Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24615 / Rover

Posted by mhl on February 5th, 2009


A mixture of very easy clues and some that are rather tricky to explain. I’m slightly doubtful about my explanations for 11a, 12a and could do with some suggestions for 28a and 20d. Update: Thanks to everyone’s suggestions, I think we have satisfactory interpretations of all of these now.

1. BALANCE Cryptic definition: a “scruple” is a weight used by an apothecary
5. SMUGGLE GG = “horse” in (MULE)*
10. WEEP WEE = “small” + P = “prince”
11. BREADBOARD Cryptic definition; banks deal with money (“bread”) and a director would be on the board
12,13. LOVE-IN-IDLENESS Another name for the the pansy (so “It’s pretty to behold”) and I guess that a LOVE-IN is about Platonic love, so might be “what Platonic friends discuss” followed by IDLENESS = “leisure”. (I think the flower is best known from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) Update: Geoff suggests a better explanation: Plato’s “Symposium” is a discussion of love among a group of friends, so that gives LOVE with IN IDLENESS = “at leisure”
14. ADVANTAGE Cryptic definition; at advantage you have an edge over your opponent in tennis
16. FIRST FIRS + [fores]T
17. TIGHT Double definition; the second is “tight” meaning “drunk”. According to Chambers “blind” can mean “extremely drunk” on its own, although I’m not sure I’ve heard it except in the phrase “blind drunk”
19. CARDIGANS (CIGARS AND)*; cardigans don’t always have pockets, though, do they?
27. EROS (ROSE)*
28. CLASSES Double definition? I’m not sure how “almost general” works Thanks to brisbanegirl for putting us on the right track here: “almost general” is “genera” which are classes in the Linnaean taxonomy (and in other senses…)
29. PROMISE Double definition
2. ANEROID ANE = “A Scottish” + DIOR reversed; ANEROID means “without liquid”, but is most often used in the context of an aneroid barometer, where the liquid it would be without is mercury. (I think this could do with a “perhaps” or “for example” at the end.)
3. APPLE Refers to New York being “The Big Apple”
4. CABINET Cryptic definition
6. MIDDLE Double definition
7. GROUNDING Refers to the punishment of being grounded
8. LYRISTS Double definition; lyre players and a lyric poet – I hadn’t heard the latter meaning before
9. SEWING MACHINE Singer is often credited with inventing the sewing machine, but apparently this is incorrect. The homonym is for “sowing machine”, e.g. a seed drill
15. ATHENIANS (ASIAN THEN)* – the ATHENIANS won the Battle of Marathon
18. INITIAL Double definition
20. DECODER Is there an error in this clue? I think it should be COD = “fish” in DER = “The German” but I’m not sure where the extra E comes from… With some Googling (thanks to Manehi’s suggestion) I think this must be CODE = fish (a cipher used in WWII) in DER = “The German”
22. DIVINE VIN = “wine” in DIE = “decline”
25. DREAM Refers to Martin Luther King‘s speech

86 Responses to “Guardian 24615 / Rover”

  1. TwoPies says:

    Thanks mhl. I share your puzzlement over those clues. With 28ac I thought maybe “classless” as general?

  2. brisbanegirl says:

    Thanks mhl,

    I was wondering whether 12, 13ac is a lateral reference to heartsease, another name for petunia.

    Hearts = love. Ease = in idleness.

    I’ve never heard of scruple used that way, wasn’t familiar with aneroid and I’m also looking for that e in 20dn ….

    And I’ve never owned a cardigan with pockets

  3. smutchin says:

    I hadn’t noticed there was an unclued E in 20d – I interpreted it the same as you, mhl, and just filled in the answer without giving it further thought. That’s a bit sloppy. Your explanation for 11a seems fine to me, and I just don’t get 12/13 so can’t comment – never heard the phrase before and can’t make head or tail of the clue beyond the definition part. I don’t get 28a either, nor how 6d relates to it.

    Despite the historical inaccuracy, I thought 9d was a very nice clue.

  4. mhl says:

    smutchin: 6d just refers to “the middle classes”

    I’m somewhat relieved to hear some people share my puzzlement about those clues :)

  5. Mort says:

    I don’t comment much on here, and generally only do so when annoyed at a puzzle, but that’s only because I’m generally so happy with the day’s challenge. Today’s was most unsatisfying though. 6D and 25A don’t rate as cryptic at all, the missed ‘E’ in 20D was extremely irritating, and I’m not at all sure about 21D (shouldn’t it be ‘direction signs’?).

    Too easy where it wasn’t cryptic, too hard where it was because of poor clueing.

  6. smutchin says:

    Brisbanegirl, I’m not sure I’ve ever owned a cardigan, let alone one with pockets, but I really liked that clue anyway for the amusing image conjured up by its surface.

  7. smutchin says:

    re 6d – Oh yeah, of course! Thanks mhl.

  8. Geoff says:

    Bravo mhl.

    My explanation for 12,13 is that ‘what Platonic friends discuss’ = LOVE – a reference to Plato’s ‘The Symposium’ in which a group of friends discuss love during a drinks party. ‘At leisure’ is therefore IN IDLENESS.

    I noticed the error in 20dn, which should have been spotted before publication – unless there is a fish called an ecod? And I can’t explain 28ac either.

  9. brisbanegirl says:


    Don’t tell me your too cool to own a cardie … I’m sure your mother has a photo of you as a child in one 😉

    I had an image of Fidel Castro in a cardie, smoking a big bunger… not sure where your head was at.

    I really liked 25dn

  10. brisbanegirl says:


    Your explanation sounds much smarter than mine, but at least we agree on half the answer.

  11. Geoff says:

    I should have added that LOVE-IN-IDLENESS is another name for the pansy (Viola sp), as mhl pointed out. ‘It’s pretty to behold’ is a very weak def.

  12. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    Re 28dn: Did the setter think – erroneously – that it was CLASSLESs (general)?

  13. brisbanegirl says:

    petunia – pansy … too hot or humid to grow either well here

  14. smutchin says:

    Geoff, re 12/13 – sounds plausible. I’ve even read The Symposium (albeit some years ago, as a philosophy student) but that connection eluded me.

    Brisbanegirl – nothing even slightly cool about me!

  15. brisbanegirl says:

    That’s right Smutchin, nothing cool about people who do cryptics, especially those who come home from work and would prefer to blog with you bods than watch tv …

  16. Eileen says:

    Thanks very much for the blog, mhl. I don’t envy you this one!

    I haven’t any light to shed on any of the dodgy answers. The trouble is that once you’ve detected one error, which 20dn surely is, it’s then easy to suspect that there are others, like TwoPies’ and Rishi’s suggestions for 28ac. That’s an appalling conclusion to have to come to.

    I’ve just noticed that Rover is classified as ‘hard’! I agree with Mort’s comment: “Too easy where it wasn’t cryptic, too hard where it was because of poor clueing.”

  17. brisbanegirl says:

    Almost general = genre???

  18. mhl says:

    Thanks to everyone for your helpful comments.

    Geoff: thanks, your explanation of LOVE-IN-IDLENESS sounds spot on – I’ve updated the post.

    smutchin: I liked the “Singer” clue too – it’s nice that that construction sidestepped any capitalization issues.

  19. mhl says:

    brisbanegirl: a-ha! I think you’re nearly there – “genera” are CLASSES :) I’ll update the post.

  20. Andrew says:

    By jove, I think you’ve got it, Brisbie – almost general = genera = classes (I only just worked that out..)

    As others have said, rather an unsatisfactory puzzle, especially in contrast to yesterday’s gem from Brendan.

  21. brisbanegirl says:

    Crikey, who’d have thought … glad to be of help :-)

    I feel stupidly clever….

  22. brisbanegirl says:

    Maybe it’s not so unsatisfactory … now that between us we’re nutting out the solutions.

    I just hope someone can come up with the extra e…

  23. Geoff says:

    Ms Queensland has it for 28, I reckon. Bad clue though: ‘class’ and ‘genus’ are both taxonomic groupings, but definitely not synonymous. In increasing scope the taxa are: species, GENUS, family, order, CLASS, phylum. Our own genus is Homo, and our class is Mammalia!

  24. manehi says:

    Hmm. I did think it was genera[l] after staring at the clue a bit, but was equally baffled by the extra E. Thinking about it now… there is a programming language called FISh, so fish=CODE? A bit of a stretch I know..

  25. brisbanegirl says:

    Is there a prize for being Ms Qld, but remember there is the extra ‘tutorials’ part to the clue, so possibly not that unfair.

    Anyone found the extra “e” yet. I don’t know German (other than how to find the toilet and order a beer … which I can do in many languages) … so is it like French … so is ‘of the’ one word. Sorry if that’s a really dumb question…. but I’m on a roll!!!

  26. daisy-135 says:

    First time of posting. re 20 down. The only way I can get the “e” is Translator of “der” for the German, “e” eating and fish “cod” so translator is the double def. of a decoder. Odd clue though

  27. brisbanegirl says:


    That’s the best explanation we’ve had so far.. altho it’s a stratch’

    But maybe it comes back to a recent conversation about more contemporary clues … altho I’ll be in trouble with computer stuff … java is advanced lingo for me …

  28. brisbanegirl says:

    Go Daisy, and welcome, don’t be intimidated by the cleverness of some of the blogger … it’s lots of fun, especially when Dereks’s around.

  29. JamieC says:

    Brisbanegirl – there is indeed a German word for “of the” – it’s “des” if the noun is masculine or neuter, or “der” if it’s feminine, but that doesn’t help here, and I think there would be uproar on this blog if setters started requiring solvers to know their German genitives.

  30. mhl says:

    Apparently FISH is a cipher (or CODE) used in World War II, so I think that must be it…

  31. brisbanegirl says:

    JamieC, I thought that was French, but given my lack of knowledge of languages I’m in no position to argue.

    God help us if we’re required to know more than the basicis of other languages

  32. daisy-135 says:

    I am impressed. Mhl and Manehi Looked this up on Google and (FISH (German Geheimschreiber Cipher Machine)

  33. brisbanegirl says:

    I hope I’m first … sounds fishy to me …

  34. manehi says:

    I would be very surprised if FISh=Code was the setter’s intention, as the clue still doesn’t work too well even if you get the connection, but I’ve just had a quick conversation with a couple of fellow student solvers (though not of the Guardian) and the three of us had all heard of the programming language but had no clue regarding Plato’s Symposium.

    PS and we’re at best rusty with our German genitives 😉

  35. brisbanegirl says:

    Too late … too corny… please forgive me, but I was clever tonight…

  36. manehi says:

    ahh, mhl’s explanation sounds quite a bit more reasonable

  37. mhl says:

    Geoff #23: I think it’s fair in that classes are what a classification divides things into, even if class has a specific meaning in the Linnaen taxonomy…

  38. brisbanegirl says:

    Can we ask the setter??? Unless some of the later bloggers have an explanation, I’d be really curious to know the answer, becuase it seems to have floored us.

    I’m keen to know …because I’ll be in bed very shortly…

  39. mhl says:

    brisbanegirl: I think we’ve got it now :)

  40. brisbanegirl says:

    Alternatively …. it could judt be an ordinary clue…

    In defence to our setters (sorry Derek), maybe some mean editor made them change the clue at the last minute … thus we have a less than satifactry clue … just a thought…

  41. mhl says:

    brisbanegirl: I’m confused about which one you’re still unusure about – I think we’ve got a reasonable interpretation of everything now… (See above.)

  42. don says:

    The over-the-top criticism seems unfair on a generally enjoyable crossword. I, too, liked 25 Down and also 14 Across, and thought 9 Down and 29 Across were excellent – when the penny dropped.

    We lesser mortals get told time and time again that “it’s in Chambers, so it is perfectly alright”. So ‘blind’ = ‘drunk (coll)’ = ‘tight’? Chambers also defines genus as ‘a class of objects, so ‘Almost genera[l]’ seems to be fine for ‘classes’. Well done, Brisbane girl! As you say, “Maybe it’s not so unsatisfactory”. By the way, I’ve never owned a cardigan that didn’t have pockets; I’m wearing my father’s old one now, trying to keep warm. Is there a difference in terminology between UK and OZ?

    Given a few crossing letters, 12/13 across seemed to fall out and I would have assumed the literati would have enjoyed telling us it’s a Shakespearean reference.

    I didn’t get 8 Down and 11 Across (which I think is an awful clue), even after toying with BOARDroom and BREADsomething, but by that time I was off to play in the snow, which thankfully doesn’t contain man-eating crocs and poisonous snakes.

  43. smutchin says:

    Manehi – by contrast, I’m fine with German articles, pronouns, cases etc (did it for A level) and the works of Plato (studied at Uni) but I know sod all about programming languages.

  44. Geoff says:

    And to hammer the point, I’m a scientist (organic chemist, to be precise) but I have enough of a smattering of German to be able to decline the definite article, and I read Plato’s ‘Symposium’ as a student, but my knowledge of computer programming is very BASIC…

  45. don says:

    And ‘him who can do no wrong’ would bring gasps of admiration for ‘eating’ = ‘e’ AND doing double duty as an indicator for insertion in DER. So 20 down ‘D-E-COD-ER’ wasn’t as bad as some recent clues that others have gone at length to defend.

  46. John says:

    It would indeed help if Rover were to come on and explain, since I for one am not happy with the code = fish explanation, and the “e” for “eating” is simply grasping at straws. As many have said it shouldn’t be necessary to scour the internet for possible explanations. New words, as long as they’re not totally archaic, are fine, but abstruse references to minor programming languages or foreign codes are not fair. Personally I think it’s a clumsy error.

  47. Eileen says:

    I’ve puzzled long and hard over this and wonder if I’m being particularly dense today. If Manehi is right [and I thought his was the explanation that was being generally accepted, rather than ‘e’ = ‘eating’] then cluing ‘code’ with ‘fish’ is like cluing ‘animal’ with ‘dog’, which is surely the wrong way round? And again, if he is right, is this a cryptic clue?

    If Rover does visit this site, I’d like to apologise for my comment about 28ac, which turned out to be a very good clue, I thought.

  48. manehi says:

    Eileen: yes, that’s why I said I’d be surprised if it was fish -> code, regardless of the obscurity of the reference (though mhl’s connection between the two seems more likely than mine)

    In my haste to try to clear up 20dn, I didn’t mention that when solving the puzzle I was quite happy with it (apart from being stumped by the ‘extra e’ and missing the Symposium ref, which I put down to my own denseness rather than a bad puzzle).

  49. mhl says:

    I could name a very large number of programming languages if put on the spot, and I’m convinced that the setter didn’t intend “fish” in that sense. On the other hand, the historical cipher meaning, with its connection to the Enigma machine and the Bletchley Park story, seems much more likely as a reference that crossword solvers might be expected to make. (Or, it’s still possible it was an error :))

    Eileen: I agree that it would be the wrong way round, but I think given that there are quite a few places in this puzzle where I’d similarly expect a “for example” or “perhaps” to indicate this reversal, it seems plausible that it’s not being used here.

  50. mhl says:

    Sorry, “quite a few” is unfair – I’m thinking of ANEROID and a clue or two where I’d prefer there to be a question mark :)

  51. Tom Hutton says:

    I thought possibly that Platonic friends talk above love rather than doing anything about it. Otherwise it’s a bit thin because Plato’s friends discussed a lot more than just love.

  52. smutchin says:

    Excuse me for hijacking the blog for the purposes of self-publicity yet again, but since everyone is in the mood for picking holes in dodgy crosswords today, here’s another one that should be ripe for the picking: xwd7

  53. mark says:

    If it takes all you clever people that long and that much time on the internet to come up with an explanation then, for me, that’s a bad clue.

    Surely one of the main pleasures of these crosswords is the “Ohhh I see” moment and this was lacking for me on several today.

    Or as Mort put it “Too easy where it wasn’t cryptic, too hard where it was because of poor clueing.”

    Finally, 26A – why is MED a “familiar” sea rather than just a sea – does familiar just indicate an abbreviation?

  54. smutchin says:

    Someone shoot the proofreader…
    missing enumeration for 9a is (7), 1d is (5), and 7d is (9)

  55. muck says:

    11ac (BREADBOARD) should definitely have had a question mark.

  56. Eileen says:

    Hijack all you like, Smutchin! I’ve been waiting for it – but what happened to 6?

  57. Dave Ellison says:

    Mark # 53: I think it is because Med is short for Mediterranean, ie a familiar usage

    I don’t know why people seem to slate Rover so much; this happened last time out, too. He is not so hard in my book, and I quite enjoyed this one.

  58. Geoff says:

    According to Jonathan Crowther’s book ‘A-Z of Crosswords’, Rover is Ian Morgan, born 1932; studied English and Theology at Cambridge and taught at Preston Grammar School until his retirement. Not a likely candidate for geekspeak clues, IMHO. I’m plumping for simple error as the explanation for 20dn. The more esoteric interpretations may explain why the editor didn’t pick it up!

  59. mhl says:

    Dave Ellison: There’s an unfortunate amplifying effect in the comments on fifteensquared, I think – I enjoyed this one too, and just had a couple of reservations. However, when you have 20 people similarly expressing a few minor complaints about it then the effect of reading all the comments together is that everyone deeply disliked it, whereas individually I’m sure that was far from the case.

    We get the same positive feedback effect too sometimes, where it reads as if some crosswords are getting disproportionate amounts of praise.

  60. Eileen says:

    Re 26: just for interest [?]: the Romans called the Mediterranean ‘Mare nostrum’, ‘our sea’.

  61. smutchin says:

    Mhl – I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Besides, most of today’s discussion has been head-scratching rather than complaining.

    Eileen – #6 and #8 are works in progress, which you may or may not see soon.

  62. Eileen says:

    Mhl: I’d have agreed with you too, if I’d seen your comment before submitting mine!

  63. Dave Ellison says:

    I’ve just been checking my records, so I should possibly qualify my previous comment about Rover’s standing in the difficulty league. Some 4 or 5 years ago I recorded details of my solving times and success over one year of all Guardian crosswords, and there were only 9 from Rover; he stood at 5/17 for being most difficult, judged by percentage of crosswords I completed. The average time I spent on his was 29 minutes 36 secs. It’s my feeling he has become easier in the last while.

    I notice there were some setters who seem to have now disappeared: Fidelio who appeared fairly regularly; and Kookaburra, Egoist, Imogen, who appeared once each. Anyone know anything about them? Kookaburra? Surely not, no, not Brisbanegirl?

  64. Eileen says:

    Smutchin: hugely enjoyable! – many thanks. I really look forward to your website, so we can comment on / query your puzzles [I seem to be lacking an ‘e’ in 21ac – ah, perhaps that’s the extra one we’ve been pondering all day!!] It will be great to have dialogue with a 25ac [congratulations on resisting the customary self-reference!].

  65. mhl says:

    Dave Ellison: I can add a few to them – the setters in the Guardian’s online archive who have set fewer than 10 crosswords are:

    Imogen (1)
    Chaucer (1)
    Crucible (1)
    Kookaburra (1)
    Omnibus (1)
    Boatman (3)
    Egoist (4)
    Biggles (5)
    Hendra (5)
    Fidelio (6)

    Obviously Boatman is a new setter. Someone mentioned here before that the Biggles puzzles are a joint effort of all of the Guardian setters called “John”, the joke being that the Biggles books were written by W. E. Johns. (I think that means Araucaria, Chifonie, Enigmatist, Paul and Shed.)

  66. mhl says:

    Just to clarify, that’s only including puzzles back to whenever the archives start – June 1999…

  67. stiofain_x says:

    I enjoyed this one today but share the others reservations I loved 10 ac WEE Prince.
    Mhl if that is true about the Biggles pseudonym it is very witty.

  68. Derek Lazenby says:

    Well, looks like you lot were having quite enough fun tearing this one apart without my help. I have been off gor 2 days, because eldest son was away for 2 days. The connection? He changed our LAN server for a different one. We didn’t see he had buggered it up till after he left.

    But he’s back now!

    I scanned the previous days messages, so I saw the request for an e-mail re software.

    Having had 2 days off I have made rather more progress with that project that I suggested than I expected. Mostly done but needs some twiddles.

  69. stiofain_x says:

    Meant to say I hope 10 ac was a reference to the diminutive popster.

  70. Smutchin says:

    Oh dear! There is indeed an E missing. How embarrassing! Just goes to show how easy it is to do…

  71. Eileen says:

    So sorry, Smutch – it really was great apart from that! And, after today, I was quite prepared to think that it was me missing something.

    It occurs to me that we’re getting these great puzzles for nothing! Not that I want to pay [!] but I think you should be doing something with these…

  72. stiofain_x says:

    nice one smutchin i liked 18ac I agree with Eileen get that application form off to Hugh Stephenson asap

  73. Eileen says:

    Apoogies to other commenters who are not trying Smutchin’s puzzles [and why not??] but now that we’re ‘on a late shift’, I feel less diffident about an[other] alternative use of the site, so would like to say, Smutchin, that my favourite was 24ac. I also particularly admired 16ac, 10dn and 13dn and, as I indicated earlier, 25ac. Despite earlier comment, having spent ten years in Northern Ireland, I really liked the answer to 21ac, which I heard much more often there than here, and I’m sure you can easily doctor the clue. New word learned in 22dn.

    Please keep up the good work!

  74. Eileen says:

    Apologies for the apoogies.

  75. smutchin says:

    Eileen & Stiofain, you’re far too kind. I’m mostly pleased with what I’ve done so far but I don’t pretend to have the polish and panache of the pro setters. I would love to be published in the Guardian (or even the Telegraph) but if only it were as simple as asking Prof Stephenson nicely…

    It’s a strange irony, today of all days, to miss an E… must be some kind of kismet. As soon as Eileen pointed it out, it became glaringly obvious, but I’d read that clue several times over without spotting my mistake. It underlines the importance of having someone else read your work before it’s published. And it makes me feel much more kindly disposed to the little slip-ups of the pro setters.

  76. smutchin says:

    22d is one that Brisbanegirl will be familiar with.

    re “apoogies” – it’s turning out to be quite a day for missed letters.

  77. Eileen says:

    At least, Smutchin, it shows that you make up your own anagrams.

  78. smutchin says:

    Meant to ask, did you spot the mini theme?

  79. smutchin says:

    In case not (and I should have added this as an intro): Six of the solutions are related, all being key elements of a code.

  80. Eileen says:

    Oo-er – I did take note of the title and then forgot about it. One glass of wine too many – will come back to it tomorrow!

  81. Eileen says:

    I typed my last comment without sseeing yours. If it’s anything to do with da Vinci, count me out!

  82. Eileen says:

    Yet one more extra letter!

  83. Eileen says:

    And, come to think of it, isn’t it strange that we should be back to codes?

  84. Paul B says:

    I’d never thought of Rover as difficult in the usual sense – actually, for me he’s the opposite. It’s exactly as someone said up top (all those millions of comments ago): he’s only difficult where either the technique is poor, or his expectation of an audience’s general knowledge is misjudged.

    There were one or two nice clues today, but I’m prepared to run Don’s gauntlet and opine that this wasn’t up to all that much. 80+ comments says it all (and almost literally).

  85. Dave Ellison says:

    Smutchin et al: Perhaps you can capitalise on your unfortunate e – use it as an idea for your next crossword: for example, have a letter missing from n clues, leaving it to the solver to provide them (you would have to warn them in a preamble, of course)

    I speak from a similar unfortunate experience when I used to set the crossword for a university rag.

  86. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I know, I am not British, and therefore some people, maybe, would say: what do you know about crosswords? But I think this Rover was not as bad as you all think it was. Of course, clues like 27ac (Neil Young made a song, called Love is a Rose … – perfect for a clue) and 3d are inferior. At the same time, 26ac is a brilliant clue – that is, when you are a setter- : you see the word ‘sailing’ in ‘Med’, and you think: that’s it. Just like some of you, I have problems with clues like 20dn (but it can be ‘code’ instead of ‘cod’) and 21d (plural? or?), but 8d is clever, as is 19ac. I admit, a cardigan hasn’t always a pocket, but the the of the word ‘change’ is very clever (again, from the viewpoint of a setter). And there are more good clues (first, fiendish, cedars) – more than there are bad ones. I think, all in all, this was a good crossword.
    At least, in the eyes of a Dutchman, who thinks you UK people should be more Libertarian, and less ‘clique’.

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