigo is a town in the Australian state of Victoria

22           SIT OUT – I (=one) in STOUT (=liquor)

23           BREEZE – homonym of “bries” (=cheeses)

26           OBAMA – OB (=Russian “flower”, i.e. river in western Siberia) + A + MA (=parent)

8 Responses to “Financial Times 13,557 / Cinephile – SO tricky”

  1. Ramasamy says:

    How will you explain the missing THE in the answer of 17,18?

  2. smiffy says:

    Welcome RatkojaRiku (no relation to Phssthpok by any chance?). A new FT setter and blogger on consecutive days!

    You certainly received a blogtastic baptism of fire with this one. I found it one of the toughest FT in living memory. Not helped by the theme being something of a blind spot for me (28A was the entry for me), but NAAMAN and EPOPEE are pretty esoteric for a daily broadsheet too. The wordplay device at 1D is very clever.

    Not quite sure what the point of Ramasamy’s comment (at #1) is. A vague and irrelevantly pedantic question (that should, incidentally, be directed at the setter rather than the blogger) strikes me as a very rude way to greet a blogging debutant…

  3. Bracoman says:

    Thanks for the very clear blog.

    I thought it was not too tricky, although I had to look on the internet to get a list of SO’s. Maybe being snowbound with 3 feet of snow and nothing else to do but snow clearing and crosswords has improved my abilities. Certainly getting more exercise (physical and mental) than normal.

  4. Richard says:

    Yes, excellent blog and a somewhat benign Cinephile offering (SO came fairly quickly). It is always fun when he teaches us new words – Epopee, Naaman and Bendigo in my case – but makes them easy to construct. I also like his themes which are baffling for a while then, with a few letters, make themselves obvious and the puzzle just seems to complete itself.

    Whenever I see the name Cinephile I know I am in for a treat.

  5. scarpia says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku.
    I read 10 across in the same way as you and thought it was the weakest clue in the puzzle.You would need to know a fair bit about G and S to work that one out!
    The other “obscurities” in the puzzle (NAAMAN/EPOPEE and BENDIGO)were clued so as to be solvable by wordplay alone.
    A very enjoyable solve.

  6. RatkojaRiku says:

    Yes, Ramasamy, I noticed the missing article too, although the same could be said of 6,7, although (initial) articles often disappear from the names of book, films, etc when they appear in puzzles, in my experience – poetic licence on the part of (some) compilers! Personally speaking, I wouldn’t want my grids littering with too many surplus articles…

    Thanks for the positive feedback overall – indeed, it was a daunting prospect for a virgin blogger, especially since the SO didn’t reveal itself to me as easily as it apparently did to others. However, as Richard says, once the breakthrough comes with these thematic Cinephile puzzles, things do seem just to slot into place.

  7. Jen says:

    I’m absolutely sure I’m missing something, but isn’t the ‘missing’ article in 17,18 part of the anagram of daughter?

    Thanks for the great blog entry on this! We had a really hard time with it, but enjoyed the puzzle (and your entry) tremendously.

  8. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks, Jen, for the feedback. My understanding of the point about the missing article is that the official title of the comic opera would be The Yeomen of the Guard (cf The Pirates of Penzance), hence the initial article (in front of Yeomen) is missing from the grid entry and the wordplay; the second article (in front of Guard) is, as you say, part of the anagram of “daughter”.

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