Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,784 / Scorpion

Posted by RatkojaRiku on September 27th, 2011


It’s Tuesday and I’m blogging a Scorpion puzzle, so it’s doubtless time for a thematic puzzle and/or a Nina.

As thematic puzzles go, some reveal their themes more easily than others, and, I think it is fair to say, it soon became clear – looking at 11/26 and 25/21 alone – than many of the entries would consist of the stage names of the individuals that were identified by their birth names in the clues. Having said that, on first perusal of the grid, I realised that most of the birth names were unfamiliar to me, and that they would have to be worked out from the wordplay with the help of checking letters in the grid. I persevered and eventually unmasked all the showbiz stars, although anyone struggling would have been able easily to look up one or more of the names online and then be able to carry on solving, thus making this puzzle accessible to a wider range of solvers.

My knowledge of pop music is patchy to say the least – I didn’t even know that 16/6 was a man! – so I have learnt quite a lot thanks to today’s puzzle – you never know when those birth names might come in useful in a pub quiz! The reference at 10 was new to me and, I suspect, a great many other solvers – Wikipedia to the rescue!

Highlights for me today included the reassembling of proper nouns to make 13; the “towering face of rock” in the wordplay at 25/21; the surface reading of 14/1 and 20; and the “place in Oklahoma” in the definition at 9. As for my take on the trickier clues, as is often the case with this particular grid for me, with its large number of short entries and many with their initial letters unchecked, 2 and 4 held me up for longest: I had ERSE at 2 for a long time before correcting myself, and I have to admit to searching the thesaurus for 4, which I had wrongly solved as RAIN.

I go away from this puzzle feeling entertained and instructed, but also with the sensation that Scorpion had the last laugh today. I look forward to pitting my wits against him again!

*(…) indicates an anagram

8   ADAM ANT A + DAM (=barrier) + ANT (=worker); Stuart Goddard is the birth name of English pop star Adam Ant (1954-)
10   STIG ST (=road, i.e. abbreviation of street) + <s>I<n>G<s> (“regularly” means alternate letters only are used); the Stig is a character on the BBC’s motoring show Top Gear, known for clocking fast lap-times when test-driving cars, hence “fast driver”.
11/26   ELTON JOHN *(LET) + ON + JOHN (=toilet, colloquially); “loose” is anagram indicator; Reg Dwight is the birth name of English singer-songwriter Sir Elton John (1947-)
12   LULU <hono>LULU (=US state capital, of Hawaii; “spending half of” means that half of the letters only are left to be used); Marie Lawrie is the birth name of Scottish singer and actress Lulu (1948-)
13   CLARKE LARK (=play) in CE (=church); “following 26 6” means that this entry must be read together with, and follow, those at 26 (=John) and 6 (=Cooper), to give John Cooper Clarke (1949-), the English punk performance poet.
15   MEAT LOAF [T (=tense, i.e. in grammar) in MEAL (=dinner)] + OAF (=Charlie, i.e. idiot); Marvin Lee Aday is the birth name of US rock star and actor Meat Loaf (1947-), whose birthday it is today!
17   CONCAVE CON (=criminal) + CAVE (=beware, as in cave canem, i.e. beware of the dog, in Latin)
19   VIRGULE VI (=six, i.e. in Roman numerals) + [G<irls> (“initially” means first letter only is used) in RULE (=regulation)]; a virgule is a slanting line, an old form of comma, hence “slash” as definition
22   POLANSKI POL (LOP=cut; “back” indicates reversal) + A + *(SKIN); “plastic” (in the sense of having the power to take on different forms) is anagram indicator; the reference is to French-Polish film director Roman Polanski (1933-)
24   ESCUDO CU (=copper) in *(DOES); “criminal” is anagram indicator; the definition is “the necessary (=money, colloquially) once abroad”, referring to the former Portuguese unit of currency
27   BEHAN BEHA<vi>N<g> (=being good); “gets six (=VI) grand (=G) from” means the letters “vi” and “g” are not used); the reference is to Irish poet and short story writer Brendan Behan (1923-64)
29   IGGY I<nterestin>G G<u>Y (“extremely” means the first and last letters only are used); the reference is to US singer-songwriter Iggy Pop (1947-), considered the father of punk rock.
30   DRAINER RAIN (=fall) in DER (=the in German)
31   REFUGE REFU<s>E (=rubbish); the letter G (=government) replaces the letter <glas>S (“ultimately” means last letter only)
2   CREE CREE<p> (=yes-man; “page (=p) avoids” means the letter “p” is dropped)
3   RAGTIME TIM (MIT=with in German; “uplifted” indicates vertical reversal) in RAGE (=craze, as in all the rage)
4   DAMN Homophone of “dam” (=hold back)
5   RAWLPLUG RAW (=naked) + L<ady> (“cap” means first letter only is used) + PLUG (=advertise)
7   PAGER RE (=on, regarding) + GAP (=pause); “when retiring” indicates reversal
9   TULSA A (=American) + SLUT (=hussy); “turns up” indicates vertical reversal; Tulsa is a city in the US state of Oklahoma, not a character in the musical Oklahoma, as the clue misleadingly suggests
14/1   ELVIS
*(CELLIST LOVES) + O<utshine> (“lead to” means first letter only is used); Declan MacManus is the birth name of English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello (1954-)
16/6   ALICE COOPER [ICE (=diamond) + CO (=business)] in *(PAROLE); Vincent Furnier is the birth name of American rock singer-songwriter Alice Cooper (1948-)
18   CHAINSAW CHAIN (=links, i.e. which together form a chain) + S (=Southern) + A (=admiral, as in RA for Rear Admiral) + W (=with)
20   LADY GAGA [<appl>Y (“latest to” means last letter only) + GAG (=choke)] in LADA (=Russian car); Stefani Germanotta is the birth name of US pop singer-songwriter Lady Gaga (1986-)
23   O’DOWD <t>OW<n> (“centre of” means central letters only are used) in ODD (=weird); George O’Dowd is the birth name of English pop singer-songwriter Boy George (1961-)
25/21   CLIFF
CLIFF (=a towering face of rock) + RICHARD<s> (=Stones guitarist, i.e. Keith Richards; “cropped” means the last letter is dropped); Harry Webb is the birth name of English pop singer and philanthropist Sir Cliff Richard (1940-).
27   BONO B (=book) + ONO (=offers accepted, i.e. Or Near(est) Offer); Paul Hewson is the birth name of Irish singer Bono (1960-) of U2 fame.
28   NORM NO RM = no Royal Marine, i.e. “Naval infantry excluded, apparently)



10 Responses to “Independent 7,784 / Scorpion”

  1. NealH says:

    I found this easier than I expected. When I saw it was real names (of which I only knew Cliff Richard, Elton John and Boy George), I thought it was going to be very tricky, but the generally straightforward wordplay meant I was able to progress quite quickly. Nevertheless, it took me a while to work out the parsing of Behan and norm, and damn required going through combinations of letters before the answer struck me

    The cleverness of some of the wordplay rather escaped me, so thanks for pointing it out. I just associated “towering face of rock” with a cliff face and didn’t think of the music connotation. I also hadn’t noticed that Oklahoma was in italics and therefore was meant to refer to the musical.

    I remember some joke about Prince Philip having an immediate topic of conversation if he met Lady Gaga, because he’d be able to talk about all the German otters he’d shot.

  2. Simon Harris says:

    Thanks, RatkojaRiku. I thought this was good fun, and relatively easy for a Scorpion. Luckily enough it was a bit of a specialist subject for me, so the names came easily, except for LADY GAGA which is perhaps after my time.

  3. nmsindy says:

    Thanks, RatkojaRiku, and Scorpion. I’d agree with those comments – the names that I’d to guess were easy enough to work out from the wordplay. A little easier than usual from Scorpion who is to be praised for including only very well known artists that I guess most people would have heard of even if they were not big pop music fans.

  4. flashling says:

    Fun and quite easy here too, knowing all the artists certainly helped and just ended putting answers in without checking the wordplay (lazy I know)

    Thanks RR and Scorpion for your hard work.

  5. ChrisP says:

    Astonishing amount of thematic material crammed in, I thought. Almost half the cells were thematic, which is amazing grid construction. A delight to solve, Scorpion.

  6. Quixote says:

    Ah well — more old pops eh? Well loved in the Indy (note to my editor and colleagues — maybe we could have Italian architects for a change!). This old rocker recognised a significant number of the real names so Congratulations! Maybe it’ll be harder THe Next Time (Nine Times Out OF Ten the pop stuff night have floored me, but not this time!!) (That’s enough Harry Webb, Ed)

  7. nmsindy says:

    Don’t forget Voice in the Wilderness, Quixote… Not sure why, but the blogger omitted Cliff’s age, may have just forgotten, 71 next month, I think…

  8. Lenny says:

    About a year ago, I started watching Later With Jools Holland, just so that I would be able to do the Independent crossword. Well it certainly paid off today although I sometimes wish that my brain had something better to do than remember the real names of pop stars. One wrong today, like RR I went for Erse and did not revisit it. I imagined that Perse was probably a member of Yes. I shall look forward to Quixote’s Italian architects puzzle. At least it will be an easy grid fill with all those names ending in vowels.

  9. Allan_C says:

    25/21 gave away the theme, which was fortunate as I’d have had little idea otherwise. So then I’m afraid it was a case of googling the other names. Which then left a few tricky clues. Like Lenny I stuck with ERSE. Stuck on 22a, a word finder came up with ‘Kowalski’ and I discovered Bernard Kowalski, director of ‘Krakatoa, East of Java'; no wonder I couldn’t see how the clue worked when the answer was really POLANSKI – which for some reason never occurred to me.

  10. RatkojaRiku says:

    Sorry, nmsindy – Sir Cliff Richard’s year of birth has been duly added, and he’ll be 71 in just over a week, as you say!

    Am reassured to read that I was not the only one to be distracted by ERSE at 2.

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