i Cryptic Crossword 3221 Serpent

June 4, 2021

I have only one criticism of this crossword: the grid. With only two cells connecting the NW sector with the SE sector, it really was a matter of solving two half-crosswords rather than one complete one.

Otherwise, I have nothing but praise – again – for Serpent’s brilliance. Convincing surface readings hide devious misdirection and imaginative and original cluing. I can’t fault any of the parsing, although I did have to work very hard at decrypting quite a few clues. And there is only one, I think, real obscurity: PARISH TOP. But this was one of the few entries that were clued in an obvious way, so there was little doubt about what I was checking. And lo and behold, PARISH TOP crops up in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and you can’t argue with that. I sort of knew that TOQUE was a hat, but checked it anyway. Likewise MAORI BUG was bound to be our cockroach.

This was hard work, and I suspect many people will have given up. It took me twice my usual time. But it was so, so engrossing, and full of enjoyment.

From among so many clues, it is hard to pick out only one. I liked JOCOSE, BEZIQUE, SMELT and WOEBEGONE. But the clue of the day plaudits go to 1d: “Opportunistic spongers in outskirts of Enfield see squat being wrecked (8,7)”.

Oh, and did I mention it’s not a pangram, but a double pangram…?

Here’s the link to the answers and parsing from the puzzle’s first appearance in February 2017, where you can, should you so choose, ponder some minor quibbles: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/04/independent-crossword-9458-by-serpent/

19 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3221 Serpent”

  1. thebargee said

    What a great puzzle, and I so very nearly finished it. In the end, I failed to get 17d, so utterly convinced was I that “China’s leader” had to be a ‘C’. Doh!!

    I had to work very hard to get as far as I did, but that just added to the sense of satisfaction. So many clues I loved, all those mentioned by Saboteur included, but I did wonder about the use of ‘ordinary’ in 15a. WOEBEGONE reminded me of Garrison Keillor reading his book about the eponymous lake on Radio 4 many years ago. Yes I know the spelling’s different, but it *was* on the radio😊.

    One of these days I may actually finish a Serpent puzzle…

  2. batarde said

    Another fine showing from Serpent, I thought, absorbing and satisfying. The double pangram didn’t thrill me much – in fact I venture to hope that Maize might have put the tin lid on that class of gimmick – but nor did it get in the way. The diagonal Brompton is a bit of a nasty one, looking at it now, but it wasn’t a problem either and went unnoticed. The quibbles on the other side are mostly pettifogging in my opinion, and I see no particular reason why the belt shouldn’t be green even if it did have me bamboozled for quite a while. Serpent clearly prioritises surfaces, and I’m learning to pay attention now. Great stuff. It’s been another good crossword week all told.

  3. Grodnik said

    An excellent puzzle but a tough one. It took me almost double par(ish top???, what?, double obscurity nightmare!!) time. FOI 6ac alerted to pangram, NOI 11ac, great clue, confirmed suspicions. It helped. I suppose that 1dn must reference those annoying people who wash your windscreen at traffic lights whether you want it or not; a physical realisation of scam callers. Specially liked the 10ac reference to Trump supporters. NB, some very imaginative Concise topliners recently. NDY.

  4. jonofwales said

    Pretty tough, but I got there in the end and enjoyed the ride. Isn’t “Ordinary” a little surplus to requirements in 15ac?

  5. Willow said

    I too enjoyed Garrison Keillor’s Radio talks. I particularly remember how he explained Lake Wobegon not appearing on any map because cartographers didn’t take the curvature of the earth into account in their surveys, resulting in a small corner of the territory being overlooked.

    A really brilliant puzzle – thank you. However …

    Some weeks ago I said I wouldn’t complain again about risque clues again unless they were completely OTT. I have to say, even though it’s not actually risque as such, that the reference to white trash caused me concern. Derogatory comments about any ethnic groups are surely unacceptable, especially when the clue could so easily have been modified. The fact that the phrase is in common parlance (among some) is no reason to condone it. Am I being oversensitive?

    • Saboteur said

      Its a good question, Willow. Both white trash and redneck are certainly pejorative. But perhaps not as pejorative as certain other appellations. I can’t really speak for Serpent, but I might be tempted to argue that given the evident concern for surface reading, the successful echoing of pejorative tone, and the use of white / red, from clue to answer justifies it. I don’t think anyone should be encouraging derogatory comments about social groups, although I don’t think putting something in a crossword is to condone it. I think this is in the acceptable part of the grey area (to continue the colour theme).

    • batarde said

      No, that was an eyebrow raiser. There are plenty of self-identified rednecks and I’m fine with that part, but chances are a lot of them would run you over in their pickup truck if you called them white trash. It’s always pejorative, reeks of condescension and laden with undertones better left unexplored here. Besides, it’s not a very good definition, redneck being a cultural descriptor whereas white trash is about social standing and economic circumstances.

      • batarde said

        Sorry, Saboteur – cross posted. My comment is in reply to Willow, not a commentary on yours.

      • Saboteur said

        Understood as such, Batarde. Perhaps I have been too indulgent, having been seduced by the fine qualities of the cluing (notwithstanding that I failed to appreciate the nuances of the definition).

    • Cornick said

      I imagine Eimi considered ‘White Trash’ but let it pass because Chambers (surprisingly perhaps) doesn’t indicate it to be derogatory. By contrast he once rejected a clue of mine with ‘Squaw’ in it because Chambers says it is.

  6. Cornick said

    Very good again. No complaints with Serpent – I didn’t even mind ‘Ordinary Joe’ which he says was a boo-boo in his comment on Fifteensquared.
    Just to correct any misapprehensions as to the long entries – these do not make multiple pangrams easier, as Twencelas says in the original blog, they make them harder. So it seems to me that Serpent set himself the grid filling challenge of a double pangram with an average word length of greater than 7.

    • Veronica said

      Actually I was disappointed ordinary Joe was a mistake! I thought “ordinary” was in there both for surface reading AND, crucially, to indicate that nothing happened to the letters of Joe, they just went straight into the answer! I thought that was sooo clever. Only to find it wasn’t 😮.

  7. Veronica said

    DNF but absolutely loved it. Had three unsolved in SW corner when I had to call it a day, after a last minute further attempt in the evening.
    Pretty well every clue is brilliant, with all sorts of misdirections. The surface readings are fantastic. And I could do the CoD without knowing the film – just a check up when I got the answer – clever cluing yet again.
    I even spotted the double pangram, and – for once – appreciated it. The fact that it makes no difference during the solving makes it doubly clever. I like it when pangrams can be there for those who like them, but not detract for those who don’t care.
    However, I also disliked rednecks and white trash. I don’t want to cause a stir, but I do believe putting derogatory words in crosswords is a bad idea, because the more common they are, the more acceptable they seem.

    • Cornick said

      Actually Chambers are persuadable – arguably the greatest achievement of my life was getting them to change their entry for a sash window mouse! So adding in a ‘(derog)’ should be easy enough, and Eimi would then take his lead from that.

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