Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,832 / Scorpion – to coin a phrase

Posted by RatkojaRiku on November 22nd, 2011


This was a puzzle to be savoured, a treasure trove for word lovers, and so perhaps not the ideal puzzle to have to zip through to write a blog.

Nor was it the easiest of puzzles to have to solve while away from home on a business trip, with only an old version of 6 on CD-ROM and on my iPod to refer to! This puzzle goes to show that sometimes there really is no substitute for the paper copy of the cruciverbalist’s faithful friend – how I wished I had had that glossy new volume by my side for this one!

I figured out the theme of the puzzle, prominently positioned as the solution to the first across clue, fairly quickly; as a solution, this may have bemused loyal users of rival dictionaries, although I would imagine that the average solver of cryptic crosswords would at least know of the Chambers dictionary’s existence. Although all the clues were wholly self-standing and could be solved without reference to the theme, a solver who had not understood the relevance of Chambers might have thought the compiler was making-it-up-as-he-went-along given the high frequency of less established words, especially if these were not to be listed in his favourite volume.

As I do not have the 12th edition of Chambers with me, I cannot say for certain what words actually constitute the new entries, although I could have a good guess. I seem to remember reading an article that said that, rather surprisingly, 13/28 was one of them. Suffice it to say that a number of the entries were new to me, and, faute de mieux, I used Wikipedia extensively to confirm and explain my solutions, e.g. 9, 10, 25.

It was also quite sneaky of Scorpion not to indicate where these entries might be lurking, in that it made me think that there would be more of them than there actually were and thus encouraged me to think that I wouldn’t recognise a particular word once solved because it was new, even when it turned out not to be: at 4 I spent ages telling myself there must be some a new expression vest room or west room, when the answer was a well-established expression all along!

As for my clues of the day, I loved the surface reading in the gateway clue at 6 and the well-hidden definitions at 2, 4 and 13D. And who could resist the saucy & lit.-clues at 8 and 23?!

On the other hand, I wondered about the use of “upset” to indicate a reversal rather than an anagram in an across clue – any thoughts Furthermore, I wondered about “de” for “some in France” at 19: isn’t it du, de la/de l’ or des for some, with de reserved for of or from? Perhaps I’m missing the point here, so please enlighten me!

*(…) indicates an anagram

6   CHAMBERS MBE (=honour, i.e. Member of the British Empire) in CHAR<t>S (“releasing hiT finally” means the letter “t” is dropped); this is the key to understanding the theme of the puzzle, i.e. new entries in the 2011 edition of Chambers dictionary
9   NEET Reversal (“upset”) of TEEN (=adolescent); a NEET is someone who is Not in Employment, Education or Training, hence “idle person”
10   STAYCATION [TAY (=river, i.e. in Scotland) + CAT (=cat)] in SION (=idyllic place, i.e. alternative spelling of Zion); a staycation is a  holiday on which one stays at home to relax, hence “local holiday”
13/28   NATIONAL TREASURE *(ELATE US + NARRATION); “broadcasting” is anagram indicator
17   TRIPE Double definition: TRIPE is “rubbish”, nonsense AND (left-over food) “which a freegan might eat” (and that, as offal, might otherwise go to waste); freeganism is an anti-consumerist movement based around the idea of eating perfectly edible food that would otherwise be discarded by e.g. supermarkets
18/15   MAN FLU M (=marks, i.e. former German currency) + [NFL (=American footballers, i.e. National Football League) in AU (=gold)]; man flu is a common cold the symptoms of which are exaggerated by male “sufferers”, hence “overstated complaint”
19   DEFRIEND DE (=some in France??) + FRI (=day) + END (=object, i.e. aim); to defriend is to remove someone from a “friend list” on a social networking site
20/8A   SEASON CREEP *(OCEANS PER SE); “fluctuating” is anagram indicator; season creep is a phenomenon whereby the timing of the seasons changes, referring especially to earlier springs recorded in the Northern Hemisphere
22   TOXIC ASSET [XI (=football team, i.e. of eleven players) in *(ASCOT)] + SET (=crowd, as in e.g. jet set); “unruly” is anagram indicator
25   TARP Reversal (“rejected”) of PRAT (=idiot); TARP stands for Troubled Asset Relief Program and refers to the US government’s programme to strengthen flagging financial institutions in 2008, hence “bail-out”
27/11   GREEN-COLLAR L L (=lakes, i.e. 2 x L = lake) in *(ECO-RANGER); “sort of” is anagram indicator; & lit. ; green-collar describes someone who works in the environment sector of the economy, cf white-collar, blue-collar
1   SHOE HO-S-E (=socks); “Son (=s), rising” means that the letter “s” is moved to an earlier position in the word (and grid) to give S-HOE (=other footwear)
2   CENSOR C<larify> (“heading used to” means the first letter only is used) + *(ROSEN); “novel” is anagram indicator”; the rather deceptive definition is “perhaps banner”, i.e. one who bans, as an agent noun
3   ASIA Hidden (“belonging to”) in “quASI-Alliance”
4   REST ROOM *(STORE) in ROM (=storage space, i.e. Read-Only Memory in IT); “pants” (in the colloquial sense of rubbish) is anagram indicator; the cleverly hidden definition is “American can (=toilet, in slang)”
5   UP TO PT (=training) in <j>U<D>O (“regularly” means alternate letters only); the definition is simply “doing”, as in What are you doing/up to?
7   METAL <patien>T in MEAL (=nourishment)
8   COCOTTE [CO (=business) + T<erms> (“primarily” means first letter only)] in COT (=bed) + E (=lowest class, as in A, B, C, etc); & lit.
12   OFFIE F F (=females, i.e. 2 x F=female) in <p>O<l>I<c>E (“regularly” means that alternate letters only are used); offie is colloquial for off-licence, hence “wine-store”
13   NAIAD NAI (Ian=Scotsman; “knocked back” indicates a
reversal) + AD (=commercial); a naiad is a river or spring nymph in
mythology, hence “classic spirit”
14   AMNIO *(MONI<c>A); “with Cold (=c) avoided” means the letter “c” is dropped from the anagram, which is indicated by “suffering”; an amnio, abbreviated from amniocentesis, is a test to detect abnormalities in a foetus
16   UNRAISED *(SARNIE) in <st>UD<io> (“middle of” means central letters only are used); unraised, or unleavened, bread is made without yeast
17   TREMAIN E M (=Forster initially, i.e. the initials of the forenames of English writer E M Forster) in TRAIN (=school, as a verb); the reference is to contemporary British writer Rose Tremain (1943-)
20   SETTEE SETT (=24, i.e. transposition of the grid entry at 24) + E E (=euros, i.e. 2 x €/E = euro)
21   ACT AS TA (=army, i.e. Territorial Army) in ACS (Sca=Lakeland fell; “climbing” indicates a vertical reversal); Sca Fell is the second highest mountain in England after Scafell Pike
23   ORGY [R (=Romeo, i.e. call sign for the letter “r” is radio telecommunications) in <t>OG<a> (“essentially” means the middle letters only are used)] + <lad>Y (“bottom” means last letter only is used); & lit.
24   SETT SETT<er> (=Scorpion perhaps, i.e. setter/compiler of this crossword; “showing no hesitation (=er)” means the letters “er” are dropped; the definition is simply “sett”, referring to a badger’s home
26   RARE R<ock> A<nd> R<oll> E<ntertainer>; “clips of” means first letters only are used

17 Responses to “Independent 7,832 / Scorpion – to coin a phrase”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Has eimi run out of puzzles at the easy end of the spectrum? For the second day in a row, a tough but most enjoyable crossword. I guessed that there was a ‘new words’ theme, which is what in part made it tough. But as you say, RatkojaRiku, a fine puzzle for lovers of language.

    I liked OFFIE and NATIONAL TREASURE, spent too much time trying to work out what the hell FLU MAN was because I’d misread the clue order, and couldn’t understand COCOTTE or ACT AS, so thank you.

    If you really want to know (and you did ask) the partitive article in French can revert back to ‘de’ if the adjective precedes the noun. Nous avons de bonnes idées, We have some good ideas. So Scorpion can creep back under his stone with his reputation intact.

    Fine blog also, merci.

  2. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I don’t have Chambers, but having had another look at the finished grid, I’d guess all the acrosses are new words for this year (except maybe TRIPE, but that does have ‘freegan’ in the clue, which I’d say would be a good candidate for inclusion).

    I’ll stop hogging the blog now.

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks, RatkojaRiku, for a superb blog, and Scorpion for an excellent puzzle.

    What a wonderful penny-dropping moment when I got 6ac, one of my last ones, and finally made sense of the inclusion of several rather unfamiliar words!

    I have been debating whether to put the new Chambers on my Christmas list. The decision is being hastened by the increasingly decrepit state of my current one!

    I’m sure I’ve often seen ‘upset’ as an anagram indicator in an across clue. It doesn’t have to mean literally ‘up set’: ‘interfere with’, disconcert’, ‘disorder’ [Chambers 11th edition] all work, don’t they?

    I sort of felt that ‘de’ was OK, too, but couldn’t remember the rule. [I knew K's D would put me right!] I would guess that he’s right about all the across clues, too.

    [One small niggle: is 'female' necessary in the definition of 17dn?]

  4. RatkojaRiku says:

    @ Eileen – I took the “female” in 17D as an extra clue from Scorpion, since Rose Tremain is not really a household name. I agree with you about “upset” being an acceptable anagram indicator, in across and down clues alike; however, surely it has to indicate a reversal in 9, since we are reversing “teen” rather than anagrammatising it. I am assuming that Eimi would probably not allow indirect anagrams in his team’s clues.

    @ Kathryn’s Dad – thanks for the reminder of de + plural adjective + plural noun – I have to say that this form didn’t even occur to me, despite studying French at university!! I wonder if Scorpion really had that exceptional rendering of “some” in mind when he set the clue …

  5. Wanderer says:

    I’m another who got 6a late in the day, which made it all the sweeter when I finally understood what was going on. Cracking crossword. In four days we have had Monk’s Nickel Sodium Nina, Raich’s Child Stars, Morph’s North and South, and now this… Amazingly good sequence. Many thanks to RatkojaRiku and Scorpion.

  6. Eileen says:

    Apologies, RatkojaRiku: there was a time lapse between my reading your blog and getting round to making a comment. I had misremembered [and carelessly didn't go back to check] that you were querying ‘upset’ as an indicator of an anagram – rather than a reversal.

  7. NealH says:

    I found this easier than yesterday’s puzzle, regional accents not being a particular strong point of mine. 6 was virtually the last one I got, so I didn’t really cotton onto the theme until the end, although I’d noticed there were quite a lot of neologisms.

  8. nmsindy says:

    Yes, this was a good ‘novelty’ puzzle with the theme becoming clear about halfway through solving. Though quite a few of the words were new to me, I was able to (eventually) tease them out from the wordplay, with the good luck of already having the dict so I was able to check them afterwards. Tks, Scorpion and RatkojaRiku – BTW, I think there is no doubt that some = de in French (a quick look in Harrap under ‘some’ confirms this). Did not stop me tho from pencilling in UNFRIEND at first before OFFIE put me right.

  9. nmsindy says:

    PS Re Eileen’s query at #3, I think most of the ‘advanced’ crosswords will used the new edition from the start of 2012 (with Christmas in mind). The Listener has already said so. So esp if you were thinking of tackling those, it might be no harm to get it but its influence would be seen in the daily puzzles too I’d say at times if to a lesser extent.

  10. Allan_C says:

    Not having access to the new Chambers this took a little time. With help from an anagram solver I got SEASON CREEP and GREEN COLLAR which I didn’t quite understand till the penny dropped for 6a, then I found some of the others by googling for examples quoted in press reviews of the new dictionary. But took ages to get 17d, thinking at first that I was looking for yet another neologism.

    And for some of the answers it wasn’t till I’d completed the grid and read the blog that I fully understood some of the clues, so thanks, RatkojaRiku.

  11. Quixote says:

    Because the clues were generally well written, this was not at all a difficult puzzle, even if some of the new words had to be guessed at. But I’m worried that we’ll have a spate of puzzles that exploit all the new words in Chambers from setters who want to be with it (the latest from of ‘theme-ism) — I’d prefer a drip-feed over time, myself!

  12. flashling says:

    Late on parade but Quixote has mirrored my own qualms, I’d heard of all of today’s bar green collar but seemed obviously right answer even if a crud phrase. I also took a while get Chambers, well hidden and then wasted time looking for dictionaries. Still good for a 30 minute commute so thanks to RR and Scorpion.

  13. Wil Ransome says:

    When I saw that today’s setter was Scorpion I thought it would be hard and considered having a break. Now I’m glad I didn’t, because it wasn’t painfully difficult and it was quite outstanding in my opinion. What an achievement to get all these unusual terms in to the acrosses (but they weren’t all that unusual: I’d heard of most of them and coped perfectly well without the new C).

    My only criticism, and that will be rebutted I know by people who perfectly sensibly point out that this is how language changes and if people use words in a certain way then that is all there is to it: classic and classical don’t mean the same thing (despite what we will be told in the dictionaries). There is a useful distinction, and in 13dn ‘Classical’ would have been more appropriate. (Actually the clue reads perfectly well, arguably better, without either of the words at all.)

  14. flashling says:

    @john/wil yes but… classic/classical ok do have subtle extra meanings, we don’t talk about classical horse races (ben hur maybe) but in crossword land, certainly in the Indy, vague and dubious are par for the course. Perhaps I’m just a solver who accepts the “well it’s not technically quite right but it helps really” clues rather than someone who demands it must abide the rules whatever they are. personally I prefer fast and loose. I want someone to come up with at new word for neologism.

  15. flashling says:

    ack a not at

  16. Simon Harris says:

    Thanks RR and Scorpion.

    Only complaint is that, well, how on earth does DEFRIEND make it into a dictionary? No real social network user that I’m aware of would ever, ever use that term. The verb is surely to “unfriend”.

  17. Tees says:

    When m’colleague Scorpion rang me up to tell me he was considering a theme using all the words that have been left in this year’s Chambers, I just knew he was pulling my leg.

    Excellent stuff.

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