Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,623/Paul

Posted by Andrew on February 21st, 2009


Not, as I’d expected, a St Valentine’s Day special, but a theme based on famous Belgians, of whom there are supposedly very few, though for its size Belgium in fact does pretty well. The online solution says that the list “includ[es], for these purposes, the Flemish”, to allow for those who lived before Belgium existed as a country (early 19th Century). As always a lot of enjoyable clues from Paul, with, I think, a larger than usual number of double definitions, most with very short clues,

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

8. CREAM TEA M in CREATE A. I’m not a regular customer of McDonald’s “restaurants”, but I guess that’s where the M=McDonald’s comes from.
9. AWHILE Homophone of “a wile”
10. SNAP dd – an appropriately “snappy” one.
11. ADDER’S-WORT (TOWARDS RED)*> Adder’s-wort gets its name from the belief that it could cure snake bites.
12. SINBAD If SIN is Bad, then virtue is good.
14. CATENATE CAT (m)EN ATE. The word means “to connect in (i.e. put in) a chain”. I guessed this from knowing “catenary”, which is the shape of a freely-hanging chain, but it only struck me as I was writing this blog that it’s also found in the more familiar “concatenate”.
15. SIMENON Hidden in (eveN ONE MIStake)<. Georges Simenon, author of the Maigret detective stories.
17. BELGIAN L(ar)G(e c)I(ty) in BEAN. A wordy and devious clue where the structure was hard to pick out – I think I guessed the answer first after getting 22ac, then worked backwards to the wordplay.
20. HERITAGE IT(alian) in HERGE. The only “famous Belgian” clue where the person’s name is in the wordplay rather than the answer. This one is Hergé, aka Georges Remi, author of the Tintin books.
24. BACK dd
25. RUBENS RU (Rugby Union) + BENS (Scottish peaks). The Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens.
26. MERCATOR MERC(edes) + A TOR. Another Flemish one: Gerardus Mercator, famous for the map projection that bears his name.
1. BRINDISI dd. A port on the south-east “heel” of Italy, and a drinking-song or toast. A famous example is Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from Verdi’s opera La Traviata.
2. CAMP dd. Short and sweet, one might say.
3. STRAND dd. Only seven words for the first three down clues!
4. VAN DYCK ANDY in VC + K(öchel). Sir Anthony van Dyck, another Flemish artist, who made his name as a court painter in England, doing several portraits of Charles I among others.
5. MAGRITTE GRIT in MATE. Yet another artist, this time the surrealist René Magritte.
6. CHEWING GUM WING in EG in CHUM, It’s farily unusual to see double inclusion like this, but it occurs again at 19dn.
7. CLARET cd, I suppose: “claret” being slang for “blood” as well as red Bordeaux.
13. BREVIARIES VERB< + ARIES. Sign=ARIES seems to be popping up a lot.
18. ASUNCION AS (=when) + C in UNION. Asunción is the capital of Paraguay.
19. SERIEMA IE in RM in SEA A family of birds found in Brazil, Argentina and …. Paraguay. I wonder if Paul considered linking this clue with the previous one.
21. EXODUS dd – more like a definition-and-a-half the name of the OT book means “departure”.
22. FEMORA (A ROME F)<. An alternative plural of “femur”.
24. BEAM dd. Another two-worder to finish off

10 Responses to “Guardian 24,623/Paul”

  1. smutchin says:

    I thought this was an outstanding effort from Paul – not one of his most difficult but brilliantly witty and lots of fun, not to mention extraordinarily economical with words.

    I got 4d and 5d before I’d worked out the theme, and was looking for names of artists for a while until it clicked. It’s been said before that knowing the theme can make the rest of the puzzle too easy, but I didn’t think that was the case here – especially the very clever 20a (Eileen, if you’re reading, to answer your question last week: I got there in the end!)

    On the other hand, all the names are well-enough-known (to the average Guardian reader, I’d argue) for reference sources not to be necessary – in fact, the only answers I had to check were non-themed ones: 1d BRINDISI (not familiar with the drinking song), 19d SERIEMA (got it from the wordplay but it’s a new word for me).

    The only disappointment for me is that my personal favourite Belgians didn’t get a mention – Eddy Merckx, Jacques Brel and Audrey Hepburn. But I’m also a big fan of the Maigret and Tintin books, so glad Simenon and Herge got a mention.

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew – couple of queries resolved. I’m still not sure about 8a – M=McDonald’s is perhaps a liberty too far. And I put FEMURS for 22d without understanding the wordplay… You’re right that sign=ARIES does seem to have cropped up a fair bit recently.

  2. Brendan says:

    I conjecture that Paul has been reading “Love etc.” by one of my favorite authors, Julian Barnes, where there is a conversation about a dinner-party challenge to name six famous Belgians (apart from Simenon). Says Oliver: “Six, apart from Simenon? Easy-peasy. Magritte, Cesar Franck, Maeterlinck, Jacques Brel, Delvaux and Herge, creator of Tintin. Plus fifty percent of Johnny Hallyday, I add as a pourboire”.

  3. Richard Heald says:

    A good fun solve, helped enormously by my discovery of the website, which lists no fewer than 259 such! Even so, I was tripped up by HERITAGE, despite thinking early on that Herge must feature somewhere. Shame there was no room for Jean-Claude Van Damme though …

  4. mhl says:

    This was wonderfully rich puzzle, I thought – very enjoyable. Thanks for the post, Andrew – particularly for the example Brindisi from La Traviata. There’s a very minor typo in 13d, missing the “I +” before ARIES.

    I really liked the M for McDonalds, from the instantly recognizable “golden arches” logo. It’s nice to see some new bits of crossword code being introduced.

    There’s a nice page on suggestions for the “famous belgians” dinner party game here.

  5. Eileen says:

    I found this puzzle totally absorbing. I was completely led up the garden here, by getting Van Dyck and Magritte first and so, like Smutchin, being led to believe we were looking for artists [especially after getting Rubens, although that came later, to add to the confusion]. I was further misled by the fact that the theme answers were, unusually, separated and, in 17ac, LGI are not ‘every third character’, are they? – unless we start from ‘in’ and then it works? It took me a long time to be confident enough to put in the answer and then it all began to fall into place.

    8ac: the golden arches of McDonalds – no problem

    9ac: ‘homophone’?: again, my late Scottish husband and my present choirmaster [and, I have to say, I] would disagree!

    I hope this is not going ‘off-comment’ but my explanation for 15ac was: ‘Me? No!’ inside SIN: typical me, not seeing the wood for the trees – a simple reversal!

    20ac: for me, the last to go in and the ultimate jaw-dropping moment. Others might argue about this [mis]use of the theme but I thought it was brilliant. I’d been wondering all along about the absence of Tintin.

    19dn: I’d never heard of this bird but the wordplay was impeccable and the wordplay excellent

    Brilliant puzzle!

  6. Eileen says:

    I’m sorry: I meant the *surface* was excellent

  7. Andrew says:

    Eileen – I see what you mean, but I think “every third character in large city” is fine for LGI, just as “every other character in large city” could (less helpfully) give LREIY.

    Richard – I also found the famous Belgians site you mention, though I suspect some of the 259 are not even all that famous in Belgium itself..

    (Another famous, though fictional, Belgian that no one has mentioned so far is Hercule Poirot. )

  8. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Andrew, and, also, thanks for the blog, which I omitted earlier, but how can LGI be ‘every third character’, when it begins with L? The only way to make it work, as I said before, is to include the ‘in’, which your explanatory example does not do. Am I being extraordinarily dim? [This is only a little niggle ;-) ]

  9. Andrew says:

    Eileen, I suppose I read “every third character” as “one character in three”, not caring about where the sequence starts, so it could be LGI, AET or RCY, but I can see that under a strict interpretation only the last of these
    I suppose the problem is that there’s no equivalent expression to “every other” when you’re picking one in three instead of one in two without actually mentioning the number three in some way.

    Of course, to be ultra-pedantic there’s only one “third character”, namely R, and the next one is the sixth…

    (This all reminds me of Alice’s discussion with the Red Queen about having jam “every other day”.)

  10. Geoff says:

    Unusually, I got the theme almost immediately – seeing FAMOUS easily and getting BELGIAN straight after. However, it was still quite a slog to get though the rest of the puzzle, though very pleasurable! I found this much more difficult than his previous outings in the Guardian – the word play in the clues was tight and not very transparent. That’s an observation, not a criticism – I may just not have been at the top of my form…

    (By comparison, I raced through this Saturday’s Araucaria faster than the average Rufus!)

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