Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent on Sunday 1129 – Glowworm

Posted by Uncle Yap on October 9th, 2011

Uncle Yap.

A few hard-boiled eggs too many in this Sunday competition puzzle which I found to be more of a drag than a piece of entertainment. Some of the devices may not seem fair but then, anything goes in a competition puzzle; or should it?

In a themed puzzle, certain compulsory words must go into the grid, often creating awkward situations where only obscure and little-known words can fit into the remaining space. My moderator, Dr Brian Skinner always had one instruction for me … difficult words must be balanced by easy clues. But this is not apparent in this puzzle.

I also wonder whether it was a good move to replace Quixote as the regular setter. If the Observer can have Everyman all the time, why not the IOS? It would be interesting to know whether there has been an increase or a decrease in the number of entries to this Sunday competition. All newspaper editors love large responses (which usually translate to/from large sales of the Sunday paper) and if we get compilers setting esoteric puzzles such as this, surely newspaper sale will suffer.

1 CARDINAL Cha of CARD (eccentric) IN ALL minus L for a senior RC clergyman defined as a notable from Westminster (Cathedral as opposed to Abbey as the latter is not Roman Catholic but Church of England which does not have cardinals)
5 VIRTUE *(FURTIVELY minus FLY, hurry away)
1&5 together form CARDINAL VIRTUE (CV), the mini-theme of this puzzle, marked # below
#10 JUSTICE Tichy way of telling the bartender after ordering, say a Gin & Tonic, “No lemon please,  just ice” The first of the four CVs
12 LYING ha
13 TOP DOLLAR *(P, piano or quiet, TOLL ROAD) defined as ‘a bomb’ as in I had to pay a bomb to get that last Rembrandt.
14 MATTER OF FACT Cha of MATT (dull) ER (Queen, Elizabeth Regina) OFFA (King of Mercia in the 8th century) CT (court)
18 RING SPANNERS Cha of RINGS (band’s) PANNIERS (baskets) minus I (one short)
21 DAMASCENE DAM A (rev of A MAD, a cuckoo) SCENE (picture) new word to me
23 INANE INSANE (cuckoo) minus S (suggestion of seriousness)
24 NOTABLE What should I make of this clue? Notable is striking but the other part left me wondering … is the surgeon incompetent (not able) or does he lack equipment (no table) ; or maybe he is taking industrial action. Whatever the case, this is a very unsatisfactory, if not flawed clue
25 GLUTTON GLUT (excess) + TON (rev of NOT) One guilty of 9(temperance)’s converse may be a person who eats too much
26 EARNED LEARNED (scholarly) minus L (learner or student)
27 ALLEGORY *(GO REALLY) John Bunyan (1628-1688), a Christian writer and preacher, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress

1 CAJOLE Ins of A J (judge) in Old King COLE was a merry old soul ….
2 RUSTIC RUST (brown) I C (in charge)
3 ISINGLASS This this? No = Isinglass is NOT in glass, but in curtains with peepholes. Isinglass is a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish and also thin transparent sheets of mica used for peepholes in boilers, lanterns, stoves, and kerosene heaters because they were less likely to shatter compared to glass when exposed to extreme temperature. Such peepholes were also used in “isinglass curtains” in horse-drawn carriages and early 20th century cars. This is one of those esoteric clues on an obscure word which is quite impossible to solve forward (ie from the wordplay to get the solution) but with crossing letter, hazarding a guess and explaining the wordplay backwards … just like a cavity in a premolar being torturously drilled before the filling goes in.
You may be interested to know this cameo-role:
The wheels are yeller, the upholstery’s brown,
    The dashboard’s genuine leather,
    With isinglass curtains y’ can roll right down,
    In case there’s a change in the weather.
From The Surrey with the Fringe on Top (Oklahoma!)
4 AXE SAXE (blue) minus S
6 IGLOO alternate letters in dInGy LoOk Of
8 EXECRATE EXEC (executive or boss) RATE (pay)
#9 TEMPERANCE Ins of E MP E (English politician & European) in TRANCE (daze)
13 TETRAMETER Ins of TRAM (streetcar) in (TEETERs) line of a verse of four measures. I wonder about the function of the word rockily?
#15 FORTITUDE FOR (representing) TIT (flier) NUDE (bare) minus N
#16 PRUDENCE Ins of RU (Rugby Union, football) D (drawn; I am perturbed as Chambers, my crossword Bible, does not support this abbreviation) in PENCE (small change)
17 ANIMATOR Sounds like Annie Mater (girl-mother)
19 TATTOO dd
20 TEENSY TEENS (kids) Y (last letter of pony)
22 SABRE *(BREAKS minus K for Kelvin) with well-wrought as anagrin and sword as def
25 GEL dd The experiment started to work / gelled with the right catalyst; as for the other, I guess the setter had meant for Sloane to represent Sloane Ranger which is an upper-class female, and ‘gel’ is a facetious rendering of an upper-class pronunciation of ‘girl’. Quite pretentiously unfair. Why not a simple reversal of LEG or stage like Start to work backstage (3)? This reminds me of a setter in Guardian who is prone to spoil an otherwise good crossword with an obscure reference to a remote village in England for a 3-letter word like PAR.

Key to abbreviations
dd = double definition
dud = duplicate definition
tichy = tongue-in-cheek type
cd = cryptic definition
rev = reversed or reversal
ins = insertion
cha = charade
ha = hidden answer
*(fodder) = anagram

21 Responses to “Independent on Sunday 1129 – Glowworm”

  1. Thomas99 says:

    This was the puzzle that came up by mistake online on the wrong day – it was a real bonus, a clever, stylish puzzle from a setter I hadn’t come across before. I’ll look out for him in future. The thing was to resist looking up the Cardinal Virtues, if you could…

    There are some rather surprising comments in this blog. I hope some of the unfair and in places very bizarre criticism gets removed. It was an excellent puzzle.

  2. flashling says:

    Hmm Thomas99 it’s the blogger’s blog and UY’s judgement seems fair enough to me. Back to the crossword, I found this tough, isinglass was the only word I could see fitting but as I only knew it as a beer clearing agent I was lost on the clue.

    Didn’t help that I was being driven home whilst trying to do this with a hangover! Thanks UY & GW

  3. Thomas99 says:

    I can’t accept that sloane=gel is remotely obscure – it’s almost a crossword cliche to use gel for “posh girl” or similar. And if he’d simply drawn attention to the double duty of “striking” in 24a (which in fact he failed to do) that would have been fair enough but instead he just lambasts the clue as if his own failed ideas for parsing it are somehow Glowworm’s fault. (FWIW, “Striking and a surgeon’s reason for it” would perhaps have been a smoother clue (a bit easy maybe), but it’s certainly gettable as it stands, as you obviously found, and we do have the question mark, and it is funny, etc… I had to check isinglass in Chambers too but does that make it a bad clue? A Guardian setter once said he liked to send solvers to the dictionary at least once in a prize puzzle; it doesn’t seem excessive to me.

    (While I’m about it I ought to mention that his criticism of “rockily” in 13d is fair, inoffensively expressed.)

    Granted it’s the blogger’s blog, but is he really entitled – on a site the compilers do read – virtually to call for someone to lose his position as a prize setter on such scant and ill-thought-out grounds? He’s simply picked out 3 clues he found difficult (and they are allowed to be difficult!) and tried to blame the setter. You criticised my comment but your assessment of the puzzle – that it was tough, not that it shouldn’t have been published – is far closer to mine than to Uncle Yap’s.

  4. nmsindy says:

    I thought this was an excellent themed puzzle with the theme becoming clear only very late on, which is the best way for it to be. It was a little harder than usual but, since Quixote has moved to the main paper and different setters appear, there is bound to be a variation in standard of difficulty from week to week. I do not agree with the comment re “little-known” words – I found the only answer I had not heard of was RING SPANNERS. D = drawn is in Collins (from football league tables). Also I think it’s ‘advanced’ puzzles, like Inquisitor say,that tend to rely on Chambers dict rather that the daily cryptics.

  5. Pelham Barton says:

    Thanks Glowworm for a puzzle I enjoyed solving and Uncle Yap for blogging it. Clearly opinions differ, but here are some of mine:

    24ac: I am sure that NO TABLE was the intended construction in the wordplay.

    13dn: I cannot now remember the clue, but I think “rockily” may have been part of the indication for TEETER.

    25dn: I found this to be a completely satisfactory double definition. I always think these clues work best when two completely different meanings have collided in spelling, as is the case here. I would not consider Uncle Yap’s alternative to be an improvement. I have never accepted the fairness of an unsignalled requirement to split a clue word, even though I have got used to it as a solver, so cannot accept “backstage” as a proper indication for “LEG reversed”.

  6. Tokyocolin says:

    I second Uncle Yap’s comments. The theme and many of the clues are fine but why go via Sloane to reach GEL or Westminster to reach CARDINAL unless it is to deter those of us not in the inner circle.

  7. Norman L in France says:

    I enjoyed this puzzle and endorse T99’s comments.

  8. Pelham Barton says:

    Further to earlier comments re 13dn:

    The clue reads “Streetcar teeters interminably and rockily round regular line”.

    The words “and rockily” indeed seem to serve no purpose.

  9. Rishi says:

    Re the clue

    Streetcar teeters interminably and rockily round regular line

    for which the answer is TETRAMETER.

    UY wonders about the function of the word ‘rockily’.

    I think it has a purpose.

    Streetcar teeters interminably gives TRAMTEETER[s]

    I do not take ’round’ as an inserticator. (Consider what goes within what.)

    I think ‘rockily round’ is an anagram indicator. ’round’ is needed for surface reading. So also ‘and’.

    ‘regular line’ is the def.

    Incidentally, I don’t like detailing a mere ‘s’ from a word, whether it is a verb or a noun in plural form.

    As for the NOTABLE clue, it is very clear that the surgeon is ‘striking’ because he has ‘no table’. In developing countries hospitals are often ill-equipped and it’s quite possible that a surgeon, eager and duty-conscious though he may be, is often without being able to operate. It is conceivable also that he ‘strikes work’ when his patients complain and he wants to draw the attention of the authorities to his plight. It is an all-in-one clue.

  10. Norman L in France says:

    rockily tells us it’s an anagram of TEETER(s). Purpose served.

  11. Norman L in France says:

    Posts crossed, @9 Rishi.
    I disagree.
    Rockily = anagram, round = put it round TRAM, so round is not just there for the surface.

  12. Eileen says:

    I can’t say any more but there’s a really rather remarkable coincidence in today’s Everyman. ;-)

  13. Bamberger says:

    Yes Eileen but what that is that doing in an Everyman? Far too obscure & hard imo.

  14. Eileen says:

    “Far too obscure & hard imo.”

    But, Bamberger, you’ve obviously got it! [And I’d like to join in the recent congratulations on your progress.]

    But now we really must say no more.

  15. Uncle Yap says:

    Nobody has yet explained why 24A Why a surgeon may be striking? (7) for NOTABLE is not a flawed clue. Perhaps Thomas99 would like to explain the clue to us lesser mortals.

    Norman L in France, why is there a need to rearrange TEETER (that necessitates an anagrind, rockily) ?

    However, the main thrust of my blog about this prize crossword in IOS is the policy of having such great variation in the degree of difficulty. With Quixote, we have for years a product of known and constant degree of difficulty pitched at a level to attract many solvers (and buyers of newspaper) … last week we have words like tetrameter, damascene and isinglass with the last clued as This this? No, but in curtains with peepholes (9)

    It would be most enlightening if eimi or some other power-that-be in The Independent on Sunday can let us know how many entries were received for 1129 and how this figure compare with the 2010 average number of entries

  16. Quixote says:

    I was replaced at my own request and asked to appear in the daily once a fortnight (coming back to the daily for the first time in over 20 years). My crossword editor very kindly accommodated my request. Had the newspaper (no blame attached to the crossword editor, I hasten to add) a) acknowledged my 1000th consecutive IOS puzzle with the merest thank you and b) paid something a bit more like the market rate for cryptic puzzles I would undoubtedly have carried on. That said, it is no bad thing for my very worthy colleagues to take over the Sunday slot.

  17. Uncle Yap says:

    Thank you, Don for your input. I am really trying to empathise with the very many British readers of IOS who must have felt their world in disarray since your place have been taken over by “random strangers”. Readers of this blog are all skilled solvers; so they can handle the wildly fluctuating differences in degree of difficulty; but the average readers who pay good money to buy the IOS and solve the puzzle and enter the competition are a totally different set of people … they must have been terribly disorientated in recent months.

    Perhaps, I should apply to eimi to consider me as a possible setter for the IOS. Since I do not depend on this to bring rice to the table, even peanuts will do for this monkey :-)

  18. Thomas99 says:

    Uncle Yap-
    This has been covered, but perhaps not very clearly. The surgeon is on strike because he has NO TABLE; and striking is a synonym of NOTABLE. It’s an unusual construction, but very gettable and also funny; I think it’s a good clue. It could be parsed as having its definition (striking) and wordplay (Why a surgeon might be striking) overlapping; not an unheard of liberty, and one acknowledged by the question mark. Otherwise it’s a rather imaginative (and libertarian) DD: Why is he on strike? [Because there’s] NO TABLE; and Why is he “striking”? [Because he’s] NOTABLE. There are probably other ways of looking at the same basic clue/joke, but as you haven’t said what the flaw is meant to be it’s not easy to answer your criticism.

    I still think you’re right about rockily, by the way. The letters in teeter[s] stay in their original order so it doesn’t need an anagram indicator.

  19. Quixote says:

    My thanks to Uncle Yap. I’m not sure that I’ll be missed that much. One of the depressing experiences of working for the IOS was seeing the recurrence of certain names frequently in the prize list (including a close friend in Sheffield who tired of winning the same Oxford dictionaries!). From this I deduced that few people solved the Sunday puzzle — an additional reason for switching back to the daily where I suspect I will get a wider airing! The point raised about market research outside the blogosphere is an interesting one — I’m not sure that the Indy group of papers is as aware as it should be about their solvership as a whole.

  20. anax says:

    Oh, you will be missed Don, not least because your weekly slot will have been a dependable friend to a large group of solvers who would be aware of precisely what sort of challenges you so skilfully provide.
    But perhaps solvers should know a little more about what happens when setters move to different slots, because the results are rarely straightforward. As Don so rightly says, crosswords do not pay well. Committing oneself to a weekly position for little financial return is something I for one wouldn’t do. On a good day a puzzle can be turned around before tea-time; but disasters happen and they can literally add days to the process. Don’s long-standing devotion to that commitment deserves nothing but the highest praise and gratitude. The task now is to continue this weekly puzzle using setters who are willing to provide puzzles when they can. For consistency the team needs to be small – but none of these setters is Don, and each has an individual style. For some solvers it will be slightly harder than a Quixote, for others slightly easier, but there will now be variation.
    Remember, Quixote’s puzzles had a start point too, and I’ll bet that for many it took a while to adapt to the mindset. The same will happen with the series as it goes from here.

  21. Glow-worm says:

    Golly — cats and pigeons come to mind!

    “Teeter” didn’t need anagrammatising –my mistake….apologies

    Best wishes to all


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