Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7820/Anax

Posted by John on November 8th, 2011


An easier, certainly less daunting, than usual offering from Anax, with the usual assortment of quite brilliant clues. He has produced a rather weird crossword in which eight of the clues 1/3 across. Personally I can’t quite see the point, but no doubt there is more to it than meets the eye and there is some devilishly clever idea that I have quite failed to see.

Without that, it simply seems that there are eight answers where there is no definition. How then do we know that the answer is correct? The whole point of a cryptic clue is that there are two routes to the answer, via definition and via wordplay, so that one knows incontrovertibly at the end of it that one is right. In this crossword one feels a bit cheated: the answers to eight of the clues are simply words that fit, and which fit the wordplay.

But as I say there is probably more to it than that. (Post-blog: Yes, I see now that they are all more or less synonyms of each other, so that gives the solver something extra.) (After a night’s sleep and before looking at any of the posts below, which will probably be telling me what I’m about to say: Yes of course, I knew that it wasn’t so simple.  By ‘lack definition’ Anax also means ‘the word ‘lack’ is the definition’, so everything in the paragraph above is no more than hot air. The words that lack definition all in fact do have a definition, and there is nothing lacking in the clues.)

(Clues that are in this group of eight are marked with an asterisk.)

1/3 LACK DEFINITION — 2 defs  — I can’t see the reason for ‘(and are)’ (I do now: see above): [Swim, as do (and are) eight clues]
10 VOU{s} CHER — at what point do these clues that use foreign languages become unfair? I feel this is OK, but perhaps I only feel this because I know that cher is the French for expensive; I don’t know the German for expensive, nor the Russian, and I don’t know the French for printer.
11 * ABS{tin}ENCE
12 NATURAL HISTORY — (or ruins that lay)* — excellent clue
13 CIRCA — well circa means more or less, but what the rest of it is about I just can’t see [Church blocks intelligence more or less]
14 PRIESTESS — pries (s set)rev.
19 ADD-ON — (odd)rev. in ‘an’ — another lovely clue
21 GLOBE ARTICHOKE — (cook the gerbil a)*
25 ISRAELI — (airlines – n)*, a.i. ‘bombs’
26 FAT FARM — (aft)rev. in far, then m
27 * SCANTINESS — this was the first of the specials I solved, since the wordplay is easy enough (one expects flamboyant anagram indicators from Anax, and ‘Byzantine’ is no exception) — (ancient)* in SS, then S (= spades) — but although it seemed that the answer had to be this, I couldn’t see why, and at this point I got 1/3 across.
28 * WANT — W{hen} ANT
2 C HUNTER — def. rabbit
4 ERROL — (Lorre)rev. — Peter Lorre was a familiar face in the old movies — unforgettable in Casablanca
6 I(N S{e}E{n})T
8 * NEED — “knead”
14 * PRIVATION — (inop{e}rativ{e})*
15 * SCAR(CIT{e})Y — detailed is de-tailed here
18 MALARIA — (alarm)* 1 A{frica} — rather a good &lit. — but I can always remember Azed arguing that ‘perhaps’ wasn’t a satisfactory anagram indicator so never can shake off that belief, even though other great names have said it’s quite OK
20 DIOR A M{ake} A — is a the start of a? It needs to be because of the word ‘starts’.
22 BL(EA)T — bacon-lettuce-tomato
23 {I}T OFFS
24 * MISS — Moss with i for o

22 Responses to “Independent 7820/Anax”

  1. Richard Heald says:

    John, the eight answers lack definition and also are definitions of ‘lack’, hence “do (and are)” in the clue! Lovely thematic idea I thought, well worthy of the old Virgilius Tuesday slot. Lots of delightfully deceptive cluing too, as usual from Anax. My favourite was the & lit. at 26Ac.

    The wordplay for 13Ac is RC (Roman Catholic Church) in CIA (intelligence).

  2. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, John.

    Yet another tour de force from the indefatigable Anax. How does he dream up these themes?

    I got 1/3 early on and started putting rings round clues which had no definition, not, at this time, understanding ‘and are’, and not being helped by the fact that one of the early solves was 1dn, where I couldn’t see the definition, so had it down as among the first of the eight. [I took 'cup' as 'raised trophy' and missed the significance of the second 'see'.]

    It’s amazing what a loud noise pennies can make when they finally drop! It’s fairly obvious when you see 8,9,14,15 written consecutively in the blog, but I know, as someone said the other day, that when writing the blog, it’s easy to think of each clue in isolation and miss things like that.

    Apart from the clever theme, I’ve too many ticks to mention for other clues – except to say that I loved ‘Byzantine’ [Chambers: 'tortuous'] as an anagram indicator!

    Many thanks, Anax – I really enjoyed it!

  3. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks John
    In 20dn it is DIOR A MA[ke] with the definition ‘a scene’ hence the ‘starts’.

  4. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Couldn’t get going much with this one. I guessed and checked LACK DEFINITION once I’d got a few other clues at the top, but even then couldn’t understand what was going on, so had to give up. It’s clever, just not my cup of tea today. Like John, I’m in the ‘give me two routes to finding the answer’ school of thought, certainly in a weekday cryptic.

  5. Thomas99 says:

    I’m very impressed that John managed to solve this without noticing the theme! All the clues do of course have a definition, namely “lack” in the case of the 8 special ones. A very enjoyable puzzle – utterly baffling, then very satisfying. What more can one ask?

  6. duncanshiell says:

    Another excellent crossword from Anax. I deduced LACK DEFINITION early on, but it wasn’t until I got a couple of the definitionless entries that I realised that they could all be defined as LACK.

    I think 13 across is simply RC (Roman Catholic [church]) contained in (blocks) CIA (Central Intelligence Agency, or just’ intelligence’)

  7. crypticsue says:

    The loud pennies Eileen heard drop were probably those here in my part of Kent. You always know you are going to have both fun and brainstretching from Anax and this was a fine example of his work. Thanks to him for the nice crossword and to John for the blog.

  8. mhl says:

    Thanks for the helpful post, John, and to Anax for the crossword. There are certainly some excellent clues here, and the LACK DEFINITION theme is very nice. 21 across make me laugh out loud, in particular. However, there are a few clues that bothered me somewhat. Can anyone suggest a context in which “intelligence” and “CIA” could be substituted? I have a similar problem with “the wagon” and “abstinence” – they’re essentially the same idea, but I can’t think of a sentence where one could replace another in a sentence while preserving its grammar and semantics, which I always understood to be the benchmark for what constitutes a synonym in cryptic constructions. (Chambers only offers the abstinence meaning of “wagon” in the context of “on / off the wagon”, and I don’t think “on / off abstinence” would work.)

  9. sidey says:

    An interesting exercise.

    I agree with mhl about the odd difficulty with synonyms. I can offer “there is an imminent terrorist threat said intelligence/CIA sources”, I can’t do anything with abstinence however.

  10. mhl says:

    Thanks for the nice example, sidey – I take it back about CIA / intelligence.

  11. Pelham Barton says:

    A very clever idea well executed, so thanks Anax for that and John for the blog.

    18dn: I commented recently on FT 13835 that I was not happy with “perhaps” as an anagram indicator, although (as I said there) I have seen worse. Can anyone justify it?

    20dn: I had this the same way as John, but Gaufrid’s suggestion @3 is much better.

  12. Lenny says:

    This was a delight. I struggled until I was about half way through and then I got the theme and, quickly, 8 more answers. I like the semi-&lits of Fat Farm and Malaria. Reading todays news pages, I hope Israeli was not also a semi&lit.

    As usual with Anax, I got one wrong today, guessing at Curia at 13. I seem to have the same problem with Dean Mayer’s puzzles in the Sunday Times. I wonder, perhaps, are they related?

  13. Tramp says:

    A super puzzle. A great theme and wonderful clueing.

  14. Gaufrid says:

    Lenny @12

  15. Pelham Barton says:

    Further to comments 8-10 earlier on 13ac: Chambers gives “intelligence department” among the definitions of intelligence.

  16. nmsindy says:

    Yes, this was very good – a kind of idea you’d sometimes see in themed puzzles before they became somewhat more complex in recent years. I saw PRIVATION would kind of fit wordplay and satisfy crossing letters but was otherwise totally mystifying. So it was a nice penny-drop moment when I saw the significance of LACK DEFINITION and the puzzle was not too hard to finish after that. Otherwise a little easier than sometimes for Anax but I think that was very much the right approach to adopt in view of the theme’s adding a extra complication. Thanks, John, and Anax. BTW, Gaufrid @14, I think Lenny was maybe speaking tongue-in-cheek…

  17. PeterO says:

    Thanks to Anax for a splendid crossword, and to John for the blog.
    In 1/3A it seems clear that the reason for ‘(and are)’ is to indicate the definitions LACK (‘do’ covers the clues lacking definition). Quite how those particular words achieve this I find a little more difficult to see. Perhaps “(and have)” might be nearer the mark?
    I do have a quibble with 1D, to which I think Eileen @2 alluded: I read the word play for CUP as being C (‘see’) + UP (‘raised’), leaving the ‘trophy’ as definition. The only definition of LOVING CUP that I know (and Chambers agrees) is a tankard passed round the table at the end of a meal, for which ‘trophy’ seems somewhat askew.

  18. Allan_C says:

    Well, I wouldn’t say it was “an easier, certainly less daunting, than usual offering from Anax”. I got there in the end but only by tentatively putting in letters and using the check button, which gave me 1/3 and the key to the puzzle. I’d probably never have got there with the dead tree version.

    But a cracker of a puzzle all the same.

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi PeterO

    I was quite happy with 1dn, after seeing the blog, as I thought I’d made plain. I originally saw ‘cup’ as ‘raised trophy’, but Collins gives loving – cup as ‘cup awarded to the winner of a competition’ as does the online Brittanica:

  20. Eileen says:

    I can really spell Britannica! ;-(

  21. anax says:

    Good evening friends – thanks to John for a super blog and to all for your kind comments.
    My main concern with this puzzle was using LACK DEFINITION as a grid entry, since it isn’t a stand-alone dictionary entry, but no-one has complained so that’s a huge ‘Phew!’ moment out of the way.
    The def at 1d doesn’t have a lot of dictionary support, but Word Web (font of all knowledge) has the secondary definition “A large metal vessel with two handles that is awarded as a trophy to the winner of a competition”. UPDATE: Thanks Eileen – you found further support as I was typing!
    ‘Abstinence’ for ‘the wagon’ was a bit whimsical, perhaps more figurative than anything else – if one is on the wagon one is abstaining, so my weird mind pictured the wagon as being abstinence itself. No doubt a poet could get away with such a liberty without comment… maybe I’m in the wrong trade!
    PeterO is right to question the way the theme was indicated. Far too late – late last night, actually – it struck me that ‘as do’ referred only to the clues and I’d need to add ‘as are 8 answers’ to explain it fully. I’m grateful that most have walked by the lapse without giving it too much attention.
    And, finally, ‘perhaps’ as an anagrind – no, it isn’t ideal, but it’s one of those indicators that has been a squatter in the anagram household for, it seems, a lifetime. I do – but shouldn’t – allow myself to fall into the occasional bad habit.

  22. Pelham Barton says:

    anax @21: Thanks for popping in. On 18dn I acknowledge that you need “perhaps” in its more obviously valid meaning as indicating a definition by example for the “& lit” of the clue, and I cannot think of a better word that would maintain that structure.

    You are quite right to say that “perhaps” is widely used as an anagram indicator. Indeed both of yesterday’s Guardian puzzles have it. But I hope we can agree that an alternative should be used whenever possible without spoiling the surface reading.

    Just to add to my comment @11 I should clarify that Sleuth, the setter of FT 13835, was using “perhaps” to indicate a definition by example. My comment was aimed at rebutting a possible alternative solution to the clue.

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