Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8171 / Phi

Posted by duncanshiell on December 21st, 2012


It’s Friday, so it’s Phi with one of those grids that makes you look closely at the result.




Earlier this year – around 7th February – the 200th anniversary of the birth of a famous novelist was widely celebrated in the crossword world.   Things have gone fairly quiet since, but it was unlikely that CHARLES DICKENS was going to be allowed to vanish without trace, especially as today would have been his mother’s 223rd birthday.  CHARLES DICKENS appears in the top and bottom rows of unchecked letters.

Afternote: As is often the case, my lack of classical literary knowledge is exposed in comments on the blog. Thanks to Phi at comment 1 below for suggesting that I hadn’t found everything relating to DICKENS when I published the blog. My own comment at 2 below, written after reading Phis’s comment, shows that there is reference to DICKENS’ five Christmas books in the entries. It is more than likely that there is still some undiscovered DICKENS allusions in the grid or clues and I look forward to any further comments on this topic.

This was a typically well clued puzzle from Phi.  I don’t think there was any word in the grid that I had not come across before outside the vocabulary of crosswords.  Overseas solvers may not be well versed in the destinations served from London mainline stations, but the station in question was probably well enough known as a starting point.

I liked the self referencing use of MUTATION in the clue at 16d.  

My literary knowledge is not great and I nearly referred to Daphne du Maurier rather than George in the parsing of the clue at 14 across.

Finally, I hope that you all have a pleasant and enjoyable time over the next few days.  Although there will be no national daily puzzles on Tuesday, I am sure there will be plenty of other puzzles around to keep the brain ticking over.

No. Clue Wordplay Entry



Adaptable spy taking one in (6)


PLANT (spy) containing (taking … in) I (one)


PLIANT (adaptable)




Gave out Earl’s order:  Duke to the back (8)


E (earl) + (MANDATE [order] with the D [duke] moved to the end [to the back])


EMANATED (gave out)  




Magistrate’s mature about second instance of criminal damage (8)


(BEAK [magistrate] containing [about] R [second letter of {second instance of} CRIMINAL]) + AGE (mature)


BREAKAGE (damage)




Female part reduced after performance cut back (5)


(ACT [performance)] excluding the final letter [cut] T, reversed [back]) + (ROLE [part] excluding the final letter [reduced] E)


CAROL (girl’s name; female)




Sport etc. gets reorganised with introduction of twist (7)


Anagram of (gets reorganised) ETC containing (with introduction of) RICK (variant spelling of WRICK [twist], as in ‘WRICK your back’)


CRICKET (an example of a sport)




Berkshire destination, with our team on board?  Not from this station! (6)


ETON (town in Berkshire) containing (with … on board) US (when talking about a team we are a member of, or a team we support, we often use the word US to describe the team)


EUSTON (mainline railway station in London serving the West Midlands, North West of England and parts of Scotland.  Trains from EUSTON do not go to ETON.  Should you ever wish to go to Windsor & ETON stations from London you should travel from Paddington or Waterloo)




Attempt to take in mostly poor book – one by du Maurier (6)


TRY (attempt) containing (to take in) (ILL [poor] excluding the final letter [mostly] L + B [book])


TRILBY (1894 novel by George du Maurier)




Agrees I’m to appear in game (missing one Saturday) (6)


I’M contained in (to appear) CHESS (game) excluding the final letter (missing one) S (Saturday, in the series SMTWTFS for days of the week)


CHIMES (agrees)




British Prime Minister losing election initially in Sussex town (6)


B (British) + ATTLEE (reference Clement ATTLEE [1883 – 1967] {British] Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951)  excluding (losing) E (first letter of [initially] ELECTION)


BATTLE (town in Sussex)




Hung around a Parisian – didn’t like to stay outside (7)


HATED (didn’t like) containing (to stay outside) UN (the indefinite article, a, in Fench [Parisian])


HAUNTED (hung around)




Light transmitter, offering little power, is found in room (5)


P (abbreviation for [little] power) + (IS contained in [found in] RM [room])

P R (IS) M

PRISM (a piece of glass or the like, often triangular in shape, for resolving light into separate colours; light transmitter)




Such an allowance, augmented by penny, would be a common observation (8)


PLATITUDE (a dull commonplace or truism; a common observation) excluding the P (penny).  The clue is written the other way round – adding to [augmenting] the entry – LATITUDE – by putting a P (penny) at the front


LATITUDE (freedom; allowance)




Rapid of rhythm around openings of each oratorio (8)


METRIC (of metre; of rhythm [regulated succession of groups of syllables, long and short, stressed and unstressed) in which poetry is usually written]) containing (around) EO (first letters of [openings of] EACH and ORATORIO respectively)


METEORIC (rapid)




Unpleasant time finding oxygen in end of spectrum (6)


(VILE [unpleasant] + T [time]) containing O (chemical symbol for oxygen)


VIOLET (colour at one end of the spectrum defined by a rainbow – Red, Orange …. Indigo, VIOLET)





Minister’s angry dismissing heads of Home Office (6)


CHOLERIC (angry) excluding (dismissing) HO (first letters of [leads of] HOME and OFFICE)


CLERIC (minister)  Given John Reid;’s view of at least one part of the Home Office when he was the Secretary of State responsible, this is a very apposite clue [yes, I know John Reid was SoS way back in 2006, but some might say there has been little change since]




Hong Kong air repeatedly polluted – it’s fatal (4-4)


Anagram of (polluted) HK (Hong Kong) AIR and AIR again [repeated]


HARA-KIRI (ceremonial Japanese suicide; it’s fatal)  Every time I’ve been to Hong Kong the visibility hasn’t been very good; whether it’s due to pollution or not, I don’t know, but the anagram indicator is fairly relevant.




Food in a serving area, ripe for the taking (10)


TACK (food) contained in (in) (A + TABLE [a serving area for food])


ATTACKABLE (open to onslaught; ripe for the taking)




English lecturer in tears?  Eases off (7)


(E [English] + L [lecturer]) contained in (in) RENTS (tears)


RELENTS (eases off)




Speaking briefly’s no trick for the congregation (4)


LACONIC (expressed in a few words; speaking briefly) excluding (no) CON (trick)


LAIC (of or relating to people who not members of the clergy; could be descriptive of the congregation in church)




Waves mostly increased in endless calm? (6)


(GREW [increased] excluding the last letter [mostly] W) contained in (in) (EASE [calm] excluding the last letter [endless] E)


EAGRES (bores or sudden rises of the tide in rivers; waves)




Marine creatures, as on isle in storm (3,5)


Anagram of (storm) AS ON ISLE


SEA LIONS (marine creatures)




You finally have sex – it possibly is all-embracing (10


Anagram of  (possibly) U (last letter of [finally] YOU), HAVE, SEX and IT


EXHAUSTIVE (investigating all parts and possibilities;  all-embracing)




Daughter attending wild parties moved sluggishly (8)


An anagram of (wild) PARTIES + D (daughter)  I think ‘attending’ is a link word to aid the surface and indicate that the D is alongside the wild PARTIES


TRAIPSED (trudged; moved sluggishly)




Amount it’s provided, if self-applied? (8)


Anagram of (MUTATION) AMOUNT IT  This clue is using it’s own answer as the anagram indicator, given that the answer means ‘change’.  I don’t know if there is a technical term for this.  Perhaps ‘recursive’ might fit the bill.


MUTATION (change)




Money-lender reserved bar (7)


SHY (reserved) + LOCK (bar entry to)


SHYLOCK (reference the money lender in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice)




Recording I produced about one Asian city (6)


(TAPE [recording] containing [produced .. about] I) + I (one)


TAIPEI (Asian city, capital of the Republic of China [Taiwan])




Italian leaders accepting Dutch ploys (6)


DOGES (formerly titles of the chief magistrates in republican Venice and Genoa) containing (accepting) D (Dutch)


DODGES (ploys)




Car one hired for foreign work (4)


MERC (mercenary; a soldier hired into service for foreign work)


MERC (Mercedes car)



10 Responses to “Independent 8171 / Phi”

  1. Phi says:

    Just got in from a performance of A Christmas Carol – now there’s an idea for a theme…

  2. duncanshiell says:

    Spurred into action by Phi’s cryptic comment, I have done some more research and discovered books by Dickens as follows:

    A Christmas CAROL [11 across]
    The CRICKET on the Hearth [12 across]
    The CHIMES [15 across]
    The BATTLE of Life [18 across]
    The HAUNTED Man and the Ghost’s Bargain [20 across]

    Collectively these are known as Dickens’ five Christmas books

    I guess HAUNTED could also apply to A Christmas CAROL with its three ghosts.

    I can’t see anything obvious in the down entries

  3. flashling says:

    Is everyone off Christmas shopping or partying? I guessed there would be more of a theme than just Carol but I’m not Dickens buff either, but thanks Phi(Noz?) and Duncan.

  4. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Neither of those, flashling. I nearly finished this this morning, but needed ten minutes when I got in to finish off the NE corner. EAGRES was a word I didn’t know, and this crossing with LAIC (which I just about knew, because of the French word with a meaning close to ‘secular’, laïcité). I liked VIOLET today and EXHAUSTIVE for its smile.

    I saw CHARLES DICKENS which helped me finish, but the references passed me by.

    Thanks to Duncan and Dac.

  5. Pelham Barton says:

    Thanks Phi for a thoroughly enjoyable crossword and Duncan for the blog.

    I have mentioned (many times) before my dislike of grids that split in half. Here I had solved half the clues and only got two letters from the answers themselves to go forward, but the Nina was staring me in the face by then (I had CHAR on the top row and DIC on the bottom), so that provides more than adequate compensation. Similarly 4dn and 17dn are really 4/7 cross-checked not just 3/7.

    15ac/18ac: Interesting to compare these clues for the way Phi has indicated removal of just one of the two Ss (15ac) or Es (18ac). To me, “missing” carries an overtone that the omitted letter is not there at all, while “losing” does not, so I agree with Phi that “one” is needed in 15ac but not in 18ac. I think the surface of either clue would work with or without the “one”, and of course it can be argued that the length of the answer is sufficient indication that only one letter needs to be removed.

  6. Paul B says:

    That is quite interesting.

    I might have gone for ‘losing AN election initially’ just to be sure, though I agree with you in a general way. I don’t contest the somewhat Guardianiste idea that you can deduce what the word is without the finer points of indication, but it just seems to me better to clue that way: more precise, more diciplined, and in any case it can lead to more interesting (if slightly longer) surfaces.

    BTW in 15ac of course either S can be chucked out, it doesn’t have to be the final one as Duncs opines, but as usual a very fine blog, and of a very fine puzzle.

  7. Phi says:

    I’m also rather against the splitting of a grid almost into two but I felt that the additional challenge of getting the Christmas Books presented in published order was worth it.

    Merry Christmas

  8. allan_c says:

    Curiously I saw the Dickens theme from CAROL, CRICKET and CHIMES but didn’t spot the nina. Incidentally there is a tenuous link between Dickens and EUSTON, though not Christmas-related; in Dombey & Son he provides a very good description of the upheaval caused by the construction of the London & Birmingham Railway through Camden, just north of Euston.

  9. Wil Ransome says:

    The usual good workout from Phi, although this one I found rather harder than usual — took ages to get EAGRES and LAIC. 16dn is a clever idea which I haven’t seen before.

  10. Bertandjoyce says:

    Thanks to Phi and Duncan.

    We found the.nina which gave us some much needed help in completing the puzzle. The NW corner proved elusive not helped by the misspelling of 2d! We didn’t spot all of the connected clues unfortunately.

    We’d also like to offer our rather belated felicitations to one and all!

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