Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,845 (Sat 31 Oct)/Paul – Poppy culture

Posted by rightback on November 7th, 2009


Solving time: 14 mins, about half of which on 7dn (TOMATO PUREE) and 10ac (GROOM).

I enjoyed this as much as any Guardian puzzle of recent times. The highlight is probably the remarkable clue at 20/6dn based on the Shakesperian quote at 14/16/19dn from Romeo and Juliet but I loved several others too, although a pair in the top right nearly beat me.

Music of the day: I couldn’t find any ‘grebo’ (7ac) that I liked, I’m afraid, nor anything referencing tomato purée, so here’s Chocolate (6dn) by Snow Patrol.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 REPACK; rev. of CAPER (= ‘bound’) + K (= 1000 = ‘grand’) – I don’t think I previously knew that ‘caper’ meaning ‘to leap about’ came from the Latin caper, a goat (the same root as Capricorn, ‘horned goat’).
4 SOLICIT; SO (= ‘Hence’) + LICIT (= legal = 5dn, hence ‘5’)
9 FORTY-FIVE; (OVER FIFTY)* – I thought this clue was brilliant.
10 GROOM (2 defs) – I couldn’t see this until the ‘M’ was in place.
11 GREBO; rev. of BERG + O – a new word to me, meaning a heavy metal or grunge devotee. I do remember the band Pop Will Eat Itself although not their songs Oh Grebo I think I love you and Grebo Guru. Topically this band was colloquially known as ‘The Poppies’, although I doubt that was on Paul’s mind when he wrote the puzzle. Having said that, I’ve just discovered that ’45 RPM’ (9ac in this puzzle being FORTY-FIVE) was a 2004 hit for the punk band Poppyfields so maybe this is a very well-hidden theme!
15 MISLAY (1 def, 1 jokey def) – the jokey definition being ‘Producing square eggs, might you’. I suppose the question mark really belongs with this part as well.
17,13 ORIENT (= ‘E’) + EXPRESS (= ‘say’) – excellent wordplay.
19 SUCCEED; “SUCK SEED” – ho ho.
22 TRICOLOUR; “TRICKLER” – fantastically terrible homophone (21 refers to 21dn, ‘stream’, i.e. something that trickles).
24 SACRA; rev. of AS + rev. of ARC – two separate reversal indicators here, ‘turning’ and ‘back’.
27 POOTERISH; POORISH around T[h]E – Charles Pooter was the main character in Diary of a Nobody. His brother son [thanks to Elspeth for this correction] Lupin gets a mention in this poem by John Betjeman.
29 S + TUBBY (= ‘obese’ = 23dn)
1 REFUGEE; (FREE)* around [h]UGE
3 CEYLONESE; (ONLY)* in C[h]EESE (= ‘Leicester, say, less hot’) – very good surface reading.
4 STERNUM; UM (= ‘I’m still deciding’) under STERN (= ‘back’) – a hyphen requires to be ignored here.
5,26 LEGAL EAGLE; LEG (= ‘on’, in cricket) + ALE (= ‘beer’) + (LAGE[r])* – it’s a good job I guessed the answer here because the wordplay was tricky to unravel.
7,2 TOMATO PUREE – this was the one that stumped me. The wordplay is brilliant: ATOP (= ‘on’) + URE (= ‘river’), all inside TOME (= ‘book’). It was this last part that led me to the answer, but only after I’d spent plenty of time looking for a famous book to fit the whole phrase. Doubt over GREBO at 11ac didn’t help, but to be honest probably didn’t hinder either.
14,16,19 PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW; (HERO’S + CAPU[l]ET OR WS’S WRITINGS)* – I only dissected the anagram after seeing the answer, which fortunately was a phrase I knew, but it is nonetheless brilliant (referring to Juliet’s family, the Capulets).
18 TROOPER; rev. of REPORT around O[ld]
20,6 DEATH BY CHOCOLATE – ’14 16′ translantes to ‘Parting is such sweet’ – stunning.
21 STREAM (2 defs)
23 OBES + [cak]E – ‘Orders’ = OBEs, which looks better with an apostrophe but I can’t quite bring myself to use one for a plural.
25 CLIMB; C (= ‘a ton’) + LIMB

17 Responses to “Guardian 24,845 (Sat 31 Oct)/Paul – Poppy culture”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback, yet another wonderful puzzle from Paul.

    Like you, I struggled with 7d TOMATO PUREE and 10a GROOM and, until the pennies dropped, I was unable to complete the NW corner.

    I’d never heard of 11a GREBO and it took me ages to twig 1a REPACK and 1d REFUGEE.

    Very enjoyable!

  2. Elspeth says:

    Re 27 ac, I believe Lupin was Mr Pooter’s son, not his brother. Incidentally, there’s a nice theory on the web somewhere that Charles Pooter might have been Jack the Ripper – hence the missing pages in his diary, and his shock at seeing his hand covered in red paint when he was painting the bath . . .

  3. Ralph G says:

    Thanks for the blog, rightback. I got lucky with a series of intuitive entries but ended up needing explanations for four clues. The parsing at 15a MISLAY beat me.
    11a GREBO was easy but way outside my ken.
    25d CLIMB: didn’t understand “if human”.

  4. Mr Beaver says:

    Ralph – 25d: I think it’s just that you have 4 limbs, if you’re human (though this isn’t very PC, come to think of it !)
    11a: I’m sure I remember ‘grebos’ from my youth, but as I recall they were defined less by their musical tastes than by dress style (leathers as opposed to the Skin’s Crombies and Doc Martins)
    5,26: The answer fairly jumped out but the wordplay was impenetrable as LAGE (lager not entirely) actually appears twice.

    Interestingly, I had a moment of deja vu when doing this month’s Genius – though I won’t say on which clue of course 😉

  5. Dave Ellison says:

    I struggled to get started with this one – only 3 done after 15 mins. I then managed to solve the anagram at 14 etc, and eventually managed to finish after 80 minutes!

    Thanks, rightback, for the explanation of 1a, the only one I couldn’t see.

  6. Jake says:

    Cool stuff here. I rather liked ‘death by chocolate’ clue. Real good.

    ‘Grebo’ made me laugh, as I know a few ‘grebo’ youngsters who live in my neighborhood- which made my mind drift, as it does.

    Thanks for blog Rightback, and explaining ‘trooper’. I had it but was unsure of the full wordplay.

    Cheers to Paul for setting a wicked puzzle.

  7. Colin says:

    No special kudos for “Obese”? The first time a clue’s made me laugh out loud for a long time.

  8. liz says:

    Thanks, Rightback. Lovely puzzle. CLIMB caused me the most difficulty, for some reason! I’d never heard of GREBO, but it was gettable from the wordplay.

  9. Eileen says:

    Thanks, rightback. I really enjoyed this.

    I loved your ‘fantastically terrible’ epithet for 22ac – my feelings exactly!

    A heartfelt plea: please don’t EVER be beguiled into using an apostrophe in plurals. [OBEs may look odd but OBE’S looks ten times worse – and when would you ever see either, except in crosswords?] We oldies are relying on you youngsters to maintain some kind of standards! Bravo in the meantime!

    [And, while on the subject, Colin, it was a great clue!]

  10. Edward Frisk says:

    I thought that this crossword was lamentable.

  11. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #10:
    I don’t like people saying a thing like this without telling us why?
    So, Edward, could you please explain?

  12. stiofain says:

    Lamentable Edward? I thought it was great.
    The splitting of the long phrase into 2 such separate constructions was particularly elegant and I also liked the cheesey bits like the homophone.

  13. Bryan says:


    I would be very happy if all puzzles were as bad as this.

    Please don’t be surprised when in due course Paul is annointed Saint Paul II.

    But not for a long time I hope.

  14. Andrew T says:

    19 Ac. Toothless parrot? Like all other birds, parrots do not have teeth. Perhaps Paul has been misled by Steve Bell’s toothy penguins, who also have navels.

  15. Sylvia says:

    Only just checked this one. 1a threw me as I had ‘deport’ as the answer (roped reversed and deport as possible outcome of customs search! As a result couldnt get 1d or 2d. Wonderful Paul genius nevertheless.

  16. smutchin says:

    Andrew T #14 – are you not familiar with the old saying “Nothing succeeds like a toothless budgie”? This was the first solution I filled in. I presume Paul referred to parrots in his clue rather than budgies because they can “talk”. This, the fantastically terrible homophone for TRICOLOUR, and the hilarious 22d are exactly what I like about Paul’s crosswords.

    rightback – I’m sure the Poppies theme was deliberate. I reckon Paul is about the right age to have been a PWEI fan back in the day.

  17. maarvarq says:

    The sort of relentlessly obscure puzzle that appeals to those solvers who look down on puzzles solvable by mere mortals. I got 14,16,19 from context but couldn’t be bothered to wade through the ridiculously complex clue to confirm it.

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