i Cryptic Crossword 3342 by Serpent

October 23, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five):  πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ (🌟) depending

In Serpent’s most recent offering 3334, all the across solutions were themed around red, and one of the down clues, DEER only made sense if you related one of its constituent words ‘theme’ to RED. Today the enigmatic down clue was 2d REVERT where ‘French Connection’ means VERT – the French for green of course. And that’s our theme.
I did tumble that all on my own for once – and felt sure it was right when I recalled that similar gimmick from that earlier puzzle. So what’s next? Blue is my bet, with Black and White close behind with the bookies.

And what a great puzzle this was! Looking at the completed grid you will notice that there is nothing that could be described as obscure – surely we all know RETRENCH as a word? For many setters such a heavy theme would justify weirdy-weird words being included in the down lights, but not Serpent. Furthermore, the definitions are all either very obvious ones or else clever whimsical misdirections of Serpent’s own invention – like ‘action of course’ for PUTTING. Not for Serpent to go picking out unusual meanings taken from the middle of a paragraph in Chambers; which is a lazy trick in my view. Also there is no ‘negative checking’ (more unchecked squares than checked).

So the question remains: why do some solvers find Serpent so hard? I would suggest that it’s for all the right reasons. The surface readings are compelling and draw you down the wrong path time and again; simple non-Crosswordese devices are there in plain view, but so artfully arranged that they are easily missed. My advice to anyone who struggles with Serpent would be to slow down. The clues are really very easy if you pause and pick them to pieces. A classic example – one for which I needed all the crossing letters – would be 7a. One of my last ones in, it’s a themed word and produced a broad smile when I realised how simple it was. And you cannot fail to admire the plausibility of its surface!

7a Religious figure continually pursuing right to die (8)

My only remaining question relates to 13a. Did Serpent mean to point us towards ‘Winter Greens’ or the less common phrase ‘Green Winter’? Perhaps it doesn’t matter…

Here’s the blog from 2017 with all the answers:

Independent 9568 by Serpent

8 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3342 by Serpent”

  1. dtw42 said

    I twigged to the theme pretty early on (though getting LIME and STONE together briefly diverted me into wondering if there were going to be paired words); despite this my last three in, unparsed, were 2dn 24dn and 28ac. [goes and looks … sees how 28 works … rolls eyes]
    29ac got an amused “ha”, so you’ve found my level, I suppose.

  2. jonofwales said

    I found this to be pretty tough again, into 5* territory, though you can probably knock a bit off as I solved while not feeling 100% chipper. πŸ™‚ To my shame, despite remembering Serpent’s previous theme, I failed to spot what was going on this time.

  3. Saboteur said

    Brilliant puzzle. I quite agree with our blogger about how Serpent misleads with his delightfully plausible surface readings.

    Missed the theme, and failed to parse OLIVE, even though its really rather obvious!

    Madame La Saboteuse helped me solve this one, and was quite taken with the setter’s mischievousness, and in fainess I have to admit that she got seven answers before I did. Hmm.

    I think I would have rated this as three stars. Thoroughly enjoyed. We enjoyed the clue for SEMICIRCLE in particular.

  4. Saboteur said

    BTW, wintergreen was a kind of strong-smelling rub that was used to soothe aching muscles back in my youth.

    • Cornick said

      Ah. Wintergreen. A new one for me.
      3* for me too, but that’s because I feel like I’m getting to know how to play him!

  5. thebargee said

    DNF for me. I am so spooked by seeing Serpent’s name that it just sends me into a panic! Convinced that I wouldn’t be able to parse many of the answers, I bunged in DROWSY for 8dn and GENIALNESS for 15dn. Thereafter my fate was sealed.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: