Never knowingly undersolved.

Independent 8328/Alchemi

Posted by Pierre on June 24th, 2013


I’m not sure what to make of this one.  It’s not a bad puzzle by any means, but it didn’t really hit the spot for me.  Some of the cluing is pretty complicated (So what? I hear you say) and a number of surface readings don’t make much sense.  Well, that’s what I think, but you may differ.  I’ve not been much help to you this morning, since there are a few I can’t parse properly.





cd  cryptic definition
dd  double definition
(xxxx)*  anagram
anagrind = anagram indicator
[x]  letter(s) removed

definitions are underlined


Lawyer detained by short hearing maybe carried chairs
An insertion of DA or District Attorney, the American term for ‘lawyer’ in SENS[E].  Hearing is one of the senses, hence the ‘maybe’.

Duplicitous women belonging to American church interrupting Irish politician
Alchemi seems keen on long clues and convoluted wordplay.  This is perfectly fair: it’s an insertion of W for ‘women’ and OF A CE for ‘belonging to American church’ in TD for the abbreviation for ‘Irish Politician’.  Teachta Dála, usually abbreviated to TD, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament.

About to stop mother’s fantasies
An insertion of RE for ‘about’ in DAMS for ‘mothers’.  Don’t forget to ignore the apostrophe.

10  Major road allows for travellers
A charade of MI for ‘M1′, which is certainly a major road if you live oop north, and GRANTS.

12  Company functions in public transport
An insertion of SINES in BUS.  SINES are mathematical functions.  It’s the opposite over the hypotenuse, if I remember well.  Which I may not have done.

13  Healthy, Queen Paul?
A charade of WELL and ER for Her Maj, or Brenda according to Private Eye.  Alchemi is taking us back to the 80s, with Paul WELLER as the reference.

15  The way one occupies perch
An insertion of A in ROD.

16  Back into crash point set up in advance
An example of a surface without much meaning: it’s an insertion of REAR for ‘back’ in PRANG for ‘crash’ followed by E for one of the ‘points’ of the compass.

19  Service brought to a premature end with financial centre’s involvement in conspiracy
My best stab at this is COMPLI[NE] for a shortened ‘service’ and CITY, but that is no doubt balls and someone will parse it properly for us.

20  Boast about noise
A charade of C for circa or ‘about’ and ROW for ‘noise’.

23  Corrects what an author does over the phone
A homophone (‘over the phone’) of WRITES.

25  Replacing disc with electronic memory, showbiz mogul becomes dictator
Alchemi is asking you to take the O out of C[O]WELL and replace it with ROM.  O is a ‘disc'; ROM is read only ‘memory’ in a computer; and Simon COWELL is some trumped-up television personality, apparently.  Was CROMWELL a ‘dictator’?  Discuss.

27  Starts in appalling situation after carrion runs riot without right instruments
I like surfaces to tell me a story or to put a picture in my head.  This one did neither – what is this all about?  It’s a charade of (CA[R]RION)* plus AS for the first letters of Appalling Situation.  The anagrind is ‘runs riot’ and ‘without right’ is the removal indicator.

28  Haile Selassie once lost rat on hunting trip
I missed this clue out of the original blog.  Michelle has explained it below.

29  Become pessimistic, having left crucial beer ingredient in old bishopric
It’s fair, but again it’s a bit convoluted. A charade of L, and an insertion of HOP in O SEE for ‘old bishopric’.

30  Ship’s engineer initially having trouble with German sailor
This was a good, story-telling surface.  SE for the first letters of ‘ship’s engineer’ followed by ADO and G.


Explanatory panel deconstructing air beds
I knew it had to be (AIR BEDS)* but I couldn’t see it for a while.  A SIDEBAR is a boxed article in a newspaper, placed alongside the main article and containing supplementary material.  I never knew that.

Physician every so often gets crowd to take his advice in winter?
I can’t parse this either, I’m afraid.  My best guess is that it’s a charade of DR, ES and SWARM, but where the ES bit comes from I can’t fathom.  They are the first letters of Every and So, but how the clue tells us that is beyond me.  Edit: as others have kindly pointed out, ES comes from the even letters of gEtS.  How could I not see that?

Calling Campbell, say, to support new head of astrophysics
The world of politics: not Alastair, but Menzies, commonly known as MING Campbell.  So since it’s a down clue, it’s N plus A for the first letter of Astrophysics followed by MING.

Jokes about horse getting the smallest bit imaginable
An insertion of H for ‘horse’ or heroin in WIT.

Desists on behalf of Yogi and Boo-Boo
Smarter than the average bear …  A charade of FOR and BEARS.  Childhood black and white TV memories.

Grand Union perhaps may bring adversarial sides together
I think this is CAN for ‘may’ and AL for the outside letters of AdversariaL.  But I may be wrong.

Merit of French tennis shot
A charade of DE for the French word for ‘of’ and SERVE.

11  Bird, small, sometimes torpid, caught wearing a surprised expression
Again, this is not really putting a picture in my head.  And again, it’s fair but convoluted.  OH! is the ‘surprised expression’ and the setter is asking you to insert (‘wearing’) into that S, TRI for the odd letters of ToRpId and C.  Here is the obligatory link.  Biggest egg in the known world, and when it hatches, the resulting member of the avian family looks like it was designed by committee.

14  Works key player to the end of the day
A charade of FACTOR and Y.  Edit: this is in fact a charade of F for ‘key’, ACTOR for ‘player’ and Y for the last letter of daY.

17  Surprisingly, I made runs as caretaker
(I MADE RUNS)* with ‘surprisingly’ as the anagrind.  Another surface that makes no sense.

18  Flounder, perhaps, as resistance falls away in chaotic first half

19  Author‘s list of vehicles
A dd cum cd.  I might have fancied a question mark at the end of this clue, since it’s whimsical.  A list of vehicles might be a CAR ROLL, and it’s referring to Lewis CARROLL, aka Charles Dodgson, best known perhaps for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

21  Coming to final conclusion in what toddlers have to learn?
A dd, I fancy.  My SOED under definition 7 says ‘(slang), die’, so I think it must be that.  Edit: Michelle explains this for us at comment number 2; thank you to her.

22  Ian McKellen starts with insipid run through
The first letters of Ian McKellen followed by PALE.

24  Girl is after good barometer
A charade of G and LASS for a common word to describe a barometer.

26  Being in the American elite used to be soft
A charade of WAS and P for ‘piano’ or ‘soft’.  An acronym for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.  Elite?  Now that Obama is President, perhaps not, but it’s still a well-used phrase.

Thank you to Alchemi for this Monday’s puzzle.

26 Responses to “Independent 8328/Alchemi”

  1. Muffyword says:

    Thanks Pierre and Alchemi.

    I enjoyed this a lot. My favourites were CROMWELL, FORBEARS and SEA DOG.

    For DRESS WARM, I think the ES comes from alternate letters (‘every so often’) of ‘gets’.

  2. michelle says:

    Considering that I failed to solve 26d, and I solved but could not parse 3d, 4a, 11d, 7d, 18d & 2d I would have to say that I found this puzzle difficult and rather frustrating.

    On the bright side, the clues I liked were 28a, 30a, 6d, 29, 19d & 25a.

    Thanks for the blog, Pierre. I parsed 19 as you did, and I also only got as far as parsing 2d as far as you did. I appreciate the explanation of Irish and other politics (Ming Campbell – I don’t know which country he/she is from).

    For 21d I parsed it as WAKING (coming to) with insertion of L (finaL conclusion), with definition being “what toddlers have to learn”.

  3. Alchemi says:


    Iain Banks, RIP.

    Thanks for the blog – sorry you found some of the clues confusing.

  4. michelle says:

    hi Pierre
    I just realised that you have not parsed 28a which I mentioned as one of my favourite clues. I thought that I had made an error in choosing a clue number that does not exist! Anyway, I parsed it as definition = “hunting trip”. (Ra)s (T)afari = Haile Selassie as he was known 1916-30, less ‘rat’.

    I have never heard of Iain Banks (my ignorance) but I see now that your puzzle has a strong theme to it. Pity I could not get on to your wavelength today: I hate it when I am unable to parse so many clues! Hopefully I’ll do better next time.

  5. Muffyword says:

    Michelle @2 – I am sure you are correct about WALKING – very nice!

  6. flashling says:

    Didn’t find this the struggle that Pierre did although some did seem a little, the ghost/tribute theme passed me by entirely. I thought 14d was F(key) & Actor(player) & (da)Y.

    I notice on the index of the paper on page 2 this is described as a “prize” crossword, oops.

  7. michelle says:

    thanks for explaining the parsing of GETS WARM.


    your parsing of 14d seems to make a lot of sense.

  8. aztobesed says:

    16 a surface without much meaning? Never set up a restore point for when the desk-top crashes? Got there eventually but missed the ghost. I don’t always do the Indy so I don’t know the drill. If it’s Monday there’ll be a hidden (?). I either spend ages looking for non-existent ones or don’t bother looking. The tiniest indication of a heads up might help. I hate the setter’s effort going to waste (or do they count unspotted ghosts as a victory)

    Thanks for the blog.

  9. Alchemi says:

    @aztobesed: Mondays aren’t really meant to have themes, but this was apparently the earliest day on which this obituary could appear.

    The puzzle wasn’t actually composed as an obit – I set it several weeks ago and hadn’t really intended to submit it because it only got so-so reviews from my testers – but he died a couple of weeks ago, so it became topical.

    The subjects I tend to pick for ghost themes reflect my tastes in music, literature or what have you. My favourites tend to be slightly off the beaten track, which means that relatively few people are liable to spot them. So I try and set a puzzle which does not depend on spotting the theme to be worthwhile, with the theme adding an extra dimension for the weirdos who share my musicaland literary obsessions. So what I regard as a victory is when solvers who don’t spot the theme say they enjoy the puzzle and those who do say that the theme made it even better.

  10. aztobesed says:

    Alchemi @ 9

    I love ghosts but sometimes wish setters would flag them with a tip to solvers (something like a ! above the puzzle?). Probably missing the point, maybe? I can usually spot them in a print-out but only very rarely in the on-line versions. Wasp and factory and no alarm went off? Shame on me. RIP indeed.

    Mind you looking for ghosts where no ghosts exist can get a bit Scooby Doo. If you spot philanthropist you start looking for ragged-trousered hidden somewhere in the diagonals. All part of the fun but sometimes they’re just the old janitor haunting the fairground trying to chisel the inheritance – not worth the chase.

  11. Alchemi says:

    aztobesed @10

    There’s obviously no right answer to this. Specifically at the Indy, the restrictions of the online presentation mean that you can’t have special instructions, so if you’re going to put in a hint, it has to be in the clues somewhere.

    If a setter hints at a ghost theme and I don’t know it, I tend to spend the rest of the solve feeling grumpy and excluded from some secret society. If I do know it, then I immediately start hunting for the clues for the entries which just have to be there, which isn’t quite the point (at least for me).

    If there’s no hint and I don’t spot it, then I’m mildly disapointed, mostly with myself unless I didn’t know it, in which case I’m grateful for not having to know it. If the penny drops halfway through the solve, I feel pleased.

    On balance, then, I think I prefer no hint when I’m solving.

    It may well be that my tastes in solving are as weird as my other tastes, but since the question in my mind while setting is “Would I enjoy solving this puzzle?”, you’re stuck with them.

  12. Andy B says:

    I must have been on Alchemi’s wavelength today because I finished it relatively quickly. The only clue I couldn’t parse was COMPLICITY but the answer seemed clear enough from the checkers.

    Count me as another embarrassed Iain Banks fan who didn’t see the theme.

  13. aztobesed says:

    Alchemi @ 11

    LOL and thanks.

    I’m not sure ‘weird’ is the mot juste – perhaps ‘mischievous’. Applied to the setting mind and the solver’s?

    Speaking of which, if I’ve spent a fruitless breakfast looking for hiddens, ghosts and ninas where they don’t exist, I have to fight down the impulse to go onto message-boards and post “Wicked nina!” – but that, of course, would be weird.

  14. PJ says:

    Solved this unusually quickly, especially for Alchemi, and had a good time doing it. 7d was CoD for me as I was initially looking for synonyms for “grand” and tried finishing the answer with …RL

    Missed the theme, I’m afraid, but am no worse off for that. Thanks setter and blogger.

  15. Pierre says:

    Thanks to those who have filled in the blanks in my blog, in parsing, missing clues, and unspotted themes. Must try harder.

  16. NealH says:

    Putting an Iain Banks’ themed puzzle on a day when we were all expecting Wimbledon maybe wasn’t the best move. It might have been better to have kept tennis out of it altogether, as 8 down immediately sent you looking in the wrong direction. I found this moderately difficult in places – didn’t follow 29 and some of 2, and couldn’t be bothered to look up what TD stood for in 4.

  17. Rowland says:

    Grid: aagfh!

  18. Robi says:

    Thanks Alchemi; nice puzzle although I failed to spot the Iain Banks connection. :(

    Thanks Pierre; DRESS WARM was a bit of a strange expression [not on One Look] but I guess it was the only thing that fitted given the theme words. I particularly liked FACTORY – there’s a typo in the blog as it should be F [space] ACTOR, I think.

  19. Vigo says:

    I did spot the theme. I had the advantage of having watched the excellent Iain Banks Review show special last night (I downloaded it on bbc iplayer for a while so don’t know if it’s still available but if it is it’s worth watching). Also I always try and solve the short words first so had Whit, Wasp, Crow and Road in early on. Inspired to re-read The Wasp Factory now.

    Wondered if Alchemi had Espedair Street in mind when choosing Lose Hope for 29 across but perhaps I got a bit theme obsessed!

    Favourite clues 25a and 6d – I like a bit of low-brow.

    Thanks Alchemi and Pierre for the review.

  20. allan_c says:

    I missed the theme, but not knowing it was there meant I just ploughed on and completed the grid.

    17dn a surface without much meaning? There’s surely a cricketing allusion here to a night watchman (or caretaker). For those not into this beautiful game (sorry, footie fans) a night watchman is a lower order batsman drafted in if a wicket falls shortly before the end of a day’s play so that the batsman who would normally be next in the order can have the opportunity to ‘play himself in’ the next day. The night watchman is meant to play defensive shots rather than to score – hence the surface of the clue makes good sense.

  21. Pierre says:

    Allan, I too thought of the cricket analogy in 17dn. But I’ve played and watched cricket for 50 years, and have never heard of a night watchman being referred to as a ‘caretaker’. And a real night watchman, in the sense of someone keeping an eye on things overnight, is not a ‘caretaker’ either. Caretaker for NURSEMAID, sure; but the surface is still pants. Imho, of course.

  22. allan_c says:

    Pierre, I wasn’t implying that a night watchman would ever be referred to as a caretaker, simply that just possibly ‘caretaker’ might be considered equivalent to ‘night watchman’ – in Crosswordland rather than on the cricket field. But point taken :)

  23. Paul B says:

    The surface is pants? Well, that’s Lord’s for you. Get a bloody roller on it.

  24. Dormouse says:

    Seemed to be a game of four quarters when I solved this.

    I sort of noticed the theme, and then forgot about it until it was pointed out here. Not only heard of Banks, but even met him. I was at an SF convention about 25 years ago and I won one of his books in a raffle. The next day, I happened to see him in the hotel shop when I was buying a paper. I told him I’d won the book. “Och, don’t blame me that you got the booby prize” was his reply.

    He was due to be guest of honour at the World Science Fiction Convention in London next year. :-(

  25. Paul B says:

    Consider Phlebas … a masterpiece.

  26. Bertandjoyce says:

    Well……one of us kept closing her eyes last night so we had to finish this one this morning!

    Thanks for the blog Pierre and when we saw the number of comments we expected them to be discussing Cromwell. We weren’t totally happy about this one either.

    The ghost theme passed us by totally. We sometimes wonder whether that’s because, as happened in this case, one of us solved CROW and WASP and the other one worked out ROAD and FACTORY!

    Thanks for the puzzle Alchemi, we were not that overwhelmed by the puzzle to start with but can see now that there was more to it than we first thought. We also really like ghost themes so more of them please! We promise to try harder next time.

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