Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,530 – Brendan

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on October 27th, 2008

Ciaran McNulty.

Quite tricky for a Monday, in my opinion.  A minor theme of -ee suffixes (9A, 12A, 30A, 17D, 18D) and the little square of three-letter words around the centre was quite interesting.

Lots of unfamiliar words (1A, 29A etc) but most had an obvious etymology so were solvable after a guess and a quick peek in the dictionary.

I’d rather not spoil it as it’s an ongoing prize, but one of the clues might seem quite familiar to those who did yesterday’s Everyman.

(X) = insertion
(x) = removal
< = reversal
* = anagram
dd = double definition
“” = homophone


10. GROSGRAIN. GRO(S.)G + RAIN. A corded ribbon.
17. GET. dd
21. ETA. ET A(l). ‘Character of timon’ as a general way of saying ‘greek character’ is unconvincing.
23. SARTOR. S(ART)OR(t).
28. ODESSA. (p)ASSED O <.
30. ENTREE. I can’t decide between the whole thing being “EN TRAY” or if ‘in french’=EN and plane=TRAY.
31. DISSIDENT. DI(S + SIDE)NT.  ‘Dint’ is a slightly archaic ‘dent’.


2. BORZOI. B (ORZO) 1.
3. ERSATZ. tigERS AT Zoo.
4. AIR BAG. dd, reference to bagpipes.
5. EVIL EYE. LIVE < + “I”.  ‘Upset’ to indicate reversal took a while to spot.
6. ESTAMINET. ESTA(MINE)T(e).  A small french cafe.
17. GEE. The first letter of Grey.
18. TEA. “TEE”.
26. TEFLON. cd, but a bit weak.

40 Responses to “Guardian 24,530 – Brendan”

  1. Rich says:

    Re 30A Plane refers to any tree of the genus Platanus

  2. Andrew says:

    Definitely hard for a Monday – quite a few rather obscure words, not helped by the grid, which I’ve complained about before for the way it splits the puzzle into four parts with some poor checking.

    I think there’s an extra meaning in 17dn – a grey can be a horse, to which you might say “gee” to get it started.

  3. mhl says:

    I’d agree that there was some tough vocabulary here for a Monday. Thanks for the post on it.

    The TEFLON clue is quite interesting – I wondered whether the surface was referring to the common mistake that Teflon (as opposed to Kevlar) is used in bullet-proof vests? At least lots of people seem to get them mixed up. I see that helpfully Wikipedia has a page on “the Telfon ____”, which I assume is the intended cryptic meaning.

    “Character of Timon” did puzzle me, even though I got ETA from the subsidiary and cross letters :(

  4. KB Pike says:

    I echo Andrew’s dislike of the “4 small crosswords in one” style diagram: I consider it a lazy setter’s device. Monday’s puzzles are often reckoned to be easier for the solver – here the tables are turned. It makes me ask whether the setters whose puzzles are so assiduously blogged here ever bother to read your/our comments and strictures, or do they continue on their merry way, hiding behind the arrogant “We’re the experts and we know best” attitude I encountered when I once dared to telephone the TIMES crossword editor about what I considered a poorly clued puzzle.

  5. Fletch says:

    Was this definitely a Brendan? It didn’t feel like Brendan to me.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Ciaran.

    24dn: I’ve never heard of ‘author’ as a verb before. I see that Collins and Chambers give it – but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

    On the other hand, being entirely inconsistent, I quite liked 16dn, although [or perhaps because!] autopsy couldn’t possibly be a verb. A witty &lit., I thought.

    Did anyone else spend longer than they should trying to get an anagram of S AND WATER for 10ac?

  7. Dave Ellison says:

    I agree with the comments about the four sub-crosswords.

    Brain dead (though not just mine, I think) today. 16d I put as AUTOPISED, having googled this. Several quotes such as: “Will ALL the recovered bodies be autopised to determine time and cause of death?” Doh, they can’t spell either.

  8. Eileen says:

    So it apparently can be a verb then. This is the end…

  9. Speckled Jim says:

    Wow, very tough that one. Surely there can’t be any credence to the idea that the crosswords get harder through the week, comparing this one with the surprisingly do-able Araucaria on Friday…?!

    I’m probably going to kick myself, but could anyone explain why ‘thousand’ ends up as ‘m’ in 22d?

  10. Tom Hutton says:

    Eileen, it is long past the end. One can verb(ify) anything these days. I am sure we are all crosswording as well as perhaps curmudgeonling.

    On which note, I don’t like this grid either and I don’t like using bits of words as in 28ac.

  11. Tom Hutton says:

    It’s a Latin thing Speckled Jim. You can have V,X,C,L,D,M in crosswords as numbers.

  12. Tom Hutton says:

    31ac Perhaps archaic but very well known. Good King Wenceslas dinted the snow in the carol.

    Sorry…too many posts….not enough to do today.

  13. Ciaran McNulty says:

    Eileen – I didn’t even pause at ‘authored’ and ‘autopsied’. The latter is probably vernacular but perfectly ok I’d have thought. I did spend some time on the anagram for 10A, yes!

    Speckled Jim – I thought I’d lucked out on Friday getting such an easy grid and being on the schedule for Monday – I counted my blessings too soon it seemed.

    KB Pike – At least one of the Guardian setters reads the blog (though maybe only on their own days) and have commented here. The Crosswords Editor, Hugh Stephenson, is generally quite approachable from what I’ve heard.

  14. mhl says:

    On the subject of “author” as a verb, Hendrik Hertzberg has pointed out in The New Yorker that it’s an unpleasant distortion of the McCain campaign to refer to Barack Obama as having “authored” his books when he genuinely wrote them, “to author” having the connotation of putting your name on something ghost-written.

  15. Speckled Jim says:

    Oh, latin – of course! I knew I’d kick myself. With the proximity of the word to ‘units’ I automatically leapt to ‘k’ for kilo, which was probably Brendan’s intention!

  16. mhl says:

    KB Pike: it’s a shame to hear people being so negative about the Guardian’s setters. Their hard work provides a great deal of entertainment for us and the standard is generally so high that to imply arrogance on their part seems ungracious (at the very least) to me. Some of them do read the comments here and a few post helpful and interesting replies.

    I thought today’s was very good, although difficult. In fact, there’s a lovely Nina hidden in there which I just noticed: ZIGZAGGY, SAWTOOTH, SERRATED and DANCETTY hidden between the four sections.

  17. JimboNWUK says:

    Bottom half was cruddy and the 4-quarters format is ‘orrible – nuff said.

  18. Tom Hutton says:

    I have to agree with Mhl about the entertainment provided by Guardian setters. I have been putting myself to sleep at night by ploughing through a book of Independent crosswords and they do lack the vivacity and humour of the Guardian setters. Rufus also reads the blog and answers points made. Not very arrogant at all! (I am sorry about the lack of verb in that sentence, Eileen,)

  19. Eileen says:

    Now you’re just teasing, Tom – I write ‘sentences’ like that all the time! But ‘to autopsy’ – I ask you.

    I’d like to reiterate all that’s been said about the setters. Rufus was particularly kind to me on my last blog, after I’d expressed reservations about a couple of his clues. I’ve read replies – including apologies – from Shed, too, and I’m sure there are other setters, whose names I can’t remember, who’ve provided feedback.

  20. Fletch says:

    I’d never have seen those, Mhl, well spotted!

    I suppose that confirms it must be Brendan then

  21. eimi says:

    Brendan/Virgilius has remarked in the past that since living in the United States he’s realised that any noun can be verbed!

    I hope Tom won’t judge the Indy crossword by that old book. It’s very unrepresentative of the Indy crossword now.

  22. John says:

    I found this unsatisfactory for all the reasons mentioned above, plus these:
    10 ac – grog is already rum and water, so “water” must be working overtime on behalf of grog and rain.
    17 ac – if it’s a dd, what does “contract” have to do with “get”?
    8 ac – what’s “rum” there for, unless it’s just to continue the rum theme?
    22 ac – there seem to be two anagram indicators; we don’t need both “about” and “involved” do we?
    However I concur that there are enough pluses in the week to compensate for the few minuses.

  23. John says:

    Of course it’s 8 and 22 dn, not ac I’m talking about.
    Though I understand that a “nina” is a hidden feature, what does it mean?

  24. Puck says:

    I am one of the setters who has occasionally posted comments here. I do in fact read the blog regularly, not just for my own puzzles, and find it interesting as a general read and also for any feedback, positive and negative, on my own work. I sometimes even use the blog to confirm wordplay in other setters’ clues, or occasionally to check solutions I’m unsure about!

    I must admit I did not see the hidden Nina in today’s Brendan. It does very cleverly connect together the “4 small crosswords in one” that some are unhappy about with this grid. Seeing that connection was another matter altogether. Well done to all who did!

  25. Ciaran McNulty says:

    John – ‘contract’ and ‘get’ are the same in the sense of ‘contract influenza’.

    Well spotted, Mhl!

  26. mhl says:

    John: Nina was the daughter of the artist Al Hirschfeld – he used to hide her name somewhere in his pictures…

  27. muck says:

    2dn: B(ORZO)I. I never heard of ORZO as pasta: Chambers doesn’t know either, but Google does.
    26dn: TEFLON -coated means to deflect political, as opposed to miltary, flak

  28. Geoff Moss says:

    Like you I had never heard of ‘orzo’ but it is in Chambers (2008) and COED (but not Collins).

  29. don says:

    Regarding setters reading comments on here, our most esteemed setter was mildly rebuked recently for equating temperature, representing a ‘T’ in the answer, with heat, referred to in the clue. The next crossword the same ‘inequality’ was used in reverse! Complain about too much blytty Lladin and what do you get – too much blytty Lladin!

  30. Dave Ellison says:

    I must withdraw my comment about four mini-crosswords in view of the very clever interconnection found by Mhl – it took me a while to find them even when I was told they were there! I was initially disappointed that this was the first time Brendon did not have a clever tweak, but there it was! Brilliant!

    To return here to a point Paul B made on Oct 24th: “If crosswords were our sole source of learning, what would we know?” I have learned much over the years: delight from Stephen Leacock , turgid plodding through Smollett’s Humphrey Clinker, asking for a stingo in a pub in Manchester and being surprised to be served one, and I could go on at some length. None of these had I heard of until I started doing the Guardian Crossword.

    In about 1964 I recorded some answers I had not met before in the back of a dictionary. I had the idea I would learn all these to increase my vocabulary. It is a bit embarrassing in some cases to see now my then ignorance; others I still haven’t remembered. Among them were: imamate, jardinière, charivari (a hubbub) , Bari (place in Italy), tutti, agnomen (a fourth name), cotillion (a dance), goglet ( a water cooler), Calabria, kinkajou, sumach, cuspidor, caitiff (a base person) , fallal (a piece of finery). Difficult words in the Guardian Xword are not a new phenomenon.

  31. Paul B says:

    Um … thanks indeed, Dave! But as I’m sure you know my remark was something of an aside – it amused me to ponder the mental condition of some imagined entity who has derived all (as in absolutely everything) he or she knows from a bunch of persons, only partially sane themselves, such as crossword-makers – in a conversation about the unnecessary (and even irritating) prevalence of recondite words in (certain) daily puzzles.

    Today’s Brendan puzzle seemed choked with them, although we were able to justify their presence with the discovery of the Nina, mentioned above. But as a Monday puzzle – if such considerations and conventions are yet observed in Farringdon – this was pretty tough, and whatever you say in hindsight, a bad grid is a bad grid.

    While I’m at it, let me chime with Eimi in responding to Tom Hutton’s comments about Indy books. The current team hasn’t had a chance to publish anything just yet, and I would like to think – although in reality I’m completely sure – that any such presentation would stand a fair chance of matching, or possibly surpassing, the ‘vivacity and humour’ of the occasionally wonderful Grauniadiers.

    As a source of entertainment, solid clueing, and of interesting grids, I find these old issues invaluable. And I find they sit well alongside my equally ancient stock of G and Times tomes.

    Finally, good luck to ‘KB Pike’.

  32. Albie (Taupi) says:

    I also enjoy reading the feedback here whether positive or negative as this site is one of the few where we can learn the solvers’ opinion.

    I’d just like to point out that the Guardian, along with most of the other papers, has a number of set grids. This practice survives from the hot metal days. Compilers may only use those grids for normal puzzles and are encouraged to use them all. This is a weak grid, as are several others.

    Setters may try to link the quarters as Brendan did with the nina; but, even knowing Brendan’s penchant, I failed to spot it until it was pointed out here.

    Also, the setter usually has no control over when a puzzle will be published. Puzzles are submitted. The crossword editor decides when, and if, they are published.

    I too, as a solver, was surprised to find a puzzle this difficult on a Monday but who knows what other things the crossword editor had to contend with.

  33. Fletch says:

    Whatever, Paul B. However scintillating the current Indy team is, 32 comments on the Graun, 2 on the Indy.

  34. nmsindy says:

    That’s a little irrelevant, Fletch, IMHO. Did not do the Guardian puzzle (which I’m sure was very good if it’s set by Brendan) but I think comments refer back to the original blog – if everything is explained fully in the blog, there may be no comments at all!

  35. Fletch says:

    I think you’ll invariably find it’s par for the course NMS that there’s more comments on the Graun blogs than Indys.

  36. gsgeorge says:

    Is there a zig zag theme in all four sections?
    ZIZZAG, TOOTH, DANCE and …….(found it?).

  37. ACP says:

    I’ve just gone back and found the Ninas – brilliant !!
    Obviously, to get such a grid a few unusual words were needed. The last time he used this grid was when each of the quadrants had a unique vowel only.

    All complaints about Monday-type puzzles should immediately be deleted.
    Brendan’s creativity should be enjoyed ANY time he wishes to publish – who cares when.

  38. KB Pike says:

    Thanks to all taking up my point of setters as blog-readers. I’m (somewhat) reassured, but do not really expect to see much “improvement”. Unlike some solvers, I do crosswords to be entertained – how long it takes me doesn’t matter – and I like and applaud creative clueing, diagrams, themes etc etc. But I also expect fairness from the setters in all these respects. No matter what theme Brendan cleverly contrived in this puzzle, it’s not fair to link the centrepiece to the 4 corners by just one letter each. To coin a phrase – Crosswords should cross.

    [Rant over:-)]

  39. Colin Blackburn says:

    Referring back to the number of comments. That there are more on this blog than the same day’s Indy blog is down to what it now a meta-discussion rather than a discussion of Brendan’s puzzle. That there are more comments generally for the Guardian puzzles might be for two reasons. First more people do the Guardian puzzle for conservative reasons. And, that there is more to say about the Guardian puzzles because they are more often contentious, the grid here, the unfairness of some setters, the blandness of a few setters,…

    At the moment I can’t think of a single Independent (and IoS) setter who isn’t consistently good regardless of their style. The only Guardian setters who fall into this category seem, with a few notable exceptions, to also be Independent setters.

    And, as a final point to KB Pike, Brendan was scrupulously fair in his cluing, not something that can be said about some Guardian setters.

  40. Testy says:

    I’d say that, in general, the number of comments is inversely proportional to the soundness of the puzzle.

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