Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,744/Scorpion

Posted by Ali on August 11th, 2011


It was nice to have bit longer to spend on this week’s puzzle and blog. And probably just as well, given that it’s Thursday and Scorpion never gives solvers an easy ride.

Such is my habit of looking at clues in a random order, I didn’t see the thematic entry at 14A until I’d chipped away at a good portion of the bottom half. The answer was something of a gimme and certainly helped with opening up the top half. This was still a very tough solve though, with an excellent range of clues, made all the more impressive by the limitations imposed by the hidden Twelfth Night quote in the initial letters.

7 SECOND RATE – CON + D(ead) + RAT in SEE
8 ATOM – MOT rev. after A
10 DUCK SOUP – DUCK (to avoid) + SO (very) + UP (excited)
11 TARZAN – [-cabine]T + Z in ARAN
12 WARILY – R (most common in Truro) + 1 L(eft) in WAY
14 SHAKESPEARE – SHAKE + S.P (as in Starting Price = latest, I think!) + “EAR”
19 JANE EYRE – JAY about NEE + RE:
21 OCELOT – Even letters of tOuChEd + LOT (fortune)
22 PAELLA – EL in PAL + A[-che]
23 GRASMERE – (ARMS)* in (Richard) GERE
24 BALI – Hidden in herBALIst’s
1 REGULAR – Initial letters of Gather Up Lancets in REAR
2 MONKFISH – MONK + F(ollowing) + (HIS)*
3 IDIOCY – IDI (dictator) + CO. rev. + Y (variable)
4 VAMP – V (rude sign) + A[-msterda]M + P[-encil]
6 HAIRDO – AIR in HD + O[-APs]
9 OPAQUE – O(ld) + PLAQUE less L (centre of filling)
13 PISTE – S[-ki-lif]T in PIE
15 KEY LARGO – KEY (essential) L(ine) + ARGO[-s]
16 REES-MOGG – R(uns) + (SOME)* in EGG
17 PANAMA – PA (loudspeaker system) + NA (not available) + M[-edia]A
18 GOURMET – R(epublican) + ME (author) in GOUT
20 ECLAIR – AL in RICE rev.
21 ORATED – TAR rev. in OED
23 GEEK – E.G rev. + E[-l]K

15 Responses to “Independent 7,744/Scorpion”

  1. flashling says:

    Indeed Ali and pangram too I noticed. Thanks to Scorpion for a good workout on the train this morning. Actally 14 was my last in…

  2. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks Ali
    Your parsing in 13ac doesn’t supply the R. It should be ROL[l] in POGUE.

  3. superkiwigirl says:

    Many thanks for the blog, Ali, and for a fantastic puzzle, Scorpion.

    I spotted the pangram fairly easily (we’ve been given plenty of examples recently) but like flashling I was late to solve 14a which, though not my last in, only yielded near the end. As for the device of using the first letter of each of the clues to form “If music …” well, its sheer brilliance left me gasping. (Without making excuses, this probably highlights a difficulty of solving online with a laptop – because of the screen’s size I don’t work with the entire puzzle on display at any one time, but only sections of it).

    Overall, I found this pretty tough and I had to struggle to get it completed, though all the while enjoying the clever surfaces. Plenty of favorites and I particularly liked 14a itself, SECOND RATE, GLENEAGLES and KEY LARGO.

    There is just one thing that I still don’t understand, however, despite having tried to google it, and that’s the connection between DEXTER and a “Farm resident” – could someone please enlighten me?

  4. NealH says:

    I had to look this up as well. Apparently, Dexter is a breed of cattle.

  5. Wanderer says:

    Extraordinary. 14 was one of my last in, and it took me ages to understand the significance of “source of all clues initially”. When I got it and read the quotation I, like superkiwigirl, was left gasping. Perhaps some more experienced solver than I can say whether this is a common device? I have certainly never seen it before.

    I am probably being very slow here (not for the first time…) but I cannot for the life of me see where the last letter of SHAKESPEARE comes from. SHAKE=chatter I get, SP=latest odds also, and EAR=listener no problem. But the E? And does “discussing” indicate it? Help please!

    Many thanks to Ali and Scorpion for a terrific challenge.

  6. superkiwigirl says:

    Thanks, Neal.

    I suppose that I was too simplistic in just searching for “Dexter” (and gave up too easily after finding that the first couple of Google pages seemed mainly to reveal details about the TV Series). I’ve now found a reference to cattle with a search of “Dexter farm”.

  7. Ali says:

    I’ve never seen the initial letters thing in a UK non-barred puzzle, but there’s a famous example from the NYT crossword which featured in The Simpsons ( The puzzle itself is here:

  8. superkiwigirl says:

    Hi Wanderer,

    Yes, I think it’s as simple as that, “discussing” just conveys the sense that “EARE” = EAR in speech.

  9. Wanderer says:

    Of course! Thank you skg. It makes perfect sense now, I just could not see it.

  10. Cumbrian says:

    This was a bit too tough for me to complete without some online cheating, and doing it online I also completely missed the significance of the initial letters of each clue, and was wondering where Duck Soup and Tarzan popped up in Shakespeare…… I’m not sure that The Pogues are sufficiently well known for individual members to be household names, but not knowing who Shane MacGowan was didn’t prevent me getting PROLOGUE, from which Pogue stood out and Google confirmed. I wouldn’t have got DEXTROSE without seeing the need for an X to complete the pangram; despite Dexter beef being sold at the local farmers’ market, it’s a rare breed and a very long way down the list of likely “farm residents”.

    The most obscure clue for me was 12ac, and that’s where the value of this blog comes in. I would not have seen “most common in Truro” as “R” – too clever for me, but next time the same device pops up I’ll be wise to it! So thanks to both Scorpion and Ali for a puzzle that I enjoyed immensely, despite having to admit defeat, for a very useful blog, and for furthering my education and solving ability.

  11. nmsindy says:

    I think Anax had a puzzle a few months ago with initial letters of clues being significant (from memory all the letters in ABC order) but not sure about that. Thanks, Ali, and Scorpion for the puzzle.

  12. anax says:

    Wow – well remembered nmsindy and thank you! Yes, that was the trick, clues starting with each letter of the alphabet in order. There was also one on Alberich’s site where all clues started with the same letter. Both of these were fiendish to construct; the fact that Scorpion has coupled this incredibly difficult device with a key thematic entry is frankly staggering.

    Brilliant puzzle.

  13. Allan_C says:

    Well, I got there in the end, but never spotted the theme, and several answers I didn’t understand. But a bit of guesswork and the realisation that it was a pangram helped, e.g.with JANE EYRE and KEY LARGO.
    Favourites? DUCK SOUP and TARZAN. Btw does anyone know how Mr Heseltine got his nickname?

  14. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Morning Allan.

    I think you’ll find the answer here:

  15. Allan_C says:

    Thanks, K’sD. My education in that area is somewhat lacking.

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