Marge lets Norah see Sharon’s telegram

(So many dynamos!)

I’ve tried to polish this one a bit more, since I have been told to “work on my surfaces”.  Had I but world enough and time, I’d rework and rework until I thought everything was perfect. But when it’s only a spare time thing, I just have to say “enough!” eventually, and hope I’ve done a reasonable job. Also, I must admit that I have rarely seen a crossword that doesn’t have a few rough or even nonsensical surfaces – sometimes that’s part of their charm (or maybe that’s just because I tend to do the Guardian crossword.)

But anyway, this one has been polished a bit more than my previous efforts, so I hope the result is worth it.


1. Degrees are one form of relief (3)
3. After circuit is connected, Liz and Laura almost turn blue (5,6)
9. President, you heard, has prosecutor; a predatory type (9)
10. Frequently concerned with numerical base (5)
11. The pride of the fair? (6)
12. Strikes a note with tossers (8)
14. Cape added to give quality (4)
15. Paddy wagon’s broadcast picked up after dark by mother (5,5)
18. Appearance of fast-moving charged particle (10)
19. Taking the redoubt from Windscale is gallant (4)
21. Remain around local state with chosen head (8)
23. Tune played backwards is giving transcendant insight (6)
25. Sailor astern? (5)
26. During morning or after, at a meeting with lady love (9)
28. Upset at anagram of “mirage” (4,7)
29. Thus, with a degree, it would be simple (3)
1. Haircut for helpful uncle (3)
2. Starts when summer begins (7,2)
3. Shed – has also shed – weight, I’ve heard (4,2)
4. Some fat is best (4)
5. The farmer’s usual? (6,4)
6. A grave error for mob: it explodes! (4,4)
7. Disunite? (5)
8. It’s found smoking in the bog, weirdly – is it a fungus? (5,6)
11. Generator of Vegan fad? Far out! (3,2,6)
13. Form (if that is right) – it labels (10)
16. Confused hero has data on resistance movements, perhaps (9)
17. Part of speech a German with erection made, to be precise (8)
20. Hair from mustang, or a goat (6)
22. Inform on Herb (5)
24. Epic tale of foot-loose cosmologist (4)
27. ‘Tis whispered Noah used this type of light (3)

7 thoughts on “Marge lets Norah see Sharon’s telegram

  1. We can only comment as consumers, not compilers, but we have to say that while we have no clue what your surfaces are we found them perfectly shiny before! Whatever polishing consists of we are equally clueless, but coincidentally or not we found this one while obviously highly enjoyable a lot easier than the last one. (We are in particular radiating smugness that we got 8 and 11 down.) Don’t let your mysterious critics make you polish all the lovely personality out! That’s the bit we like:).

  2. Thank you!

    The “surface” is the “surface reading” which is what the clue appears to say – as opposed to the “cryptic reading” which is the hidden message, so to speak. The surface can vary from extremely awkward to a tripper-off-the-tongue that could appear in genuine speech or writing. No crossword is going to be without the occasional awkward construction, by the nature of things, but having a “good surface” is often desirable.

    Also, there are certain rules to which compilers are supposed to adhere, and although they don’t always do so, they do at least realise when they break them. (Clues ending in “?” are often ones which break the rules to some extent, so that could be considered a meta-rule to indicate rule breaking, although it can also mean something like “think even more laterally than normal about this one!”)

    So………..well……………I sure hope I’m not polishing away my personality, because if I thought I was just coming up with “standard” crosswords, I’d quit. Life’s too short to do spare time stuff that doesn’t involve either pleasure or engaging one’s creativity (or preferably both), in my humble opinion. I’m looking on this an an exercise to work within the rules until I reach the point where I know when and how to break them, rather than just doing so by accident.

    (Dare I make a comparison with Picasso?! No, perhaps not…)

    • (Dare I make a comparison with Picasso?! No, perhaps not…)

      Oh, go on, then!:)

      (For some reason we didn’t see your response earlier, otherwise we would have been rather brisker to reply.)

      Aha! So that’s what a surface is! Hmm. Again, we’re not compily experts, but we do have a lot of experience from the other end of the pen. We’ve always found your clues offbeat but entirely fair in a cryptic-tradition way – and believe us, if they hadn’t been fair we would have moaned and whined at length rather than politely refraining from comment. And that very unusualness has never failed to enchant us. The only area we’ve found you’ve strayed from accepted practice is in the themed ones where so many clues hinge on one answer, and again we’ve found those a hugely enjoyable variant.In short, a) not the same as everyone else b) that’s a killer advantage, at least to us! Looking forward to having a go at the latest one at the weekend…

      • Actually, even some of my “mysterious critics” (some of whom are mentioned here – ) have advised me not to “polish all the sparkle out of my clues”. I think it comes down to whether one likes the strict style of clueing, which almost make a fetish of having complex mechanics, or the loose style, in which “anything goes if you can get the answer” – this is the style espoused by my hero Araucaria (, who said almost exactly those words in an interview. It was him who created my possibly all time favourite clue….

        Of of of of of of of of of of (10)

        Maybe I should hold back from giving the answer, in case anyone would like to have a go, and if they do, maybe they could let me know whether they think it’s fair!

        Of course the loose style embraces the strict style some of the time. To be honest, I think trying to be too strict is putting me off trying to make up crosswords at all, because I can never quite get my head around the aforementioned complex mechanics. For example, does it matter if one uses an adverbial phrase to clue a noun? Strictly speaking, it does, but loosely speaking, it only does if it makes it too difficult for a (reasonably intelligent) solver to get the answer. Hence one of my clues (which I think you’ve already solved)

        Tip her head under the plough (5)

        would have to be made more clunky to be strict

        Tip her head – it’s found under the plough (5)

        The ideal clue, like the ideal pun, should make you groan when you get it (and maybe swear a bit). And it shouldn’t be unfair…

        Never mind, I will put all this into the mulcher and (in breaks between writing my novel) (de)compose another one.

      • We can see the point of fairness, but as far as we’re concerned, as consumers we’re happy to sacrifice exactitide in order to allow more bravura clue-writing, because they’re just so much fun. We haven’t got an inkling of what the answer is to the clue you mention, but we like it!

  3. PS

    I’m sure this is obvious, but I’ll spell out the meaning of surface (I’m sure it is obvious, actually, but just to make it clear to anyone who may read this later).

    A clue has two readings. Here is an example:(not one of mine)

    Horseman capturing a freebooter (6)

    The “surface reading” is straightforward – it’s a (very short) story about a horseman who captures a freebooter! That is to say, it could conceivably appear in a real story, at least as part of a longer sentence, e.g. “the picture showed a … ”

    The cryptic reading is the one the surface tries to disguise. It also comes in two parts (usually), which are known as the worplay and the definition. The wordplay lets the solver put the answer together from supplied parts, so to speak – I’ll explain this a bit more below – the definition is a “straight” definition of the answer. The surface often tries to make which part is which more obscure, e.g. by making a noun appear to be a verb.

    In this example the wordplay is partly a “charade” in which one word is “acting the part” of another – in other words (so to speak 🙂 the solver is expected to replace “horseman” with a synonym, in this case “rider” – then “capturing” indicates inclusion and “A” is a straight definition, the letter A. “freebooter” is the actual definition (by convention, clues don’t have to include something to indicate that the “wordplay” “leads to” the “definition” although they may).

    So RIDER “capturing” A gives the answer – RAIDER.

    Another example that indicates the structure more clearly perhaps

    Dress that, with time, becomes rubbish (7)

    Here the structure is “[Dress] and [time] put together give the answer [rubbish]” – GARB AGE

    The surface reading could be a statement about the whims of fashion. The cryptic reading tells you to take a synonym of one word, add a synonym of another word, and that these will “become” the answer. So this one really spells it out, to to speak.

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