Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7574 / Mordred

Posted by duncanshiell on January 25th, 2011


I’m an emergency stand-in today, so apologies for the slight delay in posting.

I’m not a regular daily Independent solver – I tend to get The Independent on Saturday for the Inquisitor (which I blog every 4 weeks) and the Saturday normal puzzle (which I blog every 5 weeks).  If Mordred is typical of Independent setters then I suspect that I would be struggling on a daily basis.  

I readily admit I resorted to a fair bit of research before I understood fully all of today’s puzzle.  Until just before I completed the blog I was still unsure of 27 across that I have entered as KING HENRY.  I would not have been surprised to have been told that the answer was something else. However, I decided to have one last of trawl of the internet and have discovered a British wild plant called GOOD KING HENRY, so I now have more confidence in my answer

I have turned to the Shorter Oxford and Collins rather than Chambers, which is usually my dictionary of choice, on at least a couple of these clues.  My knowledge of engines is limited to the fact that they are fine when they work.  The OTTO cycle of the internal combustion engine is new to me.  I wasn’t familiar either with the currency of Costa Rica, the COLON, but one of the joys of crossword puzzles is learning new things.  PETER, as a term in card games was also new to me.  Finally, I have discovered a new primate, the TITI

There was a strong sporting thread running through this puzzle, which will no doubt be welcomed by half the solvers and despaired at by the other half.  Sport is one area where I do feel comfortable.  However, I might take issue with the suggestion that Kevin Pietersen is one of cricket’s VIRTUOSI at the moment.

Even given my struggles with 27 across, I thought all the clues were rigorous and understandable.  They just required a very wide knowledge to solve.  There was some excellent misdirection and there were some very good surfaces.


Wordplay Entry
7 PETER (a safe) PETER (a high card followed by a low card, played as a signal to a partner in bridge)  Double definition
8 SEMI (house; accommodation) + COLON (currency [ready money] in Costa Rica) SEMICOLON (puctuation mark; as the clue says – Here it is ;)
10 R (runs) + (B [bowled; cricket abbreviation] contained in [within] A BIT [a short time]) RABBIT (an inferior player at cricket; he doesn’t score many. Given the current debate on sexism in sport, perhaps this should have been ‘He or she doesn’t score many’.)
11 Anagram of (found amazing) A SETTER I TREATISE (profound work)
12 Anagram of (sadly [does]) (VI [six) and OUT and SIR) VIRTUOSI (musicians [or other artists – e.g. cricketers] of the highest technical skill.  KP [reference Kevin Pietersen, English Test batsman])
13 Hidden word (seen in) …..MARCH A REALLY…… HARE (fast runner)
15 (ILL [sick] + last letter T of [finally] PRESIDENT) contained in (boarding) HOP ([short] flight) HILLTOP (summit)
17 S (small) + WALLOW (flounder) SWALLOW (consume)
20 Exclude (shed) the odd letters (at intervals) from FAT BULGES to leave the even letters ABLE ABLE (fit)
22 Anagram of (exotic) ALMAH + BRA (underwear) ALHAMBRA (reference Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain)
25 NATIONAL (Indian; any nationality could have been used in the clue) NATIONAL (the main daily newspapers are referred to as ‘the nationals”)  Double definition
26 First letter L (initially) of LYING + ON (close by) + DON (a river in Britain; there is more than one) LONDON (capital, which was initially focused on the river when it was established as a settlement)
27 This was a guess until just before posting, but I’ll show you how I initially clutched at straws. K (sovereign) + I (one) + NG (no good) + HENRY (because it fits!).  I did think about PER (for) and R (king) to give RING PERR?, but I couldn’t find a plant called KING or RING PERRY.
As a result of the last-minute research I can now confidently parse this as GOOD KING HENRY (British wild plant) excluding (no) GOOD
KING HENRY (one sovereign, from many Henrys. Apparently Henry IV of France was known as Good King Henry)
28 TT (teetotal; dry) containing (keeping) (RU [Rugby Union football] + final letter S of [ultimately] STARS). So instead of ‘football stars ultimately keeping dry’ we have ‘dry keeping football stars ultimately’ – i.e. the opposite).  I did think about T + RUST for a time as RUST requires moisture to occur but, not surprisingly couldn’t make it fit the wordplay) TRUST (confidence in)


Wordplay Entry
1 TITI (small South American monkey; primate) contained in (put[s] in) an anagram of (bad) SHAPE HEPATITIS (inflammation of the liver; an illness that would put a primate in bad shape)
2 MEN ([armed] forces) reversed (heaving) + BUT (except; bar) + AL (Alabama; American state) NEMBUTAL (Trade name for a drug used as a hypnotic)
3 BEAT (thrashed) + RIX (reference Lord [Baron] Brian Rix; in his early days famous for his performances in farces at the Whitehall Theatre.  Latterly more associated with  the Royal Mencap Society) BEATRIX (reference Queen BEATRIX, current Queen in The Netherlands)
4 Anagram of (unfortunately) WHO IS containing (plugged by) DES (reference Des O’Connor, entertainer) SIDESHOW (lesser attraction)
5 POTTER (reference John Higgins, snooker player, who is a prolific potter of the balls, when he is allowed to play) POTTER (reference Harry POTTER, wizard, hero of the books by J K Rowling)
6 H (hot) + OUSE (one of a number of British rivers; running water) HOUSE (company; e.g. a trading company)
9 OTTO (aromatic oil, frequently found in barred crosswords, variant of attar) OTTO (reference OTTO thermodynamic cycle of internal combustion engines.  Named after  Nikolaus Otto who first demonstrated it in 1876 [so the internet tells me])
14 Anagram of (rickety) SHORE UP containing (encompassing) OO (crossword convention for an image of a pair of spectacles; specs) POORHOUSE (old institutional dwelling)
16 Anagram of (chopped up) ONE ALDER OLEANDER (evergreen shrub; tree)
18 L (left) + U (university) + (MARY {virtuous mother] containing [coming round] IN [pregnant with {?}, in-calf, in-foal]) LUMINARY (leading light)
19 GARY (reference Gary Player, South African golfer, in his prime a few years ago, 1960s/1970s) containing (contains) LYLE excluding (leaving) the last letter [ultimately] Y of SANDY.  Sandy Lyle was also a golfer of note a few years ago GALLERY (underground passage or open area in a cave; a bit of a hole)
21 BRIDGE (reference pontoon bridge) BRIDGE (card game)
23 H (height) + ILL (ailing; causing pain) HILL (fell; an upland tract)
24 D (dead) + AVID (keen) DAVID (biblical reference (I think) to King David as an artist, although there are other Davids who are artists, e.g. David Hockney)

23 Responses to “Independent 7574 / Mordred”

  1. Conrad Cork says:

    Good King Henry is more nutritious than chard or spinach, is truly perennial, and no pests eat it. No wonder round here allotment holders have whole beds of it. Cheers Mordred.

  2. richard l says:

    Thanks for the blog duncan. It was quite a challenge today.
    I think the painter in 24d is most likely to be the the French artist Jacques Louis David.

  3. Richard says:

    This was very hard to do without recourse to reference books etc. I was helped a little by the Beatrix Potter Nina (Peter Rabbit, Hilltop [House?], but, given that there seemed to be other themes as well (David Hare, National Gallery, London Virtuosi, London Bridge) it was not overly fruitful. No doubt there is a pairing with Otto, but I haven’t spotted it.

  4. Richard says:

    I had intended to include National Trust in my comment above, but pressed “submit” too soon.

  5. nmsindy says:

    I agree this was very tough, I saw the Beatrix Potter theme only at the very end, I’ll have to admit I’m not that familiar with her works but quick look at bios suggests NATIONAL TRUST was associated with her and of course PETER the RABBIT which finally helped me crack the v difficult NW corner. Some of the other animals may be associated with her also. Many thanks, Duncan, for the blog, but I think you will find this was extremely difficult for the Indy. The Saturday ones that you tackle are on average harder than the daily ones and this makes sense of course. Mordred might really have got into trouble if he described that low scoring cricketer as a she… Thanks, Mordred, for the puzzle.

  6. scchua says:

    Thanks Duncan for the blog, and also Mordred, which sounds just what solvers like me experience, given the degree of difficulty in his puzzles…and that’s a compliment (I think).

    This was difficult, requiring resort to references. Favourites were 8A SEMICOLON, which eluded me until what I thought was a comma turned out not to be (a digression: why is it not possible for the online version clue font to be larger…there’s lots of white space on the page!), 22A ALHAMBRA, and 4D SIDESHOW.

    3 incorrect/incomplete, which is about par for me for a Mordred, including that elusive 27A, and 2D where I put in BARBITAL, stubbornly incorporating the “bar”, but of course unable to parse the clue. 25A NATIONAL was a bit of a letdown, a so-so clue in a slew of good ones.

  7. walruss says:

    I think Mordred id pretty hard myself, but his great clueing has made up for it today. Glad I got the chance to complete three good puzzles, with the Times waiting for me back at the ranch. Thanks Mordred, thanks to the others too, thanks Duncan for that great style of blog!

  8. 4across says:

    thanks for the blog, i found this tough, even with cheating !
    as an aside could anyone please remind me of the prog to download the inde crossword, rather than fiddle on line (i’m away for a while)… thanks

  9. rodders says:

    Thanks for that, although I had to Google you as you are not coming up on 15 squared for some reason.
    I complete the Indy cryptic after breakfast around 95% of the time but by four today I gave up with about 75% done.
    If the crossword was that difficult on a daily basis I might even switch – I don’t have the time or energy to do detailed research on over half the clues.
    Be fair how many solvers would know the Costa Rican currency of the top of their head or that there is a plant called good king henry.
    Sorry MORDRED but I think you went a bit beyond the pale today – not the object of the exercise IMO.

  10. flashling says:

    Well I had a rather bad start to the day so had to call in emergency cover – thanks Duncan. But what a pig of a puzzle this was. Haven’t yet read the blog but I’m in a way happy I couldn’t post an attempt.

  11. sidey says:

    Direct download 4a

  12. pennes says:

    Well I have finished and enjoyed Mordred’s puzzles before but this was hard; I got halfway at least without resorting to research.
    I did have some gripes: for those without cricket knowledge is it fair to have jusy KP for Kevin Petersen I thought he is not well enough known, so spent a long time thinking it must be something to do with KP nuts (which have been around for years)
    re 25 ac: if any nationality could have been used for Indian, would it not have been fairer to clue something like “for example Indian newspaper” maybe the question mark is there for that reason, but it seems less fair.
    Also, seeing as titi is not a well known primate would not a more specific definition of hepatitis as an illness been kinder. I wasted a lot of time trying to make tr(ape)zoid for shape fit.
    Maybe these are all fair and my gripes are just an expression of frustration.

  13. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Duncan for a very informative blog of a very difficult puzzle.
    OTTO I guessed from the oil part of the definition,the engine part being unknown to me.TITI was also new to me.
    Solvers of this puzzle would need to have a fair range of general knowledge and access to reference books or the internet.
    I have collected a fair number of reference books over the years but in none of them could I find a reference to Niklaus Otto or his thermodynamic cycle,so I would question the fairness of that clue.
    Other than that I thought this was a very good puzzle.

  14. smartm says:

    Found this very hard today but enjoyed the ones I managed to crack. 4across – if you have an iPhone or iPad I highly recommend 2 across, a free app which can download the Indy and others. I have used it for a couple of months on and off, but still much prefer to solve it in the newspaper. Am I the only one who hates to fold the paper vertically when the crossword is down the side of the page rather than horizontally when it is at he bottom?!

  15. Wil Ransome says:

    It seems that the Beatrix Potter Nina is a bit weak. There must be something more, to excuse the dreadful checking (which is less than 50% in more than half the answers). This, combined with the extraordinarily difficult knowledge required, made it extremely difficult. Otto, peter, Good King Henry, Nembutal, gallery (in a cave), … crikey.

  16. Allan_C says:

    Tough, but got there in the end with the help of a word finder and checking back in Chambers. Several “of course!” moments, particularly with SEMICOLON. Punctuation frequently (usually?) has to be ignored in reading clues, but not this time. Failed to spot the nina or possible themes. Nice to see football referred to as the oval ball variety.

  17. 4across says:

    Thanks sidey

  18. nmsindy says:

    Re Scarpia’s comment #13, Otto cycle is perhaps not that familiar but it is in Collins all right.

  19. Scarpia says:

    Thanks again nmsindy.(After last weeks Dac puzzle)
    I guess I will have to invest in a copy of Collins now I am tackling the Indy crossword on a regular basis.
    I have 4 dictionaries already,so was loath to spend £35 on yet another.I see Amazon are selling it for £11.55(post free)so I think I will take them up on that!

  20. nmsindy says:

    Re #19, Scarpia, it might be as well to check carefully just what edition it is, I’ve the 30th anniv one from 2009 but there are a lot of others about. There was controversy in the past about a WHSmith special offer of their dict if I recall.

  21. Gaufrid says:

    Scarpia @19
    An alternative, if you are running Windows (XP or later) or a Mac, is to have the full Collins Dictionary on your desktop for only £9.99. I have been using the ‘Pro’ version for quite some time now and can recommend it provided you remember two things.

    The first is to have the window full-width otherwise some definitions are not displayed and the second is that, when searching for confirmation of single letter abbreviations, always scroll down to the bottom of the list.

  22. flashling says:

    Thanks for the link Gaufrid, very useful.

  23. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.
    It is tempting and I know I’m somewhat old fashioned, but I do still like real books,especially reference books.I nearly always find,when looking up one thing that I come across something else of interest.
    Speaking of digital vs. paper,I came across this brilliant anagram the other day –
    Digital books versus the “dead tree version”? =
    I’ve used both. Kindle’s storage is overrated.

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