Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 7972 / Morph

Posted by Bertandjoyce on May 3rd, 2012


A good Thursday work-out from Morph with some topical references, excellent surface readings and great attention to detail (see 5d). 23a and 25a are new to us but they were readily solvable from the wordplay. The references to the present Government in 1a and 10a brought a smile to our faces.


While solving, we thought it might be heading for a pangram, but unfortunately, there’s no J. We sometimes wonder whether setters set out to compile a pangram puzzle and give up if the inclusion of one or more of the less frequently used letters would spoil other potential answers, or whether pangrams come about almost by accident.

1 FRANCISCAN This was our COD and relates to Francis Maude who was side-lined by the Government recently after he had advised people to store petrol in jerrycans to prepare for a possible fuel strike. FRANCIS + CAN (fuel container) = a Franciscan monk could be described as being under orders
6 SPAM PA (old man) inside (or ‘into’) SM (as in sadomasochism or kinky sex!) = unwelcome items or approaches in your inbox
10 ALIVE AND KICKING Anagram of DAVE and NICK (anagrind is ‘worked together’) in A (absolute) LIKING (affection) = animated. Great surface reading with another reference to the Government
11 RAISE HELL Anagram of ALE and RELISH (anagrind is ‘swilling’) = cause trouble
12 USAGE (p)EGASU(s) (‘fantastic horse’ with ‘outsiders’ or first and last letters ‘seen off’ or omitted) reversed (‘back’) = practice
13 NAUSEA NAU(tical) (‘almost half of sailors’ – ‘nautical’ can mean ‘relating to sailors’) + SEA = sickness.
15 ENABLE Former England manager Terry (v)ENABLE(s) without the first and last letters or ‘dispensing with wingers’ = authorise
18 TRAINS T (temperature) + RAINS (falls) = works out
19 ENZYME Hidden (‘uncovered’) in (fr)ENZY ME(at) = catalyst in feeding
22 RECUR Hidden in (‘some of the collected letters of’) (Pier)RE CUR(ie) = come back to one’s mind
23 AQUABATICS Anagram of ACQUIT A (anagrind is ‘criminal’) around (‘holding’) BA (qualification) = synchronised swimming
25 PORTMANTEAU WORD PORTMAN (Natalie – American / Israeli actress) + anagram of DUE TO WAR (anagrind is ‘scrapped’) = ‘biopic’ is an example of a portmanteau word, a new term for us, but apparently coined by Lewis Carroll when one word is made up by combining parts of two others – e.g. ‘slithy’ from ‘lithe’ and ‘slimy’
26 PEAK (s)PEAK (‘voice’ without the ‘s’ for soprano) = high
22 SYCOPHANCY Sounds like (articulating) ‘sicker fancy’ (more deviant desire) = excessive submissiveness
1 FLAGRANT FLAG (mark) + RANT (diatribe) = outrageous
2 ALIBI Anagram of BALI (anagrind is ‘fantastic’) around (‘captivates’) I (one) = ‘not having been there’ – a slightly dubious definition we thought, although an alibi is used at proof of not being present at an event, so perhaps it’s okay
3 CRÈME DE LA CRÈME MERC (car) reversed (‘upwardly mobile’) + E (type of Jaguar) repeated (‘more than once’) around (‘involving’) an anagram of DEAL (anagrind is ‘dodgy’) = elite
4 SUNSET SUN (tabloid – glad it wasn’t described as a newspaper!) + SET (lot) = star not in the ascendant at this time
5 ALKALINE (w)ALK A LINE (‘way to emulate Johnny Cash’, referring to his song ‘I Walk The Line’, without (‘leaving’) ‘w’ (wife)) = basic. Initially, we weren’t sure about the need for ‘indefinitely’ in the clue, as, according to our research (we’re not fans of his), although Johnny Cash was unfaithful to his first wife, she divorced him (not the other way round) and his second wife died before he did. However, we then realised that the word is included to signal the change from the definite article in the song title to the indefinite article in the answer – a really artful piece of clueing which also improves the surface reading.
7 PHILATELY PHI (Greek letter) + LATELY (recently) = ‘collecting small items that may grow in value’ – i.e. stamps
8 MAGNET GAM (pod) reversed (‘uploaded’) + NET (cast item) = something that attracts. Good misdirection by combining ‘pod’ and ‘cast’
9 SCRUBBING BRUSH BING (search site – as in internet search engine – not one we’d heard of before) between SCRUB and BRUSH (areas of vegetation) = it’s used to clean
14 URTICARIA Anagram of ACT I RU(e) (‘failing to finish” – anagrind is ‘foolish’) + AIR (wind) reversed (‘getting the wind up’) = rash
16 UNGAINLY UNGA (United Nations General Assembly or ‘meeting of world ambassadors’) + INL(a)Y (‘embed’ without ‘a’ – American) = awkward
17 TEA CADDY CADDY (golfer’s assistant) under (‘bearing’) TEA (sounds like ‘tee’ or ‘what’s said to help golfer’ = source of refreshment
20 PROP UP PRO + PUP (a professional young dog may be ‘making money’ as opposed to being an amateur one) = give financial assistance. We think that the question mark at the end implies that the two parts of the clue are meant to be read together.
21 TUXEDO OUT (‘no longer in use’) around (‘taking’) DEX (slang term for Dexedrine or ‘speed’) all reversed (‘for a lift’) = DJ (dinner jacket)
24 THORN T (‘end’ or last letter of ‘hart’) + HORN (antler) = spike


15 Responses to “Independent 7972 / Morph”

  1. Miche says:

    Thanks, B&J.

    I had trouble with the parsing of 8d. Eventually came up with something to do with “uploading” meaning “putting on the NET” and “podcast” suggesting a reversal/anagram of GAM. But then I didn’t know what to do with “item.” I also didn’t spot the subtlety of “indefinitely” in 5d. Thanks for explaining.

    The definition in 2d is spot on. Chambers (emphasis mine):

    alibi /al?i-b?/
    The plea in a criminal charge of having been elsewhere at the relevant time
    The fact of being elsewhere
    An excuse for failure (informal)

  2. Michael Wolfers says:

    Simply loved 25ac – a really enjoyable puzzle, though I missed dex in 21d and responded just to shape.

  3. nmsindy says:

    Nice puzzle in the Morph style with topical political references. I thought the surface reading of 4D might be one also. Favourite clue PROP UP. Thanks B&J for the thorough blog which explains everything so well.

  4. crypticsue says:

    Lucky B&J to get to blog this super puzzle from Morph – puzzle of the day for me by a long way. D’oh of the day has to be 26a – I can’t tell you how long I spent looking at that one! Loved the whole thing especially the topical clues.

  5. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for the super blog, B&J. I agree with crypticsue – that was no short straw you drew but you certainly did it justice.

    Morph is a master of the witty, topical puzzles. Some commenters frown on them, for their ephemeral nature, but we’ve had some real gems. I shall never forget Morph’s puzzle based on the MPs’ expenses scandal, which was an absolute classic. I wish I’d framed it.

    Interestingly, there’s a 25ac in today’s Guardian Pasquale at 14ac – I don’t think that’s giving too much away ;-)

    Many thanks, Morph, as always.

  6. Bertandjoyce says:

    Thanks for all the comments so far. We solved the Pasquale puzzle this afternoon over a cup of tea and both smiled when we came across the example of 25a!
    Still smiling about 1a as well.
    Thanks again to Morph!

  7. Dormouse says:

    Thought I was going to get stuck on the bottom right corner, but they all finally came to me – without electronic help, I’m pleased to say, although I did have to look up 14d – I vaguely knew the word, but couldn’t remember how to spell it or just what it meant. Quite a few clues I was sure of the answer but couldn’t see why; 3d for instance. Just didn’t see Merc in there.

    25ac, as a long time Lewis Carroll fan I knew the term, but for a long time I thought it was going to something WOOD – wrong Natalie!

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Good blog, B&J, thank you both.

    Didn’t get to this till this evening, which is usually not a good idea since I am a morning person as far as crosswords are concerned. But it was a lot of fun – I always enjoy Morph because you’ll get some inventive clueing and some contemporary references. Plenty of smiles too – PROP UP was good and I also liked the surface for ALIVE AND KICKING. And a bit of footie as well.

    Confused by 22ac: because I came to the puzzle late in the day, I did it in the Indy i, where the clue is ‘It’s about God – dog’s return’. I was hoping someone would explain that, because I get the CUR bit, but not the rest.

    Fine puzzle from Morph. After his patriotic contribution last year on the date of Will’n’Kate’s nuptials, I expect eimi’s already booked him in for a Diamond Jubilee spectacular next month …

  9. Rorschach says:

    I’m confused too re: 22ac

    I’m guessing the clue is “it’s about God” as RE (Religious Ed) but I’m guessing Eimi baulked at it because RE isn’t all about monotheistic religions you know Morph!

    Seems as though he replaced it with a hidden clue though. There you go.

  10. Rorschach says:

    Great puzzle. Particularly enjoy the Johnny Cash clue, England Manager is clever, Bing (!) and 6ac.

  11. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Rorschach, that does explain it, and I agree with you about RE, which is more about, er, religion. Syllabuses (or is that syllabi?) tend to be agreed locally, and certainly round here there’s a nod to humanism as part of the course.

  12. Morph says:

    Thanks Bertandjoyce for the appreciative blog, and all for comments. 1ac came to me as I sat trying (unsuccessfully) to come up with a clue for RECOLLET in the Azed clue competition, around the time of Mr Maude’s ill-fated fuelling of the omnishambles.
    Rorschach correctly parses my original clue for RECUR, although it was queried by the ed for impenetrability more than for politico-religious incorrectness – I hadn’t even thought about religions that don’t do God! Interesting though, I always thought the i ran old recycled puzzles, not the on-the-day one.
    As for the pangram, Bertandjoyce, I think you got it about right there!

  13. Rorschach says:

    It’s a shame – I like the clue – I’m guessing it’s a pun on the fact that “dog” is “God” reversed? I mean, the surface reads a bit funny but I do like it!

  14. Rorschach says:

    Reminds me of a nonsense poem about Richard Dawkins which boasted the line “Hell! If he was dyslexic he’d probably hate Dog too”

  15. Morph says:

    Yes, that was the idea, though the surface didn’t quite work anyway. “Dog’s reversal” would’ve been better in this case.

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