Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8,176 / Phi

Posted by RatkojaRiku on December 28th, 2012


As this is to be my last appearance as a blogger in 2012, I was hoping to produce a comprehensive blog of today’s puzzle, which is by Phi, as might be expected.

As is often the case with me and Phi, it is often the latter that has the last laugh, with either a clue or two eluding me at the end and/or a theme or Nina that goes straight over my head. In this puzzle, there are two solutions which I feel have to be right, if only from the crossing letters, but which have left me baffled as to why: 9 and 26. I look forward to being enlightened by other bloggers! Done – many thanks!

Overall, a trio of intersecting words in the NE(ish) quadrant kept me guessing longest: 6, 9 and 11; the artist at 11 was unfamiliar to me. My favourite clue today is the & lit. at 12, a rather appropriate clue for this festive season. Now that I have had it explained to me, 9 is also a favourite: I had been trying to remove an “l” from another word but just hadn’t realised that I was removing it from a 3-word phrase – tricky but wholly fair.

As for a theme, I can see that Phi has included the full name of the English writer of ghost stories, M R James, i.e. Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) among the grid entries. I believe that an ash tree, a rose garden and a doll’s house featured in some of his stories, and there are doubtless other references in the grid which I either never knew or have simply missed.

*(…) indicates an anagram

1   MONTAGUE U (=upper-class) in MONTAGE (=selection of pictures); the reference is to the Montagues in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
5   RHODES HOD (=carrier, i.e. of bricks) in RES (=reservation)
10   SOUTH ‘S (=transcribed from clue) + OUT (=call, e.g. in tennis) + H (=hard)
11   BEARDSLEY BEARD (=Vandyke, say, i.e. type of beard) + [<picture>E (“back of” means last letter only) in SLY (=cunning)]; the reference is to Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98), an English illustrator of the Aesthetic movement
12   BREATHALYSER *(RATHER BY ALES); “activated” is anagram indicator; & lit.
15   OF ONE MIND [NEM (MEN=blokes; “taken aback” indicates reversal) + IN] in *(FOOD); “cooked” is anagram indicator
17   SHORT R (=river) in SHOT (=attempt)
18   NOELS NO (=number) + ELS (=golfer, i.e. South African Ernie Els)
20   CAPARISON [A + PARIS (=city)] in CON (=study); a caparison is an ornamented covering for a horse
22   STANDING JOKE STAND-IN (=reserve) + [<attac>K in G.<i>. JOE (=US   soldier)]; “end of” means last letter only; “dropping one (=I)” means letter “i” is dropped
26   MIDSTREAM Cryptic definition: the reference is to the expression, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, that one should not change horses in midstream, i.e. not change one’s approach or allegiance halfway through a project; “mounting” to be understood as mounting a horse
27   OMEGA O (=nothing) + MEGA (=on a large scale, e.g. a mega-event); omega means end in the expression alpha and omega
28   NANISM N (=note) + A + N (=name) + I (=one) + ‘S (=transcribed from clue) + M (=masculine, i.e. in grammar); nanism is the condition of being dwarfed
29   ASK FOR IT FOR<m> (=class; “mostly” means last letter dropped) in [A + SKIT (=bit of comedy)]
1/2   MASS NOUN MA’S (=mother’s) + [NO (=not) in SUN (=tabloid, i.e. UK newspaper)]; mass, or uncountable, nouns, such as poetry and music, are not pluralised with -s
3   ASH TREE AS (=where) + *(THERE); “cultivated” is anagram indicator
4   UMBRA [MB (=doctor) + R (=runs, i.e. in cricket)] in [U<nder> (“initially” means first letter only) + A]
6   HUDDLES H (=hot) + <m>UDDLES (=confused situations; “putting off male (=M)” means letter “m” is dropped)
7   DOLL’S HOUSE [L L (=pounds, i.e. 2 x L=pound)] in DOSH (=money)] + O (=zero) + USE (=purpose)
8   SKYWRITING [K<e>Y (“boundaries of” means first and last letters only) + W (=west) + R (=right)] in SITING (=placing)
9   WASHED-UP WAS HE<l>D UP (=could not progress); “without beginning to look” means letter “l” (=first letter of look) is dropped
13   CORNISHMAN *(MONARCH IS) + N (=north); “unsettling” is anagram indicator
14   ROSE GARDEN *(ONE REGARDS); “doubtfully” is anagram indicator
16   INCENSED IN + CE (=church) + *(ENDS); “ornate” is anagram indicator
19   SEDATES S<h>E (=woman; “dumping Henry   (=H)” means letter “h” is dropped) + DATES (=other boyfriends)
21   RAKE-OFF RAKE (=libertine) + OFF (=escaped, away)
23   JAMES E (=English) in JAMS (=sticks)
24/25   NEAR EAST AREAS (=regions) in NET (=difficulty)

11 Responses to “Independent 8,176 / Phi”

  1. mikeS says:

    Alas I can’t help with 26a but I parsed 9d as WAS HELD UP (could not progress) minus the L (without beginning to look)

  2. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, RR. Phi certainly had the last laugh with me today, since I couldn’t finish the NE corner without a cheat to get BEARDSLEY. (Is he an obscure artist? Discuss.)

    Generally just a bit too hard for me, with some obscurities no doubt forced upon the setter by the theme. MONTAGUE RHODES JAMES? Who he? Okay, you didn’t need to know about him to solve the puzzle, but Phi can produce entertaining and amusing puzzles without themes. Maybe I’m just a bit themed out with the Indy dailies at the minute.

    I think 26ac is whimsically referring to the expression DON’T CHANGE HORSES IN MIDSTREAM.

    Thanks to Phi for some super crosswords in 2012 – this one not my favourite, but plenty of others that I have enjoyed.

  3. allan_c says:

    Well, I got it all without understanding all the clues, so thanks, RR, for the blog – and Phi for the puzzle.

    Is there a nina? 1ac, 5ac, 23d give MONTAGUE RHODES JAMES – the full name of the author M R James, the 150th anniversary of whose birth occurred earlier this year.

    K’s D, I wouldn’t say Beardsley was particularly obscure, though not as well-known as other members of the Aesthetic movement. According to his drawings “emphasised the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic…” you can judge for yourself from some of his work illustrated there.

  4. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks to mikeS and Kathryn’s Dad for plugging the gaps in my blog. I should have seen 9, but I don’t think I would ever have seen the connection in 26 to an expression I only vaguely knew.

    I am glad allan_c agrees with me about the Nina, as mentioned in the intro to the blog.

  5. Pelham Barton says:

    Thanks Phi for an entertaining crossword and RatkojaRiku for the blog. As is often the case, I failed to spot the theme, but solved the puzzle without it, although I had not fully parsed 9dn, so thanks to mikeS for explaining that one.

    I was held up at the end on 27ac and 24/25dn: I really do not like it when the same answers cross in two places, but maybe that is just my prejudice.

  6. allan_c says:

    Oops! Didn’t read the intro to the blog or the comments carefully enough. Sorry, RR and K’s D.

  7. Phi says:

    This was really just an attempt to evoke the idea of a ghost story at Christmas – I hadn’t realised it was MRJ’s sesquicentenary. I could only fit three titles in around him – he either went in for long and ornate titles (Canon ALberic’s Scrapbook, I think I recall, is an example) – or when he drifted to single words, he used quite long ones. I decided to avoid MEZZOTINT (though it’s one story I always remember).

    I put BEARDSLEY in without a second thought – a very distinctive artist, I’ve always thought. He was called ‘Awfully Weirdly’ for his pains. NANISM was the one that bothered me most, but I hoped the prevalence of NANO-this and NANO-that would carry it through.

    Happy New Year

  8. Bertandjoyce says:

    Thanks RR for the blog and the explanations for 26ac which totally eluded us.

    Thanks Phi for the puzzle. We agree with K’s D that it wasn’t one of our favourites but there were some gems as always!

  9. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Before the blog goes cold, just to say that I got NANISM from the the fact that I speak French, and the French for a dwarf is ‘un nain’. So it had to be that. Not sure it’s etymologically related to NANO, though.

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Actually, scrub that. A brief flirt online shows that it comes from the Greek word for ‘dwarf’. I’ll get me coat …

  11. Graham Pellen says:

    10A I thought this was simply “shout” with the “h” shifted to the end, but now doubt it.

    28A. Isn’t it just “is” for “one’s”?

    allan_c@3 – Beardsley was/is, in fact, particularly well-known.

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