i Cryptic Crossword 3581 by Serpent

July 30, 2022

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

It would be instructive to place today’s Serpent puzzle alongside Klingsor’s from yesterday and Dac’s from Wednesday. They’re remarkably similar in that all three provide totally credible surface readings and watertight, satisfying cryptic readings of a quality that represents the very best of British Cryptic Crosswords. Where they differ is in the difficulty level. Not of vocabulary – all three tend to eschew obscurities – but rather in the degree of misdirection; how hidden the real instuctions of the clue are; how ‘cryptic’ it is.

So Serpent is the most difficult of the three, and this one definitely warranted 4 stars, but oh, how satisfying to solve! The greater difficulty means that – provided you can solve it of course – the penny drops with an even greater clang. I loved it.

Some of the best surface readings were those for GRIFTS, COCKROACH, MINSTREL, and BROADEN. Then the brilliantly disguised bits of wordplay include ‘messing with the inside'(of ones head) to change ‘nail’ to (CRA)NIAL, ‘Allow housing association’s case’ in 8d… well frankly I could go on and list them all – you’ll doubtless have your own favourites. For a CoD we’re spoilt for choice, but I’m plumping for this one:

14d Sneak into enemy camp and learn if it’s prepared to accept end to conflict (10)

There is a ghost theme – easily spotted at the end if you just read through the across clues: We had CAPTAIN BEEF/HEART and the symmetrically positioned TROUT MASK REPLICA. Nice spot that, Serpent, and it coincided with the anniversary of the album’s original release.

Beermagnet did a sterling job over on Fifteensquared back in the day, although I suspect the ‘correct’ definition for AMOEBA at 23d is actually ‘being confined to a single cell’, with ‘being’ as a noun. Serpent doesn’t really do verbiage.

Here’s that link:


4 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3581 by Serpent”

  1. Saboteur said

    Completely agree. Superb puzzle as usual from Serpent. Quite hard work, but so, so rewarding; one by one, all my question marks were crossed off as I picked away at the word-play, which proved to be both precise and concise.

  2. tonnelier said

    Agreement here too; just brilliant throughout. My own favourites were HUBRIS and SPEAKEASY.

    And for us Serpent fans, of who there must be many, a special treat as he has supplied the Inquisitor too, and it’s equally challenging and enjoyable

  3. Borodin said

    Late to the party again as I usually save Saturday’s i crossword till Sunday evening. Anyway this was a steady solve, albeit in two sessions, and some answers – 1ac in particular – were guesses from crossing letters but subsequently proved correct. Just into 4* territory for me; I’d probably have given it 3*, although that doesn’t allow for much differentiation from Dac’s 2* on Wednesday. Missed the theme even though I guessed there must be one.

  4. Richard said

    As a fan of the late Captain I was pleased to spot the ghost theme. But I never liked that particular album and I wonder if β€˜incoherent’ and β€˜nonsense’ were also part of the theme.

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