Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,630 / Anax

Posted by RatkojaRiku on March 31st, 2011


This was my first attempt at blogging an Anax puzzle, and given how challenging I always find his puzzles, panic immediately set in: while under normal circumstances I would expect to get at least close to finishing one given time, how would I fare with a tight deadline for posting facing me?

My first perusal of the grid produced only three solutions (6, 12 and 22), but then the NE corner slotted itself in, although 7 was new to me. Unlike those puzzles that seem to fall into place once a critical mass of clues have been solved, I had to work hard throughout this puzzle, finding the longer entries relatively early on, but still struggling to slot in the shorter entries around them. The NW corner kept me guessing longest, with 1 and 3 being the last clues to be solved.

Incidentally, I cracked 10/21 from the wordplay and then worked back from that to solve the anagram at 5/18/19. There is some very sophisticated wordplay in evidence in this puzzle, with a higher than average amount of deceptive switching between grammatical forms: e.g. “rivals” in 20 is a noun in the surface reading of the clue, while a verb in the wordplay of the solution; “loose” in 16 is an adjective in the surface reading but a verbal definition of the solution, etc. The compiler’s ability to exploit such ambiguities, for me at least, is often what marks out a difficult puzzle from an average one.

Furthermore, I particularly liked the splitting of iPhone in 15 and of Desert Island Discs in 22. In addition to 7, 3 with its brilliantly hidden definition was new to me, as was the rock band at 24, known to me only as a mythological river until today. I am not convinced that I have correctly parsed the definition at 17.

Overall, thank you, Anax, for an extremely challenging and imaginative, but consistently fair, puzzle. I hope not to be quite so panicked when next it falls to me to blog one of your creations.

*(…) indicates an anagram

1 ACID C (=cocaine) in AID (=charity)
4 OVERTHROWN H<e>R<e> (=here regularly, i.e. alternate letters only are used) in [OVERT (=public) + OWN (=personal)]
9 POSITIVELY [O SIT (=everyone stands; i.e. no-one is seated) + I’VE (=I have)] in PLY (=travel); the definition is “without doubt”, i.e. used adverbially, as in “a positively outstanding crossword”.
10/21 ALL’S WELL A + LL (=couple of lines, i.e. 2 x L) + SWELL (=great); the definition is “version of 5/18/19”, i.e. an expression synonymous with 5/18/19.
11 QUANTIFY [NT (=books in Bible, i.e. New Testament) + IF (=when)] in QUAY (=dock)
12 COMICS MIC (=microphone) in COS (=by virtue of, i.e. colloquial short form of because)
13 EUSTACHIAN TUBE EU + *(USA CAN’T BE HIT); “somehow” is the anagram indicator; the Eustachian tube leads from the middle ear to the pharynx and equalises the pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere, hence “relieves pressure”.
15 ULTRASONICALLY [AS (=while) + ON + I + CALL (=i/Phone ; this is split into two parts dealt with separately in the wordplay)] in *(TRULY); “awful” is the anagram indicator; the definition is “so I can’t hear”, i.e. using sound waves of too high a frequency to be audible to the human ear.
22 RATION BOOK NB (=extra, i.e. a no-ball in cricket) in [RAT (=desert, as a verb) + I (=island) + OO (=discs, i.e. 2 x O)] + OK (=well, i.e. the solution at 21); interesting splitting up of Desert/Island/Discs into three parts dealt with separately in the wordplay.
23 SORDIDNESS DID (=worked) in *(SENSORS); “faulty” is the anagram indicator.
24 STYX Homophone of “sticks” (=is jamming, as of a door or drawer); Styx is an American rock band of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
2 CLOSURE [L (=left) + OS (=huge, i.e. abbreviation of outsize)] in CURE (=smoke, i.e. to preserve e.g. meat by smoking)
3 DJINN DJ (=jock, i.e. abbreviation of disc jockey) + INN (=place serving beer, wine); the definition is “spirits”; listed by Chambers as an alternative spelling of jinn, djinn is defined as a class of spirits in Muslim theology and folklore, assuming different shapes.
4 ORIGINAL SIN [GIN (homophone of “djinn”, i.e. the solution to previous clue, indicated by suspensive points …) in *(SAILOR)] + IN; “drunken” is the anagram indicator.
5/18/19 EVERYTHING IN THE GARDEN IS LOVELY *(ONE GIVES “HIGHLY VERDANT” ENTIRELY); “new” is the anagram indicator; whimsically & lit.
6 TRY T (=time) + RY (=line, i.e. abbreviation of railway); the definition is “stretch” as a verb, as in to push, test, tax, e.g. to try one’s patience.
7 ROAD METAL [D (=delay initially, i.e. first letter only) in ROAM (=travel)] + ET AL (=with others, i.e. abbreviation of the Latin expression et alia); Chambers defines road metal as “broken stones for roads”, hence “stones in the way”.
8 WOLF CUB [LFC (=Liverpool, i.e. Liverpool Football Club) + U (=United, i.e. abbreviation used in place names, football teams, etc)] in WOB (bow= consent, as in to bow to, yield, concede; “over” indicates a reversal)
12 CHANCELLORS [N (=new) + CELL (=room) + O (=open at first, i.e. initial letter only)] in CHARS (=cleaners, i.e. charladies)
14 STRADDLED STRA<y> (=waif; “mostly” means the final letter is dropped) + DD (=cleric, i.e. abbreviation of Doctor of Divinity) + LED (=guided); the definition is “came across”, i.e. sat astride, spanned.
16 LEAVE GO AVE (=hail, as in ave Maria) in LEGO (=little bricks, i.e. the children’s toy); the definition is loose as a verb, i.e. to slacken (ropes), to let go.
17 YELLOWY Y (=primarily you, i.e. first letter only) + [LOW (=vulgar) in ELY (=see, i.e. the office of a bishop)]; the definition appears to be “suggestive” (of the colour yellow)
20 VIBES B (=soft, i.e. black on lead pencils – HB, 2B – to indicate softness) in VIES (=rivals, as a verb)
22 RID RID<e> (=travel; “no closer” means that the final letter is dropped); the definition is “free” as a verb, i.e. to deliver, liberate.

23 Responses to “Independent 7,630 / Anax”

  1. Eileen says:

    Hi RatkojaRiku

    Congratulations on a truly excellent blog of a wonderful puzzle. I’m glad you were able to enjoy it!

    An abundance of really clever and intricate clues, as we know to expect, resulting in a satisfying number of pdms.

    Thanks for RATION BOOK: I knew it had to be that but I couldn’t get beyond RATIO in parsing it.

    I had to think about 17dn – and others! – too. I think the definition is ‘or suggestive’ [typical Anax!], ‘or’ being gold or yellow in heraldry.

    Very many thanks, Anax, as always.

  2. Conrad Cork says:

    Eileen is right, this was truly wonderful. To make an Anax puzzle work you have to pay extra close attention to the clues, ridding yourself of preconceptions about standard devices, because if you don’t he will have you stumped.

    A perfect example is 2 down, where in almost anyone else’s puzzle ‘Jock’s place’ would suggest we are looking for a Scottish word.

    Hats off, a genius.

  3. scchua says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku for the blog and Anax for a challenging puzzle.

    For some reason or other this took longer than it should. I think this was due to the long anagram cutting through all corners, and therefore not of any help until one got it. Which I did after struggling for three quarters of the total time it took to complete the whole puzzle. However, couldn’t explain 22A RATION BOOK, got as far as RAT, I, OK, and 17D YELLOWY, where I thought YELLOW = vulgar as in “yellow press” and YELLOWY = “suggestive”, which of course meant a couple of unexplained words.

    Favourites were 9A POSITIVELY, liked 0 SIT; 15A ULTRASONICALLY, I too liked I CALL = iPhone, and 4D ORIGINAL SIN, with it homophonic link to the previous clue.

  4. Mick H says:

    Great inventive wordplay in 15 and 22, and I liked the use of LFC at 8 down too. Not many words use that combination of letters!

  5. Tilsit says:

    I’d be interested to see how the people who rubbished yesterday’s Enigmatist fared with this puzzle and what they thought of it.

  6. Peter says:


    I enjoyed both, but finished neither!

  7. Geoff says:

    Good puzzle, which took me a little while to get into, but fell out fairly steadily thereafter. Several clues I managed to solve but just couldn’t parse (RATION BOOK, YELLOWY – thanks, Eileen), which just took the edge off perfect enjoyment for me, but that is not a criticism -the fault is mine.

    That is because there is anything wrong with these clues – they are typical of Anax’s intricate wordplay, well displayed throughout the puzzle. ‘Jock’, ‘iPhone’, ‘Liverpool’, all used very ingeniously, and ‘see’ and ‘or’ in 17d, although neither is novel, were combined in a highly misleading way.

    Tilsit @5: I found this easier than yesterday’s Enigmatist in the Guardian, but I wouldn’t want to rubbish either, or indeed today’s Gordius – if all cryptics were of a similar level of difficulty to the Enigmatist and this Anax, it seems unlikely to me that any beginners would ever take up the pastime.

  8. nmsindy says:

    I would like to join all the praise for this puzzle for all the reasons stated already. It was my slowest Indy solve of 2011 but I certainly enjoyed all the time I spent at it. It was all good of course, but I specially marked COMICS and DJINN. In 17D, I agree it’s suggesting yellow with, I think ‘or’ (2nd last word of clue) being the yellow. Many thanks, Anax, and RatkojaRiku.

  9. Lenny says:

    In a short time, I have gone from dreading the appearance of an Anax puzzle to looking forward to the challenge. This one was quite easy to get into since I got Alls Well and that quickly gave me the long central anagram. Although I finished, like many others, I was stumped by the wordplay for Ration Book and Yellowy. I had a bit of a panic at the end because my knowledge of rock bands is zilch but I finally managed to get Styx from the wordplay.

  10. flashling says:

    Thanks Anax and RatkojaRiku, cor, this was a struggle, spent ages trying to justify ration book and yellowy. All in all a nice Thursday toughie.

  11. Tor says:

    This setter thinks far too much of himself. Boring.

  12. walruss says:

    Heh heh, as they say in comics Tor! Phew!

  13. Hounddog says:

    Hard work, and very satisfying when the final answer fell into my mind after I’d stopped consciously trying to work it out.

  14. Thomas99 says:

    Another impressive one from Anax. It took me a long time but was very satisfying. Der Tor ist vielleicht Deutsch?

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Way over my horizon today in terms of difficulty, but I’ve just dropped in to see what others made of it. Hard but fair seems to be the summary – so unless I’m missing the in-joke or the humour in Tor’s comment at no 11 (whether he’s German or not), I think that comment is uncalled for.

  16. Eileen says:

    Well said, K’s D!

    I think those of us lucky enough to meet Anax in Derby could give the lie to the first part of the comment: as for the second, whatever else you might say about Anax, boring – never!

  17. Wanderer says:

    Very tough, very clever and very rewarding. And when I came here and found subtleties that had gone over my head — such as the wonderful “or suggestive” and the parsing of ration book — I realised that it was far cleverer than I had thought while solving it. As one who looks at crosswords in The Guardian and The Independent most days, I find it a real bonus when one is tough and the other is more accessible; in this respect I thought the Anax/Gordius lineup today, and the Enigmatist/Dac lineup yesterday, were a real treat. Thanks RatkojaRiku and Anax.

  18. anax says:

    Hello friends.

    Wow, RatkojaRiku – what a blog! Absolutely sensational job and one of the most comprehensive sets of clue breakdowns I’ve seen. My hugest thanks to you.

    I’m still trying to work out exactly what Tilsit means at #5, but on a personal note I rarely compare setters; even less inclined to compare setters on different newspapers. Enigmatist is a setter I’d place among the greatest of contemporary clue-writers – his sense of fun, adventure and risk (in combintaion) is unmatched elsewhere. It’s also unique and that’s why he delights and frustrates in equal measure; and remember, the Guardian is IMHO the most adventurous when it comes to clueing style. I expect and hope to get criticism, but for entirely different reasons compared to Enigmatist; he’s edgy/playful, I’m more of a workaday Xim wannabe.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that solver reactions to any setter will be based largely on what is expected of him/her, so the very nature of those reactions will be different.

  19. gnomethang says:

    STYX!? STYX ?!! Why I oughta…! I cannot believe that was the only clue I missed. Top stuff, Anax, thank you. Personally I thought that WOLF CUB was pretty sublime.

  20. ele says:

    This one had me truly beat and I couldn’t really get started. I’m with K’s D on that. But thanks to RatkojaRiku for the blog – it was worth looking in to see how the clues that had stumped me worked out.

  21. flashling says:

    Well done RatkojaRiku a great blog, you never forget your first Anax (or in my case all Nimrods)

  22. Scarpia says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku.
    I needed your blog for confirmation of some of the answers in this very tough but ultimately very satisfying puzzle.
    Lots of very clever and original clueing on show here,all of it fair and solvable once you get used to the Anax style.

    Shameful confession – I used to own an album by Styx(Pieces of Eight).

  23. RatkojaRiku says:

    I am glad to read that others experienced the same degree of intense head-scratching and exquisite enjoyment as I did!

    @Eileen and nmsindy: thank you for drawing my attention to ‘or’, which I hadn’t twigged at all. Although I am familiar with “or” from heraldic English and, of course, everyday French, I have never seen a clue where in the surface reading it is a conjunction while in the wordplay of the solution it is a colour – a first, perhaps??

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