Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 13,885 – Christmas Crossword by Gozo

Posted by Gaufrid on January 5th, 2012


When this puzzle eventually became available on-line on Boxing Day I thought “Oh good. I enjoy alphabetical jigsaws” so I proceeded to convert the pdf into a format where the font size was such that I could read the clues and the grid more easily.

Before too long I had cold-solved about 85% of the clues, helped by spotting the theme early on, so it was time to take a look at the grid which had a large number of entries where the initial letter was unchecked. The logical place to start was with the 4 and 15 letter answers, all of which fortunately I had solved. There was only one arrangement possible in the NE and SW corners for the 4 letter answers so these went straight in. Now for the 15 letter ones.

Starting in the SE corner seemed to offer the most opportunities since the tenth letter of two 15 letter answers had to be the same and only two 15 letter answers had this property. But which should be entered horizontally and which vertically? Putting one of the answers in horizontally meant that there had to be a 6 letter answer beginning with E, but the two E answers were 2,3 and 7 so this was not an option. So two crossing 15 letter answers could now be entered in the SE corner, ICE STATION ZEBRA vertically and THIS IS SPINAL TAP horizontally. This gave me a foothold into the grid.

LOLITA and RETAKE could now be entered which created the opportunity to add VERA DRAKE and WHEELERS as well. I concentrated on the right hand side of the grid, selecting from my list of answers those which would fit the letter pattern until I had a grid that was about 20% complete. At this point it seemed that further progress was going to be very much a case of trial and error, something I wasn’t in the mood for at the time, so I put the puzzle to one side intending to return to it later, something I failed to do until I was given a spur.

Several days later I received an email from the scheduled blogger saying that he was finding this puzzle very heavy going and was doubtful that he would be able to write a satisfactory blog, particularly as he disliked this form of jigsaw entry. He was wondering if a stand-in could be found. As I had already solved 85% of the clues, and had a partially completed grid, I offered to do so. At this stage, I had two thematic entries unsolved, S and U. Since films are not my forte I asked Pete if he could help me out with these two and he kindly obliged (with hindsight I would probably have got these when I had some checked letters but this way saved some time).

So, it was back to the grid and entering answers, longest first, wherever they would fit. I decided to try QUANTUM OF SOLACE vertically since this would give me the final U for XANADU and fortunately this proved to be correct. Before long I had all my answers entered except one, QUILP. There appeared to be nowhere that this would fit so I had obviously made a mistake. Indeed I had but this was quickly rectified. Now all that remained was to note down the letter pattern for the half dozen incomplete entries and then to return to the clues to solve the remaining ones with the help of these letter patterns.

At last, all clues solved and a completed grid! Did I enjoy it? Not as much as I would have done had my health been better but there was a sense of achievement at the end and I’m glad Pete’s email spurred me to return to the puzzle. Looking back, I wondered about the need for the (non-film) definition in the clue for OTLEY since the other thematic clues did not have this and I’m not sure that the clue for ULYSSES is kosher unless both Pete and I have missed something.

Old chandlers are cast out (7)
The Bible in Arabic (6)
AVATAR : AV (the Bible) AT (in) AR (Arabic)
Idealised commercials invading building society (8)
BADLANDS : ADLAND (idealised commercials) in BS (building society)
One from Riga, say, with top Indian food (5)
BALTI : BALT (one from Riga, say) I[ndian]
Mark is embracing sailor (7)
CABARET : CARET (mark) around AB (sailor)
Lists new cerise togas (11)
Novelist one ed failed miserably (6,5)
Little girl accepting restraining order (3,4)
DAS BOOT : DOT (little girl) around ASBO (restraining order)
Meals child periodically ejected (2,3)
EL CID : [m]E[a]L[s] C[h]I[l]D
River Tweed – cut and run (7)
EXECUTE : EXE (river) CUTE (twee[d])
Preferred lines for chestnut horse (6)
FAVELL : FAVE (preferred) LL (lines)
Worked out 3Y + 4e +1r +50s + 0 (3,4,4,4)
Wooded glen with touch of gorse on high land, reportedly (5)
GHYLL : G[orse] homophone of ‘hill’ (high land)
Bugs lie around (2,5)
Flowers for artist holding outlaw (9)
HAREBELLS : HALS (artist) around REBEL (outlaw)
Danger line (5)
HOTEL : HOT (danger) EL (line)
A Bizet score ain’t revised (3,7,5)
Change of air, Queen and country (4)
IRAQ : *(AIR) Q (queen)
Greek hero, on getting lost, bears west (4)
JAWS : JAS[on] (Greek hero, on getting lost) around W (west)
Burglar’s accessory for dismal Dickensian (5)
JEMMY : double def., the second referring to ‘Dismal Jemmy’ a nickname of Jem Hutley in The Pickwick Papers
Steel bangle on instrument, first made in mountains (9)
KARAKORAM : KARA (steel bangle) KORA (instrument) M[ade]
Measure Aussie jeep (5)
KLUTE : KL (measure) UTE (Aussie jeep)
Caught girl with dictionary (7)
LASSOED : LASS (girl) OED (dictionary)
Sexual activity accepted after lots of love (6)
LOLITA : LOL (lots of love) IT (sexual activity) A (accepted)
Ghost bringing regular relief during month (6)
MARLEY : R[e]L[i]E[f] in MAY (month)
Married the Styrian Oak (6)
MARNIE : M (married) ARNIE (the Styrian Oak {a nickname for Arnold Schwarzenegger during his bodybuilding days})
Mister, in pieces, leaving Denmark, confused (5)
NAKED : *(DEN[m]A[r]K)
Don’t give up serenade, Ivy Cook (5,3,3)
Lofty men in trouble at sinister location (2,2,4)
Multi-coloured mark removed in Yorkshire town (5)
Caress and fashion (6)
PATTON : PAT (caress) TON (fashion)
Because of which Tim leapt around? (5,3)
Cleo involved with famous leading couturier (7,2,6)
Joke about type of plate in The Old Curiosity Shop? (5)
QUILP : QUIP (joke) around L (type of plate) – Daniel Quilp, the book’s main villain
Artist with popular piece (4,3)
RAINMAN : RA (artist) IN (popular) MAN (piece)
Shrew in US TV series, back for another shot (6)
RETAKE : KATE (shrew {Shakespeare}) in ER (US TV series) reversed
Song from Kentish wood-worker before end of day (3,6)
SEA SHANTY : SE (Kentish) ASH (wood) ANT (worker) [da]Y
That will do – price change included (7)
SERPICO : SO (that will do) around *(PRICE)
Long robe – one leading accessory to winged sandals (7)
TALARIA : TALAR (long robe) I (one) A[ccessory]
Assistant Philip attacked (4,2,6,3)
Most of month, half the meetings are cancelled (7)
ULYSSES : [j]ULY (most of month) SESS[ions] (half the meetings are cancelled) reversed – but I don’t see a reversal indicator.
Economic improvement, on course? (7)
UPSWING : def. and cryptic reference to a golf swing
Anonymous minister turning up with sailor (4,5)
VERA DRAKE : A (anonymous) REV (minister) reversed DRAKE (sailor)
Gavin is abroad endorsing passports (7)
Sir Mortimer’s dodgy businessmen (8)
WHEELERS : cryptic def. & def. – a reference to the British archaeologist
Old god upset about bit of lightning (4)
WILT : TIW (old god) reversed around L[ightning]
Three film certificates and revision (6)
Former partner turning up by Tooting’s monastery in boat (5)
XEBEC : EX (former partner) reversed BEC (Tooting’s monastery)
Gently swaying without the effect of gravity (5)
Hiccup around Skye (4)
In the Naze Lighthouse (5)
ZELIG : hidden in ‘naZE LIGhthouse’
Cross cook and heartless rifleman following a dualistic religion (11)
ZOROASTRIAN : ZO (cross) ROAST (cook) RI[flem]AN

7 Responses to “Financial Times 13,885 – Christmas Crossword by Gozo”

  1. Ilippu says:

    Thank you, Gaufrid and thanks to Gozo for a tough but fun puzzle. The 5 & 7 letter answers, a dozen each, kept me on my toes. I also started with the 15 letter solutions as well, having to swap back T and I clues for the non-existing E start for a 6 letter word. Not having all the 5s & 7s, Balti had to wait outside, as I did not have Klute & Favell. Overall, the organization required to solve was impressive. As an Indian, it was amusing to see Kara and Balti have entered the lexicon.

  2. Conrad Cork says:

    Just for the record, I’d like to say that this puzzle was the best Christmas present I have had for years. Gozo’s virtuosity continues to amaze and delight me.

  3. ChrisChunders says:

    Thanks for the blog.

    This puzzle took a while to get going, but as you say once you do get going it resolved fairly straight-forwardly and led to a satisfying conclusion.
    I liked the clue/solution ‘favell’. In the Guardian genius 102 they’d had currier as a solution (though not one to be entered in the grid of course) and in checking currier in Chambers for that puzzle had encountered ‘currying favell’, which modern parlance has garbled into currying favour. Funny how these connections seem to arise in crosswords.
    I don’t use the expression ‘to curry favour’ that often, but from now on I’m going to make a Pedanticus point of mentioning the grand horse’s moniker.
    (On a totally off-topic line, did anyone catch Peston on the Today Programme this morning using agrimony instead of (I presume) acrimony? Could be a heavy cold, but this one’s straight off to Maslanka)

  4. fearsome says:

    I really enjoyed this crossword so a big thank you to Gozo and thanks Gaufrid for the blog.

  5. Pelham Barton says:

    Hi Gaufrid

    Not my sort of puzzle at all, but stumbling on this blog I could not resist the challenge of trying to explain ULYSSES. The best I can think of is that “are cancelled” is meant to be a reversal indicator, possibly through the meaning “cancel” = “revoke”. After all, “half the meetings” is a sufficient indicator for SESS[ions].

  6. PeeDee says:

    Thanks Gaufrid,

    I thought this was a really great puzzle, a big challenge to solve. For some reason I missed this at Christmas and found out about it only though seeing Gaufrid blog on the 15^2 home page a couple of days ago.

    I was a bit disappointed with Araucaria’s Christmas offering this year, nice but over too quickly and just not enough of a challenge, so this is exactly what I needed.

    I thought the grid was excellently designed, there were no easy starters and every entry required careful logical deduction to choose its correct location.

    I think SESS in Ulysses is probably just a mistake, I didn’t spot it until you pointed it out, so I could image the editor/proof reader missing it too.

    So, a big thank you to Gozo for rescuing my crossword Christmas!

  7. Ernie says:

    I notice two obvious typing errors in your printed grid.

    categorised instead of categorises

    Zebec instead of xebec

    Thanks for explaining the word-play ( or should that be letter-play) for
    ‘for your eyes only.

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