Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,558 / Phi – snow on the line?

Posted by RatkojaRiku on January 6th, 2011


A tricky puzzle, since so many of the entries revolved around one clue, which for those of us working on the basis of the electronic version alone was merely described as a 17-word entry, with no indication of the length of the original words – perhaps the paper version (which appears not to have reached these foreign climes yet today) gave more details? I take it that it did, since the letter count has been kindly posted by Eimi on Fifteensquared.

I realised early on that I was probably looking for a quotation from a poem, and when I saw the letters of “journey” appearing in 22, I was reminded of T S Eliot’s poem and then understood the brilliant cryptic definition – an incredibly topical one, indeed, for those of us left stranded at King’s Cross in December! Once this had been cracked, I solved 1D, 3, 5 and 9, since I now had more letters in place. In all honestly, without spotting the quotation, I doubt I would have completed a third of this puzzle.

I also struggled to crack some of the wordplay, not least 26; 8 and 9 were new to me; and I am not sure that I have correctly explained 21. Basically, Phi gave me at least a very good workout this morning!

*(…) indicates an anagram


9 MONOTREME NOT in [MO (=second, abbreviation of moment) + REME (=group of soldiers, i.e. abbreviation of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers); a platypus is a monotreme, i.e. a mammal having a single opening for the genital and digestive organs.
10 ABACI A (=one) in [ABC (=basic elements) + I]
11 TAR TAR(e) (=much of ship’s weight; “much of” means not all letters are to be used); tare is the weight of a vessel or empty vehicle; a tar is a sailor
12/28/4/ 1A/22 A COLD COMING WE HAD OF IT, JUST THE WORST TIME OF THE YEAR FOR A JOURNEY Cryptic definition: we are not to think of King’s Cross station and snow on railway lines making travelling a headache. Instead, the reference is to the T S Eliot’s poem (=lines) The Journey of the Magi (=kings), the journey making them cross being that to Bethlehem to see the newly born Jesus.
13 BALMIEST *(MAIL) in BEST (=most satisfactory); “redirected” is anagram indicator
14 SWATHE  *(WHAT’S) + E (=last of arablE, i.e. last letter only is to be used); “ploughed up” is the anagram indicator; a swathe is a band of mown ground.
17 CLAMMY CLAM (=quiet person) + MY (=surprised exclamation)
19 INTREPID *(PINTER) + I (=one) + D (=director, i.e. abbreviation as in MD for Managing Director); “version” is the anagram indicator
24 RAG (b)RAG (=boast; “after leader’s deposed” means that the first letter is to be dropped)
26 RULED RU(MP)LED (=upset; “politician left means that the letters MP (=Member of Parliament) are not used); the definition is “subject to regulation”
27 BUONA SERA A (=middle of beAch; i.e. central letter only is to be used) in *(US ON BARE); “rocks” is anagram indicator; buona sera is “good evening” in Italian, cf bon soir in French.



1 TEMPT TE(a)M (=side; “dropping a” means the letter “a” is not used) + PT (=point); to draw is to tempt
2 MONGREL MON (= “my” in French) + G (=good) + RE (=regarding) + L (=Latin)
3 OSTRACISM OST (=east in German) + RACISM (=opposition to foreigners)
5 EMENDS EM (=printing unit) + ENDS (=dies)
6 ERATO Hidden in opERA TOnight; “evident in” indicates a hidden answer; Erato is the muse of lyric poetry in Greek mythology, hence a source of inspiration to poets.
7 REALIST REA(d) (=cut study, “cut” means that the word is to be shortened) + LIST (=roster)
8 ZIEGFELD [I + EG (=say, i.e. for example) + F (=fellow)] in ZELD(a) (=Mrs Fitzgerald, wife of American novelist F Scott Fitzgerald; “mostly” means that not all letters are to be used); the reference is to the Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld and his Broadway theatre opened in the 1920s, hence the American spelling “theater” in the clue.
13 BACKFIRE BACK (=support) + FIRE (=arson)
15 WORRYWART ROW (=dispute; “escalating” means letters are to be vertically reversed, i.e. in a down clue) + *(TRY WAR); “at sea” is the anagram indicator; a worrywart is a person who worries unnecessarily.
16 ON AND OFF Definition: intermittently; “on” and “off” are sides on a cricket pitch.
18 AIRFLOW *(RAF I) + LOW (=unhappy); “fancy” is the anagram indicator
20 PARVENU PAR (=standard) + VENU(s) (=symbol of love; “not Second” means that the letter “s” is to be dropped); a parvenu is an upstart, hence “one newly prominent”.
21 TURBID TUR(n) (=opportunity; “curtailed” means that not all letters are used) + BID (=opportunity?); turbid is disrupted, unsettled, disordered.
23 JUDAH JUD(ges) (=half of Judges; “half of” means that only half the letters are to be used) + (joshu)A + (rut)H (=”climaxes of” means that only last letters are to be used)
25 GRAFT G (=good) + RAFT (=vessel)

15 Responses to “Independent 7,558 / Phi – snow on the line?”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks for the blog, RatkojaRiku.

    Wow. Was this all folly? I’ve no doubt some will think so, but I really liked it, against my initial expectations. I’m not a big fan of long anagrams/definitions, and when I saw the long clue in the online version, I was, like, what the chuff? (as Kathryn would say).

    But then I realised that today is Epiphany, Phi usually does Friday crosswords, the big clue has Kings in it … so I cracked on with the rest of the puzzle, which to be fair to Phi, was pretty accessible and gave you some crossing letters for the biggie.

    I got the T S Eliot quote with about half a dozen clues remaining. Without the enumeration, it was JOURNEY that gave it away. For me it was then instantly gettable, since to misquote Cloughie, imho it’s not the best poem ever written, but it’s in the top one.

    Elsewhere, I got WORRYWART from the wordplay and liked ON AND OFF with its cricketing reference (yes, yes, yes, yes, yessss). The only one I didn’t much like was ZIEGFELD (who he? who she?) but that’s the only obscurity that I found in a puzzle that must have been pretty difficult to construct.

    So well done to Phi. But I suppose that if you’re not familiar with the poem, then you could say that the Magi clue isn’t fair. A bit like Belly being given not out off one he nicked to the keeper.

    Sorry, I seem to have gone on a bit, but I’m excited.

  2. Wanderer says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku and Phi, and also to Eimi for giving us the enumeration of the long clue on this site. What a difference that makes – I was ready to give up until I had that, which would have been a shame after I’d already been comprehensively defeated by Bonxie in the Guardian. I had to learn part of the Journey of the Magi by heart as a schoolboy, and it came back to me with a gleeful rush with a few crossing letters and the enumeration in place. (Ok, I still had to look it up to check, which is cheating of course, but I felt justified in that at least I knew what I had to look up!) I did not know that today is Epiphany, for which thanks, K’s D, but from wikipedia I learn that Eliot died on Jan 4, so we are close to that anniversary. What a pleasure to return to this poem after a long absence. Some other clues (WORRYWART, BUONA SERA) defeated me, but the long clue made my day. I too have gone on a bit, but I too am excited.

  3. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for the blog, RatkojaRiku – and Phi for the puzzle.

    Well, I thought the lack of enumeration for the long clue was deliberate, since it would be too much of a giveaway, but, as K’s D says, it’s perhaps not fair to suppose that everyone knows this lovely poem.

    The ‘cross’ in the clue, for me, brought to mind,

    ‘We three kings of Orient are;
    Bearing gifts, we traverse afar
    Field and fountain…’,

    which was my introduction to the word ‘traverse': as a small child I heard it as ‘travel so far’.

  4. Richard says:

    A goodie. Quite hard to do without any reference books (or online equivalent), but I managed it in the end after quite a bit of head-scratching. Last in for me was “turbid”, a word often confused with “turgid”, and I had to guess “just”, having remembered the rest of the quotation.

  5. nmsindy says:

    Thanks for the blog, RatkojaRiku. A very good puzzle from Phi. I’ll have to admit I was not familiar with the quote but, with the generally accessible clues and Phi’s fair and precise clueing as always, I pretty much got it, just having to check at the very end.

    All very topical weatherwise as well as being related to the exact day of 6 January!

    I did notice that in the clue it was Kings Cross not King’s Cross, why of course only became clear as the theme was revealed. The double use of ‘lines’ was good and I did spot from that straightaway that it would probably be a quote from a poem.

    “I thought the lack of enumeration for the long clue was deliberate, since it would be too much of a giveaway” I would not agree with that at all, Eileen, it may be very different of course if you knew the quote already…

  6. Eileen says:

    Hi nms

    To be fair, I did qualify my comment about the enumeration being a ‘giveaway’. It’s the old story of anything being easy if you happen to know it and pretty impenetrable if you don’t.

  7. scchua says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku for the blog, and Phi for another enjoyable puzzle. It was made more challenging by the missing enumeration. But, leaving them to the end, I managed to get those 17 words by googling “poem” and JOURNEY, before the expected posting of the enumeration.

    I thought we were going places in a theme, with references to Australian (9A “platypus”), Italian (27A), French (2D), and German (3D), and, perhaps, American (8D), but none came up.

    Favourites were 3D OSTRACISM, 8D ZIEGFELD and 20D PARVENU.

    PS. 8D – “theater” instead of “theatre”? Et tu Brute! The only (weak)excuse might be that the answer is an American!

  8. nmsindy says:

    Re comment at 6, Eileen, I absolutely agree, tho Phi’s crossing clues did help to make it less impenetrable as solving proceeded and I’ve now read the poem for the first time…

  9. Eileen says:

    Thanks, nmsindy – and I hope you enjoyed it! :-)

  10. Wil Ransome says:

    Ziegfeld Follies: a 1945 film and a sort of early version of the Tiller Girls, and probably much greater.

  11. RatkojaRiku says:

    Yes, I too wondered if there was a particular reason for moving Phi’s puzzle from its usual Friday slot to Thursday, and checked to see if 6 Jan was an important date in the life of T S Eliot. However, the more obvious connection with Epiphany never occurred to me!

    Again, I am always amazed to read what clues particular solvers have found easy and hard – as Eileen says, it’s easy when you know how!

  12. Phi says:

    I have to admit I’m not a great fan of long answers spanning several grid entries, but this just appealed to me. It was only looking at the grid a couple of weeks later that the ‘Kings Cross’ thought came to me (and I’m glad the absent apostrophe was appreciated – it’s not often you can work a subtlety like that into a clue).

    ‘Theater’ was also deliberate (and I must demur – not ‘weak’), to point you at an American, though I was a little surprised at how quickly Flo Ziegfeld has been forgotten – his annual Follies ran every year from 1907 to 1931, which is a rather larger success than many of the big names have today. (And, of course, he inspired Sondheim’s musical ‘Follies’.) Better not offer you Busby Berkeley, then.

  13. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Phi, for dropping in. I have to get on now with the rest of my evening/your morning, but without being too gushing, I just wanted to say that your puzzle was (you may say) satisfactory.

  14. NealH says:

    Not really one for me today, I’m afraid. I only got the long answer by googling “time of year for a journey” after I’d guessed the last bit. Sadly, my education didn’t extend to learning many poems by heart, so it meant absolutely nothing to me. I didn’t even know it was about the magi – I thought it must be some comment on travelling on the railways. The rest of the answers were OK, but it was slow going with so much of the puzzle consumed by the long answer. I thought Ziegfeld was tricky as well if you’d never heard of Zelda Fitzgerald, especially when you were misdirected to look for a homephone of man in the middle bit.

  15. flashling says:

    Thanks R/Phi failed on zeigfeld and was buggered up by putting in in and out rather than on and off. Oh well. Thanks to my sub tomorrow and no I didn’t know who it would be!

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