Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8080 / Monk

Posted by duncanshiell on September 6th, 2012


Monk has given us a puzzle today where the clues mostly generate words that are in everyday use, or are words that we have come across before.  One or two of them perhaps, we have only come across in crosswords in recent years, but none of them are too obscure given the clueing.

There was one major learning point for me today – which can be summed up by SING, SANG SUNG and SPRING, SPRANG SPRUNG.  I have learnt more about the difference between ‘past tense’ and ‘past participle’, although I suppose the most important point in settling on SPRANG at 12 across was the contribution of the A to the message in the grid.

This was a puzzle where noticing the Nina was not particularly important for solving 99% of the puzzle.  Indeed I only noticed MERCURY across the middle unchecked letters when I was halfway through the blog.  A bit more of a search revealed BOHEMIAN RHUPSODY down the second and seventh columns of unchecked letters in my grid.  At this point I changed my entry of SPRUNG to SPRANG.

The final grid therefore looked like this:














Monk tends to range across a number of topics in his clues, and today was no exception.  There were a few food and drink references – e.g. GHEE, and SCHNAPPS in the answers together with ‘drinks’ and ‘pints’ in the clues.  I liked the misdirection of Chemical Brothers in 15 across.

I grew up in Edinburgh where a three day HAAR was a common occurrence, so I automatically associate HAAR with mist in crossword clues.

Returning to Freddie MERCURY and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, I note that MERCURY was born on 5 September 1946 and would have been 66 yesterday.  Perhaps if it was the 100th anniversary of his birth, the puzzle might have been published on the 5th.

The clue at 2 down used the construction ‘endless’ when taking the first and last letters of SHOCK to leave HOC.  There was a debate recently on the Crossword Centre Message Board (I think) about the meaning of ‘endless’ in clues.  Should it only mean take off the last letter (the end)?  How many letters can it refer to?  Is the beginning of the word another end?  Can endless mean take off both ends as in this case?.  The debate raged for some time.  It seems to me it’s usually obvious what the setter means in any particular puzzle, but there is no doubt that crosswords can generate ‘endless’ erudite and often heated debate about minutiea.  

Overall, this was a  very enjoyable puzzle from Monk that provided just the right level of difficulty without struggling to cope with a theme.  I think I prefer messages to themes.

No. Clue Wordplay Entry

Groove runs round leaves with very black centre (6)


(R [runs] + TEA [leaves] reversed [round]) containing (with … centre) BB (very black on  lead pencils)

R A (BB) ET<

RABBET (a groove cut to receive an edge)



Cover drunken bum in material (8)


Anagram of (drunken) BUM contained in (in) SERGE (a strong twilled fabric; material)


SUBMERGE (cover [over with liquid])



Jolly liberated by it, albeit briefly? (5,5)


SHORE LEAVE (‘jolly’ is slang for a Royal Marine; ‘liberty-men’ are sailors with permission to go ashore, so a Royal Marine with permission to go ashore is ‘liberated’)


SHORE LEAVE (leave of absence granted to members of a ship’s crew [e.g. Royal Marines] to go ashore)



Use it to cook good starters in home economics exercise (4)


G (good) + HEE (first letters of [starters in] HOME ECONOMICS EXERCISE)


GHEE (clarified butter, an ingredient often used in cooking; use it to cook with)



Drinks in church, interrupting unexpected afterthought (8)


(CH [church] contained in [interrupting] SNAP [unexpected]) + PS (postscript; afterthought)


SCHNAPPS (any of various strong alcoholic drinks, especially Holland gin.)



Having grassed about a couple, freed prisoner (6)


SANG (informed; grassed) containing (about) PR (pair; couple) SANG is the past tense, SUNG is the past participle


SPRANG (procured the escape of a prisoner freed prisoner)  SPRANG is the past tense, SPRUNG is the past participle.



Some workers live by central Tyneside (4)


BE (exist; live) + ES (middle two letters of [central] TYNESIDE)





Thus one drinks without Chemical Brothers, perhaps? (8)


(I [one] + TOPES [drinks]) containing (without; on the outside) SO (thus)


ISOTOPES (one of a set of chemically identical species of atom which have the same atomic number but different mass numbers; chemical brothers [absolutely nothing to do with the electronic music duo Chemcial Brothers])



Weapon to master advocate of war (8)


TO + MA (Master [of Arts]) + HAWK (advocate of war)


TOMAHAWK (Native-American war axe; weapon)



It’s said to draw attention to vacuous press statement after scoop (4)

PRESS without it’s middle letters (vacuous) RES + STATEMENT also losing its middle letters ( being scooped) TATEMEN


PSST (a word used to attract attention)



Maybe literal retirement of class? (4-2)


PUPILS (class) reversed (retirement of)


SLIP-UP (error or failure; one meaning of ‘literal’ is misprint or error of a letter in a word)



Directly between old- and new-age joke (3-2-3)


O (old) + N (new) + EON (vast age) + ONE (joke, as in the ONE about ..)


ONE-ON-ONE (directly between)



Mist regularly obscured Hewas Water (4)


HAAR (letters 2 and 3, 5 and 6, 8 and 9 omitted [regularly obscured] from HEWAS WATER)


HAAR (watery vapour seen in the atmosphere; cloud in contact with the ground; thin fog; rain in very fine drops; all atmospheric conditions you copuld find in HEWAS WATER in Cumbria)



Anniversary possibly now (7-3)


PRESENT DAY (an Anniversary may well be a DAY when you get PRESENTS)


PRESENT-DAY (contemporary; now)



Gently by way of an offer? (8)


TENDERLY (in the manner of a TENDER [bid, offer]; by way of an offer)


TENDERLY (gently)



Print extra copies to accommodate unknown author (6)


RUN ON (print extra copies) containing (accommodate) Y (unknown variable in mathematics)


RUNYON (reference Damon RUNYON [1880 – 1946], author)


No. Clue Wordplay Entry

Specifically arranged announcement on endless outrage (2,3)


AD (advertisement; announcement) + SHOCK (outrage) excluding the first and last letters (endless) SK


AD HOC (for this special purpose; specifically arranged)



Bargees in unusually deep water? (6,3)


Anagram of (unusually) BARGEES IN


BERING SEA (deep water between the United States [Alaska] and Russia [Siberia])



Flowers raised for all to see in shed (6)


(U [film certificate indicating that the material is suitable for all to see] contained in (in) SPILT [shed]) all reversed (raised; down clue)


TULIPS (flowers)



Lowbrow fun bombs after snub – much ado about nothing say? (9,6)


SLAP (snub) + STICK (a group of bombs) + COMEDY (Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is described as a COMEDY)


SLAPSTICK COMEDY (knockabout low comedy or farce; lowbrow fun)



Book without readers?  Thanks a lot! (7,3)


B (book) + LESS (without) + YOU (the readers of this clue)


BLESS YOU (an expression of gratitude or affection; thanks a lot!)



Dished up rhythmic music half-heartedly or with interest? (5)


REGGAE (strongly rhythmic form of music originating in Jamaica in the 1960s) excluding one of the middle Gs [half-heartedly] reversed (dished up; down clue)


EAGER (excited by desire; with interest)



Needing energy, sus out source of a few pints? (9)


Anagram of (out) ENERGY SUS


GUERNSEYS (dairy cattle; source of a few pints [of milk])



Soften up dog kept by English spy (9)


(E [English] + MOLE [spy]) containing (kept by) TAIL (follow closely; dog) reversed (up; down clue)


EMOLLIATE (soften)



Chicken runs inside on opting out (9)


R (runs [cricket scoring]) contained in (inside) an anagram of (out) ON OPTING


ORPINGTON (breed of poultry; chicken)



Scold copycat about soft, cheap stationery? (3,5)


(RAG [scold] + APER [copycat]) containing (about) P (pianissimo; soft)


RAG PAPER (a PAPER made from RAGs; cheap stationery)



Facing bearing of 67.5 degrees, half against going about (6)


VERSUS (against) excluding the final three letters of six (half going) SUS containing (about) ENE (East North East, bearing 67.5 degrees)


VENEER (to overlay or face [coarse wood, etc] with a thin sheet of fine wood or other material)



As twins are reportedly cut (5)


PARED (sounds like [reportedly] PAIRED [set by two of a similar kind, as twins are])


PARED (cut)



Most of giant bats over foreign tree (5)


Anagram of (bats) GIAN  (the first four letters of [most of]) GIANT  + O (over [cricket scoring])


NGAIO (a New Zealand tree with white wood; foreign tree)


10 Responses to “Independent 8080 / Monk”

  1. malc95 says:

    Thanks Monk for a real toughie, & Duncan for making it all clear.

    25a – I think Hewas Water is in Cornwall – it’s Haweswater in the Lakes.

  2. aztobesed says:

    Thank you Duncan and Monk.

    I got the ‘heads up’ on the Guardian site from malc95 that there was a nina and finally spotted it in the middle of the grid. I then wasted a good deal of wiki-time trying to figure out why the Mercury space programme was being celebrated. Chuck Yeager (7d) and Tomahawk missiles came into my fantasy. (You, sir, are no William Occam…)

    I got in a tangle with haar. I don’t really understand the clue’s instruction but I’ll keep working at it.

  3. rowland says:

    There’s a regularity about the ‘obscuring’ for sure, 1212121 where all the twos are missed. Clever stuff that I found hard throughout, but hung in there. Loved old Freddie to bits as well, so a nice remonder.

    Thanks Dunc and Monkan!

  4. Thomas99 says:

    Well I suppose it depends on what you think the “right level of difficulty” is… The last couple were very hard for me. It was only by spotting the Nina that I was able finally to imagine there might be a word “rabbet” for 1a, and correct my sprung to sprang at 12a. If he’d used Rabbit instead this would have been fairly easy by Monk’s high standards, but as it was… Nevertheless, another admirable puzzle from a master. Thanks for the beautifully presented blog.

  5. nmsindy says:

    Yes, this was a fine puzzle in the Monk style which I did not find exceptionally difficult. I did not see the Nina until I had completed the puzzle. Favourite clues SPRANG, BLESS YOU, GUERNSEYS. Many thanks, Monk, and Duncan for another excellent blog.

  6. flashling says:

    Not come across rabbet before and didn’t get it mot sure I would without cheating, pity, thanks Monk and Duncan. Was caught in two minds with sprang/sprung but luckily guessed correctly.

  7. flashling says:

    Mot?? arrgh!

  8. Bertandjoyce says:

    We struggled with this one and despite looking (we always do with Monk) all we could see was Mercury. Some tricky clues but as ever, when the penny dropped they were all fair.

    Thanks Duncan for the blog and Monk for the entertainment.

  9. Dormouse says:

    Been too busy playing the tourist the last few days to look at the crossword, but I’m now relaxing before the flight home tomorrow. Not that this was relaxing. I found it quite hard and, of course, didn’t spot the nina. Alas, I required the “check” button to tell me whether it was “sprang” or “sprung” at 12ac.

  10. Monk says:

    Just back from 2 weeks electronically-disconnected holiday, so belated thanks to all bloggers for positive comments and especially to Duncan for a breathtakingly meticulous blog and accurate clue analysis. As an amateur woodworker, I learnt 1ac RABBET as a pre-teenager: is woodwork still taught at school?!

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