Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24890 / Crucible

Posted by mhl on December 23rd, 2009


This is the fourth crossword by Crucible for the Guardian, as far as I can tell. (This setter more frequently appears as Radian in the Independent.) There are plenty of clever (and tricky to parse!) clues here – overall tough but satisfying, I thought. Merry Christmas to everyone ☃

10. ONION OPINION = “View” without P I = “page one”
11. ADJUNCT Not quite sure about this: AD (advertisement) = “spinner” (?) + [bo]UN[ce] in JCT (junction) = “turn” (?) Thanks to Matthew, who explains below that this is DJ = “spinner” + [bo]UN[ce] in ACT = “turn” (as in “doing a good turn”, I suppose)
12. LARGISH (A GIRL’S)* + H = “husband”
13. EZRA Z = “variable” in ERA = “long period”; just “Pound” as the definition (for the poet Ezra Pound) might be considered unfair, but the cryptic part is pretty easy
14. PLUM TOMATO PLUTO = “Dog” around TOM = “cat” in MA[d]. “interminable” is a nice way to indicate dropping the end of the word, I think
16. UNMANLY UN = “Peacekeepers” + MAINLY “for the most part” without I = “current”
17. AERATED AE (or Æ) = Irish poet Russell + RATED = “considered”
19. ALL SHOOK UP CALLS = “Rings” without C = “about” + HOOK UP = “to meet”; the definition refers to the number one hit of Elvis Presley (“The King”) from 1957
22. EMMA Hidden reversed at the end of “programme”
24. EFFORTS Very nice: substituting the letters “EF” FOR “TS” would make “Betsy” into “Beefy”
25. DIM SUMS I’M + SUM (Latin for “I am”) in D[ubiou]S
26. NONET To be read as “no net” for the tennis-related surface reading, rather than a group of nine instrumental players
27. ENCHILADA N = “Point” + CHILD = “kid” around A = “one” all in EA = “each”
1,8. PLEASE PUT A PENNY IN THE OLD MAN’S HAT A cryptic definition referring to the nursery rhyme beginning: “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat / Please put a penny in the old man’s hat”
2. MARJORAM OJ = “Simpson” reversed in MARRAM = “grass” – I spent rather too long wondering whether there was a reference to Marge Simpson here :)
4. HOSTELRY HOSIERY = “legwear” with TEL = “Terry” for IE = “that is”
5. VELLUM Hidden answer
6. POURBOIRE (POURRI)* + [ros]E around BO = “pong”; I didn’t know this word before, but it means a tip or gratuity
7. SILICA SILICA (used to make glass) with BA = “degree” would give BASILICA = “Roman church”
15. ANCHORITE ([now]H[ere] CREATION)*
17. AQUEDUCT D = “died” in A QUEU[e] = “a never-ending line” + CT = “court”; another nice indicator for dropping the last letter
20. LE FANU FAN = “devotee” in LEU = “Romanian capital”
21. OYSTER ([m]O[na]STERY)*; Chambers gives one definition of OYSTER as “a secretive person (inf)”, hence “he’s tight-lipped”
23. IMMIX I = “Italy” + MMIX = “2009”; “immix” is an old verb meaning “blend”

34 Responses to “Guardian 24890 / Crucible”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, mhl, and Merry Christmas!

    I couldn’t really get into this and I only managed to complete five during breakfast. Then it was time for other things.

    I am so glad that you were able to decipher the clues.

  2. Matthew says:

    In 11ac I think spinner=DJ and turn=ACT

  3. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for a great blog, mhl, especially for explaining EFFORTS – super clue!

    I didn’t know Crucible was Radian – no wonder I enjoyed this so much! Too many good clues to mention, really, but I do admire Crucible for finding another original clue for EMMA!

  4. Eileen says:

    PS: I was beguiled by Marge Simpson for a while, too. :-)

  5. David says:

    Thanks, mhl. I ground to a halt with a few to do, so appreciated your explanations.
    Like you and Eileen (and, I suspect, many others), the blue-haired super-mum held me up. Doh!
    Happy holidays, everyone

  6. IanN14 says:

    Very difficult, this.
    It is a pangramamtic one, though…

  7. mhl says:

    IanN14: thanks for pointing that out – I always forget to look out for that property.

    Eileen: To cite my sources, I’m going by a comment from eimi on a previous crossword. I don’t get the link between the pseudonyms that Paul B suggests though…

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi mhl

    I’ve been going through the archives, too, and find that on 9th September, in a comment on Criucible’s second crossword, I repeated that information from eimi, which I had completely forgotten! I also said that I wished we could see more of him over here – and that still stands!

    I thought the positioning of the long solution was good, in that it helped – but not too much, too soon.

  9. Shirley says:

    18D can anyone please explain why Tempuras is the answer? We worked out the anagram but cannot see what its got to do with seafood

  10. Bryan says:

    Here you go, Shirley:

    It was a new one on me too, not being a lover of Japanese food.

    I nearly starved when I visited Japan.

  11. mhl says:

    Shirley, Bryan: I have to say I had always thought that the plurals of “tempura” and “dim sum” were just “tempura” and “dim sum”  :)

  12. Tom_I says:

    An excellent puzzle, I thought. Tough, but satisfying to finish, with many good clues.

    More Crucible, please!

  13. IanN14 says:

    Just looking at the grid again…
    Is there some sort of recipe going on?
    We’ve got onion, (largish) plum tomato, marjoram, oyster, the aforementioned tempuras and dim sums, an enchilada and, er, whine.
    If these were somehow 19ac.perhaps would it make some sort of cocktail, maybe in a 4d.?
    (If so it would probable taste 9ac. and I wouldn’t be leaving a 6d…).

  14. Conrad Cork says:

    Stonkingly good puzzle. Not knowing the Radian connection, I begn to wonder, as some of the clues were so inventive, whether Crucible might be a consortium, like Biggles was.

    Hope the government don’t decide that crosswords are a legal high and must be banned. :-))

  15. Drunclejohn says:

    Could some kind person explain how I = current? Also, doesn’t the rhyme properly go ‘Please TO put a penny etc…?

    Otherwise, great fun, especially beefy Betsy and using the middle of nowhere to give H.

  16. Eileen says:


    I is the symbol for current in Physics [I learned from crosswords].

    Yes, some [but not all] versions do have ‘to’.

    Ian – tell you what: you try it and let us know!

  17. Ian says:

    Well this was defintely a tough challenge, even after getting the long solution.

    Thanks mhl for the fulsome blog and helping me out with the definitive explanations.

    Very clever stuff.

  18. Crucible says:

    Thanks for your kind words. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying they keep us setters warm and cosy. The foody bits are a coincidence (I know SFA about cookery), including the anglicised plurals. Once I’d decided to go for the pangram all other considerations went out the window. A Happy Winter Holiday to you all. Hope to keep you guessing next year.

  19. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl and thanks to Crucible for a really enjoyable and very testing puzzle! I didn’t see all the wordplay, so I was particularly grateful for the blog today, as it only made me appreciate the cleverness more. Ditto for the pangrammatic. All that, and good surfaces too!

  20. Grumpy Andrew says:

    Sorry but any compiler who uses a word such as pourboire, or immex, as an answer needs shooting. This was dreadful. Bah humbug.
    But thanks for the blog and happy Christmas, if it wasn’t for this site I’d be doing the crossword in the telegraph. Or Star.

  21. Eileen says:

    Grumpy Andrew

    That’s rather a drastic punishment, particularly at this season of goodwill: I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this – or perhaps you now think you have to live up to the name you adopted!

    Admittedly, both POURBOIRE and IMMIX are rather unusual but the clues to both are, I think, stunning.

    I’ve always thought that the French ‘pourboire’ [literally ‘for a drink’] was so much more picturesque than the prosaic English ‘tip’ and didn’t realise that it had actually come into English but it’s in both Collins and Chambers. But the clue! – just look at the surface – it’s absolutely impeccable and quite unrelated to the answer. I said earlier that there were too many good clues to mention but perhaps this has to be the best.

    And IMMIX – a perfectly constructed fun clue, with the acknowledgment that it’s an ‘old’ meaning.

    [Happy Christmas! :-)]

  22. jmac says:

    Many thanks mhl for such an enlightening blog. “pourboire” defeated me but there were several solutions that I got but failed to parse before I read your analysis. Also, if not more so, thanks to Crucible for such a delightful puzzle.

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #12: You ask for more Crucible (please)?
    A lot of us did a while ago.
    The only thing is: ‘more Crucible’ could mean ‘less overall quality’.
    And that’s certainly not what we want.

    This crossword was (in our opinion) f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.
    (even though we found 1,8d right away – maybe the least successful clue)
    Who cares about the obscure but guessible LE FANU, IMMIX and POURBOIRE, when there are little masterpieces like 19ac (ALL SHOOK UP), 26ac (NONET), 3d (WHINE) and above all the stunning 24ac (EFFORTS).

    What a treat!!

  24. liz says:

    I would also like to make special mention of WHINE. Brilliant clue, neat and funny (it made me laugh anyway!) I don’t like obscurity for the sake of it, but IMMIX was very fairly clued and POURBOIRE (which I did know from French at school) was, as Eileen says, superb.

  25. bgt says:

    Can anyone enlighten me as to the relationship between “tel” and “terry” in 4d? Thanks.

  26. liz says:

    ‘Tel’ is a common nickname for Terry.

  27. Dave Ellison says:

    I had heard of Le Fanu (indeed read some of his gothic stories), but failed to get the answer despite guessing FAN; Bucharest would just not fit in, and I had not heard of LEU.

    IMMIX, POURBOIRE I hadn’t heard of. I don’t agree the clue for immix was superb; it was run of the mill, and perfectly fair given the obscurity of the answer. Not so POURBOIRE, however; I think an obscure word should have a reasonably easy clue, and this wasn’t.

    To the average solver such as myself, this was a hard crossword.

    Tempuras and dim sums I was familiar with, but didn’t like 18d – I had worked out the answer, but was still unsure about it as they are usually vegetable and not fish, in my experience: the clue perhaps needs a perhaps to make it fair.

    Enjoyed some of the clues, though.

  28. Eileen says:


    I’m a Radio 4 in the morning ‘girl’ myself but, this week, as he retires, it has to be ‘El Tel’ – Terry Wogan!

  29. Eileen says:

    Dave Ellison

    Chambers: ‘tempura: a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables, deep-fried in batter’ and
    Wikipedia: ‘a popular Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried.’

    Sounds delicious = sorry , Bryan #10!

  30. john goldthorpe says:

    Yes! More Crucible, please. What a wonderfully inventive, tough, but absolutely fair puzzle. Standard-setting stuff.

  31. Mr Beaver says:

    Apologies for ignorance, but in what sense is this pangrammatic ?
    Is it simply that all letters appear somewhere in the grid ? Not a huge feat if so… or am I missing something ?

    BTW, I liked it too, despite being defeated by pourboire, tempuras and (to my shame) aerated

  32. bgt says:

    Thanks, liz. I think I’ve heard of Terry Wogan, but we are not deeply immersed in him in the States. Merry Christmas.

  33. Neil says:

    Sorry Eileen (#28), but doesn’t El Tel better refer to Terry Venables, erstwhile soccer manager, from the time he worked in Spain?

  34. Crucible says:

    Mr Beaver
    In answer to your query, a pangram is actually a (usually) short sentence using all the letters of the alphabet, e.g. the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. It was only when I started setting that someone told me about the crossword version. Trying to fit all letters in can often result in one or more obscure words but it’s rather selfishly satisfying to find a way to do it. ‘Obscure’ tends to be subjective, so not all words one person might think obscure will be given easy clues. It’s quite surprising to me at least to see what words some people know, and what they don’t know, so there’s no point trying to anticipate reactions. I had no idea for example that ICE CUBE is a US actor.

    Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

1 + = seven