Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,793 / Phi – seeing stars?

Posted by RatkojaRiku on October 7th, 2011


I suppose that many of us, having solved so many crosswords and taken part in so many quizzes over the years, probably feel that our general knowledge is pretty reasonable and that we know a little about most things. Then, all of a sudden, along comes Phi with today’s thematic puzzle and exposes another glaring hole in my culture générale.

The theme was an easy get at 1, with a straightforward anagram and & lit. clue. However, I knew, as soon as I had dispatched 19 and 30, that I would be reliant on the wordplay to unmask the others. Thanks to Phi’s characteristic crop of tightly crafted clues, I was indeed able to find all the other stargazers and then check them on Wikipedia, although I almost failed on 9 until I spotted the KE<e>P element of the wordplay. My favourite clues were 4, 18 and especially 16, all for their smooth surfaces, as well as for 12, for its amusing wordplay.

So, I go away from this puzzle knowing an awful lot more about astronomers than I did before, although I’m not sure I would have researched all the names had it not been for me blogging duties today.

Incidentally, the last puzzle I blogged featured the real and stage names of various pop singers, and a contributor to the blog commented that day that a puzzle themed around Italian architects might have been more to his taste. Well, we got astronomers rather than architects this time, alas with only a couple of Italians, but I take it that the swing from popular to more high-brow culture was to the liking of the said contributor. It all goes to show that the Indy crossword truly caters for a wide variety of tastes.

*(…) indicates an anagram

1   ASTRONOMER *(MORE ON STAR); “broadcast” is anagram indicator; & lit.; this opening clue sets the theme for the whole puzzle
7   REES SEER (=observer); “revolutionary” indicates reversal; the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to UK astronomer Martin Rees (1942-), Astronomer Royal since 1995.
9   KEPLER KE<e>P (=maintain) + LE<e>R (=curious look); “half-heartedly” means that one of the middle letters of each component is dropped; the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), best known for his laws of planetary motion
10   TOMBAUGH [O (=zero) + MB (=compute storage, i.e. megabyte)] in TAUGH<t> (=instructed; “mostly” means last letter is dropped); the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh (1909-97), best known for discovering Pluto in 1930.
11   BLUEBIRD BLUE (=sad, i.e. depressed) + BIRD (=time in prison; i.e. bird-lime, rhyming slang for time)
13   ASTUTE A + ST<at>UTE (=law; “that’s overlooked one (=a) time (=t)” means that the letters “at” are not used
14   OLBERS [LB (=pound, i.e. in weight) + ER (=queen)] in OS (=very large, i.e. outsize); the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to German astronomer Heinrich Olbers (1758-1840), best known for the Olbers’ (or dark night sky) paradox
15   MOONROCK ON (=working) in [MO (=second, as in in a mo) + ROCK (=surprise)]; the definition is “material of interest to astronomer (=1)”
18   FERGUSON FERG (G=good + REF=match official; “backing” indicates reversal) + US + ON (=regarding); the reference is to Sir Alex Ferguson (1941-), manager of Manchester United since 1986.
20   LACTIC L (=litre) + ACT I (=start of drama, i.e. first act of play) + C<attle> (“head of” means first letter only)
22   EMBLEM BL<og> (“half of” means only half the letters are used) in EM EM (ME=egoist’s topic; “repeatedly” means appearing twice; “recalled” indicates reversal); the definition is simply “what symbolises”
25   SPARSITY PARSI (=Zoroastrian) in STY (=filthy surroundings)
26   HOOLIGAN H<eel> O<ver> (“starts to” means first letters only) + *(IN GOAL); “playing” is anagram indicator; the definition is “one not wanted in football”
28   KUIPER REP (=representative) + I (=one) + UK (=European country); “backed” indicates a reversal; the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper (1905-73), after whom the Kuiper Belt is named
29   DEMO Reversed (“to back”) and hidden (“though not all”) in “sOME Decided”
30   COPERNICUS CO (=company) + PERNIC<io>US (=destructive; “removing current (=I) oxygen (=O)” means that the letters “io” are not used; the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), the first to develop a fully heliocentric view of the universe
2   STEEL BLUE [<battl>E (“end of” means last letter only) in *(BULLETS)] + <battl>E (“end of” means last letter only); “released” is anagram indicator; the definition is simply “metallic”
3   RELIEVE <b>ELIEVE (=have faith); B (=bishop) is replaced by R (=rector); the definition is “ease” as a verb
4   NARCISSUS [IS in ARCS (=curves)] in NUS (SUN=bright light; “reflection” indicates reversal)
5   MAT MA<l>T (=whisky); “downing litre (=l)” means the letter “l” is dropped
6   RUMBA RUM (=curious) + BA<ll> (=dance; “with lines (=l l) excluded” means that the letters “ll” are not used)
7   REALTOR *(LOT) in REAR (=back); “derelict” is anagram indicator
8   EIGHT <w>EIGHT (=measure of importance); “that’s lacking with (=w)” means the letter “w” is not used
12   DOMINOS SON, I’M OD<d> (=father’s admission of strangeness; “mostly” means last letter is dropped); “turning up” indicates a vertical reversal; dominos are long cloaks of black silk with a hood, used at masked balls
16   OIL TANKER *(INTO LAKE) + R (=river); “released” is anagram indicator
17   COINTREAU COIN (=money) + [A in *(TRUE)]; “laid out” is anagram indicator
19   GALILEO {[I (=one) L (=line)] in GALE (=storm)} + O (=nothing); the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), known as the father of modern observational astronomy
21   CASSINI C<l>ASS (=students; “not left (=l)” means the letter “l” is dropped”) + IN + I (=Italy); the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini (1625-1712), after whom the Cassini Division in the rings of Saturn is named
23   MOORE MOORE<d> (=fixed, of a vessel to a quay; “not quite” means the last letter is dropped); the definition is simply (the grid entry at) 1, astronomer, and the reference here is to UK astronomer Sir Patrick Moore (1923-), best known as the long-standing presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night
24   MAGIC MAG<net>IC (=attractive); “removing mesh (=net)” means that the letters “net” are dropped
27   NIP PIN<t> (=a glass of beer); “less than” means the last letter is dropped; “on reflection” indicates a reversal; the definition is simply “a little”, i.e. of a spirit


13 Responses to “Independent 7,793 / Phi – seeing stars?”

  1. Lenny says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku, like you, I admired the way that Phi was able gently to lead us through the discovery of names such as Tombaugh and Cassini. Sadly, I still got one wrong though. I went for Olwers at 14. This appears to me to be an equally valid interpretation of the wordplay but, to my surprise, I found that no such astronomer existed.

    I too hope that Quixote enjoyed this one.

  2. Pelham Barton says:

    Thanks Phi for an entertaining puzzle and RatkojaRiku for your detailed blog. A good sign of this type of puzzle is that the thematic answers can be built up from the wordplay. I can agree with Lenny that OLWERS is a possible answer to the wordplay at 14ac, but the correct answer is more satisfying: to get OLWERS you have to use “with” for the W, and that leaves the word “on” hanging loose at the end of the clue.

    Some very nice non-thematic clues. I will single out 16dn with its excellent surface, but also good misdirection. I spent some time trying to make an anagram from lake + river.

    I failed on 11ac, but the answer is perfectly clear. I had not known (or forgotten) that bird for time in prison was rhyming slang.

    One small typo in the blog at 30ac: the dates for Copernicus need correcting as I type this.

  3. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Brilliant puzzle and fine theme. I struggled to get going because I put in BELIEVE for 3dn (I’m still convinced clues like this can be interpreted two ways), so that knackered me for ASTRONOMER. But when I saw my mistake, I was pleased to say that I’d heard of all the astronomers except OLBERS, so this wasn’t too tricky a solve. In fact it was two or three of the non-themed clues that had me scratching my head.

    I think the difference with a theme like this and, say, a literary or pop music theme, is that if you’ve read the author’s books or listened to the band’s songs, then you’ll know it; if you haven’t, then you’re starting from square one. With this one, I think most well-read and intellectually inquisitive people (ie people who do cryptics) would know GALILEO, COPERNICUS and MOORE at least, possibly KUIPER and KEPLER; then you’re only left with the less well-known ones to find from the wordplay. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot (and agree with RatkojaRiku’s comment about the good variety of themes that we get in the Indy).

    Thanks to setter and blogger. Did I read somewhere that Phi has a degree in Astronomy or am I mixing him up with another setter?

  4. Pelham Barton says:

    Kathryn’s Dad @3 re 3dn:

    I agree that some clues of this type are ambiguous. I would regard “Have faith taking a fresh start with ease” as allowing either BELIEVE or RELIEVE.

    However, in this case, the fact that it says “when Rector takes over from Bishop” means to me that the word with R in must be the answer to be entered. Or maybe I just did not have to face the problem, having already solved 1ac.

    The obvious analogy is with reversal clues. Leave the “- a” out of 7ac and that clue would be ambiguous. As it stands, the “revolutionary” must apply to the “observer”, so that the astronomer is the grid entry.

  5. nmsindy says:

    Thanks Phi for an excellent puzzle and RatkojaRiku for another great blog. Yes, Phi is a trained astronomer. I too managed to work out the astronomers I had not heard of from the wordplay, verifying after. Curiously I knew about Olbers purely because of a themed crossword (on his paradox). This was either in the Inquisitor series (or its predecessor) or else in the Enigmatic Variations series in the Sunday Tel and, purely from memory, I think the setter may have been Obtrox.

    My favourites clues were BLUEBIRD, EMBLEM, DOMINOS with the whole theme being a nice idea too of course.

  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Pelham – when you explain it like that, it’s obvious, but I was just reading it the wrong way round this morning.

  7. Simon Harris says:

    Thanks, RatkojaRiku. Great stuff from Phi, I thought. As others have mentioned, I was particularly impressed that everything was eminently gettable, even for those of us with very limited knowledge on the subject, to whom many of the astronomers were entirely unfamiliar.

  8. bracoman says:

    Thanks Phi for the excellent puzzle, and thanks to RatkojaRiku for the very clear blog. Martin Rees was a guest on Radio 3 this morning and as I was listening to him, I solved the relevant clue. Such serendipity!!

  9. Wanderer says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku and Phi, I loved the theme being relatively unfamiliar with much of it, and thus having to rely on the wordplay. Although I am another OLWERS man. Hadn’t heard of KUIPER or TOMBAUGH but the wordplay was so clear they went in without a hitch.

    Small point on your blog: COPERNICUS is up there with Pope John Paul II and Chopin in the pantheon of Polish heroes, and I don’t think many of his fellow citizens would be happy to see him called Prussian!

  10. flashling says:

    I made the same mistake re OLBERS/OLWERS the only astronomer I didn’t know. Slightly surprised that was no Nina or other indicator to the fact that the Indy (and its crossword!)is 25 years old today.

    As ever RR a fine blog sir.

  11. Quixote says:

    Yes — I did enjoy it AND I enjoyed being reminded of the 25th anniversary of the paper, which I joined a few months after it started.

  12. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks to Pelham Barton and Wanderer for highlighting a couple of glitches: had I had a bit more time to edit, I’d like to think that I would have spotted the howler concerning the dates; on the natioanlity, Royal (or Polish) Prussia, where Copernicus was born, was a province of Poland at that time, so of course, the nationality is Polish!

  13. eimi says:

    re: 10, or any mention in the paper’s anniversary self-congratulation of the crossword. Apart from that, I say nothing. For now.

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