i Cryptic Crossword 3399 Serpent

December 30, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The i app having started playing up on me again this morning, I was left at the mercy of the paperboy’s lie-in regarding my starting time on today’s offering from Serpent. As it turns out it was well worth the wait, with a puzzle that I suspect may turn out to be the highlight of the week. With highlights here including the misdirection (for those of us expecting a different sort of hack) with “lodgings for hacks”, to the “linesman” immediately below, the almost Dac-like smoothness of “Serpent takes shelter”, and too many ticks to list, this was a pleasure to solve from start to end.

It being Serpent this was on the tricky side, with more than a few clues unparsed on entry, but looking back everything is as clear as day, so it’s possible that the ongoing festivities have begun to take their toll.

There’s a clear theme running throughout, to do with 19ac, that helped with more than one or two at the close, notably 5ac.

Talking of the close, my LOI was the extremely obscure 7d that needed all the checking letters and a trip to Google to confirm.

COD? Just because I felt quite smug on untangling the wordplay, I suspect, for what was another unknown here, 3d – “Feast laden with fat in the morning brought about sickness (5,5)”.

This is my last post this year, so I’ll take the opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year. Early in the New Year I’ll be presenting my annual roundup of the year, and I believe Saboteur has volunteered to pick up Batarde’s summary of the year’s Tuesday themes. Do check out both – the latter will be fascinating I’m sure, and as for the former, it’s always interesting to see how our mileage has varied across the year.

And so one last time from me for 2021 – stuck for any of the answers or parsing of the clues? Look no further than Fifteensquared’s blog from December 2017:


15 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3399 Serpent”

  1. Cornick said

    Another terrific puzzle from Serpent.
    My first two in were 1a MAMMON and the one you needed to solve it 15a RICHES. It’s hard to see how the theme any clearer than that, so it’s surprising to read on Fifteensquared that some solvers found it less than obvious.
    Another fan of the 15a/ 16a Isherwood pairing here – brilliant!
    7d ARAPAHO features in Ian Dury’s β€˜Hit me with your Rhythm Stick’ : β€˜Eskimo, Arapaho, move their bodies, to and fro’.

  2. dtw42 said

    We found it five-star territory. Hey ho

  3. tonnelier said

    Five stars from me too. I did finish, with quite a bit of help, but failed to parse both 5s, 17 and 19.

    Brilliant as usual from Serpent, with a tiny quibble about the ENC in 19 – “mid-section of seating area” struck me as poor. The solution was clear enough, but I wouldn’t call a bench a seating area.

    Dollar baffled me the longest, and I had to “cheat” to get Malta fever which I’d never heard of.

    My favourites were 15 and 16.

  4. Topsy said

    It took me ages to get into this but enjoyed it once I did. I am a fair weather solver and often throw things in without fully parsing them. I decided that 3d was obviously Lassa so that made 1ac obviously Kevlar. As you can imagine it was a DNF. Never mind πŸ™‚
    Season’s Greetings to all and thanks to bloggers and setters alike!

  5. thebargee said

    All very clever, but as usual with Serpent a DNF for me. Enjoyed what I did (about two thirds this time which is a slight improvement) before getting bored with lack of progress.
    I think I might do better with this setter if I didn’t know in advance who it was – the name really does set me all a-quiver.

  6. Willow said

    Finished and parsed everything and got the theme from the outset – but needed the internet for ARAPAHO. On the subject of which: AH, AHA, O, OH, OI, OHO, OO, COR, MY, WOW could all stand for I’M SURPRISED. And probably a few more as well. Far from the only example in this puzzle where quite vague word indications could have been interpreted in a multitude of ways. BENCH springs to mind.

    There were a good dozen clues which I thought were excellent – but the same number which fell below par for me. On the whole this left me feeling unsatisfied. No doubt that these were clever, convoluted clues, but Dac’s offering yesterday was streets ahead.

    • Cornick said

      We’re all God’s children, and for me this Serpent was the puzzle of the week. ‘OH’ was the second ‘I’m surprised’ to occur to me after ‘COR’ and I do think some of your list would be very poor if used by a setter. Serpent certainly wouldn’t use OI that way, say.
      When it (quite often) crops up, ‘about’ is the most ambiguous word for me to unravel.
      Only 3* at most for me, so I suppose he & I must think similarly!

  7. Moggy said

    Well above my level. Must do better next year!

    jonofwales – Thank you for the analysis. You mentioned the i app – I have just taken out a subscription for the i newspaper and have logged on the the i app on both desktop and mobile. But I have been unable to find the cryptic crossword anywhere. Am I missing something ludicrously obvious (as I often do in the crosswords)?

    • jonofwales said

      Hi Moggy. On the desktop version there’s a menu to the top left – it looks like two rectangles- click on that and you’ll see options for All Issues and Puzzles.

      • Moggy said

        Thanks but when I log in here: https://inews.co.uk
        I do not see any top left menu.
        What I do see at the top from left to right is:
        i (in red), News, Politics, Opinion, Culture, Money, Sport, Lifestyle, Features, a search icon and finally, My Account.

        I am assuming one of two things:
        1) I have a different level of subscription or
        2) There is a different site I should be looking at.

        Thanks for any guidance.

      • jonofwales said

        You should go to the following site, where you’ll be asked for your email address and Subscriber number (which will be in your welcome email) to let you login: https://app.inews.co.uk/

  8. Moggy said

    Thank you. That worked, although not yet in the browser I normally use which is Vivaldi. Works fine in Firefox and Chrome.
    Much obliged to you.

  9. Saboteur said

    Another brilliant challenge from Serpent, one of my very favourite setters. He gives us good surface readings, variety, lots of creativity and novelty, and a dash of humour. A real treacle-toffee puzzle. I might have been tempted to give it five stars for difficulty had I been blogging, though. Certainly four and a bit.

    My one criticism would be the C in DECEASED, which was deleted and then immediately reinstated. A little surprising when other word-play does not seem out of reach. I needed help to get ARAPAHO, my only use of a list, but it was one of those words that I realised I had come across before, but which I had been unable to dredge up from wherever it was stored.

    Got the theme, which helped with DOLLAR.

    • Borodin said

      The device of omitting a letter in one part of the wordplay then reinstating it from elsewhere is not uncommon. In the case of 5dn, though, I didn’t see it that way – it was simply DEC + [c]EASED as parsed by B&J in the original blog.

  10. Henri said

    Discovered that Kale is also in the theme

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