Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8128 / Scorpion

Posted by duncanshiell on November 1st, 2012


Scorpion is an occasional contributor to daily Independent puzzles, probably about once a month.




When I solved this I noticed what I thought was a high number of entries ending in unusual vowels – A , I and O (CURIO, HEIDI, DENARII, MERCIA, EUCALYPTI) – but in the end it probably wasn’t really that many.

I enjoyed a number of clues in todays puzzle, especially those for ENRIQUE, SORBET, AUSTERE and GORE VIDAL.  One or two of the others such as the clues for A SLAP ON THE WRIST, and SQUARE-LEG UMPIRE, I found a bit laboured in terms of surface or definition.  In each case though, the wordplay was very precise.

Today we had another clue referencing an Independent setter – in the clue to ARCADE.  Am I alone in finding this a bit unfair for people who are new to crosswords and just want to be able to solve the clue based on general knowledge rather than specialised knowledge?  Yes, I know most readers of this blog know who DAC is, but that’s not the point.  I think I had a similar rant not too long ago.

No. Clue Wordplay Entry

Service motor-bikes according to quotation (7)


VESPERS (sounds like [according to quotation] VESPAS [Italian made motor-scooters])


VESPERS (evensongs; evening services generally)



Nurse succeeded avoiding suggestive Spaniard? (7)


EN (Enrolled Nurse) + (RISQUÉ [audaciously bordering on the unseemly; suggestive] excluding [avoiding] S [succeeded])


ENRIQUÉ (Spanish male Christian name; Spaniard)



Competitive driver who uses gear unconventionally? (4,5)


DRAG RACER (DRAG can be defined as ‘women’s clothing worn by a man'; clothing; gear)  The clue, I think is trying to conjure up the image of a male racing driver dressed in unusual gear. Although the entry comprises DR [driver] + an anagram of [unconventionally] [GEAR and  CAR], I am not convinced that the clue is anything other than a couple of definitions, one cryptic.


DRAG RACER (one who a drives in a motor car or motorcycle contest in acceleration, from a standing start over a quarter-mile course; competitive driver)


11 / 19

Workers around passage act vigilantly (2,3,4)


BEES (workers) containing (around) ALLEY (passage)


BE ALL EYES (give complete attention; act vigilantly).  Not a phrase I’ve come across before although I have heard BE ALL EARS.



Rugby player’s utter position of danger (5,5)


LIONS (reference The British LIONS Rugby Union team.  A member of the team [rugby player] is referred to as a LION) + MOUTH (utter)


LION’S MOUTH (a dangerous position)



Plant, latest in contention, judge brought over (4)


(N [last letter of {latest in} CONTENTION] + REF [referee; judge]) all reversed (brought over)

(FER N)<

FERN (plant)



Pen left by American writer (6)


STY (pen) + L (left) + US (American)


STYLUS (writing instrument or similar; writer)



Sweet ball passed into empty space leads to City’s third (6)


(ORB [ball] contained in [passed into] SE [first and last letters omitting central letters {empty} SPACE]) + T (third letter of [third] CITY)


SORBET (water-ice usually served as a dessert; sweet)



Two small men, loaded, given a hand in casino (5,5)


(ROY [a short man’s name] + AL [another short man’s name] giving two small men) + FLUSH (well supplied with money; loaded)


ROYAL FLUSH (a sequence of five cards of the same suit – 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace); a hand you might be lucky enough to get dealt at a casino.  A ROYAL FLUSH is the best possible hand in standard 5-card poker)



Antique business includes forger of cutlery? (5)


CO (company; business) containing (includes) URI (reference URI Geller, Israeli magician most famous for his ‘ability’ to bend cutlery)


CURIO (antique)



Prompt retiring Prince, in Italy, to replant trees (9)


CUE (prompt [in the theatre]) reversed (retiring) + (P [Prince] contained in [in] an anagram of [to replant] ITALY)

EUC<  (ALY (P) TI*)




Novelist with no name on grave (7)


AUSTEN (reference Jane AUSTEN, novelist) excluding (no) N (name) + RE (about; on)


AUSTERE (grave)



Study annual return, source of income including money from abroad (7)


DEN (study) + AR (annual return) + II (first letters of [source of] INCOME and INCLUDING)


DENARII (old Roman silver coins; money from abroad)



Some stick acting make-up on part of body (1,4,2,3,5)


A (acting) + SLAP (stage make-up, nowadays make-up generally) + ON + THE WRIST (part of the body)


A SLAP ON THE WRIST (mild reprimand; some stick [criticism])



Genuine claims upset boss, the first to pay compensation (8)


REAL (genuine) containing (claims) (SIR [ a term of address to one’s boss in certain occupations {e.g. the Armed Services}] + P [first letter of {first to} PAY]) reversed (upset; down clue)


REPRISAL (compensation)



Chop suey not filling – ordered fruitcake (6)


Anagram of (ordered) (CHOP and SUEY excluding the middle letters [not filling] UE)


PSYCHO (someone who shows a pathological degree of specific emotional instability without specific mental disorder; someone suffering from a behavioural disorder resulting in inability to form personal relationships and in indifference to, or ignorance of, his or her obligations to society, often manifested by antisocial behaviour such as acts of violence, sexual perversion, etc; fruitcake is defined as a slightly mad person.  Not a politically correct definition)



One beginning to miss Motor City – America rocks? (8)


DETROIT (known as Motor City in America in reference to the number of major car plants that are or have been located in the city over many years) excluding (to miss) O (first letter of [beginning] ONE) + US (America)


DETRITUS (an aggregate of loosened fragments, esp of rock)



Marketplace investigator with rule, probes French vegetable – judge sporting (6-3,6)


SQUARE (market-place; many markets are held in town SQUAREs) + ([PI {Private Investigator} + R {rule}] contained in [probes] LEGUME [French for vegetable])


SQUARE-LEG UMPIRE (official [judge] in cricket [sport]; judge sporting)



Stone to massage foot in reflexology (4)


RUB (massage) + Y (last letter of [foot in] REFLEXOLOGY)


RUBY (gem stone)



Director avoids trading studio site (6)


DEALING (trading) excluding (avoiding) D (director)


EALING (reference EALING film studios near London)



It’s flaming stuck underneath footwear … outside wife had a clean (8)


(SHOE [footwear] containing [outside] W [wife]) + RED (flaming [colour])


SHOWERED (had a clean)



Mid-career, one enters into affair – is this what bored secretaries do? (8)


RE (middle letters of [mid] CAREER) + (I [one] contained in [enters into] FLING [affair])


REFILING (an activity that may be undertaken by bored secretaries)



American, alienating core of fans, negotiated a share of Albion? (6)


Anagram of (negotiated) AMERICAN excluding (alienating) AN (middle letters of [core of] FANS)


MERCIA (one of the ancient kingdoms of Albion [Britain]; a share of Albion)



Reflected ages to grasp crossword setter where ‘penny’ often drops (6)


(ERA [a series of years reckoned from a particular point; ages] containing [to grasp] DAC [pseudonym of regular Independent crossword setter, usually seen on Wednesdays, but not yesterday]) all reversed (reflected)

(AR (CAD) E)<

ARCADE (an amusment ARCADE is a public hall, or open area off the street, with mechanical gambling machines, video games, etc.  Years ago, slot machines and one-armed bandits in ARCADEs took pennies which dropped into the slot.  I doubt if penny is the appropriate price these days)



Become breathless, bunged up, through greeting lady – from Cologne? (5)


DIE (become breathless – a very precise definition) reversed (bunged up) and contained in (through) HI (greeting)

H (EID)< I

HEIDI (German [e.g. Cologne] lady’s Christian name)


23 / 6

Man across pond writing up diary about an aquatic bird (4,5)


(LOG [diary] containing [about] [A + DIVER {aquatic bird}]) all reversed (up)

(GO (RE VID A) L)<

GORE VIDAL ([1925 – 2012], a male [man] American [across pond {Atlantic Ocean}] author [writing]; man across pond writing)



5 Responses to “Independent 8128 / Scorpion”

  1. allan_c says:

    Good challenging stuff that required a bit of wordfinder help and then the blog to understand the clue fully. But the only one I’d take exception to is 21d which requires a knowledge of setters’ pseudonyms; fine for the regulars but mystifying for any newbies – a topic which has arisen on this site before.

    Some great clues elsewhere though, such as DRAG RACER and PSYCHO.

    Thanks, Duncan, for another comprehensive blog.

  2. Lenny says:

    Not many comments. Maybe everyone’s still struggling. I finished this in two lengthy sessions, with a long pause for thought in-between. It was very satisfying to finish it but only in a masochistic sort of way. On the whole, I think I prefer Scorpion’s more cuddly friend Aardvark. I finished with the Enrique/Square-leg Umpire intersection. I found the abbreviations difficult. In these two answers we had EN, S, PI and R. I made things more difficult for myself by thinking of all sorts of French vegetables: Pomme, Pois, Navet… without thinking of the obvious.

    Good challenge, Scorpion. Excellent blog Duncan.

  3. Bertandjoyce says:

    We struggled with this over coffee, lunch and afternoon tea. We then went out for the evening and have only just finished it. Can’t quite see why we struggled although some of the definitions were rather vague – Gore Vidal for “man across pond” needed quite a few checking letters.

    Where is everyone just lately? We think it’s time for a few more lurkers to expose themselves!

    Thanks Duncan for all your efforts and Scorpion for the challenge.

  4. Dormouse says:

    Well, I got just two clues all day.

    However, when I tried to post a few minutes ago, the post failed, which maybe another reason there are so few posts today.

  5. Wil Ransome says:

    It seems there has been something wrong today, Dormouse, and this may explain the low number of posts. When I tried to get in a few hours ago I couldn’t — the site was down in some way.

    Extremely difficult I thought, although once one had the answer it was all clear enough. Gore Vidal escaped me — the only thing I could fit in was role model — I thought the motorbikes were Masseys or something like that, mass = service.

    All right Dac perhaps should be widely known to the general public, but the fact is he isn’t and I also thought 21dn a bit unfair.

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