Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7698 Scorpion (Sat 18-Jun-2011)

Posted by beermagnet on June 25th, 2011


What a piece of work this was.

Every across clue is of the same format:
*   First Name / Regnal number of England / rest of clue
and every across answer turned out to be a Surname so that
*   First Name Surname is a famous person.
Furthermore, every surname answer contains one of the letters from ENGLAND and is used in the “Regnal number of England” part of the wordplay.
Not only that:  None of the famous people in the across answers are obscure.  None of the crossing down answers are obscure.  All of the Wordplay is a solid as a mediaeval refectory table.

I was a bit wary as my previous experience of Scorpion was of very hard puzzles, with which I have struggled and often admitted defeat. Having concentrated on this and got to the end, it is all too easy to say it wasn’t as hard as those others, but in truth, for many clues I had to work back to the wordplay having the answer from the definition and/or crossing letters.

Seeing the style of the across clues, I thought I’d concentrate on the Down clues at first and got a few before being drawn to those across answers where I had crossing letters.   When I had an E at the start of 11A I tackled that and surprised myself by seeing Elgar almost immediately.  Once I’d solved a couple more acrosses to prove the mechanism,  I found myself drawn to them in preference to the Downs.  The nature of the across clue mechanism meant there were many “Aha” moments so overall:  An excellent puzzle.


8 WAGNER Richard II of England participates in bet (6)
Composer. N (eNgland) inside WAGER (bet)
9 GILBERT William III of England left to penetrate foreign tribe (7)
Librettist. G (enGland) L inside (TRIBE)* AInd: foreign. I didn’t recognise “foreign” as an anagrind, and when researching, was disappointed not to find the Ibert tribe anywhere, before spotting the rest of the answer came from tribe.
10 LAUGHTON Charles II of England pursues the French with tough nuts (8)
Actor (The bells! The bells!”). N (eNgland) after LA (TOUGH)* AInd: nuts.  Not sure how “pursues” can be used the wrong way around like this?
11 ELGAR Edward IV of England in anger, flipped (5)
Composer. L (engLand) inside RAGE< (anger, flipped). First across in.
12 FORD Henry VII of England succeeded fine with soldiers (4)
Industrialist. D (englanD) after F[ine] , OR (soldiers)
14 HAGUE William I of England marries battle-axe everyone accepted (5)
Politician. E (England) after HAG (battleaxe) U (everyone accepted – film classification)
15 GERE Richard I of England involved in gross negligence latterly (4)
Actor. E (England) inside GR[oss] [negligenc]E
16 BRANSON Richard II of England, in company of supporters, charged (7)
Businessman. N (eNgland) inside BRAS (supporters) ON (charged)
18 HAWTREY Charles I of England brought in tax on fruit (7)
Actor. E (England) inside TRY (tax) after HAW (fruit)
20 LEAR Edward I of England, covered in fat, ignored diameter (4)
Poet. E (England) inside LARD (fat) – D (diameter)
22 DANCE Charles II of England catches fish? Just the opposite (5)
Actor. N (eNgland) inside DACE (fish)
25 DEAN James I of England delved into religious book briefly (4)
Actor. E (England) inside DAN (short for Daniel) Last across entered – mainly because I had Gates rather than Gated pencilled in for the crossing 15D
26 FONDA Henry V of England has tender front (5)
Actor. A (englAnd) after FOND (tender)
28 WHISTLER James I of England probes hands after card game (8)
Painter. E (England) inside L and R (hands) after WHIST (card game)
30 SHELLEY Mary I of England initiating quiet cry when retired (7)
Novellist. E (England) inside SH (quiet) and YELL<
31 CAGNEY James II of England visits animal enclosure before day’s end (6)
Actor. N (eNgland) inside CAGE (animal enclosure), [da]Y
1 PARAMOUR Lover pops on protection, as Romeo repositions (8)
Def: Lover. PA (Pops – father), ARMOUR (protection) with the first R (Romeo) shifted to the front. Nice salacious surface to this clue, reminiscent of a Steve Bell cartoon.
2 SNAG Element near hospital shedding a tear (4)
Last in and I still cannot see the wordplay. Def is “Tear”. either Sn (Tin) or Ag (Silver) is an Element. So it is a 3 letter word for hospital minus A leaving either SN or AG: Aha!  SAN – A and AG is the element. Why was that so hard.
3 CRUTCH It’s routine to cut 200 hospital staff (6)
RUT (routine) inside CC (200) H[ospital]
4 EGGNOG Music maker outwardly gave up drink (6)
GONG (music maker), G[av]E all reversed
5 ALOE VERA See always, amongst former alcoholics, remedial juice (4,4)
LO (see) EVER (always) inside AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). First answer entered mainly from the wordplay and I wondered about the definition: remedial juice.  I later found (from the Wiki): “Aloe vera juice is used for consumption and relief of digestive issues such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome, although it bears significant potential to be toxic when taken orally”
6 BERG It’s dangerous to tar minor road alongside work unit (4)
B (minor road) ERG (work unit) Def: It’s dangerous. I think “to tar” is in the clue to suggest B is on top of ERG, or is there more going on here?
7 STARER One ogles reserve leaping around pitch (6)
TAR (pitch) inside RES[erve] reversed (leaping – it is a down clue). Tar moving from clue to clue. Is ogling really the same as staring? In my experience a starer is more likely to be staring in disbelief, and an ogler doesn’t necessarily stare – a quick glance may be enough …
13 DONER Person breaking into drachma once bought this meal? (5)
ONE (person) inside DR (Drachma) Not likely to use drachmas to purchase doners in these days of the Euro
15 GATED I’m surprised about limits to the property of some houses (5)
GAD! (I’m surprised – if you’re a nineteenth century retired colonel) around T[h]E.   Gated residences are all the rage amongst the modern rich who feel a need to separate themselves from the great unwashed.
17 ODDBALLS Party lifted by topless Labour politician serving nuts (8)
DO< (party, lifted), [e]D BALLS. Def: nuts. Another clue that woud be at home in the Eye. Ref: the current Shadow Chancellor.
19 ENAMELED English celebrity smiled – not half like an American’s teeth? (8)
E[nglish], NAME (celebrity) inside LED.
21 ELFISH Mischievous, egocentric, squandering son (6)
23 NEWLYN Just name a port in Cornwall (6)
NEWLY (just – as in only just occurred), N[ame] Def: A port in Cornwall. This one gave me trouble because I had the first N from the crossing answer and thought that was from “Name”, so was straining to think of a 5 letter Cornish port to complete a word meaning Just (plus wondering if St. Just in that neck of the woods had any relevance)
24 EVINCE Cable associated with English show (6)
VINCE CABLE next to E[nglish] Mr Cable has become a crossword element regular. Def: show.
27 NEEP Vegetable knife finally put in drawer, perhaps adversely (4)
[knif]E inside PEN< (drawer … adversely) Def: Vegetable. Another that had me running around – here I was trying to justify Leek somehow.
29 TOGA Thong intermittently revealed by a loose dress (4)
T[h]O[n]G, A

7 Responses to “Independent 7698 Scorpion (Sat 18-Jun-2011)”

  1. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks beermagnet. I am a slave to routine and so began attempting the across clues in sequence as I always do. On the iPhone the clues come up one at a time and it took a few to realise there was a consistent pattern and it wasn’t until I got to 20ac that LEAR was obvious that I was able to interpret the structure of the clues. I continued on and through the Downs and when I got back to the Across clues, most fell quickly and enjoyably. As you say, the famous people were all well enough known (except 1 for me, Dance.)

    Like you I also had Gates at 15d. Not being a retired colonel, Gad seemed an unikely expression of surprise.

    In 6dn “Tar” is the usual reference to a sailor for whom an (ice)berg is dangerous.

  2. Allan_C says:

    An absolutely brilliant set of across clues from Scorpion! And thanks, beermagnet for the comprehensive blog.

    Just to add that it was reading the monarch and his/her regnal number in the usual English fashion, e.g. ‘Richard II’ as ‘Richard the second’ that pointed me to the second (or whatever) letter of ‘England’.
    As in Colin’s case, it was 20a, LEAR, that confirmed that that was what was going on. I wasn’t familiar with 22a, DANCE, either, but it was easily got from the wordplay.

    In 19d the ‘American’ reference is to the spelling – ‘enameled’ rather than ‘enamelled’

  3. crypticsue says:

    I thought this was brilliant. I still had a couple of ‘kings’ left for which I needed the review, thank you beermagnet. Once the penny had dropped regarding the ‘rulers’, it was great fun working out all the solutions, thank you very much Scorpion for the great Saturday fun. I would say let’s have more of the same, but my brain needs to recover first!!

  4. lenny says:

    This was great fun – eventually. On my first pass I got absolutely zilch and I was contemplating a whitewash. On my second pass, I immediately got Wagner and then most of the other names, one after another. Like beermagnet I had a bit of trouble with the 4-letter words, thinking Sn was the element in Snag. I finished with Neep, which I only knew because I spent a short period working in Glasgow where neeps seemed to be permanently on the menu.

  5. sidey says:

    Funny how we differ. solid as a mediaeval refectory table or wooden.

  6. yogdaws says:



    With ref to today’s GUARDIAN ARAUCARIA PRIZE PUZZLE NO 25,358…

    Don’t want a solution just clarification re 10, 15 ACROSS:-
    a) Is the solution word order 10,15 or 15,10?
    b) Has there been a cock-up or is it actually possible to solve this one?

    Many thanks for anticipated assistance…

  7. yogdaws says:

    Forget I said that.

    Gaufrid has eased my pain…

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