Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,856 / Scorpion – All roads …

Posted by RatkojaRiku on December 20th, 2011


I hadn’t blogged a Scorpion for a while and when I realised that the Tuesday slot had fallen to me, I was hoping it might be one.

True to form, Scorpion did not disappoint. This was one of those rare puzzles where the theme is literally staring you in the face, hinted at by the indication “an answer to all clues, initially”, which appears in ten clues; in other words, the solver is being invited to take the initial letter of each clue in order and spell out the question: WHAT HAVE THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US? This question is answered in Monty Python’s sketch of the same name in Life of Brian, in which reference is made to all the supposed relics of Roman civilisation that are the solutions to those ten clues.

How quickly you manage to solve this puzzle would, I suppose, depend to a large extent on how quickly you spot the theme, as otherwise you would need to establish a link between words as random as e.g. baths and irrigation. Once the theme has been spotted, even if you don’t associate it with Monty Python, you can predict some of the answers (baths, roads, aqueducts, etc) from general knowledge, although you might struggle with e.g. peace and order. The entry at 25 and the Roman numerals in the wordplay at 13 serve to reinforce the Roman theme.

7 proved to be the trickiest clue for me today, not helped by the fact that I wasn’t sure of 1, not knowing the comic. My personal favourites were 19, as I very much recognise that use of “yesterday”, and 25, for its smooth surface and for cheekily using something as mundane as a dog’s ear to clue the name a Roman emperor!

Incidentally, as if Scorpion had not given us a big enough treat already, this puzzle is also a pangram, with all 26 letters (of our version) of the (Roman!) alphabet appearing at least once.

*(…) indicates an anagram; * indicates a thematic entry


7*   IRRIGATION [RIG (=required equipment) + AT + <b>I<rkdale> (“Birkdale’s 2nd means second letter only)] in IRON (=wedge)
8   BORE Double definition: BORE is “hollow barrel”, as in 12-bore shotgun AND “carried”, i.e. past tense of bear
9*   MEDICINE [E + DIC (CID=police, “over” indicates reversal)] in MINE (=author’s, i.e. Scorpion’s)
10   UNTRUE U (=top-class) + *(TURN) + <nam>E (“ultimately” means last letter only); “hysterical” is anagram indicator
11*   EDUCATION [DUCAT (=historical coin) + I (=one)] in EON (=years)
13   SPIV VI (=six, in Roman numerals) + P<layer>S (“vacated” means all but outer letters are dropped); “about” indicates reversal
14*   ROADS R (=runs, in cricket) + <v>O<c>A<l> D<i>S<c> (“regularly” means alternate letters only are used)
16*   ORDER <b>ORDER
(=ex-Aussie captain, i.e. the cricketer Allan Border, 1955-); “bowled (=B) out” means the letter “b” is dropped
19   ASAP [S (=special) in A A (=acres, i.e. 2 x A)] + P (=parking); the definition is “yesterday”, as in Can I have your report by yesterday, please?
21*   AQUEDUCTS [QUE<bec> (=Canadian city; “half of” means half of letter only are used) + DU (=some French, i.e. the French word for some)] in ACTS (=Biblical book)
24   KUWAIT <hijac>K <snaf>U (“extremists (right wing)” means that the last letter only, i.e. the outer letter on the right of the word, is used) + WAIT (=pause)
25   CALIGULA [ALI (=boxer, i.e. Muhammad Ali, 1942-) + GUL (LUG=ear, “turned back” indicates a reversal)] in CA (=roughly, i.e. circa); Caligula was Roman emperor, the third of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, from 37 AD to 41 AD)
27*   WINE Homophone (“overheard”) of “whine” (=peevish complaint)
28*   SANITATION <ur>ANI<UM> (“centre for” means middle letters only) in STATION (=military base)
1   BREEZE (The) Beeze-r (=comic, i.e. British children’s comic, 1956-93); “recipe (=R) promoted” means that the letter “r” moves up the word to an earlier position, giving b-r-eeze (=piece of cake, i.e. something straightforward, doddle)
2   FIJI [I (=number one) + J (=journal)] in FI (=motor racing, i.e. Formula One)
3   MAXIMA MAXIM (=saw, i.e. adage) + A<partment> (“ceiling of” means first letter only)
4   KINETIC KIN (=family) + [I (=island) in ETC (=and others)]
5   INNUENDO INN (=pub) + *(NUDE) + O (=circuit, i.e. a visual representation of a journey round something, e.g. a lap of a track, an orbit); “vagrant” is anagram indicator
6   CROUPIER [O (=ring) + UP (=in court)] in CRIER (=informer, as in town crier)
8*   BATHS H (=husband) in BATS (=round the twist)
12   UNA “Diego’s one”, i.e. the Spanish word for one; the definition is “woman”, i.e. a woman’s name
14   RASPUTIN R<equest> (“first to” means first letter only) + AS (=when) + PUT IN (=enter, i.e. log, record data); Rasputin (1869-1916) was a controversial monk and mystic at the court of Russian tsar Nicholas II, hence “old courtier”
15   SMARTASS *(ASTRA) in SMS (=text messaging); “new” is anagram indicator
17   DOC COD (=fish); “eyed up” indicates vertical reversal; the definition is “bones”, a nickname used for a doctor, not least Leonard “Bones” McCoy in Star Trek
18   TUSCANY SC (=self-catering, i.e. in holiday ads) in *(AUNTY); “foreign” is anagram indicator
20*   PEACE P<olit>E (“outwardly” means outer letters only are used) + ACE (=master, i.e. expert)
22   DELETE LET (=permit, as verb) in DEE (=river)
23   SALMON M<otor-boat> (“front of” means first letter only) in SALON (=lounge, as noun)
26   GUTS Double definition: GUTS means “stomach” anatomically AND “backbone”, i.e. courage, nerve, bottle




10 Responses to “Independent 7,856 / Scorpion – All roads …”

  1. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks to RR and of course to Scorpion. This really was great fun. My last in was also 7a, and had to wait until I’d managed to dredge up the Beezer – wonder if it still exists; I think of it as almost before my time. I was surprised how few of the answers I actually remembered straight away from that sketch, despite having seen it many times. Only really wine (which I remember Eric Idle, I think, being particularly enthusiastic about) and aqueduct had stuck properly and the rest had to be deduced.

  2. nmsindy says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku and Scorpion. A most entertaining puzzle and one I solved reasonably quickly despite never having heard of the sketch referred to. Was glad the initial letters idea was indicated as a preamble. Favourite clue, DOC.

  3. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Since it’s my favourite ever film, I couldn’t help but like this one, could I? It did take me a while to work out the ‘all clues initially’ bit (solving online doesn’t help, because you can’t see all the clues at once). But once I knew I was in Life of Brian territory, then it all fell into place, and I managed to remember most, and guess the rest, of what the Romans ever did for us.

    As you say, RatkojaRiku, even if you didn’t know the film, you could have a good guess at most of the themed answers (unlike the recent Barry Manilow offering …)

    CALIGULA, SMARTASS and BEEZER (which brought back some memories) were my favourites today.

  4. John H says:

    Just have to comment here. My favourite film of all time too Peter.

    I did it in the ‘office’ yesterday afternoon (one of the priveleges of being in with the editor is I get the puzzles early).

    Spotted the initials immediately, and irritated the wife (sitting opposite, doing another puzzle) with my shouts of “irrigation”, “irrigation and roads”, “irrigation, roads and peace”…

    We were thwone out – very wuffly.

  5. flashling says:

    Welease Woderwick! Very nice thanks Scorpion and RR, found this quite tough despite Scorpion/Eimi giving the game away in the rubric. Must resist the impulse to put LOB quotes in :-)

  6. George Heard says:

    Don’t comment vewy often, but this was an impressive puzzle and even the off-theme clues were very good (Beezer even made its way to Australia in the 70s, my grandmother gave me a few as gifts, might explain a bit).

    For Reverend Squiffington Q. Dingleberry, coming here to try to understand the theme, youtube has the answer

  7. Allan_C says:

    Not being a LOB fan this took a while for the penny to drop. At least solving on line meant I could check that the apparently unrelated answers were correct. Those who haven’t seen LOB may, though, remember “What the Romans did for us”, a factual programme series on BBC TV with Adam Hart-Davis.

    Nice one, Scorpion, and thanks, R-R, for the blog.

  8. Cumbrian says:

    Loved it! Many thanks Scorpion, and RR for the enlightenment on a couple of answers I couldn’t quite work out. I did myself no favours with solving 7a by trying to fit CLEESE in to 1d (don’t ask) but BREEZE dropped in when I spotted the Pangram (and yes, I do remember the Beezer….). LOB is definitely one of my all time favourite movies, and still makes me laugh even though I know exactly what’s coming next. A piece of LOB trivia, for those who didn’t know: Sue Jones-Davies, who played Judith the “Welsh Tart” was Mayor of Aberystwyth in 2008. Allegedly, the film had never been screened in Aberystwyth due to it being banned there on release.

  9. MikeC says:

    Thanks Scorpion and RR. Good fun. I eventually spotted the theme – but missed both the “acrostic” trick AND the pangram. Setters must despair of people like me!

  10. PeeDee says:


    I was doing this puzzle last night. I has about a third of the solutions in and was really enjoying the “all clues…” mystery, what could it be?

    I nipped back to 15^2 to see if there were any for comments I needed to answer on my FT blog and then see your spoiler in big bold letters “All roads…” …lead to Rome, obviously. This really ruined the puzzle for me.

    You state how much you enjoyed it in your blog, so why do you want put a giveaway in the title to spoil the enjoyment for others? This is the second time this has happened to me in two weeks, Uncle Yap last week and now you. Why do you do it?

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