Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,800 (Crucible)

Posted by diagacht on September 9th, 2009


A themed puzzle with one clue still puzzling me (3D)

1 BLIXEN: BLIX (Dr Hans Blix of WMD fame) + EN (directions); Karen Blixen, author, 1885-1992
4 MIX-UPS: homophone for MICK SUPS
9,15,25 NINE NINE NINE: double definition
10 TRANSFIXED: TRA(i)N’S FIXED (except one)
11 MAXIXE: MA (nearly MAY) + XIX (19) + E (opening of EXOTIC)
12 ONE IN SIX: sort of anagram of O-NINES (small change in 27) + IX (9)
13 ADMIXTURE: ADMIRE about XTU (anagram of TUX)
16 CATS: … with nine lives and nine appears many times in answers
17 MIXER TAPS: MIX (Tom Mix, actor in Westerns, 1880-1940) + anagram of (d)EPARTS (in a huff without starting)
21 PIXIE HAT: P (PROGRAMME begins) + anagram of EXHIBIT A (without B, BEACHY HEAD)
22 PIXELS: homophone for PICKS ELS (Ernie Els, golfer)
24 STRIX VARIA: S (second) + anagram of AVIATRIX around R (river); it’s an owl
26 as in NINETY-NINE ice cream cone
27 O-NINES: O (old) + NINES
1 BRIGAND: RIG (equipment) in BAND (gang)
2 ICINI: E (Spain) in ICNI (pICNIc)
7 STERILE: ER in STILE (few steps)
16 CLINTON: CL (Sri Lanka) + INTO (keen) + N (Norway); refers to Hillary Clinton
18 EXPLAIN: EX (former) + anagram of PALIN (Sarah, as in)
19 PALINGS: PALIN (again) + GS (last letters of goinG nutS)
20 SHEVAT: S (last letter of ISRAELIS) + anagram of HAVE + T (time)
23 XENON: NONE X (all reversed?)

47 Responses to “Guardian 24,800 (Crucible)”

  1. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Diagacht

    I began by not envying you this one but it turned out to be lots of fun. I got 9,15,25 first and thought it was one of the easiest cryptic clues I’d ever seen and a great opportunity missed [and couldn’t believe, when I ‘cheated’ for MAXIXE and STRIX VARIA, that there were ‘special instructions’ in the online version – not in the paper – to lead to it] – but it got much better. I loved so many clues but particularly 4, 10, 12, 21 ac and 2,3,5 dn – lots of great surfaces.

    3dn is ENTRECHAT [minus CH[ild]

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Diagacht

    3d ENTRE{CH)AT

    Is a Ballet Step minus a Child

  3. Bryan says:

    Snap, Eileen, it’s very hard to beat you but I very nearly made it.

  4. Bryan says:


    2d should, of course, be ICENI.

  5. Eileen says:

    Sorry, Bryan: I had to be up early this morning – I’m going out!

    Although I didn’t know MAXIXE or STRIX VARIA [the latter not in any of my dictionaries] they were both flawlessly clued and therefore perfectly fair but they both looked so unlikely that I resorted to cheating!

    [I’m sure we used to call them ‘pixie hoods’.]

  6. Chunter says:

    Eileen – are you done up to the nines?

  7. Judith says:

    23rd I think this is the reverse of n = number (also no) + one + x

  8. diagacht says:

    Many thanks Eileen and Bryan for explanation of 3d – I would never have seen that.

  9. NeilW says:

    I thought this was very good with nearly all the across solutions including either “nine” or”IX’. (Shame about CATS.) The only other disappointment was that SHEVAT isn’t the ninth month of the Jewish calendar!

  10. IanN14 says:

    Neil, comment 9(!),
    At least “cats” was thematic…
    (Can anybody really “‘explain” 18d.? Persuaded?).

  11. Alan Browne says:

    Although I solved 8 down (LABOUR VICTORY) and appreciated the inventiveness of the clue as a whole, this compiler was, I’m afraid, as guilty as the compiler of another recent Guardian crossword of using incorrect Roman numerals. ’99’ is NOT ‘IC’ (it should be XCIX), just as ’49’ is NOT ‘IL’ (XLIX) – as used in the other crossword referred to.

    I shall now enjoy solving the rest of the grid!

  12. The trafites says:

    This was tough, and 24ac beat me – also I had ‘BAILEY’ as 1ac, as although I didn’t understand the clue, Google told me Karen Bailey is a war artist in Afghanistan, so I just thought it was some sort of dd. with bailey also = part of a castle (quarters).

    I thought ‘rick stein’ = ‘IN STE’ was brilliant, and 21ac wonderfully misleading.

    I also didn’t understand 3dn.


  13. Paul B says:

    I can’t remember what the rule about Roman numerals is, but there certainly is one! I think we should be told – by Alan? – but I think it’s that one may only use the subtractive principle at the fourth iteration, and not before (i.e. 90 can be CM, 400 can be CD, but 49 has to be XL+IX and not IL).

    An excellent puzzle for (as no-one’s mentioned it outright yet) 09/09/09.

  14. The trafites says:

    Actually, 5dn is missing!

    IN STEP (stein* + p)


  15. Paul B says:

    Just in case anyone’s interested, I’ve dug this out:

    Certain combinations employ a subtractive principle, which specifies that where a symbol of smaller value precedes a symbol of larger value, the smaller value is subtracted from the larger value, and the result is added to the total. For example, in MCMXLIV (1944), the symbols C, X and I each precede a symbol of higher value, and the result is interpreted as 1000 plus (1000 minus 100) plus (50 minus 10) plus (5 minus 1).

    A numeral for 10n (I, X, or C) may not precede a numeral larger than 10n+1, where n is an integer. That is, I may precede V and X, but not L or C; X may precede L or C, but not D or M. The numerals 5×10n (V, L, or D) may not be followed by a numeral of greater or equal value. Any symbol that appears more than once consecutively may not be followed by a symbol of larger value (ends).


  16. liz says:

    Thanks, Diagacht. I thought this was very cleverly constructed — too clever for me as I missed 1, 2, 11 and 24! (It might have helped if I’d spotted all the IX’s in the across clues as well as the NINEs.)

    Only niggle: can ‘persuaded’ be an anagram indicator? Otherwise I thought it was all very fair.

  17. Crucible says:

    I’m persuaded and will henceforth strike IC, IL etc. Thanks Paul.

  18. IanN14 says:

    Re comment 17:
    Does that mean you’ll henceforth be known as “cruel bic”?…

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi Chunter [Comment 6] Hardly- I was out on a hike round Bosworth battlefield!

    Re ‘persuaded': this was such an excellent puzzle that I really want this to work. I have persuaded myself that ‘persuade’ can mean to ‘bring [someone]round’ [not in Chambers!] to one’s way of thinking and also we sometimes have to persuade [manoeuvre] things into tricky spots – it’ll do for me, I think. There are many other, duller ways to clue EXPLAIN but it was so clever to have two consecutive clues referring to Sarah Palin, following on the Clinton one. I’ve been trying to think of alternatives. Would ‘forced’ be any better?

    I couldn’t remember having seen Crucible before [he’s not in the list of Guardian setters], so looked him up in the archive. He’s done one Guardian puzzle before – in May last year – on the theme of the World Snooker [!] Championships and appears as Radian in the Independent, where he’s done a number of clever themed puzzles.

    May we have more of him over this side, please?!

  20. IanN14 says:

    Hear, hear, Eileen.
    I didn’t know it was Radian.
    I am familiar with his work, most of it excellent.

  21. Alan Browne says:

    I must thank Paul B for going to the trouble of explaining the subtractive rule for Roman numerals – a topic I raised in my earlier submission today. The Wikipedia article on ‘Roman numerals’ gives a summary of the rule in tabular form.

    Alan Browne

  22. Uncle Yap says:

    If we can define the Thames as a flower, why can’t we say one from fifty = 49 = IL? This is cryptic crosswords where we are never totally following everything rigidly. Setters will continue representing IC as 99 and solvers will recognise it as such and life goes on …

  23. Phil Rose says:

    I don’t get the mutation of PALIN in EXPLAIN either. “Persuaded” to indicate promotion of the A or demotion of the L? It wouldn’t be an indirect anagram would it? Had to wiki-cheat on Tom Mix and that barred owl.

  24. Alan Browne says:

    Uncle Yap asks why we can’t say one from fifty = 49 = IL? I was a bit disappointed by his own answer to that question. Whether you judge clues by Ximinean or libertarian standards, ’49 = IL’ is just plain wrong and is not the same kind of thing as ‘flower = that which flows = river (or Thames)’, which needs no defending.

    I was especially pleased to see Crucible’s own response on this issue, which he submitted after reading Paul B’s excellent explanation.

    Alan Browne

  25. Shirley says:

    6D We’re probably being really stupid, but can anyone explain what a Union list is? Presumably a library catalogue but I can’t find it in Chambers.
    We thought this crossword was really hard with several “Saturday” words included for a weekday.

  26. Radler says:

    I’m not very sure where I stand on ‘IL’ now as I appreciate both Uncle Yap’s and Alan Browne’s comments, though on balance I would probably side with the former. It feels wrong that a (libertarian) clue for ‘IL’ could be “150” but not “49”, even though more solvers would understand the latter.

  27. Chris says:

    Great puzzle, very inventive and entertaining.

    My only quibble is with ‘strix varia’ – this is the Latin name of what we would normally call the Barred Owl. Is this allowed?

    It’s not even a commonly occurring British owl or anything – it’s exclusively found in North America. I’d bet the vast majority of people would struggle to name any Latin names for even the msot common of British birds, let alone species that you would never see here. It doesn’t seem that fair to me, no matter how clear the cryptic indication is.

  28. Mick H says:

    Re Phil’s comment at 23, I think 18dn is an indirect anagram, but becomes a direct one when you solve the following clue, and is therefore OK by me. As for ‘persuade’ being an anagram indicator, it the persuasion involved must be the kind pioneered by the original Ximenes, Torquemada etc!

  29. rrc says:

    for me the check and cheat buttons started far to early for my liking. I thought this one was exceptionally hard

  30. Chunter says:

    6dn: the OED has a definition for union list, “a union catalogue, esp. one giving details of periodical holdings in several libraries”, and , for union catalogue. ‘a catalogue of the combined holdings of several libraries’.

  31. sally says:

    What does o-nines mean? 27 across.

  32. Bryan says:

    In 27 above, Chris wrote regarding STRIX:

    ‘It’s not even a commonly occurring British owl or anything – it’s exclusively found in North America.’

    Or anything?

    STRIX is (or was) a British-made Text Retrieval System developed by the late Tony Kent, an ornithologist.

    I knew Tony and I’ve used STRIX.

    So, I hereby vouch for its validity.

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi Sally

    27ac: One way of writing today’s date is 09.09.09.

  34. Paul B says:

    Rememebering the theme, and how tricky it might be to find solutions containing IX, should help here in explaining the inclusion of a harder word or two. And there were indeed only two that I could see.

    ‘Today’ is all the 09s, or o-nines, defined by nine, nine & nine collectively.

  35. Boggle says:

    Sorry to break the general (though not universal) congratulatory tone … but I like a cryptic crossword that can be done with a bit of paper and a pen, rather than the internet. I sit at a computer all day as it is. And if I wanted a general knowledge quiz then there are plenty to be found elsewhere. So could I make a plea for fewer references to (more or less obscure) actors, writers and sportsmen, and not so much Hebrew, Portuguese and Latin? Make it enjoyable for those humble folk who can usually finish an Araucaria but don’t have an encyclopedia in their heads or on a screen. Thanks.

  36. Crucible says:

    Many thanks for all your comments, pro, con and somewhere in between. I always learn something from the feedback. Choosing this sort of theme invariably means some compromises, and I have to admit I was very lucky to get away with ‘union list’ (in my Chambers) and especially that b… owl. ‘Persuaded’ I have seen used like this before, but can’t quote verse or chapter. Here’s to the next one – 10/10/10?

  37. Eileen says:

    Crucible, as we always say, it’s so good when setters drop in with a contribution. Many thanks for a most enjoyable puzzle and, despite the long gap since your last appearance, I do hope we don’t really have to wait that long again!

  38. The trafites says:

    Crucible, what a great site this is, and to have ‘double feedback’ from setters to boot.

    10/10/10/ looks like binary to me…


  39. Chunter says:

    10/10/10 looks like a Sunday to me!

  40. Ian says:

    This was an extraordinarily inventive and difficult puzzle.

    After the 1a, 1d, 2d, 3d, 9a, 15a, 25a, 16d, 16a clues were solved in around 5 minutes, I thought I’d be going for a record!

    Maxixe and Union List had me for over 1 hour!

  41. radchenko says:

    Was 27ac, 27 being three nines “collectively”, deliberate?

    Even if not, a very clever puzzle.

  42. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I am not exactly sure what to think of this crossword.
    Some clues were extremely good, like 10ac and 5dn (brilliant use of ‘Rick’), some too contrived like 21ac, in which I am not sure if ‘programme begins’ is the best way to say ‘take the p’. (and why Exhibit & A starting with a capital?)
    And ‘admire’ (in 13ac) is ‘say nice things’?
    I can admire someone without saying anything.
    Even though Crucible (curious why he or she has chosen this pseudonym) said something about it, ‘persuaded’ (18dn) as an anagram indicator is not working for me.
    In 19dn it says ‘she’s going nuts finally’, and so we should take the last letters of both ‘going’ and ‘nuts’? I am not so sure.

    Re #7:
    I thought XENON was (indeed) N+ONE+X, but with N seen as short for No (so not Yes).

    There were certainly a lot of inventive and unique clues, which didn’t make me want to compare this setter to others. He’s (or she’s) got (a) style!
    And that’s a compliment (even if I am not sure if I like his/her style or not).

  43. smutchin says:

    I like “persuaded” as an anagram indicator – I like the idea of coaxing the letters to rearrange themselves (has an air of Lewis Carroll about it).

    And I’m ambivalent about IC for 99. Well, I don’t really like it, but I’ve seen it often enough in crosswords to be no longer bothered by it. It doesn’t seem fair to pick on a new-ish setter for adopting the bad examples set by old hands. Crucible, I’m impressed that you’ve publicly stated that you won’t use it any more now you know it’s wrong – you do realise you’ll be held to that by the fifteensquared mob?

    No one has a problem with 4a? Is it OK to use Mick and Paddy in that way? Doesn’t seem quite PC enough for the Guardian. I suppose, like IC, it’s one of those things that’s acceptable in the crossword but maybe not elsewhere.

  44. Colin Blackburn says:

    I’ve come to this one late having solved it on a bus journey last night. I thought it was great fun despite a few liberties here and there.

    It was interesting to see ‘ix’ in a few of the clues too. I didn’t see wordplay for ENTREAT so thanks to the early commenters for that. Although STRIX VARIA was arguably rare I had no problem with it as I knew that many owls are strix somethingia and with the checking letters in the second word there was only one answer. I too am ambivalent about IC. I’m sure even Romans broke the rules (if they were ever their rules). As for Mick and Paddy, clearly these words can be used in a pejorative sense but in this case I felt the clue was simply using one typically Irish name to clue another.

    Thanks Crucible.

  45. anagram says:

    So in 5dn, “rick” is an anagram indicator is it? In what sense?

  46. Mike Laws says:

    In the sense of ricking one’s ankle, “rick” is used as an imperative verb, telling the solver what to do.

  47. anagram says:

    Ah, thanks for that. I had never heard of “ricking one’s ankle”.

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