Never knowingly undersolved.

Financial Times 14,195 – Dante

Posted by Sil van den Hoek on January 3rd, 2013

Sil van den Hoek.

Monday Prize Crossword/Dec 24

A proper crossword consists of a grid and a set of clues, right?  Dante’s Christmas present had no grid (we were invited to fill in the blanks ourselves) while the clues contained neither clue number nor enumeration.  Never seen a thing like this before. I guess a lot of solvers must have thought “How on earth ….” or “Merry Christmas to you, Dante – but, no thanks ….”.  Yours truly likes a challenge but, if I weren’t a blogger, I would (probably) have given this – certainly on the scale of Dante – outrageous puzzle a miss.  Now I had to think of a strategy – and it wasn’t that bad after all.

Main thing: we needed a grid.  I think, Dante’s objective was solvers to find as many solutions as possible and then, just like in alphabeticals, build up the grid gradually, bit by bit. But a crossword is called a crossword because of letters crossing, therefore finding the solutions to all these, in fact, stand-alone clues isn’t very easy (in alphabeticals one has at least the starting letters).  And certainly not when Dante is at the helm with his love for cryptic definitions.  On New Year’s Eve, I had my PinC on the phone – she had 21 solutions but still couldn’t fully work out the grid.  So, I am really curious how people did it or at least tried to do it (if they chose this way of solving).  However, for me this was a non-option.

If there would have been clue numbers, I could have dived into my archive to look for a Dante grid fitting the bill.  But there weren’t, so as a next step I decided to count the number of clues: 16 acrosses and 16 downs. That’s quite a lot, so we needed a grid with relatively short words.  At that early stage,  I had found six solutions (PLAZAS, NEARBY, ALICE, INERTIA, ISAIAH and ADIEU). Now look at that: Dante’s previous grid (the solution to 14,183, and to be found both in the newspaper and on my pdf) could be the one.  I checked the six solutions I had and …. bingo!  I filled in the blanks, added clue numbers and well, the rest is history.  Not sure whether it was Dante’s idea to find the grid that way (probably not), not sure either whether the editor wanted the solvers to make a connection with the grid of 14,183 or not.  Who knows? 

Opening up my eyes took about 15 minutes or so, and from that moment on, I just had a normal Dante crossword in which I found the SW a bit trickier than the rest.

Please find the completed grid below plus, as always, the clues with definitions underlined wherever they must go.

PS, I guess the title of this crossword (Carte Rosée) is a nod to Carte Blanche (which the grid was indeed) or is there something that I am missing ?  Cheers, Roger, and a Happy New Year!

 Dante Christmas Puzzle

CHAINS Charles’ holding in bonds
    CHAS (Charles) around IN
4 SLAPDASH Careless example of hit and run
    SLAP (hit) + DASH (run)
9 PLAZAS Rumpus in La Paz’s public squares
    (LA PAZ’S)*
10   GRASPING Holding an avaricious attitude
    Double definition
    One definition is the clue as a whole, the other one is just ‘holding’.
12 TROMBONE It’s used extensively by bandsmen
    Cryptic definition
13 ACCEDE Agree to take the throne
    Double definition
15 LIED Idle doodle gave a false impression
16 DRAWBRIDGE   A moving entrance
    Cryptic definition
19 SUBSIDIARY Contributory funds one put on daily account
    SUBS (funds) + I (one) + DIARY (daily account)
20 EMIR Middle East backs one ruler – or another
    EM (reversal of ME, short for Middle East) + I (one, again!) + R (ruler)
    I know R for ‘rule’, but couldn’t find R for ‘ruler’in the dictionaries. Perhaps, we should see it as R for ‘Rex’ ( = king = ruler). Or R for ‘Regina’, of course – sorry, ladies! :)
23 LOATHE See fresh hate put upon hate
    LO (see) + (HATE)*
25 CHESTNUT Wooden horse
    Double definition
27 IMITATED Took off
    Straightforward definition, meant to be cryptic?
28 PISTON Replace points in the car engine
    A piston is a cylindrical device inside an engine.
29 EQUALITY A novice in the actors’ union has the same rights
    {A + L (novice, L[earner])} inside EQUITY (actor’s union)
30 CHASTE Good number joining expedition
    C (number, 100) + HASTE (expedition)
1 CAPITAL Major city investment
    Double definition
2   AT A LOW EBB Feeling weak, but the tide is about to turn
    Double definition, perhaps the second one with a cryptic touch?
3 NEARBY Awful barney not far away
5 LURE Cast line on river using bait
    L (line) + URE (river)
6 POSTCARD The one-sided view of a correspondent?
    Cryptic definition
7 ALICE A woman – one about fifty-one
    ACE (one) around LI (fifty-one, in Roman numerals)
8 HYGIENE For cleanliness, seventy-eight throw out TV set and replace
    Anagram of SEVENTY-EIGHT minus the letters of TV SET
    First we have to take away the letters of TV SET from 78, before anagrammatising the result. Some may find that the letters of TV SET should have been removed in the given order (which is not the case here) but as I know from previous discussions on this matter, others can’t be bothered. Apart from that, we have here for the second time ‘replace’ as the anagram indicator (see: 28ac) – as I said before: ‘others can’t be bothered’ …….
11   INERTIA Changes in it are due to inactivity
    (IN IT ARE)*
14 SWARTHY Self-conscious about blemish, dark in colour
    SHY (self-conscious) around WART (blemish)
17 DOMINATES Adopts a masterful attitude to maidens in distress
18 HIGHBALL Cocktail that goes well over the bar?
    Double defintion
    A ‘highball’ (eg whisky mixed with soda) may perhaps be called a ‘cocktail’, and in many sports a ‘high ball’ goes well over the crossbar.
19 SALTIRE Cross sailor gets over anger
    SALT (sailor) + IRE (anger)
21 RETINUE Regret about arranging it en suite
    (IT EN)* inside RUE (regret)
22 ISAIAH Prophet is first-class, given a head start
    IS + AI (first-class, A1) + A + H[ead]
24   ADIEU So long to suffer in a university
    DIE (to suffer) inside A U (university)
26 ZEST Go to get added flavour
    Double definition


13 Responses to “Financial Times 14,195 – Dante”

  1. mike04 says:

    A Happy New Year, Sil, and many thanks for your excellent blog.
    I took the R in EMIR as you did: as an abbreviation for regina, queen or rex, king.

    I don’t think the editor expected the solver to copy any particular grid.
    When there are 16 across clues and 16 down clues, the grid usually has 2 clues
    on alternate odd-numbered lines. I then hoped (and assumed) that the pairs
    of clues would be separated by one black square per line – to make life a little
    easier for the busy festive season solver. As it happened, this was the case.

    This was great fun for fans of THE SKELETON CROSSWORD in the Sunday Express
    or BARE BONES in The Mail on Sunday!
    Many thanks, Dante, a super Prize Crossword.

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Sil. I am delighted that you managed to solve this.

    I couldn’t be bothered and it ruined an otherwise perfect Christmas.

    Please, Dante, no more nonsense!

  3. Pelham Barton says:

    I do not normally do Dante puzzles, but was intrigued by Sil’s comments in the preamble to his blog on FT 14,189 and had to have a look. I recognised Carte Blanche as a “classic” special used by Ximenes and Azed (among others) over the years – the title was clearly adapted for the Pink ‘Un. The answer to the first across clue jumped out of the page at me. At that stage I noticed the solution grid for 14,183, also starting with a six-letter answer, and I wondered if the same grid was being used. However, I did not take things further at that stage.

    I came back a few days later having forgotten about the possible link with 14,183 and just solved it by appropriate techniques: having solved an across clue, you know which is the symmetrically placed equivalent and so know its length. Gradually the answers started to fit together and I managed to build the grid. Only then did I see that it was the same as 14,183 and I remembered my earlier thought.

    Given that 14,183 was also by Dante, I think the idea of having the grid staring the solver in the face was deliberate, but maybe Dante will pop in and tell us.

    One important part of the instructions was missing. I took it for granted that the clues were in the normal order. We should have been told this explicitly.

    Overall I got a lot of pleasure from this crossword, but I suspect that Dante will have lost more of his regular solvers than he has gained irregular solvers such as me.

  4. Rufus says:

    Hi Sil!
    I was just as surprised as anyone! As the Monday puzzles are prize ones and brilliantly blogged by you on the following week’s Thursday, I usually wait until then to see your comments.
    The editor did send an e-mail warning me that he had made the puzzle more difficult by making it a Carte Rosée, but we were away in Liverpool giving our daughter, who was on duty as a doctor over Christmas, her Christmas dinner – and wasn’t picked up until later.
    Pelham is correct in surmising the name came from Carte Blanche which, when printed in the FT, comes out somewhat pinkish. It has been used for special dates for many years.
    I was able to remember 1 across so was able to track it down from my records – I am usually about 20 puzzles in advance to ensure the papers have my puzzles despite holidays, health problems etc.
    Happy New Year to all the bloggers and looking forward to more excellent blogs from Sil in 2013!

  5. John Newman says:

    Well done Sil.

    I have to say that I was rather pleased with myself for getting this out. It was by the same method as you but of course once you get the top half out you get the grid for the bottom half. Unfortunately the hardest clues for me were the middle across clues which prevented me from being sure of the grid. I tried not to look at the grid of the previous puzzle which was on the page for us to see but must admit to continually peeking.

    I thought perhaps Dante had decided that he would put easy clues to start with for the across ones so we could get under way with the grid. But now we learn that it wasn’t Dante’s idea at all. Well I never!

    All in all it was an enjoyable puzzle and included the usual Dante wit, viz postcard and trombone and I liked Chestnut too!

  6. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dear Dante/Rufus, many thanks for dropping by – quite amusing to hear that you were just as surprised as anyone else.
    I hope all is well with you.

    On second thoughts, I should have realised that only 8 rows can be used for 16 clues, so indeed (presumably) 2 per row. It is exactly as mike04 says. With the first few Across solutions plus the first few Down solutions, it is surely possible to find the grid rather quickly. On hindsight, a pity that I did not allow myself to find the grid that way.
    I see now that it is perfectly doable, and although – like I mentioned in the preamble – I understand solvers like Bryan who found the crossword off-putting, it must have been Great Fun for those who persisted. Alas, not me :(

  7. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Just one more thing, something that Pelham Barton already pointed at.
    I just had my PinC on the phone (again!) and she told me that she now had 23 clues and still couldn’t find the grid. Why? It was not clear to her that the clues were in the right order, she thought they were randomly given.
    So, yes, PB, as you say, “we should have been told this explicitly”. Bit naughty (as she called it) from Mr Editor.

  8. niloci says:

    No blame should attach to Dante over this. It was the crossword editor’s decision to turn it into a Carte rosee; we have published several in the past. It was an accident that the grid was the same as that day’s solution grid.

  9. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dear niloci, no-one’s put any blame on Dante as far as I can see.
    I am not talking about “blame” anyway!
    It’s clear that the Carte Rosée was the editor’s choice. No problem with that either. You say “we have published several in the past”, but I am not long enough around in Crosswordland to remember that – I really hadn’t come across a thing like this before, but all in all I liked it.
    And your “accident”, well, it really helped me :).

  10. Pelham Barton says:

    Thanks Rufus and niloci for dropping in and filling in the gaps of the inside story behind this puzzle.

  11. fearsome says:

    Thanks Sil and Dante/Rufus
    I enjoyed this challenge and did wonder quite early on if the grid was the same as the earlier puzzle.

  12. Thomas99 says:

    I thought this was brilliant – in the end! It was a stiff challenge – wouldn’t want it them to come up too often – but worked very well as a “Carte Rosee”. I’m surprised at Sil and others’ lack of familiarity with the genre. Azed does “Carte Blanches” fairly regularly and there is certainly nothing especially controversial about them. All the same it might have been helpful for newer solvers (like me – I’ve never actually completed a Carte Blanche before) to be told explicitly that the clues were in the normal order (see Pelham B above) – though surely this was a possibility that must at least have occurred to everyone? (Unlike in a jigsaw, they were marked across and down.) The great thing was that it was still recognizably a Rufus “libertarian” puzzle but even with the challenge of designing the grid I could be 100% sure about everything by the end. The story of the editor deciding to make it carte rosee is surprising, but I think he chose the right puzzle (I’m one who still sometimes finds Rufus’ clues very challenging). Anyway, it felt really great to have persevered with it and (sort of) helped create an excellent crossword as well as solve it.

  13. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thomas, everything you said really makes sense.
    It could have been my verdict if, yes if, I would have persisted.

    I have not encountered puzzles like this since I started doing crosswords (in 2008). Azeds (and barred crosswords in general) are not really my cup of tea, so never seen Carte Blanches either. As some will know I do some setting myself (as Dalibor). Several pros have encouraged me to do something with it – some suggested the barred crossword is the best way in (into the broadsheets, that is). Unfortunately, I have no affinity with these kind of fancy puzzles. So, I never look at Azed et al.
    No Carte Blanche for me, more a Grey Area.

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