Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8237 (Sat 9-March 2013) Monk

Posted by beermagnet on March 16th, 2013


This puzzle had a enormous range of difficulty.

The short clues somehow stood out when I first glanced at the puzzle, and as they were eminently gettable double-defs, oddly enough the top right corner of the grid was tackled first.  A few other easy clues also fell quite quickly.
I really enjoyed the middle section of solving – a few more clues were solved with a decent fillip (oojamaflip indeed), others were teased out satisfactorily. At some point I had fully completed the right hand side, but soon after that came to a complete halt with six unanswered, hereafter known as the “hard last half dozen”.

So I slept on it. Have another go tomorrow. Had another go the next day.  And the next day. And so on. No joy.
Then I was concerned: The reality of not completing the puzzle after a week and having a ragged blog looked quite real so I knuckled down with all resources at my disposal, books, internet etc.,  to get those last few. They didn’t give up the struggle easily.

I should have known. I have had trouble with Monk puzzles in the past. So Monk, shall I curse you or thank you?
Well, I have now learnt several new words and far too much about twistor theory and slave-raiding ants so that’s got to be good.
So: Cheers, Monk.


Inevitably there are a few loose ends and holes in the explanations below.

9 IRRITANCY Caught in New York by Irish girl’s annoying quality (9)
IR[ish] RITA (girl) C[aught] in N[ew] Y[ork]
10 RIOJA Drink mainly after port wine (5)
JA[r] Drink mainly, RIO port
11 SCALADO Mount and enter with this small-scale difficulty (7)
SCAL[e] (small scale) ADO (difficulty) Not sure about this parsing. Last of the difficult last half dozen. Took a bit of Chambers and other dictionary bashing to find this and I’m still a bit dubious as I’m not totally happy with either the definition or the wordplay. Nothing else is going to fit though
12 RHUBARB Fruit rot (7)
First clue read and answered. This short clue beckoned me when I glanced at the puzzle and turned out to be a gettable double-def. leading to 8D
13 ASPIC Ending of Marlowe’s thriller that’s clear? (5)
Aspic is clear but what is the Marlowe thiller … I can’t find it in The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye
15 ASSISTANT Helping fool with present that’s not new (9)
ASS fool I[n]STANT present without a N[ew]
17 ACRIMONIOUSLY Bitterly worked out our alimony [sic] (13)
(OUT ALIMONY SIC)* AInd: worked out
19 AMAZON ANT Dominant woman essentially wants dominant social worker (6,3)
AMAZON (Dominant woman) [w]ANT[s] A ferocious ant. Initially pencilled in Dragon Ant – well it’s possible?
21 HIPPO Thick-skinned type informed on a Tellytubby (5)
A Hippo has thick skin, the Teletubby is Po, but how is HIP ‘informed on’?
23 TWISTOR Something complex is ultimately cut in two by razor’s edge (7)
IS [cu]T inside TWO, then R[azor] ‘Something complex’ seems to me to be a vague definition to give for something that not many people night have heard of. Only after teasing the word from the wordplay (with the great help of all the crossing letters) and googling it did I feel confident this was the answer. I then lost another couple of hours reading up on Twistor Theory – am I any the wiser now? Possibly
25 GNOMIST Writer of pithy sayings announced “all clear”, perhaps (7)
Homophone “No mist”
27 MOLAR Up-front Mayor of London announced rates that could be capped (5)
First letters from Mayor Of London Announced Rates A molar is something that could be capped, but you’d have to take out a mortgage or be as rich as Boris to get a decent crown on a tooth these days
28 AGITATION Stirring comedian once working on Laugh-In‘s alternate spots (9)
lAuGh In [Jacques] TATI (comedian, once) ON
1 MIASMA Bad atmosphere as Missoni initially dons rejected design (6)
AS M[issoni] inside (dons) AIM< (design) backwards (rejected)
2 URSA Treasurer skinned bear (4)
[b]URSA[r]  From the latin as in constellations e.g. Ursa major / Great Bear
3 STRACCHINO Wasted cold rations, eating last bits of Dutch cheese (10)
(C[old] RATIONS [dut]CH)* AInd: Wasted.  Not Dutch but Italian cheese
4 INTONACO Enthusiastic about a company introducing new surface for painting (8)
INTO (Enthusiastic) N[ew] A CO[mpany] One of the difficult last half dozen and another where I’m not fully sure I have the right wordplay (‘about’ is spare the way I have it), and another that required dictionary support
5 CYPRUS Island tree by sound (6)
Homophone “Cypress” often handsome tree
6 FRAU Jaguar F1 partly going round other half of Hockenheimring? (4)
Hidden reversed in jagUAR F1 – the other half – wife – in German
7 OOJAMAFLIP Thingummy loves squash and a rich drink (10)
OO loves; JAM squash; A FLIP a rich drink
8 RABBIT Gas an animal (6)
Second clue read and answered. Double-def.
14 PICCALILLI Relish verbal order to pluck a flower? (10)
Homophone “Pick a lily” Marvellous, marvellous foodstuff
16 SOUTH-POLAR Antarctic troops haul up (5-5)
18 INTAGLIO One mostly gloating about depressed figures? (8)
I (one) (GLOATIN[g])* AInd: about. Clever carving
19 ASTHMA With which one can’t draw properly (6)
CD ‘Tis difficult to draw breath during an asthma attack. Cryptic defs often fool me so I was particular pleased to get this when I finally thought of ‘draw’ in the correct sense. One of the “hard last half dozen” for me but seems easy when you know the answer.
20 AIRGAP Circuit breaker‘s almost open, beginning to increase resistance internally (6)
I[ncrease] R[esistance] inside AGAP[e] (almost open) Surely this should be AIR GAP and enumerated (3,3)? As a result I had rejected that solution the first time I derived it from the wordplay. First of the hard last half dozen to fall.
22 OCTANS More than one star acts on Sorry! (6) 
(ACTS ON)* AInd: Sorry. One of the last I got before getting stuck. Initially tried that anagram to no avail. Needed all crossing letters before I remembered this southern sky constellation (right near the astronomical south pole) and discovered it was that anagram fodder all along.
24 TORR Height of rubbish mounted either side of river (4)
ROT (rubbish) reversed (mounted) around R[iver] A Torr is an old unit of pressure equal to 1 mm of Mercury. Another obscure and indeed historical scientific concept
26 IN IT Enjoying success, bounded endlessly (2,2)

28 Responses to “Independent 8237 (Sat 9-March 2013) Monk”

  1. Muffyword says:

    Thanks for the blog beermagnet.

    I had the same last half dozen.

    “Hip” means “trendy” or “with-it” – hence “informed”.

    “A dandy in aspic” is a thriller by Derek Marlowe (never heard of it myself).

    “Into” can mean “enthusiastic about”

    I also needed to use the internet and dictionary, and felt dubious about “airgap”.

    Great crossword all the same!

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, beermagnet.

    Agree with Muffyword’s comments above – A Dandy in ASPIC is the first hit on Google if you search “ASPIC Marlowe”.

    My Chambers gives AIRGAP as one word. Also TORR is given as an alternative spelling of our old friend, TOR, which is specifically defined in Chambers as a rocky height.

  3. Jan says:

    Long time reader – first time commenter!
    Thanks for the very informative blog.
    I also see that the top and bottom rows read “Music for Airports”. Does anyone know whether that has any particular significance here?

  4. beermagnet says:

    Thanks Muffy/Neil/Jan

    Have you filled in all the gaps yet? Looks like it.

    I known “Hip” means “trendy”, it is the jump from that to “informed” that I find a stretch.
    “With-it” is more like it, but I would categorise “with it” into two separate senses:
    1. Hip and trendy as in cool (man)
    2. Savvy, Knowledgeable as in informed
    Thus I still have difficulty with the leap from Hip to informed.
    Then I found this on the Wiki page for Hip (slang)
    “Hip, like cool, does not refer to one specific quality. What is considered hip is continuously changing.”
    I see my problem now – I’m not Hip anymore.

    TORR: I wonder which definition Monk intended? The “height” of 1mm Hg, or the ridiculous spelling of tor (which I phonetically pondered but didn’t check in any dictionary, then forgot when I found the old pressure unit).

    There was a Nina!

    I never thought to look, but should have after all Monk was responsible for that astonishing recent FT14242 that had the inscription on The Ring written in Black Speech from The Lord of the Rings around the perimeter.

    This surely refers to the 25th anniversary of the creation of the album “Music for Airports” by Eno
    I can’t see any further references in the puzzle.

  5. Muffyword says:


    I see what you mean about hip, and didn’t mean to imply that you might not know it meant trendy.

    This might be a stretch, but could this be relevant? (from

    The Handel and Haydn Society began its tradition of Historically Informed Performance (HIP) in 1986 when Christopher Hogwood assumed the position of Artistic Director. Since then the Society has emerged as one of the nation’s preeminent period orchestras.

    This acronym also has a Wikipedia page, for what it’s worth.

  6. NeilW says:

    Sorry to spout Chambers again, but: HIP: Knowing, informed about, or following the latest trends…

  7. Muffyword says:

    That should do it, Neil. Forget about the acronym – wrong part of speech anyway.

  8. Monk says:

    Many thanks to Beermagnet for great blog and to all other posters for comments. NeilW@6 and MuffywordW@7 arrived when previewing this comment, so the only remaining explanation required is TWISTOR = one of a number of complex variables.

    The 25th anniversary (of which I was unaware!) of MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS was serendipitous: it was actually the artist that inspired the (thematic) Nina, and Beermagnet was spot on in saying “I can’t see any further references in the puzzle”:)

  9. beermagnet says:

    I’m now sure Hip=Informed. I have been convinced.
    I didn’t understand that connection when solving the puzzle and blogging, thought I knew what hip meant, and didn’t think to check Chambers.
    It’s just one of the ways we can be mislead by our own grey matter.

    Similarly I see Eno’s “Music for Airports” was produced in 1978. So obviously it is the 25th anniversary – 1978 feels 25 years ago – it took arthimetic to change my opinion and I now grudgingly admit that it is 35 years ago.

  10. Monk says:

    Oops! Yes, 2013 – 1978 = 35 (a bit trickier than the simple sums given below): so much for the day job. Primary Nina still not mentioned … :)

  11. ewwo says:

    Enjoyed some of the clues but the parsing leads me to a very basic question. Is it somehow known among the community that we all have to have Chambers and no other dictionary. I ask because airgap is certainly not in my dictionary, nor can I find anything online as one word that really matches the definition (I already have trouble with agap for almost open having played with ajar); similarly I agreed with the blogger that just the word complex for twistor seems irritatingly vague, but apparently Monk has a dictionary that defines it using the word complex.

    As an amateur I am happy to learn, but would like to understand the rules!!

  12. MaleficOpus says:

    Thanks Monk and bm.

    I think I can just about do it, but it is fairly difficult typing significant words without using that most common symbol. With my nominal form using all, it is to my substantial chagrin that it took so much hunting to find what was not shown, notwithstanding your hint.

    I thought this was an outstanding crossword, so I trust you will savour this tributary gift to you, Monk, from yours truly. Thanks again.

    Yours faithfully, Jon.

  13. NeilW says:

    ewwo @11, First off, I assure you I’m just as much an amateur as you…

    Chambers seems to be, for most setters, the dictionary of choice but, occasionally, not. If, by chance, you own an Apple device, I thoroughly recommend the Chambers App. Cheap as chips, highly effective (and regularly updated.)

    I think TWISTOR is fair enough: the wordplay is clear. I worked through it, realised the obvious solution had to be that, looked it up and saw the definition Monk cites and, hey presto!

  14. NeilW says:

    Oh dear, Black Speech again?

  15. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, MaleficOpus. Very clever, and I’d never have spotted it. I wonder what he did to Brian Eyes…

    A very impressive puzzle – and it made Enigmatist look easy today!

  16. NeilW says:

    Thomas, or MaleficOpus, please let me in on the secret…

  17. beermagnet says:

    MaleficOpus, I am in your debt. Eno! Ha!

    I gave up trying to match answers against Brain Eno’s works

    The absence of something is truly the most difficult thing to notice.
    Which of the dark gods does Monk worship? I guess Loki.

  18. beermagnet says:

    Neil, the letter K does not appear in the grid – but that’s not what we’re making a fuss about 😉

  19. NeilW says:

    Sorry, I give up!

  20. beermagnet says:

    There are no letter Es in the grid. E-no. Aaaargh!

  21. NeilW says:

    Stabs self in the heart! Thanks, beermagnnet!

  22. crypticsue says:

    So very clever when someone points out the ‘no Es’ D’oh. Such a comfort too to know that I am not alone in spending several days on a Saturday Indy when it is the turn of some of the setters. Thanks to Monk for the extra long brain work out and to beermagnet for explaining it.

  23. Paul B says:

    The Great Gadsby?

  24. Monk says:

    Paul #23: The Big Gadsby? Apologies to ewwo #11, but editors seem to accept that the BRB is allowed out at the weekend. Thanks (again) to all posters, particularly to MaleficOpus #12: very nice one … or should that be jolly good’un?

    Actually, I have a vague memory that an E-lipogram was done in the Times some years ago but that, rather than include a thematic Nina, both the grid and clues had no E. Assuming that I didn’t dream this, I’ll wager that there’s a buff out there who can provide a reference.

    That’s eno’ for now.

  25. Paul B says:

    That would be a lot harder to set. Like others, I can’t see a K in your grid: what is happening please?

  26. Monk says:

    BM #18 and PB #25: in addition to the deliberately missing E, there is no K, Q, V or X, so why single out the K? Now it’s me who’s confused!

  27. beermagnet says:

    Answering the Gadsby question as I had to look it up just now myself: It is an entire novel written without the letter E:
    I had heard of it before but didn’t realise its name was so similar to a real “great”.

    Forget the K. Nothing special about K.
    I was just trying to hint at the missing E without completely giving it away by citing another missing letter – the first I came across alphabetically that was missing. I didn’t mean to cause more confusion.
    I didn’t make an exhaustive list of the other missing letters…
    Hang on. K Q V X: King, Queen, Valet and X ten. Is there yet more subtlety? No, no I mustn’t stir up even more confusion :)

  28. Paul B says:

    I should have bothered to do an AZ check really, having assumed, like an idiot, this Monk to be all but for the E a pangram. Silly billy.

    I’m up to my own tricks in this regard, hence interest, but a really good idea here with E-no. Plus – of course – I have my sympathies in the way of any Tiger Mountains, Green Worlds or Warm Jets.

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