i Cryptic Crossword 3162 by Serpent

March 27, 2021

Just fifteen puzzles in and Serpent has already established himself as one of my very favourite setters with the i. Mind you, finding nothing to solve where I started in the NW corner led to a flurry of panic at the thought that I was on blogging duty today. Time to concentrate and enter a Sherlockian mind-palace – or Cornickian noddle-shack in my case.

Everywhere I looked all I saw were compelling surface readings – stopping to admire them is hardly conducive to a quick solve, but I couldn’t help myself. ‘One of the youngest Members of Parliament?’, or ‘Understood article in French documentary’ – they were all so good! And then when the clues did start to fall it was obvious we were dealing with a consumate setter. Consider ‘Felt desire made dogs start to yelp’ where ‘dogs’ is used as a juxtaposition indicator, or ‘Build-up about invention making a leap forward’ where we are being asked to make A leap forward to the front of C-CREATION – these are delightful bits of wordplay.

There was one hidden – if these are short it feels like a cop-out, if they’re long and well concealed, it feels brilliant – ‘smoKE ROSE NEear house’ is clearly one of the latter.

Looking around the grid I’m spoilt for choice for a favourite. It could be almost any but in view of the comments below I’m going to change my mind and go with the aforementioned 10a:

One of the youngest Members of Parliament? (5)

Whilst solving there were two occasions I felt less than gushing with praise, but when I looked on Fifteensquared predictably enough these both turned out to in fact be my own failings. Firstly I didn’t know that silver is the best conductor of electricity so was left puzzled by the definition of 17d, and secondly I misunderstood the parsing of my LOI COUNTERFEITING where ‘Consider’ was supposed to lead to COUNT not ‘Counter’ as I had thought, and ER was part of the homophone for ‘a fitting’. Other than that everything was all fully understood and solved in what turned out, surprisingly enough in the end, to be a pretty average sort of time for the i.

I loved it.

21 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3162 by Serpent”

  1. Denzo said

    Here in Herts there was a cloudless sky this morning, and as I have some jobs to do in the garden, was delighted to see a puzzle which I suspected would not delay me long. As usual the six easy clues (which Serpent always dangles before the unwary) went in in fewer minutes, but things predictably ground to a halt as it became clear that this setter is no nearer my wavelength than he ever was. A trip to 225 yielded that two more which I had guessed would have parsed given another five minutes, but a whole load which would have taken me all day, eg 1,10,20a, 3, 8, 9 and 15d. I would never have untangled the grotesque wordplay of 18a. Incidentally, I believe that Au is an even better conductor than Ag, but would never expect such knowledge to be needed for a crossword. I understand why this setter has his fans, but don’t think I’ll ever join them. So off to the concise homophone, the other puzzles, the five clue, and my own one clue puzzle: Serpent spawns cuter trap (5,4).

    • Cornick said

      I must defend 18a, Denzo. The wordplay was rather good, surely. At the time of solving I remember being pleased that ‘representing’ wasn’t a link word, but actually leads to something: FOR, and the whole clue is a pretty straightforward charade of 3 – or rather 2 3/4 – parts. What’s not to like?

    • Saboteur said

      A bit harsh, your clue…

    • jonofwales said

      I’ve rather belatedly spotted your final comment. I would just suggest that you ask yourself would you have said that face to face to Serpent (who I suspect does pop by to look at the blog). If not, as I suspect you wouldn’t it being extremely poor manners, it’s probably best not to post the same.

      • Cornick said

        In my career as a teacher I often saw children who, when they found a question hard, called the question stupid, even though they could see others in the class who enjoyed it.
        The relevant educational maxim is to never say ‘I can’t’ but to say ‘I can’t yet’.

  2. Denzo said

    I said merely that I would never have untangled it. As charades go it was not straightforward; the (triple?) jump to DEN from REJECT etc was what I called grotesque – possibly not too painful by itself bit IMO too much of a stretch as one part of a three-part charade. Chacun à son gout, and as far as this setter goes, leave the circonflex accent off gout!

  3. Saboteur said

    Loved it.

    Very difficult, and it took me a good while to untangle stuff, but I enjoyed every minute. So imaginative, so creative, and so original. Cornick has summarised it very nicely, and I too couldn’t parse COUNTERFEITING or ACCRETION, and needed to google silver as a conductor.

    GONAD was clever, but OWLET was both brilliant and yet so simple!

    My only disappointment is that I looked invasion for a nina.

  4. Grodnik said

    I read that there are grumpy birds (rheas) on the loose in Herts. Didn’t expect to encounter one here! Owlet so good I even exposed Mrs G to it. NDY

  5. Willow said

    Some of the very finest clues I have encountered in recent weeks. Thank you. But some that were very contorted. I’m not usually one to enter the homophone debate, but is A FITTING really the same as ERFEITING? Nevertheless, finished everything and parsed most of it. Very entertaining overall.

    • Cornick said

      Provided that a) you’re pronouncing it with a non-rhotic accent and b) it’s in the middle of the word ‘Counterfeiting’, then yes, “a” does equal ER. But you do need those provisos!

  6. tonnelier said

    I however am always up for a homophone debate (especially a rhotic one), and this bit of sloppiness (to my Gloucestershire ear) was the only tiny blemish in an outstanding puzzle. Easily the toughest of the week, with owlet the obvious COD.

  7. Veronica said

    I’m another who just adored OWLET. DOWRY was also brilliant.
    Well, this one took rather longer than the others this week! And I’m definitely with Cornick – I loved it, too. So many clues I wrestled with, and then was delighted with the answer. And, I agree, just reading the clues was fun! I like this setter a lot.
    I didn’t really finish it, because there were three incompletely unparsed. There was COUNTERFEITING of course (cheeky to make er as a homophone of a). And the trickster UPSTART. And DING DONG BATTLE – I’ve never heard of beating seven bells out of someone.

  8. jonofwales said

    A great puzzle, as expected, and yet again a good choice for the weekend. Quite a few went in with little understanding of what was going on with the wordplay, but that could just be me being a bit lazy and overtired this morning.

  9. thebargee said

    This was an utterly brilliant puzzle as far as I’m concerned. I found it really tough and had to take two bites at it, finishing it off this morning (Sunday), but only after a teeny bit of cheating by using a word finder to give me a hint for 9d.

    So many smooth surfaces and fantastic wordplay, I am totally in awe! Not to mention dead chuffed at completing it – well, almost. I failed to parse 9 and 15 correctly.

    LOI was 3D, not sure why it took me as long as it did because I knew from the way the rest of the clues worked that it wouldn’t have anything to do with the composer!

  10. thebargee said

    Ooh, more than harsh I’d say.

    • thebargee said

      Er… dunno what happened there, that was meant to be a reply to Saboteur’s reply to Denzo (if you get my drift).

  11. batarde said

    Saved it for a Sunday morning treat. I am in the “loved it” camp, with no complaints, no quibbles and nothing but praise. Serpent clearly invests a lot of effort and does not deserve crude abuse from frustrated solvers, here of all places.

    Moving on, I wanted to call attention to the two wonderful specimens by Bob Price in Nimrod’s “Give Me a Clue” column on page 60, in case anyone missed them.

  12. poirot_town said

    I’m with Denzo on this one – The Stooges’ song No Fun springs to mind…

  13. dtw42 said

    Phew – just finished this at 2.20 on Sunday afternoon!

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