i Cryptic Crossword 3200 Phi

May 11, 2021

Pokémon on Saturday; now this. Unless my assumptions about the demographic profile of cryptic crossword solvers are badly skew-whiff, chances are this theme will have been spotted by many more of us. All good nostalgic fun from the pre-CGI era, when suspension of disbelief was still a thing.

This felt strikingly easy to me, and would have done nicely in yesterday’s slot. If there’s anything here worth making a fuss about it passed me by – sorry … clues like 10, 11, 20 and the like had me shaking my head, and I must admit that my attention wandered badly. The anagrams at 12 and 23 were elegantly executed, though, and 15d is worth a smile too – so, shame about 4d which looks like it was done on piecework rates. I did like 3d and it should probably be my COD based on quality alone, but alas it can’t compete with “stuff from the Sahara”, so 9ac is my favourite:

“Any swirling stuff from the Sahara will trap the French in part of old Africa (9)”

Back to the end of 2016, when Bertandjoyce supplied the write-up at Fifteensquared.

19 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3200 Phi”

  1. Denzo said

    Having disliked many recent puzzles by Phi, I enjoyed this as he seems to back to his old self, though, like Batarde, I would have liked it to be a bit more challenging – too many pennies dropped too easily. I have heard of Thunderbirds, but know nothing about them; this didn’t matter which is how it should be.

    I liked 1d best, and, with 1a, saw what Cornick meant in his recent comment about Phi’s clues – It made no sense until, with most crossers, Ah!, I saw what he meant.

  2. batarde said

    Oh yeah … see how disengaged I was? 1ac really does deserve a brickbat, being one of the worst cryptic definition type clues I can remember seeing. In fact, is it even a clue? It narrows the range of possible solutions down to a few hundred, I suppose, but one can only make a confident entry with all the crossers in.

    • Saboteur said

      Agreed. My LOI, only clear after the crossers were in.

    • Denzo said

      1a, eccentric indeed, but we all solved it, albeit with crossers, so it must have been a clue. In fact, having solved it, I rather like it!
      However if such a clue had appeared with difficult (or equally eccentric crossers) it would have a brickbat from me, too

    • batarde said

      The best answer I can come up with is “cholera”, because in addition to being something best avoided if you want to remain well, it’s also not what you want in your well. Other seven letter water-borne diseases are probably available. I had always fondly supposed that a legitimate cryptic clue, as opposed to a concise one, both defined the solution and provided a means to home in on the right synonym – but what do I know? By using “this” instead of “here” Phi could hardly have left things wider open.

    • Denzo said

      I think all would agree that concise crosswords need crossers and definition to solve whereas cryptics usually need three or more, a double definition, cryptic definition, and/or wordplay also.

      I do not claim to be expert, but would argue that for both types the most important is the crossers. Sometimes you can solve a cryptic clue from crossers and definition then see it in the wordplay. Sometimes you can solve a clue from crossers and wordplay, then look it up in a dictionary, and, bingo, it’s a word you didn’t know. People can argue with definitions, particularly in cryptics where setters often stretch them to stop puzzles being too easy. I recall a recent puzzle in the i where several people put in “Octagon” ,which worked for definition and wordplay, only to find from crossers it was “Decagon”.

      Furthermore, no one has mentioned that the surface of 1a can be read two ways “You should keep wellaway from this” or “You should keep well, away from this” (To attribute another meaning to ”well” is to be a willing victim of misdirection by setter.)

      So, I would argue that 1a has two cryptic definitions, as well as the crossers. A word search tells me that there is only one word which fits all crossers, and it’s not “cholera”.

  3. Cornick said

    Definitely easy-end Phi – except that I put in Sickbay, then Sickbug, then Sickbed at 1a.
    Spent about 5 seconds trying to see a theme before giving up. Would I have spotted it if I’d tried for longer? I shall never know.

  4. dtw42 said

    Having already zipped through Phi’s entry in the Indy this morning (where I *did* spot the theme), at the end of this one I tried to find one and failed. 19ac, perhaps a key part of that theme, was my LOI (after 2dn and that terrible 1ac, which – as you guys have already said – could have been any number of things until the crossers went in).

    Those last three I found hard, but the rest of it not so much.

  5. Saboteur said

    All very straightforward and strangely unPhi-like. The theme became blindingly obvious when PENELOPE went in, and that disposed of my one and only question mark, which was next to ANDERSON, put there to remind me to google and find out who this director could be. Enjoyable and satisfying, although I was hoping for something a little meatier.

  6. Veronica said

    Yes, even I would have liked it to be a touch more challenging. Still, I enjoyed it.
    Theme-blind that I am, I missed the theme, despite being the right age group. Didn’t matter.

    Count me in as another with a x mark next to 1 across, which was somewhat weak. Otherwise, no complaints.
    My CoD was 2 down, CLAMPDOWN, just because the image of a shellfish with feathers is nicely amusing.

  7. jonofwales said

    Yes, this didn’t feel like Phi at all. I fairly sprinted through, and didn’t notice any theme at all though of course there was always going to be one. A pleasant diversion while it lasted.

  8. thebargee said

    Over and done with in little more time than it took to write in the answers. What to do with the rest of the day…

    Can’t say I minded 1ac, but then I’m just happy to get the right answer; anyway, I’m hopeless at analysing clue quality, almost as hopeless as I am at spotting themes. Was there one🤨

  9. Willow said

    Hello all

    I have had massive computer problems in the past week so have been unable to get onto the internet and I have missed seeing your comments. Boo!!

    = (

    But IT colleagues at my old school have kindly now sorted it out. A new hard drive was needed. My very grateful thanks to them. They alone keep the place going.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this, spotted the theme almost straight away and didn’t object to 1ac. However, I did notice that the clue for HOOD was a reworking of another very recently published clue by Phi. And I am still unsure how O = OVER. It’s not in my edition of Chambers, and I have learned very little of use by trawling online slang sites/text sites, other that it might be short for OVER TO YOU. Can anyone enlighten me?

    Thank you

    • Saboteur said

      Sorry to hear of your IT issues. So frustrating.

      O from cricketing notation. Its in my Chambers, at the third entry.

  10. AndyO said

    Straightforward enough – was mildly disappointed on first run through that 19a didn’t refer to Anderson (G) straight away as am a big fan of the theme! So an uplifting moment when the penny dropped – must dig out my Tracy Islands and models, not forgetting the original 1965 Waddingtons board game (one person can play!)

    • batarde said

      Hello Andy: glad to hear that someone enjoyed the theme! I was expecting a lot of wry nostalgia, discussion of Thunderbird 2’s aerodynamics and opinion on whether David Milliband had turned out to be a worthy successor to Mr Tracy – but no, not so much. 🙂

      • Cornick said

        In a ploy probably taken from a parenting book, when my second-born arrived, he brought with him a gift of a Thunderbird 1 for the 4-yr-old first born.

  11. Willow said

    Many thanks Saboteur. That makes a lot of sense now. I possibly need to get a more up to date edition of the BRB!

    • Saboteur said

      🙂 I invested in the new edition when it came out about five years ago. My dictionary of first recourse is my Concise Oxford – but only because being much smaller than Chambers it sits on the top of it.

      On the other hand, my Shorter Oxford must be getting on for a hundred years old now. But that lives upstairs in another room and requires heavy lifting equipment to get down off the shelf, so is consulted rarely. It’s very good for obsolescent and archaic usages though. Rubbish for urban slang, though! 😃

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