Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7955 / Phi

Posted by duncanshiell on April 13th, 2012


If it’s Friday it’s usually Phi and so it is today.




I found this a bit tougher than some Phis that I have solved recently, but the parsing was very clear.  There seemed to be a French and chess theme running through the clues and the entries.  The links to France include Le Monde, COMMENT, BONBONAMI DE COUR, TOGO and  MALGRÉ LUI.  On the chess side, the words man, men and pieces occur quite often in the clues, but that might just be coincidence.

It was good to see some scientific and leisure references – RELIEF MAP, ALCOCK, YTTERBIUM, KRYPTON and NINE MEN’S MORRIS, for example, balancing the language and classical references.

For AMI DE COUR and MALGRÉ LUI I felt the cluing was fair, although I had to check the phrases I deduced in the dictionary to ensure that I had the right answers.  Any language talents I have tend towards the use of computer languages.

No. Clue Wordplay Entry
1 Scoff at ebbing of substantial energy (4)

BIG (substantial) reversed (ebbing) + E (energy)


GIBE (scoff)
3 One objection about new and untidy common (8)

(A + BUT [objection]) containing (about) (N [new] + an anagram of [untidy] AND)


ABUNDANT (ample sufficiency; plentiful; common)
10 Stress ultimately ascribable to men? (9,6) MASCULINE (ascribable to men) + ENDING (ultimately)

MASCULINE ENDING (a stressed syllable at the end of a line; stress)

11 Article penned by politician behind Government aid? It shows high and low points (6,3)

RELIEF (actions or goods which relieve or mitigate; aid in danger, esp deliverance from siege; assistance to the poor; form of aid often provided by Governments) + (A [indefinite article] contained in [penned by] MP [Member of Parliament; politician])


RELIEF MAP (a map which shows one or more of contours, elevation shading, spot heights or physical depiction of topography as shaped plastic; a map that shows highs and lows)
12 Pieces encapsulating one’s attitude (4)

MEN ([chess]pieces) containing (encapsulating) I (one)

M (I) EN

MIEN (an air or look, manner, bearing; attitude)

13 Leader writer’s forte? How suitable for Le Monde (7) COMMENT (‘how’ in French; Le Monde is a leading French newspaper) COMMENT (leader writers write the main editorial (opinion piece) in newpapers, usually reflecting the political views of the particular media’s ownership)
15 Aristocrats turning sweet (6) (NOB [aristocrat] + NOB [aristocrat, again], giving aristocrats) reversed (turning) BONBON (sweet)
17 Early aviator caught in a fix (6)

C (caught [in cricket scoring]) contained in (in) (A + LOCK [a fix])


ALCOCK (reference Sir John William ALCOCK KBE DSC [1892-1919] was a Captain in the Royal Air Force who, together with navigator Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight from St John’s Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemarra, Ireland; early aviator)

19 Fish: morning target for hunter beside lake (7) L (lake) + AM (ante-meridiem; morning) + PREY (target for hunter)

LAMPREY (a type of primitive fish-like vertebrate or cyclostome which fixes itself to the fish it preys on and to stones, etc by its sucking mouth; fish)

20 Concern with Cuba leaving American region (4)

CARE (concern) excluding (with … leaving) C (International Vehicle Registration for Cuba) + A (American)


AREA (region)
21 Metal used to form my tribute? (9) Anagram of (used to form) MY TRIBUTE

YTTERBIUM (a metallic element (symbol Yb; atomic no 70), a member of the rare-earth group; the name originally given to a substance later shown to consist of a mixture of this and lutetium; metal)

24 Established camp, one I’d arranged, hoping for the best (4,11)

WELL IN (established) + TENT (camp, as a verb) + anagram of (arranged) ONE I’D


WELL INTENTIONED (meaning well; hoping for the best)
25 Moving part bringing in no gain at work (8)

PT (part) containing (bringing in) an anagram of (at work) NO GAIN


POIGNANT (moving)
26 Supermarket line curtailed cereal (4)

BRAND (a trademark, tradename, design, etc by which a product or group of products is identified; [possibly by the customer in a supermarket]; supermarket line) excluding the final letter (curtailed) D


BRAN (cereal)
1 Good? I’m expert! Rubbish! (8) G (good) + I’M + CRACK (expert) GIMCRACK (a worthless knick-knack; rubbish)

Account mostly about a special man (5)

BILL (written account of money owed) excluding the final letter L (mostly) containing (about) (A + S [special])


BASIL (man’s name)
4 Positive we turned up in outer region, looking up, specialist hostelry (7)

(P [positive] + WE) reversed (turned up; down clue) contained in (in) (BURB [short form of suburb [{outerregion}]) reversed (looking up).  I may have overcomplicated this with too many reversals. ‘Turned up in’ could be interpreted as a simple containment indicator for PWE in BURB, with the whole thing then being reversed in one go.

BR ([EW P]<) UB< or (BR (EW P) UB)<

BREWPUB (a combined pub and small-scale brewery, serving its own real ale; pecialist hostelry)

5 Game for what’s clearly an old estate car! (4,4,6) NINE MEN’S MORRIS (if the MORRIS [Oxford state car] has been owned by NINE MEN then it’s very likely to be an old estate.  On the other hand simply being a Morris makes it old as the marque hasn’t been manufactured since rhe early 1980s)

NINE MEN’S MORRIS (game as played with nine pieces each)

6 Primarily unreliable ‘comrade’ I fancy (3,2,4) Anagram of U (first letter of [primarily] UNRELIABLE) COMRADE and I

AMI DE COUR (a court friend; an insincere friend; an untrunreliable friend)

7 African country for the taking? (4)

TO GO (of food or drink from a restaurant or cafe to be consumed off the premises; for the taking)

TOGO (country of West Africa, bordered by Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin)
8 Organise troupe on tour, doing more than required (14) Anagram of (on tour) ORGANISE TROUPE SUPEREROGATION (doing more than is required)
9 Expression of affection mostly encountered in Broadway musical (6) KISS (caress or greet by touching lips; expression of affection) excluding the final letter S (mostly) + MET (encountered) KISMET (musical first produced on Broadway in 1953)
14 Money, I’ll argue is distributed willy-nilly (6,3) Anagram of (is distributed) M (money) and I’LL ARGUE MALGRÉ LUI (willy-nilly)
16 My fielding position’s about right – I’ll do as the captain says (8)

(MY + MID-ON [fielding position in cricket]) containing (about) R (right)


MYRMIDON (someone who carries out another’s orders without fear or pity)

18 Point in New York supplied with gas (7)

PT (point) contained in (in) an anagram of (supplied, where supplied is being used as a derivative of supple [I think]) (N [new] and YORK)


KRYPTON (inert gaseous element)
19 Illuminated article on unknown form of prayer (6) LIT (illuminated) + ANY (one unspecified; unknown)

LITANY (an appointed form of responsive prayer in public worship in which the same thing is repeated several times)


Victor taking first…presumably scored better than this? (5)

WINNER (victor) excluding the first letter (taking first) W


INNER (one excepts the winner in a competition with a target to hit the bull or gold rather than just the inner ring)
23 Picked up chesspieces (not knight) to exchange (4)

PAWNS (chesspieces) excluding (not) N (chess notation for Knight) reversed (picked up; down clue)


SWAP (exchange)

16 Responses to “Independent 7955 / Phi”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Duncan. Well, with MYRMIDON, SUPEREROGATION and BREWPUB making appearances, I think Phi has been having a clear out of his Unusual Words Drawer this morning. Add to that two French phrases I’d never heard of (and I speak decent French) and you can imagine that I found this tough going.

    All fair, though, except that I can’t see how MALGRÉ LUI (which means ‘in spite of himself’) equates to ‘willy-nilly’, which, for me, means ‘haphazard’. However, it is early in the morning.

    BONBON was very good, and I liked ALCOCK too. Like you, I want there to be a French chess theme, but I can’t see anything.

    Merci to Phi for an entertaining puzzle.

  2. duncanshiell says:

    Kathryn’s Dad @ 2

    If it’s any comfort the full Chambers definition for MALGRÉ LUI is ‘etc in spite of his, my, etc efforts; willy-nilly.’ If you then go to WILLY-NILLY in Chambers you get ‘willing or unwilling, whether one wishes or not; compulsorily, inevitably; haphazardly’ so perhaps there is a link through not being in control of one’s actions?

  3. beermagnet says:

    Yttrium in the G and Ytterbium here! Is Friday 13th notable to the townsfolk of Ytterby?

  4. Phi says:

    Your version of 18 has a doubled ‘with’ – my original has “Point in New York supplied with nitrogen gas” which gives you pt in [anag. of York] + N. I haven’t checked online to see what’s there, I must admit.

    No real theme here – what you spot often just evolves, though as I clue a puzzle over several days, it’s always a bit of a surprise to find even apparent themes emerging. Odd word drawer: yes, I do have a list of slightly odd words, which I use to start off a grid, and yes, this was a grid started thus!

    I’d suggest WILLY-NILLY doesn’t really mean ‘haphazardly’ (after all, it comes from a phrase meaning ‘whether I want to or not’) but may be migrating there.

  5. nmsindy says:

    I enjoyed this, which I also found more difficult than Phi usually is. I was able to work out the answers I’d never heard of from the very clear wordplay. I too thought there must be some theme with all the unusual answers. I even toyed with the idea that all answers might be stressed at the end something like 10A might suggest. Many thanks, Phi, and Duncan – I’d say making a story using all those answers would be pretty hard. Favourite clue KRYPTON.

  6. flashling says:

    Interesting that Phi says he started with rare/obscure words rather than trying to find something to fit in grid mostly done, well yes I failed to finish this without help. Re Ami de cour, whilst I got the anagram out my fading memory mixed up in my head cour with coeur and I was pondering where hearts came into it!

  7. duncanshiell says:

    Phi @ 4

    Thanks for commenting. The second ‘with’ in the clue at 16d was a typo on my part, but the version I was working from, downloaded on Crossword Solver nearly a week ago, did not have ‘nitrogen’ in the clue. I have a print of that version in front of me now.

    I note however hat the versions available on Crossword Solver today and the version in the on-line Independent paper both have the word ‘nitrogen’ in the clue. I usually check that the version on Crossword Solver on the day of the puzzle is at least by the same compiler as the one I thought I was blogging, but I’ll have to look at every clue in future.

  8. Paul B says:

    Good puzzle, but I think it very, very, very naughty to clue recondite words or phrases with anagrams. Because: even where solvers identify the solving events correctly, and even where they have all the crossing letters, they may not be able to arrive at the required word(s). And that, as I’m sure some of us know, can be bloody annoying.

  9. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Evening Paul. That would be significantly more naughty than just very naughty, then, I guess? Actually, I’m not sure I really agree: if I know it’s an anagram, then once I’ve got my crossing letters I can look for letter patterns; certain combinations are more likely than others, and usually by a process of elimination you can get there. But I do agree with you that cryptics sometimes can be bloody annoying; but there is pleasure in overcoming annoyance sometimes, n’est-ce pas?

    Thanks to Duncan for elucidating MALGRÉ LUI for me and to Phi for dropping in.

  10. Phi says:

    Well, the odd word drawer will supply 2 or 3 at most (SUPER…, MYRMIDON here) and constraints may force others (AMI DU COUR). The drawer has words still in use (even if rarely) and which I think deserve an airing; constraints may not be so obliging!

    Not sure I agree entirely re anagrams and obscurities, though I’d acknowledge the awkward seesawing effect of not knowing which way the last pair of consonants or vowels fall in the unchecked letters. But with something like SUPER… with its affixes, an anagram is extremely effective once you have a few crosschecks.

  11. PeterO says:

    14D would be known (to some anyway) from Molière’s play Le Médecin malgré lui.

  12. PeterO says:

    Oops, pressed the wrong key. For what it’s worth, I think that 19D parses marginally better as

    LIT (‘illuminated’) + AN (‘article’) + Y (‘unknown’).

  13. Bertandjoyce says:

    Phew! One of us has been working today so started this rather late. It was certainly more difficult than we expect from Phi. It was interesting to find out that he started with the obscure words – the very words we had difficulty with. We are obviously not alone!
    However, all very fair and we managed to guess all the answers before using Chambers to check them.
    Thanks Phi and Duncan.

  14. Dormouse says:

    Indeed, very tough. I was out this evening and didn’t return to it until late. By midnight, having made little further progress I resorted to word searches, especially on the more obvious anagrams. Don’t think I’d have got many of the obscure ones otherwise, but with lots of e-help I was able to finish it.

  15. Paul B says:

    Well, I dunno. It seems to me that in a daily puzzle, unthemed, there’s no need to include recondite answers. If themed then yay, but keep them to an incredibly strict minimum. There are some who might disagree, Don among them (as I recall), but in a daily puzzle we are trying to entertain rather than ‘educate’ (whatever that means in a bloomin’ crossword puzzle).

  16. Allan_C says:

    Started late and didn’t get very far, but my subconscious must have been working on it overnight ‘cos I finished it this morning with no recourse to e-help, just the occasional check in the (dead tree) dictionary. Yes, tougher than the usual phi.
    I agree with Peter O’s parsing of 19d.

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