Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,582 / Punk – Number-crunching

Posted by RatkojaRiku on February 3rd, 2011


The key to this puzzle was correct interpretation of the references to the numerals 1-10 that, rather cleverly, appeared in ascending order as the first words of each of the ten across clues: would the reference be to the numeral itself, which would then need to be transliterated into a Roman numeral or written out in full in English; would it refer the solution at the corresponding entry; or would the reference be to something completely different? Hardly surprisingly, there was a mixture of all three, which kept me guessing for a good long while.

In my view, Punk’s puzzles are tantalisingly ingenious, positively bursting with flair, and always immensely satisfying to solve – and I do normally solve them, since the clues are always basically fair. In this one, I cracked the long entries at 8, 11, 19 and 26 fairly quickly, but was held up by the shortish intersecting entries at 2 and 9, and correspondingly at 24 and 25. I fell into the trap of thinking that solving 24 would rely on my having solved 9. My favourites were 3 for the cheeky transposition of the punctuation mark, and 7 for the cheeky and well-hidden definition.

*(….) indicates an anagram

8 MARIE ANTOINETTE *(ONE + I + I + TEN + A  MATTER); here two of the numerals appear as Roman numerals in the composite anagram, while two are written out in full in English; “perhaps” is the anagram indicator.
9 ATWOOD A + [TWO (=2, written out in full) in OD (=the red, i.e. overdraft)]. Margaret Atwood is an internationally acclaimed Canadian writer, winner of the Booker Prize in 2000.
10 ROTUNDLY N (=indefinite number) in [*(ROT (=3, i.e. solution at 3 = balderdash) + DULY)]; “adjusted” is anagram indicator; cryptic definition referring to a plump human form rather than to any numeral.
11 VULGAR FRACTIONS *(FOUR + VACANT GIRLS); 4 is written out in full in this composite anagram; anagram indicator is “wobbling”; the definition describes what fractions in maths look like, i.e. “figures on top of each other,” separated by a line.
15 CHEDDAR [HE (=man) + DD (=religious scholar, i.e. Doctor of Divinity)] in CAR (=5, i.e. solution at 5 = fiat); Cheddar is a village in Somerset famous for its gorge.
16 IMPANEL *(MEAN + LIP); 6 is the solution at 6 = mean; “bust” is anagram indicator; “to impanel” (or, more unusually perhaps, empanel) is to select a jury from a list of names.
19 MALE CHAUVINISTS *(STALIN + MUCH I SAVE); 7 is the solution at 7 = Stalin; “to be scattered” is anagram indicator.
21 HEIGHTEN EIGHT (=8, written out in full) in HEN (=female).
24 SQUARE Double definition: 9 is a square number, i.e. 3 x 3 AND square as an adjective means conservative, orthodox, traditional.
26 TRINITROTOLUENE *(TEN + IN OIL TORTURE); 10 is written out in full; “excruciating” is anagram indicator; TNT is an explosive, hence “dangerous stuff”.
1 SALTBUSH BUS (=public transport) in *(HALTS); “rioting” is anagram indicator; “saltbush” is a shrubby plant found in arid regions, a member of the goosefoot family.
2 BIRO Cryptic definition: László Biró (1899-1985) was a Hungarian journalist (=”Hungarian writer”) credited with the invention of the biro (=”writer”).
3 BALDERDASH BALDER (=more like Yul Brynner, the famously bald actor) + DASH (-, i.e. describing the dash that appears in the clue).
4 STIR-FRY *(FIRST) + RY (=railway); “mixing” is the anagram indicator.
5 FIAT A in FIT (=suit, as a verb)
6 MEAN Double definition: “mean” as a verb is “intend” AND as an adjective “less than generous”
7 STALIN L (=bottom of stool, i.e. last letter only) in STAIN (=mark); Stalin is the “nasty red”, i.e. a brutal communist.
12 GADGE GADGE(t) = (ingenious thing; “short” means last letter dropped). Chambers describes “a gadge” as an instrument of torture, a word figuring in the work of Browning.
13 COMMISSION CO (=business, i.e. abbreviation of company) + M (=thousand in Roman numerals) + MISSION (=assignment)
14 IMARI MAR (=damage) in II (two (items) in Roman numerals); I’m not sure whether the intended break between the initial wordplay and the subsequent definitions in this clue comes after “two” or “two items”.
17 ENTERING Hidden in “cognoscENTE RINGside”; partially & lit., since “taking part” indicates hidden answer and serves as definition.
18 QUANGOS QUA (=serving as, i.e. in the capacity of, in Latin) + N(o) + G(ood) + O(bselete) + S(chmucks) (“for starters” means first letters only)
20 AWEARY EAR (=organ) in *(WAY); “shabby” is anagram indicator; “aweary” is archaic, hence “Shakespearean”.
22 GUNK GUN (=arm, i.e. firearm) + (muc)K (“ending in muck” means last letter only)
23 TA-TA TAT + (b)A(tsman’s) (=”batsman’s second” means second letter only)
25 UH-UH UH-(h)UH; “disheartened” means middle letter is dropped; uh-huh is a sound indicating “yes”, while “uh-uh” is a sound meaning “no”.

18 Responses to “Independent 7,582 / Punk – Number-crunching”

  1. Eileen says:

    Brilliant! – both puzzle and blog. Many thanks to both.

  2. Lenny says:

    This was a typically brilliant effort from Punk containing lots of his trademarks, a touch of vulgarity, the use of punctuation in wordplay and, as RatkojaRiku points out, the use of numbers as cross-references, definitions and wordplay. There was quite a bit I did not know in this, Imari, Gadge, Biro as a journalist, Saltbush. It was all impeccably clued however so I had no question marks after I finished it.

  3. Wanderer says:

    A work of art. Breathtakingly clever, extremely difficult (for me), and hugely rewarding as it all started to fall into place. Many thanks, RatkojaRiku and Punk. Exceptional.

  4. scchua says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku for the blog and Punk for a really inventive and enjoyable puzzle.

    Many brilliant clues with favourites being 3D BALDERDASH, the first entry for me, 11A VULGAR FRACTIONS, another early entry which misled me for a moment as to how to fit those numerals in, 7D STALIN, a nice definition, and 19D MALE CHAUVINISTS, a term almost all but forgotten since the heydays of feminism.

  5. Quixote etc says:

    For me, utterly brilliant setting and extremely easy solving!

  6. Punk says:

    Thank you, you all!

  7. NealH says:

    We haven’t seen much of Punk in the Indy recently but I thought was a terrific return. The theme wasn’t too abstruse, but still offered plenty of cluing variety. I can’t say I found it easy, but got there eventually. I wasn’t completely sure about biro, gadge and uh-uh, but confirmed them with some internet searches. Favourite clue was 7d.

  8. Wanderer says:

    And thank you for dropping by, Punk. Had this appeared under your other name in The Guardian, I am sure there would by now be 30 or more comments on it on this site. Which tells us that either not enough people do the Indy crosswords, or not enough people comment on them.

  9. nmsindy says:

    I too thought this was excellent with the varied treatments of the numbers especially and with very straightforward wordplay for the less familiar words. Whole idea executed very elegantly. My favourite clue was ENTERING. Great blog, RatkojaRiku, thanks.

  10. quodlibet says:

    Enjoyed both puzzle and blog. AWEARY is not just archaic but specifically Shakespearean – when Macbeth hears that Birnam Wood has indeed come to Dunsinane, he says, among much else, that “I gin to be aweary of the sun.”

  11. Paul B says:

    Quite frankly, who can but weary of The Sun.

    I thought this a jilly sooper puzzle, with an especially nice theme. Here Punk takes something that compilers do quite frequently (use numbers to represent parts of SI, answers to other clues etc) to a new and exciting limit.

    This sort of behaviour has occurred at least once before, when he ‘commented’ (as Paul) on the bogglingly tedious war of dot dot dot clues that raged in The Anagruid. Excellent.

  12. flashling says:

    Thanks both late replying tonight been busy. Loved it, as RatkojaRiku said I expected the numerals to be done like this, spotting was another manner. Got gadge without knowing the word from the subs. Now on to Phi…

  13. pennes says:

    I went into a newsagent in London and asked for a biro, but the server did not understand what I wanted: maybe biro for ball point pen is disappearing, and it also seems to me that hoover for vacuum cleaner is also used less often.

  14. dram says:

    I loved the unexpected definitions. A most enjoyable puzzle and many thanks Punk for the extra effort that the theme must have required.

    Many thanks for the blog RatkojaRiku. I loved 3.

  15. Scarpia says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku.
    Brilliant puzzle,very cleverly clued.The long anagrams were very good,especially 11.A couple of unfamiliar words but quite solvable from the wordplay.
    Unusual to see COGNOSCENTE in the singular.
    Favourites for me 3 and 7 down.

  16. scchua says:

    Addendum: My #4 It should of course have been “heyday”.

  17. Paul B says:

    I had a friend called Nick Day. When he was in his heyday, we could do jokes.

  18. gnomethang says:

    Late posting but did wish to say thanks to Punk for a thoroughly excellent puzzle. It looked completely intractable at first but turned out to be a well timed and very well balanced solve.
    I will be checking the Indy crosswords more often after this one!.

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