Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7724/Punk

Posted by John on July 19th, 2011


I thought this was going to be a nightmare. There I was, blogging shortly after midnight and hoping for a fairly easy one so that I wouldn’t have to stay up all night, and we get a whole lot of people some of whom I’ve hardly heard of, and all of a type. It put me in mind of a dreadful round in a pub quiz I was once at: the subject of the round was “music”, and all the questions were about pop music. There are other types of music; and there are other types of singer.

With all those singers I was wondering if we were going to get some birds, but no.

Yet having having been less than enthusiastic about the theme of this crossword I must admit that the clues were, as one generally gets from Punk, of a uniformly high standard. All right I cheated a little on the thematic answers and tended to press ‘Reveal Letter’ a bit so as to give myself a start, but they were all solvable from the wordplay. It was a bit like solving an Azed crossword, where often the answer is — sometimes straightforwardly — derivable from the wordplay yet it is a word that is completely unknown and has to be looked up in Chambers. And sometimes the clues were nothing to do with the theme and excellent in their own right.

8/9 ARETHA FRANKLIN — the rather difficult wordplay is ((heart)* Frank) in {P}alin — Sarah Palin is evidently keen to be regarded as a hockey mom: at least that is how the press tends to portray her
10 S MO(KEY ROBINS)ON — Miranda is the smallest of Uranus’s five moons (I wasn’t aware of this and thought that Miranda Moon was yet another singer)
11 ROBERTA FLACK — (right to break)* around (calf)rev.
17 OUNCE — there are 16 ounces in a pound
18 GA IN — GA is Georgia
19 MELTING POINT — (letting in Pom)* — the point at which the solid state becomes fluid
26 A NSW ER — A New South Wales E.R. is a queen possibly in Sydney — very nice
1/16 DRESS CODE — (E SS cod) in (red)*
2 AT YOUR BEST — (stouter bay)*
3 JAMES BROWN — (me s{pit} brow) in Jan — you knit your brow
4 AFAR — “a fa”
5 GARB — (brag)rev. and this is dress code
6 SKIN{t} — the skin is an organ of the body and it’s a short version of ‘skint’
7 PINOCCHIO — (con)rev. in pic, then 10 supporting {Britis}h
12 RUN-UP — R.U. (pun)rev.
13 AMERINDIAN — (marinade)* and a Crow is one of the American Indian races
14 LI(G{aris}H)THO USE
15 POKE FUN AT — (of Punk tea)* — not sure this is quite pukka: we have to work out that me = Punk before doing the anagram, not usual — but if this is accepted then a nice clue
22 HACK — 2 defs
23 {g}ROOM
24 APE X

24 Responses to “Independent 7724/Punk”

  1. caretman says:

    Thanks, John, and especially thanks to Punk for quite a challenging puzzle.

    I had similar trepidation with this but got it in the end. I made best progress early on in the lower half of the diagram; PINOCCHIO was the key to my being able to solve the upper half. LUTHER VANDROSS and SAM COOKE were unfamiliar to me but with crossing letters and wordplay I could eventually get them. I thought the clues for MELTING POINT, ANSWER, and DRESS CODE were excellent with the definitions well-disguised. This was definitely a workout and you did a great job, John, in explaining the wordplay.

  2. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Yes, well done, John.

    I got there, but can’t say I enjoyed this one much. I too started off down the ornothological route, but when I got ROBERTA FLACK (from a wordsearch) it became obvious that they’d all be singers. And for me, that was the problem: the wordplay for all the themed clues (apart from SAM COOKE) was pretty convoluted, and when you’ve got hundreds of singers to choose from – okay they’re all soul – that’s not much help. In the end I had to resort to a wordsearch for all of them except COOKE, which I don’t like doing, but it was the only way I was going to finish.

    There were some good clues elsewhere.

    I took 23dn to be [B]ROOM – just a tired typo, I’m sure.

  3. eimi says:

    I acknowledge that this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, like golf and mathematicians, but you really ought to know Sam Cooke. He is probably the greatest of all of these, certainly in terms of influence. You’ve almost certainly heard his songs, whether in the original versions or in covers (You Send Me, Cupid, Chain Gang, (What a) Wonderful World, Bring It on Home to Me, Another Saturday Night, Twistin’ The Night Away, Having A Party and especially A Change Is Gonna Come). The manner of his early death is also interesting, to say the least.

  4. Peter Chambers says:

    Quite proud to have got all of the singers, though it did take 4 times as long as normal. Don’t know them particularly well, but have heard of them all.

    Was defeated though by the dubious 15d (not that I mind these sort of clues – though perhaps a double question mark would be in order if it’s this dubious) and the excellent 26ac

  5. flashling says:

    Quite anjoyed this despite not being a great soul music fan. 15d being last, the ?U? bit kept me thinking of OUT until I saw the answer in my head and realised me = PUNK (see 3d for the opposite). I thought the indy style was to use ONE’S not YOUR in something like 2d. 24d seems a bit crude as is Punk’s style.

    All round thanks Punk and John

  6. nmsindy says:

    Like others, I found this very difficult but was very satisfied to get there in the end from the clues, esp pleased to work out the one singer I’d not heard of (LUTHER VANDROSS). My first was Sam Cooke and I endorse everything eimi has said about him, his voice is unique and unmistakable for me anyway, one of my all-time favourites. I thought POKE FUN AT was very clever and totally fair, would have no doubts about that, John, many thanks for your very precise and detailed blog – I too esp liked ANSWER.

  7. lenny says:

    This was quite a quick solve. Once I got the theme I just thought of soul singers that fitted the answer and retrospectively justified the wordplay. I know nothing about soul music but all the names are very well-known. I never would have got Smokey Robinson from the wordplay. I made a similar guess to John, imagining that Miranda Moon might be a character in a situation comedy. Only on a post-solve Google did I find that it was a moon of Uranus.

    Last in was Pinocchio, since most of the checked letters were vowels. Strange really because I watched Jonathan Dove’s opera Pinocchio last night so it should have come to mind easily. It’s a pity to see Carlo Collodi’s novel described as an animation but I suppose it gave a better surface to the clue.

    I was a bit thrown to see Skin defined as an organ, I’ve never come across that usage before.

  8. Tokyocolin says:

    Thanks John. No problems with the singers, all very famous. But once I latched onto the theme several became clear from crossing letters and the wordplay followed. I came here with 3 questions, still unanswered.

    What is the brag/game connection in 5 dn?
    At 6d how is “a penny” T? P and D I am used to.
    What is the significance of the pole in 10ac? I assumed it was the n of moon and Googled Miranda Smoo.

  9. Peter Chambers says:

    Pole = North, South, East or West

    Brag is a card game played here in UK (don’t know about anywhere else). A simple version of Poker, 3 cards, you can lose your money very fast.

    T = penny: don’t know – I wondered too.

  10. Peter Chambers says:

    Sorry, not east or west!

  11. michael says:

    Tokyocolin @ 8, Skint is a shortened form of ‘without a penny’, however whether skin is an organ is another question.

  12. eimi says:

    Skin as an organ was a surprise to me, but it appears to be correct. It is apparently not only an organ, but the largest organ of the human body.

  13. Eileen says:

    Hi lenny @7 and Michael @11

    I have several times in quizzes come across the question, ‘What is the largest organ in the human body?’


  14. Eileen says:

    Apologies, eimi, for the crossed post.

  15. Richard says:

    The problem with this crossword, for anyone who knows little or nothing about soul singers, is that too many of the themed answers (Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Smokey Robinson and Roberta Flack) interlock within a small area of the grid. (I did manage to solve it, having guessed Sam Cooke from the wordplay and googled to get the rest, but I should not have been able to do so otherwise.)

  16. walruss says:

    I accept skin = organ with no problem. But this was a bit idiosyncratic really, it seemed the compiler had to fight this a bit in the clues. My last of the day, which was not the best of days in Crosswordland for me.

  17. Bamberger says:

    I got a lot of the non themed answers out but even though I guessed I was looking for singers, I failed to get one of them as the wordplay was too hard for me.
    I’m in the Sam Cooke -who he? camp.
    Thanks John for explaining the wordplay.

  18. Lenny says:

    Thanks for the link, Eileen. If the BBC says it, it must be true. I looked at a few dictionary definitions, such as Collins: “A fully differentiated structural and functional unit, such as a kidney or root, in an animal or plant”. On that sort of definition Skin slips under the bar. I don’t seriously think, though, that anyone would describe skin as an organ except as a trick question in a pub quiz.

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi again Lenny

    I chose the most authoritative link I could see when I googled – but there are plenty more. My Medical Encycloperia gives the same description.

    [That’s the weird kind of thing you tend to remember from pub quizzes!]

  20. Lenny says:

    Pace Eileen (I think that’s the Latin equivalent of a smiley). I keep resolving not to get dragged into these pointless arguments but I can’t resist them. You (and Punk and Eimi) are absolutely right. I did not even suggest otherwise in my original post. I just said I had never come across it before.

  21. Martin H says:

    Another list of something-or-other, and another set of solvers who know nothing about something-or-other. Well, there you go. I didn’t do this one – I did the Chifonie in the Guardian on-line; later I went on a train journey and tried to buy an Independent, but they only had the 20p ‘i’. There I found a cheese-themed Vergilius, which I thought deserved a thorough blogging, and came here thinking the two papers shared the same cryptic. Apparently not, although I think they have the other puzzles in common. Anyone know anything about the ‘i’ cryptics?

  22. John says:

    Well I’m sorry, Eimi, I do know about a little more than golf or mathematicians. But Sam Cooke was someone of whom I’d never heard, and the songs you mention are all completely unknown to me (although perhaps I do know ‘Wonderful World': Louis Armstrong?). Which isn’t to say that they should be.

  23. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Hi Martin H

    Not sure if you’ll see this, but I often pick up the Indy i and if I do, I’ll have a go at the cryptic (I liked the cheesy offering from Virgilius yesterday). I’m guessing, but I think they are puzzles from the Indy files that are being recycled – certainly the usual gang of setters are there, although not any of the recent additions to the stable in the ones I’ve tried.

    There was talk about getting a blog going, but I think the feeling was that there wouldn’t be sufficient interest to justify it, partly because it’s not available to do online.

  24. Martin H says:

    Thanks for that KD. Good to know there’s another one to do if it’s one of those days – and, with the recent talk about value for money, this one seems like a bargain.

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