i Cryptic Crossword 3107 Monk

January 22, 2021

How strange was that? I got off to a flying start with this one, with five across entries going in almost without my having to think about them: BRUNEI (there aren’t that many six-letter countries starting with B and ending in EI), NEUTRINO (pretty obviously an anagram of sorts), the chestnuts BRIE and BANANA, and the straightforward charade TURN INTO. Naturally I wondered if we were going to get a fairly accessible puzzle with Bs on the left and Os on the right, and perhaps the whiff of a theme…

How wrong I was. My next in, PATIENCE disabused me of the B & O idea, although it was another read-the-clue-and-write-the-answer double definition. But then I struggled and struggled. I got there in the end, in considerably longer than my typical time, and even parsed everything, albeit with help from lists and the internet. But it was certainly hard work.

Did I enjoy it? Not really. In the end there were too many clues with obscurites or with too tightly-knotted word-play. How did the definition of WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA work? DJEMBE? NANDOO? How many of us know that Muswell Hill is in N10? And “place [bet]” for “ante”? Where did the Z come from in ENBLAZON? And what happened to the “n” in INDIA[N] INK? There were other, lesser question-marks, and perhaps other solvers had different experiences. It is rare for me not to get satisfaction from completing a tough puzzle, but I didn’t today.

My nomination for Clue of the Day goes to the simple, but rather neat 6d: “Circus attraction in London aching to travel north (4)”.

All the answers and explanations can be found by clicking here.

25 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3107 Monk”

  1. Denzo said

    A similar experience! I managed 10a fairly soon, though unaroused, and three others which I was unsure of, but eventually turned out to be right. I am not happy when a crossword has too many such clues, and this was clearly such. About to give up in disgust, I suddenly twigged that pants could actually be underwear, so 4d was my favourite clue, and I persevered. Helped my my knowledge that Muswell Hill is N10 (which, however, anyone can see in Wikipedia), although I couldn’t parse ANTE=PLACE, the NW corner did not take to long., and for a short while I nursed ideas of actually completing the grid.

    My last one in was ENGLUT (which even my spell-checker doesn’t recognise), guessed from definition and crossers but unparsed, and I was gobsmacked to find I had completed the grid with the exception of the SE corner, which, as I discovered, was almost entirely weird wordplays and obscure definitions, which I would not have enjoyed even in the unlikely event that I finished. A walk in the sunshine is both more fun and healthier..

    To sum up – 75% of a crossword which took far longer and was enjoyed far less than any this week. I tend to agree with David, comment #11 in 225.

    Monk could set an enjoyable puzzle if he didn’t try to be too clever.

  2. dtw42 said

    DNF here – gave up after about 60%.

  3. Topsy said

    I have said many times that Monk tries far too hard at being clever. I managed a few clues but, unfortunately, in the end I really wasn’t enjoying this one so I went off and cleaned the bathroom. Much more satisfying!

  4. tonnelier said

    What a good decision by Topsy. I wish I’d done the same.

  5. Veronica said

    I dunno about this one.
    I finished the left side other than parsing UNTENANTED – but only completed a spattering on the right side. Having now looked at fifteensquared, the unfinished ones were way too hard for me.
    No real complaint from me, though: I was happy enough when wrestling with it, and those better at this lark than I, might appreciate a challenge. After all, I prefer crosswords where I have to work, rather than when I find them too easy, however neat the clues (as I said a couple of days ago). On the other hand, it seems too many found it unsatisfactory, so was it too convoluted?

    Annoyingly, I was soooo close to seeing the vowel, consonant thing! I noticed it on the top and left. I wonder if it would have helped if I had persevered with that line of thought?
    Like Denzo, I did very much like 4 down.

  6. thebargee said

    I knew early on, as so often with this setter, that I wasn’t going to get very far with this one, so I threw in the towel with only a handful of entries filled in.

    Failing with Monk is getting to be a habit 😉

  7. batarde said

    Jeepers. That was like the dreaded Monk of old, and now I need a lie down. Finished, but not without help from the BRB for that big bird, and a deal of head scratching, brow furrowing and so forth for 7d. That one held out for ages, but in retrospect it feels like I was just slow on the uptake. Beyond seeing the vowels and consonants the gimmick sailed straight over my head. Loved “emblazon” – just give that second N a quarter turn – and spotted it pretty promptly, which on today’s form is likely more luck than judgment. All told a hard crossword solved, leaving me feeling a bit thick. 🙂

    • Denzo said

      You certainly did well with 17d – the clue reads as if it’s the first N you need to turn. Stupid clue, anyway, IMO.

      It looks like a minority of us completed this puzzle, and a minority of that select minority actually enjoyed it!

      I hope this will be noted for future reference.

  8. jonofwales said

    Pretty tough, but not impossible with a little patience and thought. Most of the wordplay was accessible bar a few notable exceptions (2d in particular being one of those), making it a slow, interesting and rewarding solve. One where it paid, at least here, to solve in dribs and drabs.

    • Saboteur said

      Interesting. I agree that everything was unravellable in the end. I suspect that had I not been blogging, I might have set it aside when I got stuck and picked it up again later in the day and possibly had more success.

  9. Grodnik said

    What a weird day today! First I realised that the Six Clue crossword (pre breakfast) is still designated as the Five Clue crossword in both places in the on-line edition. Next, I had the strongest feeling of deja-vu when completing the concise (during breakfast). I had a similar feeling yesterday, so I suspect that some reprinting may be taking place. Thirdly, the cryptic (before lunch) was, I felt, hard but fair with some very clever parsings, I just loved 21a and completed in only just over my average time. Does the preceding make me an 19d?
    Best wishes to all. Getting my vaccination on Wednesday. NDY

    • jonofwales said

      Good news on the vaccine. To be fair the powers that be do seem to be getting their act together on this.

      • Denzo said

        Old age has little to recommend it, but I have had two doses. No side effects from the first but mild flu symptoms a week after the second. Just hope it works with the new variants.

    • dtw42 said

      re the 5clue: although it’s gone up to six grid slots, there’s always one clue that’s split across 2 places, keeping the clue count at 5, I think.

  10. Cornick said

    My take on difficulty is that if it’s ‘clever’ but actually accessible to anyone who thinks the right way to work it out, that’s fine – so the clue for 17d EMBLAZON got a big tick in my margin. Monk does this sort of thing brilliantly, and my last one in ENGLUT probably falls into the same category.
    On the other hand, having to know that Muswell Hill is in N10 to get a word I’ve never met before, UNTENANTED, or having to know a ‘nand’ in order to get NANDOO, or being torn between Djeobe and DJEMBE – these are flies in the ointment, in my book.
    Having said that, I find Monk’s puzzles completely engrossing, and will always persevere to the bitter end even if, as happened today, I have to resort to a wordfinder for my last two.

    • Denzo said

      The problem with 2d is that many people might not know or guess that Muswell Hill is a district of London. However, the clue is actually precise. Muswell Hill is not “in” N10; it is synonymous with N10. Apart from the Inner London post codes, EC# WC and the 1s (ie N1, E1, SW1 etc), they are numbered in alphabetical order of the district where they are located, from N2, East Finchley (there being no A to D) to N22 which is Wood Green.
      You never know when this might resurface in a crossword!🥱

      • Cornick said

        The general crossword solver most certainly should be expected to know that Muswell Hill is in London; however it is completely unreasonable to expect that more than a very small percentage would, by chance know that it is anything to do with N10. It’s a setter’s business to make guesses about this sort of thing, and is sometimes referred to with reference to ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ – borrowed from the world of the Law of course (even if the actual man on the Clapham omnibus would probably know that Muswell Hill was N something or other!)

      • Saboteur said

        According to anecdote, the postcodes of North London would be as mysterious to someone from Clapham as would those of South London be to someone from Muswell Hill! How the rest of us are supposed to know is anyone’s guess!

      • Denzo said

        I’m really surprised you say this. Muswell Hill has nobody and nothing I can think of to make it known – no museum or football club, not even a train or tube station. The only way you would have heard of it is if you had lived near or knew someone there. There is another Muswell Hill in Bucks, near Brill which found fame in 1963 when Ronnie Biggs and his train-robbing mates hid there.

        I’m even more surprised to find the word “untenanted” queried, as you have (and so, just now has my spell checker!). It never occurred to me to query it when it appeared a possible answer to the clue. My dictionary gives tenant as a transitive verb as well as a noun, and I believe I have used it as such. What other word would you use to describe a furnished house ready to be let but with no tenants yet?

        It all goes to show what a subjective business is the setting and solving of crosswords

      • Cornick said

        Google has over 2M hits for Muswell Hill and the first several all seem to be for the London suburb, including the unfortunate fact of Dennis Nilsen, ‘the Muswell Hill murderer’, and then of course The Kinks are from there and had an album (I’ve got it) called ‘Muswell Hillbillies’, then there’s Ally Pally close by and the fact of its being one of the most desirable places to live in the capital. It’s just well-known! But as with Crouch End or Golders Green, the postal district? Nah!

      • Denzo said

        Cornick, You are right about Nilson and the Kinks, although I am not sure that many people associate them with Muswell Hill nowadays. I did not know of the Kinks’ album, which I believe appeared after their heyday.

        Saboteur, my own experience and that of several people I know supports your anecdotal evidence. I lived and worked in London for almost 40 years; I always lived North of the Thames and worked South for about two years, although for almost 20 years I was in SW1, which, confusingly, is North.

        Even now, I could drive to many locations in North London without a map, but I’d be as lost in South as in Timbuktu!

      • Cornick said

        ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ released 1971 – the year after ‘Lola’.

  11. Willow said

    An extraordinarily difficult puzzle. It took ages to complete half the grid and I then stared at it for ages more, thinking I would have to give up. But I have not failed to finish a crossword since the Covid crisis began, and I was determined not to be defeated. A very long time later I filled in the final entry – ENGLUT – after eventually seeing the GLUTEN/GLUTEN thing. I parsed all clues successfully. A real challenge – for which on the whole I think I am grateful!

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