Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 23975/Brendan – back to the books

Posted by ilancaron on January 16th, 2007


A literary feast with clever use of grid geometry. I was helped by incidentally having a copy of “The New Yorker” next to me with the name JULIAN BARNES (1A, 4A) on the cover. Some very clever wordplay with a nice touch of humour.


1 JULIAN – I worked this out from the answer to 24A. The answer itself is a double definition: with a cryptic 2nd part: as in JULIAN calendar as opposed to the Gregorian which is what we use now.
4 BARNES=”barns” – ditto. BARNES is in SW London.
9 HEART OF DARKNESS – my first clue solved. “Novel about deep gloom” was pretty evocative (and I’d seen “Apocalypse Now” recently) though the definition is just “novel” and the wordplay is: “OF DARKNESS” for “of deep gloom”, coming “after” HEART for “red card”.
10, 22 JOSEPH CONRAD – He wrote 9A. The answer is part of the wordplay – or the initial letters thereof: (JC, had no prose)*. I was wondering if there was going to be an allusion to that other well-known JC.
11, 21 THE QUIET AMERICAN – A brilliant clue. Again I saw this only once I had the “baseline” answer (26A: the bottom of the grid). Graham Greene indeed is the writer and as anyone who watched tennis (especially Wimbledon) in the 80s will know, John McEnroe is both very American and vocal.
12 UPAS TREE – (pasture, e)* — a bit of guessing from me and checking the definition of UPAS TREE: UPAS actually does mean poison in Javanese. I also have a feeling that the UPAS plays a role in some Conrad story about SE Asia. But my brain might be overheating.
18 IDENTITY – hidden in “…presIDENT I TYpically…”. The definition “lack of distinction” defines uniformity more accurately than IDENTITY but I suppose it’s close enough.
24 FLAUBERT’S PARROT – by 1A, 4A – another one of Julian Barnes’s novels that I haven’t finished. Wordplay is simply Gustave FLAUBERT’S (“French novelist’s”) followed by PARROT for “imitator”.
26, 25 GRAHAM GREENE – Took me a bit longer than necessary since I read the clue number as 25, 26. He wrote 11A and Billy GRAHAM is a well-known US religious type followed by GREENE=”green”.


1 JOE S, OAP – Was Joseph Conrad really referred to as JOE? OAP is Old-Age Pensioner (I grew up near Chelsea and they were a familiar sight). JOE SOAP on the other hand was a tough Brit cultural reference for me: is “one taken for a ride” a good definition?
5 AI(RHEA)D – definition is “loon” and RHEA is an ostrich-like “bird”
6 N.A.,N(TUCK)ET – NANTUCKET was a whaling port that also happens to be in North America (MA for those of you who revised two-letter US states yesterday)
8 ODETTE – ODETTE Sansom was a British agent in WWII and one of the few women awarded the George Cross. A little ode could be ODETTE I suppose – not sure what “bijou” is doing unless it’s to indicate the cuteness of adding suffix “ette”.
13 SUGAR CUBE – cryptic definition of what we use to sweeten the tea in our cups.
16 TIME-LAG – clever wordplay: a LAG (second part of answer) has to serve TIME (first part) in prison.
17 RE,C,LEAN – slightly weak surface: to “list” is to LEAN to the side (especially if you’re on a boat).
18 IG,NIT,E – rev(GI=”soldier”) followed by rev(tin=”Can”) and E[nemy]. My last clue: “Can” for tin is well-hidden.
20 TEA-R,OOM – very nice misleading surface. TEAR for “rent” followed by rev(moo=”low” of a cow).
23 NORTH – double definition: NORTH as in Bridge player, and as in the way maps are oriented with NORTH “put on top of the charts”. Almost an &lit if Bridge hand diagrams were called “charts”.

4 Responses to “Guardian 23975/Brendan – back to the books”

  1. says:

    This one had the feel of an American crossword (long themed entries entered symmetrically in the grid), and was very enjoyable to solve. My only gripe with it was that, if you recognised the theme and the writers fairly quickly, the crossword took very little time to solve – I took less than four minutes (a personal best for the Gaurdian!).

    As an amateur (oh, how I’d love to be professional!) setter myself, I can appreciate that this is the type of puzzle that probably took a lot of time to create, but which takes a fraction of that time to solve.

  2. says:

    Blimey, four minutes is good – I wasn’t counting, but pretty sure it was under ten. Some nice clues here, especially TIME-LAG. One I was less keen on was SUGAR CUBE, which I think fell into a trap that’s quite common for cryptic definitions. Brendan presumably meant to mislead us into thinking about World Cup bribery scandals, but I immdeiately read the surface as being about tea, which meant ‘regular’ was the only vaguely cryptic component.

  3. says:

    ok… so tell me about the world cup bribery scandal trap i didn’t even see…

  4. says:

    Under 4 minutes on this is astonishing. I thought several answers were pretty obscure: are Barnes, Conrad and Greene (or their novels?) connected somehow?

    I only knew Nantucket via a limerick which had me in stitches when I first heard it, though I couldn’t possibly reproduce it here.

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