Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24639 / Brummie

Posted by mhl on March 5th, 2009


Good stuff from Brummie today. (I can’t take much credit for this post, since Jenny solved most of the puzzle while I was working this morning.) Thanks to smutchin for pointing out the Cinderella theme: CINDERS, FAIRY GODMOTHER, PRINCE CHARMING, UGLY SISTERS and BUTTONS are scattered about the grid.

1. BEFITS IF = “provided” reversed in (BEST)*
9. SSSI Initial letters
10. PHILISTINE (HIS LIP)* followed by TINE = “Spike”
11. PINYIN PIN = “brooch” + YIN = “one in Scotland” (most often heard in Billy Connolly’s nickname, “The Big Yin”)
13. GODMOTHER GO = “work” (as in “does it go?”) + (METHOD)* + R = “river”
15. AGES EG = “say” reversed in A S (“a second”)
16. UGLY UG = “utterance by caveman” + L(A)Y
17. SUBSCRIBE SUB = “lower than” + SCRIBE; I guess that it’s “joke writer” rather than “writer” because referring to someone as a “scribe” suggests that they merely copy out other texts?
22. SURETY URE = “aging rock star” in STY
24. IMPORTANCE I’M = “Brummie’s” + PORT + (CANE)*
26. NESTOR N E S (“Directions”) + TO + R
27. OSIRIS O.S. = “large” or “outsize” + IRIS = “flag”
1. BUSHIDO BUS = “No 10 possibly” + HID + O = “ring”
2. FAIRY FAIRLY = “quite” with L “out”; a hob is a type of fairy, as in a hobgoblin
3. TOPKNOT POT reversed + KNOT = “bow”
5. PRINCE Homophone of “prints”
14. MALARIOUS [hi]MALA[ya] + R[eneged] + IOUS = “debts”
16. UNHUMAN Hidden answer
18. SISTERS S = “edge of space” in SITERS = “locators”
19. BUTTONS BUTT = “tip” + ON = “working” + S = “Sulphur”
20. BISTRO BIRO = “writer” around ST = “stone”
24. RECUR RE = “on” + C = “Chile’s capital” + UR = “city”

51 Responses to “Guardian 24639 / Brummie”

  1. Eileen says:

    Thanks mhl and / or Jenny!

    I just loved this! At first, I thought I’d never get started, then the ‘aha’ moments just kept coming! – some lovely surfaces, too. Again, too many great clues to mention, really, but, for starters, 9, 10, 12, 22, 26ac and 2, 8dn… et al…

    Incidentally, the revered Chambers has ‘date-sugar’ as an entry, with no definition!

  2. Dave Ellison says:

    I found this much easier than recent Brummies. I dawdled for a while over the last few 1d, 11a, 13a, 22a and 19d. Had to look up 1d. I liked 16a.

  3. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    I enjoyed solving this crossword.

    12ac and 8dn are among so many clues I liked.

    mhl: The typo in 24ac solution needs to be fixed.

  4. Monica M says:

    Goodness me mhl,

    I solved a good percentage of this with “assistance”, but struggled to determine some of the explanations.

    Here’s your chance to have a laugh at me:

    4ac … Thought type of poem = epic … therefore I couldn’t workout od = is. D’oh X 9.

    Thanks for the post etc … 4ac is just one example of my misreads … If i told you the rest, my toes would be curling with humiliation.

  5. Dave Ellison says:

    I suppose 1d “No 10″ was to red herring one into looking for a Philistine beginning with B? I was trying to fit OSE in the middle for ages.

  6. Monica M says:

    Dave E,

    Sometimes I think we get a bit carried away with ourselves looking for complexity … for 1dn I kept trying to work around “downing” = No 10.

    Is it just me … but is bus = No 10 a bit of a stretch (unless there’s something colloquially British, I don’t know)

  7. mhl says:

    Thanks for pointing out the typo, C.G. Rishikesh – I’ve fixed that now.

    Monica M: it’s a bit cheeky, but since it’s “No 10 possibly” rather than just “No 10″, I think that’s fair enough. I spent a while trying to think of a cipher that began BOSE___. :)

  8. Geoff says:

    Quite a challenge for a Thursday – but then Brummie’s usually are. Took me a while to get started, but got there in the end.

    Many imaginative clues in this one, with mostly fairly good surface readings – the exception for me would be 7dn, which is meaningless and ungrammatical (unless ‘nitrogen remains’ = remains of nitrogen – which doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway). And PRINCE and ‘prints’ are not really homophones – the way I pronounce them, anyway – but I did smile when I remembered the old joke from the days when you had to send films off to be developed and then waited ages for them to be returned: Some Day My Prints Will Come.

    I particularly enjoyed 1ac, 10, 15 and 24.

  9. Monica M says:

    I get you mhl … still a stretch tho (I don’t catch buses any more but the last I did was a 333)

  10. smutchin says:

    Geoff – as I remember it, the joke went: “What did Snow White say when her photos were late back from Boots?”

  11. smutchin says:

    And doh! I’ve just spotted the theme! Ha-ha! Nice one, Brummie!

    Was it Brummie who sneaked in all the names of the dwarfs a while back?

  12. Monica M says:

    You’re way to clever for me Smutchin!!!

    10 X D’oh …


  13. smutchin says:

    (For the benefit of anyone that missed it: 13a, 16a, 21a, 2d, 5d, 7d, 18d, 19d)

  14. Monica M says:

    And … yes it was … no wonder I get tricksied with Brummie

  15. Eileen says:

    Oh well done, Smutchin! – and absolutely brilliant, Brummie!! [I thought there was nothing to add to my first comment!]

  16. Geoff says:

    Yes – bravo, Smutchin. I’d spotted GODMOTHER, UGLY and CHARMING as related, but hadn’t thought it through.

    On another point, the London No 10 is the shoppers’ bus for visitors from the North: it starts at Kings Cross and goes via St Pancras, Euston, Oxford St, Kensington High St to Hammersmith (although people who shop in High St Ken don’t usually use buses..)

  17. Monica M says:

    And the reason I come here … it’s just all beeen explained above … my aspiration … big sigh

  18. Tyro says:

    Yes, but, it’s a bit out-of-season isn’t it? I know it’s cold out (Sorry to mention the weather, and not in Brisbane obviously), but surely the panto season has passed. Do you think the crosswords editor didn’t spot the theme either?

  19. steven says:

    Dave #5, I couldn’t get away from the idea that ,Philistine=Bush.(G.W)

  20. John says:

    Midge Ure ageing? At 55? Jagger’s ageing. What does that say for the rest of us?
    Geoff: “remains after blaze” are CINDERS.

  21. Geoff says:

    Yes, John – I can see the definition and the word play in the clue. My grumble is that the surface reading is meaningless!

  22. Tom Hutton says:

    I enjoyed this but found 18dn very ugly. I don’t like ‘edge of space’ for ‘s’ and ‘siters’ is both ugly and not a word you would commonly find. The spell checker with Firefox doesn’t recognise it when I write this response.

    ‘Go’ for ‘work’ is a bit thin too.

    Why is scribe a joke? Runyon always refers to newspapermen as scribes. Can anyone give a good reason for joke being in the clue?

    But, as I said, a most enjoyable crossword.

  23. Geoff says:

    Have looked up ‘date sugar’ to find that it is a sweetening ingredient consisting of ground dried dates. So it isn’t strictly an ‘extract of tree fruit’ at all.

    Sorry – just cantankerous today (disgusted with myself for failing – yet again – to spot the theme in a Brummie crossword!)

  24. Eileen says:

    Geoff: I don’t know whether this will make you feel better or worse: SOED: ‘date-sugar;sugar from the sap of the wild date-tree of India’. Cheer up – most of us didn’t see the theme, either ;-)

  25. Neil White says:

    7d: Would “remaining” do for “remains”? Seems to work.

  26. John says:

    Sorry Geoff, misread your comment. Climsy of me. I do agree with your complaint about the surface.

  27. John says:

    More climsiness, er clumsiness..

  28. smutchin says:

    Geoff – if it’s any consolation, the theme only dawned on me because I was thinking of the Snow White joke and then remembered that Cinders was in the grid. It didn’t occur to me at all while doing the crossword on the train this morning, even though I got all but one of the themed answers.

    Looking at the answers all written out in a list in the blog, the theme is much more obvious than looking at them written down in the grid.

  29. Geoff says:

    Eileen: DATE SUGAR isn’t in my (1993) edition of the Shorter Oxford – I found it by Googling, and all references are to ground dried fruit. “Palm sugar” does come from tree sap (like maple syrup). None of these are fruit extracts!

    But to get back to the puzzle – I did enjoy solving it. Brummie was ingenious to have split UGLY SISTERS and FAIRY GODMOTHER, and to have used the pantomime pet name CINDERS, thereby ensuring that all the themed words could be separately clued without giving the game away.

    (BTW, i liked John’s ‘climsiness’ – sounds like a Lewis Carroll portmanteau word)

  30. Brian Harris says:

    Totally missed the theme. Very nice, and so obvious with hindsight! Lovely stuff.

    Not impressed by ‘No 10 possibly’ = BUS. Why number 10? If it’s intended to mislead us into thinking about other possible number tens (the PM, for example) then it’s a bit lame.

    No idea why a SCRIBE is a ‘joke’ writer… I suppose it could be that it means ‘not an actual author’ but that’s pushing it a little.

  31. smutchin says:

    The other thing I meant to comment on in today’s crossword, which slipped my mind in the excitement of discovering the theme, was the use of “yin” in 11a.

    I think we kind of covered this a little while ago, but if I recall correctly, “yin” is not generically “one” in Scotland and is only used as part of Billy Connolly’s nickname – “ane” is the normal Scots word for “one”.

    As I mentioned last time it came up, Wir ain leid at is a useful point of reference – and highly entertaining. They don’t list “yin” at all under “nummers”.

  32. Geoff Moss says:


    Chambers: yin and yince – Scots form of one and once generally written ane and ance.

  33. smutchin says:

    Aha! Thanks, Geoff.

  34. Geoff says:

    ‘The Concise Scots Dictionary’ (Aberdeen UP, 1985) gives ‘yin’ as a variant of the more general ‘ane’ and notes that it was first recorded in the late 18th century and that the usage is chiefly confined to Central and Southern Scotland.

  35. Tyro says:

    No one else thinks the timing odd? I’ll get my rear part of pantomime horse costume!

    Brummie is usually one of my favourite Guardian setters, but this had too many obscure answers for me. And is SSSI a word?

  36. Derek Lazenby says:

    Nowt much to say. Struggled for a while and gave up, and having seen the blog I don’t think I would have finished this at the best of times. Today I’ve been a bit unwell and what passes for my brain wasn’t at home.

    One question, rock musician maybe, but star? doesn’t star mean everybody has heard the name? I never knew the guy existed till now.

  37. liz says:

    Enjoyed the puzzle but have the same query re SSSI even though I filled it in. No qualms re short words such as ‘croc’, but surely this is different?

    Didn’t get Bushido either, a new word for me. Like learning new words but I thought it was a little unfair to have an obscure (to me at least!) word clued by the supremely vague ‘No 10 perhaps…’

  38. Geoff Moss says:

    Tyro & Liz

    SSSI is an abbreviation for Site of Special Scientific Interest.

  39. Eileen says:

    Tyro: why are you so hung up on the timing? ‘Cinderella’ is a fairy tale, not just a pantomime, and, in any case, we performed our local pantomime just a week ago – but we had a camel!

  40. Bella says:

    The theme became obvious quite soon but, very annoyed with SSSI – never heard of it here in Aus. He could have used ASTI, lots of lovely ways to clue that. Annoyed because I like to complete each puzzle and even a google didn’t find the answer this time. :(

  41. Derek P says:

    I enjoyed this crossword.

    I was intrigued by SSSI though. I don’t remembering seeing before a solution which is a simple abbreviation formed by initial letters which doesn’t appear to be an acronym. And if it isn’t a word shouldn’t it strictly be indicated as (1,1,1,1)? The closest I recall are solutions such as ‘TV Dinner’ and ‘Mrs Mop’ which seem rather different and a lot more acceptable.

  42. stiofain_x says:

    A great puzzle, letting the solver work out the theme seems to be becoming a trademark of Brummie I enjoy these so much more than the “6 definitions are of a kind” type as the moment of realisatiion is like finding a Nina.
    SSSI was a bugbear for me too.
    Although i liked it when i worked it out NO 10 was unfair as it was in a clue to an obscure word it would have been fine in a clue for a more common word.

  43. Tyro says:

    I don’t think you’ll find Buttons in Perrault, but, fair enough, your domain and I understand that implied criticisms aren’t permitted here, so I’ll move on.

  44. liz says:

    Geoff, I did know what SSSI meant — tho thanks for pointing it out! — just didn’t think that kind of abbreviation was permissable. It isn’t as Stiofain says an acronym.

    Agree that these hidden themes give an extra spice, not that I spotted this one, of course!

  45. Paul B says:

    Failing to notice something is not quite the same as it being hidden away. Nor was there an awful lot of ‘working out’ to do, since it was, as I say, simply there for all to see.

    SSSI is an abbreviation. Are there different kinds?

    Climsiness here and there, but a pretty nice puzzle.

  46. mark says:

    Hated it and with the answers I hate it even more.

    SSSI – so now we can any abreviations the setter likes?!?

    13A – presumably then “work” has to give us “GO” and indiscate the following anagram – is that ‘allowed’/convention?

    1D – I agree with others, if it’s an obscure word then don’t make the getting there vague!
    11A – obscure via obscure.

    Off to kick the cat

  47. smutchin says:

    I’m afraid I just don’t understand the complaints about SSSI. The definition is perhaps a little on the vague side but the answer is quite gettable from the clue, and it’s a “standard” abbreviation in wide use. If the complaint is that it’s too obscure, maybe some of you need to get out more – ie try any activity that involves having to look at an OS map!

    As for the enumeration, I guess it’s just convention that it’s given as (4) rather than (1,1,1,1) – cf recent discussions about enumerating words with apostrophes and so on.

  48. mhl says:

    Mark: I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this one. In 13 across “around” is the anagram indicator – there’s no double-duty going on.

    With regard to SSSI, such acronyms do come up in the Azed, where the rule is that if they’re in Chambers it’s OK. (e.g. there has been IMHO in the past, which I rather enjoyed.) That seems to be a reasonable convention to me, but I guess you’d have to ask Hugh Stephenson if he has a consistent policy is on them. I can’t find a reference to this issue in the archives of his email newsletter.

  49. Derek P says:

    My doubt about SSSI is that I had assumed a convention that all solutions should be pronouncable words (having never come across an example quite like this before) rather than simple initialisms.

  50. sandra c says:

    I missed the fact that there was a theme, altogether, until I looked at this page.
    I enjoyed the crossword though, with very few complaints. Never used this site before, although I do the Guardian crossword every day – one day late as I am not in the UK – but where do I find the rules for submissions?

  51. mhl says:

    Sandra C: It’s good to hear that you found this post and the discussion useful :) There’s a link to the “discussions policy” at the top of the page, which basically suggests that people try to limit their comments on particular puzzles to things that relate to those clues and keep more general discussion to one of the threads in the “Chat Room” category.

    Incidentally, if you want to get the crossword earlier then you can find it online at midnight GMT each day on the Guardian’s crossword site, but only if you search for puzzles in the current month (or a puzzle of the right serial number)…

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