i Cryptic Crossword 3108 by Serpent

January 23, 2021

What a treat that was! Pitched just right for this particular solver, with only a couple of new terms: yes, PHARAOH’S SERPENT and SERPENTINE VERSE; who better than Serpent to introduce us to them both! As if that wasn’t enough, if you look carefully you can see two more serpents hiding in the SW and NE corners. All of that is beautifully neat and symmetrical, although unfortunately I didn’t look for that Nina. Knowing how brilliant this setter is at grid filling, I really should have done.

And what terrific clues – some really elegant surfaces, nothing overly impossible, but no real pushovers either – just a nice range of difficulty from the likes of 1a ADVENT, say – to give us a foothold to the more challenging end of things like those two Serpent clues, DOG PADDLE – which I’d only previously met as ‘doggy paddle’, my LOI 25a EXUBERANT, or this delightful clue, my COD which for far too long I thought must be ‘trepid’ without being able to parse it. Oh no, it’s much cleverer than that:

8d When you’re wobbly and about to snap, it helps to take drugs – lots of drugs! (6)

I shall be looking forward to the good supply of Serpent puzzles that lie in store for us lucky readers of the i!

Click here for the link to Fifteensquared and all the answers, and please do tell me which were your favourite clues in the comments below.

21 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3108 by Serpent”

  1. Denzo said

    After quite a long time in which I solved five clues only two of which I was certain (including 16d where a noun was changed to a verb 👎), I again got the feeling that I wasn’t on this setter’s wavelength. I always dread the possibility that I will throw in then towel early only to discover from 225 that I could have solved it, but that has only happened once and was certainly not the case today. Many of the definitions (eg TRENDY = Happening) were stretched far beyond my powers of lateral thinking and several answers wer words or expressions quite unknown to me. This applied not just here and there but to almost every clue. Most were too verbose, eg what is the use of “really” in 19a, one which I put in unparsed? Proceeding further would have given me no enjoyment or satisfaction whatever.

    On clue I solved was 26, which I later saw was somewhat easier than the original on 225. I was intrigued that the editor chose to amend this one as the original was already one of the less abstruse and could have appeared in a puzzle by Dac or Raich.

    Congratulations to Cornick and others who persevered and completed. Sorry, I can’t offer a favourite clue, but I might have chosen 8d if “it helps” (the definition) had been at the start of the clue rather than the middle.

    • Cornick said

      26a, GRAND, is the same online as it is on 225, what’s in the paper, I wonder?

      • Denzo said

        “Elderly relative died in August.” Ironically, the original is one of the minority which I wouldn’t have moaned about!

      • Cornick said

        Strange. Online/ original version marginally better, perhaps.

      • Saboteur said

        Perhaps changed as a question of taste given the number of elderly deaths?

      • Cornick said

        Except that it was changed TO the potentially insensitive version!

      • Saboteur said

        Oh. How odd.

      • Denzo said

        A possible reason was to make 21d (which IMO is poorly defined) less arcane, but 21d is also pretty insensitive at present also. If anyone learns why it was changed, I’d like to know.
        I’ve just printed off and solved the FT prize crossword – much more satisfying.

      • Cornick said

        I imagine that some time after the puzzle’s first submission an alternative clue was supplied by the setter, before the date of publishing. Then somehow the earlier draft got picked out from Serpent’s file folder for using in the i’s paper version today. Something boring like that anyhow!

  2. Veronica said

    Phew! Got there (husband snd me). Well, ok, we hadn’t parsed IN EARNEST correctly, but I had my own (poor) parsing of it, so I’ll gloss over that one. I thought this was a clever crossword, and I liked it a lot.

    I had a few niggles – particularly agreeing with Denzo re 16 down (PREORDAIN), where I did not think fate worked as a verb. And there were a few others which I thought were over stretched. But, overall, I didn’t really care about the niggles, because it was all so clever.

    TRIPOD was our last one in – brilliant clue! (Thanks to husband for this one 👍.)
    Others I liked were BROGUE, DODGE CITY, HAIRSTYLE, and the well hidden PENTAD.

    Didn’t spot the cleverly hidden serpents. Neat!

    • Denzo said

      Well done, you two! I didn’t actually think this particular clue was unfair, because I have very occasionally heard of people or things being fated, but changing nouns to verbs etc always makes things tricky – rather like UNTENANTED which upset some people yesterday. However, it put me on notice that Serpent is no less slippery than he always was, and I wasn’t wishing to spend all morning (at least) on a crossword!

  3. batarde said

    Steady away, with neither too much in the way of read-and-write, nor any grinding halts. As Cornick says, pitched very nicely really, and sprinkled generously with touches to raise a smile. Happy with everything, including “fate” as a verb, even if it’s by extrapolation from adjectival phrases like “ill-fated”. In addition to our worthy clue of the day, 13ac tickled my fancy.

  4. Saboteur said

    Superb puzzle.

    Quite a contrast to yesterday’s, which was very tough, and ultimately unsatisfying because the obscurities and knotty word-play failed to deliver any penny-drop moments. This one was also very tough, but every difficult clue just added to my reasons for admiration for this creative, original and truly imaginative setter.

    TRIPOD was indeed a tour de force! Bravo!

    On the negative side, I am inclined to agree, on balance, that “fate” isn’t quite right. But forgivable in an otherwise remarkable puzzle.

    I remember that when I was at school, we were shown the PHAROAH’S SERPENT, but it was called the “black snake” which described it very well. This led to an interesting few minutes on YouTube…

  5. jonofwales said

    Yes, that was rather good. Interesting that many solvers found this to be on the tough side, as I think this was my fastest solve this week. I’ve been solving Serpent’s puzzles for a number of years though, in the Inquisitor and elsewhere, so perhaps it’s a wavelength thing. Favourite clue would have to be TRIPOD.

  6. thebargee said

    A poor DNF for me. Managed roughly the half above the NW-SE diagonal plus a few elsewhere, then ground to a complete halt and eventually had to admit defeat. I just don’t think I’m on this setter’s wavelength.

  7. Grodnik said

    Who remembers indoor fireworks? 12a always featured. Fond memories of my dad 4d-ing the tablecloth!

  8. Willow said

    In many ways I very much enjoyed this. However …

    There is a modern hymn by Marty Haugen called Gather Us In. Its text revolves around the theme of acceptance and diversity and includes the lines:

    Gather us in, the rich and the haughty
    Gather us in, the proud and the strong
    Give us a heart so meek and so lowly
    Give us the courage to enter the song

    I don’t think I have ever solved a puzzle in which the setter cries: ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! quite so much. I should be happy to accept that the range of setters appearing in the i newspaper is so pleasingly broad, but I do find this example of self-indulgence very vexing. It detracts from what would otherwise be a most entertaining, if challenging, puzzle. It took me a long time to finish, but I did it in the end, and parsed everything!

  9. Willow said

    I think you have hit the nail on the head, Denzo! By the way, the tune to your hymn, Ellers, is a great one, and still used today to a number of texts.

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