Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,788 – Enigmatist

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on August 26th, 2009

Ciaran McNulty.

OK I have to admit defeat today – I really enjoyed the novelty of the elaborately long down clues but ended up unable to explain 16ac or completely nail 7dn.


12. ORAL. (past)ORAL. His 6th Symphony.
16. INANITY. No idea on this one I’m afraid…
19. LAST. Is this a quadruple definition? LAST = most unlikely = model (for making shoes) = endure = weight (of gunpowder).
20. CITY HALL. C(I(t)T(he)Y(oung)H(ere))ALL.  ‘can stay’ just seems to disappear.
22. TO A MAN. TO AM(m)AN.
23. TAHITI. Principal of the Society islands.


3. IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. c.d. but not really what Immaculate Conception means.
7. INDECENT ASSAULT. Nearly there with IN + DEC (NET* AS) but can’t get SAULT to work.
17. TOOLMAN. TOO(L + M.A.)N. ‘Toon’ being NE slang for town.

45 Responses to “Guardian 24,788 – Enigmatist”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks Ciaran – definitely one of the hardest puzzles for while.

    I think 7 dn is (NET* AS S.A.) in (“stopping”) IN DEC ULT, with DEC and ULT being two (“dual”) versions of “last month”. Can’t help with INANITY.

  2. Gaufrid says:

    In 20a I think ‘the young can stay here initially’ gives YH (youth hostel) so you have IT YH in CALL.

    I believe 7d is IN DEC (last month) *(NET) AS SA (it) ULT (last month), the two ‘last months’ being indicated by ‘dual’.

  3. Colin Blackburn says:

    I think INANITY is IN UNITY with a vowel changed.

  4. Colin Blackburn says:

    Slight (though important to someone living in the north east of England) correction for toon (in TOOLMAN). Toon is a dialect word for town rather than slang.

  5. Eccles45 says:

    re 7d last month dual — 2 versions of last month – dec ult ?

    This was a BRUTE


  6. liz says:

    Thanks, Ciaran, and to the others for the explanations. This was tough! I liked 2, 21 very much.

    I had to check TAHITI but didn’t see why it was correct until I read the blog. Immaculate conception refers to Mary being a virgin mother — conceiving a child with God but no human father.

    MOBILE HOME was the last one I got.

  7. Bryan says:

    This also beat me.

    I’ve never heard of 17d TOOLMAN nor 23a TAHITI but I suppose that they are in Chambers and/or Collins.

    However, I am prepared to bet that 5/6d aren’t in there collectively. I’d never heard of this title and I was so glad that I cheated.

    Many thanks Ciaran.

  8. JamieC says:

    Thanks for the blog. This was very tough.

    This is probably a stupid question, but why is SA “it”?

  9. Eccles45 says:

    As Ciaran said, ‘immaculate conception’ does not mean what enigmatist implies it does. It refers to the conception of Mary herself – immaculate = without sin

  10. Ciaran McNulty says:

    Eccles45 – quite, but I suppose common usage has it the other way.

    Thanks to Andrew and Gaufrid for the explanations of ‘ult’.

  11. Polecat says:

    Hi Ciaran
    Thanks for the blog.

    16Ac In unity (In one) with a vowel change: u to a.
    Chambers gives vocal = of or pertaining to a vowel.

    07Dn NET* + AS + SA(Sex Appeal = IT) all stopped (plugged)
    inside ‘in the last month’, two ways: IN DEC and ULT

  12. smutchin says:

    Glad everyone else is saying this was tough – it wasn’t just me being dense…

    I’m starting to quite like Enigmatist, though. A few today made me smile (and some made me groan).

  13. Derek Lazenby says:

    Got about half way. Sigh. But just shows how different we all are, liz finished on MOBILE HOME but it was one I found easy, whereas she got all the ones I missed.

  14. Andrew says:

    JamieC – SA (Sex Appeal) = IT is one of those rather dated usages that you only see in crosswords these days; rather like CON = “study” and “GEN” = information. In fact I think all of these were pretty much crossword-only-isms when I started solving cryptics in the mid-to-late 1960s, but they’re obviously so useful to setters that they have become fossilised.

  15. Tom Hutton says:

    Surely 12ac should be piece of piece of Beethoven because as far as I know it’s called the Pastoral Symphony not the Pastoral.

    This was needlessly obscure for a weekday crossword as well as vaguely clued in parts. (See discussions above which should not be needed if the clueing is clear)

    Too many anagrams and not enough fun.

  16. John says:

    The setter’s spelling of UNFOCUSED is plain wrong, and that of ASSEGAI obscure.
    Never heard of a TOOLMAN.
    “Across” is iffy for an inclusion indicator in 8 ac.
    There are too many “i”s in the clue for 2,21. (Ciaran, you’ve given it an extra “c” in your answer).
    And while “elaborately long” solutions may be a novelty, their construction is not really a satisfying test of cryptic crossword skills.
    This puzzle doesn’t change my dim view of this particular setter, which is neatly summed up by 13 across.

  17. liz says:

    Sorry, Ciaran re 3dn. I read the blog too hastily. After googling immaculate conception, I see I have misunderstood this all these years! What you learn in crosswords!

  18. radchenko says:

    Misery likes company… sorry in one respect that so many others struggled too, but I’m relieved it wasn’t just me.

    Thanks Ciaran for the blog, there were some I could not work out even with the answer.

    @13 Derek, just the same: MOBILE HOME was first one I got; got about half way quite quickly, then hit a brick wall. Just could not get 1 and 2 (or 7) and in a grid like this it leaves very little to work with.

  19. The trafites says:

    I enjoyed this. 1ac ‘traveller in suit’ would be a great clue for astronaut I thought – then 5 minutes later I got SPACEMAN – Duh!

    I too didn’t have a clue about 16ac word play, and 19ac was an iffy guess.


  20. Chunter says:

    UNFOCUSSED is in both Chambers and the OED.

    2,21dn: both the answer and the anagram fodder have 3 ‘i’s.

  21. Colin Blackburn says:

    Re #16. It’s Symphony No. 6 in F major but subtitled the “Pastoral”. It’s often referred to as simply the Pastoral. It’s not officially called the Pastoral Symphony.

  22. John says:

    Chunter: Yes, I do appear to have miscounted my esses in 2, 21.
    On the other point, like some others among 15sq bloggers, I get a bit irritated by people quoting Collins, Chambers, OED or any other dictionary to support the spelling of English. Dictionaries are about language usage, not orthography, and contain alternative (not necessarily correct) versions of words. Increasingly, errors creep into common use and thus into dictionaries compiled/edited by people who see Americanisms so often they assume they are correct English.
    I give you Hart’s Rules (which of course is talking about UK spellings, which is where the Guardian is published, and I at least live), on the subject of the doubling up of vowels when forming tenses and participles.

    Words of more than one syllable
    Those that end with one consonant preceded by one vowel double the consonant on adding -ed, -ing, or -er if the last syllable is stressed (but not if the consonant is w, x, or y): e.g. allot allotted allotting

    But words of this class not stressed on the last syllable do not double the last consonant (Exceptions are in- and outputting; worshipped, -ing, -er; and words ending with l.)

    I don’t know how to highlight words in 15 sq but note “not stressed on the last syllable”. This means that focus, along with bias – the other usually misspelt case -, and another example chorus, takes a single “s” in its past tense and present participle forms.

  23. Derek Lazenby says:

    OMG! There is someone out there who gets the point that dictionaries are not infallible. And explained better than I ever managed, thank you John.

    I would have mentioned UNFOCUSED myself, but I just got tired of unthinking referals. A reasoned explanation is so much more informative.

  24. cholecyst says:

    Despite running the risk of being accussed of being biased, I think we would get on better if we focused on the fact that modern dictionaries are now descriptive, not prescriptive. If enough people “misspell” a word, that spellin becomes the norm. That’s how adder (the snake) and apron drove out nadder and napron .

  25. enitharmon says:

    As a physics teacher many years ago (but I’m better now) I strove to eradicate the extra S in ‘focused’. I believe in those days it was accepted as just plain wrong, and I despair of dictionaries giving up and accepting the abuses of the illiterate with the cry of ‘language must evolve!’ As an aside, I finished Val McDermid’s latest this afternoon and despaired at noting that ‘CSI’ seems to have displaced ‘SOCO’ in British crime fiction. Another breach in the dyke…

    I raised an eyebrow at ‘assagai’ too.

    A toughie, despite being pleased to get 2dn at first glance! In the end I put in INANITY without knowing why, just for the sake of being able to say I finished it. I’m glad I was right!

  26. Pasquale says:

    Why the fuss over FOCUSED? We were using that spelling frm our style manual in the editotial offices of The Institute of Physics 35 years ago and it was recognised in dictionaries even then. My latest COD gives -SS nad -S, by the way.

  27. Eccles45 says:

    John, thanks for the explanation.

    It does annoy quite a few folk when sloppy English is allowed on the grounds that it is “the norm”. Am I the only one who gets annoyed at ‘different to’ ?

    Is it a generational matter. IOW, am I just being a miserable old crone ? My sons laugh at my habit of trying to punctuate text messages.


  28. Chris says:

    Dictionaries aren’t infallible but Hart’s rules apparently are, then?

    Anyway, the point about dictionaries that always seems to be missed by those who knock them is that they act as a necessary arbiter. There are, as can be seen, always going to be disputes over whether a certain spelling or usage is acceptable in a crossword.

    Given that these disputes will always occur, it seems to me there are two approaches possible:

    1. Decide that, because no single source is infallible, and it’s therefore very difficult to decide who, if anyone, is right on any particular matter, we will have a free for all where any rules or spellings go, as long as someone somewehre can back it up.

    2. Decide that one particular (and generally reliable, if not infallible) source will be used as the arbiter in disputes, thus ensuring that everyone knows clearly what the rules are. If you don’t always agree with the arbiter – well that’s pretty much the nature of arbiters – they won’t please all the people all the time. But by having one arbiter everyone can be abolsutely sure what words and usages are allowed.

    I think the latter approach is quite clearly and obviously superior, and I don’t think occasionally being able to say “look over here! Chambers has said something which I can make a case against/Chamber is being inconsistent!” detracts from that.

  29. cholecyst says:

    Chris: Your approach – Decide that one particular (and generally reliable, if not infallible) source will be used as the arbiter in disputes – is sensible. But that would limit the range of possible solutions and hence clues to just those words in the chosen arbiter. This would exclude most proper names, neologisms etc etc. If you can arrive at the setter’s view of the correct answer,even if you know it is wrong (e.g the def of immaculate conception) just give a superior smile and glow inwardly in the knowledge that you are cleverer than(s)he is.

  30. IanN14 says:

    I don’t think Chris was for a second implying any words not in a dictionary (such as names) could not be used.
    Just that in the case of disputes there should be an agreed, reliable (if not infallible) arbiter.
    I thought his/her comments were a victory for common sense.

    If we didn’t have any rules, where would we be? Anarchy, that’s where…

  31. John says:

    Sorry Pas. What’s a COD?

  32. Bryan says:


    A COD is a fish.

    I thought everybody knew that!

  33. Non Whinger says:

    The use of double ess goes back to the late eighteenth century at least. Please stop being silly.

  34. Paul B says:

    To be fair to the compiler – who was always going to encounter certain obstacles in trying to fit so many long entries into the down clues – the spellings selected for dispute above each appear in both Chambers and Collins, the two (main) sources for Guardian (and other) crossword setters, as alternatives to their more familiar counterparts.

    I don’t think there are grounds for complaint on that score, although if anyone were to say that, in their view, the puzzle suffers from such inclusions (as necessitated by the grid-set), that would be a different and potentially more interesting discussion. Not that one could expect anything too straightforward from an offering by Enigmatist.

  35. Mark Hanley says:

    Agree with a lot of the above, this was tough for me, completed only about half the puzzle at work today.
    I’m with John concerning 8ac, i was looking to get span in an anagram of came, although the solution from the definition is pretty obvious, the wordplay for me is very misleading.

  36. IanN14 says:

    John @ comment 22.
    I’m sure Hart’s Rules is very interesting, but how many of us has a copy knocking about at home?
    Perhaps we should all get one so we can complain when an answer which appears in Chambers can be seen as contentious?
    I’m by no means classically educated, but I can spell reasonably well. If I’m in any doubt I’ll probably consult a dictionary and trust (maybe wrongly) what it says. (I’d never trust a computer spellchecker, though).

    And comment 31.
    Pas? PAS?
    I’m assuming you’re referring to Pasquale, who (again I’m assuming) is the Guardian (and, under different guises, Indy, etc) setter Don Manley, a doyen of the crossword world?
    Pas, indeed…

  37. nmsindy says:

    If you see a COD floating in the water, it may have short-term nutritional value, but could also be a very useful Concise Oxford Dictionary.

    Must admit that in real life that’s a spelling I’ve had to check a few times to see which is correct and have found both are.

    In our pursuit of crosswords, I think we have to take dicts as they are as our source and an agreed reference point.

  38. tuck says:

    I just think that is compiler is getting just a bit too puffed up clever and hence rather boring

  39. gerardus says:

    In seems that we have two cases of infallibility in this crossword, the doctrine of the immaculate conception, proclaimed by Pius IX in 1854, and the prescripts of Hart, who declares that focussed must be spelt focused. I think as crossword solvers we are entitled to challenge either ruling.

  40. mhl says:

    Thanks for the post, Ciaran.

    This was certainly difficult (we didn’t quite finish it) but some marvellous cluing – I certainly laughed when I got ACETYLSALICYLIC ACID and the EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES clue is quite excellent, with the allusion to the Panda joke in the surface reading. Great stuff from Enigmatist.

  41. mark says:

    I’m with the majority; didn’t enjoy or finish this.

    I didn’t get, but did admire, 5,6D. Witty and elegant. An exception though today.

  42. Bryan says:

    Let us just be thankful that there were no printer’s errors to contend with.

    Today’s PDF is also OK but one of the Cheat Mode answers is wrong!

  43. John says:

    If Pasquale can shorten Concise Oxford Dictionary I feel I can shorten him.

  44. Brian Harris says:

    Wasn’t feeling the love for this, I’m afraid. Didn’t really enjoy it at all, and found many of the clues awkward and inelegant. 5/6down was an exception.

  45. Gareth Rees says:

    Every time the dictionary discussion recurs on, people make the same, entirely reasonable, points:

    1. Dictionaries attempt to describe a wide range of usage, so inevitably include spellings and meanings that some people believe are wrong.

    2. There are no universally accepted authorities on English spelling or usage.

    3. Nonetheless, in order for crossword puzzles to be fair, there needs to be a commonly accepted arbiter for disputes. It’s important that such an arbiter be easily obtainable. It’s important that most people agree with most of its judgments. (Since people have different opinions on spelling and usage, it’s impossible for everyone to agree with all of its judgments.)

    4. Dictionaries are the best arbiters we have.

    It seems to me that if you don’t like the fact that wrong spellings and meanings turn up in crosswords, you need to find another reference work that crosswords can use for arbitration that is more to your liking, and lobby crossword composers and editors to drop Chambers/Collins/COED in favour of your preferred reference.

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