Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24551 / Brendan

Posted by mhl on November 20th, 2008


I very much enjoyed this puzzle and personally didn’t find it nearly as difficult as the last couple of days. There are several references to the United States (7a, 26a, 1d, 3d, 18d) in addition to the tricky 15a, 17a. Update: I meant to add that there are many marvellous surface readings in these clues – worth taking a little time over.

7. COOLIDGE This clue deserves some futher comment so it’s clear that I don’t mean to offend by describing the wordplay, which is clearly “Native labourer” to mean COOLIE around DG. The word “coolie” is widely considered to be offensive, although it seems to have some historical usages that considered inoffensive. I wasn’t aware of the former, but it’s very surprising to me that it’s included in the crossword given that. (DG is “director general”, roughly equivalent to “chief executive”.) Updated: Thank-you to Brendan, who has commented on this clue below (#28)
9. SCALAR SCAR “covering” A L. Scalar quantities are directionless, like speed as opposed to velocity
10. COOK Double definition: Captain Cook and Thomas Cook
11. SIMILTUDE (LIMITED US I)* – “recollected” is a nice anagram indicator
12. PUFFIN An excellent surface reading: PUFF + IN
15, 17. UNITED STATES I didn’t get this without almost all the crossing letters: if you write out the other answers then each pair of letters is a standard abbreviation for one of 20 states in the USA, hence “plus 30 more”. These are FLAK (Florida + Alaska), LANDOR (Louisiana + North Dakota + Oregon), SCALAR (South Carolina + Alabama + Arkansas), COOK (Colorado + Oklahoma), GAMINE (Georgia + Michigan + Nebraska), WINY (Wisconsin + New York), WAIL (Washington + Illinois), INVADE (Indiana + Virginia + Delaware)
20. AGITATOR A + GI + TAR “across” TO
22. CEDARS (SCARED)* – there’s a species of cedar that’s native to Lebanon
23. IMMODERATE RATE on I = “one” + M = “motorway” + MODE = “way”
24. WINY Homophone of “whiny”
25. INVADE Homophone of “inveighed” – very nice, I think
26. HARRISON Double definition: “Ford, as seen in the movies” is Harrison Ford and “President” might be either William Henry Harrison or Benjamin Harrison
1. HONOLULU Cryptic definition: Hawaii was the most recent state to become part of the United States, so Honolulu is the most recent example of a “capital gain”
2. FLAK Double definition: criticism and anti-aircraft fire
3. EDISON ED = “limted edition” + IS + ON = “about”
4. PSALMIST (MISSAL)* in PT = “part”
6. LANDOR Hidden answer: I think Landor must be Walter Savage Landor
8. ENMITY A very nice &lit: (MEN)* + Y around IT
16. ESTEEMED East and South are opponents at bridge, and TEEMED = “fell heavily” in the sense of rainfall
18. SCRANTON S and N are the poles (South and North) around CRAN + TO. A “cran”, I’m delighted to discover, is 37½ gallons of herring. Scranton, Pennsylvania has been mentioned a great deal during the recent US election since it’s the hometown of Joe Biden.
19. PREACH P = “pressure” + REACH
21. GAMINE GAME = “willing to do things” around IN = “home”
22. CHERRY CRY = “Keen” around HER. (As a Twin Peaks fan, this is one of the first types of pie-filling fruit that came to mind.)
24. WAIL I “breaking” LAW reversed

41 Responses to “Guardian 24551 / Brendan”

  1. Pat says:

    A lovely puzzle. Wonderfully inventive, as ever from Brendan, and great fun

  2. Uncle Yap says:

    Thank you for putting me out of my misery. I got United States but could not explain it. That grid must have taken Brendan a considerable amount of time to craft the 20 sets of state designatory letters. Bravo!

  3. Ian Hinds says:

    I was fortunate to spot the two president clues and made an assumption of a USA flavoured grid in connexion with 1d and 18d.

    1d quickly led to 15, 17a and from thereon it fell into place.

    Bravo to Brendan for such an ingenious construction. Very clever.

  4. mhl says:

    I’m glad the post was useful, Uncle Yap. It’s very impressive, but it does make me wonder whether it would it be possible to get all 50 abbreviations into a puzzle in the same way – I suspect doing that by hand would be near-impossible, but it might make for a fun programming challenge. :)

    When I saw the grid I thought that there might be a Nina around the edge, but I think that 15, 17 suggests that it was chosen for the property that all the answers are of even-numbered length…

  5. smutchin says:

    Very cleverly done, Brendan!

    I guessed early on that 15,17 was going to be United States or Common Market or something similar. The fact that there were eight clues referenced “plus 30 others” was initially misleading because of course there are more than 38 states, but once I’d got a few of the referenced clues (24ac, 24dn, 6dn, 9ac), it soon clicked.

    I’m still slightly puzzled by 23ac though – I get that “one”+”motorway”+”speed” = I+M+RATE, but then you just get “way” with no indication that it is to be inserted. Or am I missing something?

    Re 1ac – how do we feel about use of a fairly non-PC term?

  6. Andrew says:

    Marvellous puzzle: I got WINY early on and was puzzled as to why Brendan had chosen it in preference to one of the many more obvious words matching W?N? – but getting the theme made it clear.

    I wonder if there’s been a mistake in the timing of this one – *next* Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the USA (fourth Thursday in November), which would have been an appropriate day for an American theme.

  7. Andrew says:

    Smutchin – in 23ac “way” = MODE

  8. mhl says:

    Smutchin: it’s “Speed on (one motorway way)”, “on” indicating that rate goes after all the bit I’ve bracketed.

  9. smutchin says:

    Ah, thanks Mhl, that makes sense.

    Also thanks for your explanation of 18dn – I got it without being sure why I knew there was a place in the US called Scranton. I must have picked it up subconsciously from the news.

    And I agree that there are lots of very good surfaces today.

  10. Andrew says:

    Scranton is the setting of the American version of “The Office”. More obscurely, it’s also mentioned in the song “The Rhythm of Life” from the musical “Sweet Charity”:

    Daddy spread the gospel in Milwaukee,
    Took his walkie talkie to Rocky Ridge,
    Blew his way to Canton, then to Scranton,
    Till he landed under the Manhattan Bridge.

  11. Andrew says:

    Oh, I see Scranton is also the birthplace of Vice-President-elect Joe Biden.

  12. Andrew says:

    Oops, I see mhl has already mention Joe Biden in the blog. Back to work before I embarrass myself further.

  13. C. G. Rishikesh says:

    The cryptic crossword for Thu, Nov. 20 by Brendan in the online version is numbered 24451. Should the title for this blog be fixed?

  14. mhl says:

    C. G. Rishikesh: that’s an error on the site, I think – it’s correct in the PDF version and 24551 is the next puzzle in the sequence.

  15. mhl says:

    (I’ve emailed the subshelp address to alert them to that.)

  16. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    Thanks very much.

  17. Eileen says:

    Congratulations and many thanks to Brendan for a lot of fun – and to Mhl for a very detailed blog.

    I was momentarily held up by having PRAISE for 19dn [RAISE as in raise someone by telephone] but Harrison Ford soon put me right.

    It’s great to see so many comments early[ish – I’ve been out] on and none of them derogatory!

    [My aforementioned pseudohomophonobic Scottish husband would also object to “winy = whiny” but I’ve no complaints.]

  18. Eileen says:

    Sorry – that should be pseudohomophonophobic!

  19. Roger Murray says:

    What a lovely crossword, inventive and fun and,more to the point, finished.

  20. JMo says:


    I actually got the American stuff OK, but struggled with this in other places. ‘Puff’ meaning blurb was a new one on me, but I rather like it. Although I got it, ‘winy’ felt like a cheap shot. 21 d foxed me completely and I still not sure how ‘in’ gives rise to ‘home’. Also, I’m afraid the ordering of 23 ac still doesn’t make sense to me, even after mhl’s explanation – could someone please spell out exactly how ‘on’ signifies ‘after’?

    I have to say, I was a genuinely shocked to see ‘coolie’ used in a clue, especially in an American themed puzzle. I can guarantee that that clue would not have been printed by an American paper.

  21. Eileen says:

    JMo: ‘in’ is commonplace in crosswords for ‘home – as in if you’re ‘in’, you’re ‘home’. And ‘on’ as in ‘added on’ means after – except in a down clue, when it can mean ‘on top of’, i.e. ‘before’!

  22. M1kes says:

    Anyone get the reference to the 38 states of America proposed in the 70s ( I think) by C Etzel Pearcy?

  23. mhl says:

    JMo: with regard to 1 across, I think I’ve only ever encountered the word occasionally in Victorian literature and certainly never heard it in speech. Having discovered that it is offensive, though, (and is marked as such in Chambers) I’m similarly very surprised that it has been used in the crossword.

  24. mhl says:

    M1kes: no, that passed me by completely – what was the reference?

    Eileen: how would you describe the different possible different pronunciations of “winy” and “whiny”? I’ve lived in Edinburgh for much of my life and I don’t think I’ve noticed a difference. (I have a pretty terrible ear for accents, though, so wouldn’t necessarily expect to :))

  25. M1kes says:


    Had a quick search for the 38 states and found this:

  26. mhl says:

    I found that page too, but couldn’t spot what the reference in the crossword was… Apologies for being dense.

  27. Eileen says:

    Mhl: my husband would always pronounce the ‘h’ in words like ‘whiny’ and the ‘r’ in words like ‘fawner, which was the one that cropped up the other day – both words which he would be unlikely to use! Our choirmaster here in the Midlands is forever trying to get us all to sing ‘where’ and ‘when’, etc, correctly.

    [As I said, I was only commenting, not complaining!]

  28. Brendan says:

    I would like to comment on my use of COOLIE. As an editor I was very careful (over-careful, some considered) about offensive or potentially offensive words, and in this case I accept that it would have been better to avoid the word, and thank those who pointed it out. I take these aspects of interpersonal respect seriously, especially since being married to an Indian.

    In partial defence, my editions (not up-to-date) of both the COD and Chambers give as the first meaning a non-flagged definition, essentially “a non-skilled Asian labourer” which is the meaning with which I was familiar.

    And thankyou to FIFTEEN SQUARED for invaluable feedback.

  29. Brian Harris says:

    Lovely crossword, Brendan. Really enjoyed it. We got the UNITED STATES clue fairly early, and figured out the use of the state name abbreviations. Very inventive! Must have been difficult to work those into the clues – I wonder if the original intention was to use all 51?!

  30. Brian Harris says:

    I mean 50, obviously….

  31. eimi says:

    I think you were right the first time, Brian, but Brendan couldn’t fit UK into any of the words 😉

  32. muck says:

    Great puzzle, Brendan!

    Mhl & Eileen, the difference between pronunciations of wh- words: the usual English for ‘when’ is WEN, and for Scots ‘when’ is HWEN. Sorry, I can’t do proper phonetic script on my keyboard.

  33. Eileen says:

    Admirably expressed, Muck! Thank you.

  34. Tom Hutton says:

    Are these two letter abbreviations of the states in common use. My reference book gives much more elaborate official abbreviations?

    The point about “winy” is that it sounds like an Englishman whining. This is fair because Scots never whine.

    Very enjoyable crossword.

  35. mhl says:

    Brendan: thanks for commenting on the clue, and for the excellent puzzle.

    Eileen: I didn’t read it as a complaint (and I like the pseudohomophonophobic coinage!) – I’ll listen out for that. (Thanks, Muck, for the explanation.)

  36. Dave Ellison says:

    Great Crossword.

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that words like when and why were originally spelled hwen and hwy; does any one know about this and the reason for the change?

  37. Rich says:

    New to cryptic crosswords (this is my 3rd day attempting the guardian cryptics), just wanted to say thanks for this site and community, it is really helping me pick up the rules and thought processes that both setters and solvers go through :)

    I can get about half of the clues (the easier ones), but i can see it will take me a long while yet to get used to the trickier ones.

  38. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    In Tamil ‘coolie’ simply means the wages paid to a casual or daily worker. It does not refer to any person at all. It takes a suffix to mean ‘a person who works for coolie’.

    When I was a young boy I have often heard my grandfather or father talk (in the ‘vernacular’, again a word from the Raj) about the coolie that needs to be paid to the worker hired for some casual work at home.

    The pejorative sense of the word comes from its use in olden days for native labourers who were taken abroad for work and their being treated contemptuously by their masters.

    Some years ago a Hindi film titled ‘Coolie’ starring Amitabh Bachchan was screened nationwide.

    Finally, I don’t hear this word much nowadays even among Tamilians and even in its non-offensive sense.

    English language papers in India would not use the word.

  39. ChrisW says:

    Nobody seems to have noticed that, with the exception of ‘gamine’ [?] the other themed answers are all homonyms. This really put me off, thinking that united states referred to ‘stating’ pairs of ‘united’ words. If this was also intentional it was quite brilliant.

  40. JMo says:

    Eileen: thank you for breaking it down for me – I’m fairly new to the world of the cryptics and still trying getting a handle on all the conventions.

    Brendan: I appreciate the fact that you took the time to comment on your use of ‘coolie’ and that you were humble enough to concede that it might have been imprudent. You are right that the primary sense is non-pejorative (in terms of how a dictionary would define ‘primary’), and it is also true, as others have mentioned, that it is etymologically related to the Hindi ‘quli’ and the Tamil ‘kuli’ which have ‘everday’ uses. However, in an unfortunate coincidence, the American theme in the puzzle acted to draw attention to the term’s more undesirable aspect, seeing that in the States the word has a long-standing connection with the stereotyping and racial abuse of Asian immigrants. Thank you for your puzzles and your willingness to interact.

  41. Eileen says:

    JMo: you’re welcome, in both senses. That’s what this site’s all about. It’s great to see the number of enthusiastic new solvers recently. It really does get easier, the more you do, and, as has often been said on this site, it’s a poor day when you don’t learn something.

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