i Cryptic Crossword 3047 Phi

November 12, 2020

Phiday falls on something other than the accustomed Saturday, meaning firstly that I will feel somewhat discombobulated this weekend, and secondly that Cornick will have a different setter to blog.

Today’s solve was a somewhat disconcerting one, in that the LHS of the grid fell in a jiffy, with the other half taking an age. A careless PUMP UP must bear some of the blame for that, together with doubt over the parsing of 14ac. Enjoyable throughout though I thought, once I’d found my feet again with only the one query already noted. Perhaps I just got myself into a flap in that part of the grid, for what would not be the first time.

There’s a Nina, and associated theme which meant nothing to me, but did help with likely looking letters appearing across the top and bottom of the grid. The ones to the right being reversed were somewhat less helpful. I wonder what Betty did to deserve such ignominy, beyond it being convenient for the grid fill. 😉 Phi explains all over on the other side.

First in 23d, last in 24ac, finish time a little under par for these parts.

COD? I’ll go with 9d – “Author‘s position over red meat I twice ignored (9)”.

To July 2016 for the answers and parsing of the clues:


20 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3047 Phi”

  1. Topsy said

    I am in a state of high excitement because I looked for a NINA, I don’t think I have done that before. At first I thought it might be prime ministers but no. Then I actually got it!!! Big smiles in Topsy Cottage. I might even do a little sand dance 😀

  2. dtw42 said

    Done in decent time over breakfast here; spotted the nina upon completion but not before (so it didn’t help with solving). I am vaguely familiar with WK&B – images of the sand dance Topsy mentions – but not sufficiently so to spot thematic lyrics in the grid. My last ones in were 21dn (for which I’d echo John’s comment from the 15² blog) and then 23dn.

  3. Cornick said

    A Nina (and ghost theme apparently) designed to appeal to the over-90s. That should ensure the long-term future of crosswords then. Frankly I’d rather it was the nations favourite vloggers. Still, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Phi, I suppose.
    Sorry, but I didn’t enjoy this one, and would also rather see surface readings to the clues that make more obvious sense than, for example,13d.

    • Topsy said

      A little harsh, I thought. I am way younger than 90 and was feeling rather proud of myself. I found it to be a pleasant solve with straightforward clues and no smart-arsery for a change. Each to their own.

      • Cornick said

        Not directed at you Topsy! Phi is about 60 I think, and this was about a trio his father liked, apparently.
        On the other hand I have a real anxiety about crosswords losing their appeal.

  4. Topsy said

    Thank goodness for that, Cornick! I have no idea what age you are but I could give Phi a year or two. WKB were also favourites of my own father. Regarding the “younger generation” I am frequently shocked by their lack of general knowledge. 😦

    • dtw42 said

      FWIW, I’m 48 and probably unusual for my generation in having heard of them at all.

    • Cornick said

      Oh I’m similar to Phi – near enough.
      I occasionally encounter groups of students who do the i cryptic crosswords – being the cheapest quality paper it’s popular on campuses. If they took the trouble to investigate today’s Nina – after all it’s only a Wiki-search away – I suspect they would find it somewhat alienating – a reaction I feel more often than not with Phi’s ghost themes and Ninas.

      • jonofwales said

        It’s certainly true you’d be happier pointing younger solvers towards say Punk. Phi’s themes do tend to be somewhat recondite, as opposed to say the Inquisitor where the themes are generally more accessible. Where they’re well hidden this isn’t necessarily a problem, but this week you may have a point.

      • Guy Barry said

        I’m not sure if you can compare themes in puzzles like this with themes in the Inquisitor. With the Inquisitor, the whole point of the puzzle is to spot the theme. With this type of puzzle, you’re not expected to – it’s included mainly for the setter’s amusement, as far as I can tell, and spotting the theme is a bonus.

        And I wouldn’t say that Inquisitor themes are “generally more accessible”. The second time I tried an Inquisitor, the theme turned out to be a 17th-century quotation written in French. I also remember one where the theme was the title of an 18th-century work by one John Arbuthnot. They haven’t all been as obscure as those but I’ve started avoiding the ones that look impenetrable. (I doubt whether I’d have got all the Stephen King/horse racing stuff, for instance.)

        I think I suggested before that some sort of grading system would be useful.

      • jonofwales said

        Whether or not you find the IQ impenetrable doesn’t change the fact that the range of themes lean towards the popular. I suspect you won’t find anything as low-brow as Stephen King, Red Rum, Rupert Bear, Doonesbury, Monty Python, etc, just to look at a few recent examples, in Phi’s puzzles. Thus my comment. Quite how a grading system would help identity high / low culture either escapes me, or why it would matter… But we have already veered far enough off topic.

      • Cornick said

        I’m fine with low-brow, I’m fine with pre-1950, but low-brow and pre-1950?

      • jonofwales said

        We should consider ourselves lucky. I note that Tree for actor made a belated appearance in the Times this week.

      • jonofwales said

        I will have to qualify “low-brow” with, or ancient, I should note.

  5. saboteur said

    I’m another one who is concerned for Our Younger Solver. Although I have just spent a very pleasant 10 minutes or so on YouTube watching the sand-dance, a crossword that makes reference to variety acts from the 1930s/40s seems designed to alienate anyone not in receipt of a pension, or at least to go over their heads.

    Having said that, I no longer bother with Phi’s themes and Nina’s, and I enjoyed this as a straightforward cryptic of middling challenge. The crossing SPARSE and CASSEROLE were the two I struggled to parse, otherwise all good. PELLAGA, again, I note…

  6. Guy Barry said

    Well I don’t normally spot Ninas either, but I got this one and I’m 54. (I was brought up my my grandparents so I’m familiar with a lot of popular culture from that era.) Didn’t know about the song lyrics though.

    I thought I saw something like WILSON along the top, then saw the collection of random letters down the left-hand side and thought I’d probably made a mistake. However KEPPEL then appeared along the bottom and I guessed that BETTY would probably make an appearance on the right-hand side, which helped me with a couple of clues. That stray E at the bottom was rather distracting though.

    Not too many comments about the puzzle itself. Started with 7a, which was perhaps my favourite clue; liked 19d as well. Didn’t recognize C = “colt” in 21a, and wasn’t sure about BOT = “parasite” in 17d. Couldn’t parse 14a or 8a, which had a horribly clunky surface that I didn’t like.

    Last one in was 4d because I had convinced myself it was the name of a country!

  7. Denzo said

    Although the puzzle was fairly clued and mostly enjoyable, I was held up by the NE corner and defeated by CORSET. I realised that “stays” was probably a noun and was thinking of ropes used on boats or tents, rather than an obsolete item of clothing I never wore. (They are obsolete, I believe, aren’t they? I remember my mother sometimes wore one).

    Interesting to see the early return of PELLAGRA. The frequency with which answers repeat has made me wonder if the editor uses a word search on 225, to help him decide which to recycle, but I see that the folks on 225 had also seen this word repeated four times in a week.

    Although I was born in the same decade that Wilson and Keppel offended the Nazis, I didn’t spot the Nina, and had never heard of them, though I do remember Dickie Murdoch, which was somewhat less risqué and therefore not switched off by my parents!

    There are many times when part of the pleasure of a crossword is as a result of the research sometimes needed for the answers. On this occasion, I found reading about Alan Stafford’s book extremely entertaining. Had I known them, I would probably have enjoyed W&K as much as I enjoyed Barker and Corbett fifty years later. It was amusing to read how they spooked the Nazis (who were actually as thin-skinned as a recently defeated contemporary leader who shares some of their outlook), and it could be because one of them (pictured in the link which Guy posted) bears quite a close physical resemblance to Goebbels.

  8. batarde said

    A Phi special. Perfectly all right really, but it’ll be Dan Leno or Marie Lloyd next.

    Regarding high and low brow, I’ve produced a list of Tuesday themes around the end of December for the last three years and there’ll be another shortly. Low brow overwhelmingly predominates. The Inquisitor is another animal entirely, and strictly speaking lies outwith the core remit of idothei.

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