Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 13,596 / Gaff

Posted by smiffy on January 20th, 2011


A prodigious amount of thematic material has been skilfully shoe-horned into this commemorative puzzle.  This appears to be Gaff’s debut (oh go on then, inaugural!) appearance in the FT although I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of a more familiar hand under a temporary pseudonym, similar to appearances by Courtier around Wimbledon fortnight.  I was fortunate to rumble the theme extremely quickly –  residing in the subject’s hometown, where the local media have been indulging in extensive coverage during the build-up to today’s anniversary, certainly helped.

9 HYGIENICS – (cigs in theory)* – rot.  ‘Foul’ is the anagrind, and the Ximeneans in the room would be scouring the premises for one related to the subtractive ‘rot’ too.
10 MAFIA – aka Cosa Nostra (‘Our family’).  Reputedly Kennedy’s BFFs (when he wasn’t playing games of nuclear chicken with Khrushchev or hide-the-sausage with Marilyn obviously).
11 RISSOLE – (is s{mall} in role.
12 NUN-BIRD – cryptic definition (re: nunneries).  An unknown species to me, and one which – surprisingly – doesn’t seem to resemble a wimple-wearer in any way, shape or form.
14 RIGHT ITSELF – (tight)* in (fliers)*.
17 FLEET – flee + t.  Our setter is not too busy overdosing on thematic elements to neglect the other clues.  Another smooth offering.
18 ASH – double def’n.
19 DECOR – hidden reversal.
23 JFK – John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  re: the Oliver Stone biopic/conspiracy theory.  ‘first man’ being a whimsical back-formation from First Lady. Clever, but it’s a pun that received plenty of airplay when the prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming president was still in the offing (i.e. what would one call Bill?…other than the obvious).
27 OVERLAP – over + lap.
28 ELECT – cryptic, cross-referencing def’n.
29 UTTERANCE – (truncate)* + e{loquent}.

1,4 THIRTY FIVE – 5 x 7, Kennedy’s position in the ordinal ranking of Presidents.
2 EGG SAUCE – e.g. + g[ood} + (cause)*.
3 DEMOCRATIC – demo + (rat in C-I-C).
5,21,8,13,25,13,8,21 ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY – (Yank, around forty, too raunchy to cow us)* + an ‘alternative’ (variation on the same theme).  I’m not the world’s biggest fan of titan-a-grams, but this one does contain an admirably high quotient of &lit-ish material and the (re)cycling of 21,8 and 3 adds a refreshing touch.
6 OMEN – [Cap’t] Nemo<.
7 OFFICE – off ice.
15 GRATUITOUS – gratuit{y} + 0 + us (‘the FT’).
16 TEDDY BEARS – (y{ou}r bedstead)*.  I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the comment I made at 17A – with knobs on.
17 FLYPAPER – fly (‘clever’) + paper (‘us’).
20 CAJOLING – (lac{k} + jingo).  A minor quibble here on the definition.  Isn’t cajoling merely an attempt, rather than surefire success, at persuasion?
22 UPKEEP – double def’n.
24 KIPPER – double def’n.
26 HATE – hidden.
27 OATH – (A hot)*.  & lit

16 Responses to “Financial Times 13,596 / Gaff”

  1. jmac says:

    Thanks for the blog Smiffy. Particularly liked HYGIENICS, FLYPAPER, TEDDY BEARS, and the previously unknown NUN-BIRD. Nearly messed up by misremembering the quote as “but what” but all righted itself in the end. Agree with your comments about the long anagram -thanks for taking the trouble to spell it all out. Only the contentious clueing of MAFIA detracting from a great puzzle.

  2. bamberger says:

    I googled what happened fifty years ago today and while that didn’t yield the exact answer, in a flash of genius I got the long answer. However I inexplicably failed to get 23a-the best I could come up with was lsd, thinking of what lsd does. Got the lhs out but very little of the rhs.

  3. smiffy says:

    If you’d searched via, rather than, you wouldn’t even have needed to search beyond the homepage logo! And I would concur with you about the left-hand side being the more tractable of the two.

  4. Richard says:

    Once I had the S as the second letter of the first 3 letter word in 5d, it became all too obvious what the 17 word phrase was (and the clue became unnecessary). Otherwise a lot of really nicely constructed clues today.

  5. Lenny says:

    I also am not a fan of 61-letter anagrams. I just ignored it and got the phrase from the crossing letters. Otherwise this was quite a good effort. I enjoyed the clues to Teddy-Bears, Flypaper, Omen and Office. I liked the chutzpah of the 4-letter anagram at 27. I was not so keen on the clue to Nun-bird (not in my dictionary) nor the tenuous link to the Mafia. I also did not understand the Thirty Five reference. Thanks Smiffy for explaining that. And thanks Gaff, if this is really your first effort.
    There was also a touch of nostalgia for me with the narcoleptic fish. I started doingcrosswords about 50 years ago and one of the first clues I solved in the Sun crossword was “Fish who likes a nap”.

  6. Tony Welsh says:

    I got CAJOLING first and then JFK and then the quote was obvious. Except that like jmac I thought the quote was “… BUT what you…”. (The fact that some of the grid positions were used twice should also have been a clue but I did not notice this until I was actually entering the answer.)

  7. Scarpia says:

    Thanks smiffy.
    Pretty tough puzzle I thought,but once I twigged the quotation the rest went in pretty quickly.
    Couldn’t find NUN BIRD in dictionaries but the wordplay was fair.HYGENICS and OATH were my favourites in a very good puzzle.
    Enigmatist/Io/Nimrod possibly?

  8. TokyoColin says:

    Probably too late but I don’t understand the blog’s explanation for 28ac. What does “three countries” have to do with ELECT. Spain/Latvia… doesn’t work.

  9. smiffy says:

    Not too late at all – perish the thought. The 3 is a reference to the answer ad 3d (i.e. What democratic countries can do….). This is one of those tricksy puzzles where the numerical references are sometimes a reference to another clue (as in this instance), and other times simply numbers (e.g. 1,4D).

  10. Rishi says:

    I recently heard someone say that the famous quotation attributed to JFK is actually not his own but that he was only quoting (or paraphrasing) someone else.

    This was in a public speech by an eminent Tamil scholar. I am sorry that I don’t remember the ‘original source’ (if at all).

    Is the public speaker’s stand correct and, if so, can anyone say who made the statement 9or near equivalent) first (if at all).

  11. TokyoColin says:

    Thank you Smiffy. Doh, so obvious now.

  12. TokyoColin says:

    To Rishi@10. A quick google search brings up a variety of purported sources for that quote. A Dr. Javeed Nayeem in Mysore attributes it to Kahlil Gibran, while another source identifies Cicero as the originator. More definitively, Oliver Wendell Homes is recorded as saying “Recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return” in an 1884 Memorial Day speech.

  13. nmsindy says:

    As indicated in the blog and comments, I think most solvers would have got the quote without working out the long anagram. That was true in my case also. I had the advantage that, when the “fifty years ago” reference was given, I could say “I should remember that – just about”. Then remembered press articles about it in recent days and the quote went in tho, again like some others I’d ‘but’ at first for the second ‘ask’. It was a very impressive achievement by Gaff to put the anagram together which itself included some appropriate wording. I guess this took a very long time. It would be very difficult to clue a long answer like this other than by an anagram, tho for the solver I think that, in such cases, it’s more used to verify the correct answer at the end rather than to get the answer by manipulating the letters.

  14. Rishi says:


    Thanks for your research.

    This question of attribution of the well-known quote came up in a speech by a Muslim speaker at the inauguration of an Islamic book centre in Madras.

    I now recall that the speaker mentioned Kahlil Gibran’s name.

    JFK was a popular US President with Indian masses. This quote is often cited by debaters in schools and colleges, always mentioning the President’s name.

  15. Sil van den Hoek says:

    What about GAFF = G(ozo) + A(lberich) + F(alcon) + F(limsy)? :)

  16. Hellathwen says:

    This puzzle is indeed Gaff’s first puzzle for the FT. He is known under other pseudonyms elsewhere and I am delighted to see his work appear in a daily for the first time. He has been a regular compiler for me as an editor for some years. This is an auspicious debut.

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