Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,654 / Mordred

Posted by RatkojaRiku on April 28th, 2011


This is my first attempt at blogging a Mordred crossword and I have to say that it has been a real struggle, first to solve and above all to blog. I fear that there may be several clues where my tortuous parsing is somewhat wide of the mark – I’d even managed to convince myself that 3 was a completely different word. I would be grateful for any help, which I can then add to the blog latter in the day. After much head-scratching, the penny finally dropped for 12, not that I’ve ever seen it used in practice as a greeting.

I was struck by how this crossword contained a number of tantalising short clues, such as 3, 12 and 31 and at least one tortuously long clue at 14, where I loved the allusions to Colin Firth’s Best Actor Oscar for The King’s Speech and to the film’s subject! They were any number of new items of vocabulary for me here, not least 17, the spin in 16, the cannon in 31, etc. The clue at 31 is a stroke of genius, although somewhat wasted on me as I did not know the word for cannon. My favourite clue, perhaps the simplest in the whole puzzle, was 30, for its smooth surface reading and & lit. Incidentally, where I come from, the verb at 29 means to cadge something off someone, rather than to steal, but perhaps this is regional.

Overall, I think that Mordred made a mere mortal such as me work a little bit too hard with the wordplay today, but there were doubtless other solvers who relished the challenge and were able do better justice to his wordsmithery than myself.

1 MISERY MISER<l>Y (=like Shylock, i.e. the miserly moneylender in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice); “Left abandoned” means the “l” is dropped.
4 STANDARD STAN (=Laurel, i.e. one half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy) + <fee>D (”ultimate feeD” means the last letter only) + <h>ARD<y> (“Hardy flayed” means that the word is “stripped” of its first and last letters).
10 SPRUCER SPRUCE (=smart, as an adjective) + <fraudster>R (“fraudsteR ultimately” means last letter only); according to, a “sprucer” is a teller of tall stories, a trickster, hence “deceitful character”.
11 RAMBLER R (=reading perhaps, i.e. one of the three R’s) + AMBLER (=thriller writer); the definition is “who goes on a bit”; the reference is to the British thriller writer Eric Ambler (1909-1998).
12 HAND Double definition: HAND is an electronic greeting in text messages meaning Have A Nice Day AND the cards one is dealt in a card-game.
13 MACHINATED [CHINA in MATE (=friend maintaining another, i.e. one word for “friend” inserted into another)] + D (=had, i.e. abbreviated, as in I’d said)
15 AFLAME F (=fellow) in [A + LAMÉ (=fabric)]
16 ENGLISH Double definition: ENGLISH = language AND side applied to a ball in snooker in North America, hence “spin”.
20 FREEBIE REEB (BEER=drink; “knocked back” indicates a reversal) in [F (=France) + I.E. (that’s, i.e. in Latin)]
21 IN TOTO TO<c H> (=Christian society; “leaving CHurch” means that the letters “ch” are dropped) in INTO (=enthusiastic); the reference is to Toc H, a society formed after WW1 in the spirit of comradeship and Christian fellowship).
24 ANTITHESES *(SET IN HASTE) or *(A’INT THESE + <contrast>S); “ultimately contrastS” means last letter only; “possibly” is the anagram indicator; partially & lit.
26 DOGE Hidden in “PraDO GEtting”; “to display” indicates a hidden answer.
28 ANDREWS ANDREW (=Prince, i.e. second son of Queen Elizabeth II) + S (=has, i.e. abbreviated, as in She’s talking); the reference is to British actress Julie Andrews (1935-).
29 CABBAGE Double definition: CABBAGE is a vegetable AND as a verb, to steal, according to Chambers.
30 KARAOKES *(RAKE + SOAK); the anagram indicator is “drunken”; & lit.
31 POM-POM Double definition: a POM-POM is an automatic quick-firing gun, hence “cannon”, while a POMPOM is a fluffy or woolly ball on a cap; given the letter count indicated after the clue (3-3), the word for entry is the cannon rather than the ball!
1 MASTHEAD *(MATES HAD); “unfurled” is the anagram indicator, perfect for allowing a smooth surface reading of this clue.
2 SPRINKLER SP (=odds, i.e. starting price in betting) + <w>RINKLE (=tip, i.e. a valuable hint, a handy dodge or trick; “failing to start” means the first letter is dropped) + R<edcar> (“Redcar’s opener” means first letter only is used)
3 ROCK Double definition: ROCK is “possibly acid”, as in the drug AND sweet, as in a stick of seaside rock.
5 TORCHING TOR (ROT=nonsense; “revolutionary” indicates reversal) + <I> CHING (=Chinese book, also known as the Book of Changes; “unopened” means the first letter is dropped)
6 NO MAN’S LAND [OMAN (=Middle Eastern state) in N + S (=separating North from Southern)] + LAND (=region)
7 ALLOT ALL (=every) + OT (=set of books, i.e. the Old Testament)
8 DERIDE DIRE (=dreadful) in ED (=Miliband); “upwardly mobile” indicates a vertical reversal; the definition is “guy” as a verb, meaning to tease; the reference is to Ed Miliband, leader of the UK Labour Party.
9 BRIAR BRIAR<d> (=French sheepdog; “decaudated” means it has had its tail, i.e. its last letter, removed); a briar is the white heath of the genus Erica, hence “heathland shrub”.
14 UMBERTO ECO UM (=hesitant utterance) + BERT[O]E (=reluctant king, i.e. George VI, known affectionately as Bertie; “one (=I)having abdicated for love (=O) means the “i” is dropped and an “o” takes its place) + C<olin> (“Colin’s first” means first letter only) + O (=Oscar, the code word for the letter “o” in radio communication)
17 SPOROCARP *(SCRAP POOR); “misshapen” is the anagram indicator; according to Chambers, a sporocarp is “a structure containing the sori and sporangia in aquatic ferns”, hence “branch”.
18 LICENSEE LICE (=insects) + NSEE (SEEN = noticed; “finally creeping up” means the last letter appears earlier in the word); the cleverly hidden definition is host, i.e. of a public house, publican.
19 HOME TEAM HOME (=my City, i.e. the place I call home) + SIDE (=team); the definition is “hosts”, e.g. in football, the opposite of visitors, away team.
22 DAMASK DAM (=mother) + ASK (=need)
23 PEACE Homophone of “piece” (=money), as in a 50p piece, pieces of eight.
25 TUDOR D<ynasty> (“Dynasty originally” means the first letter only) in ROUT (=overwhelming defeat; “revolutionary” indicates a reversal)
27 EBRO *(BORE); “turbulent” is the anagram indicator.

16 Responses to “Independent 7,654 / Mordred”

  1. walruss says:

    Yes – hard!! But some very nice touches, with UMBERTO ECO, who wrote the wonderful NAME OF THE ROSE, a favourite. Maybe a few too many tough words though.

  2. nmsindy says:

    I had ROCK for 3 down, and looking at the Indy website, that seems to be right. I think it refers to drug and sweet (eg seaside rock).

  3. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks, nmsindy – I have changed 3 accordingly; in all honesty, I don’t think I would ever have arrived at that answer on my own, although I knew that what I’d come up with was rather tenuous.

    Thanks too for reminding us that at least the raw answers can be checked on the website :)

  4. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Well done, RatkojaRiku, on a fine blog of a tough puzzle.

    Good to see this setter back to a reasonably frequent Indy slot. Mordred’s pseudonym comes from a villainous and treacherous character (allegedly), and when he chooses, he can be a tough opponent. I finished everything except HAND and ROCK, for which my excuses are that I don’t use text language and have managed to live a drug-free life (apart from beer). Obviously Mordred is plugged into yoof culture: I have a mental image of him on a street corner texting his grandchildren on his Blackberry while dealing drugs with the local hoods.

    It was hard, but there were some accessible clues that gave you a foothold in the four quarters. I liked ANTITHESES and MASTHEAD in particular, and was pleased to remember ENGLISH from a clue somewhere or other about a year ago. CABBAGE in this sense I’d never heard of, so something again to lay down for future use.

    Glad to see that at 28ac we’ve got the prince out of the way today, because this being the Independent, there wouldn’t be the remotest chance of any wedding-related theme tomorrow, would there? If there is, I’m cancelling my subscription.

  5. nmsindy says:

    Many thanks for the blog, RatkojaRiku. I too found this extremely hard, but got there in the end and everything was perfectly fair. The less than 50% checking suggested to me that there may be, as often with Mordred, a theme (sometimes a v subtle one) but I can see nothing so far. My favourite clues were FREEBIE and MACHINATED. Thanks for the puzzle, Mordred.

  6. eimi says:

    There’s a clue in walruss’s post @1

  7. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, RatkojaRiku, and Mordred [great puzzle!] – and now eimi [and walruss!]

    I can suddenly see nine without really looking!

  8. nmsindy says:

    Of course! That’s very good. Briar Rose, Peace, Tudor etc etc – thanks Eimi and Mordred.

  9. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I’m rubbish at ninas, but given THE NAME OF THE ROSE, I can see references to ROSES with TUDOR, RAMBLER, DAMASK; and I guess BRIAR and ROSE are related too? But there must be more to it than that.

  10. bamberger says:

    Too tough for me I’m afraid. Had to look up in a dictionary how to spell kareoke/karioke/karrioke.
    Did get doge because I’d seen it before.
    6d & 11a put in without understanding the wordplay.
    12a Never heard of the electronic greeting
    16a Never heard of English =spin
    14d How hard is that? Having to know that George VI was Bertie never mind the rest.
    27d Invented the ebor -the Roman name for the river flowing through York.
    Well blogged -I don’t know how you managed to finish -you must be good.

  11. eimi says:

    Bamberger @10, the tip to remembering how to spell karaoke is that it’s like karate – the kara bit means empty: empty orchestra, empty hand, etc.

  12. caretman says:

    A tough puzzle although ultimately solvable with some excellent clues. I really liked 12ac–I was familiar with the acronym which helped, but the use of the plural ‘cards’ to define the singular, but collective, noun HAND was wonderfully misdirecting until the pin dropped. SPRUCER (with that meaning) and SPOROCARP were new to me, but something in the back of my mind gave me CABBAGE with only the initial C; I must have encountered cabbage = steal somewhere. But true thanks to RatkojaRiku for the blog since there must have been at least half a dozen answers I put in thinking “this must be right but I haven’t the faintest idea why.” And finally, of course, thanks to Mordred for the outstanding puzzle.

  13. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks to eimi and walruss for helping to reveal the theme – I was completely oblivious to it when solving and blogging the puzzle, and yet now it seems to jump off the page at one!! Had the title of Umberto Eco’s novel been an entry in the grid, or alluded to directly somehow, I might have been in with a shout! Of course, if I’d twigged that there was a theme, and what it was, I might have arrived at the correct answer for 3 in the first place.

    I suppose the trick is always to look for a theme, even when not invited to do so by the compiler.

  14. flashling says:

    Putting in DROP for acid drop = sweet in 3dn messed me up good and proper for a while. As did putting in Ebor rather than Ebro in some mental slip. Still got there in the end, knew the writer but not the book so theme went straight over my head, nice one RR for the blog, bit of a tough one and Mordred for another challenging puzzle.

    Phi tomorrow or bumped for some reason? Bets?

  15. Allan_C says:

    Tough but ultimately solvable with wordfinder help – e.g. for ‘machinated’, ‘briar’, ‘licensee’
    Lovely misleading surface to 14d – sets one thinking of The King’s Speech.
    Anyone associated 29a with the theme? – See – and btw in German there is a rose cabbage: Rosenkohl, aka Brussels sprout.

  16. Allan_C says:

    Sorry, RatkojaRiku, didn’t read your preamble properly or I would have seen you’d already pointed out the allusion in 14d.

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