Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,592 / Nimrod

Posted by RatkojaRiku on February 15th, 2011


I felt rather out of my depth with Nimrod’s offering this morning. I can only marvel at the hard work and ingenuity that has gone into setting this puzzle and bemoan my own inability to rise to the challenge. I drew some comfort from the fact that, had I not been blogging this puzzle today and thus needing to come up with some answers fast, I might have spotted the theme for myself, although I doubt that this would have allowed me to complete the puzzle without using solving aids. However, I did manage to solve most of the non-thematic clues unaided.

As it was, having solved 4, 18 and 25 and still not having recognised the references, I googled these three words and was taken straight to the text of The Walrus and the Carpenter, a poem featuring in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871). Reading through the poem, I was able to see that the main focus of Nimrod’s crossword is the following and best-known verse from the middle of the poem:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Thus, the repeated thematic reference to “One of 14 10s” is to the list of “many things” in this verse, providing solutions to 1/16, 4, 7, 8, 12/22/20, 18 and 25.  3 and 21 are described by Nimrod as “speakers”, since they speak to the oysters in the poem. The encounter takes place in “the middle of night” Carroll tells us, hence 24: midnight, i.e. 00.00, is zero hour. Obviously, anyone who immediately recognised the quotation may well have sped through the thematic clues, although a case could perhaps be made for giving the less literary amongst us more of a chance, perhaps by referring more explicitly to Carroll or Alice.

In addition to my struggle with the thematic clues, I was unfamiliar with the entries at 2, 15, 23 and 25/13 as well as with the reference at 10. On the positive side, I enjoyed the interconnections between clues at 4/17, at 24 and at 26/28; and the definition at 9 made me smile.

I’d be interested to hear how many fellow-solvers were actually up to the task today. Meanwhile, I shall go off and sulk with a copy of Alice before work.

*(….) indicates an anagram

6 HAS HAS(p) (=fastening; “power to break off” means “p” is not used); definition is simply “has”.
8 SEALING-WAX See preambleSpoonerism for “wheeling sacks” (=transporting bags).
10 THING Hidden in “wiTHIN Grasp”; the reference is to the team of four superheroes (Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, The Thing) that have appeared in the Fantastic Four series of comics since 1961.
11 PAGINATE [A + GIN (=trap)] in PATE (=intelligence); definition is (to) “number book”, i.e. to add page numbers.
14 MANY MAN<x> = language; X (=unknown, in algebra) is replaced by Y (=another unknown in algebra)
15 MOLOCH MO (=second, i.e. abbreviation of moment) + LOCH (=body of water). In the Bible, Moloch is a Semitic god to whom children were sacrificed.
17 PIC PIC<nickers> (=hamper-carriers; “shedding pounds” means “nickers” (i.e. slang for pounds sterling) is not used; the definition is “reduced image”, i.e. a short form of picture.
19 METAL M (=Bond’s boss, i.e. in the James Bond films) + ET AL (=not on his own, i.e. and others); deceptive definition is “lead perhaps”.
23 GIBRAN GIB (=Rock, i.e. abbreviation of Gibraltar) + RAN (=rolled, e.g. of a film); the reference is to the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran (1883-1931).
24 ZERO See preambleO (=zero) is added to SHE’S (=solution at 25A + S) to make SHOES (=solution at 25D)
25/ 13 SHEERS SHE (=Haggard woman, i.e. the novel She by English novelist H Rider Haggard) + ERS (plant, i.e. the bitter vetch); sheers (or shears) are an apparatus for hoisting heavy weights.
27 CAPRIATI  C (=about) + APR I (1/4, i.e. first day of the fourth month, April 1) + AT I (1300, i.e. at 1 o’clock, using the 24-hour clock); Jennifer Capriati was an American tennis player, a child prodigy in the 1980s who went on to have a torrid life on and off court.
28 LOOSE S (=spades, i.e. the suit in cards) in LOOE (=Cornish seaside town, in south-west England).
29 SENSE ORGAN *(ORANGENESS) or *(AS NO GREENS); a double anagram, indicated by “variations in”; the definition is “one detects”.
30 SKI Hidden in esKIMo; “carried by” indicates hidden answer; & lit.
1/ 16 WHETHER PIGS HAVE WINGS See preamble*(P<age> + THREE) in [WHIG (=would-be liberal) + SHAVE (=fleece, i.e. plunder) + WINGS (=forwards, i.e. in football)]; “spread” is anagram indicator.
2 ISOGAMY I (=one) + SO (=very) + GAMY (=spirited); isogamy is the conjugation of two gametes of similar size and form.
3 CARPENTER See preambleCARP (=to make a complaint) + ENTER (to register, i.e. log, record).
4 KINGS See preamblePIC (=solution at 17) + KINGS, as in SLIM PICKINGS, i.e. a small amount or share.
5 SAWTOOTH [A (=active) + WT (=weight)] in SOOTH (=truth, as in soothsayer); definition is “one cutting”.
7 SHIPS See preambleS (=succeeded) + HIP (=in, as an adjective, i.e. trendy) + S (=society)
9 GUN DOG UNDO (=loose, i.e. solution at 28) in GG (=horse in nursery, i.e. the infantile word gee-gee); definition is “party animal”, the party in question being a shooting party.
12/ 22/20 WHY THE SEA IS BOILING HOT See preamble*(TO BEGIN WITH HOLY ASHES I); “scattered” is anagram indicator.
18 CABBAGES See preambleCAB (=vehicle) + B (=b, simply transposed from clue) + AGES (=long time)
21 WALRUS See preambleWAL<k> (=constitutional) + RUS<e> (=trick); “repeatedly cut short” means last letters of both words are not used.
25 SHOES See preambleH-E in S-O-S (=help); “regular” implies the letters of the two words are to be evenly interspersed.
26 CANON C (=city) + ANON (=soon); homophone of “cannon” (=could be 28, i.e. a loose cannon, an unpredictable person); definition is “law”. Nimrod has given this clue two separate subsidiary parts in addition to a definition.

17 Responses to “Independent 7,592 / Nimrod”

  1. rodders says:

    Thanks for the blog ! I quite quickly came to the conclusion that I would not complete the puzzle without aids which is normal for me with Nimrod.
    I wouldn’t say that I don’t enjoy his puzzles but I hold my hand up and admit that they are very often too difficult for me just using my brain alone.
    Agree that some hint somewhere to point us at the theme source would have been useful and fair I think. I actually got ” many things ” without aids but missed the reasoning until I went to Google !

  2. Conrad Cork says:

    Phew, what a ride! I started by writing myself an excuse note saying that as it was Nimrod I could be forgiven for abject failure. But I stared at it for a very long time with just a few, like 17 in. But 17 enabled me to get 4, even though I couldn’t quite see why at the time. Then I got cabbages from the cryptic, and the penny dropping moment happened. (Fortunately I remembered my Alice without further aids.)

    Another scrupulous tour de force from a real master.

  3. Conrad Cork says:

    I sould perhaps add that having got the theme, I took no notice of the admittedly ingenious wordplay for the two loner answers.

  4. scchua says:

    It seems that the Nimrod puzzles get more diabolical by the day. This was an even bigger disaster for me than the last one. I got 14A NINE after a very long time, but after that, an even longer time getting absolutely nowhere with the 14 10s clues. But NINE was a really good clue.

    In contrast, I’ve just about completed a Nimrod from about 10 months ago, in a quarter of the time I got nowhere with this one.

    Thanks RatkojaRiku for the blog, though I’m refraining from looking at solutions and comments, with the hope of cracking this one still (unaided) – isn’t that what they say about the impossible? – takes a little longer to achieve :)

  5. Richard Palmer says:

    My most abject failure ever since I started doing the Indy. I managed to solve 7 clues, 4 of them 3-letter words but couldn’t break into the thematic stuff, which is a pity as W&C is a work I am familiar with.

    I’m glad others found it hard.

  6. Tilsit says:

    One of Nimrod’s finest ever puzzles. Bravo!

  7. crypticsue says:

    One of Nimrod’s more trickier themed crosswords – I got so far with about 14 of the clues and then had to resort to revealing some letters to get me to the end. I agree that a hint towards the theme would have been helpful. As usual, once solved you marvel at the mind that can compile such wonders.

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Couldn’t get anywhere with this, but thought I’d drop by to say that the Independent i has now started a daily cryptic (previously there was only a Friday prize cryptic). Today’s is by Virgilius. They may be recycled ones, but I didn’t recognise it.

  9. flashling says:

    Another pretty miserable failure here on my train ride home. Realised the link but as I’d not read it for over 35 years I couldn’t remember much of it. Well and truly Nimrodded. Bravo on the blog, excellently done.

  10. rodders says:

    How do you make 14a NINE – anyone see the logic ?
    Re Scchua above.

  11. flashling says:

    I suppose 1 + N (unknown) + ENglish “exchanged” ie (INEN)* = NINE = quite a few.

  12. rodders says:

    Thanks flashing – never thought of that !
    No wonder he has a problem with the theme ?

  13. Scarpia says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku.
    This was HARD!
    Got only about 4 answers in 20 minutes,then spotted the embedded answer at 10,which together with CARPENTER opened up the theme.Have to admit not remembering the verse,so I had to consult a reference book and once the long answers were in place the rest was made a fair bit easier.
    Without the theme I doubt whether I would have completed this puzzle.
    Very cleverly clued.

  14. Martin H says:

    (17): The plural of ‘nicker’ = pound is ‘nicker’: try going to a scrap-yard for a starter motor and saying ‘I’ll give you twenty nickers for it’ – you’d be lucky to get away unscathed.

    One or two other quibbles: 25, 13: (simply) ‘plant’ = ERS is too obscure, particularly when part of the also unusual ‘sheers’ = hoisting apparatus. 30: Eskimos, if we still call them that, don’t use, or carry, skis. Of course the clue doesn’t say that they do, only that ‘skis’ is hidden in the word; but then the only definition is ‘item’, which is not enough.

    I got eight answers and doggedly and fruitlessly ground away at the rest for ages, whereas I should have left it to simmer and come back later. It’s good to have a very hard puzzle every now and then, and this one had some very cunning and imaginatively structured clues. I do feel though that at this level of difficulty every clue should be scrupulously fair and accurate, which gives more weight to any quibbles which arise. Two of those above, I admit, refer to easier answers, and the puzzle as a whole was fair.

  15. Richard says:

    Gosh, this was hard. I managed, after much time and effort, to get all but “ers” and “Gibran” (although I had guessed Gib*a* and thought that “ran” might be the answer to the second half of the word), but I fear that this crossword, ingenious though it is, fails the test for a non-prize puzzle of being solvable without recourse to reference books etc.

  16. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Today is – of course – a very special day in Crosswordland.
    Today is also The Day After of this crossword.
    Yesterday we thought we wouldn’t get anywhere – in the same time we normally finish a Guardian crossword we had only 6 clues (none of them thematic).
    ‘Why doesn’t Nimrod open the door when we knock on it?’

    Back at home, I found one more (MOLOCH) and then I started writing out the ‘scattered’ letters 12/22/20 to crack the anagram: and I did.
    It still didn’t ring a bell, but when checked on the Net, the poem came up. After which most of the puzzle fell in place rather quickly.
    Quickly? In a Nimrod? Yes, quickly.
    Missed out on ZERO and CAPRIATI (which we should have found) though.

    What a clever crossword – superbly clued, and fair too.
    Ideal puzzle for the (wo)man on the tube, or while having a lunch break – no, only joking …. :)

    Nearly unsolvable for someone who doesn’t get anywhere near the theme.
    Very satisfying for the ones who did.

    It took me/us b________ ages, but I/we did it! Wow!

  17. ele says:

    Same here. Finally got the theme and just about remembered the poem. But fell at the last fence with a couple of the non-thematics. But a great puzzle.

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