Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,894 / Enigmatist

Posted by Gaufrid on December 30th, 2009


There had to be at least one no-show over the festive period! He missed a very good puzzle.

Some excellent clues and a theme of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street who, with his accomplice Mrs Lovett, disposed of his victims by making their flesh into meat pies and then selling the pies to unsuspecting customers.

I have had problems parsing 17ac and would welcome suggestions from anyone who has got to the bottom of this one.

17 PIMENTO – Revs could be Reverends who are PI (good) MEN but then that leaves TO which I cannot equate with ‘will’ unless it is a (legal?) abbreviation/acronym for something like ‘testament o????’
18 SWEENEY TODD NEY (marshal) in SWEET[ner] (a lot of demerara) ODD (rum)
23 GALORE GAL (squeeze) ORE (mineral)
24 PASSIONS PAS (step) I (one) in SONS (children)

1 SEVERN EVER (always) in SN (tin) – preserved = in tin
2 CHINQUAPIN CHIN (feature) QUA (as) PIN (number)
3 ADDENDUM AD (notice) DEN (study) MUD (dirt) reversed
4 TUBE FOOT TOO (moreover) FE (iron) BUT (bar) reversed
5 CARRY OFF CARRY O[n] (releasing new comedy film series) FF (following)
7,21 MEAT PIES ME (author) *(IS PATE)
13 ONE-ON-ONE O (oxygen) NEON (gas) ONE (a)
14 COLD FEET OLD FEE (what they used to charge) in CT (small court)
16 ECSTATIC EC (The City) STATIC (still)
19 YEASTY EAST (point) in YY (years)

52 Responses to “Guardian 24,894 / Enigmatist”

  1. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid, for once again stepping in.

    Indeed, a very good puzzle which I thought I’d never get into, until I spotted MEAT PIES.

    I’m afraid I only got as far as you with 17. We do say ‘he is to’ for ‘he will’ but it would need the ‘is’.

    Lots of good clues but I especially liked 1dn – and the inclusion of [‘Sweeney Todd’] FLYING SQUAD!

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks for stepping in, Gaufrid. I’m sure you realised but didn’t mention that Sweeney Todd is rhyming slang for the Flying Squad – thus the 70s TV series.

    I read 17ac as “will” in the sense of the tabloid newspaper use of the word “to”: “Liverpool to sign many new players in January” (?!)

  3. NeilW says:

    Crossed in the post, Eileen!

  4. polecat says:

    Thanks for the blog, Gaufrid. I found this puzzle quite a struggle
    even with the aid of dictionaries!

    Re 17ac PIMENTO
    I agree with PI(good)MEN for Reverends.

    I thought, for example, that ‘Reverends will pray’
    could be substituted by ‘Pi men to pray’.
    I wonder if that’s near enough?

  5. mhl says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid, and Enigmatist for an excellent puzzle. We were just defeated by CHIN_U_P_N here, although I love PIN for “number” now that I’ve seen it.

    I read TO = “will” in the same way as NeilW did.

    1 down is brilliant, I think :)

  6. Andrew says:

    Thanks Gaufrid – you’re working hard today! I got 6,9 etc quickly, which led immediately to 18 and 7dn, and the rest followed without too much difficulty.

    I couldn’t explain 17ac to my satisfaction, unless TO is the “headline future”, as in “Pi men to condemn sin this Christmas”, where “to” could be replaced by “will”.

    I thought 1dn was both extremely clever and rather unfair and inaccurate: Sn for Tin is a bit obscure for a daily puzzle, but more seriously food is preserved in A tin, not in tin itself (have “tin cans” ever been made of tin?)

  7. mhl says:

    Also, it’s nice that TUBE FOOT was guessable from cryptic part, but I was very surprised to find out what tube feet are – I was assuming they were some bit of SCUBA equipment…

  8. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Gaufrid & Enigmatist.

    I had to struggle but got there in the end but, in some cases, without quite knowing why. Now everything has been made clear.

    I hereby declare that this is The Very Best Grauniad Cryptic of 2009 subject, of course, to whatever Rover might have in store tomorrow.

  9. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks to those who have put me straight regarding will=to. I’m afraid that I don’t read the tabloids, or any other paper, and am rather out of touch with modern idioms.

    Andrew. Yes, the canning process has used (originally Cornish) tin-plated steel since the cannisters for preserving food were first manufactured back in the early 19th century.

  10. rrc says:

    Very enjoyable, although I couldn’t understand one or two of the clues e.g.Ney = marshal eg. and pimento

  11. liz says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid. I enjoyed this very much, though I did find it difficult and missed 23ac. The wordplay eluded me in a couple of clues, so thanks for the explanations. I read ‘to’ in 17ac in the same way as the others.

  12. Tom_I says:

    rrc @10, Michel NEY (1769-1815) was one of the original 18 “Marshals of France” created by Napoleon I.

    PIMENTO has already been explained.

  13. stiofain says:

    i thought this was a great puzzle nicely themed.
    Eileen “meat pies” was also the tipping point for me.
    I too think the pimento clue was just a bit weak but “severn” and “passions” were great and “flying squad ” a nice touch.
    Sorry Bryan cant agree this was the best of the year there were too many classics from the likes of paul, boatman, brummie and others.
    rrc ive seen ney used many times in xwords

  14. muck says:

    17ac PI+MEN+TO
    I have read the comments above trying to explain will=TO
    Possibly the worst clue of the year IMHO

  15. rrc says:


    Thank you very much. Im not sure how I would have come across that little gem but it does illustrate that at times unfamilar words are difficult to solve if you are having problems identifying aspects of the clue.

  16. Tom Hutton says:

    We’re having a run of general knowledge questions today and yesterday. That’s fun if you know the answer but hard work if you don’t. I was handicapped by putting in a wrong answer early on which stopped me getting Sweeney Todd for ages. A most ingenious crossword in the end but the huge anagram is pointless in my view. Did anyone solve the anagram before getting 18ac? Did anyone actually have to work out the anagram or did they just stick the answer in when it became obvious? Perhaps it couldn’t be avoided.

  17. stiofain says:

    Tom I agree long anagrams are a bad practice in xwords and i rarely attempt to work them out.

  18. Eileen says:

    Hi Bryan #8

    “I hereby declare that this is The Very Best Grauniad Cryptic of 2009″

    I haven’t had time to look through the archive but I think you’ve said something similar to this several times lately. :-) It reminds me that, whenever my [Scottish] husband was asked what was his favourite malt whisky, he would invariably reply, ‘The one I’m drinking now.’! I haven’t agreed with some [most?] of your other choices – but this is certainly up there among the top however many cited by stiofain.

    Thanks to all who have explained ‘to = will’ – entirely to my satisfaction. The explanation does, in fact, go along with my idea but I hadn’t thought in terms of headlines, which would, naturally, omit the verb ‘to be’.

    Tom Hutton

    No, I certainly didn’t solve the anagram first. There has been discussion about these long anagram clues in the past. You just have to admire the ingenuity of the setter and the perseverance of solvers who do get the answer that way. As I said, I got it from MEAT PIES.

  19. Bryan says:

    Tom Hutton @ 16

    I rarely ever figure out long anagrams until I’ve got one of the words shaping up, in this case: D***N.

    Then when I got MEAT PIES, SWEENEY TODD quickly followed and the long anagram then became obvious.

    Very satisfying when you get them but usually quite a struggle until you get there.

  20. Henry says:


    16 down.

    Why does ec mean city?



  21. Bryan says:

    Hi Eileen @ 18

    Finding ‘The Very Best’ is always subject to change up to the 31st December.

    Let’s see what Rover can cook up for us tomorrow.

    Or will you be too busy celebrating Hogmanay?

  22. Bryan says:

    Henry @ 20

    EC is the Postal District for the City of London.

  23. Eileen says:


    I was, as you must know, deliberately ignoring your Rover reference. :-)

  24. Dave Ellison says:

    Tom @ 16 and Eileen @ 18: I don’t usually care for the very long anagrams and don’t bother checking the letters. However, today, I had guessed Fleet Street and didn’t twig the answer straight away. I had thought BOMBER for 9a, and was then left with an impossible set of letters for the rest of 6a. I didn’t have SWEENEY TODD, as I was thinking along the lines of SUGA—, and it was only after getting the long one that SWEENEY TODD was obvious.

  25. Dave Ellison says:

    I suspect a Paul tomorrow; Rover was due 26 Dec?

  26. Grumpy Andrew says:

    Chinquapin is a word so obscure – well, when was the last time you heard it in conversion?
    Raisable, a word no one uses.
    Yeasty, how does that mean insubstantial?
    Tube foot? Eh?
    This strikes me as an example of a compiler boxing him or herself into a corner and having to come up with ridiculous answers because they are the only words he or she can find to fit the grid.
    Lazy for the compiler, tortuous for me.

  27. jmac says:

    RE Tom @ 16

    In this instance I felt the long anagram was quite fair because the constituent words of the anagram were so clearly defined; Also, there were plenty of crossing letters. As it happened, I, like Eileen, Bryan, and others, got there via “meat pies”, but I feel that I would have got there in any case.

    “Chinquapin” defeated me.

    I am very grateful to Gaufrid for his lucid explanation of the finer points of some of the solutions.

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thank you, Enigmatist, for restoring my self-confidence!
    (but was it really necessary to remind of yesterday’s struggle by including UNDERARM
    – as opposed to ‘overarm’ …? :) )

    Did this crossword after Dinner in just under an hour without my British PinC,
    and really enjoyed it.
    The anagrams were fine (like 8,20 or 12).
    I like the Guardianesque escapades of 1d (‘in tin’) and 24ac (‘pas’+’sons’).
    In the case of the latter I first thought: we pass on what there is now, to the next generations, so let’s call our stepchildren pass-on’s …..
    The very concise 16d was also a favourite
    (re #20, EC is a postal code of the Inner City of London)

    And how lovely to see a reminder of that brilliant TV series Cold Feet, which was also very well clued (in a TV context).

    Great light-footed stuff today!

  29. Dave Ellison says:

    We had OVERARM yesterday, UNDERARM today, very similar clues.

  30. Mr Beaver says:

    Grumpy Andrew – ‘yeasty’ means insubstantial in the sense of frothy, like the head produced by yeast fermenting (in a poetic sort of way…)
    I agree about CHINQUAPIN – Mrs Beaver is quite a plantswoman and had never heard of it.
    I had vaguely heard of TUBE FEET in connection something marine and squishy. According to mhl’s link, starfish have them.

  31. george says:

    Grumpy Andrew [@26] got it right, but he’s much too polite. This was not a crossword puzzle – it was some bizzare word game which depended on suspect cabilistic mumbo-jumbery [and the cheat key].
    CHINQUAPIN – for God’s sake, Joyce is dead; let him lie in peas.
    Go search!

  32. liz says:

    I got SWEENEY TODD first, then MEAT PIES and had to work out the anagram partially — I remembered the ‘demon barber’ bit, but not the street. I think long anagrams are hard but not impossible to solve cold, but I do admire setters for devising them, especially when the surface is as good as this one was.

  33. don says:

    Agree with Andrew – I wonder why ‘chinquapin’ is automatically underlined in red as a misspelling while I’m typing this! I got the ‘chin’ and, eventually, the ‘pin’, but don’t do dead languages.

    Didn’t get ‘tube feet’, either. Does ‘bar’ = ‘but’?

    Using the link provided by mhl in #7, one finds “Tube feet function in locomotion and feeding.” So what have tube feet got to do with respiration, as given in the clue?

  34. don says:

    OK ‘bar’ = ‘except’ = ‘but’.

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #33:
    WordWebPro says for ‘tube foot':
    Tentacular tubular process of most echinoderms (starfish and sea urchins and holothurians) having a sucker at the end and used for e.g. locomotion and respiration

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    And Chambers Online:
    tube foot (noun) in echinoderms: any of the small tubelike protrusions that are used in locomotion, respiration or the ingestion of food.

  37. manehi says:

    Apologies and many thanks, Gaufrid – I was stranded away from the internet for the best part of the day. I was lucky enough not to miss out on the puzzle, though, which I struggled with at the beginning and the very end (CHINQUAPIN…) but enjoyed immensely.

  38. Eileen says:

    Hi manehi

    Really bad luck with your internet problems – I’d have been so disappointed if it had been me down to blog this great puzzle and I couldn’t! I’m really glad you were able to enjoy the puzzle anyway! :-)

  39. Ian says:

    I found this one of the easier Enigmatist puzzles as the theme was solvable from the precise clueing.

    Some interesting connexions (Sweeney / Flying Squad) and an intriguing, presumably coincidental solution re the bowling delivery in Underarm following on from yesterday’s Overarm.

    7,21dn and 16dn were rather clever, I thought.

  40. Jake says:

    Good stuff again.

    Nice one.

  41. sandra says:

    tom#16 i used to struggle with the long anagrams a long time ago, until i started to ignore them and wait until i had as many crossing letters as possible. then they usually fall into place, but i really admire the setters for them and enjoy unravelling them afterwards. i think there must be lots of solvers who do this.

  42. Ygor says:

    Here in Virginia, I used to play tennis at Chinquapin Park, so I knew the word and eventually it shimmered into place in the puzzle. But, I never knew that there was a tree of that name.

  43. Shed says:

    TomHutton #16: yes, me. I got the long anagram first (not by working it out but in a flash of inspiration), then SWEENEY TODD and then MEAT PIES. If only thanks to Stephen Sondheim, this hardly counts as obscure. I needed a dictionary to verify CHINQUAPIN and TUBE FOOT but I was pretty confident they’d be there because the clues were so sound.

    Tough but fun, I thought. My only quibble is with 19dn: how does ‘over the years’ lead to ‘between Y and Y’? Or am I missing something?

  44. mhl says:

    Shed: was 19 down different in the print edition? All of the online versions seem to have the clue as “Insubstantial point spanning the years (6)”

  45. Mr Beaver says:

    Shed: 19d was ‘Insubstantial point spanning the years’, so EAST could be regarded as spanning the gap between Y and Y

  46. stiofain says:

    the print edition had “Insubstantial point over the years”

  47. Brian Harris says:

    I’m with George and Andrew on this one. Some horrible ungainly, inelegant, obscure and unfathomable clues made this a real chore. Not all bad – but still, each to their own.

  48. Paul B says:

    I’d have thought any puzzle with a theme that contains only one obscure word (in Collins none the less, as is RAISABLE) might have been seen as pretty carefully compiled right from the outset, but if you say so, folks. (Some Guardian puzzles are the other way, with no theme and who knows how many recondite entries.)

    And why is a long anagram ‘pointless’ and ‘bad practice’? Some of the best clues I’ve ever had the pleasure of solving have been long anagrams.

    And cabilistic (sic)?

  49. Bryan says:

    Obviously, the Grauniad Setters are unable to please everyone all the time but nevertheless they always manage to please me so, thankfully, they have got their priorities right.

    Please keep up the Good Work and a Very Happy New Year to one and all!

  50. davey b says:

    1 across TICKER Why bright student?

  51. don says:

    I assume it’s because bright students gets ticks, dull students get crosses.

  52. Julia says:

    My husband had “slight” for 19 down, which threw us rather, but which we like better as an answer…we do both like yeasty as a word mind you…

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