Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,712 / Raich

Posted by RatkojaRiku on July 5th, 2011


I started this puzzle expecting there to be some kind of hidden message around the perimeter that would hold the key to the puzzle’s theme. Instead, there was no Nina to be found there, and indeed no obvious theme apart from the nationalities referred to in some clues, which proceeded to reveal the names of composers.

I think subtlety is the name of the game here. I spent a long time wondering if German was a sufficient definition at 6, or Austrian at 12, 17 or 18. No sooner had I concluded that, for me at least, such definitions were actually insufficient than the combined entries at 7 and 8, prominently positioned at the top of the grid, brought the theme into focus (see below). Knowing the high standard of the Indy puzzles and their compilers, my instinct had told me that there had to be more to this quartet of composers than a mere indication of their nationality, which led me to identify the connection at 7 and 8, although an unsuspecting solver might have solved the whole puzzle to his satisfaction without stumbling across this extra thematic element at all.

As for individual entries, the noun form at 2 was new to me, while this week’s favourite clue award went to 8 for its fiendish wordplay. I also liked 14, although without letters I don’t think I would have solved the clue and known for certain that the solution was right. And who could resist the rather incongruous mingling of references to figures in popular and classical culture at the intersections of 20 and (part of) 26 with 17?!

*(…) indicates an anagram

7 STRING R (=Queen, i.e. Regina) in STING (=smart, as a verb); the definition is “horses, maybe”, since a string is a drove or number or horses, camels.
8 QUARTET <L>IV<y> (=four in Roman numerals, hence quartet; “uncovered” means first and last letters are dropped); the reference is to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the New Testament, hence quartet.Additionally, the entries at 7 and 8 when run together, as suggested by the suspension points, give the expression “string quartet” which sets the musical context of the puzzle and explains the choice of composers appearing at 6, 12, 18 and 17 since they all excelled in this particular musical form.
9 CIRCUITOUS [IT (=computers, etc, i.e. Information Technology) + OU (=Oxford/Open University)] in CIRCUS (=show)
11 MATE MA (=mother) + T<heatr>E (“after vacation” means “having been emptied”, i.e. first and last letters only are used)
12 MOZART OZ (=little weight, i.e. ounce) in MART (=trading centre); the definition is simply (an) “Austrian”, referring to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), the composer of numerous string quartets.
13 LLANO Hidden in “diagONAL Line’s”; “section of” indicates hidden answer; “on reflection” indicates a reversal; the definition is (a geographical) “plain”.
16 SPRINKLER SYSTEM *(SPY RELENTS + SMIRK); “trained” is anagram indicator.
18 HAYDN HAY (=grass) + D<ornbir>N (“outskirts of” means first and last letters only are used); the definition is simply (an) “Austrian”, referring to Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), composer of innumerable string quartets and known affectionately as the “Father of the String Quartet”.
20 ASHLEY *(HAS) + LEY (=line, i.e. “any of the straight lines between features of landscapes”); the definition is “To start with, England footballer”, referring to Ashley Cole (1980-) of Chelsea and England; I have taken “to start with” to mean that his forename only is required here, the surname appearing as part of 26.
22 OPAL OP (=work, i.e. opus) + A + L (=lake)
24 PRESBYTERY [PRES (=president) + BY (=times, as in 6 x 6)] + [E (=English) in TRY (=effort)]
25 PLASTIC LAST (=the only remaining) in PIC (=photo, as in “to take some pics”); the definition is “means of purchase”, i.e. credit cards.
26 CREOLE RE (=about) in COLE (=20, i.e. Ashley (Cole), the entry at 20)
1 ASTIR *(SITAR); “playing” is anagram indicator.
2 PRECIOSITY *(ICY RIPOSTE); “could lead to” is anagram indicator; the definition is “being affected”, i.e. fastidious over-refinement.
3 ANTITANK [<Pali>N + TITAN (=someone powerful)] in AK (=Alaska)
4 MUSSEL Homophone of “muscle” (=strength); “is pronounced” is homophone indicator.
5 BRUM B (=Belgium, i.e. in IVR) + RUM (=odd); Brum refers colloquially to Birmingham, hence “city”.
6 BEETHOVEN BEET (=vegetable) + H (=hot) + OVEN (=cooker); the definition is (a) “German”, referring to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), composer of many string quartets.
10 ON THE WANE *(A<bl>E THEN NOW); “extremely” means first and last letters only are used; “sadly” is anagram indicator.
14 ABSTENTION Cryptic definition: “not crossing” in the sense of not voting, not placing a cross on a ballot paper.
15 UP THE POLE *(HOTEL <s>UPPE<r>); “lacking trimmings” means first and last letters are dropped; “wrong” is anagram indicator.
17 SCHUBERT {[C (=catholic) + HUB (=centre)] in SE (South East)} + RT (=right); the definition is (an) “Austrian”, referring to Franz Schubert (1797-1828), composer of numerous string quartets.
19 NAPKIN NAP (=doze off) + KIN (=family)
21 ORDER <b>ORDER (=ornamental strip; “cut top off” means first letter is dropped)
23 LIST Double definition: LIST means lean over, heel AND itemised record, catalogue.

9 Responses to “Independent 7,712 / Raich”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks, RatkojaRiku, for a comprehensive blog.

    Like you, I was on the lookout for a perimeter nina, but once that became unlikely, it seemed that the theme was just the four composers. QUARTET was my last one in (without the slightest idea of why) and I failed to see the STRING QUARTET connection. As you say, subtle. Not sure ASHLEY C[RE]OLE will be everybody’s cup of tea, but I quite liked it.

    I smiled at ANTITANK today. Several setters have had topical clues recently referencing the gaffe-prone and seriously scary Mrs Palin (although she herself would most likely ‘refudiate’ that). I liked Raich’s take on this today.

  2. Kathryn's Dad says:

    And btw, you might want to remove the reference to some of the solutions from your visible preamble!

  3. flashling says:

    didn’t see/get abstention Oh well, thanks Niall and Riku

  4. MikeC says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku and Raich for an entertaining workout. I’ve finally managed to print off an Indy puzzle, which I much prefer to solving online (thanks Anax for the link to the Crossword Solver software). All I want now (for Xmas?) is a way to access previous Indy crosswords. I’m guessing that’s not possible.

  5. ele says:

    Having failed dismally on the Anax yesterday, this went much better. Failed to get quartet (lack of lateral thinking, doh) even though the composers were among the first ones in. Liked 16ac and 3d. Thanks to Raich for an enjoyable puzzle and RatkojaRiku for filling in the blanks.

  6. anax says:

    MikeC @ 4
    It is possible. Please send me an email via the anaxcrosswords blog.

  7. Ian says:

    Thanks to Raich and RatkojaRiku.

    I enjoyed this one very much despite the fact that I only managed to insert two answers in the first ten minutes. These being 1 dn & 4dn.

    In reality the cluing was very fair and for serious solvers I guess this was only moderately difficult.

    After just over 90 minutes I’d managed all but one, oddly enough the clue referred by ele @5 above.

    I too missed this one and looking at the reference to 7ac the connexion passed me by.

    Plenty of well crafted clues, my favourites were 3dn, 14dn ( a real marmite clue) and esp.21dn.

  8. Wil Ransome says:

    I enjoyed this, as is always the case with Raich. Harder than usual I thought, and a nice (although simple and thin) theme more typical of Phi than of Raich. But we couldn’t avoid just a bit of football, could we, as in 20/26 across.

  9. Raich says:

    Many thanks, RatkojaRiku, for the blog and to all for their comments. Yes, the idea was to feature a QUARTET of composers associated with string quartets with the clues for STRING and QUARTET made a bit tougher so as not to give the theme away too quickly.

    Re Ashley Cole, I seem to see even more about him on the front pages than the back ones so I guess those not bewitched by the beautiful game would not have had too much trouble with it…

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