i Cryptic Crossword 3051 Hieroglyph

November 17, 2020

Today’s puzzle is what I think of as a Scorpion Special, simply because he’s the setter who seems most enthused by the idea. It’s very much in the nature of a tour de force, with an entire set of lights thematically linked but lacking a definition: the trick being to ignore all that, tackle the other set of clues and then write in the by now obvious themed material. It didn’t quite work out like that, but a gimmie of a gateway clue and some distinctly soft-boiled downs made for swift progress. A couple of truly recondite acrosses (21 isn’t in the current Chambers, and nor is it one of the infamous missing words) made finishing off a matter of writing in the apparent answers then toddling off to see whether they existed. Botany: another one of my weak suits.

It’s quite an achievement, isn’t it? All those across lights and a couple of bonuses. Can’t pretend that I found it especially enjoyable, though. The grid is a bit of a fright, being two puzzles vestigially connected, and ungenerously checked to boot. Without wishing to trigger a discussion of mass and count nouns (please, let’s not get into all that) the two pluralised drinks got a Paddington stare, and there were a few instances of trying altogether too hard in my opinion. Yes 17ac, I’m talking about you in particular. On the other hand, lots of read-and-writes. Clue of the day candidates are somewhat thin on the ground: I quite liked 22 and 27ac, but will slap that rosette on 3d for sneakiness.

“Note extremely talkative nonagenarian, the Queen? (6)”

Much botanical quibblry in the comments on RatkojaRiku’s July 2016 Fifteensquared write-up, inevitably.

23 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3051 Hieroglyph”

  1. Denzo said

    I didn’t like what I first saw, 1a referenced to a TV program which I hadn’t watched and to another clue which might be difficult to solve first – as indeed it was until I realised that the relevant “produce” was not FAGOT! (GO is also a game!)

    RHUBARB is not a fruit, ZO, BARB, SOURSOP and ACEROLA are all obscure, though to be fair, were parsed kindly so that not too much research was needed.

    Rant over, I admit that I warmed to the puzzle as I progressed, but, like Batarde, didn’t actually enjoy it as much as perhaps I should. Maybe this is because when a setter takes on the Herculean (and admirable) task of making EVERY across clue a fruit or whatever, they seldom succeed completely.

  2. jonofwales said

    Not as fearsome as it first appeared with all the 1D’s, the gateway clue being thankfully quite accessible. Fairly decent overall I thought, not one that’s going to make the end of year best of, but a pleasantly diverting puzzle…

  3. thebargee said

    My heart sank when I saw the across clues, I have a distinct antipathy towards this kind of puzzle. However, I persisted and warmed slightly as I progressed, although I never got beyond lukewarm.

    I finally ran out of available time (and patience) with 27ac and 25dn incomplete. As Denzo said, there were a fair few obscurities that needed electronic confirmation.

    Regarding yesterday’s offering, I only had a short time to look at it so never got very far, but one of the clues I did write in was 17ac, for which I put LOG-IN. I parsed this as L (symbol close) + OGIN, which is nautical slang for sea/ocean. Did anyone else make this mistake?

  4. Cornick said

    Lum, Zo, and Pom – and that was just in one of those funny little corners; would Hieroglyph happen to be a setter of the Inquisitor by any chance?
    Personally I prefer trickery to obscurity every time, but still enjoyed this well enough. With the gateway clue being so easy, it was largely a matter of guessing which fruit he might have squeezed in, and how obscure they might be. Fortunately it is my area, but even 14 years of working in the field didn’t furnish me with ACEROLA.
    Finally I know you didn’t want us to discuss it Batarde, but botanical classification applies to the realm of botany, culinary classification applies to the realm of the kitchen. Crossword classification can be either.

    • batarde said

      Crack on by all means my dear fellow. Endless fun to be had discussing the fruitiness of tomatoes, the exact nature of rhubarb and whether a sloe is in any meaningful sense edible. The idea of kicking the pluralisation of mass nouns around again appeals as much as tomato crumble and custard, however.

  5. Saboteur said

    Not as difficult as I feared it would be, with the gateway clue yielding instantly. Turned into a bit of a plod in the end as a consequence.

    I do think that the cross/zo thing in OUZOS and the fancy pigeon/bard in RHUBARB are rather too obscure. But both clearly clued with helpful crossers, so readily solved. Likewise ACEROLA and SOURSOP, just needed ing Internet confirmation.

  6. tonnelier said

    Quite apart from whether rhubarb is a fruit, surely the clue should have WHEEL, not STREET, if it’s meant to be a homophone for RHU.

    • jonofwales said


      • Guy Barry said

        I think tonnelier is right. The French word for wheel (“roue”) is a rough homophone for the first syllable of English “rhubarb”. Street (“rue”) has a different vowel which doesn’t exist in English – like the German “ü”.

      • jonofwales said

        I don’t know how they pronounce Rue and the Rhu in Rhubarb in your neck of the woods, but here they’re identical. As they are in Hieroglyph’s neck of the woods too, evidently.

      • Cornick said

        Ah, but don’t we all love those non-homophonous homophones along the top row of the Concise?

      • jonofwales said

        If you squint they work. Sort of. 😀

      • Guy Barry said

        They don’t pronounce the French word “rue” in any fashion in my neck of the woods, because I don’t live in France. The French generally use the vowel notated as /y/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet, which doesn’t exist in most dialects of English. (Wikipedia says it’s used in South African English, Multicultural London, Scouse and Ulster.)


        Do the Welsh use that vowel in the first syllable of “rhubarb”? It doesn’t sound very Welsh to me.

      • jonofwales said

        I pronounce both as ROO. Think Allo Allo. 😀

  7. tonnelier said

    That the first syllable of rhubarb sounds not much like rue, but very much like roue, is just a fact.
    Most of us British are of course notorious for our lack of ability, and interest, in foreign languages. It would have been nice if this esteemed setter had proved to be an exception to this rather sad rule.
    Or maybe it doesn’t really matter!

    • Denzo said

      I agree. French rue definitely has a vowel similar to dew or due (as pronounced in SE England), and French roue has a vowel as in do.
      Having said that, although I pronounce Rhu(barb) as do, I have come across people who pronounce it as the French rue – usually people who have been to a certain type of school who seem to use different vowels from us hoi polloi.
      But all this passed me by when I did the puzzle, partly because I no longer expect English people to get foreign languages correct, but mainly because homophones in crosswords are usually imperfect because of regional dialects.

      • Cornick said

        This seems like a battle that was fought and won by those wanting less latitude long ago. I bow to that inevitably, but it seems a shame when so much fun can be had from near homophones like Caerphilly/ carefully etc, etc.

      • jonofwales said

        Don’t start me on that frequent abomination of the English news reader, “carefully” in S Wales. 🙂

      • Cornick said

        Ha! John ‘Punk’ Halpern’s favourite clue!

      • batarde said

        A shame, Cornick? An outrage against Britishness if you ask me. Awful puns and strangled pronunciation of the French language are essential parts of my birthright, dammit. Since when did all this professorial claptrap have anything to do with the enjoyment of crossword puzzles, anyway?

    • Guy Barry said

      The whole concept of homophony between English and French is pretty meaningless anyway, because the two languages have a different phonology. Quite apart from the issue of the vowel in “rue”, the consonant at the start is an entirely different one from the version of “r” employed by most English speakers. (You can hear something approximating to it in Northumbrian dialect.)

      Probably best avoided in crossword clues!

  8. David Cook said

    I learned several new fruits from doing this puzzle. A small point concerning 27 across (Persimmon) …’per’ is Latin for through, not for ‘for’ – that’s ‘pro’.

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