Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7738/Mordred

Posted by John on August 4th, 2011


A good crossword from Mordred, but the Nina is completely lost on me. When I’d solved it there was a message inviting me to find all the examples of 16ac. If this is what it seems to be, I can’t find any. If there’s some other clever explanation of it all then I don’t see it I’m afraid.

9 F(LOR)A — Flora Robson
11 AC C(US)A L{oan}
12 PRAIRIE — Pr i.e. has air inside, in other words is inflated
13 REISSUE — (Sure)* is on the outside, and I think it’s simply Ei{mi}’s on the inside: me and mi are alternative spellings of the same note, so ‘having discounted me’ is the same as ‘having discounted mi’. I think.
15 “PAY ME” NT — def ‘Perhaps rent’
16 GHOSTWRITER — (worthiest)* in {autobio}gr{aphical}
21 A CI(DI)TY — I immediately said ‘remorse’ and was wrong
25 DEFINES — not sure here I’m afraid: it seems to be fine in des, but what the senorita has to do with it and why it’s des I can’t see — presumably the definition is ‘outlines’, which is just about equivalent to ‘defines’
27 BEGORRA — beg (= solicit) orra (a Scottish word meaning amongst other things occasional) and begorra is according to Chambers ‘by God!’, a euphemistic alteration
28 UNMEANING — (gunmen in a)* and expressionless is one of the meanings given in Chambers. Clearly Mordred uses Chambers quite a lot, because many parts of his clues come straight from there
29 A N{orth}(G U)S{ea} — I think this is an &lit., since Angus the area contains various universities, at least one of which is no doubt good
1 A F FAIR E{cstatic}
2 MOO CHIN G{roin}
3 PARSES — Parsee with the final E(ast) becoming S(outh), and to parse something is to break it down
4 TAEL — (eat)rev. l{ose} — a tael is a Chinese weight
5 R ASP — R is a fairly unusual, but perfectly acceptable, abbreviation for queen, and a rasping sound …
6 CATALYST — (salty act)*
7 {Coleridg}E(TERN){Rim}E — this is a poetic word meaning ‘everlasting’
8 ARRESTS — 2 defs, more than one act of arresting someone, …
14 {s}ENTRY
15 doorkeePER DUty
17 {p}O{o}R {t}I{g}E{r} N{o}T {s}A{d}L{y} and an oriental is presumably a long-tailed cat, although this is not this time supported by Chambers
18 ROAD RAGE — r{ow} o{ver} a d{river} (gear)*
19 EARDRUM — a CD I think, referring to The Beach Boys
22 INFAMY — ‘in my’ around (ie casing) F.A.
24 SAGGAR — (rags)rev. around ag — a saggar is a clay box in which pottery is packed for baking
26 STIR — 3 defs I think: venture (??), mix and prison
27 ABIGAil — a biga was a two-horse chariot in AncientRome

29 Responses to “Independent 7738/Mordred”

  1. caretman says:

    Thanks, John, for the blog.

    I caught the nina at the very end. The unchecked letters that make up rows 3 and 13, and columns 4, 6, 10, and 12 are all the names of authors. Noticing that helped me finally finish off the northwest corner which had me rather stymied.

    I hadn’t noticed the me/mi issue on 13a. Your explanation is certainly inventive but I wonder if there’s something else going on.

    On 25a it’s a charade of DEF INES, the latter a name for a senorita.

    SAGGAR and BIGA were new to me so I was glad the wordplay was as clear as it was.

    My COD was 7d with an evocative surface.

    Thanks, Mordred, for the challenge!

  2. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks, John. I know you’re a night owl, but posting the blog at 2:49am suggests that you found it a tough puzzle! I know I did, and in fact was beaten in the NW corner. I finally saw FLORA, but the clue seemed to be telling me to make the insertion the other way round. A number of obscure words, but in fairness to Mordred, all very clearly signposted; it was just a question of getting over your ‘that can’t be a word’ reaction. And I needed your explanations for quite a few.

    I too couldn’t quite parse REISSUE (the surface is funny, though). The theme completely passed me by: when I saw there was nothing in the top and bottom rows I stopped looking. But you have to say that it’s very cleverly constructed, because there’s a lot in there.

    I think the completion message is a nice touch, because there’ll be shedloads of online solvers who don’t contribute or lurk here, so to flag up the theme will no doubt allow them to fully appreciate the crossword.

    Thanks to Mordred for a puzzle that was certainly more vindaloo than korma.

  3. superkiwigirl says:

    Many thanks to John (and caretman) for your explanations, and to Mordred for a very tasty vindaloo!

    I found this really challenging, and had to resort to the check button more often than I would have wished. Even when the completion message flashed up I still didn’t see the names comprising the theme (yet these are plain enough when when pointed out – the story of my life as a crossword solver I’m afraid).

    A couple of new words here, including PERDU which I got easily enough from the surface but didn’t know in this context and had to check afterwards.

    It may be of interest to other online solvers to know that Gaufrid recently provided a really useful link under “General Discussion” to an app called “Crossword Solver” which (amongst other things) enables one to download and print the Indy puzzles (thanks very much for this Gaufrid, and also Carrots for raising the problem).

  4. anax says:

    Stunning! Odd/Even grids like this always make me look for a Nina but it’s staggering that Mordred has crammed so much into a grid which is far more generous in its cross-checking than I’d have thought possible. Including the theme word there are no less than 49 letters dictating the rest of the fill – I’d have struggled with less than half of that.
    With great clues to boot, this is a puzzle to file away under “memorable”. It’s a magnificent technical achievement.

  5. Cumbrian says:

    I managed to complete this but found it hard going. Too many obscure words for my liking: the poetic ETERNE, TAEL, PERDU, ORIENTAL as a long-tailed cat(?), SNAGGAR and BIGA all requiring googling to confirm (and failing to confirm ORIENTAL)

    I put in REISSUE without giving it too much thought; now I don’t understand it! I was also guilty of whacking REMORSE in at 21ac as soon as I saw detective inspector and Oxford. Duh!

    The nina was completely lost on me, so thanks to caretman for pointing it out.

    A very clever crossword; IMHO too clever and perhaps designed to impress other setters and expert solvers, rather than being intended for the enjoyment of the average solver.

  6. Cumbrian says:

    Oops! I meant to say thanks to John for the blog! (How do you edit a previous post?)

  7. Quixote says:

    I solved this completely on the 3-mile bus trip down into Oxford for lunch and found it pretty starightforward. I don’t look for ninas any more than the average solver, so I fear that all that extra cleverness was wasted on me. My one regret is that we are seeing the principle of having half the letters checked abandoned for the sake of ninas — and the unhelpful checking with total ignorance of ninas will make life difficult for many a solver on another bus! That said, a reasonable puzzle from my colleague.

  8. nmsindy says:

    This was a very interesting puzzle, which I enjoyed. The appearance of ETERNE flagged to me that it was likely there was a theme necessitating its use, a feeling confirmed when I saw SIGNAL would fit in 24 down but that some far less familiar word was being used. Then I saw the possibility of RATTIGAN, and from there went on to solve the puzzle that I think I would not have been able to do otherwise. I thought the clueing was very fair as I found I was able to work out all the answers (that were unknown to me) from the wordplay. My interpretation of REISSUE was the same as John’s to whom many thanks for the blog. Thanks also, Mordred, for the puzzle.

  9. Scarpia says:

    Thanks John,
    Good puzzle I thought,which as others have said contained a few unfamiliar words,but all fairly clued.

    I saw 13 across as “I’m”(meaning me?) removed,but either way I think it is a poor clue(or a mistake).

    Only saw the nina when prompted by the message,but clever work to fit all the writers into the grid.
    Whether that makes it a more entertaining puzzle(better) is another question….

  10. walruss says:

    There are some unusual words, but the theme dictates these I think. I just wonder if, in this case, the theme made the grid unreasonably tough? Thanks to porr old John, who missed the boat entirely!!

  11. redddevil says:

    Not really comfortable with any of the explanations of 13 ac and 19 d seemed to have little to do with the clue really (why hopefully?). Not come across perdu as anything other than lost before either.
    Theme didn’t help despite ghostwriter being my 1st entry!

  12. NealH says:

    I got through most of this surprisingly quickly, but was lost on eardrum and defines. I could only think of eardrum as some sort of very weak CD i.e. if you’re getting good vibrations, you’re not deaf. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the Beach Boys or not. I thought Ines for senorita was a bit unfair, as there will be lots of Ineses who aren’t senoritas, so it needs a perhaps or some other qualifier. Also, def is a slang word, so it would have been helpful if there was some hint there as well. I spotted the across writers (seeing that 4 down was tael rather than something more reasonable like tall or tail implied a NINA in that row), but didn’t notice those in the down columns. I agree with the comment that there were too many obscure words. The clues for these were generally very easy, but that doesn’t always help – if something seems too obvious, you sometimes dismiss it.

  13. Paul B says:

    13 ac is fine: it’s R(EImi’S)SUE. ME is synonymous with MI as in sol-fa scale (see Collins).

    And there aren’t really all that many tricky words given the ambition of the unch-theme IMO. It’s not as bad as my space-invader idea, for example, which got a right mauling. There were a few … shall we say, under-used examples from Chambers in that one.

    Ah these imperfections: and yet, as we all remember, even Bagpuss himself, once he was asleep, was just an old, saggy cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams, but Emily loved him.

  14. Quixote says:

    Hmm. Enough of all that Bagpuss waffle! I am worried. I just wonder sometimes whether the nina tail isn’t wagging the crossword dog here. If the price of a nina is obscure words and inadequate checking, it may keep the inner set happy but the Indy is attempted by many beyond these blogging shores, most of us being good or super solvers. A fellow cricketer even told me last night that he found the Quixote plenty hard enough — and I never knew he’d started solving any puzzles!

  15. anax says:

    I know this is strictly O/T but, seeing as Ninas and their validity are under discussion, I wonder if this is an opportunity for an addition to the links at the top of the FifteenSquared home page – namely “Crossword Styles” (or similar).
    This blog is invaluable, not least because it covers so many puzzle series, but each of those series has a unique flavour and perhaps solvers would be grateful to know some of their idiosyncrasies. The Indy puzzle frequently incorporates themes and Ninas – what are the tips for suspecting (especially) the latter? What might give away the presence of a Nina? There are ways of, at least, suspecting – so can we offer pointers? How about other information such as preferred dictionaries for editorial purposes, range of Ximenean/Libertarian clueing?
    Of course, not all solvers know about the various blogs, so this information can’t help everyone, but it might be nice to have it available anyway.

  16. Quixote says:

    Good idea, colleague, but it won’t solve the problem for people who don’t know about ninas and don’t look at blogs (the vast majority of solvers). My point is that ninas are best if no scarifice has to be made to the vocabulary or the grid. A crap grid (sadly) is the best hint that a nina is afoot. It would of course be possible for crossword editors to give a preamble hint of what to look for if the vocabulary and the grid have been stretched — but this spoils the fun for the nina-searchers, I guess. Enough from me, but it would be good to know if anyone else shares my concerns.

  17. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Bagpuss, the Clangers and the Soup Dragon … whatever. Since in Another Place with a puzzle like this they’d be up to about three million contributions by this time, and we never seem to have this kind of discussion here, with Gaufrid’s dispensation this is my take on the previous comments.

    I was thinking a bit along the same lines as Cumbrian initially, that this was a bit of a setter’s puzzle (and since four setters have already commented, maybe there’s something in that). If there are no fewer [sic] than 49 letters dictating the fill, do I care? Not in the least. I’m an enthusiastic and maybe decentish solver (four out of five Indy weekdays completely solved normally) and I’ll try to solve what’s in front of me with my morning cup of tea; but I certainly wouldn’t want a crossword like this every day.

    But a Nina here and there is part of the tussle, and I can understand that setters sometimes want to stretch themselves: they need to enjoy setting a puzzle as much as we solvers want to enjoy completing it. And if that pleasure is shared, well, there you go.

    So I don’t think Quixote needs to be too worried. Vanilla crosswords, themed crosswords; for me a good mix is the most important thing.

  18. Tees says:

    Sort of, dear colleague, in general, but, whilst 10, 16 and 28 across are fairly crucial (dig my etumologia man), today’s isn’t all that bad a grid. (And dig those commas.) Far worse are some of those available to compilers who work for other dailies.

    Luv yr ‘scarifice’ btw: it’s not a word, but darned well should be.

  19. anax says:

    Scarifice v. To let one’s neighbour borrow a piece of gardening equipment, but never see it again.

  20. ele says:

    As one of the ‘civilians’, I agree with K’sD comments. I didn’t see the Nina but enjoyed attempting this puzzle – gave up with a few last words (FLORA, TAEL, EARDRUM) unsolved as time ran out – and it didn’t seem that much more difficult or contrived than others. Ignorance is bliss presumably. Keep up the good work setters and thanks to John for the blog – BTW I agree with his reading of the me/mi clue. For 29ac, I just assumed Angus was the definition of an area on the North Sea and the good university simply gives you the GU? But it did seem all wordplay with no definition.

  21. Cumbrian says:

    I’m probably yer average solver. Over many years I’ve had periods of religiously having a bash at a puzzle on a daily basis interspersed with long periods – months – of not touching one following a decision to stop forking out for dead trees; so an addict with periods of remission – a sporaddict, perhaps? I’d never spent time discussing a puzzle with others, and it wasn’t until I happened to chance upon this blogsite that I’d even heard of, let alone noticed, a nina. Now I frequently find them to be an enjoyable minor extra, an example being the recent Fawlty Towers reference.

    My gripe is not with the construction, nor lack of presence, of a nina. It’s with the inclusion in the grid of several words which, as yer average solver, I couldn’t reasonably be expected to have ever come across in a normal lifetime. Or even two. Saggar? Biga? Tael? Yes, all solvable from the wordplay, but I find it unsatisfying to arrive at a string of letters which mean nothing to me, other than they fit the clue. Such words may be buried in Chambers, but if it was stated upfront that some solutions were only to be found in a Klingon dictionary, would that make them acceptable just because they could be derived from the wordplay?

    I can accept that sometimes a setter has to use an overly obscure word, and its inclusion at least broadens one’s vocabulary, but several such words in the same grid points to something beyond necessity.

    To repeat, I’m nothing more than yer average solver. But average solvers do represent the vast majority of the target audience.

  22. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the blog, John.

    There’s been much interesting discussion above, and I find myself in the camp that enjoy a good challenge, and the occasional surprise is always welcome, but not at the expense of an overly obscure puzzle, however fair the clues, once solved.

    My only real contribution here is the suggestion that the tail of the oriental tiger is indeed very long, financially speaking :)

  23. anax says:

    Hi Cumbrian

    I absolutely agree! However…
    The main reason I think it would be good to have a sort of ‘guide to Ninas’ (among guides to other quirks associated with the various crossword series) is that the presence of obscure answers can be a clue to a Nina’s presence and I doubt many solvers will have latched onto that. There are lots of simple words to fit the pattern -O-T for example, so why would the setter choose something like HOUT/DOST/TOLT etc? If you examine such oddities you may – perhaps should – be persuaded to check the appropriate rows/columns to see if other letters look like contributing to a hidden string.
    As K’sD says, the occasional Nina is well established in the Indy. Other than sometimes forcing in uncommon words, if you spot them they can be helpful; an educated guess about one or two can give you free letters that would otherwise be unchecked.

  24. twencelas says:

    I don’t see how you can criticise such a beautiful puzzle. Evolution is good Quixote. And to be honest Nina’s are good and yes thare are a few words not in common usage but they are clued impeccably. Thanks Mordred for a puzzle that amused me!

  25. flashling says:

    Thought this was fine, did dead tree, found finishing hard with words I didn’t know and missed the nina completely despite alarm bells in head screaming nina. Cheers John and Mordred

  26. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I think a Nina should have some kind of connection to the crossword as such.
    This was a random Nina, making it “a magnificent technical achievement” as Anax says @4? Well, perhaps it was.
    But can I (the average solver) be bothered? Not really, I fear.

    The actual cluing is a lot more important, and 13ac [deleting 'me' = deleting 'mi'?], 21 ac [Oxford being 'a city' - I think 'a' could have been incorporated in the clue], 25ac [INES is more Portuguese than Spanish], 5d [RASP defined by just 'sound'?] and 22d [too wordy for FA] all have things to worry about.
    But I liked 16ac (GHOSTWRITER) and 18d (ROAD RAGE) very much.

  27. Richard says:

    I thought this was superb – a real tour de force!

  28. Jim T says:

    Great puzzle. ‘Magnificent technical achievement’ undoubtedly but also highly enjoyable.

  29. Allan_C says:

    I doubt if there is actually such a person as ‘yer average solver’ (pace Cumbrian). On the one hand there are those who (attempt to) solve while commuting, hence with no access to reference works; on the other those like me who solve at their leisure and will happily go off and consult Chambers, Collins, Google, Brewer, a word finder or whatever to get there in the end. As it’s often said, you can’t please all of the people all of the time! So some days we get a straightforward solve and on others we struggle. What intrigues me, though, is that bloggers often report difficulty with puzzles I’ve found easy, and vice-versa.

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