Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,719 (Sat 6 Jun)/Biggles – Johns’ own

Posted by rightback on June 13th, 2009


Solving time: 16 mins

A rare appearance for Biggles, and possibly a first in the lifetime of this blog. I believe this pseudonym is a conglomeration of the four setters that feature in anagrams in this puzzle (Paul, Enigmatist, Shed and Araucaria), each of whose Christian names is ‘John’, hence ‘Biggles’ from the books by W.E. Johns (‘we Johns’). Who set which clues I couldn’t possibly guess, although the styles of the four ‘personalised’ clues (asterisked below) makes me think that each may have set his ‘own’ clue.

I found this an enjoyable and not too difficult solve, although there were some tricky words and wordplays (4dn (EDICTAL), 28ac (FRONTON), 29ac (STOPGAP), 21dn (ANOSMIA)) that slowed me towards the end.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

* 5,18 MASSAGE PARLOUR; (ORGASMS ARE + PAUL)* – outrageous surface reading, straight out of Private Eye.
* 10,2,27 RACE AGAINST TIME; RACE (= ‘nation’), + A (= ‘one’) in (ENIGMATIST)*
11 ICE DANCING (cryptic definition) – lovely clue based on ‘trip’ = ‘dance’, as in ‘trip the light fantastic’.
13 TRUANTRY; R[ugby] U[nion] inside (T + AN + TRY)
14 OTHER LIFE; (F[awlty] + HOTELIER)*
16 TABLE (2 defs)
17 SPOUT; ‘SP’ OUT – because if you take ‘SP’ out of ‘vessel’s lip’ you get ‘vesel’s li’. Not sure this clue really makes sense but the intention is clear.
19 SCALLYWAG; (GAY + L + CLAWS)* – I wonder if the writer of this clue had anyone in particular in mind?
23 BREAKOUT; (BREAK)* = BAKER – wordplay in the answer.
* 24,1 SHADOW CABINET; (ABACI + SHED WON’T)* – ‘6’ is ABACUS so ‘6s’ is ABACI; very devious, but the answer was very guessable from the rest of the clue.
26 MOBILE HOME (cryptic definition) – another good clue.
28 FRONTON; rev. of ‘not norf’ – very clever wordplay. I can’t remember coming across this word before but dictionaries suggest both ‘fronton’ and ‘pediment’ are architectural terms meaning something like this.
29 STOPGAP; (TOP G) in SAP – I found this a hard definition, especially with only two crossing letters (21dn was my last entry) but eventually stumbled across the wordplay.
3 IRENE (hidden backwards)
4 EDICTAL; rev. of C.I.D. in LATE – I don’t see how ‘repeal’ can mean ‘reversed’ in a literal sense, especially in a down clue. The very subtle definition (‘of decree’) meant that I struggled to break this clue down and nearly took a guess at ’emittal’.
6 ABACUS; A BACS around U[nion] – I couldn’t have told you what ‘BACS’ stood for (Bankers’ Automated Clearing Service – though the apostrophe is curiously absent from Chambers’ definition).
* 8,9, 7,15 GENERAL CERTIFICATE OF SECONDARY EDUCATION; (ARAUCARIA’S GOLDEN EFFICIENCY DETECTOR: ETON)* – a characteristically whopping anagram with a surface which I suppose makes a kind of sense! I think ‘result’ is the rather unsatisfactory anagram indicator.
21 ANOSMIA; A + NOS[e] + (I AM)* – I think this is intended as an &lit (i.e. the whole clue is both the definition and the wordplay) although it’s a bit dubious because with anosmia it’s the sense of smell that’s at fault, not the condition that causes it. Anyway, I didn’t know the word so spent quite a while looking for alternative readings of the wordplay and synonyms for ‘nose’, but luckily ‘conk’ was the best I could find and ‘aconmia’ looked very unlikely.
25 ACT UP; A/C (= ‘Bill’) + TUP (= a ram, hence ‘Rammell’s beginning) – Bill Rammell is a Labour M.P. who seems to have survived the expenses scandal relatively untainted.

8 Responses to “Guardian 24,719 (Sat 6 Jun)/Biggles – Johns’ own”

  1. Biggles A says:

    No relation!

    4d. I suppose the use of ‘repeal’ in its (obs)sense of ‘to call or summon back’ is OK.

    Thanks rightback for your explanations. The BACS abbreviation eluded me.

  2. liz says:

    Thanks Rightback. You must be right about the multiple identity of Biggles — 5,18 is Paul at his naughtiest and 8, 9, 7, 15 is a typically heroic Araucaria anagram! I think I’ve seen General Certificate of Secondary Education clued as an anagram before — the answer came to me quite quickly, fortunately.

    ANOSMIA and EDICTAL took a little working out. But the one that really stumped me for a long time was TABLE. A real ‘duh’ moment when I finally saw it.

    FRONTON was my favourite. I also liked 23ac.

    It would be fun to guess which setter set which clue…

  3. Dave Ellison says:

    I took ages to get going. The very long clues were a barrier, as I couldn’t get many useful letters from the other clues. I kept coming back to it, and finally cracked it on Sunday.

    We have had the GCSE one before, not too long ago – a thoroughly unexciting phrase, with a clue to go with it – who uses the anagram fodder to help get the answer with such a long one? The setter might as well write “This is an anagram, and here’s the vague definition”.

    How did you fare in the LAMM, rightback?

  4. Gareth Rees says:

    This was delightful, especially the appearance of each setter in a clue suggestive of his own distinctive style.

  5. mhl says:

    Thanks for the post, rightback. We found this pretty easy apart from EDICTAL and FRONTON…

    In case people want to do previous crosswords by the Biggles collective, you can find them here:


    Chifonie is a John as well, but I’m not sure if he’s ever been one of the (W. E.) Johns before…

  6. muck says:

    Thanks for the excellent blog, Rightback.
    And for explaining Biggles identity/ies.
    It wasn’t easy and there were some obscure answers.
    ANOSMIA was the one I puzzled most over, but it does work as an &lit.
    FRONTON was brilliant.

  7. rightback says:

    Thanks for the comments, and especially to mhl for the Biggles links.

    Dave – the LAMM was fun & Kintail is an awesome area but unfortunately my running partner has a dodgy knee which flared up badly so we weren’t competitive. I intend the OMM to go very much better!!

  8. Biggles A says:

    If it hasn’t already been noticed there are errors/omissions in the webpage clues (C and V) for this week’s Araucaria puzzle. The PDF version is correct.

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