Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7917 / Anarche

Posted by duncanshiell on February 29th, 2012


This is the first crossword I have blogged by Anarche.  I thought I might have blogged some of her crosswords under the name Arachne in The Guardian, but I don’t seem to have done any of those either.

However, I have certainly solved a number by Anarche/Arachne and have enjoyed doing so.


Today’s puzzle comes with a strong date related theme – 29th February – traditionally the day when ladies make proposal of marriage.  According to one internet source I found, it is believed this tradition was started in 5th century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. According to the legend, St. Patrick said the yearning females could propose on this one day in February during the leap year.   Another source says that according to English law, February 29th was ignored and had no legal status. People assumed that traditions would also have no status on that day. It was also reasoned that since the leap year day existed to fix a problem in the calendar, it could also be used to fix an old and unjust custom that only let men propose marriage. The first documentation of this practice dates back to 1288, when Scotland supposedly passed a law that allowed women to propose marriage to the man of their choice in that year. Tradition states they also made it law that any man who declined a proposal in a leap year must pay a fine. The fine could range from a kiss to payment for a silk dress or a pair of gloves.   Brewers Dioctionary of Phrase & Fable suggetss that ladies can propose on any day in a leap year.

Modern culture has probably reduced the implementation of these traditions, but the crossword world has never resisted the opportunity for a theme.

Mnay clues therefore relate to leap years, emotion, seduction, lovers, first mover opportunities for proposals, actual proposals, answers, partnerships, settling down together, vows, and marriages among other more nuanced allusions to love, proposals and marriage.  Similarly, a good number of the entries are strongly related to the thme, e.g. SOUL MATE, PROPOSAL, SETTLE DOWN, and BISSEXTILE.  I hope that answers such as BLACK WIDOW and ENTOMBS are not thematic.

Once the puzzle is complete, solvers should notice the top and bottom rows of unchecked letters spelling out


This was a puzzle that got more interesting as I blogged it and discovered an increasing number of thematic references.

There was a good balance of clues with a mix of additive, container and contents, anagrams, reversals and selecting letters.  The parsing of YORKTOWN held me up for a time. (Unfortunately the American Civil War battle did not take place on 29th February,  or even in a leap year [late April early May 1862])

No. Clue Wordplay Entry
8 Salome? Not, you ultimately suspect, the perfect partner (4,4) Anagram of (suspect) SALOME and TU (the final letters [ultimately] of NOT and YOU)

SOUL MATE (a person to whom one is deeply emotionally or spiritually attached; perfect partner)

9 Remove casings from lock, pull and push, and make eye-like opening (6) Exclude the first and last letters (remove casings) from each of LOCK PULL and PUSH OCULUS (a round window; eye-like opening. OCULUS is also the Latin word for eye)
10 Hardy female stresses regular scrubbings (4) Exclude [scrub] the odd numbered letters [regularly] from STRESSES TESS (title character of Thomas Hardy’s novel TESS of the d’Urbervilles)
11 Web developer’s unhappy with marriage vow and wife (5,5) BLACK (bad-tempered; angry; unhappy) + W (with) + I DO (marriage vow) + W (wife) BLACK WIDOW ([venomous] spider; web developer)
12 Finally having scope to make the first move(6) G (last letter (finally) of HAVING) + AMBIT (scope) GAMBIT (an initial move in any strategy or battle of wits)
14 Strut round, getting girl’s offer of marriage (8) PROP (strut) + O (round) + SAL (girl’s name) PROPOSAL (offer of marriage)
15 Old boy endures retirement with Player’s No 6, small canine and extremely hot soup (7) OB (old boy) reversed (endures retirement) + R (sixth letter of [No 6] PLAYER‘S) + S (small [in Collins and The Shorter Oxford, but not in Chambers or Chambers 21st century that I can see]) +  C (canine [dental term]) + HT (first and last letters of [extremely] HOT) BORSCHT (Russian and Polish beetroot soup)
17 Sent mob to blow up sepulchres (7) Anagram of (to blow up) SENT MOB ENTOMBS (sepulchres [as a verb])
20 Never, ever salaciously describe misfortune! (8) Hidden word in (describe) NEVER EVER SALACIOUSLY REVERSAL (misfortune)
22 Date lad who always goes home to bed (3,3) DAY (time; date) + BOY (lad) DAY BOY (a boy who attends a boarding school during school hours but lives at home; one who always goes home to bed)
23 Two nestled together prepared to do this? (6,4) Anagram of ([together] prepared) TWO NESTLED SETTLE DOWN (two people nestled together may be prepared to SETTLE DOWN)  I think ‘together’ probably goes better with SETTLE DOWN rather than suggesting that TWO NESTLED should be anagrammed together
24 Possessions essentially taken to be objects of worship (4) GOODS (possessions) excluding the middle letter (essentially taken) O GODS (objects of worship)
25 Kind of acid mostly found in kernels (6)

NUCLEIC (NUCLEIC ACID is a general term for a natural polymer (which can be single- or double-stranded) in which bases (purines or pyrimidines) are attached to a sugar phosphate backbone) excluding the final letter (mostly) C

NUCLEI (kernels)
26 Romeo’s beginning to go terribly pale in vault (8) LOVER (Romeo was the LOVER of Juliet) excluding the first letter (beginning to go) L + an anagram of (terribly) PALE

OVERLEAP (vault)

1 Many uplifting books are read at medium speed (8) M (thousand or million; many) + (OT [Old Testament; books] + ARE + DO [read {at university} as in I am doing Mathematics at Edinburgh University {I am reading Mathematics at Edinburgh University}] reversed [uplifting]) MODERATO (at medium speed)
2 Otherwise known as ‘missing individual’, sadly (4) ALIAS (otherwise known as) excluding (missing) I (one; individual) ALAS (sadly)
3 Join rear admiral and bishop in punt(6) RA (Rear Admiral) + B (bishop [in chess]) + BET (punt) RABBET (a groove cut to receive an edge; items can be joined by a RABBET)
4 Makes improvements to her technique at last and seduces men (7) RE (final letters [at last] of HER and TECHNIQUE) + VAMPS (seduces) REVAMPS (makes improvements to)
5 Man surrounded by noise in far-off Civil War battle (8)

(KT [man {in chess}] contained in [surrounded by] ROW [noise]) all contained in (in) YON (yonder; far-off)  I spent some time trying to link OR [other ranks] to ‘man’ before seeing the more sensible parsing

YO (R (KT) OW) N

YORKTOWN (scene of battle in the American Civil War)
6 Smug, oily bastard accepting firm, sound discipline (10) Anagram of (bastard) SMUG OILY containing (accepting) CO (company; firm)

MUSICOLOGY (academic study of music in its historical, scientific and other aspects; sound discipline)

7 Heartless user finding love with old man under English moon (6) E (English) + UR (first and last letters only [heartless] of USER) + O (love[zero score at tennis]) + PA (old man) EUROPA (moon of Jupiter)
13 Relative’s reactionary steps to restrain former partner in leap year (10) SIB (brother or sister; relative) reversed (reactionary)  + (STILE [steps] containing [to restrain] EX [former partner]) BISSEXTILE (leap year).  
16 This year could produce emotional meltdown (8) Anagram of (could produce) THIS YEAR

HYSTERIA (a psychoneurosis with general features being an extreme degree of emotional instability and an intense craving for affection; emotional meltdown)

18 Really supportive of dame in theatrical drag (8) BROAD (woman; dame) + WAY (really, as in the slang phrase ‘way good’)  As this is a down clue WAY is supporting BROAD BROADWAY (street in New York with many theatres; the main drag is[a mainly American term] for the main street in a town, hence ‘theatrical drag’)
19 Coppola production which is sweetly intoxicating (7) Anagram of (production) COPPOLA

ALCOPOP (a drink containing alcohol but packaged and tasting like a soft drink; sweetly intoxicating [drink])

21 Initally extraordinary year especially for unmarried lady who’s a beauty! (6) First letters of (initially) EXTRAORDINARY YEAR ESPECIALLY FOR UNMARRIED LADY EYEFUL (something worth looking at, e.g. a beautiful lady)
22 Back in Eden nudists were importunate (6) Hidden word reversed in (back in) EDEN NUDISTS DUNNED (importuned for payment; importunate)
24 Young woman needs answer to be fair (4)

GAL (dialect for girl; young lady) + A (answer)

GALA (festivity; fair)

19 Responses to “Independent 7917 / Anarche”

  1. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Duncan. I’m sure you’ll be thinking your wait was worthwhile. ;-)

    Seeing the Web Developer’s name on this puzzle – today – promised something special – and it didn’t disappoint. I can’t remember an Anarche / Arachne puzzle I haven’t enjoyed and this, again, was a delight.

    I’m often guilty of saying ‘ … too many great clues to mention’, then mentioning half a dozen or more – but today I shall resist. Huge thanks, Anarche, for another brilliant puzzle – and a Happy Leap Day!

  2. Kathryn's Dad says:

    A romantic message from Spider Towers – how sweet! You can’t say the Indy isn’t topical – Oscars on Monday, Leap Day today; it’ll be all things Welsh tomorrow no doubt …

    This was a delightful puzzle, and one where just when I was getting a bit stuck, I twigged the message in the top and bottom rows, which helped me to finish. DUNNED and RABBET I’d never heard of, but they were pretty clearly indicated. BISSEXTILE was a write-in if you speak French, because the French nicked it from Latin and we nicked it from them. And I’ve only just stopped smirking at the surface of 6dn. I somehow think that the setter wouldn’t have got away with that in Another Place, where they are much too genteel for that kind of language.

    Many thanks to setter and blogger.

  3. Ian W. says:

    All very well, but a knight in chess is N — to avoid confusion with king (K). I see, however, that Kt is an archaic notation. Interfered with my cracking of 5d, though.

  4. duncanshiell says:

    Ian W @ 3

    I think I muddied the waters with my reference to KT (in the parsing of YORKTOWN) as an indication of a knight in chess. I think, in fact, Kt is simply an abbreviation for a Knight of the Realm as in Sir Somebody Worthy Kt.

  5. Ian W. says:

    Yes, but if Knight is clued as “man” it is clearly a chess reference (even though the human knights are all men too).

  6. eimi says:

    Collins has, under Kt

    1 Also: Knt
    abbreviation for knight

    2 symbol for (Chess) knight
    Also: N

  7. Thomas99 says:

    Just about perfect!

  8. nmsindy says:

    Yes, this was a very pleasing puzzle indeed with some excellent clues. Seeing the possibility of LEAP DAY in the bottom helped me fill the far SE corner. Seeing what might be in the top row took longer – I was stuck on all of 3, 4, 5 down and then the RRY possibility occurred and I was there pretty soon after that. As others have said, it was very impressive to fit so much thematic material in.
    Many thanks, Anarche, and Duncan for the blog which tidied up a few things I’d not completely understood. And, I’m sure it’s the first time the comment has ever been made that the battle of Yorktown did not take place in a leap year…

  9. crypticsue says:

    I agree with Thomas99 at 7 above. The perfect leap day puzzle. I particulary liked 11a – I know our lovely setter had trouble with Mr A on Valentine’s Day but surely she’s not contemplating the usual spidery outcome of that particular ‘relative’? :D

  10. Wanderer says:

    Magnificent. Beautiful treatment of the theme, and getting in a trademark spider and a Russian soup was the icing on the cake. MUSICOLOGY my favourite among a stellar set of clues. Hats off to Anarche and thanks to Duncan.

  11. Bertandjoyce says:

    We agree with the rest of you – a good puzzle and we enjoyed the theme. We needed to check bissextile – never heard it before. Didn’t spot the Nina though until the very end!
    Thanks Duncan and Anarche.

  12. Lenny says:

    This was lovely stuff from the world’s fastest female beer bottle. I have to admit that I rarely get Anarche’s puzzles completely correct. I often slip up on the trademark Russian word so I was grateful for Borscht today. I also was grateful for the clear wordplay for the words that were new to me: Yorktown, Oculus, Rabbet and Bissextile. I enjoyed the anagram of Coppola.

  13. Norman L in France says:

    Very nice puzzle, but I hope the Spiderlady won’t mind a slight shudder at the transliteration of 15. It could easily have taken another 2 or 3 consonants, but I can imagine clueing would have been more alphabet soup than beetroot.

  14. Anarche says:

    Many thanks, Duncan, for the comprehensive and highly informative blog. Thanks to everyone for your nice comments.

    crypticsue@9 – Mr A is watching his Ps and Qs particularly closely at the moment, I’m glad to say…

    Norman L in France @13 – you have no idea how much it pained me to use that spelling >:( Why we don’t use the correct Russian transliteration (‘borshch’), or even the Polish ‘barszcz’, is a mystery to me. The various horrible spellings in our dictionaries are neither fish nor fowl (if you see what I mean).

    Anyway, Happy Leap Day to all, and I hope there are no disappointed ladies or thunderstruck men out there…

    Love and hugs,

  15. Norman L in France says:

    I shuddered, so you must have at least winced:-). Delicious however you spell it, though.

  16. Thomas99 says:

    I think borscht is a transliteration of Yiddish word for the soup (possibly not actually identical to the Russian soup), and that’s perhaps the word (and the recipe) that got to Britain first.

  17. Anarche says:

    @Thomas99 – food for thought (sorry). Didn’t know it was also in Yiddish, but that would certainly explain something that’s puzzled me for years. Thanks!

  18. flashling says:

    Enjoyed this, well I would marry you Anarche, legal technicalities aside. my only problem being the spider/web references, this not by arachne but by anarche, ok those “in the know” will understand the spider/web/weaving references or that the setter is female (no doubt there!)

    Anyway another great blog from Duncan and a brilliantly made puzzle thanks Anarche. re Borscht well transliterations are always a complete mess/nightmare.

  19. Wil Ransome says:

    Excellent puzzle and I echo the words of praise that have been flowing.

    One quibble though: a gambit is (or at any rate in chess this is the case) surely not so much a first move as a trick to unseat the opponent, which can appear at any point, not necessarily at the very beginning. There is for example the King’s Gambit, which is a gambit at the start of the game, but one can also gambit material at any point in the game. I believe it is related to the French ‘jambe’ and is to do with tripping the opponent up.

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