i Cryptic Crossword 3128 Scorpion

February 16, 2021

Well, this is an unusual situation. Back in November 2016 RatkojaRiku was on blogging duties at Fifteensquared, and actually missed a theme. A thumping great stonker of a theme in fact, leaving me somewhat perplexed and wondering whether I’m seeing things. Don’t think so: there are rather too many nicknames of kings, tsars and other big cheeses for it to be coincidence. Æthelstan the Unmetalled, for instance. What did pass me by was the bonus pangram, so factoring that in we can say once again that Scorpion gives excellent value.

Following on from yesterday’s discussion of crosswordese, we have one little example today: a Scottish chimney in 18d which will be familiar enough to old hands and barred grid wizards but very likely a complete mystery to normal people. I like this clue, which is jolly clever, but bunging in a dialect word backwards might be considered a bit of a hostile act. Scorpion doesn’t usually have recourse to this sort of thing, being perfectly capable of making a crossword blooming tricky without employing unusual vocabulary, and I tend to think that it’s a defect since there’s nothing else likely to send solvers scurrying to the dictionary. Never mind, though: I mostly bring this up to avoid looking too much like a Scorpion fanboy (yes, I totally am) and being too gushy.

Other matters arising … how’s your Danish geography? A bit of fancy French cooking; a river and an artist both cunningly disguised – yes, quite a bit of lateral thinking and careful unpicking to be done today, as is generally the case with this setter. I have no objections or quibbles, and managed to finish unaided. Alternative nominations for COD are invited, since there are plenty to choose from. I’ll point to 1, 2, 6, 18 and 20 before bowing to the inevitable and going, with apologies, for 19d:

“False celebrity with awful clothing (7)”

16 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3128 Scorpion”

  1. Denzo said

    Today’s FT (in which I believe the crossword is accessible by non-subscribers) features a reprint of a 2005 “Special” by Cinephile, aka Arucaria, to celebrate that compiler’s 100th birthday.

  2. jonofwales said

    A well pitched mix of the accessible and quite tortuous that kept me guessing for a while. Danish geography, cookery terms and various oddities throughout not being my thing I trusted to luck here and there, and to the wordplay elsewhere, and got there in a time that wasn’t overly tortuous. Spotted UNREADY and did think of the king, but nothing else leapt out so I discounted the idea.

  3. Cornick said

    Without wishing to sound too smug, I did spot both ghost theme and pangram today. UNREADY was the one that put me on the scent, and ATTRIBUTES was presumably a sort of title lurking in row 12.
    Very tricky, I thought, particularly the first half dozen down clues but, with the exception of Lum indeed, all solvable through scratching the old bonce for a while rather than having to drag up bits & bobs that only crossword veterans would know. Which I suppose means it both accessible and very hard at the same time,
    An excellent challenge then.

  4. thebargee said

    Nearly didn’t bother with this, having done so badly in the past with Scorpion’s puzzles. However, I’m glad I stuck with it; managed to get all but 4 clues in the end, way better than past performance.

    I’m left with the same sense of satisfaction that I get having successfully undergone root canal treatment 😉

  5. Saboteur said

    Got the pangram but missed the theme – saw UNREADY and thought the obvious thought, but I failed to follow it up.

    All good, a nice steady work-out. Only one visit to the internet, to see whether it was BARATHEA (it was) or “carathea” (which turns out to be a spider).

  6. tonnelier said

    I found this much more accessible, and enjoyable, than the last few Scorpions. I didn’t much like Alsatian in 11, but everything else was both ingenious and wholly fair.
    I have ticks against 2, 5, 10, 17, 20, 23 and 27, with 27 possibly my COD. Actually nearly every clue probably deserves a tick, except 11.
    1 and 5 struck me as the hardest cues. I got zealot just from the definition, and Mekong because of gem for masterpiece, and then it really can’t be anything else.
    Unlike the bargee I ended up feeling smugly pleased with myself.

  7. dtw42 said

    Wow, I must be either spectacularly off form or spectacularly ill-attuned to Scorpion’s wavelength, because I found this very difficult indeed. By mid-afternoon I’d got stuck at about 40% done (including the LUM which I was not only perfectly happy/familiar with, but surprised that it needed to be glossed as “Iain’s” presumably meaning Scots) and was all set to toss it aside as a bad job. Perhaps prodded by yesterday’s encouragement to persevere, though, I thumbed through the Bradfords and scrolled the CC wordlists and finally got there at about 6pm (finishing in the NW corner with 2dn the LOI). Yes, I see the theme in retrospect, but I didn’t see it “during”. The pangram briefly crossed my mind when seeing the J and Z in the top row, but I didn’t pay it any more heed. Never heard of barathea; sounds like a fantasy-fiction princess.

    • thebargee said

      Funny the things that stick in your mind… I can distinctly remember my mother proudly telling me that the school uniform she’d just bought me was barathea, as though I ought to be impressed. I wasn’t – well I was only 11.

    • batarde said

      I was a little surprised by Iain too, thinking that lum has an archaic but not especially Scottish ring. However, both Chambers and the OED quotes point to it being Scots.

  8. allan_c said

    I struggled with this, not helped by convincing myself that 5d was ‘revolt’ (= ‘rising’), not that I could parse it, and that the 1 in 5 in 2dn was a person involved in a revolt. Then, completely stuck I came here for enlightenment and only needed to see ‘unmetalled’ in batarde’s preamble for the last few to fall into place. Missed the pangram, or I might have got 5dn much earlier.

  9. The Nanas said

    We really struggled here and had recourse to an old favourite- make up a word that fits and try to parse it! It worked for some but we didn’t get 5d and this missed the pan gram. Certainly didn’t see the theme- but then we rarely do! It was an enjoyable, if very difficult and knotty puzzle.
    We used to do the Guardian regularly in an earlier time and met Arucaria there.

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