Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,612/Rufus

Posted by Andrew on February 2nd, 2009


Three Guardian blogs in a row – people will be getting sick of the sight of me! Anyway, a nice gentle Rufus for this snowy morning. I particularly liked 15ac and 27ac for their clever wordplay, and have slight niggles with 16dn and 21dn for rather unhelpful clueing of unusual words.

dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition
* = anagram
< = reverse

15. ROMPER SUIT (PRIME ROUST)* &lit. I frown slightly at the spacing abuse, but apart from that a lovely &lit.
17. SUM Homophone of “some”
19. MAR MAR(s)
26. VERTEX Hidden
27. ADJUTANT AD JUT ANT. I liked the misleading use of “project” here.
28. RHODES dd – Cecil Rhodes is the colonialist
1. SAFE dd
2. OUST US in TO<
3. GULLIVER cd – reference Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”
4. PIECE Homophone of “peace”
6. ALL OUT dd
8. FREE SAMPLE A not-very-cryptic cd
11. ADVICE AD (Anno Domini) + VICE
16. SKEINS dd – a skein can be a coil of yarn or (a new one on me) a flock of geese
21. BIREME cd – a ship with two banks of oars. I think a slightly obscure word like this really needs a more helpful clue. There are “remes” with various number prefixes: the one I remember best is mentioned in Masefield’s “Sea Fever – no, as Paul B rightly says, it’s Cargoes”: “Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir”
23. RIDGE dd
24. LAMA LAM + A
25. STET cd – what an author might write of proofs to “retain” something that has been crossed out.

48 Responses to “Guardian 24,612/Rufus”

  1. Eileen says:

    Good morning and thanks, Andrew.

    Nothing too difficult here – and I did happen to know the two more unusual words.

    Collective nouns were a regular feature of the 11+ exam and it was important to know the difference between a gaggle of geese [on the ground] and a skein of geese [in the air – hence the ‘wild]. I can also remember when wool came in skeins and had to be wound into balls before knitting. [This rather reinforces John Pidgeon’s article on crosswords in the Guardian this morning! And I don’t know when children last wore romper suits…]

    I really liked the clue for 21dn – quite topical!

  2. brisbanegirl says:

    Good Morning Andrew and thanks for the posting,

    I always smile when I see a Rufus puzzle as I have a reaonable chance of solving them without cheating. Today was no exception, bar 21dn.

    Thanks for the explanation of 27ac … I knew I had the right andswer, but couldn’t understand jut …I had the pronunciation of jute in my head … a bit of a doh moment.

    You did show yourself to be a bit of a bloke with your quibble about skien, I thought that was in pretty common use.

    A nice beginning to the week … I wonder if “Bad Boy Lazenby” will agree.

  3. Andrew says:

    Hi Eileen, thanks for the pointer to John Pidgeon’s article, which I’ve just read online. I don’t completely agree with him, but I liked what he said about PLUCKLEY, discussed here recently, where he “concluded that solvers’ numbers must be in such decline that setters were tailoring clues to specific commuter routes”.

    The article in question is here.

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi bbgirl. Strangely enough I knew the yarn meaning of SKEIN better that the goose one, though in fact I think I first came across it in the context of (mathematical) knot theory.

    Eileen, I can assure you that some wool still needs to be wound into balls: I’m occasionally called into service as a skein-holder.

  5. brisbanegirl says:

    Sorry Andrew, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about boy and girl knowledge.

    I still remember having to hang skeins of wool on my arms as a child in the 70’s, while my mother rolled balls (my brothers and I would play tag teams when our arms got tired).

  6. Paul B says:

    There weren’t any quinqueremes (‘quinquiremes’ in the poem, oddly) in Nineveh. And there aren’t any in ‘Sea Fever’ either. That line’s from ‘Cargoes’.

    I thought those two clues okay.

  7. Eileen says:

    Yes, sorry, Andrew: I should have said ‘all wool’. I’m glad to hear you make yourself useful: it’s so much handier than having to make do with the back of a dining chair!

  8. brisbanegirl says:

    I just read John Pidgeon’s article … perhaps it’s a generational thing, but, I might just be inclined to agree. I find some of the references difficult because of obscure (to me) references.

    That said, I always learn something new. Would there be an issue from some solvers if there were more modern references, surely we can learn from every generation.

  9. brisbanegirl says:

    I just saw the international news … I hope you lot are keeping warm.

  10. David says:

    Brisbanegirl: I just saw the international news … I hope you lot are keeping cool.

  11. Andrew says:

    Thanks bbgirl – pretty views from my office window today as I turn up the heating.

    I think the point John Pidgeon doesn’t mention is that some of the references he mentions continue to be used because they’re useful for clueing: a boxer is more likely to be ALI than FRASIER or (Barry) MCGUIGAN just because of the helpful sequence of letters it provides. Likewise with those handy bits of slang – GEN=information, CON=study, SA=IT=sex-appeal, etc – which were already dated when I started doing crosswords over 40 years ago.

  12. brisbanegirl says:

    Hi David

    It’s not too bad in Brisneyland … we only reached 29 here today altho humid … it’s the south suffering the heat and the north suffering tropical storms … just the usual summer….

  13. mhl says:

    Thanks for all your recent Guardian posts, Andrew.

    This was a good fun puzzle, and pretty quick work – BIREME and STET were the last two for us, but both were very gettable.

    I think that article from the Guardian is rather overstating the case. He doesn’t mention Paul’s crosswords (which have many more current references than the other setters on the Guardian team) and we do fairly often see post-internet abbreviations like IMHO and URL. I guess that I’m probably younger than the average crossword solver (at 32) so might find the crosswords easier if there were more contemporary references, but at the moment it’s very rare that I feel one is required to know something unreasonable. I wonder if anyone has any statistics about the ages of people who regularly try the cryptic crosswords in different papers?

    The PLUCKLEY example was just one that should have been rejected by the editor, I think. I normally wouldn’t complain about the editing of the Guardian crossword, but I do think there have been a remarkable number of poor decisions in the last half year. In particular, I’m thinking of the incredible number of crosswords that (quite by chance) I ended up blogging which contained dubious or offensive words.

  14. brisbanegirl says:

    Andrew, I don’t have an issue with ‘dated’ references per se. I just think it might be fun to have some more contemporary ones (not that I can think of any off the cuff). Then I could look clever with an explanation 😉

    I think this is a challenge for Paul, a setter, I know is of my generation.

  15. brisbanegirl says:


    Perhaps the challenge is your’s … you seem to be able to pull clues out of your ear very quickly … and you’re a generation below me.

    PS Andrew, I might adopt the moniker bbgirl, it has cool conotations, like BB King, Big Brother (not) …

  16. C G Rishikesh says:

    Brigitte Bardot?

  17. brisbanegirl says:

    I wish …

    mhl, I had you mixed up with Smutchin, regarding lots of clues … but the challenge is still there.

  18. brisbanegirl says:

    What about … and don’t laugh (I’m new to this)…

    “Look Out”, Its Nick Cave at the Tivoli (6)

  19. Mike says:

    1d – Safe – how does safe=peter? can anyone enlighten me please?

  20. bridgesong says:


    A peter is old criminal slang for a safe or cashbox. The OED gives references from the early 19th century and one from G F Newman in the 1970s.

  21. Andrew says:

    Peter=safe is another good example of “things you only know because of crosswords” 😉

  22. smutchin says:

    Mike, funnily enough, peter=safe is another one of those old-fashioned terms that seems to appear only in crosswords these days. Try to remember it because you’re bound to see it again sooner or later.

    28a is another interesting case – how many youngsters these days would have heard of Rhodesia, never mind Cecil Rhodes?

    27a struck a chord – I think I’ve seen the same word clued similarly elsewhere in recent memory (possibly by Dante in the FT?). Not that I’m complaining – it’s a nice clue so deserves a repeat outing.

    I enjoyed today’s puzzle all the more for being able to relax with it over a coffee at home, thanks to the widespread transport problems meaning the office is closed today. Hurrah for snow!

    By the way, I’m working on a crossword at the moment that has GOOGLED as one of its solutions. I wonder if that’s contemporary enough for Mr Pidgeon!

  23. brisbanegirl says:

    Hi Smutchin,

    I wonder what Mr Rhodes would have thought of the situation now besetting the country formerly named after him … Rhodes, is familiar Commonwealth knowledge.

    Altho the way things are going Zimbambwe would probably give Australia a good go in the cricket (bloody dreadful)

  24. John says:

    Very nice puzzle, although I can’t see the “hidden” indicator in 26 ac. “Around” doesn’t do it for me. And if I was completely exhausted I think I’d be all in, not all out.

  25. brisbanegirl says:

    Oh … well done with GOOGLED. However, I imagine most of our friends here, regardless of age, would not have a problem.

    Altho, youngsters would have more chance with google than britannica … (wouldn’t want to clue that)

  26. nick says:

    i’m a bit of a novice and wondered if you could help on the following…:

    10ac – how do you get EC?
    29ac – how do you get LEG?
    24dn – how do you get LAM?


  27. mhl says:

    (I suspect this will be one of many replies, but I’ll give it a go :))

    EC = “city”: the part of London known as “the city” or the square mile is all in the postcode region EC.

    LEG = “member”: the first definition in the Chambers I have here is “a distinct part of a whole, esp. a limb of an animal”.

    LAM = “strike”: this is in the verb sense, like “to hit”.

  28. nick says:

    thank you – very helpful – although doesn’t fill me with much confidence for future ones..

  29. Dawn says:

    Hi Nick,

    There are lots of these tricks that often come up in cryptic crosswords and never be afraid to ask. One of the best parts about this site is that the bloggers and commenters help explain the answers which enables you to get further when you try another crossword.

    Good luck!

  30. ray says:

    thanks Mhl for the EC=city explanation. I’d got used to using it but without understanding where it came from.

  31. Tom Hutton says:

    A very enjoyable crossword as usual from Rufus.

    Regarding the article, I agree with the writer wholeheartedly, (though I would undoubtedly complain that I couldn’t be possibly expected to know about references to hip-hop or x-factor participants or indeed, English football).

    There was a reference not long ago to Ben Travers that must have been unintelligible to anyone under 40. (If you are under 40 and are familiar with the works of Ben Travers, you are indeed blessed.)

  32. smutchin says:

    Weasel-lion hybrid had the X-factor! {5,5)

  33. mhl says:

    smutchin: That’s rather good, and probably not too obscure, since I could get it without ever having seen the television show :)

    nick: as Dawn says, one learns the common abbreviations very quickly with the feedback here, and people are always happy to help… Most of the common indicators or abbreviations are pretty memorable, with the odd exception. Personally, my least favourite one of these is R for “take” or “recipe”, which many people had to explain to me before I even understood why it was valid…

  34. Colin Blackburn says:

    EC = East Central. Most London postcodes, unlike the rest of the country, are based on compass directions, with the addition of C for Central.

    Regarding the Guardian article. There will be a discussion on this on today’s PM programme on Radio 4, just started now but available afterwards on LA. Simon Hoggart will argue against the author of the article.

  35. stiofain_x says:

    I thought the article today was sloppily researched and not very well written also the authors own clues were somewhat weak even giving him the benefit of the doubt that clues are harder to solve without being in a grid.
    When the author says “What next? Britney Spears? No Thanks” I sniggered.
    Anyone with a knowledge of crosswords would know of Araucarias great “Presbyterians” anagram ( mentioned in many online articles )in a Britney themed puzzle a few years back absolutely up to the minute at the time.
    Colin Id like to hear what Simon Hoggart had to say but dont know what u mean by LA.

  36. mhl says:

    stiofan_x: I think Colin means the “Listen Again feature of the BBC website. (That link should take you to PM.)

  37. stiofain_x says:

    Thanks mhl found it though it was very brief probably cut short for all the weather news.
    I expect there to be a few comments on the letters page tomorrow.

  38. muck says:

    I didn’t like the John Pidgeon article in today’s Guardian either. I did get LOO (John) from IGLOO (home up north) minus rInGo, but didn’t pursue the other sporting clues. Some of the cryptic setters (eg Paul) do have modern references, as well as the old favourites.

  39. muck says:

    John Pidgeon appears also to have given some answers to the Saturday prize puzzle?

  40. Derek Lazenby says:

    Bad boy? Bad boy? Just ‘cos I enjoy stirring the waters?

    Two reasons for thst, the people here think normal is their little ivory tower. They have no idea that the many thousands of mere mortals who daily struggle to get halfway through even a Rufus, would never agree with half the things they say. That’s because no-one like that is here, so being on the border I stick up for the silent majority.

    It never occurs to oanyone here to query why there are so few regulars here when thousands do croswards. So they resent me pointing out that though experts they may be, that in itself makes them totally unrepresentative of the general population. That is what defines experts in any field.

    And being experts some of them have an arrogant conceit which makes then sneer at lesser mortals. I was attacked as shouldn’t be doing crosswords. That deserves all the putting in of the boot it gets. If I’m a bad boy how do you describe conceited sneerers? Doesn’t say much for them as being pleasant human beings does it?

    The other reason is I’m bored witless waiting for this bloody leg to heal. The quacks say it is the most complex fracture they’ve seen so it is bound to take ages. So rocking boats in ivory towers was going to be part of the therapy even if certain callous bastards hadn’t provoked it.

    And I’m not going to comment on today’s crossword, ‘cos I just wasn’t in the mood to do it properly ‘cos I was due in to have the bandages and stiches removed from a follow up op ‘cos of a complication. The self same day as when the whole south came to a halt due to the first serious snow for twenty years. So I have to wait another week. That is now 5 weeks behind normal schedule and another week of abject tedium sitting on the sofa. So, being a fair minded man, having nothing fair to say about today, I shall say nothing.


  41. brisbanegirl says:


    Hope you read this as it is now morning here and I am just about to head to work.

    I used bad boy as a term of affection, I enjoy tour contribution the most because it does stir things up and makes me laugh out loud.

    Sorry to hear things are not going so well with your leg, chin up. And keep stirring, I love it.

  42. Dave Ellison says:

    Nick: I find Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary is a very useful “cheat” book for all such uses as city = EC etc; and for many others, too.

  43. stiofain_x says:

    Yes Muck he did reveal answers from Saturdays prize which makes it even worse. If anyone here did that they would be rightfully jumped on.

  44. steven says:

    snow joke

  45. John Pidgeon says:

    I’m not sure I agree with absolutely everything I wrote either. I’d be happy to see Britney Spears, for instance, especially since realising what good anagram she gives. I wanted to provoke debate, which I did, and have received appreciative e-mails from solvers aged 23 to 85.
    If you want to try something different, check out X-oku, an online crossword/sudoku that I’ve developed. Monday to Friday features a ‘quick’ crossword, but Saturday’s is cryptic, and on the last Saturday of each month the puzzle will be themed. Feedback welcomed.

  46. stiofain_x says:

    Hi John
    As I said in @ 35 above I thought this was badly researched, sloppy journalism perpetuating the myth that cryptic solvers are all old fuddy-duddys solving the puzzle over a pink gin after re-potting some azaleas while listening to Elgar on their phonograph.

    Contributers to this forum ( and solvers in general ) are all ages, come from all walks of life and have vastly varying interests as evinced by the posts and clue preferences.

    Guardian setters regularly break the mould when it comes to putting a new spin on cryptics and keeping the format fresh, there were about 15 actors in last weeks prize puzzle and not a one had the forenames Herbert Beerbohm.

    Also I must say that simply copy and pasting your rather weak (and may I say mealy mouthed ) refutation of the criticisms received from the Guardian sites comments over to this forum is pretty lazy considering that the tone of the criticism was wholly different.

    Also apart from your faux-pas in revealing 3 of Saturdays prize answers in your article, one of the revealed answers is a prime example of the fluidity of the English language being no longer primarily an arcane religious reference. It is now known by kids as young as 5 and is a buzz word of the cutting edge of the next generation of 3-D internet technology thereby destroying your argument in one fell swoop.

    As for the x-oku I found the clueing weak and the format rather trying in a negative way, the use of Adobe Flash as a method for website navigation is not only a throwback to over-designed sites of several years ago but is actually illegal as it contravenes The Disability Discrimination Act and would never be considered by any self-respecting designer in this day and age.
    Just trying to provoke debate.

  47. John Pidgeon says:

    I actually pasted what I wrote here to the Guardian site, Stiofain, and I wasn’t trying to refute criticism – just direct people to the x-oku site.

  48. Russ Reilly says:

    as a web designer who does crosswords i find your comment about flash a bit odd. 90% of PCs have flash installled and it is styling the future wave of internet applications. you can’t talk about cutting edge in one paragraph and then slate it in the next. Regarding the Disability Discrimination Act are you saying that the a crossword site discriminates against blind people? It’s good to see interactive crosswords on the internet for numerous reasons.

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