Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,801 / Rover – a pair of Queens

Posted by Andrew on September 10th, 2009


I’ve been a bit unkind about Rover in the past, and I was hoping to be proved wrong in this one, but unfortunately there are a few rather weak definitions and a bad case of “double duty” (11ac). On the other hand most of the clues are perfectly fine, so perhaps I’m being unfair – what do others think?

dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition
* = anagram
< = reverse

11. MARIO Hidden in froM A RIOt, but “from” seems to be doing double duty
12. EXCEL Homophone of XL
13. SPRINGBOK dd – though rather a weak one, as the SA rugby team’s nickname comes directly from the animal
14. OXIDATE XI in O DATE – a variant of the more usual “oxidize”
16. PICARDY PI +CARD (“club, say”) + Y
18. HANDBAG dd – the “wallop” meaning refers to the (presumably) metaphorical handbaggings delivered by Mrs Thatcher. Again the two defs are rather too closely related for comfort.
20. TONNEAU TONNE + AU. I didn’t know that this refers to the back seats of an open car,
23. LA PAZ LA + ZAP<
24. TARSI (A STIR)* – bones in the foot.
26. QUEEN’S ENGLISH dd – following on from the Magdalen/Magdalene discussion the other day, Queen’s College is at Oxford, Queens’ at Cambridge.
3. ERROL LORRE<. Peter Lorre / Errol Flynn
4. LOOK-SEE LOOK (air) + SEE (Bishop’s area)
5. THE DROP dd – reference to hanging, a presumably what footballers call relegation.
7. SCRUB dd
8. QUEEN OF HEARTS dd – the Q of H is a red “face card”, and in the nursery rhyme she baked some tarts “all on a summer’s day”,
9. MONKEY PUZZLES dd, just about – surely should be “..presenting problems to a fool”
17. REED PIPES cd; they’re organ pipes so they “sound well”, and are “shaking” (=vibrating) inside.
19. GRAMPUS dd – a type of dolphin and “someone who breathes heavily and loudly”, i.e. like a steam engine
22. CORFU C + FOUR*. As usual, I don’t think plain “here” is an adequate definition of a place.
23. LOCAL cd – you can “go down the local” and “down” a drink. Perhaps it should be a called a double cd?

53 Responses to “Guardian 24,801 / Rover – a pair of Queens”

  1. IanN14 says:

    Sorry, Andrew,
    I’m with you.
    11. 13. 18. 26ac. & 4. 17. 22d. I just found a bit… well, irritating, for different reasons.
    And as for 15d, how can “licence” possibly suggest an anagram?

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Andrew.

    I hate to disagree with you but I thought this was great and all the answers popped out eventually without any obscurities.

    I particularly liked 1a SATELLITE DISH which was the last one I got.

    However, I do wonder what Araucaria thinks about 9d.

  3. Eileen says:

    Hi Andrew and thanks for a blog which I’m glad I didn’t have to do!

    I’ve also been less than complimentary about Rover in the past and, as with Gordius, have been trying to be more appreciative. I think, with both, it’s the lack of humour [ my kind, at least] as well as the sometimes dodgy cluing – which I find forgivable in Araucaria because of the wit.

    11ac, as you say, is very poor: I spent some time trying to find an anagram of ‘a riot’, which seemed to be indicated by the clue.

    14ac: age = date?

    20ac: ‘carrying’ seemed to indicate an insertion

    17dn: I don’t really get this – nor 23dn.

    9dn: I’ve thought about this and it’s probably OK: a ratcatcher doesn’t catch just one rat. But again, I think another setter would have made reference to his colleague!

    [Needless to say, I didn’t like the spelling of ‘Colosseum’ but Collins and Chambers both have ‘coliseum’ as a [non-specific] variant.]

  4. Bryan says:

    ‘Dodgy cluing’ Eileen?

    C’mon it is a cryptic!

    We wouldn’t enjoy them half as much if they were too easy, would we?

  5. Eileen says:


    By ‘dodgy cluing’, I meant eg 11ac. I did not mean they were difficult – in fact I’ve never understood why Rover is classified as ‘hard’.

  6. IanN14 says:

    I agree with all your points (especially the superfluous “carrying”), except the one about 14ac.
    I think a film, say, can be said to have “aged”, meaning “dated” badly.

    And, oh, Bryan…
    I think you’ve opened a huge can of worms there…
    A clue can be really clever without being difficult, or really awful but not easy.
    We’re just asking that they shouldn’t be wrong.

  7. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Ian – you’re quite right – I hadn’t got round to thinking of verbs. :-)

  8. The trafites says:

    Strange sort of crossword today, and fairly easy.

    I also do not understand 17dn – why do REED PIPES sound well?


  9. smutchin says:

    Yep, I’m with Ian about 14a – age=date is fine when they’re verbs.

    I thought 3d was one of those clues where it wasn’t entirely clear which part the reversal indicator referred to, ie I wasn’t sure whether to write in LORRE or ERROL. But I went for ERROL in the end.

  10. IanN14 says:

    I see what you mean about 3d. but I think in this case it was fairly clued. If the answer had been Lorre it would have been a poor clue (and wrong). The “for” makes all the difference.

  11. smutchin says:

    Yes, the “for” was what decided it for me, so I guess the clue is fine really. I just had to stop and think about it for a moment. More a deficiency of my brain than the clue!

    Eileen – sorry, previous comment typed while you were replying to Ian…

  12. Harris says:

    I wonder what others make of ‘double duty’ words as seen in 11ac. I don’t really see a problem with the definition and wordplay overlapping, but presumably the problem here is that the indicator has to become part of what’s indicated. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen hidden clues in the Guardian in the past where no indicator was included, in which case I can’t see how this is worse.

  13. Andrew says:

    Nick: the pipes “sound well” in the (rather old-fashioned) sense of sounding good – at least that was my interpretation. Nothing to do with their health.

  14. Andrew says:

    Harris: I don’t remember seeing a hidden clue where there was no indicator at all. There have been examples it’s shown by just something like “of”, which I’m not crazy about. In this case the clue could only make sense if it read “.. rescued from from a riot”. I don’t like the definition either – it ought to be something like “Man from Naples, perhaps”. Marios can come from other parts of Italy, and elsewhere.

  15. smutchin says:

    Oh yeah, and another thing…

    24a – where’s the definition? Is it supposed to be some kind of &lit? Awful clue.

  16. Chunter says:

    17dn: do not FLUE PIPES also ‘sound well’? A naïve question, as I know next to nothing about organs.

  17. Bryan says:

    Sorry, Chunter, but FLUE PIPES do not ‘sound well’ at all – not when the Swine variety is still with us.

  18. Dave Ellison says:

    24 ac When you break TARSI you could get A STIR; and it would be an &lit, too. I think that makes it a rather good(ish) clue.

    9d. Monkey puzzles are “trees presenting a problem” (the definition); and I read fools in two senses: monkey (On line dictionary: Slang A person who is mocked, duped, or made to appear a fool) and if you puzzle someone you are fooling them (at a stretch)

  19. anagram says:

    9d, I read it as “puzzle” (problem) in “monkeys” (fools).

  20. Andrew says:

    Thanks Dave – I thought the definition was just “trees”, with MONKEY + PUZZLES as the wordplay (hence my remark in the blog). Thinking about it again perhaps it’s meant to be PUZZLE in (=presented to?) MONKEYS. Pretty weak IMHO whatever the explanation, especially with a reference to Araucaria begging to be used.

  21. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I found this pretty easy, but I agree with Eileen that it was a little lacking in humour.

  22. The trafites says:

    Andrew #13 – I understood what you meant/mean, but I still can’t see how ‘sound well’ is any reference to reed pipes at all? I only got this from the checking letters… impossible to be solved cold on that wording.


  23. John says:

    I can’t let this pass without once again voicing my dislike of indiscriminate use of first letters as abbreviations, in this instance “c” for cocaine. I’m sure someone will brandish Chambers, but I still don’t like it.
    In the discussion of 4 dn, no one has mentioned the use of “rescued”. Since the second “from” can’t be both the indicator and part of the containing phrase, I assume that “rescued” is the indicator. If so, it’s not a very good one and as far as I can see is only there to justify the second “from” which contains the “m”.
    Is a “grampus” “someone who breathes heavily and loudly”? Chambers again?
    I agree with all the other criticisms, and further to the Bryan/Eileen exchange I would also say that the pleasure I derive from cryptics comes not only from solving them – this was easy, but not satisfying – but from the unpicking of elegant surfaces and accurate cluing.

  24. Paul B says:

    I thought Grampus was a Japanese football team.

    As to the single-letter indication, I find myself somewhat torn. Half of me says that I shouldn’t use an SLI unless I’m pretty sure most of the punters will know it, and a quarter of me thinks, well, if it’s in Collins, let’s go for it. The remaining quarter of me is always thinking about why the other three-quarters of me are thinking about SLIs.

    I don’t know whether or not this applies to Rover, but badly-written and grammatically unsound clues, which may also employ arcane indication, are often damn difficult to solve.

  25. FLS says:

    All in agreement here. I suppose the argument is that if E is for ecstacy, then why shouldn’t C be for cocaine (and H for heroin, as has been the case in the past)?
    And poor old Araucaria, what a missed opportunity.

  26. IanN14 says:

    John, (@23)
    Very well said on the last point.
    And you’re right about “rescued”. Terrible.

    I have to say that Chambers is “guilty” of including both items mentioned, which, although not popular, brings us back (yet again) to the need to have rules and an arbiter.
    I think initial letters, when proved to be officially used (Chambers again) have to be seen as OK, but my pet hate is when “first” or “last” are used incorrectly to indicate letters (first post for P, for example).
    9d. [singular] is often guilty of this, I’m sorry to say.
    And, as used here at 25ac. “first” for “I”.
    First is not “1” it is “1st”.
    Gets me every time…

    Sorry, Paul B, just read your comment 24. before submitting. I’m sure you’d never use an obscure, contentious SLI?
    Wouldn’t be fair.

  27. Craig Jones says:

    Newbie with a potentially silly question… why would first post not be a suitable clue for P?

  28. IanN14 says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think it has to be “the first letter of” post, or post, “firstly”, or post’s “first” or “initial”, or “start to” post etc. Anything but “first post”, which implies no… (Oh, I don’t know. I’m no educated linguist, I just know what seems right to me… and it’s not that).
    Can somebody help me out here?

  29. nmsindy says:

    I think you’re quite right there, IanN14 – the examples you give are correct. The other usage is seen but p is first letter of post, rather than first post. But there are Ximeneans and Libertarians as you know.

  30. IanN14 says:

    Thanks nms,
    But if that’s what libertarianism means (clues that are plain wrong) then… well I don’t like it.

  31. Henry says:

    C, H, K and E are all very commonly used to refer to Cocaine, Heroin, Ketamine and Ecstasy. If we’re allowed to use E for ecstacy in a crossword then the others should surely be allowed.

  32. Jake says:

    I agree with Bryan -comment 2.

    I sailed through this fairly easily, I’m not sure I liked 22dn ‘here’ as an indicator for a place ‘Corfu’. The cluing was rather weak, though using ‘tipsy’ as an anagram indicator – as we all know was OK, but ‘here’ is a bit indirect?

    Any who, all good stuff. I’m on Rover’s level of crosswords and find them quite relaxing to solve, especially solving before a dentist appointment…..

  33. Paul B says:

    For C=cocaine you might just as well use Charlie, since that’s what it’s generally known as, and helpfully it’s also C in the phonetic alphabet. I’ve never heard it called C, and I work in advertising.

    Anyway, there are Ximeneans, Libertarians, and people who can’t write clues in either style I rather think. Just simply being bad isn’t enough to qualify you for the Libertarian tie (any colour you like) old boy – you’ve gotta work ferrit.

    I guess ‘first post’ for P doesn’t make it for some of us because the phrase doesn’t seem to mean ‘first letter in the word post’. So it’s all fur coat and no knickers in some bizarre Surface vs Cryptic Reading kind of a way. I prefer things like ‘first among equals’ for E, and ‘first among prequels’ for P (or just ‘parking’), which can really add to your surface whilst maintaining that all-important (semblance of) grammar.

  34. Andy says:

    Can’t say I particularly enjoyed this puzzle. Just to throw another peculiarity into the mix – my online version with the “Check” facility gives the answer to 3dn as “Enrol” rather than Errol. This cannot be right surely???

  35. Bryan says:

    Thanks, Jake (32) I was beginning to feel an outcast.

    No, Andy (34), 3d is definitely ERROL but rarely a week goes by without a printing error of some sort somewhere to add to the excitement.

    Me? I couldn’t care less about the niceties of the cluing so long as I enjoy the pursuit – which I did!

  36. Will Mc says:

    I think this crossword was sacrificed on the altar of pangrammaticality.

  37. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I agree with everyone above (except with Bryan and Jake, but to be fair to them, I am glad to see that they enjoyed this crossword).
    Today Rover seemed to have disliked proper definitions.
    Some are even hardly cryptic at all (8dn, 13ac, 18ac, 26ac).
    24ac looks like an &lit, but I think you can break a lot more things to cause a stir, like promises, a precious vase or someone’s heart.
    And ‘here’ for Corfu is certainly not enough.
    Recently we had a thing like that, but I forgot where and when. Was it a Gordius?
    Maybe Rover thinks that Corfu is the place where people get tipsy?

    I wasn’t very happy with 4dn. Although the clue’s a fair one, I find ‘London’ as an example of SEE rather inappropriate. London can be an example of all sorts of things. Rover should have been more specific.

    Eileen mentioned early in the day (#3) that Coliseum is a variant of Colosseum, but the problem that I have with it is this: Why should anyone want to call it Coliseum when everyone else in the world calls it Colosseum? And there’s no reason for it in the clue either.
    And the definition: EXCEL = ‘do your best’?
    I don’t think so, ‘to excel’ is much stronger.

    In #3 Eileen didn’t get 23dn.
    So far I haven’t seen any reasonable explanation for at least the second DOWN.
    So, is there anybody out there ….?

  38. IanN14 says:

    “Down” to the the local to “down” a pint, as explained by Andrew.
    (Poor, I agree, but just about explainable).

    Will Mc @36,
    Sorry, but if that was his intention, he even failed at that.
    (No J, V or W)…

  39. Will Mc says:


  40. Dave Ellison says:

    Craig, #27. I have no problem with “first post” for P, etc. It is a very common occurrence in Xwords. Why this is being critiqued I am not sure, especially when, I think, there has not been any commentary on the “oddly” device, where the odd letters of the word or phrase are to be used. It’s my belief this is a fairly recent innovation (last couple of years or so, though I stand to be corrected). I am all for innovation and originality in clueing; I was uncomfortable with “oddly” at first, but I am quite accepting of it now.

  41. Eileen says:


    What I said was that in Collins and Chambers ‘coliseum’ is given as a non-specific variant: ‘a large building or stadium, used as a place of entertainment, named after the Flavian amphitheatre [Colosseum] in Rome’. It seems clear, especially in view of the capital letter, that it was the latter that Rover had in mind. I looked up Rover today in Jonathan Crowther’s ‘A-Z of crosswords’ and read that his favourite study at school was Latin prose composition, so he should know better.

    I agree with you about ‘excel’.

  42. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #38:
    Thank you, Ian, for your ‘explanation’ of LOCAL.
    I just thought that there must be more to it, especially because Eileen didn’t get it.
    But if this is it (like Andrew thought), then this is hardly cryptic and can be added to a list that is already too long.

  43. Eileen says:

    Andrew [and Sil]

    I’m sorry, I don’t seem to have read your explanation of 23dn carefully enough. After reading Ian’s repetition of it [and downing a glass of wine :-)] it’s ‘clear’ now. My excuse is that it was the last clue and I was feeling pretty jaded by then.

    But I still don’t ‘get’ / think much of 17dn. Why do reed pipes necessarily ‘sound well’ – as a definition? I’ve heard them sound dreadful!

  44. IanN14 says:

    Dave @40.
    Sorry, but I just couldn’t let it lie…
    I think “oddly’s” fine to pick out P & S from “post”; likewise “evenly” for O & T (and I think this device has been used for ages).
    I’d also accept “post, firstly” or “firstly, post” for P.
    I just can’t get “first post” for P.
    I expect you’d also accept T for “last post”?
    Or O for “second post”?

    If so, I think we’ll just have to differ.
    If I’m wrong, I don’t want to be right…

  45. Paul B says:

    Thing is to discriminate absolutely between the surface and the cryptic reading when considering the likes of ‘first post’. Or anything. If you can get the clue to sound good whilst incontrovertibly indicating the necessary cryptic instruction(s), then you’ve won (the Ximenean/ Libertarian meerschaum/ hookah).

  46. IanN14 says:

    Er… thanks Paul.
    I suspect you’ve been at that Libertarian hookah….?

  47. Bryan says:

    Rover is an innovator and, like all innovators, he/she is meeting antagonism from the traditionalists.

    Who cares if he/she doesn’t spell Cauliseum correctly – we all knew what he/she meant. In any event, it may have simply been a Grauniad intervention.

    Now that Pyjamanese and Liberpudlian puzzles are old hat, please Give a Hearty Welcome to the New Era of Roverian Puzzles.

    Betcha Hugh Stephenson will be singing his/her praises before the millenium is out.

    They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round …

  48. john goldthorpe says:

    Reading these comments and those on the previous day’s puzzle does underline for me a crucial distinction someone early made: easy but unsatisfying (Rover) versus hard but very satisfying – if you could finish it (Crucible). Come on the Ximenians!

  49. eimi says:

    I don’t comment on puzzles in other publications as a rule, but I’ve been following this discussion because it reflects on crosswords everywhere. I would say that there’s a difference between being an innovator (using unusual/original devices) and simply being someone who uses devices that have no justification. Not that I’m saying Rover has done such a thing, of course …

    And ‘first post’ for P certainly wouldn’t appear in the Indy, either

  50. IanN14 says:

    I don’t expect anyone’s still here, but…

    Thanks, eimi, especially for the last line…

    Also, sorry to Rover.
    I think he’s been damned by association a bit, and I think it’s my fault.
    In my reply to John’s comment 23, I digressed a little when talking about initial letters.
    There were no examples of this in this particular puzzle (although my remark about “1st” still stands).

  51. smutchin says:

    I’m still here, and I’m in full agreement with Paul’s comment #45.

  52. Craig Jones says:

    I’m still here as well, thanks for all the replies to my question (@27). I notice that there appear to be some similar devices used in Guardian 24802, although they flow brilliantly within the context of the clues.

  53. IanN14 says:

    Can you give us any examples, Craig?

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