Fifteensquared

Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 23923/Brendan — Spot the theme

Posted by Colin Blackburn on November 14th, 2006

Colin Blackburn.

Solving time : about 20 minutes.

I noticed before writing this that Virgilius appears in the Independent today and that there is, as usual, a theme. Well, this puzzle from Virgilius’s alter ego is no exception. It took a while for the theme to dawn, though it was staring me in the face before I had filled in a single answer. The grid contains four black aitches running diagonally across the it. After about half of the across clues had gone in with no obvious connection between the answers I noticed an aitch at the end of each across answer ending on the right edge of the grid and at the start of each across answer starting on the left edge of the grid. The extra checking that this gave meant a very speedy end as the last few answers fell into place.

Across
1 HOBB(i)ES — the philosopher Hobbes having given up his hobbies to concentrate on doing some thinking.
5 PLUT(o)+ARCH — an author of the classics. Brendan resisted the temptation to make reference to the planet’s diminished status instead referring us to the Disney dog (the one that doesn’t talk).
9 HER(IT)AGE — a woman might not divulge her age, excellent surface.
14 OVER+MUCH — OVER = number of deliveries and MUCH = the miller’s son in the Robin Hood stories (I had to look that up afterwards!)
23 HOBNOB — the wordplay here is “jobs newly started”. Take two of them, JOB JOB, and change their starts. There aren’t many words I know fitting -OB-OB so the device is not too indirect and creates a nice surface.
24 NUTHATCH — I do like hidden clues that span several words, here “menu that chef” hides our bird. “…put together” might be seen as being superfluous but here Brendan is asking us to put the three words together to find the bird.
Down
2 (w)OMEN — this is a very nice clue. Boleyn and Howard became headless women!
4 SPARS+E — plenty to mislead here. Poles could be N+S, a measurement or Polish names. European Union could be EU (maybe even EC or EEC). Instead Union is telling us to place SPARS (poles) and E (European) together.
5 PRESS CONFERENCE — very nice cryptic definition for one half of the clue, conference pears when pressed might provide us with juice, combining with the straightforward definition to give a good surface.
7 APRIL — her is a clue to a woman’s name and here Browning is Robert:
Oh, to be in England,
Now that April’s there,…
16 RUBUS(rev)+BIA(s) — I don’t know Harrow but I guess it is suburban. Sometimes you need to look at the actual words in the clue rather than looking for a level of indirection.
22 “SCOT” — I’ve seen a very similar clue within the last week or so and so I was annoyed that I wrote in ECCO as a cod-Italian homophone of ECO. Scott is exactly as he sounds, a Scot.

One Response to “Guardian 23923/Brendan — Spot the theme”

  1. says:

    I did the entire thing and didn’t notice that!

    I seem to remember a puzzle from a few years ago which used a grid where each and every answer began and ended with an ‘S’. The point being that that particular grid would not be used again as no first letters crossed and was therefore easier for the setter.

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