i Cryptic Crossword 3334 Serpent

October 14, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Today’s puzzle began with the worry that I was going to upset some of my fellow solvers by awarding low marks for difficulty to a Serpent puzzle, because I know that some struggle with him more than I do. No fear though, because following a pretty much read and write solve of the RHS of the grid, the other half refused resolutely to budge and took this well into 5* territory. Key to this difficulty was 1d, where “you broadcast” for the anagram indicator passed me by completely, leaving a grim determination to do something with the “you”, whatever the odds as time passed. SALON for exhibition room being less than obvious, and a fixation on STY, ENC or PEN for the enclosure at 1ac would also contribute to my undoing.

As there’s lots of brilliant stuff on offer, though, you would have little cause for complaint about having to spend a while with the puzzle. In particular, outside of my COD nomination, I liked 29ac not only for the smooth surface reading, but for “midnight” which contributed to it, and 17d again for a pretty good surface, and the lesser used “jazz” to indicate the anagram.

There’s a theme, that I missed, to do with things beginning RED, which is a pity as it would have helped no end. Perhaps this contributed to the difficulty level in terms of words chosen for the grid, I don’t know.

That aforementioned COD? For me, it’s got to be the rather neat 10ac – “Substance abuse that initially started with illness (4)”.

Stuck for the answers or parsing of the clues? Look no further than John’s 2017 blog:


10 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3334 Serpent”

  1. dtw42 said

    I *did* spot the theme at about the ยพ point (upon making sense of 6d, basically) which helped with a lot of the left hand side, so I would put this at ***ยฝ, maybe **** (esp. since I did finish it by 9.26, which isn’t bad). The only unparsed “bung it in and hope it’s right” was MEAT at 10; thankfully it *was* right.

  2. Cornick said

    I spotted the theme about 1/4 of the way through, with just SETTER, SQUIRREL, PEPPER and a 3-letter word in 6d that had to link them – not that hard to do if you look at it like that surely? Perhaps I just got lucky, but one does know with Serpent that a grid like that must have either theme or Nina, and it clearly wasnโ€™t the latter.
    So a slightly easier than average Serpent Iโ€™d say, and agree with dtw on 3 1/2 stars for difficulty – certainly we encounter much harder from the likes of Anax, so I canโ€™t see this being 5*. Oh well, subjective as ever!
    Lovely stuff from a very favourite setter, just ARCHES at the end I didnโ€™t parse, but possibly thatโ€™s down to not needing to after the yellow tick popped up.

    • jonofwales said

      I think this will be one where – if you spotted the theme, it was straightforward, but if you didn’t, you were going to struggle. I never go looking for themes, and tend to treat a puzzle as a straight cryptic, only looking after, or if I’ve got very badly stuck.

      • Cornick said

        I will always look with certain setters – and if it’s a Serpent with a grid like this, that will (famous last words) always be the case.

      • Cornick said

        Also I didn’t notice any difficult words chosen for the grid – nebulous? Pretty everyday word surely?

  3. Grodnik said

    Enjoyed this, despite not spotting the actual theme until after completion, having flirted with โ€œfoodโ€ in a rather nebulous fashion, and wrestling with some quite intricate clueing in places. A **** I think, and agree with Cornick that all the words were accessible, with no red herrings.
    My CoD, 6d because of the clever self-referencing. NDY

  4. Saboteur said

    Like a bit of treacle toffee, this was very chewy but immensely enjoyable. Four stars for difficulty, but five for enjoyment.

    My only criticism would be the alleged innocence/ in a sense homophome, which just doesn’t work for me. The stress is on different syllable, and the vowel sounds aren’t quite close enough. But maybe that’s just to my ears.

    Otherwise, brilliant stuff. I got the theme relatively early (I looked for it seeing it was Serpent) and that did help. As other have commented, all vocabulary was ordinary, which is something, when a theme can so often force the use of something obscure. Some corruscating word- play.

  5. thebargee said

    Didnโ€™t have much time to get stuck into this today, so a DNF with the RHS completed (DEER went in unparsed) and only a sprinkling filled in on the LHS.

    Wish Iโ€™d had more time, I might even have spotted the theme๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Borodin said

    What a difference a few hours make. It was Serpent in the Indy too and I was on Serpent’s wavelength, spotted the theme and finished quite quickly. But coming to this later in the day I couldn’t get on his wavelength and failed to spot the theme. Eventually got stuck with the NW quadrant mostly blank, so definitely a ‘fail’.

  7. Willow said

    I’m a day behind as this one took me so long. Lots to enjoy, and I do think it is a 5 star puzzle in terms of difficulty, but I also found several clues frustrating, specifically 10, 1, (frankly astonishing anagrind), 20 (LOI and I needed electronic assistance) and 26. I got the theme when tackling 6 as I remembered the old misdirection of DOES meaning female deers.

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