Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8008 / Morph

Posted by duncanshiell on June 14th, 2012


I am not sure if I have blogged a puzzle by Morph before, but I really enjoyed this after a slow start.




I got the theme word at 8 down fairly quickly, soon after I had passed through all the across clues without solving a single one.  It was a number of  down clues that gave me my first foothold into the puzzle – COHABIT (6 down), STATE (8 down), KNAPSACKED (12 down) and ISLES (19 down) being my first entries.  These gave some crossing letters for the acrosses of which BAKED (11 across) and MAKE SENSE (13 across) were my first two solves.  At this point I assumed that we needed two letter abbreviations for states in every across answer given that AK was in both BAKED and MAKE SENSE.  I confused myself further by initially thinking that AK was Arkansas rather than Alaska.  As a result I was trying to fit CA into H…L at 9 across after solving MACADAMIA at 10 across.

The penny finally dropped with our all action hero Mr JONES, and CREEPER, BEETLE and DERBY went in fairly quickly after solving their mates.  I got WILLIAMS at 7 across before solving 6 across.  Tennessee (TN) helped solve CATNAP at which point I realised that the ‘American’ in the clue at 6 across was important to give an A, and was not just underlining that all the STATEs were American.

The clues had excellent surfaces.  I particularly liked those for HOTEL, JONES and BEETLE in the acrosses and COHABIT in the downs.  The linking of the pairs of across clues was clever.

There were one or two obscure down entries – e.g. NOYADE (altthough the anagram was fairly obvious once the crossing letters were in), PALLADIA (again the word play was not too hard) and the odd, but not obscure, EX-JUDGES.

When writing the blog, I entered a number of botanical terms, partly because there was reference to MACADAMIA nuts and the Colorado BEETLE, but also because I have visited the home of Carl Linnaeus, the inventor of the latin binomial classification of flora and fauna, during my current wanderings in Sweden.

I look forward to another crossword by Morph.

Current location – Strömstad – Swedish west coast near the Norwegian border

Clue Wordplay Entry
6 For a rest, put cover on American 8 … (6)

CAP (cover) containing (put … on) (A [American] + TN (abbreviation for the State [8 down] of Tennessee)


CATNAP (brief sleep; a rest)
7 … after which writer means to capture form of self-expression? (8)

WILLS (in the sense of ‘wishes’ equivalent to means in the sense of ‘intends’) containing (to capture) I AM (form of self expression)


WILLIAMS (reference Tennessee WILLIAMS, writer.  WILLIAMS goes after Tennessee)

9 Steamy magazine picked up in guest house for a song before 8 … (5) HOT (steamy) + EL (sounds like [picked up] ELLE [a ladies fashion magazine]) HOTEL (commerical building with rooms for guests; guest house.  Also reference HOTEL California, a song by The Eagles from the album of the same name, released in 1977.  HOTEL comes before California)
10 … that’s picked up by woman, independent – a nut (9)

(CA [abbreviation for the State {8 down} of California] contained in [that’s picked up by] MADAM [woman]) + I (independent) + A


MACADAMIA (the edible nut of two species of macadamia, Macadamia ternifolia and Macadamia integrifolia; the tree bearing this nut)

11 Got very hot in jacket? But also cold before 8 … (5)

BAKED (got very hot – possibly as a BAKED or jacket potato)

BAKED (got very cold in the sense of a BAKED Alaska [a pudding consisting of ice cream, and usually cake, covered with meringue, BAKED rapidly such that the ice cream stays frozen.  BAKED comes before Alaska) double definition

13 … which yours truly takes in, to understand about polar opposites and be rational (4,5)

ME (yours truly) containing (takes in) AK (abbreviation for the State [8 down] of Alaska)  + (SEE [to understand] containing [about] [N {north} and S {South} – polar opposites when considering North and South poles)

M (AK) E SE (N S) E

MAKE SENSE (be rational)
15 Around 8, follow Labour … (7)

TRAIL (follow) containing (around) VA (abbreviation for the State [8 down] of Virginia)


TRAVAIL ([excessive] labour)
16 … Lord in playground regressing, one going up the wall after 8 (7)

(PEER [Lord, as in Peer of the realm, Lord so-and-so] contained in [in] REC [recreation ground; playground]) reversed (regressing)

(C (REEP) ER)<

CREEPER (reference Virginia CREEPER [an American climbing plant closely related to the vine, bright-red in autumn]; one going up the wall.  CREEPER goes after Virginia)

19 Suggest a tune is played after 8 … (9)

IN (abbreviation for the State [8 down] of Indiana) + an anagram of (played) A TUNE IS


INSINUATE (hint or indirectly suggest)
21 … after which action hero shows courage in Spain when abandoned by company (5) COJONES (testicles, balls, courage [slang, mostly in America, from Spanish]) excluding (when abandoned) CO (company) JONES (reference all action hero Indiana JONES.  JONES goes after Indiana)
22 Chance affairs – love’s beginning with Cupid’s shot around 8 … (5,4)

L (first letter of [beginning] LOVE) + (an anagram of [shot] CUPID’S containing [around] KY [abbreviation for the State {8 down} of Kentucky])


LUCKY DIPS (tubs or containers in which to dip and draw a prize of some kind, some with value, most without; chance affairs)

24 … and after 8, meeting half-hearted creature next (5) DEER (animal, creature) excluding one of it’s middle (halfhearted) Es + BY (beside; next [to]) DERBY (reference Kentucky DERBY, a major horse race in America. DERBY goes after Kentucky)
26 Traffic policeman went after son, parking by 8 … (5-3) S (son) + PEED (went [to the toilet]) + CO (abbreviation for the State [8 down] of Colorado) + P (parking)

SPEED-COP (a policeman who watches out for motorists who are exceeding a speed limit; traffic policeman)

27 … after which he’ll do for Charlotte in car (6)

BEETLE (reference Volkswagen BEETLE, a particular model of small Volkswagen car with rounded roof and bonnet, resembling a BEETLE.  Mainly associated with yesteryear, but still manufactured today.  Google tells me that the 2013 model has just been displayed at the Leipzig motor show)

BEETLE (reference Colorado BEETLE, a yellow-and-black-striped BEETLE (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), a serious pest of potatoes, originating in the US but now found in Europe and elsewhere.  Charlotte is a variety of potato, frequently used in salads and crisps) double definition

Clue Wordplay Entry
1 A bird doing what birds (and bees) do? (2,2) A TIT (a bird)

AT IT (having sexual intercourse, reference ‘the birds and the bees’, an idiomatic expression describing courtship and beyond)

2 Safeguards to help everyone apparently on the up (8)

(AID [help] + ALL [everyone] + AP [apparently]) all reversed (on the up; down clue)


PALLADIA (safeguards)
3 Record of 40 per cent of conversation (4) DISCUSSION (conversation) excluding the last 6 letters (60% of the total letters) USSION leaving 40%, DISC DISC ([musical, video or data] record)
4 You can see the wood for the trees when you get into these happy pills (6) GLAD (happy) + ES (E refers to ecstasy tablet [pill], so the plural is ES) GLADES (open spaces in woods; where you can see the wood for the trees)
5 It might result in a hotbed of conflict over fellow taking in doctor (7,3)

WAR (conflict) + (MAN [fellow] containing [taking] [IN + GP {general practitioner; doctor}])


WARMING PAN (a covered pan with a long handle, for holding live coals to warm a bed; the use of a WARMING PAN may result in a hot bed)

6 To live together is a bitch, awful when out of love (7)

Anagram of (awful) A BITCH containing (out[side] of) O (zero; love score in tennis)


COHABIT (live together)
8 Specify condition – holy man has consumption (5) ST (saint; holy man) + ATE (consumed; has consumption) STATE (as a verb, specify; as a noun, condition)
10 Mother catching infected nipple (7)

MAMA (mother) containing (catching) ILL (infected)


MAMILLA (the nipple of the mammary gland))
12 Head of kitchen fired after doze, having a weight on his shoulders? (10) K (first letter of [head of] KITCHEN) + NAP (doze) + SACKED (fired [from a job]) KNAPSACKED (wearing a KNAPSACK; having a weight on ones shoulders)
14 No new underwear for footballers? (7) KNICKERS (female underwear) excluding (no) N (new) KICKERS (footballers)
17 Sex farrago involving primarily grandparents-in-Law (acting) – they used to be in court a lot (2-6)

Anagram of (farrago) SEX containing (involving) (G [first letter of {primarily}] GRANDPARENTS contained in [in] JUDE [reference the actor [acting] JUDE Law)

EX (JUD (G) E) S

EX-JUDGES (people who used in to be in a court [of law] often)
18 Stormy westerly heading away, to make a change (7) Anagram of (stormy) WESTERLY excluding the first letter (heading away) W RESTYLE (make a change)
19 Archipelago doesn’t amount to that much after docking (5) IS LESS (doesn’t amount to much) excluding the final letter (after docking) S ISLES (an archipelago is an area of sea abounding in islands)
20 Execution by drowning one day during upheaval (6) Anagram of (during upheaval) ONE DAY

NOYADE (execution by drowning, as carried out by the French revolutionist Jean-Baptiste Carrier [1756-94] at Nantes, 1793-4.  Eventually his motives were questioned and  he was arrested and tried.  He was executed soon after, probably not by drowning)

23 Symbol of Apple’s deception? (4) I CON (I deceive; reference to the apple in the Garden of Eden which tempted and deceived Adam and Eve) ICON (symbol)
25 Tells of performer on the rise (4) STAR (performer) reversed (on the rise; down clue) RATS (as in RATS ON [to inform against; to tell of])

19 Responses to “Independent 8008 / Morph”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks, Duncan. I’ve really enjoyed all of Morph’s puzzles so far, but I didn’t much enjoy this one. Choosing between fifty two-letter abbreviations isn’t a lot of fun as a solver, and I couldn’t understand the relationship between the acrosses until I came here, so that bit of cleverness was lost on me. COHABIT was a good clue, but KNAPSACKED isn’t really a word, is it?

    Anyway, looking forward to Morph’s next puzzle when he gets back to smut and politics. Enjoy the scenery and the light nights, Duncan!

  2. William says:

    Many thanks, Duncan, but shouldn’t there be a blog for Guardian blog for Chifonie 25662 here today?

  3. duncanshiell says:

    Kathryn’s Dad @ 1

    I think KNAPSACKED is on the margins, but I also think Morph faced a couple of problems in the downs when faced with K_A_S_C_E_ and E_J_D_E_ at 12 and 17 down. Sometimes fitting in theme words constrains the crossers such that the setter is left with a bit of a struggle.

    William @ 2

    Blogs don’t always appear instantly – if a blogger only sees the puzzle when he or she gets up then it can take some time to solve the puzzle and write the blog. I know one Guardian blogger rises 8 hours before people in the UK, but most are in the UK, and some may rise later.

  4. Ian SW3 says:

    Thanks, Duncan and Morph. Mostly a gentle but enjoyable solve, once the links between across clues became apparent, which happened pretty early on with 6 and 7.

    I’m still scratching my head about 11a. I guessed “baked” early on, but couldn’t parse the wordplay (was looking for something to do with Alaska (AK) in “bed”) so abandoned the idea until the crossing letters made it obvious that’s what it had to be. It still seems a little weak that the sense of the clue is just “a word that goes before a potato that is hot or a pudding that is cold,” but I can’t see anything else.

    Loved 17d.

  5. William says:

    Thanks, Duncan. There’s no rush, just found it odd to see an Indy puzzle blogged on the Grauniad link.

    Have a super time in Strömstad.

  6. Ian SW3 says:

    I now see what William @ 2 and 5 is on about. This blog has been filed under both Guardian and Independent, while the Guardian blog he’s looking is “filed” under Uncharacterised. I assume this is an editor/moderator issue.

  7. crypticsue says:

    Once the theme was apparently, I really enjoyed matching the wordplay to the state connections, and mainly do like crosswords where you can sign as you solve – in this case once I ‘got’ 9a. Thanks to Morph for a slightly different sort of brain stretching to your ‘usual’. Thanks to Duncan too.

  8. crypticsue says:

    I appear to have lost the ability to type letters in the correct order – I do of course mean sing! Perhaps it really is time for me to retire and devote myself full time to crosswords.

  9. anax says:

    I thought this was terrific. A few very testing clues, but once I twigged the reason for the ellipses they gradually gave up their secrets.

    This must have been a hugely challenging grid fill (I wonder how many potential pairings Morph scribbled down before starting?) and, while the grid design does make you suspect a theme, it isn’t awkward and bitty in the way some themed grids are.

    An excellent concept superbly delivered.

  10. nmsindy says:

    Yes, it was an incredible achievement to construct this grid. A grid that looks perfectly normal, is (I think) symmetrical as usual has every across row containing (a) a word that can be linked to a US State and (b) the two-letter abbrev for that State in the second answer in the row. This made the puzzle very hard for sure, and I really struggled before seeing the idea with Indiana Jones followed by the clinching Virginia creeper. After that I was just amazed and all the clues I struggled with (almost to the point of giving up) became clear. Thanks, Morph, and Duncan of course (you explained a few I did not fully understand).

  11. duncanshiell says:

    William @ 5

    I now see what you mean – the mistake was mine, I checked both the Guardian and Independent boxes when I posted the blog. I have now removed the puzzle from the Guardian area.

  12. Dormouse says:

    This was very much a Goldilocks puzzle for me – neither too difficult nor too easy. Needed Chambers for 2 and 20dn, neither of which I knew. I also liked 1dn, 21ac, 14dn and 26ac, but I guess I’m just childish.

  13. Lancastrian Bluenose says:

    Quite an enjoyable crossword although I didn’t quite get all the state links.

  14. Bertandjoyce says:

    What an achievement! We had difficulty getting started although 8d was the first one in. It still took a while to get some of the down clues which then enabled us to make the connections in the across ones. Once we had established this some of the answers came almost a bit too quickly although we then spent ages parsing them!

    We don’t think there has been a Morph puzzle that we haven’t enjoyed and this one kept up the standard. Another variation of thematic puzzles which is a new one on us.

    Thanks Morph for the late evening’s entertainment and Duncan for the blog. We trust that you are enjoying the trip to Sweden in between the blogging!

  15. Rorschach says:

    What an incredible puzzle – a bizarre experience solving as the enjoyment increased exponentially from the beginning. As many said, easyish in places but the final result was fantastic! Thanks both.

  16. flashling says:

    Bleeding hard with several how the hell does this clue work moments until the PDM. Well thursday crosswords are usually tough and expected to be so.
    Thanks Duncan and morph. More of the same please.

  17. Thomas99 says:

    I’ve just noticed something rather odd – the explanation of 23a doesn’t actually mention Apple the company, i.e. the reference to ipads, ipods, imacs etc., which gives us the i-Con parsing. The surface is probably meant to make us think of the Garden of Eden as a mild misdirection, which I don’t think I really noticed because of the capital A. (Actually the apple, or fruit as it says in Genesis, does the opposite of deceive – it gives knowledge – although the serpent does deceive Eve about it, I suppose, so that could be the “apple’s deception”.)

  18. Morph says:

    Thanks for the blog, Duncan, and all the comments, I’m glad most of you liked it, and apologies to those for whom the theme and a few forcedly obscure words spoiled things.
    I know a lot of people aren’t keen on “state” in clues to indicate, as K’s D says, any one of 50 two-word abbreviations – with alternative 3-word versions for many. So the idea here was that it’s not any old state because the paired clues help identify them.
    The gridfill was indeed a bugger, with a dozen abandoned attempts before I got there.
    Thomas99 is right about ICON – the misdirection only slightly undermined by the need, in fairness, to capitalise Apple.
    Oh, and K’s D, isn’t “knickers”, “peed” and “at it” smut enough? (No, I thought not!)

  19. duncanshiell says:

    Thomas99 @ 17

    Thanks for the comment. In the first draft of this blog I had a couple of sentences explaining why I didn’t think the clue related to the company Apple, mainly because I thought the capital letter was too obvious and therefore the clue had to relate to apple with a lower case. After a bit of thought I took those sentences out because I had convinced myself of the Garden of Eden reference. Also, with tongue firmly in cheek, I thought that Apple would sue if somebody suggested that they were a con!

    I see that Morph has confirmed your interpretation of the clue, so clearly I have backed the wrong horse here. Sorry!

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

− 2 = one