Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,642 – Rufus

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on March 9th, 2009

Ciaran McNulty.

Apologies for being a bit later than normal, I didn’t get a chance to look at today’s puzzle until around lunch.  Lots of cryptic definitions today.

(X) = inserted
(x) = removed
c.d. = cryptic definition
d.d. = double definition
< = reversed
* = anagram
“” = homophone


1. CAROUSAL. CARO(U.S.A.)L. As in ‘carousing’.
9. TROWEL. c.d.
10. NICK. d.d. Not sure a nick is a cut.
11. COVER DRIVE. COVER + DRIVE. A shot in cricket.
12. STABLE. d.d
17. INSPIRE. d.d.  Literally breathe in.
22. HUSSAR. RASH< around US. Finally reading the Flashman books pays off.
24. LAMB. L.A. + M.B.  Any one of a number of writers.
25. PENCIL. c.d. Although there’s no actual lead in a pencil.


1. BANISTER. c.d.
2. ROCK. (f)ROCK.
3. PSYCHE. She was a ‘mate of Eros’. Def is ‘soul’.
5. SOUR GRAPES. d.d. Unsure about the ‘dismissive attitude’.
6. VELVET. Unclear about this one, a flourish might be a type of decoration you do to velvet.
8. LEVIED. LE + VIED. Archaic word for ‘conscripted’.
13. BOTTLENECK. Amusing!
19. EDITOR.  A leader is a lead article in a paper.
21. NOOSED. SODONE*.  ‘For it’ is an odd anagrind.
24. LARD. LA(R.)D.

45 Responses to “Guardian 24,642 – Rufus”

  1. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Ciaran.

    Yes, a nick is a cut – my father used to talk of having nicked himself when shaving.

    5dn: in the fable, the fox dismissed the grapes as being sour because he couldn’t reach them.

    6dn: I didn’t know this, either, but Chambers has ‘on velvet – in a safe or advantageous position’.

    21dn: I presume ‘for it’ in the sense of being in trouble?

    [I wonder if anyone else wanted to put in LIMA for 24ac, before thinking about it?]

  2. smutchin says:

    Thanks for the blog, Ciaran. Is it just me or was this a touch more difficult than usual for a Monday Rufus?

    9a – I got the solution but I don’t really get the cryptic definition. What’s the significance of “correspondent”?

    10a – you might “nick” yourself when shaving, for example.

    16d – I have a wee gripe about this one. “In” is doing double duty as both inclusion indicator and as part of a set phrase. The clue ought to read: “Set off in in good time…” – except of course that makes no sense. But “good time” by itself does not mean “early” – at least, I don’t think so. Am I mistaken?

  3. Andrew says:

    Eileen, yes I thought of LIMA too! I also thought CONDUCTOR would work for 19dn if only it had the right number of letters…

  4. Eileen says:

    Andrew, Snap, again, on both counts!

  5. Derek Lazenby says:

    Yeah I thought it a bit harder when I was doing it.

    LIMA never hit the radar.

    Eileen, no need for ? re 21d, that was exactly how I took for it.

  6. Eileen says:

    Smutchin: you’re right about 16dn, of course. And ‘correspondent’ in 9ac is only there for the surface, too. Some lovely ones, as ever, [eg 1, 12, 17ac and 4dn] but the imprecision is not like Rufus.

  7. Geoff says:

    I found this puzzle a bit annoying because of the preponderance of dd and cd clues – you either see them or you don’t and there is no easy way to creep up on them.

    Most of the crossword was easy but I got a bit stuck on several clues and didn’t get 2dn or 10ac at all. 10ac is a clever clue – NICK certainly is a ‘cut’, as others have said, but I didn’t see that ‘prison term’ meant ‘term |(ie word) for a prison’. Sneaky! However, I don’t like the use of ‘with’ as a copula for 2dn. [Definition] ‘with’ [charade] just about works for me, but not the other way round. ‘Diamond topped off lady’s dress’ would have been perfectly fine.

    And I agree with Smutchin about 16dn – giving double duty to a noun is fine if it gives a bit of an &lit flavour to a clue, but it’s a bit sloppy doing it with a preposition.

    ‘On the velvet’ means ‘doing well’ (‘one flourishes’), but ‘dismissive attitude’ is a rather oblique definition for SOUR GRAPES.

  8. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    Scoop in journalism is when a newspaper forestalls rivals in obtaining and publishing a news item. Hence, “gardening correspondent”.

    As pointed out above, nicks were minor shaving disasters so common in earlier decades even with the so-called “safety razors”. Now this daily activity by males has become really easy – and safe.

  9. Richard says:

    Yes I found it a little trickier than normal and I came up with LIMA so I’m now kicking myself. Nor did my initial HANDRAIL for 1d speed things up. I look forward increasingly to Rufus’s Monday offering.

  10. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    Prison is not just nick. It is ‘the nick’.

  11. agentzero says:

    Thanks, Ciaran.

    A small complaint about 22ac, unless anyone can talk me out of it: “without thinking,” as a phrase, is an adverb, and would correspond to “rashly,” rather than “rash.” The placement of “retreats” before “without thinking” also makes the cryptic reading awkward. Can “retreat” be a transitive verb?

    That’s a minor complaint, though, and I very much enjoyed the puzzle. I never did get NICK, even though I know it can mean “cut.” I found myself wondering whether “Cut a prison …” could mean (c)LINK …

  12. Ciaran McNulty says:

    My thought on ‘NICK’ was that I was sure I’d heard the phrase ‘nicks and cuts’, so thought they were distinct (a nick being to small to being called a cut, really).

  13. liz says:

    Here’s another one who put Lima! I was tempted to put in ‘velvet’ for 6dn, but couldn’t see why and didn’t look it up. Also ‘handrail’ messed up that corner for quite a while until I realised it was ‘banister’. Enjoyable but hard for Rufus, I thought.

  14. Geoff says:

    Yes – thanks Ciaran, forgot to acknowledge your blog.

    Agentzero: You’re right that ‘without thinking’ is adverbial and therefore equivalent to rashLY, and that ‘retreat’ is intransitive when it means ‘go back’. ‘Cavalryman retreats – without…’ might have been a bit better (definition reversed = charade).

    On the other hand, ‘retreats’ can be parsed as ‘re-treats’, and therefore could be an anagrind!

  15. Derek Lazenby says:

    I’m surprised NICK is causing so much debate, it isn’t old or obscure to me, I use the word all the time. Maybe that’s part of the northern heritage.

  16. Brian Harris says:

    I’m with Derek on this one Nick = a quick accidental cut, usually when shaving. Didn’t realise this was an obscure synonym…

    Thought today’s was mostly straightforward, and it didn’t take that long to complete.

    I liked the clue about ‘unpleasant bunch’ = SOUR GRAPES. Nice cryptic definition. Not a huge amount of great interest in the remainder.

  17. agentzero says:

    Geoff: maybe “Cavalryman (American) in unthinking retreat”?

  18. steven says:

    I enjoyed this one and got most of it too. Psyche, Levied, Cover Drive and Lamb caught me out. Did think long and hard about Lima!

  19. JamieC says:

    Thanks for the blog.

    I didn’t think this was up to Rufus’ usual standard. Some nice clues, but no outstanding ones, and more complaints than usual:

    9 ac – I initially couldn’t see the point of “correspondent”, but I think it’s reasonable to give the double meaning of “scoop”, on the assumption that gardening correspondents also do gardening!

    11ac – does COVER mean “deal with”. Does DRIVE mean “spin”?

    3d – I don’t like the elision of the definition and part of the wordplay at all, and I’m pretty confident Azed would agree with me.

    13d is clever once you know the answer, but I think the clue is too vague to be able to get it until you have all the cross letter, and even then…

    16d – I agree with others about the need for another “in”.

    On the subject of 10ac, which I don’t have a problem with, as somebody who deals with medical negligence for a living, I know that surgeons can (and frequently do) nick arteries.

  20. agentzero says:


    OED online has “deal with” as the third definition of “cover” as a verb. In the sense that a book may “cover” a particular topic. And I think “spin” = “drive” in the sense of “go for a spin”.

  21. Ralph G says:

    Agree with Geoff at 7 above; eg could you enter 1d ‘banister’ without confirmation from the checking letters?
    ‘Banister’ came up recently in a different context: Cardiff bureaucrats use the Welsh word for banister to translate ‘guideline’, which is rather sweet.
    The unlikely-seeming ‘corruption’ (OED) of ‘baluster’ to ‘banister’ was via ‘ballister’ and ‘barrester’.
    ‘Balustrade’ is more familiar; the pillars are thought to resemble the flower of the wild pomegranate, Gk ‘balaustion’.

  22. JamieC says:

    Agentzero – thanks, that makes sense. I stand by the other complaints though!

  23. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    rash =?= “without thinking”: if Rufus wanted to appeal to Chambers, its def. for ‘rash’ includes an adverb meaning. I suspect he’d more likely suggest a phrase like “His approach was without thinking”, which may be unusual phrasing but would mean the same as “His approach was rash”.

  24. Agentzero says:


    I don’t see that in Chambers online; they only have:

    rash1 adj 1 said of an action, etc: a over-hasty; reckless; b done without considering the consequences. 2 said of a person: lacking in caution; impetuous. rashly adverb. rashness noun.

    Your second suggestion is essentially that “without thinking” may fairly be used as an adjective, which may be true. (It still sounds strange to my ears, though: compare “an attack without thinking is unwise” with “To attack without thinking is unwise.”)

  25. dagnabit says:

    Thank you, Ciaran!

    Can someone tell me what work “for supremacy” is doing in 8d? At first I thought it might have something to do with LE being literally higher than VIED in the answer, but “the French fought” seemed sufficient here.

    Note to online solvers: at 7ac, the check function mistakenly rewards CAROUSEL.

  26. Rufus says:

    Have been away and return rather jet-lagged to find quite a few questions.

    I hope the answers given by others have cleared up nick=cut; prison=Nick (although usually used with “the”, as Rishi points out, it may be used by itself; deal with=cover and drive=spin (e.g. go for a spin); a gardening correspondent is likely to use a trowel.

    Thesauri give “rash” as “thoughtless”, which I thought OK for “without thinking”.
    Psyche in dictionaries is defined as “girl loved by Eros” and “a personification of the soul” so the clue “Soul mate of Eros” is a simple double definition e.g. “Soul” and “mate of Psyche”. I’ll get Azed’s opinion when I next see him!

    But I have to agree, on reflection, 16d does really need two “in”s. Apologies!

  27. John says:

    Why did so many people think LIMA for 24 ac? It doesn’t fit the clue.

  28. Not so Rufus says:

    An extremely poor crossword today, in fact the last Rufus was equally bad. May be his time has come.

  29. Not so Rufus says:

    Sorry for the jetlag Rufus, but your last two didn’t make me smile as usual.

    Please return to form, you’re usally a favourie of mine.

    Sorry for the words I use here Sir.

  30. Rufus says:

    Dagnabit’s comment re “vied” beat my comments. The first definition of most of my dictionaries give the meaning of “vie” as “contend for superiority”, although I note Chambers only gives meanings for contend, so I agree “fought” would work.

  31. Not so Rufus says:

    Re: John.

    ‘Lima’ I also thought, in fact I was sure of it. But its the first 4 letter capital that comes to mind living there. MA=doctor but what about IM ???? I had ‘lard’ down but was still unsure. Any who.

    All have a good evening.

  32. dagnabit says:

    Thank you very much for your helpful reply, Rufus, and for your wonderful work over the years. I was flattered to hear from you.

  33. JamieC says:

    Rufus – I hope I wasn’t intemperate (or indeed rash!). It’s flattering that our comments are given any attention at all by the setters.

    I wonder if 3d was an online/print issue. I’d be very happy with “Soul mate of Eros”, but the online version had “soulmate” as one word, which was what I wasn’t so happy about. Perhaps the print version had the space in or we can all blame the editor.

  34. broughsie says:

    According to the online version, when I check 7a the answer is given as CAROUSEL, which can’t be right. I’m keeping CAROUSAL!

  35. dagnabit says:

    Hello, JamieC,

    I can’t speak definitively for British cryptics, but in the U.S. it is considered a legitimate form of wordplay for cryptic clues to “camouflage themselves” by using compound words where a space would more properly convey the actual meaning. (Apologies if there is a better way of expressing this idea; I’m not very conversant with the technical terminology of clue-making…)

  36. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    Agentzero/24: The dictionary on the Chambers website is “Chambers 21st Century Dictionary”. The dictionary known as “Chambers” for crossword purposes is “The Chambers Dictionary” – only available on the internet by subscription.

  37. Han says:

    The closest I have come to finishing a cryptic. (Have only been trying for a week or two…) Gave up with banister, rock, and lamb missing. Wasn’t overally happily with ‘inspire’, or with trowel – wanted to put it from the first but didn’t get where correspondent fitted in. Also ‘rearmost’ – I see the anagram but the clue seems messy.

  38. dagnabit says:

    Congratulations, Han! I’d say three missing after only a week or two of trying is an admirable achievement.

  39. Agentzero says:

    Ah, thanks, Peter. Not prepared to give them my money just yet :)

  40. John says:

    Still don’t get why anyone was lured by LIMA.
    Not so Rufus says MA = Doctor? I’m not familiar with that one.

  41. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    LIMA: If you’re totally stuck with L?M? and “City doctor and writer (4)”, the appeal of LIMA is that it fits a possible dev – city, and the checking letters. But you’d then really need to explain “doctor and writer” as wordplay. As there are no “indicator words” for clue types like anagram or container, it pretty much has to be a charade or multiple definition – most likey a triple, IF you’re prepared to believe there are both a doctor and writer called Lima, previously unknown to you. Just possible but pretty unlikely. If it’s a charade, L, LI or LIM must be ‘doctor’ and the rest must be ‘writer’ – there’s nothing to indicate a different order. So MA = doctor, even if justifiable (AFAIK, not), shouldn’t be an option. With no recognisable doctor or writer in the possible 1-3 letter components, LIMA has to be an extremely suspect answer.

    With a longer word (say 8 letters or more), I might gamble on an answer from the def and all the checking letters, but with four-letter words, there are often so many words to fit the checkers that you really need to be sure of at least part of the wordplay as well as the def.

  42. Barnaby Page says:

    I wasn’t clear what contribution “made” was making in 14ac. Wouldn’t “Government leader in Arab state to leave home” have worked equally as well?

  43. mhl says:

    Barnaby Page: Although it would be fine without, I think the surface reading is better with “made” and it’s a perfectly valid link word (S “made” D)…

  44. Paul B says:

    Unless an EMIRATE is an ‘Arab state made’, I think you have a point.

    In case we were all wondering, an emir (fem. emira) is an independent ruler or chieftain, a military commander or governor, and/or a descendant of Mohammed. His emirate is his office or rank, goverment, jurisdiction or territory. A state can be the territoty occupied by a sovereign political power or community. So there we are – the UAE is an office block.

  45. Paul B says:

    Hi MHL – you popped in just before me. See where you’re coming from … but the *past* tense?

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