Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,593 (Sat 10 Jan)/Paul – Vowel mouthed

Posted by rightback on January 17th, 2009


Solving time: 15:26, the last 4 mins of which on 18dn.

I found this a little harder than other recent Paul puzzles, but this may have been through unfamiliarity with the theme author, Vladimir Nabokov; of the novels in the grid, I’d heard of Lolita but not Pale Fire or Bend Sinister, nor the character Humbert Humbert who narrates Lolita, but worst of all I couldn’t remember the vowels in his surname (Nebekev? Nibokev?) before eventually making sense of the wordplay.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 CRIME WAVE; I (= ‘individual’) + MEW (= ‘bird’), all in CRAVE (= ‘need’) – very nice clue, with a pun on ‘wave’ in the definition (‘current transgressions?’).
6/8 BEND SINISTER – ‘sinister’ means ‘left’ in heraldry, with ‘dexter’ being the right.
9 PAN-AM + A
10 LO + LIT. + A – when solving I didn’t understand ‘books’ = LIT; now I realise that it’s an abbreviation for ‘literature’, but I that’s a bit indirect for my liking.
12 STOLEN; STOLE (= ‘scarf’) + [ma]N
16 HIGH-BORN; R.N. (= ‘sailors’) after HIGH (= ‘rotten’) + B.O. (= ‘stink’)
19 S(P)HERE – Shere Khan is a tiger from The Jungle Book.
21 ATOM-BOMB; [c]OMB after A TOMB
22 MIMOSA; rev. of (A + SO + M + I’M)
24 YEMENI; (ENEMY)* + I – Saana, or Sana, is the capital of Yemen.
25 KEDGEREE; EDGE + REEK, with the K moved to the front
26 SHOT (2 defs) – a ‘still’ as in a photograph. Good clue but difficult.
1 CHIN + O
2 IN IT + I + AL[l] – because you have to be ‘in it to win it’.
3 EXTRA (2 defs)
4 A + PROP + OS (= ‘outsize’, i.e. ‘large fitting’)
5 ESPALIERS; (LIES + SPARE)* – lattices to train trees and plants.
13 THIRTIETH; (HIT THEIR)* + T[arget] – this looked so unlikely as anagram fodder that I ignored it until it couldn’t be anything else. The 30th wedding anniversary is the pearl anniversary.
14 N(E)O + LOG + IS + M – a new word.
17,20 HUMBER THUMBER + T – I loved ‘one hitching from Hull’ for ‘Humber thumber’.
18 NABOKOV; rev. of (V + OK + OBAN) – for ages I thought this must be a homophone (‘brings to mouth…’). Eventually I wondered if the ‘very’ could give the final ‘V’ and realised it was actually a reversal, although I don’t really see how ‘brings to mouth’ can mean ‘reads upwards’.
22 MIDGE[t]
23 SHEER (2 defs)

21 Responses to “Guardian 24,593 (Sat 10 Jan)/Paul – Vowel mouthed”

  1. Mr Beaver says:

    Thanks for the (partial) explanation of 18d. We only got there by suspecting ‘BEND SINISTER’ for 6,8 then looking up its author !
    Is ‘port’ generally accepted as fair for OBAN? after all, there must be hundreds of qualifiers.

    I didn’t like 24a. The Yemeni town is almost universally spelled SANA as far as I can see. Googling SAANA only yields a tor in Finland.

    Overall, tough but enjoyable, but I thought let down by a couple of poor clues.

  2. Eileen says:

    I was really chuffed to finish this one, which I enjoyed tremendously. I got into it in a similar way to Mr Beaver but via PALE FIRE.

    The last to go in was SHOT! – funny how it’s often the four-letter ones.

    Thanks, Rightback, for 18dn [I got nowhere with the parsing of that]. ‘Bring to mouth’ is a very odd expression. I can only think that if you bring something to mouth you throw it up!

    I just loved 13dn, which I think is one of the cleverest anagram clues I’ve seen, and I agree with you about Humber thumber.

  3. John says:

    Bringing to mouth I read as raising as in raising a glass, but I didn’t like it.

  4. TwoPies says:

    Thanks rightback. Shot was the only one I wasn’t sure about. I liked mass killer as the definition for atom bomb.

  5. Barnaby Page says:

    If anything, I think Sana’a is more common than Sana. But of course it’s transliterated from the Arabic, so there’s scope for creative spelling!

  6. Derek Lazenby says:

    For the benfit of us more ignorant ones, what is the relation mew = bird?

    And my wife tells me a stole is not a scarfe but more like a shawl.

    As you can imagine from previous comments, I find Paul hardwork, so even though I only got about 75% I was pleased to get that far. I felt I’d got somewhere compared to previous outings with him.

    I was also pleased to see I’m not the only one who thinks he stretches some word associations too far, some of you clever types too eh? Grin.

  7. Geoff Moss says:

    From Collins:

    mew – any seagull, esp. the common gull, Larus canus

    stole – (1) a long scarf or shawl, worn by women; (2) a long narrow scarf worn by various officiating clergymen

  8. Derek Lazenby says:

    Thanks for that Geoff.

    Umm. I’ve been thinking people. Yes, I know that’s bad for me, but it is the question of how we define a fair clue.

    It seems to me that most clues only get to be considered fair because they can eventually be solved with help of cross checking letters sending our brains in the right direction. But surely a totally fair clue should stand by itself (excluding cross referential clues which are a different kettle of fish).

    It would be interesting, to me at least, to see how you better solvers rate our various setters on that basis. In otherwords, if you don’t enter letters in the grid, just go down the clues one at a time how many do you get?

    I don’t seriously expect anyone to try this, but if anybody fancies giving it a go it could give us some interesting results.

  9. John says:

    I see Collins being quoted as a definition source. I thought Chambers was the Bible. How many dictionaries do I actually need to own to be sure of solving these days?

  10. muck says:

    Rightback & Eileen. For 18dn NABOKOV, I too followed the obvious homophone route for ‘brings to mouth’. Eventually worked out that this could be a reversal indicator ‘regurgitates’ or ‘brings up’. Clever misleading clue for the theme.

  11. Geoff Moss says:


    It depends on which crosswords you intend to attempt. Chambers is mandatory for Azed, Mephisto, Listener, EV and a few others (mainly barred-grids).

    The blocked-grid puzzles in the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Indy etc tend to rely on entries in either COED or Collins. The latter contains a number of abbreviations that do not appear in either Chambers or COED and generally the definitions are worded more succinctly (which is why I used Collins rather than Chambers in comment #7).

    Chambers contains many more archaic and dialect words than the other two which is why it is preferred by setters and editors of the more difficult crosswords.

    I have found on a number of occasions that an answer (or part of the clue) only appears in one of the ‘big three’, and not the same one each time, so I find I need access (either hardcopy or on-line) to all three.

  12. stiofain_x says:

    I thought this was the best prize puzzle in ages humber thumber made me laugh out loud being a fan of the book.
    Ive always loved the root of sinister and the spurious connotation that left handed people are inherently evil.
    I also loved the use of “chin” for punch in 1 dn as it is a typical Belfast slang usage and didnt know it was used elsewhere.
    I have been wavering on this opinion for a while but after this and Pauls jazzy riff of a puzzle yesterday I now consider him to be the number one setter and a deserving inheritor of the Reverends cape.
    The king is dead long live the king.
    Does anyone here actually send in the prize puzzle? I have only done it once a few years ago when a wrong grid was printed and in a fit of obsession i worked out all the clues individually and then worked out what the grid should be. I later found out that this had elicited the greatest number of entrants ever.
    So in answer to Dereks query of whether clues can stand on their own I would say yes.
    My reference to the king reminded me of one of my favourite clues ever “The king lives otherwise” (5) but I cant remember who was the setter.

  13. Mr Beaver says:

    my feeling for a fair clue is one that, when you’ve got it – by whatever tortuous route, you know it’s right. I don’t mind looking up a few obscure references I haven’t met before – that’s how you learn. I could never claim to get more than a quarter of clues (on a good day) straight off without crossing letters.
    But I didn’t like SHOT – it was our last to go in, and I thought it might be right but couldn’t be sure. I was somewhat mollified by Rightback’s explanation though.

  14. muck says:

    stiofain_x says: Does anyone here actually send in the prize puzzle? I have only done it once a few years ago when a wrong grid was printed and in a fit of obsession i worked out all the clues individually and then worked out what the grid should be. I later found out that this had elicited the greatest number of entrants ever.

    Me too

  15. InGrid says:

    stiofain_x says: Does anyone here actually send in the prize puzzle? I have only done it once a few years ago when a wrong grid was printed and in a fit of obsession i worked out all the clues individually and then worked out what the grid should be. I later found out that this had elicited the greatest number of entrants ever.

    Well, only because you asked: I do, or, to be more precise, did. For my pains I now own three editions of the Collins Dictionary – Third (reprint 1995); Desk Top & Sixth. Before those a £12.50 token (spent on what I cannot now remember).

  16. Eileen says:

    stiofain_x says: Does anyone here actually send in the prize puzzle?

    I won it about five years ago but didn’t get the dictionary because Royal Mail tried to deliver it while I was away for two weeks and they only kept parcels for a week. I wasn’t sure whether one would be allowed to win twice but did win again a couple of years later – so that’s how I got my Collins. It’s well worth a go!

  17. Stakhanovite says:

    Regarding the prize puzzle, does anyone else think the prize could be better? Surely most people who do crosswords have already got dictionaries, or use the Internet? It’s a bit like having a cookery competition where the prize is a rolling pin. Of course, it’s nice to have the latest edition of whatever dictionary, but personally I’d prefer a book token.

  18. dave says:

    The reason I don’t send the prize puzzle in is just that – I’ve already got enough dictionaries.
    My mother, however, would gladly forgo any prize just to see her name in the paper as the winner, and then show it to her friends (repeatedly)

  19. Dawn says:


    In answer to Derek Lazenby’s question about cross ref clues I think that if you could solve them all without putting them in a grid then that would turn it into a quiz rather than a crossword puzzle!

    I think you can usually get some clues without putting them in the grid but having a letter or two certainly helps with the tougher clues. I think a fair clue is one that you can eventually get, ideally without needing the internet. I find it interesting reading the comments here to see how often what one person thinks is a fair, easy clue is seen as obscure and unfair by someone else.

    When they set one of the alphabetic crosswords where you have no numbers and have to get all the answers before fitting them in the grid that is a good example of seeing how far you can get with the clues alone. I usually really struggle until I can use logic to get some answers in the grid.

  20. smutchin says:

    I couldn’t work out the wordplay for 18d and only got it from 11a, which I’ve heard of. From there, I also got 10a and from there managed to fill in most of the grid.

    As to fairness, I find Paul is generally very fair but occasionally a bit “indirect”, as in a few of the clues here. But he usually makes up for this by being amusing and I often find myself groaning in a kind of appreciation when I get the answer.

    I’ve sent in the prize puzzle a couple of times, but it’s such a rarity for me to actually complete it that I usually frame it and put it up on the bathroom wall.

    Dawn – the trade-off with alphabetical puzzles is that you’re given the first letter of the solution, which I often find makes the puzzle a bit easier than the conventionally clued type.

  21. Colin H says:

    I must confess that I only got the theme of this one by solving 27 across first, then looking for a writer with a name ending in “V”. After that it was a relative doddle.

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