Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8281 / Alchemi

Posted by duncanshiell on April 30th, 2013


Alchemi is one of the newer setters on the Independent block.  This was a pleasant solve without too many pitfalls.




I had to think a bit about the parsing of a couple of entries – SANDINISTA and ENOUGH, but both sorted themselves out as I wrote the blog.

The consecutive clues at 13 and 14 brought to mind those groan inducing jokes of some years ago – e.g. ‘What’s yellow and dangerous? — shark infested custard’.  Fortunately that didn’t seem to be a theme of the crossword although the pun on NO WAND THEN at 23 across was equally groan inducing.

Using a 1948 film to clue ROPE at 25 across seemed to be testing cinematic knowledge to the extreme.  Films are not my strong point; perhaps there has been a recent remake or it was a particularly wonderful film.  

I liked the definition ‘figures on the right’ in the clue at 27 across for UNITS where the misdirection was taking us down the political route.

I have a background in national mapping so I’m always interested in clues that refers tgo mapping of any sort as was the case with the allusion to the Geographers A-Z Map Company at 9 down.

No. Clue Wordplay Entry



Lecturer working with academic author (6)


L (lecturer) + ON (working) + DON (academic)


LONDON (reference Jack LONDON [1876-1916], American author of Call of the Wild and White Fang)




He had a hammer and chisel initially to chip inside the ribs (8)


THOR (Norse God who had a hammer known as Mjölnir) + AC (first letters [initially] of AND and CHISEL) + IC (integrated circuit; electronic chip)


THORACIC (relating to that part of the body inside the ribs)




Fixation about growth is getting in the way (9)


THING (fixation) containing (about) WART (growth)


THWARTING (crossing the path of; getting in the way)




Advanced city with marine distress (5)


A (advanced) + LA (Los Angeles; city) + RM (Royal Marine)


ALARM (distress)




Dress to suppress loud music (4)


FROCK (dress) excluding (suppress) F (forte; loud)


ROCK (a genre of music)




Mother uses broken toy shark to make dolls (10)


MA (mother) + an anagram of (broken) (TOY SHARK)


MATRYOSHKA (hollow wooden dolls containing a series of smaller dolls, fitting one within the other)




Yellow mixture regularly scrubs sailor at Land’s End (7)


CUS (letters 2, 4 and 6 [regularly] of SCRUBS) + TAR (Jack Tar, sailor) + D (final letter of [end] LAND)


CUSTARD (yellow mixture)




Ambassador key to Hungary’s well being (6)


HE (His Excellency) + ALT (reference ALT key on computer keyboard) + H (International Vehicle Registration for Hungary)


HEALTH (well being)




Some cause disappointment backing throwaway comments (6)


ASIDES (hidden word [some] reversed [backing] in CAUSE DISAPPOINMENT)


ASIDES (throwaway comments)




Ringing the coastguard to protect everyone I name (7)


CG (coastguard) containing (to protect) (ALL [everyone] + I + + N [name])


CALLING (ringing)




Sometimes a challenge to 9 for turning up ill-equipped? (3,3,4)


NO WAND THEN (A WIZARD [9 down] without a WAND is facing a challenge that makes doing his job a bit difficult)


NOW AND THEN (sometimes)




Film of major operation (4)


ROPE (hidden word in [of] MAJOR OPERATION)


ROPE (1948 film starring James Stewart)




Figure on the right in America is a fool (5)


NIT (fool) contained in (in) US (United States; America)


UNITS (the right hand figure in a number denotes the UNITS of the number, as against the tens and the hundreds etc)




Doctor nearly materialised, leaving the Master in multiple universes (9)


Anagram of (doctor) MATERIALISED excluding the last letter (nearly) D and also excluding (leaving) MA (Master of Arts)


REALITIES (real worlds; multiple [plural] universes)




Prisoners to accommodate for a very long time (8)


HOST (accommodate) + AGES (a very long time)


HOSTAGES (prisoners)




Whistler hesitates and passes on (6)


REF (referee; whistler) + ERS (hesitates)


REFERS (passes on)


No. Clue Wordplay Entry



Ability to read unknown editor’s mark I left upside-down (8)


(Y [unknown in mathematics] + CARET [editor’s mark] + I + L [left]) all reversed (upside-down)


LITERACY (ability to read)




Bulletins for modern players on board ship (9)


NEW (modern) + (CAST [players] contained in [onboard] SS [steamship, giving greater meaning to the containment in dicator ‘onboard’])



NEWSCASTS (bulletins)




Rescue ship travelling north encounters circular pods (4)


O (circular shape) + (ARK [ship used by Noah to rescue animals during the flood] reversed [travelling north; down clue])


OKRA (a tropical plant, Hibiscus esculentus, of the mallow family, with edible pods; the pods themselves)




Pictures of pigs by hot painter (7)


HOG ART (pictures of pigs) + H (hot)


HOGARTH (reference William Hogarth [1697 -1764], English painter)




Child can follow scripture lessons with a description of rationality (10)


RE (religious education; scripture lessons) + A SON (child) + ABLE (can)


REASONABLE (rational; a description of rationality)




Fail to fit in with Tory whip (5)


C (Conservative; Tory) + LASH (whip)


CLASH (disagree; act in a contrary fashion; fail to fit in with)




Fighting Spooner’s exploding feline (6)


COMBAT (Spoonerism of BOM [sounds like {a Spoonersim depends upon the sounds of words} BOMB {explosive device; exploding}] + CAT {feline])


COMBAT (fighting)




Expert with current maps upside-down takes right direction to start with (6)


W (with) + I (electric current) + (AZ [reference AZ maps produced by a company first owned by the delightful Phyllis Pearsall] reversed [upside-down]) + R (right) + D (direction)


WIZARD (expert)




Revolutionary left announcement withheld (10)


AND (with) contained (held) in SINISTA (sounds like [announcement] SINISTER [left])


SANDINISTA (a member of the left-wing revolutionary movement in Nicaragua which overthrew President Somoza in 1979)




Fossil title title written untidily with biro (9)

Anagram of (written untidily) TITLE and [with] BIRO


TRILOBITE (any fossil arthropod of the Palaeozoic order)




Frightening people drive up to breed sisters every so often (8)


GO (drive) reversed (up; down clue) + even letters of (every so often) BREED SISTERS


OGRESSES (man eating monsters; frightening people)




Commander finally in charge after group’s release (3,4)


SET (group) + (R [last letter of {finally} COMMANDER] contained in (in) FEE [charge])



SET FREE (release)




I leave idiot for a Greek islander (6)


CRETIN (idiot) with I replaced by (leave for) A


CRETAN (an inhabitantof the Greek island of Crete)




Sending up a cry of disgust could be sufficient (6)


ONE (a) reversed (sending up; down clue) + UGH (cry of disgust)


ENOUGH (sufficient)




Cries the country heard (5)


WAILS (sounds like [heard] WALES [country])


WAILS (cries)




Force setter has shortly to concede (4)


G (gravity; reference force of gravity) + I’VE (I [crossword setter] HAS in the relevant tense)


GIVE (concede)


13 Responses to “Independent 8281 / Alchemi”

  1. Muffyword says:

    Thanks for the blog – great crossword, with a few tricky ones for me. UNITS was my last.

    I read 23A slightly differently to your parsing: as a challenge to the Wizard “No wand then?” rather than a challenge for the wizard. This was my favourite clue.

  2. michelle says:

    Thanks for blog, Duncan. I needed your help to parse quite a few clues: 11a, 23a, 27a, 9d, 14d.

    I think there is a typo in your parsing of 6d which should be RE + A + SON + ABLE.

    My favourites in this puzzle were 5d, 10a, 21d.

    New word for me today was TRILOBITE.

  3. duncanshiell says:

    Muffyword @ 1: I think both interpretations can be applied here.

    Michelle @ 2: I’ve added the missing A – thanks.

  4. hounddog says:

    There appears to be something of a punk rock theme in the answers. I’ll say no more at this stage.

  5. MikeC says:

    Thanks duncanshiell and Alchemi. Good puzzle – needed your help to parse 14.

  6. Thomas99 says:

    Well spotted! I thought there might be something but completely missed it. An excellent ghost theme, in a very enjoyable puzzle. Particularly liked the Wand clue, which I needed before I could get “Wizard”. 14d was a bit maddening, but in a good way I think.

  7. Andy B says:

    I very stupidly put in Sandanista without checking the wordplay properly. Entering an answer from memory isn’t always a good thing …… A good puzzle.

  8. nmsindy says:

    The Rope film was directed by Hitchcock and it did have an easy clue.

  9. Alchemi says:

    Thanks to Duncan for the kind blog.

    For those who haven’t spotted the ghost theme, The Clash’s worthwile albums are CLASH, GIVE(‘em) ENOUGH ROPE, LONDON CALLING, SANDINISTA! and COMBAT ROCK. I didn’t include “Cut the Crap” because if they’d taken that title literally, it would never have been released.

    As nmsindy says, ROPE is a Hitchcock Hollywood movie, and I’d regard Hitchcock’s Hollywood output the same way as the plays of Ibsen or Chekhov or GBS – ie, you can just use “film” as a definition (well, obviously for the plays it would be “play”).

    In case you’re interested, the clue for NOW AND THEN came from me taking a break. When I resumed work on the puzzle, I saw NO WAND THEN and wondered what on earth I’d been doing putting such a meaningless phrase into the grid. When I remembered that it was NOW AND THEN, it was obvious that the wordplay would have to indicate N W T instead.

  10. PJ says:

    Thanks for the blog, Duncan, and to Alchemi for the fun of a puzzle that was a bit infuriating because I made the error of solving a few and thinking it would be plain sailing. Hah!

    In the end I filled in the grid but could not have parsed 14D or 25A without Duncan’s help, and didn’t spot the Clash theme, so from where I sit that makes the score Me 1, Duncan 1 and Alchemi 1. I’m hoping the other two will grant me an honourable draw!

  11. Flashling says:

    Thanks alchemi* and duncan missed the theme despite seeing clash and london calling. Didn’t know the others and was put off thinking of the alarm. I can see a variant of this being an inquisitor based on the clashes…. Talking of which the inquisitor will be in the main paper in future.

  12. Bertandjoyce says:

    We missed the ghost theme – we were a bit too old for punk rock! We needed a bit of assistance for 14d which was one of our last ones in as we had an incorrect spelling! Thanks Duncan for the parsing which we couldn’t sort out.

    Thanks Alchemi – it gave us something enjoyable to think about when our train was late and we missed our connection!

  13. NealH says:

    I couldn’t work out the parsing of sandinista and got hung up on there being some ghost theme of scientific units because I could see “tog” hidden in the right hand column, to which I thought 27 might be alluding. I’d have had slightly more chance of spotting that theme than anything musical, I’m afraid.

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