Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,888 / Rufus

Posted by Eileen on December 21st, 2009


A delightful festive offering from Rufus – something of a tour de force – which is not too taxing but provides a few smiles, or even chuckles, along the way.


1   RECIPES: RE [about] C [100] IPES [anagram of PIES, with ‘mince’ as the anagram indicator] – a beautifully neat start  to the festive theme.
5   MUSICAL: cryptic definition
9   SWEEP: cryptic definition
10  ASSISTANT: anagram of SIT SANTAS
11  REVERENTLY: anagram of TEN inside anagram of REVELRY. [There may be some objections to the grammar of ‘ten go’ – I remember something similar before.]
12  DAME: cryptic definition
14  CHRISTMAS EVE: cryptic definition.
18  GO UP IN THE AIR: double definition
21 OGRE: hidden in pantO GREat
22  COCKATRICE: COCK + A TRICE [a second – nicely misleading!] The cockatrice is a legendary monster, a serpent hatched from a cock’s egg and having the power to kill at a glance. The association with Christmas is that it appears in one of the traditional readings at the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, from Isaiah 11: ‘And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den’.
25  TO THE FULL: double definition – a laugh-out-loud one!
26  AFIRE: A FIR [Christmas tree] E[vening]
27  CONCAVE: CON [kid] CAVE [where Aladdin found the magic lamp]
28  SLEIGHS: homophone of ‘slays’


2 CLEAVE: C[hristmas] + LEAVE [break] – that strange word which can have two opposite meanings [because it comes from two different Old English / German words, I found, from Chambers]
3   PAPER CHAIN: double and cryptic definition
5   MISTLETOE: an amusing cryptic definition, referring to the fact that mistletoe is a parasite
SASH: S[on] + ASH
CHARADES: not very cryptic definition but by now you should be admiring Rufus’ artistry in including some reference to the festive season in every single clue or solution!
8   LITTERED: LIT [switched on] + anagram of TREE + [decorate]D
13  MAGISTRATE: MAGI [wise men] + anagram of TREATS – a great clue!
15  INTRODUCE: double definition [though they are rather similar!]
16 AGNOSTIC: SONG reversed in A TIC [moment] – which should surely be spelt ‘tick’? Is that the reason for the question mark?
17  AU GRATIN: AU [gold] + anagram og RATING
19  GIVING: double definition
23  KILLS: I’m not really sure about this one: a reference to hunted animals, I suppose?
24  VEGA: VEG + A: a nice neat one to end with.

Many thanks, Rufus, and a very happy Christmas to all! :-)

21 Responses to “Guardian 24,888 / Rufus”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks Eileen
    No wonder I couldn’t find a definition in 27a! The pdf version has :

    27 Many on guard in Aladdin’s treasure depositary (7)

    whereas the interactive, print page and presumably the paper have:

    27 Depressed kid goes to Aladdin’s magic place (7)

  2. Eileen says:

    Hi Gaufrid

    Yes, that’s the version in my paper.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Eileen, I had wondered about 27a, having entered CONCAVE but without knowing why.

    Sadly, I had to give up without guessing 12a.

    Music of the Day: ‘There’s nothing like a dame’.

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi Eileen, thanks for the blog. As you say, this good fun, with nice use of the Christmas theme, and no difficulties apart from 27ac, where I suffered from the same puzzlement as Gaufrid. (I’ve just checked Chambers, which gives “depositary” as an alternative spelling of “depository”.)

  5. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. Lovely festive puzzle from Rufus and just the thing to get you in the mood!

    One small quibble — in 9ac can SWEEP be equivalent to Santa’s entrance? Or am I reading this wrong?

    I was also using the pdf version, so 27ac was a bit mystifying.

    I took KILLS to be similar to SPOILS as in ‘spoils of war’.

  6. Eileen says:

    Hi liz.

    9ac is a reference to sweeping the chimney, which involves sending the brush up – [I remember the excitement this caused when I was a child, running outside to see it emerge!]

  7. liz says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I did get the reference to chimney-sweeping, but was possibly trying to make too much of it…!

  8. Trench Adviser says:

    This was fun except my printed off version had that mistake at 27ac – I still got it, but didn’t know why.

    I failed on DAME – a very clever clue.

    I’m not keen on “go up in the air” as to mean “get very excited” at all. I don’t even think it is a regular phrase and is in my mind closer to the phrases, “things are up in the air at the minute” etc, which mean something completely different.

    Otherwise, a good challenge from Rufus as always.

  9. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Trench Adviser, you’ve reminded me that I meant to comment on ‘go up in the air’, which I’d thought meant ‘to get angry’. I’ve just looked it up: Chambers has ‘to become excited or angry’.

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Good fun puzzle which when I started I thought would be not too difficult given the theme; but I failed on COCKATRICE and TO THE FULL (which unless I’m missing something isn’t a great definition of ‘altogether’). Like others, put CONCAVE without understanding why.

    Just like to say a special thank you to Catherine’s Mum, for her blogging but also for the very welcoming comments she made to me when I first started contributing to the blog earlier this year.

    Joyeux Noël à tous.

  11. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Kathryn’s Dad.

    I know what you mean but both ‘to the full’ and ‘altogether’ have dictionary meanings of ‘completely’.

  12. muck says:

    Happy Christmas All

  13. walruss says:

    Very enjoyable and with a festive flavour. More adventurous from Rufus, and I enjoyed it more as a result.

  14. ray says:

    Couldn’t get 16d as I had ‘be up in the air’ for 18a. Also failed 22a, thinking that it started with ROC which I think is a monster bird in something like Sinbad ? Still, a nice Christmasy puzzle overall. Seasons greetings all.

  15. Bill Taylor says:

    I’m missing something about 12a — what’s the definition?

  16. Bill Taylor says:

    Forget I asked that — the penny just dropped. Yes, VERY clever!

  17. Sil van den Hoek says:

    At the risk of spoiling the Festive Atmosphere, I must say that we were slightly disappointed while solving this crossword – but only just a little bit (and Rufus doesn’t really deserve to be criticised too much).

    Of course, there is this seasonal feel, but a lot of clues are not of Rufus’ best.
    Cryptic defintions like 5ac (MUSICAL) – cryptic? – , 7d (CHARADES) – cryptic? – and 9ac (SWEEP) – in which we thought Santa’s entrance might be the letter S – were certainly not our favourites of the day.
    Didn’t like 23d (KILLS) either – don’t like killing animals anyway this time of the year
    (if the clue refers to this, I don’t know).
    OGRE (21ac) is a bit of an ugly hidden answer.
    And the answer to 11ac (REVERENTLY) is too similar too ‘revelry’ to be a really good clue.

    Luckily, there is the usual amount of Great Clues as well.
    1ac (RECIPES), 10ac (ASSISTANT), 26ac (AFIRE), 8d (LITTERED) and 16d (AGNOSTIC) are splendid.
    The best of All, we thought, were 13d (MAGISTRATE), already mentioned by Eileen and having the fine definition ‘he tries’, and 17d (AU GRATIN), which is brilliant in all its simplicity.
    Oh, and of course, 25ac (TO THE FULL), one we didn’t get but was much appreciated afterwards!

    (Our) Conclusion?
    This was certainly a good crossword, but a mixed bag as well.
    We had the feeling that there was more potential to some of the words in the grid.
    On the other hand, I want to be the last one to criticise Rufus (although, I must admit,
    I prefer FT’s Dante nowadays).

    Two final questions:
    – we didn’t get 12ac (DAME) – Rufus, you won again! – but some other posts said this one was ‘very clever’. Can anyone explain this one to me, please?
    – it is clear that 27ac is not right, but I looked at the alternative (‘Depressed kid goes to Aladdin’s magic place’) and still don’t get it. I am stunned that the two clues are so different, but there will be a reason for it, I guess. But then: what has CON to do with ‘kid’, or is it a ‘depressed kid’ (one in jail), or … And is the definition ‘depressed’?
    When you press something down, it can become ‘concave’, but my Chambers (online) mentions ‘flattened’ as well, which is surely not concave.
    So, who can tell me more (tell me more …).

    (Our) Conclusion #2?
    Thank you, Rufus, for this entertaining puzzle.
    Merry Christmas, to you & everyone!!

  18. Andy B says:


    12ac is a reference to the fine old British tradition of the Christmas panto in which there is usually a large female character, called a dame, but played by a male actor (“dragged” in this case meaning “in drag”)

    For 27ac “con” means to trick someone or, in this case to “kid” them. The cave is where Aladdin found the magic lamp. Put them together for “concave” which can be taken to mean a depressed surface.

  19. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #18:
    Thank you, Andy B, this makes it all clear to me.
    And the crossword (even) better than I thought it was.
    (but what a silly tradition …) :)

  20. mhl says:

    Thanks for the helpful post, Eileen. Perhaps bizarrely, this was the fourth or fifth week in a row when I found the Monday crossword easier in the Independent than the Guardian! The festive theme was fun here, anyway – thanks, Rufus.

  21. Rufus says:

    Apologies for late response. I am in the later stages of having a minor health problem sorted out by the NHS, which does mean a lot of waiting around.
    Many thanks to Eileen for her excellent blog and sorting out some of the queries later.
    The crossword editor had great problems in the last weeks which somehow led to the wrong clue for CONCAVE. The editor replaced it with my clue but the publishing dept could not at first put it in the paper until the last minute – too late for the on-line version.
    CONCAVE, incidentally, in some thesauri, is given as “depressed”.
    May I wish all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

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