Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 13,908 – Gaff

Posted by Sil van den Hoek on February 2nd, 2012

Sil van den Hoek.

Monday Prize Crossword/ Jan 23

When the name of the setter is Gaff, there must be something going on in the world around us. Remember the Royal Wedding or Swan Upping?  The theme of this puzzle was rather obvious and not even thát cryptically clued in 10,29.  A puzzle full of dragons.

Also a crossword that I found relatively hard (certainly for a Monday). Even after it became clear that this was about the Chinese New Year, I still couldn’t make much progress. To be honest, unlike previous Gaffs, I found this puzzle a bit of a slog. I am usually on the setter’s side, knowing that he or she put so much effort into it, but I just didn’t enjoy solving this crossword that much.  As someone who really appreciates good surfaces, I was rather disappointed by many of the clues as they were purely constructional and not always very elegant. The cluing felt Araucarian, which is no disadvantage, but without that little sparkle in the eye.  Well, for me that is, I hasten to say.  But then it’s not about me : if others really liked it, I am just as happy.  My COD was the smiling 17d (SINCERELY).

1 DRAGON Amazon in women’s clothing?
    When dressed ‘in women’s clothing’, one might perhaps have DRAG ON ….
    …. but I do not really see why ‘Amazon’ defines DRAGON. Surely someone will stand up and explain. And his name is Andrew (comment #2). Many thanks, you’re right, I guess. Even though, on second thought, I have a feeling that Dragon is more negative than Amazon.
4 BAR CODES Lines fish in strips
    COD (fish) inside BARES (strips, as a verb)
    Well, bar codes consist indeed of lines, but I do find it a bit of a loose definition.
10,29    CHINESE NEW YEAR    1 across starts today
    It started the day of this puzzle’s publication ….
    …. but just ‘dragon’ (1 across) as additional information seems a bit minimalistic. It is not just “dragon that starts today”, but the Year of the Dragon.
11 LUMBAGO Flowering plant that hasn’t opened brings back pain
    [p]LUMBAGO (plumbago being the ‘flowering plant’)
12 PUFF 1 across promotion
    Double definition, with PUFF meaning ‘promotion’ ….
    …. of course, Puff The Magic Dragon [or perhaps Puff The Magic Dragon (film)]
13 JABBERWOCK 1 across hit border town with small change
    JAB (hit) + BERWOCK (which is only slightly different from BERWICK, a Northumberland town on the border with Scotland)
    Beware the Jabberwock, my son!  But is this monster a dragon?
15 MUSKET Smell alien 1 across
    MUSK (smell) + ET (alien)
    This ‘dragon’ is a weapon, also called “Blunderbuss” [which is very similar to a MUSKET]
16 PERSIST 1 across as bad weather may
    1 Across should be read as what bad weather may do, which is ‘drag on’ ….
    …. but there’s no further cryptic explanation for PERSIST. Not even sure whether ‘persist’ = ‘drag on’ either.
20 WYVERNS The reason Jules is hearing 1 across’s
    Homophone of “why Verne’s” (the reason Jules is)
    I didn’t like ‘hearing’ as the homophone indicator, but I am even more puzzled by the apostrophe s in “1 across’s”. Shouldn’t it have been “1 acrosses”?
21 HORNET Troublesome nester usurps throne
    I wonder whether Gaff was thinking of the Stieg Larsson trilogy, which links ‘hornet’ and ‘dragon’ [The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest / The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo].
24    BUSH JACKET    Hunting top German agreement after quiet scuttle about
    {A (German agreement, yes) after SH (quiet)} inside BUCKET (scuttle)
26 PETE Small 14 filmed with his 1 across
    PETE is the ‘small’ version of 14 (Peter Jones)
    The clue refers to Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.
28 SHANNON One who rendered runaway Irish banker
    Double definition: a river (‘banker’)  in Ireland and (Del) SHANNON who sang ‘Runaway’ …
    …. with a capital R (which the clue doesn’t give us – not completely according to the rules).
30 DIGESTED Absorbed Welshman cracked on radio
    Homophone of ‘Dai’ (Welshman, Welsh for ‘David’) + ‘jested’ (cracked)
31 ENZYME Catalyst for change of ultimate enemy
    (Z (ultimate) ENEMY)*
1 DECK PUMP Fell trainer used to stop water rising
    DECK (fell) + PUMP (trainer)
    I think there is really a difference between a ‘pump’ [a shoe normally without a fastening, according to Chambers – I don’t wear pumps, so I don’t know myself] and a ‘trainer’ [a running shoe which is usually laced]. Well, Radler (comment #1), if you say so, I am happy to accept your justification. And can anyone enlighten me about the first part of the clue? Many thanks, too, for explaining Deck/Fell. I should have seen that, so I’m kicking myself a bit.
2 A BIT FISHY Treating by faith is rather suspicious
    (BY FAITH IS)*
3,9 OVERPEDAL Prove lead manufacturing may cause damaging chain reaction
    (PROVE LEAD)*, supported by a cryptic definition
5 AD LIBBED Made up notice to seduce after party
    AD (notice) + {BED (to seduce) after LIB (party)}
6 COMPRESSOR Mrs Cooper’s broken pump
7 DRACO Stars 1 across
    DRACO: The Dragon, a northern constellation
8 STOCKY Solid air-bed put up within
    SKY (air) with the reversal of COT (bed) inside
14 PETER JONES    Diminish justice with a person’s 1 across
    PETER (diminish) + J (justice) + ONE’S (a person’s)
    One of the Dragons in The Dragons’ Den.
17    SINCERELY Really the last word before signing
    Double definition
18 ENSCONCE Settle disturbed conscience, disheartened
19 ST GEORGE Cross opponent of 1 across
    Double definition
22 ABUSED Offended by sleeping around, we object
    ABED (sleeping) around US (we, seen as the object (in grammar))
23 MEANS Plans the way
    Double definition
25 SMAUG A captive in superior 1 across
    A inside SMUG (superior)
    SMAUG is the name of a dragon in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”.
27 TWIN Double-act wins shows
    Hidden solution: [ac]T WIN[s]

4 Responses to “Financial Times 13,908 – Gaff”

  1. Radler says:

    Thanks Sil. I agree with your assessment of this puzzle.
    21d Deck is slang for to knock (somebody) down, as is to fell. Pump is a plimsoll, not as substantial as most trainers but I think the definition’s fair.

  2. Andrew says:

    1ac – both “dragon” and “amazon” can mean an imposing or fearsome woman.

  3. Bamberger says:

    The scenario was that I was at a place with absolutely nothing to do for a full hour but do the crossword and drink a cup of tea.
    I don’t think I have ever managed to spot the theme in any crossword and have got so few of the non themed clues out that I haven’t even been able to have a stab at the themed clues. However I’d been given advice to just ignore the theme.
    So off I went -for me no chance of any of the themed clues which knocked out a high proportion. And after an hour I had solved 2d and that was it.
    I knew 6d was an anagram but couldn’t solve it and missed the hidden word at 27d.
    It is not often that I would really disagree with the blogger but I don’t think the theme was remotely obvious.I had no idea it was Chinese New year.
    I shall add Gaff to my “not worth even starting” list.

  4. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Radler & Andrew for enlightening me.

    Well, Bamberger, I can imagine how you feel.
    Indeed, I knew that it was the start of the Chinese New Year, but even so I couldn’t make much of the puzzle initially. But I had to ‘drag on’ – after all it was me that had to blog it. Well, I got there in the end (with a little help from my Friend).

    Despite the fact that you do not agree with me about the theme being obvious, I am with you when it comes to the ‘pleasure factor’.
    I wouldn’t write Gaff off completely, though. He has produced some really enjoyable crosswords in the past.
    But I agree, this one wasn’t his magnum opus.

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