Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,839 (Sat 24 Oct)/Boatman – Close thing

Posted by rightback on October 31st, 2009


Solving time: 20 mins plus another couple of days mulling over 13dn and 25ac.

I’m afraid I thought this was a poor puzzle. There is a strange theme with the phrase ‘dead-end’ (or, in one case, ‘dead end’) appearing in ten clues, but in five of these it just indicates ‘D’, and the clues lack rigour, even for The Guardian.

Difficulty-wise it was certainly harder than average and as well as 25ac and 13dn I found the bottom left corner difficult to crack. I still don’t get 13dn and may not have the correct answer; explanations welcome.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 MUSK DUSK; odd letters of MOUSSAKA + DUCK (= ‘nothing’) – Boatman is very much of the ‘punctuation may mislead’ school; the question mark here, for example, disrupts the cryptic reading.
5 DIVEST; I’VE (= ‘Boatman’s) in D + ST – the first of several uses of ‘dead-end’ for D.
9 FOOTLING; FOOT (= ‘Part of verse’) + LIN[e] + G – ‘with something missing’ is an unusual indication to remove the last letter; ‘gravity’ for G is classic Guardian inaccuracy.
10 SPOOKS; [kid]S + (OUTSPOKEN – TUNE)* – here you have to split ‘dead-end’ into ‘dead’, which forms part of the definition (‘Spirits of dead’), and ‘end’, which forms ‘end kids’ meaning ‘end letter of kids’. This is, to say the least, stretching things, even before we get to ‘tuneless’ which is used to mean ‘remove the letters of tune in an arbitrary order’. Hmm.
12 INDUSTRIALS; (LTD IN RUSSIA)* – ‘industrials’ means ‘stocks and shares in industrial concerns’. I think the use of ‘Lada’ is arbitrary, but at least there’s a ‘perhaps’. A better clue.
15 LATER; LATE (= ‘dead’) + R (= ‘end career’) – another splitting of ‘dead-end’ required…
17 PESTICIDE; P + (IT’S DE-ICE) – …and another misleading hyphen, this time in ‘Pressure-formed’.
19 EMEND (hidden centrally) – very good clue.
24 DRUM UP; RUM (= ‘drink’) after D[ay], + UP (= ‘done’) – the word ‘is’ spoils the cryptic reading here. This was one of several I struggled with in the bottom left.
25 HUIS CLOS; (SOUL-SEARCHING – ANGER)* – this looked very unlikely but after much effort I decided I couldn’t see anything better. It turns out to have been a play by Sartre, translated into English as ‘No Exit’, hence ‘Drama of dead-end’.
26 NIECES; (SCENE I)* – a reference to the Chekhov play.
27 RESTATED; (A + D + STREET)* – the third use of ‘dead-end’ for D.
1 MY FAIR LADY; “MAYFAIR” (as pronounced by a Cockney, apparently) + LADY (= ‘woman’) – would a Cockney really pronounce ‘Mayfair’ as “Myfair”? It sounds more like a Birmingham accent to me.
2 STOOD STILL; S + TOO + D’S (= ‘pennies’, since D = old pence) + TILL (= ‘checkout’) – the same phrase, ‘dead-end kids’, as in 10ac.
3 D + ALES (= ‘pub serves these’).
4 CONTRAPUNTAL; PUNT in (CANAL ROT)* – a musical term.
6 IMPASS(IV)E – this is a good one, I saw the structure and the likely -IVE ending but struggled to see a 7-letter word ending S-E. ‘Dead end’ is correctly non-hyphenated in this clue.
7 EROS; rev. of SORE (= ‘aching’) – nice surface reading, with ‘Head over heels’ a perfectly fair reversal indicator for a down clue.
8 TEST; rev. of SET, + T[ime]
11 PARSLEY SAUCE; (A CLASSY PUREE)* – horrible definition (‘with bream, etc’).
13 RIVER PILOT? – ‘good’ is PI and ‘deal’ is LOT, so ‘good deal’ gives PILOT. I can’t see where ‘river’ comes from, though, and it may be wrong. The clue is ‘Boatman at helm of tug gets a good deal (after inflation) (5,5)’.
14 TENDERISED; (IN DESERTED)* – when solving I thought this might be American slang for attacking a person with a hammer, but actually I think it just refers to the practice of bashing meat to make it tenderer.
16 RAIN GAUGE; RAIN around (ING + AU) – referring to the Dutch bank ING.
22 ADEN (hidden in ‘dead-end’)
23 RUDE; RUE (= ‘street in Paris’) around D (= ‘dead-end’)

25 Responses to “Guardian 24,839 (Sat 24 Oct)/Boatman – Close thing”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback

    Unlike you, I really enjoyed this puzzle and – for once – I completed it before you! The same day in fact, although 25a HUIS CLOS took some time.

    I’d never heard of the play but I eventually figured out the only possible solution.

    When I checked the reference, I actually thought it was very clever and a great ending of the theme in a very challenging puzzle.

    Like you, I wasn’t sure how 13d RIVER PILOT worked but, according to the Annotated Solutions:

    13 river pilot RIVE/RPI/LOT [rive=tear (apart); RPI=retail price index]

    I’d also like to say ‘Thanks and Well Done, Boatman’.

  2. IanN14 says:

    Where to start?…
    I’m with you, rightback; I didn’t like this one at all.
    (It’s been a week, but I still remember the feeling of disappointment).
    Even the premise for the theme was inaccurate (dead’s end? end of dead? But not dead end).
    And, sorry Bryan, but even after that, I still don’t get River Pilot…

  3. Davy says:

    I was nearly sunk by the Boatman but perseverence has its rewards. I thought it was an excellent puzzle and his dead-end references were not only to the letter ‘D’.

    As to 13d, RIVER PILOT = boatman and as Bryan said RIVE/RPI/LOT
    RIVE could be seen as a synonym of TUG (loosely) at the helm.

  4. Radler says:

    I found this disappointing and not redeemed by its (in my opinion) unimpressive “theme”.
    It was difficult, but for the wrong reasons.

    IanN14 – “Dead end” to indicate “d” sounds all right to me. (I can understand why you might object to “end dead”.)

    “Dead-end” was sometimes hyphenated and sometimes not. What are peoples views on punctuation in clues? Is it OK to provide it just for the surface reading?
    (And what about capitalisation – does that matter?)

  5. Davy says:

    Just to say that I thought 14d was a perfectly constructed clue which made me laugh when I finally
    saw the anagram. Well done Boatman.

  6. IanN14 says:

    Just me, then.
    What did you think about “end kids”? Or “end career”?
    I don’t mind punctuation in clues too much, but caps should be used properly.
    And Davy, yes, I liked 14d. too…

  7. Radler says:

    Ian – I agree that “end kids/career” is not a correct specification of the last letter of kids/career – though it is a structure that’s used a lot and for that reason it doesn’t make a clue less solvable (though perhaps less satisfactory, and I’m aware it’s one of your pet-hates.)
    However, when “end” comes after the word, such as “dead end”, I think it does parse correctly.

  8. Radler says:

    Afterthought… Perhaps “end kids” is OK if “end” is seen as an imperative instructing the solver to end “kids”, i.e. by writing “s”. The same logic could apply to other verbs such as “start”, but wouldn’t work for nouns like “first”.
    Does that make sense?

  9. IanN14 says:

    It does, Radler, thanks.
    (Still don’t like it though…).
    And yes, I, too, think first (and last) are the worst examples (as you’d know if you’d seen previous blogs).

  10. Paul B says:

    To be absolutely beyond reproach, compilers MUST indicate exactly what they mean, and ‘end dead’ or ‘dead end’, or ‘Gateshead’, or ‘fat bottom’, or whatever don’t really do the job of indicating their first or last letters. To me that’s the difference between the best and the not quite in crosswords – where people are really fastidious about their cluemanship. Not that I’m anal or anything.

    Having said all that, I’m a fully paid-up member of the Boatman fan club. This one’s probably not up to his usual high standards, but hey: you can’t necessarily slay ’em every week. And if I may say, I think the Guardian team’s the better for his joining.

  11. rrc says:

    Some very nice clues but I thought the use of dead end made it unnecessarily difficult. On balance the enjoyment was more negative than positive.

  12. muck says:

    I tried too, Bryan & Davy, to get 13dn RIVE/RPI/LOT to work, but wasn’t convinced

  13. liz says:

    Thanks, Rightback. I found this a bit of a mixed bag, some clues very easy and some very hard. I had heard of Huis Clos, but DRUM UP caused me problems and I’m another one not entirely convinced by the wordplay of 13dn, which I failed to see at the time. I do remember some excellent Boatman puzzles and this one had it moments, but the ‘dead end’ theme didn’t really grab me.

    Personally I would never have parsley sauce with bream!

  14. John Dean says:

    As for ‘Huis Clos’, the use of ‘No Exit’ by English translators is not a particularly good one. The French phrase is used there to mean ‘in camera’ and more commonly signifies ‘No Entry’ to the general public.
    However, Sartre’s play is about damned souls in hell so I think the “dead-end” refers to Hades.

  15. stiofain says:

    I enjoyed this one very much apart from 13d. Did anyone else think this was another Grauniad blooper and it should have been printed today ( halloween / day of the dead ) with the references to dead and spooks?

  16. Shed says:

    Since when was ‘inflation’ a definition of ‘Retail Price Index’? Also, neither Chambers nor Collins gives the phrase, either under ‘river’ or ‘pilot’.

  17. walruss says:

    Indeed! Not a good puzzle.

  18. Bryan says:

    Well, Shed, the ‘Retail Price Index’ is certainly an accepted measure of inflation.

  19. Chunter says:

    Bryan – the inflation rate is the annual percentage change in the RPI.

  20. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Chunter

  21. Boatman says:

    Some controversy this week, I see! I’m always interested to see technical rigour debated (which is what, I think, most of this discussion comes down to), as it’s an area that leaves much (in my fuzzy – some might say, interestingly flexible – view of the world) open to personal taste and, because of that, to invention and evolution. In general, I feel that it’s ok to move outside the territory that we’d all agree is safe, as long as the leap of faith requested is rewarded by a satisfying result, which in our case means an obviously correct solution and, if possible, a laugh. The principle doesn’t just apply to crossword-setting: think about the development of musical conventions, and you’ll see what I mean.

    In that spirit, I reckoned that “end kids” (for example) would be a strain for most people to accept, but worth it in the end – and rigorous enough if you allow the verbal use of “end”, as spotted by Radler. Using “dead-end” for “D” may be perilously close to the conventionally abhorrent “first class” construction, but obvious enough, I judged – especially as a foil to the clues where it meant something quite different.

    Otherwise, Shed’s right that “Inflation” for “RPI” is a bit loose. Perhaps it would have been easier to swallow if it hadn’t followed an uncommon word as part of the charade. Oh, and I’ve never had parsely sauce with bream either: I just wanted to see if I could lure a few of you into looking for a non-existent anagram!

    I’m not sure why Hugh didn’t timetable this one for Hallowe’en, by the way – unless, of course, he thought that it might take some people all week to solve it … ?

    Best wishes to all –

  22. rightback says:

    Thanks very much, Boatman – it’s always a pleasure to hear from a setter on this blog.

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Indeed, Rightback, and not just that.
    I think Boatman’s words make sense (at least, to me).

    By the way, I was one of those who really liked this crossword.

    And, dear Rightback, didn’t you forget something?
    Your “Music of the Day”?
    Must surely be “Dead End Street” by The Kinks – don’t you think so?

  24. maarvarq says:

    Thanks, Boatman, but I still don’t know where “rive” comes from in 13dn.

  25. Boatman says:

    Yes, “Rive” is normally used transitively to mean “to tear apart” (as in “riven”), but it also has an intransitive useage, meaning “to tug” … at least that’s what Chambers says. A bit archaic, I know, but aren’t we all? It may have been a little unkind of me to use an unusual word as part of a charade, but I couldn’t resist the combination of boatful imagery and “tug”!

    Looking at this more generally from a solver’s point of view, I don’t particularly like puzzles that are stuffed with outlandish words like this, but I feel that it’s fair to have one or two, especially on a weekend, when it’s fun to have an excuse to open the dictionary.

    All best –

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