i Cryptic Crossword 3109 Eccles

January 25, 2021

An enjoyable puzzle to kick us off this week, on the easy side, but showing lots of 2d. There is little to say this (extremely icy) morning apart from that, because I don’t think there was anything contentious, though as more than a few were write-ins it’s possible I may have overlooked something. I did though have more than an average number of tick beside the clues, so a big thumbs up here. Finish time about as quick as they get.

COD? With 21ac, 15d and 22ac in close contention, I’ll go with 16ac – “Balls’ motivation to get close to final (6)”.

To November 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:


28 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3109 Eccles”

  1. Denzo said

    What Jon said apart from one or two niggles along the way. 11a jarred as I could see what answer was expected, but I have enjoyed several Operas where some of the words are spoken rather than sung. Likewise the MALLARD was a locomotive, never a train.

    However, these were soon forgiven as the puzzle was so enjoyable with plenty of humour and 6d was in fact my favourite once I got over the misdirection and realised what sot of train was meant.

    • Cornick said

      ‘Grand Opera’ has no spoken dialogue, Denzo.

      • Denzo said

        I wondered about that, and spent quite a time looking for evidence in Wikipedia, and even longer in Grove, and found none. It appears that “Grand Opera” as opposed to “Opera” has different definitions, but I haven’t found one which says that recitative is taboo.

      • Cornick said

        Wikipedia, ‘Grand Opera’ last line of introduction, just before the section called ‘Origins’. Also definition in Chambers: ‘Opera without dialogue’.

      • Denzo said

        You mean the bit saying “It may also be used colloquially in an imprecise sense to refer to ‘serious opera without spoken dialogue’ “? If you accept this you certainly include Verdi, Puccini. But you exclude Donnizetti, Wagner and, above all, Mozart.

      • Cornick said

        I suspect Eccles simply looked at the dictionary definition 🙂

      • Denzo said

        Almost certainly! To be honest my reaction was more emotional than logical. Much as I am moved by Verdi’s music, I believe Mozart, whose operas contain some dialogue, was a much greater musician. It’s the very use of the term that gets up my nose with the implication that “Grand Opera”, (which includes not only the great werk of Verdi and Puccini, but also a lot of third rate stuff) is somehow grander than the mere “opera” that Mozart wrote. Eccles is innocent – he didn’t write the dictionary!

      • Cornick said

        Collins: ‘an opera that has a serious plot and is entirely in musical form, with no spoken dialogue’
        You should write to the editors of our dictionaries and try and persuade them of the errors of their ways. I did so with ‘mouse’ (small lead weight) and Chambers rewrote their entry!

      • batarde said

        Would that be the sort of mouse used to thread sash cords, Cornick? Haven’t heard that in a dog’s age.

        Here’s a quote for you, Denzo:
        “Grand Opera..may contain any number of acts, and ballets or divertissements, but if spoken dialogue is introduced it becomes a ‘comic’ opera”.
        That’s from Grove, as in Sir George, quoted in the OED. Three major dictionaries, plus the best known authority on music all saying the same thing: probably time to give the setter the benefit of the doubt.

      • Denzo said

        Sir George Grove died in 1900 and I believe that the OED quote could be out of date. However, I have already given the setter the benefit of the doubt above in response to Cornick.

        It is possible the quote came from a 1950s edition of Grove, which also asserted that the ‘enormous popular success some few of Rachmaninov’s works had in his lifetime is not likely to last, and musicians never regarded them with much favour.’ It could not have been more wrong.

        My more recent edition of Grove is more generous to Rachmaninov and far less prescriptive about Opera. Nowadays the distinction between “Grand” and “Comic” Opera is more nuanced. I don’t think many people would now describe Carmen or Fidelio (Beethoven’s opera about a political prisoner), both of which contain spoken dialogue, as comic

      • Cornick said

        Indeed Batarde. I was checking the plural form of a computer mouse (debatable) and noticed an actual error in BRB – ‘mouse – a lead weight used to balance sash windows’. Well the mouse is used to thread the sash cord, of course, a sash weight does the balancing. They were happy to receive my letter. 🙂

  2. thebargee said

    All good here, polished off fairly quickly but much enjoyment along the way. I rather liked 8d, I needed all the crossers before the penny dropped.

    Last two in were SHOOTER (it had to be but I needed my nearest and dearest’s input to explain the ‘rolling on the ground’ bit – I lost my marbles early on in life) and MASSACRE which I struggled to parse.

  3. Cornick said

    Enjoyable, swiftly solved, but above all accessible for more than the likes of us lot on here.
    Mind you, that second sense of Shooter was unknown hereabouts.

  4. batarde said

    Yep, pretty amused by that all told. No reason why simple crosswords shouldn’t be of decent quality – stops me moaning, anyway. Also amused by the train spotters, as ever.

  5. Saboteur said

    All very enjoyable, all over far, far too soon. No quibbles, no queries, except for the rolling along the ground.

  6. Veronica said

    Oh. This one was popular, then. It was okay. I didn’t particularly warm to it, but didn’t actively dislike anything, either. It’s a bit finicky of me, but I found the clues read a bit depressive, and I wasn’t over keen on defining Lance Armstrong as doper (even if he is). Nevertheless, perfectly fair and a good diversion to solve.
    Couldn’t parse MASSACRE. Couldn’t parse SHOOTER – I’ve never heard the second definition, and it didn’t come up when I tried to google it.
    Really liked SPEEDWELL, same as thebargee.

  7. dtw42 said

    I enjoyed it, was amused by several clues. A late start on it due to a busy morning, so quite glad it was gentle. No, I didn’t know the ‘rolling along the ground’ aspect of the SHOOTER either.

  8. I guessed MASSACRE but I do not understand the explanation in FifteenSquared which is: M(ASS) & A(CRE). Could someone enlighten me, please?

    • Cornick said

      The abbreviation for Mass + Acre would be M + A. Therefore it follows that MA ‘written out in full would be MassAcre!

    • Veronica said

      Hi Jeremy
      M can stand for mass. A can stand for acre. So if you wrote M A in full, you would write mass acre, ie massacre.
      Do say if that still doesn’t make sense 😊

      • Thank you Cornick and Veronica. Oh, it was simpler than I thought but rather obtuse isn’t it? M and A could stand for many, many words. Or is it that in the crossword world, M and A normally do stand for Mass and Acre?

      • Cornick said

        You’re right – there are over 20 ways to indicate M and over 30 to indicate A. I guess it is unusual to have it the other way round here, but a one-off bit of innovation is quite often a feature in the Indy/ i puzzles. 🙂

      • Veronica said

        That’s interesting, Cornick – such a large number for a single letter! Wow!!

        I’m fine when a single letter is a standard abbreviation, but I don’t like it on the (rare) occasion when a setter seems happy for any word to signify a letter, just because it is the first letter of the word.

        In this case, m for mass was perfectly acceptable. I dare say a for acre is fine, but I did wonder about that one.

        It was a little obtuse (or, at least, I personally failed to parse it). But having seen how the answer was constructed, I thought it was one of the clever clues, on balance!

  9. Denzo said

    It doesn’t make sense, and having guessed it from MA, I pencilled it in and confirmed it from crossers without any idea of how it worked. There is no need for precedent, the setters make up the rules as they go along.

  10. Willow said

    Fascinating conversations about opera and mass/acre! Thank you. As for the puzzle, I really enjoyed it, although there was one clue which rankled, but which has been chosen as COD. BALLS for DRIVEL is only mildly coarse, but the implication in the clue is that it refers to Ed Balls (who else would it be?) and I think it is disrespectful to refer to anyone in such a way, whatever their political affiliation. I liked SPEEDWELL – pleased Veronica did too!

    • Denzo said

      I would have been gobsmacked had V not liked SPEEDWELL!

      I did not see the CoD as referring to Ed B, as the surname is shared by many. The possibility crossed my mind, but if that was the intention the clue would have been either meaningless or disrespectful. I do not doubt that the clue referred to the vulgar use of the word which is also a close synonym of DRIVEL.

      Ed and others may find it unfortunate to have that surname, but that is the case regardless of the crossword.

      • Cornick said

        Eccles does like to be a bit irreverent, but moreover this puzzle first appeared during the 2016 series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in which Mr Balls appeared – remember his Gangnam Style dance?

  11. Veronica said

    Hi all.
    Of course I liked SPEEDWELL 👍😮😊. No, really, I did think it was a clever clue.

    I kinda agree with Willow. Although, the clue didn’t really say anything bad about Ed Balls, why risk upsetting someone in a crossword.

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