Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,644/Rover

Posted by Andrew on March 11th, 2009


Fairly typically for Rover (who I think of as a kind of Rufus-lite) this started off quite easily, but was rather spoilt for me by some vague and unsatisfactory cryptic definitions, especially 9ac.

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

5. SPREAD Three definitions: “room”, another word for a ranch, and spread betting is a good way to lose lots of money,
9. LIFEBUOY cd. I tried LIFEBOAT and LIFEBELT, which fit the clue at least as well, before getting this. A poor clue in my opinion for that reason.
12. CHRONOMETER dd, sort of, with reference to “time”=”the enemy”, but the two definitions are really the same.
15. LOACH A in LOCH – it’s a river fish related the carp
17. ANGOSTURA (SO TURN AGA)* Last time this word turned up, I remarked that people don’t drink pink gins (made with Angostura bitters) any more, and was quickly put right by several people who do.
18. AUTOMATIC cd – George is a nickname for a plane’s automatic pilot: the “was” implies that it’s no longer used in this sense – is that right?
24. TRADER dd – it’s a trading ship, and a chandler is an example of a trader
25. CHARTIST dd – the Chartists were a 19th Century reform group seeking wider suffrage, etc, and Top of the Pops is about the charts.
26. MILADY M + LYDIA* – “upstairs” (the gentry) as opposed to “downstairs” (the servants).
27. USHERESS cd – referring to the torches with which usherettes (as I’ve always heard them called) led people to their seats in the cinema.
1. SALT CELLAR SALT (sailor) + CELLAR (stock of wine). Apparently the salt cellar used to mark the boundary between those of high and low class at a dining table, leading to the expressions “above/below the salt”
4. STORM LANTERN A sort of dd – storm lanterns go out (i.e. are used outside) but don’t go out (i.e. get blown out).
7. EBRO Hidden in thE BROnx – a major river in Spain
8. DYER Sounds like “dire”
13. QUARANTINE dd – a new one one me, the quarantine or quarrender (or various other spellings) is “a kind of early-ripening red apple”. I can’t see why it would be in an “old” orchard – maybe they’re not grown any more.
16. HAMPSTEAD (HATES DAMP)*. “Where a Londoner” is perhaps slightly dubious as a definition, but maybe it’s OK if you allow an impled “is” at the end, or a question mark.
22. ITEM dd
23. TALL T (4th letter of Beethoven) + ALL – a tall story is an unbelievable one.

41 Responses to “Guardian 24,644/Rover”

  1. Eileen says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Andrew.

    I put in LIFEB and waited to see what 4dn would bring. Like you, I’d only thought of lifebelt and lifeboat.

    I didn’t help myself by initially putting in REGAL for 21dn.

    I have never, ever heard of an usheress!

    I wasn’t ever so happy with M = Madame?

  2. Monica M says:

    Hi All,

    Thanks Andrew … three new meanings I’d not seen before… George, salt cellar and quarantine … I did the puzzle on the train and, and didn’t feel like researching when home.

    I agree with you both re: usheress … I’d have thought usherette too.

  3. Derek Lazenby says:

    No vast complaints even though I didn’t finish, did about ¾. I put that down to the ratio of dd/cd to other clue types, 13 to 15. Nothing wrong with that type of clue but if you don’t hit the setter’s wavelength you are stuffed, and I was.

    Never heard of usheress either.

  4. smutchin says:

    Eileen – I also put REGAL for 21d at first, until I got the across clues.

    I didn’t have so much difficulty with 9a but only because I’d already got 4d first – otherwise I’d have wanted to put in LIFEBOAT.

    Having more than one valid answer probably makes both 9a and 21d “unfair” by strict Ximenean standards, but given that the checking letters resolve the ambiguity and it’s generally not too difficult a puzzle, I don’t really have a problem with either.

    8d – I guessed at DYER because of the homophone, but I don’t much like the definition, which is rather vague.

    25a – this made me smile. I got the solution straight off, but only because I’d recently written a clue for CHARTISM in one of my own crosswords. I like Rover’s version better.

    Thanks for the explanation of 1d, Andrew – I got the solution but didn’t get the significance of above/below. That’s a nice bit of knowledge. And thanks for the rest of the blog too.

  5. smutchin says:

    Monica – I only knew George was the name of the automatic pilot from the ancient comedy film Airplane!

  6. Paul B says:

    As so often in The G, there’s a lot of careless stuff here to make life needlessly tough for us.

    Good stuff too (15, 17, 18 & 19 ac, & 3, 11, & 23 dn I like) but, to kick off, what are ‘for’ and ‘on the’ adding in 5ac? Or ‘at’ in 10? 12’s probably an attempt at a cd, but agree with you: 25 is speculative, and 27 isn’t in Collins. (Fortunately USHERETTE doesn’t fit, but why wasn’t this unusual spelling clued using subsidiary parts?)

    1 dn is obscure and, in the best traditions of Guardian puzzles, features the wrong part of speech for the defintion. 2 is clued using the root of the answer word (and again defines with the wrong part of speech), while 4 – which is a good idea – could have been much nicer with a small adjustment to the word order (e.g. ‘What does and doesn’t go out in a gale?’). 6 seems to struggle for sense, and 7 uses ‘flowing’ for no good cryptic reason. The dd at 13 is obscure beyond fairness on one side, and I’m not sure whether it could have been written to direct to the clue type at least a tiny tad more clearly. 16 uses the wrong part of speech, and 21 is a chestnut the size of a horse.

    But overall, a fantastic puzzle.

  7. Dave Ellison says:

    I agree with Andrew’s and most of the other commentators’ remarks.

    I had DOER for 8d, but wasn’t entirely happy; it just about fits, at a stretch.

  8. liz says:

    Thanks to Andrew for explaining 18ac and 13dn, both of which I got but didn’t know why. The one I didn’t get was 27ac. Have never heard of an ‘usheress’.

  9. Geoff says:

    I didn’t get USHERESS – I’m sure the word exists (Chambers lists it), but the assistants in cinemas were always called usherettes, as far as I recall, so I don’t like this clue at all.

    In fact, I didn’t like this crossword at all. Three Guardian puzzles in a row with a surfeit of dd/cd clues. Get a grip!

  10. Tyro says:

    I’m with others on this. Usheress may be in Chambers, but I only got 42 hits on pages from the UK when I googled it. Perhaps it’s American. “Rufus-lite” is very good BTW.

  11. Ian Payn says:

    Eileen, I went through exactly the same as you did: left the end of lifeb___ to providence, put in regal, and wondered what the hell an usheress was.

    And I think M for madame is dodgy, as well.

    Not very satisfactory, but par for the course for Rover, I’m afraid.

  12. Tom Hutton says:

    Three possible answers for 9ac and two for 19ac (shred and sherd of which I think sherd is a better fit to the clue than shred) as well as wilful obscurity as in quarantine and usheress. Add to that the possibility of doer for dyer and it might be fair to say that this crossword was reminiscent of the theme of yesterday’s.

    Two stinkers in a row. Is the crossword editor on holiday?

  13. Tom Hutton says:

    I have just read Paul B’s observations in detail and I think he is unfair in regard to 7dn. Surely ‘flowing through’ indicates that the answer can be found flowing through ‘the Bronx’ which it does.

  14. JamieC says:

    Oh dear – three crosswords, three moans this week. I’d better be careful or I’ll get lumped in with the awkward squad.

    Generally I agree with the comments above. Too many vague/weak cd’s and dd’s.

    I can’t believe you could solve 27ac without the crossing letters and probably not even with them. As with others I tried LIFERAFT, LIFEBELT and LIFEBOAT for 9 ac before giving up. The references in 1d and 13d are far too obscure. I got SALT CELLAR very quickly from the wordplay but had no idea how it fitted the rest of the clue, and I don’t understand the dd in 12ac – I assumed the reference to position was because chronometers were used to measure longitude, but then why “the enemy’s position”? I take it from Andrew that time is “the enemy”, but then you lose the other sense of position and it becomes – as Andrew says – a dd where both definitions are the same.

    But thanks Andrew for the blog.

  15. John says:

    M for Madame isn’t just dodgy, it’s plain wrong!
    Paul B – although I didn’t like this puzzle at all, I’m wondering why you think 2 dn “defines with the wrong part of speech”. “Tell = INFORM, “the workers = ANTS, = INFORMANTS, who “(wi)ll split”.

  16. smutchin says:

    Tom – 19a is SHARED minus A – to get SHERD, you’d have to change the order of the R and the E, which isn’t indicated. It also wouldn’t fit with the checking letter for 13d.

    I’d also dispute that DOER is a valid solution to 8d – it doesn’t fit the definition and it’s a real stretch to make it fit the subsidiary (presumably Dave E was thinking of a homophone for “dour”, which means “miserable” rather than “extremely serious” – plus I think you’ll find that’s a wrong pronunciation of dour anyway. [irony alert!]).

    Some of today’s comments are unnecessarily harsh. It’s really not all that bad.

  17. Tyro says:

    Sorry, but I want better than ‘not all that bad’. I almost wrote I expect better, but I’m not so sure lately.

  18. Dave Ellison says:

    When I said I had put in DOER, I wasn’t really proposing that as another alternative answer; clearly DYER fits the bill, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t think of that at the time.

  19. smutchin says:

    Tyro – look up “litotes”. See also Paul B’s comment #6.

  20. smutchin says:

    Dave – your meaning was clear enough from “wasn’t entirely happy” and “just about fits, at a stretch” but Tom seemed to be picking up your comment and using it to add weight to his general criticism of the puzzle, which seemed unfair to me.

  21. Tyro says:

    Re: 19. I understand what litotes means and am surprised we don’t see more of it in crosswords, as it’s an anagram of T S Eliot and toilets, but don’t see how it can apply to an unrhetorical defence of a crossword that is not really up to the mark. Perhaps your irony alert should have been at the end. It gets hard to work out who’s being ironic and who’s expressing themselves plainly.

  22. smutchin says:

    Tyro – OK, to put it plainly, I disagree that this crossword isn’t up to the mark. There are some very good clues in it, as pointed out by Paul B. And sorry for underestimating your knowledge of rhetoric. TS Eliot is an anagram of litotes, eh? That’s just brilliant. Must use that in a clue one day…

  23. Al Streatfield says:

    Strange set of comments…

    Paul B lists several clues that he has issues with and says there is a “lot of careless stuff in it”, but then says it is “overall a fantastic puzzle”.

    A “fantastic puzzle” to me is one in which all the clues are at least good and some are excellent.

    Come to think of it, maybe it is just Paul B’s comments that are strange…

  24. Harley26 says:

    Lots of strange comments today I think. Personally I liked this puzzle and have no problems with it. I didn’t get usheress but I’m annoyed with myself for not getting it rather than with the setter (it is a word after all) – also learnt a couple of new things (quarantine=apple variety, salt cellar/class distinction, george=autopilot) which is great.

  25. Paul B says:

    I should have placed an irony alert just for Al. And just for clarity, I DID NOT THINK THIS PUZZLE ALL THAT GOOD.

  26. Paul B says:

    Hey John, the definition is ‘they’ll split’. But really they’re ‘splitters’, as Cheesy John (not you – famous comedian reference alert) once remarked.

    Does that phrase adequately define a noun? If it does I’ll retract on that one, and restrict my distaste for it to the root-word SI split.

  27. Geoff says:

    USHERESS may well be a word, although the SOD doesn’t list it at all, but the term universally used for the female in the cinema with the torch is ‘usherette’.

    Chambers says, under ‘usher’ – ‘fem usheress or usherette (esp in a theatre or cinema)’. This is ambiguous, but my interpretation is that either form could be used generally – to describe female ushers at a wedding, for example – but that the latter is the one for the entertainment venue. Certainly the SOD gives ‘usherette’ with only the more specific meaning.

  28. Eileen says:

    Geoff, that’s exactly how I interpreted the Chambers entry.

  29. smutchin says:

    Paul B – for clarity’s sake, I did pick up on the sarcasm in your comment, but at least you took the trouble to highlight the clues you did like to balance your [mostly fair] criticisms.

  30. dagnabit says:

    Thank you for the enlightenment, Andrew. I needed it today: I missed CHARTIST and USHERESS and got CHRONOMETER and AUTOMATIC only by guessing.

    Re: 9ac and 4d, I had STORM but thought it must be wrong since at first I couldn’t see past LIFEBOAT.

    Smutchin, thank you: I’ve seen “Airplane” countless times (I worked in a theater where it played when it first came out and so could watch it for free) but didn’t remember the George reference at all! To think I used to have a working memory…

  31. Ron says:

    Like most people, I was left rather dissatisfied by this puzzle. Any clue for which there is more than one ‘correct’ answer in unsatisfactory, and to have a clue where there are three equally correct answers – well! Perhaps it’s sour grapes but I was left with 4d, and I’m still unhappy about 27a.

    Also, of course, there are far too many cds.

    I wonder whether Hugh Stephenson or the setters reads this blog, (I know Rufus does, and I think Paul does) and take note of the general tone of the comments.

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Andrew, thank you for the blog.
    As to 5ac, you mention SPREAD as being a ranch – correct, indeed.
    But I have a different view on the rest of the clue.
    I see SP as Starting Price (odds, betting)and READ as a room.
    So, SP-READ is a room for betting.

  33. Ralph G says:

    re 32 above: that’s a highy ingenious read(ing)of the clue. I thought there may be a Dutch connection here in read=room but ‘reden’ means cause or ground, I think. So where does read=room come from?

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Ralph, you are absolutely right.
    I am starting to blush now, for such a mistake.
    I had something (wrong) in mind – that read is a study room.
    And, even worse, then we are – purely by accident – back to a discussion in the Chat Room: read = study = room ….
    I am sorry.
    Please, forget my entry 32.

  35. Paul B says:

    Yes, well. Let’s not go there.

    I’d meant to plead at some point with Tom Hutton that ‘flowing’ implies movement, and in this instance there isn’t any. I didn’t mind the ‘through’ – that was fine back at #6, and still is.

  36. stiofain_x says:

    A very poor puzzle i thought with some annoying clues and answers.
    Usheress is a horrible word salt cellar is a weak clue and an obscurity too far and dyer is rubbish.

  37. Sil van den Hoek says:

    If, I say if, ‘read’ were a ‘room’ (re 32-34), 5ac would be a good clue. I know, I have to be humble, but now this clue isn’t. And there is a lot against some others.
    In addition to these:
    We thought in 15 ac the s of waters could be left out.
    And in 3d (although nice) the word ‘one’ is of no use, even misleading.

  38. Barnaby Page says:

    Mostly echoing what others have said:

    5ac – spread betting is a form of betting in which one has more ROOM, metaphorically, to profit than in a straightforward win/lose bet (i.e. in a spread bet, a number of outcomes can be successful for the individual gambler). Possibly a word like SPACE or OPPORTUNITY would have worked a little better.

    9ac – very weak – could be LIFEBELT, LIFEBOAT, or at a pinch LIFEVEST (though the last is probably hyphenated), and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others.

    27ac – like nearly everyone else, I hadn’t heard of an USHERESS (as opposed to an USHERETTE), but I suppose one very obscure word in a generally easy crossword is not a problem.

    21dn – indeed, REGAL is as good a solution as LARGE (apart from the slight matter of being wrong!).

    23dn – I’m not utterly convinced by ALL as a synonym for UTTERLY. It was utterly disgusting, his behaviour was utterly appalling, &c &c – I’d be very happy to be corrected, but I can’t bring to mind a phrase where ALL would substitute.

  39. Tyro says:

    My problem with USHERESS is not that it was an obscure word. Like most people I’m happy to learn new words. It was that it was clued as if it was a well-known word that everyone would know. Cryptic definitions only work on words people would be likely to know. I just think Rover got confused and thought usheress was the word we all know as usherette.

  40. C & J says:

    Like others we had “doer” instead of ‘dyer” , and unlike others do pronouce doer and dour the same.

  41. Ralph G says:

    Re 34 above, thanks for putting my mind at rest! I’m sure I should make a much worse fist of commenting in Dutch – which is a marvellous language eg: Shakespeare in translation- the (deceased) king addressing Hamlet: “Ik bin dein papa’s spook”. This may be apocryphal; not sure about the apostrophe, either. Never been able to check it because all the Dutch people I’ve asked about it read their Shakespeare in English.

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