Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7898 / Phi

Posted by duncanshiell on February 7th, 2012


I don’t think Phi is seen all that often on a Tuesday, but I enjoy solving his puzzles on any day.




Happy Birthday Charles! – 200 today.

It has been fairly difficult to escape the acres of newprint and hours of audio and visual media coverage of Dickens’ anniversary.  As Charles, his works and his characters feature as a theme of many crosswords in years when there isn’t an anniversary I thought there was little doubt that he would feature strongly in puzzles today. Having said that though, on a quick glance through The Guardian, Financial Times and Times puzzles, I can’t see any reference to him there. I don’t have easy access to The Telegraph.

With theme crosswords based on the works of an individual, I find it useful to prepare a list of possibilities once I have deduced the individual.  Literature is not my strong point, but even I was able to deduce the books and characters involved today.

This puzzle provided a good opportunity for Phi to produce quite complex clue constructions for the longer answers.  I think that CHARLES DICKENS himself at 7 27 and LITTLE DORRIT at 12 21 were the most complex in their builds.

Two words were new to me today – PINOCLE and HUFFAM but both were easily solvable from the wordplay.

No doubt there are many more anniversaries to be celebrated in crosswords in the coming months and years.


No. Clue Wordplay Entry
7/27 English novelists’s cleaner: Balzac’s singular article is nauseating about Germany (7,7)

CHAR (cleaner) + LE (singular definite article in French [Balzac was French]) + (SICKENS [is nauseating] containing [about] D [Deutschland; International Vehicle Registration for Germany])


CHARLES DICKENS (English novelist and birthday boy)
8 No clubs in heap in card game (7)

(NO + C [clubs, in cards]) contained in (in) PILE (heap)


PINOCLE (a card game like bezique)
10 River in dark (awfully dark)? One gets soaked (8)

(R [river] contained in [in] DUN [dingy; dusky; dark]) + an anagram of (awfully) DARK


DRUNKARD (one who gets soaked [one who drinks to excess])
11 Aggrieved feeling provided by a male name of 7 27 (6) HUFF (a fit of sulks; aggrieved feeling) + A + M (male) HUFFAM (to give our celebrated author his full name, he is CHARLES JOHN HUFFAM DICKENS)
12/21 Work of 7 27, first of tales conveyed in literary gold – start to read it (6,6)

(T [first letter of [first of] TALES + LED [conveyed]) contained in (LIT [literary] + OR [gold]) + R (first letter of [start to] READ) + IT


14 Area in the main I tell lies about, dismissing monarch (6) I + SLANDER (tell lies about) excluding (dismissing) ER (Elizabeth Regina; monarch) ISLAND (area in the main [sea])
16 Threaten one politician with termination (6) I (one) + MP (Member of Parliament; politician) + END (termination) IMPEND (threaten)
18 Fool elected to keep Government grant (6)

ASS (fool) + (IN [elected] containing [to keep] G [government])


ASSIGN (grant)
20 Tradesman’s company held back by monarchs (6)

CO (company) reversed [back] contained in (held .. by) (GR [Georgius Rex; monarch] + ER [monarch], giving monarchs)


GROCER (tradesman)
23 Suitable for dieting women in pub (3-3)

W (women) contained in LOCAL (one’s nearest public bar; pub)


LOW-CAL (low calorie [food, suitable for dieting].  Regrettably, low calorie sometimes accompanies low taste)
24 Leave behind, not in regular team colours (8) OUT STRIP (the strip [team colours] for wearing when playing away from home [?]  I’ve usually only heard this as AWAY STRIP.  Football teams seem to change their away strip with monotonous regularity as a way of encouraging supporters [and their children] to invest in new kit each year and swell the clubs’ coffers) Afternote: as Phi says at comment 2 below, I am over complicating this by waffling on about away strips. OUT is simply clued as ‘not in’. OUTSTRIP (leave behind)
26 Attribute displayed by bone in gruesome case (7)

RIB (bone) contained in (in) an anagram of (gruesome) CASE


ASCRIBE (attribute [as a verb])
1 One wild girl; embraced by old politician in giddying affair (9)

(I [one] + an anagram of [wild] GIRL) contained in (embraced by) WHIG (a name applied to members of one of the great English political parties, in the late 17c applied to those upholding popular rights and opposed to the King; after 1830 almost superseded by ‘Liberal'; old politician)


WHIRLIGIG (any device that revolves rapidly; giddying affair)
2 A lot of hard work to get a smile (4) GRIND (hard work excluding the last letter [leaving a lot of the word] D) GRIN (smile)
3 Calm, not standing, Duke shifting position (6)

SEATED (not standing) with the D (duke) moving from the end [shifting position] to between letters 2 and 3


SEDATE (calm)
4/17 I’ll banish Cockney possibly from work by 7 27 (8,8) Anagram of (possibly) I’LL BANISH COCKNEY NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (hero of the work by CHARLES DICKENS [7 27], The Life and Adventures of NICHOLAS NICKLEBY))
5 _________ groaned if upset about canine? (3-7) Anagram of (upset) IF GROANED containing (about) C (canine [in dentistry]) DOG FANCIER (he/she would groan if upset about a canine [dog])
6/22 7 27’s book, book with unauthorised info initially had zero purpose (5,5) B (book) + LEAK (unauthorised information) + H (first letter of [initially] HAD) + O [zero] + USE (purpose) BLEAK HOUSE (another work by the prolific Mr DICKENS [7 27])
9/19 7 27 hero did wonder excitedly about love (5,5) Anagram of (excitedly) DID WONDER containing O (love [in tennis]) EDWIN DROOD (the eponymous hero of the Mystery of EDWIN DROOD, the final work of CHARLES DICKENS [7 27].  The book was unfinished at the time of DICKENS‘ death in 1870)

What you might do with audio equipment’s narrow electronic flex? (4-6)

TAPER (become gradually smaller towards one end; narrow) + E (electronic) + CORD (flex) TAPE-RECORD (what you might do with [appropriate] electronic equipment)

Beginning incorporated one baked item not without filling (9)

INC (incorporated) + I (one) + PIE (baked item) + NT (NOT excluding the middle letter [without filling] O) INCIPIENT (beginning)
21 Hang on to timetable information amidst clamour (6)

ETA (estimated time of arrival; timetable information) contained in (amidst) DIN (clamour)


DETAIN (hang on to)
25 Accept bet, though not at first (4) STAKE (deposit as  a wager; bet) excluding the first letter (not at first) S TAKE (accept)

11 Responses to “Independent 7898 / Phi”

  1. Phi says:

    Who passes by this road so late? Me, I suppose (the first sentence is from from 12,21, btw, though I’ve saved 6,22 for the bicentenary. And, OK, yes, it’s early for you).

    This was a quick look at CD’s penchant for names and titles that could be enumerated, like himself, as (X,X). (You could add (Our) Mutual Friend & Dombey andSon to the list if you like your mustard more tentatively cut.)

    I think you strain too hard at 24, where ‘out’ simply comes from ‘not in’.

  2. duncanshiell says:


    Thanks for the comments – I hadn’t noticed that all the thematic answers were of the form (x,x).

    As regards 24, there is usually at least one clue in every blog where I tend to over complicate the parsing – clearly 24a is today’s occurence. I’ll update the blog.

    When I first read your comment, I thought you were referring to a sentence in the clue when you said it came from Little Dorrit, so I typed ‘tales conveyed in literary gold’ into Google and was impressed when the first suggestion it offered was this blog, published less than an hour before my query. I realise now that it is the sentence ‘Who passes by this road so late?’ that comes from Little Dorrit (Book II, Chapter 22 according to Google).

  3. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you Duncan and Phi.

    As you say, Duncan, there has been a good deal of coverage of the Dickens’ bicentenary, so having had a brief glance at the clues, it was odds-on what the gateway clue was going to be. That said, some of the other references took a while for me to work out, but that’s because I’m not a huge Dickens fan (too much gloom and Victorian doom – give me Thomas Hardy any day).

    An enjoyable, timely puzzle, with WHIRLIGIG my favourite today for its surface.

  4. eimi says:

    Wonderful blog, Duncan, as ever.

    I hope Gaufrid might think it’s fair enough to make this literary corner today and I should put my cards on the table and say that I love Dickens and the humour far outweighs the doom and moralising. If it’s doom and gloom you’re after, K’s D, you can’t really beat Hardy in Jude the Obscure.

  5. Paul B says:

    Or indeed any early doom metallist, though Bram Stoker was much more fun. Great work from Dunks again, and lovely stuff from Phi.

  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Well, we can migrate into General Discussion if this blog becomes too much of a literary corner, I guess. Dickens is clearly one of the greatest writers in the English language and that’s rightly why we’re celebrating his anniversary today (even Chas’n’Cam are taking part, apparently). I never got much into Dickens when I was younger, whereas I’d read most of Hardy’s novels by the time I was twenty. Then you get exposed to Dickens through films and musicals, which I suppose doesn’t really give you an indication of the craftsmanship of the written word.

    You’re right about Jude, eimi. Although Tess burying Sorrow the Undesired in the ‘shabby corner of God’s allotment’ comes close.

  7. NealH says:

    I’m no expert on Hardy, but as far as I know, nearly all of his novels have depressing endings, so I struggle to see how anyone can find him uplifting.

    I did my best to sabotage what was a fairly easy puzzle by not bothering to parse the anagram for 9, 19 and writing in Edwin Drude. That had me really puzzled over 24 until I realized my mistake. I was quite pleased to get Huffam just from the wordplay.

  8. Bertandjoyce says:

    Bert is two thirds of the way through David Copperfield which he only reads when he has insomnia. It’s an enjoyable cure apparently as he started at least 2 years ago.
    Good crossword, better than Punk yesterday we thought. Only a smattering of knowledge of the theme needed thank goodness – unlike Phi’s recent philosophical prize crossword. Thanks Phi for a good solve.
    Excellent detailed blog – thanks Duncan.

  9. Wil Ransome says:

    Duncan you say there is no reference to him in The Times, but there is, though you have to solve a difficult puzzle first.

  10. Phi says:

    Hardy, I think it was, who darkened the ending of one of his novels because it was too cheerful, leading one of the critics to throw it across the room because of the perverse way the author had steered it to the dark side. Two on a Tower, I think it was. I’ve been through most of Hardy as well, and give me Dickens any day! The sheer energy of the language carries the day for me.

    I will grant that Jude the O gave me one of the best apprehensive moments in fiction, on the page before Little Father Time’s culminating act. I knew something was coming but I never imagined that!

  11. eimi says:

    I never imagined that either. It’s the most shocking thing I’ve read. I suppose we ought to get back to crosswords (or football) before the posse arrives.

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