Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24698 / Rover

Posted by mhl on May 13th, 2009


We found this rather tough, but with lots of good “A-ha!” moments (e.g. 12a, 14a, 27a, 6d, 21d). There are 10 clues that refer to the theme of drinks and drinking, including the 15 letter clues at either edge. I’m not sure about 25 across…

10. ANNAN NANNA = “Grandma” reversed
11. MALVERN MAL + VERN, familiar forms of “Malcolm” and “Vernon”
12. CINZANO (ON A ZINC)*; the definition is “It” meaning “Italian vermouth” as in “Gin and It”. That’s definitely crossword-specific knowledge for me :)
13. RYES R = “Romeo” + YES = “agreed”, as in “yes to that” / “agreed to that”?
14. APOSTROPHE A nice cryptic definition
16. INSTANT Double definition
17. SHERBET (HER BEST)*; SHERBET is Australian slang for beer, according to Chambers. (The anagram was quite obvious, though.)
19. GAMEKEEPER GAME = “Lame” + KEEPER = “goalie”; this refers to the start of the grouse shooting season being the “Glorious 12th”, and that gamekeepers might be beaters at a shoot, I think.
22. ABLE L = “lecturer” in ABE = “Lincoln”
24. FIDDLER A joke on a fiddle being a stringed instrument.
25. MARTINI I think “It” for Italian vermouth is the definition again, but I’m not sure about “an old French piece”; the Martini-Henry is a type of gun (“piece”) but I don’t think it’s French.
26. EVENT Hidden answer
27. PARAGRAPH PARA = “soldier” + GRAPH = “picture showing axes”
1. THE MORNING AFTER Cryptic definition; I guess this is “heavy” in the sense of 70/- ale
2. PSALTERS PS = “Private secretary” + ALTERS = “revises”
3. JEREZ JER + EZ; the standard abbreviations for Jeremiah and Ezekiel
4. PLANT POT Playing on the double meaning of POT
5. CROCKS Sounds like “crocs” (crocodiles); CROCKS are “Jars”
6. CANNERIES (ACRES NINE)*; not the usual kind of plants :)
7. ENCAMP ENC = “enclosure” + AMP = “electricity supply”; I don’t like the latter part much…
8. ONE OVER THE EIGHT Double definition: “[a hangover] could be caused by” and “9” being 1 + 8
15. BACKCLOTH BACK = “Support” + CLOTH = “clergy”
17. STEAMERS Double definition; surely it should be “Crafts used in the kitchen?” though? Thanks to cholecyst, who points out (a) that “craft” can be plural and (b) that there’s a drink called a steamer, which must be the meaning referred to by 23d. Since this sense isn’t in Chambers, 23d’s probably referring to 17a, whose “drink” meaning is in the dictionary. (Thanks, Eileen) (“used in the kitchen?” here refers to the device for steaming vegetables.)
18. BIBLICAL BIB = “Drink” + (LILAC)*
20. MADGES Double definition; MADGE is a nickname for the pop star Madonna and also a name for the magpie
21. EUROPA (U (“Puccini’s second”) OPERA)*; “Bully Zeus and Me” refers to Zeus having abducted Europa while in the form of a bull
23. DREGS EG = “example” in DRS = “Doctors”; all the referenced clues are drinks or containers for drinks

50 Responses to “Guardian 24698 / Rover”

  1. Ian P says:

    Thanks for the blog. I thought this crossword a waste of time.

    I think that gamekeepers are permanent staff, beaters temps employed for the occasion (up from the village, cash and provender).

  2. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl – quite tough going, as you say, but I found it amusing and admired all the clues you mention, except I’m still trying to make up my mind about 14ac! [It’s either very clever indeed or it’s not!]

    1dn: I took this also as a kind of double definition, as in ‘heavy drinker’.

  3. Eileen says:

    Re 1dn: on reflection, I think that’s probably what you meant, too. Sorry :-)

  4. cholecyst says:

    Thanks MHL. 17 d “A steamer is warm milk heated to a frothy goodness using the steam valve on the espresso machine with a shot or two of favoured syrup. Since there are many sugar-free syrups to choose from, you can enjoy a wide variety of steamers for the same calories as a glass of milk.” as well as the other meanings. this fits in with 23 dn.

    Also, craft can be both sing. and plural, sing. when used as a collective noun.

  5. mhl says:

    Eileen: I’m not sure it’s quite satisfactory with either interpretation, unfortunately…

    cholecyst: thanks! I forgot that it had to be have a drink meaning as well for 23 down. That meaning isn’t in Chambers, so I guess it’s quite a new coinage.

  6. Eileen says:

    I don’t think it does have to be a drink. Surely 23dn refers to 17ac?

  7. smutchin says:

    Re 1d – I read “heavy supper” as one who drinks (sups) a lot rather than one who drinks heavy ale. but it works either way, of course.

  8. mhl says:

    Eileen: you’re quite right, I’m just trying to do things too fast this morning… Updated again.

  9. Gaufrid says:

    25a A little web research reveals that the Martini-Henry rifle was created for, and used by, the British army. The designer of its action was Freidrich von Martini (not Frederic Martini as given in Chambers) who was born in Switzerland. So definitely not a ‘French piece’.

  10. Ralph G says:

    25a MARTINI. According to the Wikipedia article, the Martini is a British rifle. If it is French, we should inform Le Petit Robert, Larousse, The Academie Française, “Le Tresor”, and the Dictionnaire Nationale.
    Inclined to agree with Ian P at #1.

  11. mhl says:

    Gaufrid: the OED says he was born in Hungary: “Frédéric de Martini (c1832-97), Hungarian-born Swiss inventor and mechanical engineer”.

  12. Eileen says:

    So what on earth is this ‘old French piece’? I’ve searched for coins, chess pieces, artistic compositions of all kinds – even women!

  13. Dave Ellison says:

    Rover is 5th hardest on my list of difficulty, and he certainly lived up to it today.

    I got stuck after about a half dozen answers, and had a cheat peek at 1d, and then was able to do almost the rest.

    I was thinking of what happens in the night for 1d – indegestion, sleeplessness etc – if only I had thought morning!

  14. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Mhl
    The OED is possibly correct. I have just revisited the source of my information which gives “Hometown – Frauenfeld, Switzerland” which I interpreted as his birthplace. Not that it matters, either way he wasn’t French.

  15. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog. I found this really hard and gave up halfway thru. I got GAMEKEEPER, but scribbled it out because I couldn’t see why. I also got the drinks theme and the two long ones, but just wasn’t on the setter’s wavelength today. Oh well.

  16. mhl says:

    Maybe it’s part of Martinican = “old French”, the variant of French spoken in Martinique?

  17. mhl says:

    Sorry, Martinican means “of Martinique” or someone from Martinique, rather than the language. Still, I think it might be something along those lines.

  18. Chris says:

    Re: 10 across – it’s spelled “nana”, not “nanna”, surely? Is the latter version an acceptable variant in any dictionary? It’s certainly not the standard spelling.

  19. mhl says:

    Chris: “nanna” for grandmother is in Chambers as well as “nana” (in the entry for “nanny”)

  20. Derek Lazenby says:

    What’s going on here? Some say this was a waste of time, others that it was hard?? I wouldn’t go as far as too easy, but maybe “not difficult”. So I guess that would be too easy for some of you. Hopefully, our newer posters (the gee I finshed a Rufus mob from a few weeks ago) will have taken more encouragement. I think it is better to take that positive view.

    Re 19, The clue is being moderately literal, as the keepers organise the beaters and can therefore be viewed as “causing”.

    Re 25, I know we seem to cover somewhat diverse bits of general knowledge so I ought to be able to help, but this one baffles me too. I only solved it with the checks and the reference in 23.

  21. Arthur says:

    I found this pretty tough and not particularly rewarding (Derek, if you look back, nobody claims it was easy with quite a few claiming it to be hard, but I’m not certain what you were saying in your 1st paragraph so it may be that we agree).

    I think that perhaps “drinks” is a bit wide a topic for a theme meaning we ended up with brand names, varieties and generic terms all together and it all felt a bit messy to me. Not a patch on last week’s Popes one imho.

    I was unsure about Martini but assumed it must come from Martini(que) somewhere. The only clue I really liked was Plant Pot, and that was very easy, but from then on it was just a slog really,

    I was unsure

  22. Arthur says:

    sorry – not sure where that final line appeared from…

  23. Colin says:

    25a Maybe it’s in reference to the cocktail 2French Martini”

  24. Derek Lazenby says:

    Arthur, maybe I was misreading post 1, but when Ian P says waste of time he usually means too easy. I realise, now you come to mention it, that this could be the odd one out.

    I know what you mean about slog, I find myself doing it all too often, but for some reason that I can’t possibly explain, my usual “lack of recall of things that I know” was asleep, so I saw 1d fairly early and as Dave says, once you have that the rest is less problematical.

    I guess some city based solvers might have prefered a full reference to “The Glorious 12th”, but out here in the sticks it was always going to be a solving option.

    The final sentence came from the spirit world, LOL.

  25. Hughie says:

    I’m not sure whether I am one of the “mob” referred to here!* I do remember posting that I’d managed to finish my first cryptic crossword a few weeks back (I think it was a Gordius though). Anyway, I found this one quite tough. I only got half a dozen or so before I used the cheat facility and then got a few more.

    *Maybe I should keep my head down and just read the site until I’m a bone fide expert!

  26. Derek Lazenby says:

    Hughie, don’t you dare, you stay right where you are posting away.

  27. Tom Hutton says:

    I think mhl’s explanation of 3dn is wonderful but I think using abbreviations of Old Testament books is a bit dubious. One of those clues where the setter has used a word for a theme and then struggled to get a decent clue out of it perhaps. I wasn’t too happy with 5dn or 20dn either. A strange mixture of a crossword with some entertaining clues like 19ac and 14ac and some that were just plain dull or obscure like Australian slang or madges.

  28. JimboNWUK says:

    Hmmm a bit of a curate’s egg here…
    I thought 8D VERY clever due to 9 being “one over the eight” as well as a “hosteller” although my lecky dictionary said that 9AC was someone who stayed at a hostel rather than ran one (should have been hostel*I*er IMHO)
    Also 14AC was a good ‘un being almost a DD as well as a super-cryptic…
    Wasn’t too keen on 12AC having no overall clue other than the back-reference from 23DN though.
    21D, no chance without being Googled up.

  29. sidey says:

    A slight aside, The Temperance Seven ( ) were possibly so-called because the nine members were 8down.

  30. Derek Lazenby says:

    Nice one Sidey!

    Well this is spooky, although I guess it had to happen just by the law of averages, but the class dummy (me) seems to be the only one to have enjoyed this one. Oh well, that’s life I suppose.

  31. mhl says:

    Derek Lazenby: “tough” doesn’t imply “not enjoyable” :)

  32. Ian P says:

    My comments here are normally terse for time reasons, but Derek’s made a perfectly assumption about what I meant by “waste of time”, i.e. too easy. He’s right, I thought it was fairly trivial (don’t lose heart, neophytes, I’m very experienced) but that beyond that I didn’t think it was worth the effort no matter how difficult you found it. I’d have thought anyone, tyro or top solver, who bothered to finish it would just look at it, shrug and throw the paper to one side.

    Obviously this wasn’t a universally held view!

  33. William says:

    Top blog, many thanks. When I stopped being too fussy I finished this but thought it all a bit sloppy.
    18d BIBLICAL is an adjective but is clued by a noun.
    23d simply does not parse properly however one reads it, neither does 8d.
    17a SHERBET the anagram is fine but why Sheila’s? Beer in Oz is definitely not a female preserve.
    13a RYES why is Romeo = R?
    27a PARAGRAPH why news item? There may be a paragraph in a news item but it can’t be a definition.

    This sort of puzzle is why I abandoned The Telegraph. Moan, moan.

  34. Shirley says:

    25 Ac Could the Martini be the French composer who wrote Plasir d’amour? Could this be the French piece? I know he was born in Germany but he lived all his life in France.

  35. Eileen says:

    JimboNWUK: there is a definition for 12ac, as mhl explained in the blog: it’s ‘It’ – quite clever, I thought.
    I would have agreed with you about HOSTELLER but Chambers does have ‘the keeper of a hostel’ before ‘a person who lives in or uses a hostel’.
    Slightly off-topic but we’re all here because we’re interested in the use of words, aren’t we? –
    Re ‘curate’s egg’, defined by Chambers as ‘anything of which some parts are excellent and some parts are bad’, which, I’m pretty sure, is what you meant. However, this makes nonsense of the Punch cartoon whence the expression came. [I heard a discussion of this on the radio just the other day.] Courtesy of Google:

    “A curate’s egg:
    Something bad that is called good out of politeness or timidity’
    The origin of the phrase is the George du Maurier cartoon “True Humility”, printed in the British satirical magazine Punch, on 9th November 1895. The cartoon gives fuller insight into its meaning, which relies to some extent on an appreciation of irony.

    Right Reverend Host. “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad Egg, Mr. Jones!”
    The Curate. “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellect!”

    Clearly an egg which was partly bad would be entirely unpalatable. The curate, being too timid to complain to his host, looked for something positive to say in reply. That inital meaning of the phrase, to describe something which was partly good but which was ruined by its bad part, is now rather lost. That’s not a situation that occurs very often. It’s now more often used just to describe something that is partly good and partly bad.”

    William:18dn: the definition is ‘as prescribed in the good book’, which does work.
    17ac needs Sheila’s [rather than Bruce’s] beer to make sense of the anagram ‘her best].
    13ac: Romeo = R in the NATO phonetic alphabet.
    I agree with you re PARAGRAPH.

  36. Ralph G says:

    Re MARTINI 35 above. Nice try Shirley. I suppose Martini, born Johann Schwarzendorf in Freistadt 1741 is as much French as Georg Friedrich Händel is English, but he is a composer, not a ‘piece’.
    13a RYES. #33 above. I didn’t like this clue but Romeo = R in the Alpha Bravo series of letter identifications and mhl produced a justification of YES that I hadn’t seen.
    Otherwise, William, I agree with your general feeling toward this puzzle.

  37. dagnabit says:

    Thanks very much for the blog, mhl. 3d eluded me completely. And I would never have gotten 8d without recalling the lyrics to the Elvis Costello song “From a Whisper to a Scream”: “The one over the eight seems less like one and more like four.”

    William and Eileen, the second definition of “paragraph” in the online Chambers is “a short report in a newspaper.”

    Eileen, thank you for the discussion of a curate’s egg.

    Hughie, I agree with Derek: please keep posting!

    My niggling question for today: In 14ac, why is it “It’s mark” rather than “It’s a mark” or “It’s the mark”?

  38. Arthur says:

    I think the reason for dropping the a is that it is the mark belonging to the “it” at the start of the clue (this being about the only time that “it’s mark” can mean the mark belonging to it since it refers to the abstract concept of the word it, rather than something else). Otherwise it’s just a straight cryptic definition.

  39. dagnabit says:

    Arthur, that’s brilliant! Thank you so much.

  40. Mike D says:

    First time posting – I’ve just been told about this site. Also probably the first time I’ve actually finished Rover – it took me three sittings (breakfast, lunch and tea) and what started out really hard suddenly made all came at once.

    May I make one comment? @Dagnabit: surely 14ac “It’s mark” means just what it says – the mark that is in the word “It’s” – the apostrophe.

    I’ll be back!

  41. Mike D says:

    Sorry, Arthur got there first :-)

  42. dagnabit says:

    Thanks, Mike D – better late than never. :) Welcome, and I’m very glad you’ll be back!

  43. Will says:

    Well, I found this tough. In the end I didn’t persist with _E_E_ on the grounds that there are millions of books in the bible and probably millions of Spanish wines that fit too, although in the end I did know of Jerez.

  44. Brr says:

    As a member of the “gee I finished a Rufus mob” (se #20 above), I can confirm that I took encouragement from today’s offering. Two thirds done, which is good for me.

    As for belonging to a mob … should I feel proud, or slightly offended?

  45. sidey says:

    I have a feeling the apostrophe clue will become a bit of a classic.

  46. Matthew says:

    I think that Ez. is the abbreviation for Ezra and Ezek. is the abbreviation for Ezekiel.

  47. Neil says:

    Is anybody else still up? Derek?
    Well, I absolutelyI breezed through this in about 6 hours (with a few brief distracting breaks for this and that). Except for (3d) JEREZ, which i ‘whispered’ into the margin but didn’t enter boldly in firm ball-point pen because (despite my early years Sunday School, before I anticipated Richard Dawkins) I didn’t see the whole reason why. I agree with so many of you who found it rather unsatisfactorilly ‘curate’s eggy’ (great classic Punch cartoon). A bit clumsy here and there I thought. I confidently and firmly ball-pointed 25a (MARTINI) but, given the discussion above, might it be relevant that a French Martini is gin and Noilly Prat??? Can’t see why it might be relevant. Given the late time of my comment here, and 8d, you’re all my best friends, you are – but especially Eileen, whose beautifully balanced comments are to be much appreciated.

  48. Derek Lazenby says:

    Neil, still up but about to vanish, was busy programming for my preserved railway so wasn’t keeping too close an eye here.

    Just wanted to say to Brr, you should see what I get called! Mob was meant nicely, reverse logic is a bad habit of mine. I’d be proud if I were you. It’s only a few months back that I graduated to solving the easier ones with any regularity, and the harder ones occassionally, so I remember what it feels like to get a rare one done.

    If I can improve at bus pass age so can anyone!

    Now it really is bed time.

  49. Bryan says:

    I really enjoyed this even though I failed to get 3d JEREZ and 20d MADGES.

    As I know very little about Wines and virtually nothing about Madonna, I didn’t kick myself after I cheated – I was just very pleased that I did.

    For 25a, I thought at first that it could have been CENTIME but, as soon as I had got 8d, I realised I was on the wrong track. After getting 23d and having sensed the drinks theme, MARTINI just clicked, although I had always assumed that it was an Italian drink. Maybe it is?

    I have only recently discovered this Site and, previously, I was left to wonder what the Setter had been getting at. Now, all is explained!

    Thanks to all you guys and dolls.


  50. William says:

    Eileen: Thanks for the curate’s egg thing – most interesting.

    I accept R=ROMEO (idiot) and if Dagnabit says there is such a definition of PARAGRAPH i must accept it, but I’m still not happy with something prescribed in the Good Book being BIBLICAL. That’s like describing an ingredient found in cheese as cheesy.

    And another thing, just because the anagram needs ‘Sheila’ doesn’t justify it. Hey-ho, rant over, still love ’em.

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