Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,880 / Scorpion

Posted by RatkojaRiku on January 17th, 2012


It’s Tuesday and the puzzle has been set b(u)y Scorpion, so there just has to be a theme to it, I thought, and Scorpion did not let me down.

As themes go, this one revealed itself to me more quickly than previous ones have done: too much retail therapy over the years, perhaps? It was clear that 15/13 was the key to unlocking the puzzle, and when I guessed the answer to 11, I wondered if the first three letters had some connection with shopping and I was able to puzzle out 15/13 there and then. I then solved 9 which confirmed my reasoning. Incidentally, despite knowing all the chains referred to, I was surprised that I wasn’t very good at predicting the ones likely to appear in the solutions, which had to be short in terms of
numbers of letters. Only when I solved each clue did I spot the retailer in its midst.

There is much to admire about this puzzle. I loved the smooth and deceptive surface readings at 3 and 28, and a tad of naughtiness never goes amiss! I was also impressed by the container-and-contents indicators at 14 and 16. The wordplay at 12 bamboozled me for a long time, since I found myself trawling Google looking for a film director called Dab, instead of breaking down the word yet further; the entry was also unfamiliar to me.

My only quibble is the use of “fleet” in 9, since surely this implies the presence of more than one ship, but perhaps I am missing something. I may also have misconstrued the “even chance” at 8.

*(…) indicates an anagram


7   HERALDIC HER (=lady’s) + ALDI (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) + C (=college)
9   ARGOSY ARGOS (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) + Y (=unknown, i.e. in algebra); an argosy is a great merchant ship, especially one from Ragusa or Venice, hence fleet (?)
10   IN EXTREMIS [NEXT (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) in IRE (=anger)] + MIS<s> (=girl; “briefly” means last letter dropped)
11   GAPE GAP (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) + <stifl>E (“the latest to” means last letter only)
12   SMACK DAB SMACK (=heroin) + D (=director, as in MD) + AB (=jack, i.e. sailor); the definition is “exactly”, as in The man stood smack dab / slap-bang in the middle of the road
15/13   RETAIL CHAIN [AIL (=upset, as a verb)] + CH (=child)] in RETAIN (=keep); this entry is the key to the puzzle’s thematic entries
TESCO (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) in *(SMART GUITAR); “playing” is anagram indicator
21   NARNIA Reversed and hidden (“seen reflected”) in “mountAIN RANge”; the reference is to the “fantasy land” created by the English author C S Lewis in his books for children
22   SICKROOM SIC (=as originally printed) + K (=£1000) + ROOM (MOOR=berth, as a verb, of ships; “and over” indicates reversal)
24   EBRO OR (=gold) + BE (=stand, as in as things stand); “returned” indicates a reversal
26   BISCUIT TIN Cryptic definition: Hobnob, Viscount and Abernethy are all types of biscuit that one might find in a domestic biscuit tin
29   COOPER CO-OP (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) + E<xmoo>R (“outside in” means first and last letters only)
30   LETHALLY LET (=allowed) + HAL (=Henry, i.e. diminutive form) + L<avator>Y (“vacant” means that the word is emptied, leaving only its first and last letters)
1   PEN NAME AM (=American) in PENNE (=Italian food, i.e. pasta in the form short thick ridged tubes); Mark Twain was the pen name of American author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)
2   FAUX U (=uniform, the code word for the letter “u” in radio telecommunication) in FAX (=duplicate)
3   SCUM CU (=copper, i.e. the element) in SM (=kinky behaviour, i.e. sadomasochism); the definition is “film”, i.e. on surface of a liquid
4   CAESAREA [AES (SEA=water; “reversed” indicates reversal) in CAR (=coach)] + EA (=each); Caesarea is an ancient Roman site in modern-day Israel
5   AGOG G<ourmand> (“heading” means first letter only) in GOA (=Indian place); “northwards” indicates vertical reversal
6   ASEPTIC A + SEPT (=month, i.e. September) + I C (=in charge)
8   DARED D (=500) + A + RED (colour in roulette); “even chance” must refer to the fact that half the numbers on a roulette wheel and half a black
14   BATHS AT in BHS (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13, British Home Stores)
16   THEIR Hidden (“clothes”) in “loaTHE IRoning”
18   ISAMBARD I (=first) + SAMBA (=steps, i.e. dance) + RD (=road); the reference is to the pioneering English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59)
19/27   CAR BOOT
BOOTS (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) in CAR (=saloon, perhaps) + ALE (=beer)
20   SOLIDLY LIDL (=retail chain, i.e. solution at 15/13) in SOY (=Oriental sauce)
25   OOPS O O (=rings, i.e. 2 x O) + P<artner>S (“left and right” means first and last letter only); the definition is “I’ve slipped (up)”
28   TEAL TAL-E (=fantasy, untrue story, as in She told me a right tale); “earth (=E) moved in” means that the letter “e” changes position in the word


11 Responses to “Independent 7,880 / Scorpion”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    This was a lot of fun. My way to solving the gateway clue was to get SOLIDLY, see LIDL, and then twig what was happening. Even with the theme apparent, it was still hard, I found, because the letter combinations weren’t that apparent (and of course there’s a lot to choose from). BATHS was the one I needed to come here to understand – are BHS still around?

    ISAMBARD was clever and the surface to 3dn made me smile.

    Thanks to blogger and setter.

  2. Thomas99 says:

    Re 9 – Argosy usually means fleet, not a single vessel, doesn’t it? I’ve always assumed it came from Argo (Jason’s ship) to mean the Argo (or other ship’s) expedition, by extension coming to refer to the ship, or more commonly ships, making up such an expedition. I was surprised to see the single vessel comes first in one dictionary online, but the fleet meaning is the next definition.

  3. RatkojaRiku says:

    @Kathryn’s Dad – I agree: there were a lot of retailers to choose from, which might explain my inability to predict the ones that Scorpion would have chosen. Incidentally, BHS is still around – I was in one on Oxford Street only recently.

    @Thomas99 – thanks for clearing that up. Chambers doesn’t give the fleet derivation at all, only the single vessel. Chambers is always my first port of call, but this time I ought to have cast my net wider.

  4. Lenny says:

    I usually struggle with Scorpion’s puzzles so I was grateful for this relatively straightforward effort. Didn’t a blogger recently query whether brand names were acceptable in crosswords? I think he got his answer here today.

    I got the gateway clue from seeing the Next in In Extremis. My last in was Solidly, the Lidl combinations of letters being rather unusual. Thanks to RR for explaining Magistrates’ Court. I was fixated on Strat being the smart guitar and was trying to find retail opportunities in the surrounding letters.

    I had trouble spelling Isambard despite the fact that I used to work in an office in Bristol overlooking his statue. Most Monday mornings he would have a traffic cone on top of his top hat.

  5. flashling says:

    My last in was Cooper misled in my head by the different sounds to Co-op v coop. Did wonder why before I started RR had put BUY on the front page…

    Once penny drop moment happened this was a nice bit of fun, thanks Scorpion and of course RR.

  6. freda says:

    3d might refer to the film of that name –

  7. Polly says:

    Re 1d, penne aren’t always ridged (rigate): they can also be smooth (lisce).

  8. Paul B says:

    I haven’t looked at my penne lately. Perhaps I should.

    Very nice work in this one, and lots of fun had with the theme.

  9. Bamberger says:

    I got one or two of the unthemed clues but spend an eternity (well 20 minutes) on the gateway clue but just couldn’t see it which meant that any of the clues with 15/13 were pretty inaccessible. A pity because the clues to them look gettable once you have that theme.
    I suppose that it is the problem with themed crosswords-if you can’t get the theme and you’re not good enough to get several of the unthemed ones you hopelessly becalmed.

  10. Lenny says:

    Hi Bamburger. I thought you got some pretty rough treatment on this site last week. Unfortunately I was a couple of days behind in my solving so I could not come to your defence. For what it’s worth, I think you are the most important contributor to this blog. Newcomers to crosswords are probably put off by people like me who say this was easy (see above). There are probably hundreds of silent followers of this site who identify with your difficulties and admire your honesty.

    Now, if I can offer some advice. It is usually better, when attempting themed crosswords, to ignore the theme. In the course of solving you will find a themed word like I did with Next and KD did with Lidl and then the rest will fall out.

  11. nmsindy says:

    Yes, I agree with Lenny at #10. Getting NEXT in an answer was how I saw the theme here. My advice to Bamberger would be to go through clues in turn, spending just a little time on each, and, if the answer does not come, move to the next clue. When you’ve gone thro them all once, I’d suggest repeating the process. Thanks, Scorpion and RR.

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