i Cryptic Crossword 3212 Scorpion

May 25, 2021

We’ve had a complaint! Not serious enough for a referral to Ofblog as yet, but enough to get me happily composing a diatribe, and it would have been a cracker, too. Sadly I now find that I can’t be bovvered … peaked too soon, you see. So there will be no contumely, embedded hyperlinks to insulting websites or Rickrolling. To the person who would like the link to Fifteensquared to be more prominent so that he doesn’t have to skim read the twaddle, we have decided to standardise the format so that it appears on its own in a final paragraph. You’ll just have to scroll through the content and I do hope that’s not too much of a hardship for you. And don’t worry, I haven’t changed the target URL to Taxidermy Warehouse or Hell.com. Of course not.

Now then, if anyone’s still here, twaddle time. Delighted to see Scorpion back, albeit with something rather less in-your-face than we have come to hope for. To my mind the archetypal Scorpion comes with a thicket of cross-referenced clues, quite possibly without definitions, but today we just get a ghost theme, and a pangram. This subject must be a gift for compilers (and it has been done before), because there are hundreds of examples, often with amusing or exotic names. All the across lights are either thematic or have a reference in the clue, which is characteristically diligent. There are mild quibbles which some solvers may care to essay in relation to 9 and 14d for example, but I do not. There’s nothing that amounts to a plausible excuse for failing to finish the puzzle in my opinion – but if anyone just found it too thorny all round and is honest enough to admit it, I readily sympathise with that. This isn’t a particularly gentle one.

Today I have more ticks than a mattress factory. It’s not an absolute mass of pyrotechnics, but there are always some surprises in a Scorpion puzzle to repay the lateral thinker. 2, 3 and 17d; 12, 14 and 26ac were all rather spiffy, but the standard being so consistently high across the whole crossword I could equally well point to a different half dozen at random. My favourite is a little nugget of Victoriana which isn’t seen much these days, the more’s the pity, but I’m also choosing it for the interaction with 10ac and the happy memories that evokes. 😉

4d : “Face letter from abroad – the last letter (4)”

This one first appeared at the beginning of 2017, right in the middle of winter when colds and sniffles used to be a mere annoyance, pre-pandemic. There’s a smashing recipe suggestion in comment no. 1 for a warming early January noggin, and the way things have been going lately just the thing for a rotten late May, too.


18 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3212 Scorpion”

  1. Cornick said

    With nothing hackneyed or rolled out, there’s a consistently high level of creativity from Scorpion – always tough enough to require a fair bit of concentration from us solvers. Enjoyed it.

    Re those two queries I see that ‘principle’ in 14d is defined in Chambers as ‘source, root, origin’, so surely just as good as the more usual ‘principal’ = ‘first in rank’. However, I was less happy with Liquidise = convert into cash, which isn’t supported by the usual dictionaries, although I did find one online version of that usage in America. May or may not be a mistake, not sure.

    • batarde said

      I have no insight into Scorpion’s thinking, of course, but since most of the dictionaries have a definition for “liquidise” along the lines of “to make liquid” in addition to the usual “blitz it in a blender” one, I’d like to think it’s a deliberate malapropism. Very deadpan if so.

  2. Topsy said

    I seem to have lost the ability to complete cryptic crosswords. I am hoping it’s temporary. However, I did the concise today which raised a smile 🙂

  3. Saboteur said

    Splendid stuff. The “principle” in RHINO had me scratching my head for a while, but as Cornick has pointed out, a bit of delving in the dictionary sorted me out.

    The LIQUIDISING question didn’t actually occur to me – I had spotted the potential pangram from JAWS and BUCKS FIZZ, and just wrote it in on accout of the Q. If I had any assets, I think liquidating is what I would have to do to them. Didn’t spoil a high-class puzzle, though. A good challenging and satisfying solve.

    Anyone found an Asian Flu cocktail?

  4. jonofwales said

    One of those where three quarters was complete in a jiffy, with the last quarter taking much of the time. Theme duly spotted, but was of little help as the ones I knew I’d already solved. 🙂 A welcome return for Scorpion indeed.

  5. Veronica said

    Yey. What a lovely puzzle.
    I’m happy with the structure of all of the clues. (“Principle” in online Miriam-Webster is given as “primary source.” I’m too ignorant to have queried liquidising!)
    Not sure how guards would feel about the screw aspect, though, so a bit of a question mark on that one. It makes the clues longer, but I’d be fine with such clues if there was some acknowledgement of the derogatory aspect.
    However, I’ve also got so many ticks that I give up on selecting a favourite.
    Took me quite a while to get through to the end, with RHINO my last one to be parsed. But it repaid the time with a lot of pleasure.

    • Veronica said

      Oh yes. Forgot. I even realised the theme and pangram. What an achievement by Scorpion.

  6. Willow said

    A most enjoyable puzzle – thank you. A few minor quibbles about the wordplay did not affect my appreciation of the artistry which went into this. Interesting how many islands cropped up as well as cocktails. I’ve never liked the term Screw for Prison Warder, but the word exists, is in common usage and would certainly be allowed in a 12 certificate film, so fair enough.

  7. Brock said

    Good puzzle, although I hadn’t heard of 16d and didn’t guess it from the wordplay. As usual, the penny only dropped about the theme at the last possible moment.

    Quibble re 13d: Is FRERE intended here as the French word for “brother” or as an archaic English word for “friar” (=”brother”)? Either way round, surely there ought to be some indication in the clue that the answer is not a contemporary English word. It’s certainly not included in my dictionary (the COED).

    • Cornick said

      It’s in Chambers.

      • Brock said

        Chambers includes a lot of archaic spellings. The latest citation for the spelling “frere” in the OED Online appears to be 1821, so it’s not something I’d expect to see in a normal daily cryptic – certainly not without some indication that it’s an archaism.

      • jonofwales said

        Chambers has frere as French, while Collins has it in three categories – archaic, French, and American English. We get loads of French words and phrases in daily cryptics (not to mention German and others too rarely), so I think it’s fine. And probably known to most solvers anyway.

  8. dtw42 said

    I was a little way past 2/3 done before the theme dawned on me, and I’m glad it did because it helped me get 23 and 25. In the end I had to plug 17 into a word-finder; don’t think I’d have got that one otherwise.

  9. allan_c said

    What no-one here or, myself included, back in 2017 has commented on is the rather unfriendly grid, with no fewer than eight lights having less than 50% checking – and, what is worse, the checking letters in 17dn are all vowels. Black mark for Scorpion there.

    • batarde said

      Checking is low, certainly, but as discussed recently Eimi the Editor takes a relaxed view on these matters when it comes to themed crosswords. I’d contend that this is part of what makes the Independent / i crossword series distinctive because setters can try unusual ideas which wouldn’t fly in The Times, without being permitted to run riot as in the Guardian. I didn’t find myself inconvenienced by it, so it never occurred to me to give it a mention.

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