Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,586/Math

Posted by Ali on February 8th, 2011


Always a pleasure to land a Math puzzle. The odd-looking grid suggested there’d be some kind of theme, but I didn’t spot anything obvious at first. I also crippled myself in the SE corner by immediately entering REDWOODS at 17D, which then prevented me getting ARIES. Once I’d corrected the error, I spotted the dictionaries theme. I can see Chambers, Oxford and Collins, but may well have missed some others.

Clue-wise, this was excellent stuff, though tricky in parts. I particularly liked BAR EXAM and the clever wordplay in 27D.

6/7 BORIS JOHNSON – IS + JOHN (head) + SO in BORN (introduced by Labour)
9 ARMY – Cryptic def. I think the collective noun for octopi/octopdid/octoh whatever is ‘army’, and they have lots of arms!
10 APRIL – PR(ince) in AIL
11 ENVY – ENV[-0]Y
12 OXFORD – OX (steer) + FORD (car)
14 CHAMBERS – C(entral) H(eating) + A M.B + E.R’S
15 SMUT – [-comedian’]S + TUM rev.
16 RINGS – I think this is a cryptic def. but don’t know the reference
18 ARCH – [-m]ARCH
23 QUELLS – E for I in QUILLS
24 ZONE – Cryptic def. Z1 would be the section where you’d finish the alphabet
25 CELLO – L(arge) + [-financia]L in CEO
27 Q TIP – “Queue tip”
28 DICTION – CID rev + (INTO)*
29 ARIES – Initial letters of Regular Income in SEA rev.
1 X-RAY – X (by) + RAY (man)
2 ISLANDER – IS on L(eft) + AND + RE: rev.
4 THALIA – TH (two out of three+ + ALIA[-s]
5 ASSEMBLAGE – MESS rev. in A BLAG + E(gyptian)
6 BAR EXAM – BARE + X (ten) A.M
8 NEVER – EVE in R[-ichard] N[-ixon] rev.
13 ON THE FENCE – ON + F(uther) E(ducation) in THENCE
14 C AND W – W(ith) at the end of CANDY
17 SEQUOIAS – Cryptic def.
21 OVOID – O(ld) V(ictor) + O[-rder] + I’D
22/19 JACKIE COLLINS – I.E + CO in JACKLIN + S(hort)
26 LANK – Hidden in painfuL ANKle
27 QUIZ – QUIN with the N on its side!

30 Responses to “Independent 7,586/Math”

  1. Richard says:

    Excellent puzzle – a double pangram.

  2. Prolixic says:

    I think that the reference in 16a is to counting tree rings to determine the age of a tree (links to the name of a tree in 17d).

    Enjoyable puzzle and I too appreciated the double pangram and the references to the dictionaries.

  3. flashling says:

    Re 16 Rings are how you age sequoias and other tress.

  4. jetdoc says:

    There’s JOHNSON, too (once you force yourself to ignore the BORIS!).

    1d is a reference to Man Ray, the photographer.

    It’s been a good day for puzzles so far, with this one as well as Puck in the Guardian.

  5. Lenny says:

    Thanks Ali. I have never done a Math before and I thought this was quite brilliant. After I got the first X and Z I thought that we were on for a pangram. Then, as the 10-point scrabble letters kept on cropping up again, I realised that we were on for a rare double pangram. Despite this all the answers were familiar words, albeit quite unusual for crosswords such as CandW and Q-Tip. The clueing was impeccable and, after I had finished, I had no question marks. I particularly liked the intricate clueing of Boris Johnson and Jackie Collins. I was so pleased that I did not even notice the dictionary theme.

  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks Ali.

    I managed this with a bit of pencil-chewing, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There were half a dozen that I entered without the slightest idea of the wordplay, so was happy to have your explanations. I didn’t have a stand-out clue today; the entire puzzle was a delight.

    I spotted the pangram fairly quickly but realised when I finished it that there was something additional: as Richard says, a double pangram, which must be quite an achievement. Having found that, I missed the dictionaries connection.

    16 ac RINGS refers to the solution to 17: rings used to count the age of trees.

    Super crossword – thank you Math.

  7. scchua says:

    Thanks Ali for the blog, and Math for a challenging pangram of a puzzle.

    Slow start, but completed it with satisfaction. Was stuck for a while having put REDWOODS instead of SEQUOIAS, which messed up the crossing lights.

    16A RINGS I think it’s a double definition: “Calls”, and the rings that are used to count the age of trees like the SEQUOIAS.

    Favourites were 23A QUELLS, liked “i.e. replaced”, 6D BAR EXAM, a definition designed to mislead, and 22D JACKIE COLLINS. Though I got the parsing, only after getting the answer, I liked “introduced by Labour” = BORN in 9A BORIS JOHNSON.

    Just an observation about the clue for 27D QUIZ “…last one to lie on their side…”, since the “last one” is the letter N, it would have been more accurate/not misleading with “….lie on its side…” instead.

  8. scchua says:

    PS. That’s a record number of comments crossing one another!

    Re 9A ARMY, an alternative reading is “sea” = a multitude = army (which of course also describes an octopus, as mentioned in the blog.

  9. nmsindy says:

    Yes, this was very good, once I saw the grid, thought there must be something more to this. Nonetheless despite all the constraints of the double pangram and the dictionary theme, it was not very much harder than usual. My favourite clues were ARCH, ZONE and BAR EXAM.
    I’m sure most have noticed it but, as it’s not explicitly stated in blog or comments, I think, will just say that 26 and 27 across give DICTION/ARIES. Thanks for a great puzzle, Math, and Ali for the blog.

  10. Duggie says:

    Just superb! Three cracking features stand out: the double pangram, the large number of false definitions and the theme, which I missed, and all crammed into a rather black-looking grid. Top marks to Math. Had to wait for 225 to understand RINGS. It’s a beauty, like so many others.

  11. walruss says:

    Splendid stuff from Math and The Indy. Well done for cramming in SO much!!

  12. jmac says:

    I agree. A super puzzle. Fun to solve, nicely unobtrusive theme, well constructed clues. Thanks for the blog Ali and thanks to Prolixic et al for explaining 16a.

  13. rodders says:

    Good puzzle – I finished it but needed above comments to understand Chambers which on the face of it was not that difficult !

    Waiting for blog on Saturdays Prize Crossword later this week – first Indy puzzle I haven’t been able to finish in over two years – anyone else find it tricky ?

  14. Paul B says:

    I wish I’d done this puzzle – great stuff, Math!

  15. caretman says:

    I think 24a was not intended as a cryptic definition. I parsed it as “Finish alphabet” = “Z” and “start counting” = “ONE”, yielding “section”, with the clue read as imperative.

  16. Kathryn's Dad says:

    If this is your first contribution, caretman, then welcome!

    I agree with your parsing; that’s how I saw the clue as well. Since I’m back, I will just say that I was going to ask earlier if E for Egyptian was acceptable? I’m sure somebody will find it in a dictionary somewhere, but I’ve never come across it before.

  17. flashling says:

    Great stuff, could only make a comment on Rings, and run earlier. Double pangram, not sure I’ve seen it done before and a dictionary theme as well, masterful. Thanks to Math and Ali for the blog even if I didn’t need it today. @Caretman welcome, that’s how I saw it for 24ac, @rodders #13 yes, that one was very hard and no I’ve not finished it either – I pity the blogger on that.

  18. jmac says:

    Just to add some balance, Rodders @ 13, no.

  19. Paul B says:

    That’s why I liked it, Flashers: a pangram’s tough enough to achieve, a double p twice so, and lump in a theme? Well well well.

    To answer your Q directly, doubles while not exactly common have been seen before. But there have been many astounding feats (quite a few of them emanating from your man the Rev John), some truly wonderful things down the years.

  20. Wil Ransome says:

    At the risk of seeming a killjoy I was less enthusiastic than most about this. The reasons are as follows:
    a) In 9ac, army as an adjective from arm is tenuous to say the least. It’s not in Chambers and I’d be surprised if it was anywhere else. Yet we don’t even get a question mark.
    b) In 23ac ‘i.e. replaced’ is not an indication that you replace I with E.
    c) In 24ac ‘Finish alphabet’ seems a pretty loose way of clueing Z.
    d) In 4dn ‘Two out of three’ for TH is surely no good. If it were, where would it end? It’s also HR, RE, EE, TR, RT, HE, etc. Twenty possibilities I think (with some duplications), but imagine ‘Two out of three thousand': 156 (again with some duplications).

    Pity, because the rest was good.

  21. flashling says:

    @20 Wil your b point i’d disagree with, the replacement of I by E seemed pretty clear once spotted. On D perhaps the word first should have been put in the clue, C I’d say is a nice misdirection albeit not really there, but this is the Indy where new tricks are encouraged. A army I can’t really defend however. Perhaps Eimi will pop up to defend it, you never know.

  22. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Ali.
    I can only echo most of the above comments – brilliant puzzle!
    Re. Will’s comment A @20 – I think that is what Uncle Yap would call a tichy reference,o.k in my book.

  23. Scarpia says:

    A quick p.s. to my previous comment.
    I can find no reference to ARMY being used as a collective noun for octopuses,I read it as sea meaning a large amount – as in ‘a sea of troubles’

  24. Wil Ransome says:

    Yes Flashling@21, but although it may be pretty clear once spotted, ‘i.e. replaced’ does not indicate that you drop I and replace it with E. I find it quite impossible to think of a way of interpreting it so that it does say that (and the clue must say what it means even if it doesn’t mean what it says). It’s no good being loose and saying ‘well I could see it so it’s good enough’. Unless it is clear for all to see it isn’t good enough.

  25. Hallow Brink says:

    Am sure it’s been spotted, but really impressed with this puzzle so thought it worth leaving a comment, along with the 26/27 across theme you even get favouritism at 8/19 down!

    Great fun despite being relatively new to these and having to cheat on a few!

    6 down was my favourite

  26. Simon Harris says:

    Rodders (13), yes, me too – not least because I have the task of blogging it! A Saturday Nimrod is always going to be a toughie, so I’m not sure what Jmac means to say at 18 (“balance”? against what?).

  27. jmac says:

    Hi Simon,

    I just meant as opposed to Rodders and Flashling. I agree that it wasn’t easy but no more difficult than usual for Nimrod (but this is quite subjective, I know). Looking forward to your blog.

  28. Allan_C says:

    I would agree with Wil’s point (c) – I took ‘finish alphabeT’ to indicate ‘T’ and entered TONE although I couldn’t then follow the rest of the clue. So I only spotted that it was a pangram, not a double one. But at least it wasn’t a crossing letter so it didn’t cause problems with the rest of the grid.

  29. eimi says:

    Nice to see so much comment on an Indy blog. In defence of army, Virgilius once told me that, living in the States, he has discovered that there isn’t a noun that can’t be verbed. By that same token, I’d suggest that there isn’t a noun that can’t be adjectived, at least light-heartedly in a crossword occasionally. Perhaps a question mark might have helped.

  30. rodders says:

    Re Eimi # 29 agree – if you can be leggy ( generally accepted expression ) then surely you can be army ( or chinny or heady or whatever ).
    Agree with above 24a was not cryptic – end of alphabet Z and start counting one – seems fair enough to me !

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