Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 14154 Neo

Posted by scchua on November 6th, 2012


Another enjoyable puzzle from Tuesday  regular, Neo.  Quite straightforward, once one gets into it.  The N.E. corner was slow, though having cracked it, I don’t know why – apart from trying to find a Labour leader named Loft.  Thanks Neo.  Though there are quite a few proper nouns, I can’t find a theme/nina, though from me, that doesn’t mean anything.  Definitions are underlined in the clues.  [[The pictures at the bottom have unidentified links to the puzzle.]]

1 Better walk at leisurely pace in much-decreased gravity! (7)

GAMBLER : AMBLE(walk at leisurely pace) contained in(in) GR{first two letters of(much-decreased) “gravity“}. Surface is good advice if you’re on the moon.

5 Writer in fictional realm wants start in Republic (7)

ARMENIA : ME(pronoun the writer might call him/herself) contained in(in) “Narnia”(fictional realm in the Chronicles of, by C.S. Lewis) minus its initial letter(wants start).

9 Mandela party visits New York City (5)

NANCY : ANC(abbrev. for the African National Congress, political party of Nelson Mandela) contained in(visits) NY(abbrev. for New York).

Answer: A city in France.

10 Some hobbit children disagreed (4,5)

TOOK ISSUE : TOOK(name of any one of a number of;some hobbit in The Lord of The Rings) + ISSUE(children;progeny).

11 Religious campaigner favouring cuts on film (9)

REFORMIST : FOR(favouring;not against) contained in(cuts) [RE(on;referring to) + MIST(a film;something that obscures or reduces clarity).

12 Girl Brisbane lesbians hold back (5)

ELENA : Hidden in(hold) and reversal of(back) "BrisbANE LEsbians".

13 Record ushers in unknown Hungarian composer (5)

LISZT : LIST(a record of names, etc.) containing(ushers in) Z(symbol for an unknown quantity mathematically).

Answer: Franz, of course.

15 English work in US appreciated over Ecstasy Complex (9)

ELABORATE : E(abbrev. for "English")+ [LABOR AT](to work;”labour at” as spelled in the US dialect :-) ) + reversal of(over) TA(“appreciated” as an interjection) + E(abbrev. for the drug Ecstasy).

Defn. and Answer: As adjectives. I may be wrong in the parsing as I haven’t accounted for “appreciated over“, or even “appreciated“.   Thanks to Pelham Barton and rowland.

18 Sportsman revealed spiritual knowledge in forecast (9)

PROGNOSIS : PRO(short for a professional, say, sportsman, not to mention, working girl) + GNOSIS(supposedly revealed spiritual knowledge, as possessed by mystics, eg. the ancient Gnostics).

Answer: A forecast, in particular, of the course or outcome of a disease or disorder.

19 Elegantly simple opener from Halifax Town (5)

NEATH : NEAT(elegantly simple) + H{initial letter of(opener from) “Halifax “}.

Answer: A town in Wales. Had a summer internship once in the BP refinery, since shut down, at nearby Llandarcy.

21 As Poe being mysterious for fabulous writer (5)

AESOP : Anagram of(being mysterious) AS POE.

Answer: A writer of famous fables;fabulous tales.

23 New wife probably in jail (9)

BRIDEWELL : BRIDE(new wife, fresh from the altar) + WELL(probably, as in “it might well be….”).

Answer: A former English jail, whose name has become synonymous with police stations and detention facilities.

25 Right man respected in coming into organisation that drives country (9)

ARGENTINA : [R(abbrev. for "right") + GENT(short for "gentleman";a man who's respected) + IN] contained in(coming into) AA(abbrev. for “Automobile Association”;organisation of drivers).

26 North African location where enthusiast returning lives (5)

TUNIS : Reversal of(returning) NUT(an enthusiast) + IS(lives;exists).

27 Hard to exit playhouse – last to leave is antiseptic producer (3,4)

TEA TREE : TEATRE{“Theatre”;playhouse minus(… to exit) “h”(abbrev. for “hard“)} + E{last letter of(last to) “leave“}.

Answer: Native to Australia, and from whose leaves an oil with antiseptic properties is produced.

28 New recruit drops from sky through sporting target (7)

TRAINEE : RAIN(water drops from sky) contained in(through) TEE(not about golf, but the mark used as a target in the sport of curling).

1 Regular classes taken by inexperienced driver (7)

GENERAL : GENERA(plural of genus;sorts; classes) plus(taken by) L(abbrev. for an inexperienced;learner driver).

Answer: Widespread;usual;regular.

2 Batter often aims for declaration (9)

MANIFESTO : Anagram of(batter, as a verb) OFTEN AIMS.

Defn: By an organisation, especially a political party.  A smooth cricketing surface.

3 Productive hen still held in both hands (5)

LAYER : AYE(Scottish for always;still, in the sense of continuation, as in “I’ve aye fancied seeing Edinburgh”) contained in(held in) L,R(abbrevs. for both left and right hands).

4 Sellers and Lister are in brawl (9)

RETAILERS : Anagram of(in brawl) LISTER ARE.

5 An old Labour leader in the air (5)

AFOOT : A(an) + FOOT(Michael, late former;old leader of the British Labour Party).

Answer: In progress or operative, as in “the game’s afoot”, spoken by Shakespeare’s King Henry V.

6 Unusually big cat came in – rubbed round leg (5,4)

MAINE COON : Anagram of(rubbed) CAME IN + O(the round letter) + ON(in cricket, the leg side).  Nice surface.

7 Elizabethan writer Grey at last promoted (5)

NASHE : “ASHEN”(grey) with its last letter(at last) moved to the top (promoted, in a down clue).

Answer: Thomas, satirist and contemporary of Shakespeare and Marlowe.

8 Showing anger after welcome is mean (7)

AVERAGE : RAGE(showing anger) placed after(after) AVE(hail;welcome, and also farewell;goodbye).

Answer: In statistics, the arithmetic mean.  A smooth surface reading.

14 Rhino and bat help to get at provisions (3-6)

TIN OPENER : TIN(slang for money, as is “rhino“) + OPENER(in cricket, a bat;short for batsman, one of two who are first in the batting order).

16 Alsatians on the loose find mugger (9)

ASSAILANT : Anagram of(on the loose) ALSATIANS.

17 Greek leader soon accepts brave Frenchman (9)

AGAMEMNON : ANON(soon) containing (accepts) GAME(brave enough to try) + M(abbrev. for “monsieur”;term of address for a Frenchman).

Answer: Mythical king of Mycenae who was the Greek leader in the Trojan War.

18 Yokel cut hearts from birds (7)

PEASANT : “Pheasant”(game birds) minus(cut … from) “h”(in bridge notation, abbrev. for the playing cards suit “hearts“).

20 Gypsies regularly seen in contemptible place where RC governs (4,3)

HOLY SEE : Y,S,E{2nd, 4th; and 6th letters of(regularly) “gypsies“} contained in(seen in) HOLE(contemptible place).

Answer: The office or jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic; RC pope.

22 Disgraceful mark time erased in Greek letter (5)

SIGMA : “stigma”(a socially disgraceful mark, eg. on one’s reputation) minus(erased) “t”(abbrev. for “time“).

23 New filling for cheese offers solution (5)

BRINE : N(abbrev. for “new“) contained in(filling for …) BRIE(a soft cheese).

Answer: Chemically, a solution of salt in water.

24 Another  redundant  spear-carrier (5)

EXTRA : Triple defn: 3: A minor actor, one of the thousands, in a “cast-of-thousands” movie; the term being derived from the role of a spear-carrier in the epics of old.  But of course that’s not the only role.




17 Responses to “Financial Times 14154 Neo”

  1. Lynette says:

    Thanks scchua. I was really enjoying this until I got stuck on 6 – an obscure solution and poorly clued, I thought.

  2. Pelham Barton says:

    My regular Tuesday lunchtime meeting was cancelled today, so I had a chance to do this crossword instead. Thanks Neo for an enjoyable puzzle and scchua for the blog. Lots of good clues. If pressed for a favourite I would choose between 11ac (for its use of “cuts”) and the elegantly simple 19ac.

    5ac: To me the cryptic grammar only works by inserting ME in NARNIA before removing the initial N, but this is certainly consistent with scchua’s blog. If the clue had said “wanting” instead of “wants” it would be possible to remove the N first.

    12ac: To me a two word phrase still needs a singular verb, so I would prefer something like “will hold back”. As usual, I have no quarrel with those who think differently.

    15ac: I think “appreciated” = “thanks” = TA to be reversed for the AT in the answer.

    18ac: Thank you scchua for putting “supposedly” in the definition of GNOSIS.

    28ac: Thank you scchua for explaining how TEE can be a target.

    17dn: I think there is a typo in the blog. The answer is AGAMEMNON.

    18dn: This is another one with tricky cryptic grammar. I think you have to take it as “cut [hearts from birds]“, so first take the H out of PHEASANTS and then remove the last letter.

    20dn: I thinl you mean 2nd, 4th, and 6th letters of “Gypsies”.

    24dn: I would like an indication that “spear-carrier” is a definition by example.

  3. Pelham Barton says:

    Correction to 2: “think” not “thinl” in my comment on 20dn.

    Lynette@1 re 6dn: This was my last one in and held me up for some time, but really it could not be anything else given the clue and the checked letters, so I think it was well clued. As usual, I have no quarrel …

  4. rowland says:

    I couldn’t find any grammatical problems!

    5 across is NAR(ME)NIA as a singular unit which then needs its initial letter removed, sound as a bell for me, PHEASANT can be a posh plural, so can’t fault that either, and MAINE COON too is clean as a whistle. The one I looked at twice was ‘rhino and bat’, but that’s okay too when you tot up the bits.

    Good stuff in the FT again!


  5. Pelham Barton says:


    5ac: There are two ways of going from NARNIA to ARMENIA. You can go through NARMENIA or throught ARNIA. The first of these is consistent with the clue as written, which makes the clue perfectly sound, as I was trying to say @2. I then thought it appropriate to add a comment that a different wording would have allowed the clue to work either way. This was not intended to suggest that the clue was unsound.

    18dn: Here I am happy to stand corrected. Chambers 2008 indeed gives pheasant as a valid plural, which means that “cut hearts from” can be taken simply as an instruction to remove the H. It could still be taken the more tortuous way I read it, but I agree that you do not have to take it that way.

  6. Pelham Barton says:

    Correction to 5: “through” not “throught”.

  7. scchua says:

    Thanks for your comments.
    Pelham, I’ve corrected the blog based on your comments. I still am in doubt about 15ac, as “appreciated” = “thanked” rather than “thanks”. and I agree with rowland about “pheasant”, cf. “grouse”, just sloppiness on my part about “pheasants”.

  8. rowland says:

    I think people say ‘appreciated’ without bothering with the ‘much’ these days. Same as ‘ta’ I guess.

    On with The G!


  9. Neo says:


    Thanks to scchua, and thanks indeed for the comments, some of which centred around the issue of cryptic grammar. If you’ll allow me, I’ll say what I had in mind from that perspective when I wrote the clues you’ve scrutinized.

    5ac: this cryptic construction wasn’t designed to advertise any particular sequence of events, but to describe an entity NARMENIA that ‘wants’ (does not have) a first letter.

    12ac: to me surfaces are not real. There are no lesbians in this crossword clue, nor a two-word phrase. OTOH some letters, b, r, i, s, b, a, n, e, l, e, s, b, i, a, n, s, with an arbitrarily assigned gap somewhere between them, hold (because they attract a plural usage) back (seen in a backward direction) the required word. AFAIA all cryptic tenses agree.

    15ac: TA=appreciated was my intention.

    18ac: ‘supposedly’ in Collins, but not in Chambers. I went the simplest available way.

    6dn: you can’t please all the people etc, but I quite liked this one! As to poorly-clued (which probably does need a hyphen), I’d like to know why Lynette thinks this is the case (impossible to respond without more information). I can’t see any grammatical boo-boos.

    18dn: as someone mentioned, PHEASANT is singular or plural. If you do what the clue asks, ‘cut H from PHEASANT’ you get the required word – no last letters to remove!

    24dn: ‘spear-carrier’ was according to Chambers a synonym when I set the puzzle. They may have had second thoughts.

    Happy hunting,

  10. Pelham Barton says:

    Thanks Neo for popping in. It is always interesting to discuss clues with you, because you clearly respect precision of language.

    12ac: I can accept that “two word phrase” is not quite right. If you take the subject of “hold” as “some letters” then the plural verb is indeed justified. I was thinking of it as a sequence of letters, in which case the verb needs to be singular. The advantage of putting “will hold” (or similar) is that it is acceptable as either singular or plural. In this case, there is a distinct disadvantage as the extra word would take the clue on to a second line.

    24dn: I am happy to stand corrected on this one. The phrase spear carrier indeed appears in Chambers 2011 with the definition “an actor in a minor non-speaking role”, so no indication of definition by example is required. It just did not occur to me that this was worth checking before I wrote my comment – it should have done. I am sure the phrase can be found hyphenated in some other dictionary, but to me that really does not matter.

    Finally (for now anyway) a bit more about 6dn. To me this was an obscure answer, and I appreciated the very precise clue. The real answer was much more plausible than the only sensible alternative MAICE NOON given the checking letters. This was a case where a partial anagram was appropriate for precision, which is not always the case. It was also valuable to me that none of these checking letters was necessary to solve any of the relevant across clues. Sometimes two obscure answers cross. It is then desirable that at least one can be solved without the mutually checking letter.

  11. Neo says:

    Hi Pelham – respect is mutual.

    Skinning cats is what I do, and as you know, with this activity different opportunities present themselves along the way. I too am a fan of strings of letters, of groups of words either treated as a single entity or as a multitude, or just about anything as long as it all agrees at the cryptic level. The surface is very important to me, but I always try to keep in mind that it really is an arbitrary construct – a means to an end only.

    As to cats, I think you are telling me that I should not have clued an obscure word using a partial anagram, and I can accept that: there’s no reason why a MAICE NOON shouldn’t be the solution, especially as I might have made the same crit myself of someone else’s work.

    Cheers from one PB to another.

  12. Pelham Barton says:

    Neo@11: I was quite happy with 6dn, although (as you say) it was not completely unambiguous. Partial or complete anagrams can work for obscure words, but there really should be only one plausible way of fitting in the missing letters.

  13. Lynette says:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to reply, Neo. On reflection, it is a matter of taste of course.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of pushing the boundaries too far just for the sake of a good surface. 6dn was a very good surface but at the expense of clueing ‘OON’ as ’round leg’, and whilst I wouldn’t claim that it was unfairly clued, I’d have preferred something like ‘Unusually large Cat came in breaking Clooney’s heart!’, but I’m happy to accept that I’m probably in the minority.

    By the way, I really did enjoy solving the rest if this crossword, and was really quite surprised by the fact that 6dn seemed so out of character with the style of all the other clues.

    Thanks again to both Neo & scchua.

  14. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Now after all this, let’s talk about “Labour leader” and “Greek leader”, Mr B ….. :)
    When late last night I read the clues, I was hoping to …. well, ya know (others, perhaps, don’t – therefore my apologies).
    Now what about “Abba finish”? [I didn't comment 'there' because I want to be honest and supportive (rightly so, in this case!) at the same time, which wasn't fully possible for me]

    Fine puzzle which I solved while invigilating at work (invigilating? :)) so no dictionaries at hand apart from Vietnamese-English, Korean-English and Chinese-English (which is true).

    While you think surfaces are “non-existing”, I thought yours were generally pretty good. You always care for them IMO.

    In 23d, “New filling for cheese” I played with the idea of replacing the ‘content’ of “cheese” with whatever: C ….. E
    I’ve put it in my Notebook of Crossword Ideas.

    Many thanks to U2, scchua!

  15. Dave H says:

    Generally a day behind so very rarely submit comment as usually all has been said.
    Very enjoyable however I have a quibble regarding 12a, as this held me up for some time, there are 2 girls names hidden backwards in brisbanelesbians the other one being Selen which I wrote in first.This obviously made 6,7 and 8 down a bit tricky until I solved 8d and looked for another name in 12a.
    I know Selen is a less used name than Elena but if you know your looking for a backward name when you have spotted one you tend to take that name as the answer.

  16. Pelham Barton says:

    Hi Dave@15. My take on this issue is that the reasonable expectation is that the vast majority of clues should be completely unambiguous but just occasionally there may be a clue which requires the checked letters to resolve an ambiguity. The average rate of these is probably a lot less than one per crossword, but I agree they can be irritating when you guess wrong. The reason I dislike “Quick” crosswords is that so many of the clues in them are ambiguous without cross-checking.

  17. rowland says:

    ‘Selene’ is more usual Dave, as in that film Underwordl.


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