Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,808 / Scorpion

Posted by RatkojaRiku on October 25th, 2011


I had to dig deep this morning to complete and blog this one in time, which is not unusual for a Scorpion puzzle or, indeed, for a puzzle using a grid such as this, where so many first letters of entries are not checked. Furthermore, some of the wordplay proved to be tantalisingly elusive, not least at 3, and I was not familiar with the cyclist at 4.

The clues themselves revealed no apparent theme and the perimeter no Nina. However, when about half-way through I realised that the completed grid would resemble the sweet counter at a local shop, stacked with an abundance of confectionery. As one living outside the UK and rather prone to nostalgia, I was immediately transported back to my childhood, as the goodies revealed themselves to me, treat by treat. I may well have overlooked one of two, as doubtless the product range has changed since my sweet-buying days, but I counted around a dozen: 1 (=my favourite!), (7 and) 25, 8, 12, 14(s), 16(s), 19, 22/9, 23/10, 27, 29. As if often the case with these subtler themes, an unsuspecting solver could have completed the puzzle successfully without twigging (Twix-ing?!) what was going on, which I – unlike many other readers, judging by comments on previous blogs – always think is rather a shame.

My favourite clues today were 12 and 18, for the smoothness of their surface readings, as well as 30, for its well-hidden definition. I may not have correctly parsed 21, since I am not sure that the Wags are celebrities in their own right; the same applies to 16, where I may have misread “conduct” as indicating a container-and-contents clue – any thoughts?

*(… indicates an anagram)

7   POLO POOL (=reserve); “with first of lions (=L) moving” means that the letter “l” changes places
8   FUDGE E.G (=for example) + DU (=some French, i.e. the French word for some) + F<ries> (“predominantly” means first letter only is used); “on the turn” indicates a reversal
11   NUMERIC *(MENU) + RIC<h> (=fatty, i.e. of food; “mostly” means last letter is dropped); “special” is anagram indicator
12   HEROES HE (=male) + RO<l>ES (=characters in films; “forgetting line (=l)” means the letter “l” is dropped); & lit.
13   DYLAN Hidden (“somewhat”) in “boDY LANguage”; the reference is to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan (1941-)
14   REFRESHER REF (=official, i.e. referee) + R (=run, i.e. in cricket) + ESHER (=somewhere in Surrey)
16   TIC-TAC T (=time) + [T<e>A (=opposing sides in tea, i.e. first and last letters) in ICC (=cricket chiefs, i.e. International Cricket Council)]; tic-tac is a system of arm signals used by bookmakers for communicating at racecourses, hence “signalling”
18   INSIST S (=Sierra, i.e. the call word for the letter “s” is radio telecommunications) in [IN + 1ST (=first)]
21   BANDWAGON BAND (=ring, e.g. of gold) + WAG (=female celeb, from wives and girlfriends) + ON (=about); the definition is “latest fashion”, as in the expression to jump on the bandwagon
23/10   MILKY WAY [*(KYLI<e>; “snubbed”, in the sense of cut short, means last letter is dropped) in M<osco>W (“outskirts” means first and last letters only)] + AY (=indeed); “frolicking” is anagram indicator; the definition is “lots of stars” in the astronomical sense
26   GROUSE <la>G<ers> (“third of” means third letter only is used) + ROUSE (=to incite); the definition is “bellyache”, meaning grumble, complain, as a verb or noun
27   DRIFTER FT (=newspaper, i.e. Financial Times) in DRIER (=not as wet)
28   COL <s>C<h>O<o>L; “occasionally” suggests letters are to be selected at regular intervals from the word, here alternate letters; a col is a mountain pass
29   BOOST S (=son) in BOOT (=stout footwear)
30   EDEN D (=daughter) in NÉE (=born); “around” indicates a reversal; the reference “late PM” refers to British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden (1897-1977)
1   BOUNTY O (=Oscar, i.e. call word for letter “o” in radio telecommunications) in BUNTY (=female comic, i.e. a comic magazine for girls); the definition is “present” as a noun in the sense of gift, reward
2   WORMCAST WOR (ROW=argument; “over” indicates a reversal) + M (=Mike, i.e. call word for letter “m” in radio telecommunications) + CAST (=threw)
3   AFORE [FO (OF=about; “lifting” indicates a vertical reversal) + R (=radius)] in A (and) E (=casualty, i.e. Accident and Emergency)
4   REG HARRIS [H<urry> A<longside> (“starts to” means first letters only are used) + RR (=limousine, i.e. Rolls Royce)] in REGIS (=other part of Regis, i.e. the seaside resort of Bognor Regis in West Sussex); the reference is to Reg Harris (1920-92), a leading British track cyclist of the 1940s and 1950s
5   SWORDS ’S (=evidence of possession, i.e. the genitive “s”) + WORDS (=sentence perhaps)
6   PYRENEES [Y (=yard) + REN<d/t> (=split; “mostly” means last letter is dropped)] in PEES (=uses toilet); the definition is “chain”, i.e. of mountains
15   SCRAPED BY SCRAP (=fight) + *(BED) + <infirmary>Y (“ending in” means last letter only); “bunk” is anagram indicator
17   IN A TRICE I (=one) + NAT (TAN=colouring; “showed up” indicates a vertical reversal) + RICE (=grain)
19   SKITTLES SKIT (=satire) + [LE (=the French, i.e. the French word for the) in TS (ST=street; “about” indicates a reversal)]
20   VOODOO V (=very) + [<han>D (“close to” means last letter only) in OO OO (=old couples, i.e. 2 x O (=old) appearing twice)
22/9   DOUBLE-DECKER [*(BLUE) + DECK (=dress, as a verb)] in DOER (=actor, i.e. one who acts or does); “flaunting” is anagram indicator
24   KERNEL Homophone of “colonel” (=military officer)
25   MINTS [IN (=current, i.e. fashionable) + <exper>T (“finally” means last letter only)] in MS (=document, i.e. manuscript)


15 Responses to “Independent 7,808 / Scorpion”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    This was a fun puzzle, although I didn’t see the theme. But when that happens, it’s always good to go back over the crossword and see what you can find, and there was certainly plenty woven in here. The only other one I can find, RatkojaRiku, is in the clue to 20dn – wasn’t Black Magic a brand of chocolate?

    I parsed TIC-TAC the same way as you, and I think WAG for ‘celebrity’ works too (at least that’s what they’d like you to think …)

    Favourites today were WORMCAST and PYRENEES, and I thought REG HARRIS was just wonderfully random.

    Thanks to both setter and blogger.

  2. Conrad Cork says:

    One of the highlights of my childhood was being introduced to the great Reg Harris. Nostalgia isn’t what it was.

  3. Pelham Barton says:

    Thanks Scorpion for the crossword and RajkotaRiku.

    21ac: I think “WAG” for celebrity is just right, taking a celebrity as someone who is famous for being famous, rather than on any personal merit.

    4dn: We have had this before. A limousine is a large car, while a Rolls-Royce is a luxury car. These meanings only partially overlap, so to my mind “limousine” is not a satisfactory indicator for “RR”.

  4. Pelham Barton says:

    Correction to 3:

    I meant to say “and [thanks to] RatkojaRiku for the blog”. Apologies both for the missing words and for getting your name wrong.

  5. crypticsue says:

    Isn’t it strange that you can solve a puzzle and never even notice the theme. Mind you, in this case it was a tricky solving experience, probably my poor old brain couldn’t cope with looking any further. Thanks to setter and blogger

    Kathryn’s Dad: Black Magic was and still is a brand name of a box of dark chocolates – although I don’t think they have been the same since they did away with the butterscotch!

  6. Stella Heath says:

    I didn’t see the theme until I received the congratulatory message on completing the puzzle, which presumably those of you who do the paper version haven’t seen: instead of the usual “Congratulations” it said “Sweet! You have …” :)

    It wouldn’t have helped me to have seen it beforehand, anyway, as I’ve never had a sweet tooth.

  7. Allan_C says:

    There’s also a possible reference to the theme in the clue to 11a – “expressed in calories”. Yes, quite!

    And 4d was definitely for the less young. Remember the adverts in Boys’ Own (of fond memory) – “Reg rides a Raleigh”? Come to think of it, Boys’ Own used to have a fairly simple cryptic crossword which must have been what started me on the cruciverbal trail.

  8. Lenny says:

    I found this a struggle to finish. As RR says, this is a tricky grid with lots of unchecked first letters. In addition many answers have less than 50% of their letters checked, including four examples of the dreaded 2 out of 5s. I suppose you can justify the difficulty of the grid because the hidden theme makes it easier to guess the answer. Since I did not spot the theme, all I can say is Bah, humbug!

  9. Quixote says:

    Tougher than yesterday, for me, and how I hate seeing this 2/5 checking becoming an acceptable norm in Indy thematics!

  10. Stella Heath says:

    Interesting comment from a setter, Q!

  11. flashling says:

    @Stella/Quixote, yes I agree but it’s part of the Indy allowing setters unusual grids. Today’s puzzle had me beat I’ll admit, I’m not a chocolate fan, but that’s not really of any consequence, just got beat in the 30 mins I normally allow on a weekday. Choccy bar humbug indeed, thanks RR and scorpion.

  12. Paul B says:

    I’m also a bit squeamish when it comes to grids that literally block access to the corners, or offer scant checking in certain lights. But where there’s a theme (usually the very reason for the grid ‘optimisation’) solvers can find themselves more than amply compensated. I think Scorpion is generous in that respect today.

  13. Quixote says:

    I wish I could agree. It’s insiders that spot themes and ninas. Unless they are spelt out to the outsiders (ie the majority of potential solvers) those outsiders will be at a disadvantage. I fear that the insider tail is in danger of wagging the more substantial outsider dog, but one has to respect the editor’s judgement in these matters (much as my Church Times setters have to toe the line with me — I’ve just knocked a 2/5 pair on the edge to a 2/4 pair within the last hour!).

  14. Paul B says:

    Dastardly Don ‘I’ll knock your lights out’ Manley, eh? Gor lumme.

  15. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks, Kathryn’s Dad, for spotting Black Magic – I didn’t care for them as a child, but I rather like them now :)

    An interesting debate on the 2/5, and whether or not having a theme sufficiently compensates the solver for having fewer checked letters. All I would say is that, despite noticing the theme while still solving this puzzle, trying to slot names of confectionery products into the grid didn’t in itself lead me to any answers: it was only after solving the clues per se that I realised that some of the solutions were also chocolate bars, etc.

    @ Pelham Barton: I too wondered about RR being used for limousine.

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