Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7,904 / Scorpion

Posted by RatkojaRiku on February 14th, 2012


For me at least, this puzzle took longer to solve than the average Scorpion, and I will need some input from fellow solvers to explain one or two clues.

Having seen the grid, I wondered if there would be a Nina around the perimeter, and given that today is Valentine’s Day, I also looked hard for a love-related theme: I found neither. However, a theme is provided by the high frequency of French words in the wordplay and the variety of ways in which they are alluded to, which I rather appreciated.

The clues that have partially stumped me are the wordplay at 19 and the definition at 24: help, please! I was wondering if there was an & lit. element to one or both of them. I am also not sure how the “and” in 11/15/12 is covered in the wordplay – thanks for input!

My clue of the day is 25A without a shadow of a doubt, for its clever construction around drugs and its smooth and wholly misleading surface.

*(…) indicates an anagram

6   ORIENT   RIEN (=nothing   from Claude, i.e. in French) in OT (=books, i.e. Old Testament); the   definition is “Eastern poetic”, since “orient” is an adjective meaning   eastern in poetry
8   AMBIENT   BIEN (=well   in Paris, i.e. in French) in <m>A<r>M<i>T<e> (“occasionally” here means alternate letters)
10   APPETITE   A + [PETIT (=Frenchman’s small, i.e. in French) in PE (=training)]
11/15/12   TONGUE AND GROOVE   TONGUE (=language) AND GROOVE (=channel); “and” would appear to be implicit in the wordplay; tongue-and-groove (hyphenated in Chambers) is a type of joint for boards in which a projection (tongue) of one is slotted in to a groove in the other;
13   GOD’S GIFT   GO (=travel) + DS (=surgeon, i.e. Doctor of Surgery)   + GI (=soldier) + FT (=foot); the definition is “bombshell”, i.e. stunningly attractive person and, by extension, someone greatly desired because of being perfect
16   T-BONE   BON (=good Provençal, i.e. in French) in T<yron>E (“outside” means first and last letters only)
18   ORE   Double definition: ORE is “deposit of mine”, i.e.   mineral AND “foreign money”, i.e. in Scandinavia, officially spelled öre or øre
19   HEADSPIN   Headspin is a move popular in breakdancing; see ideas for the wordplay below
21   CON MAN   CON MAN is a cryptic definition for right-winger   where con means conservative; a con man is a trickster, hence “who’s full of tricks”
23   MODEST   DES (=some (in) French) in MOT (=test, i.e. annual test of roadworthiness)
25   SCISSURE   [C (=Charlie, i.e. code word for letter “c” in radio telecommunications) in SIS (=relative, i.e. sister)] + [SUR (=Pierre’s on, i.e. in French) + E (=drug, i.e. Ecstasy)]; the definition is “crack”, as in cleft, fissure, rather than drug
26   GALLERY   ALLER (=Claude says, go, i.e. in French) in <ar>GY<le> (“essentially” means middle letters only)
27   GDANSK   G (=good) + DANS (=Roquefort’s in, i.e. in French) + K<itchen> (“far left of” means first letter only); the definition is “port”, in Poland
1   DRAPER   PAR (=mean, i.e. average) in RED (=wine); “when retired” indicates reversal; the definition is “material businessman”, i.e. cloth trader
2   RERECORDED   [ERE (=before) + CORD (=cable)] in RED (=rosy)
3   PACE   PA (=relative) + C<leavag>E; the definition is “rate” as a noun, i.e. speed.
4   ABATED   <r>ABAT (=Moroccan place; “ignoring starter” means first letter is dropped) + ED (=editor)
5   KEEN   <audienc>E   (“finale for” means last letter only) in KEN (=Dodd, i.e. the British comedian)
7   TRIDENT   RID (=cleansed) in TENT (=when camping, i.e. “in tent”)
9   TRUFFLE   <patien>T   (“latest” means last letter only) + RUFFLE (=upset, as a verb)
13   GROIN   ROI (=Louis XVI, say; i.e. French for king) in <co>GN<ac> (“essentially” means middle letters only)
14   GROUNDSMAN   GROUND (=had a scrape, i.e. from verb to grind) + [M (=motorway) in SAN (=hospital, i.e. sanatorium)]; the definition is “chap with roller”, e.g. at a cricket ground
15   AGE-LONG   <sham>E (“ending” means last letter only) in *(GAOL) + NG (=no good); “sadly” is anagram indicator
17   ETCHING   <f>ETCHING (=selling for; “fellow (=F)’s thrown” means the letter “f” is dropped)
20   PETREL   ETRE (=from Chamonix to be, i.e. in French) in PL (<a>LP<s>; “central” means middle letters only; “climbing” indicates vertical reversal)
22   AT REST   A<round> (“initially” means first letter only) + TRES (=Alain’s very, i.e. in   French) + T (=tense, in grammar)
24   EELS   L<owland-dwellers> (“originally” means first letter only) in SEE (=Ely, i.e. diocese); “twisting and turning” indicates reversal; & lit. since Ely in Cambridgeshire is famous for eels, a traditional feature of the local cuisine
25   STYX   Homophone (“reported”) of “sticks” (=country), as in to live in the sticks


18 Responses to “Independent 7,904 / Scorpion”

  1. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks – I enjoyed this.
    I think 24 is an &lit. Ely was famous as a source, naturally and commercially, of Eels, hence its name. Excellent clue!

    I took 19 as a DD, though your comment has sown doubt…

  2. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks RatkojaRiku
    I read 19ac as a pun. When doing a headspin whilst breakdancing you might crack your nut (head).

  3. Lenny says:

    Thanks RR. I found this not-too-difficult as the French words were a bit of a giveaway. I think I might have been not so happy if the same exercise had been tried in German, say.

    I have to admit I had Eely at 24, from the presumed definition. Seeing that the answer is Eels, I imagine that it is L in SEE turning, with the whole thing being a semi&lit. It makes a change from See being used to define Ely.

  4. flashling says:

    Tres bien Scorpion, must admit headspin was a very tentative entry, and still don’t really get the cracker bit of it. Eels delayed me too, the word dwellers causing some doubt in my mind.

    Was a teensy bit surprised that no Valentine bits are present (except of course that the French are the greatest lovers :-) )

    Ta RR agree with you about 25a.

  5. nmsindy says:

    Thanks, Scorpion, and RatkojaRiku. As just happening through luck to be familiar with French, this turned out to be fairly easy but Scorpion very fairly stuck with words that I think would be well-known even to those not knowing much French. While it is a little unusual perhaps, I thought the ‘and’ in TONGUE AND GROOVE was implicit with the two words (language channel – which gave misleading context) appearing together. I guessed HEADSPIN without knowing why apart from nut = head.

  6. Bertandjoyce says:

    We had the same queries with19a and 24d. We think 19a is probably a pun as Gaufrid suggests but we are still not totally convinced about 24d as there is no reference (as far as we can see) to ‘see’ being reversed unless ‘twisting and turning’ is serving two purposes.
    Interesting use of french words although one of us doesn’t agree with flashling’s comment!
    Thanks RR and Scorpion.

  7. nmsindy says:

    I think B&J at #6 that the whole clue can be read as an &lit ie the whole clue defines EELS and also the whole clue gives the wordplay.

  8. flashling says:

    @B&J well twas a joke but there was this French girl I “knew” at university…
    Re headspin, it’s the cracker bit I just don’t get spin doesn’t mean crack and breakdancers put their head on the floor, where’s the crack bit, perhaps I’m being a bit dumb here

  9. Allan_C says:

    In 19a; someone who’d just had a blow on the head (= a crack on the nut) might complain their head was spinning. And as Gaufrid points out headspin is a move in breakdancing – see – also, the clue does have a question mark at the end.

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, RatkojaRiku and Scorpion. I liked this very much, with most of it falling out steadily and only the last few holding me up (same old, same old …) The French theme became apparent early, which helped. TRUFFLE had a good surface, and I liked GROIN as well. I took HEADSPIN as Allan has described.

    I think I’d go so far as to say that French can be a romantic language, but as for the best lovers … I’m with either B or J.

  11. Paul B says:

    Twisting and turning lowland-dwellers originally inhabiting Ely? (4) EE(L)S <

    does seem to be taking the form of an &lit, since 'twisting and turning' doesn't define and is in the wrong part of speech for EELS, plus there ain't no definition otherwise. If so then 'twisting and turning' has to be the reversal indicator, which (although obviously modified to help with the sense) might not be the purist's cup of tea, with Ely DBE for SEE (the fact that Ely usually signifies, or has come to signify SEE helps a lot with that, of course).

    There is a debate, apparently, about the place-name Ely, within which one camp thinks the word derives from EEL. I don't know whether that helps or hinders the clue to be honest, but Ely itself is actually high (85 feet) compared to the surrounding low land.

  12. Pierre says:

    Bien, évidemment this was going to be right up ma rue. I agree with K’sD about the puzzle, but just wanted to add that I have instructed my legal team to pursue Scorpion over the wholly unfounded and scurrilous suggestion in the surface of 25ac.

  13. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks to one and all for the explanations: we live and learn! I certainly had never heard of any association between “Ely” and “eels” until today.

    I’m still not sure about 19: perhaps Scorpion will drop in later and enlighten us? That clue really has made our heads spin today 😉

  14. Paul B says:

    I think a ‘nutcracker’, in the world of Scorpion, is a heads, or head’s pin, where the pin (a club) is of a rolling variety. In comes Scorpion, the worse for wear, and up jumps the missus with the old rolling pin to give him one round the ears for his trouble.


  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Maybe I’m being overly naive, but for me the HEADSPIN clue simply works with definition = dance move, and it’s a dance move that could possibly (question mark) crack your ‘nut’ or head because you’re spinning around on your head on a solid surface. Anyway, it worked for me.

  16. NealH says:

    I find Scorpion’s clues don’t have quite the precision of compilers like Dac and Quixote, which makes it quite tricky sometimes. Examples here were 17, 25 and of course 19. In 17, what exactly is the ellipsis for? That had me thinking for ages that the answer was going to be ellipse or elipsis or some variant form of the word. For 25, I wasn’t convinced about while as a linking word between the two parts of the charade – I was tending to think that it was a containment indicator. For 24, my thought was that it was an &lit because Ely would at one time have been underwater and hence the home of eels. As I understand it, most of that area is land reclaimed from the sea.

  17. nmsindy says:

    On #16, re 17D, my guess is that the ellipsis was intended as a slight misdirection esp as it wasn’t followed by the usual ellipsis in the following clue.

    I think it’s meant to mean “selling for (how much it did sell for)” ie “fetching” which would in that context normally be followed by an amount of money.

  18. pennes says:

    Well I’d not finished a Scorpion before in 3 years of doing the indy, so I liked this for that reason, and also because I have at least one cycle tour in France each year. I thought 13 ac was the only iffy clue as I usually come across god’s gift as in “god’s gift to women” , a fellow who rather fancies himself as a ladies’ man, but presumably it has a wider context.

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