Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,645 (Paul)

Posted by diagacht on March 12th, 2009


This was far from straightforward with some quick tricky decoding.  Still not convinced by some of my efforts.

9 HOOVERING: (OVER + IN) in HOG (corner)
10 OUTDO: a kind of double definition
11 QUOTING: OT (books) in QUIN + G (good)
12 AUSTERE: anagram of SEA TRUE
13 ECRU: E (English) + CRU (vineyard)
14 OPTHALMIA: OP (work) + HT (half-time) + I (one) in HALMA (game)
15 NOW THEN: NoW (present) + THEN (past)
17 FANCIED: FAN (cool) + anagram of DICE
19 SHORT STORY: FABL(e) without the ‘e’ – a short story
22 ESAU: hidden in thE SAUna
23 EXPLAIN: now complicated but had been PLAIN, hence EX PLAIN
24 CORSAIR: homophone of COARSE AIR
26 CRATE: double definition
27 INSINCERE: IN SIN + CE (Church) + RE (about)
1 THE QUEEN’S SPEECH: It must be but why?
2 TOMORROW: TOM (Cruise) + OR + ROW (line)
3 DELI: I + VAN (as in vanguard) all reversed
4 WINGSPAN: WIN (victory) + GS (centre or focus of ‘flagship’) + PAN (vessel)
5 AGHAST: [H (hydrogen) in GAS (normal state of hydrogen)] all in AT
6 COXSWAIN: [X (kiss) + anagram of WAS] in COIN (copper)
7 STREAM: R in STEAM (momentum)
17 FORECAST: CA (kernel of arCAne) in FOREST
18 IN SPADES: double definition with reference to the game of bridge
20 ORPHAN: Oliver Twist was an ORPHAN. I suspect the other part of the clue refers to the opinion that ‘often’ may be pronounced ORPHAN
21 TENNIS: INN reversed in SET (first to six games in tennis)
25 RIND: another homophone as in 20dn

52 Responses to “Guardian 24,645 (Paul)”

  1. Monica M says:

    Thanks Disgacht,

    I’m pleased to hear someone else is stuggling with the decoding.

    My only suggestion for 1dn is … thesp = actor … ec = electoral commission = polling with lots of other letters. (Sorry, not very helpful).

    BTW, thanks for the post.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks diagacht. I think there’s an anagram in 8dn as well as the &lit definition – (QUESTIONS END & ARE)*

    I didn’t bother to decipher the wordplay for 1dn, and looking at it again I still can’t. The only “actor Tree” I know is Herbert Beerbohm, but I can’t make him fit.

    I enjoyed this much more than the last two, though I thought it was not as witty as some of Paul’s efforts. The “Queen’s homophones” raised a smile though. “Orphan”=”often” always reminds me of the rather laboured exchange in “The Pirates of Penzance” where the Pirate King and the Major-General are at cross purposes over which word is meant.

  3. Andrew says:

    Monica, as always you’re almost there! THESP (actor) + (B)EECH (tree “polled”) around QUEENS (chessMEN).

  4. Monica M says:

    Thanks Andrew … now it makes sense. I like the use if polled. I was having a more “camp” explanation for men … but couldn’t make it work … chess (D’oh)

    I still need more explanation for 25 dn,

    I really liked 5dn

  5. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    I did figure that “men” gives QUEENS (however bizarrely) but I could not work it out further.

    “Thespian” for actor is often used in India in newspaper articles on actors but the abbr. thesp. is not known at all.

    “tree polled” is a good deletion device but the false capitalisation completely beat me.

  6. Andrew says:

    Monica, “rind” is supposedly how the upper classes, and specifically the Queen, pronounce “round”.

  7. Andrew says:

    Just to elaborate – “Skin that’s hard” = RIND, “as a ball” = “round”, but as said “in the Queen’s speech” = RIND.

  8. Monica M says:

    Aha … Strine = r – ow (as in ouch) + nd

    Thanks – I got orphan

  9. Testy says:

    I’m amazed 16d didn’t raise more eyebrows. It’s not quite on a par with the C-word but it’s still pretty bad.

  10. Dawn says:

    I got about 75% done but struggled on the right hand side again.

    I quibbled with 21d since you don’t need 6 games to win a set because it depends how many games the opponent has won, ie. if you are 6 games all it goes to tiebreak unless the final set when they carry on until 2 games clear. Therefore you need at least 6 games which doesn’t fit the clue.

  11. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, diagacht – I didn’t envy you this one!

    And thanks, too, Andrew, for the further explanation of 8dn. I’d been thinking it wasn’t particularly cryptic! I’d been playing around with Beerbohm, too, and, of course, getting nowhere, so thanks again to you and Monica.

    I thought ‘copying out text’ was a rather odd definition of ‘quoting’ and I can find ‘ophthalmia’ only as ‘inflammation of the eye’, which isn’t really a ‘seeing limitation’.

    It’s a long time since I heard the expression ‘living in sin’! [I agree with Testy about 16dn]

    20dn reminded me of Princess Anne, years ago, telling pressmen to ‘Naff orff’, as it was reported.

  12. Geoff says:

    Oh, joy! A Paul crossword after a dismal run.

    Thanks for the blog, diagacht. Agree with Andrew over the parsing of 1dn – I spotted the likelihood of ‘thesp’ quite early, so I was on the right lines with the word play, but it took me a while to work out the solution (it was getting ORPHAN that made it click) . ‘Men’ for QUEENS is wonderfully misleading! And I got 8dn from the anagram, before realising its &lit flavour.

    I have no difficulty at all about Paul’s odd definitions – 14ac looked like some sort of eye disease as soon as I saw the clue and reckoned that the word probably ended in ‘a’, and ‘copying out text’ seems a fair cryptic def to me.

    Excellent variety of clues in this crossword, which is far more to my taste. I loved the plummy homophones – very clever.

  13. Geoff says:

    PS I don’t mind a cryptic definition to be a bit off centre, provided that there is some other type of word play to give the solver a second line of attack. We have had several puzzles recently which contained dubious or obscure cd and dd clues with no other hints to their solution.

  14. Ian Payn says:

    Re: “thesp” for thespian, it’s common usage in Variety, which has a launguage of it’s own. The most famous (apocryphal?) example was when a series of movies about Hillbillies tanked in the suburbs across America, leading to the headline Stix Nix Hix Pix.

    Stix (suburbs = the sticks)
    Nix (deny, decline)
    Hix (rural types = hicks)
    Pix (films = pictures = pics)

    I may have misremembered, come to think of it: The last bit might be “flix” not “pix”.

  15. Ian Payn says:

    Look up Variety if you want a better written and more accurate version of my previous posting.

  16. Paul B says:

    I suppose if e.g. bawdy Gordius had included 16dn, it might have earned censure. And here it does seem a bit blatant, and possibly out of kilter with the usual Pauline, schoolboyish waggery.

    Famously of course this compiler placed rude words in his grid via the machinery of ‘accidental hiding’ in words and phrases such as WIDOW TWANKEY, ARSENAL and SCUNTHORPE, which were politely ignored in SI splits. It was a nice and cheeky touch to leave the dirt alone, I thought, having dumped it there deliberately in the first instance.

    Nice to have a beautifully written Graun, all the same.

  17. Matt says:

    Made up with myself. First one i’ve finished without cheating for ages! 16d made me laugh as it was so unexpected! Thanks for explaining 1d and 14a couldn’t figure the explanations for those.

  18. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog. I thought this was lovely and really enjoyed it.

  19. Geoff says:

    16dn amused me too. We had complaints very recently about ‘Paddy’ for Irishman and feminist correspondents have objected to ….ESS words denoting female practitioners (yesterday’s USHERESS caused much fluttering in the dovecotes for entirely different reasons!).

    My own view is that one of the pleasures of the Guardian crossword is that it is libertarian in a broad sense – not only are the forms of the puzzles and clues more varied and interesting than are found in the more strait-laced Times, but the vocabulary is enlivened by a sprinkling of salty language. I am not offended by the inclusion in a word game (completed in silence, by me at any rate) of words that I would be very circumspect about using in polite conversation.

    BTW, in Paul’s own website he recently commented that he had received a lot of more or less obscene clues which he had forborne from publishing. Somewhat hypocritical? Bless!

  20. Monica M says:

    Re: 16dn

    From the comments we all know the word … Is doing crosswords about the words or political correctness, politeness or exclusive knowledge

  21. Dave Ellison says:

    Well, this started out as an easy Paul, but then I ground to a halt with about 4 or 5 to go.

    16d didn’t bother me at all: was Paul suggesting in his clue (and solution) it might give rise to trouble for him?

    I still don’t understand the definition part of 4d; what has WINGSPAN to do with “a measure of knots.sav?”? At least, that’s how it appeared in my paper; I assume it should be “a measure of knots, say?”. I was fiddling with sat navs for a while.

  22. Monica M says:


    Re: Wingspan … your assumption about say rather than sav was correct … clever man!

  23. Andrew says:

    Dave, the knot is a bird of the Sandpiper family.

  24. Dave Ellison says:

    Ah, thanks, Andrew, of course it is. Because my brain was in sat nav mode I was thinking of speeds; and of knot theory, which has measures in it, but surely too obscure for a general crossword.

  25. Eileen says:

    Geoff, re comment 19: the only ‘ess’ word I remember causing raised eyebrows [mine and Smutchin’s] was ‘ambassadress’ clued as ‘ambassador’s wife'[!] on 27th November.

  26. Geoff says:

    Eileen: There was an Araucaria puzzle some months ago which included the word ‘psaltress’ – which caused a bit of debate about sexist terminology..

  27. JamieC says:

    That’s more like it! A really enjoyable crossword this. I charged through the right hand side and got more bogged down on the left until I cracked 1d. Didn’t get the wordplay at all, but it seems obvious now I’ve seen the explanation!

    What I really like about Paul is that he constructs challenging clues of fairly commonplace words without resorting to obscure references.

    16d made me laugh, but I can’t believe it got past the editor. More Private Eye’s line, surely?

  28. smutchin says:

    I’d forgotten that, Eileen. “Ambassadress” and “usheress” aren’t words most of us would ever use, which I guess explains the eyebrow-raising. But more generally, it’s not PC to “feminise” nouns with -ess or -ette, so you’d be unlikely to see “actress”, “stewardess” or even “usherette” in the Guardian outside the crossword.

    Likewise, you won’t see “Paddy” or “Jock” or “Chinaman” elsewhere in the paper. And you certainly won’t see “twat” unless it’s used in a direct quote. But I for one am happy for the crossword to have a slightly different set of rules to the rest of the paper – and I trust the setters and crossword ed to know where to draw the line.

    16d did make me chuckle today, but that’s because I’m puerile at heart. 22a made me laugh even more heartily for the imagery conjured up by its surface reading.

    On the whole, I thought this was a very tightly clued puzzle – even the more whimsical clues are solid and not unfairly “libertarian”. Top stuff, Paul!

    And I see it’s Mudd in the FT today as well – will definitely print that one off for the train ride home.

  29. Eileen says:

    Smutchin, the point was that an ambassadress is a female ambassador, not an ambassador’s wife! And some of us were objecting to usheress as not being the same as a [cinema] usherette – so neither of the objections was about the suffix as such.

    Re ‘psaltress’, however: thanks, Geoff. I managed to track that one down to 10th November 2007! – which is before I found fifteensquared. Did a bit of research on ‘psaltress': there doesn’t seem to be a male equivalent and it isn’t in either SOED or Collins [but is in Chambers, of course]. It comes into Browning’s ‘Paracelsus:

    ‘But springwind, like a dancing psaltress, passes
    Over its breast to waken it…’

  30. steven says:

    Managed to get 1d but needed Monica and Andrews comments to to see why it was ‘The Queens Speech’.I did find it a difficult puzzle but did far better than I thought I would.

    #19&#28.I think when it comes words that may cause racial offence we are best off without them. I’ve yet to see a comment lamenting the fact that a particular crossword didn’t include any racially suspect words. There are a lot of words I won’t include here, that would have been the subject of similar debate 10,15,20 years ago.

  31. Leslie says:

    1. down
    Tree polled is beech beheaded.

  32. Geoff Anderson says:

    I am a CofE priest, as I believe is Paul. Only very recently did I learn the anatomical meaning of the 16d word. I had always assumed it was a variant of ‘twit’, with a stronger vowel sound and therefore conveying stronger contempt than ‘twit’. So my point is that perhaps Paul is as innocent as I was until recently. I suppose it depends on the kind of parishes one has served in.

    Even if he knew, he clues the offending word as ‘unpleasant person’. It’s hardly Paul’s fault if men and women of the world immediately think of an alternative, rude meaning when they see the word. According to the Oxford Concise online the word also means to hit. So only one of three meanings is rude. And since it says the origin is unknown, there is no way of knowing which meaning is the original one from which the others were derived.

  33. Geoff says:

    I have always thought that ‘actress’ is the one non-PC female term that has some justification, because the work is distinct: actors portray men and actresses portray women, except for special effect. And the logical corollary of calling them all ‘actor’ would be to halve the number of Oscars awarded to performers. But you can always call them ‘thesps’ (cf 1dn)

  34. Geoff says:

    Geoff A: The etymology of the 16dn word is unknown, but the SOD records a mid 17th century first appearance for the pudendal meaning, which predates other usages by almost two hundred years.

    Paul isn’t a cleric, unlike Araucaria and Gordius.

  35. smutchin says:

    Eileen – the fact that no one was complaining about the suffix per se was what I was trying to get at, in a round-about way. I’m sure no one would object to “actress” being used as a solution in the crossword – unless it were clued as “actor’s wife”, perhaps. But “actress” wouldn’t be allowed anywhere else in the paper.

    Steven – I’d agree that such terms are best avoided.

  36. beaumont_k says:

    Am I being stupid? The “t” at end of “aghast” in 5d seems to be in the wrong place for “opthalmia” in 14a. In fact it’s NOT 10 letters either!!

  37. Adjoinant says:

    The word knot, as pertaining to nautical speed, comes from (distance between knots on a fisherman’s net)/second. And I guess that this distance between knots is a fisherman’s wingspan.

    @Beaumont, it is spelled Ophthalmic.

  38. dagnabit says:

    Being American, I struggled mightily to make sense of 20d and 25d, though I did get them via the literal definitions. I had heard of the Queen’s speech in its parliamentary sense, so for 20d I was imagining that the Queen might talk of orphans in such a speech in a manner similar to how the U.S. president, in the annual State of the Union address, might make mention of the needs of the less fortunate (and sometimes point out a particularly heroic example of such a person, sitting in the audience next to the First Lady).

    Of course, none of this helped at all with RIND – I couldn’t imagine the Queen mentioning a piece of fruit in her annual address. Oh well, such are the mental gymnastics of the non-native.

  39. Geoff Anderson says:

    Oh dear, so I’ve been according Paul unnecessary reverence all this time! I thought he accompanied Araucaria representing crossword compilers on a panel show a while back and they both wore clerical collars? Perhaps he renounced the cloth when he found that compiling rude words was incompatible with holy orders …

  40. Ralph G says:

    Re 37 above, 4d KNOT: Collins helpfully gives at #13 “One of a number of equally spaced knots on a log line used to indicate the speed of a ship in nautical miles per hour.” As I understand it, the logline had a float at the end thrown into the water. As the rope was paid out, note was taken of the time taken to reach the knots in the rope.
    Re 14d, the ‘phth’ combination. Also found in diphtheria, diphthong and several less common words beginning with ‘phth’. All derivatives from Greek in which ‘phth’ is a common combination. I reckon that as the t was aspirated it was natural to aspirate the preceding p. The combination is commonly pronounced ‘pth’ in informal speech causing the spelling to appear bizarre.

  41. Tom Hutton says:

    Excellent crossword today. The conversation about twat is interesting. I don’t like the use of the word because it’s ugly and demeaning as a word of abuse which is how it is used here. Then again I thought the euphemism crossword of a couple of days ago was absolutely s***e which I suppose was apposite. Could I have used that word without asterisks in the blog without causing offence? I don’t think so. If I can’t use it in the blog, it shouldn’t be in the crossword. The fact that I use it round the house does not make me a hypocrite. I do things in the house that I wouldn’t do in the street!

  42. Tom Hutton says:

    Beaumont_k: your confusion is caused by a mis-spelling in the solution given above.

  43. PBE says:

    Interesting that Browning should turn up twice in a day: the source of Eileen’s psaltress, and the notable howler in Pippa Passes:

    Then owls and bats, cowls and twats,
    Monks and nuns in a cloister’s moods,
    Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

  44. Matthew says:

    I suppose PBE pretty much beat me to it, but I was going to mention that one of the definitions of TWAT in Chambers is “mistakenly, part of a nun’s dress (Browning)”

  45. Derek Lazenby says:

    So you are saying that Chambers has made a mistake? Where are the acolytes of the Holy Church Of Chambers? You know, the one’s who ascribe Papal style infallibility to that work?

  46. ray says:

    After sevferal completions, this one caused me hours of mental torture – and I gave up with the bottom half mainly complete, but with only ECRU and TOMORROW in the top. That’l teach me to think I’m starting to understand how to decode these!!!

  47. Paul B says:

    Re #44, if anyone really wants to know, yertiz:

    In 1841, Browning published the long dramatic poem Pippa Passes, now best known for the lines “God’s in His heaven/ All’s right with the world.” Toward the end of it, he sets up a kind of Gothic scene, and writes:

    Then, owls and bats,
    Cowls and twats,
    Monks and nuns, in a cloister’s moods,
    Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

    The second of these lines created no stir at all, presumably because the middle class had truly forgotten the word “twat” (just as it had forgotten “quaint,” so that Marvell’s pun on the two meanings in “To His Coy Mistress” has fallen flat for six or eight generations now).

    A few scholars must have recognized the word, but any who did behaved like loyal subjects when the emperor wore his new clothes, and discreetly said nothing. No editor of Browning has ever expurgated the line, even when Rossetti was diligently cutting mere “womb” out of Whitman.

    The first response only came forty years later when the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, collecting examples of usage, like Johnson before them, and interested to find a contemporary use of “twat,” wrote to Browning to ask in what sense he was using it. Browning is said to have written back that he used it to mean a piece of headgear for nuns, comparable to the cowls for monks he put in the same line. The editors are then supposed to have asked if he recalled where he had learned the word. Browning replied that he knew exactly. He had read widely in seventeenth-century literature in his youth, and in a broadside poem called “Vanity of Vanities”, published in 1659, he had found these lines, referring to an ambitious cleric:

    They talk’t of his having a Cardinall’s Hat;
    They’d send him as soon an Old Nun’s Twat.

    If you are sufficiently delicate and sheltered, it is possible to take the last word as meaning something like a wimple, and Browning did. A fugitive and cloistered virtue can get into difficulties that even Milton didn’t think of.

    The line is thought by some to be from Vanity of Vanities: a Portrait to the Tune of the Jews Corant (a satirical ballad) by one Harry (or Sir Henry) Vane, 1660. Others, most likely right, assert that Sir Henry Vane is the subject (hence “Portrait”), and that he wouldn’t have written such disparaging things about himself (of his father and him: “The Devil no’re see such two Harry’s”).

    So, an anonymous 17th-century religious-political song lyric – most plausibly – is your man.

  48. tuck says:

    How sweet Paul B!

  49. InGrid says:

    This entry is probably too late for anyone to see, but didn’t the Guardian’s insistence on disallowing female actors to be referred to as actresses cause a slight embarrassment when the obituary of a film director observed misleadingly that he was notorious for making a pass at every young actor appearing in his films…?

  50. steven says:

    Paul B, Nice comment.

    Never Knowingly Undersolved!

  51. mhl says:

    A great story, thanks – I think Paul B is quoting from “Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy: A History of Expurgated Books in England and America”, at least according to this Language Log post:

  52. Ralph G says:

    re47, thanks Paul B for putting the flesh on the dry bones of a story I had hitherto.

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