Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,896 / Rover

Posted by Eileen on January 1st, 2010


Happy New Year, everyone! If I were one for New Year resolutions, one of them might have been ‘I will try to like Rover crosswords more’.  I know I’ve used the term ‘mixed bag’ about his puzzles before and this is more of the same – some nice clues but others that are [sorry, Bryan!] really rather weak, especially the double definitions.


ANAGRAM: a really nice start: ‘three swans’ is an anagram of  ‘the answers’.
5   UPLANDS: cryptic [?] definition
10  SPIN: anagram of PINS: quite neat, because ‘doctor’ is the anagram indicator
11  BREASTBONE: ‘familiar name for the sternum’ -groan!
12  RUSSET: RUSS[ian] + ET [‘and’ French]
14  TELEGRAPH: Help! – the Telegraph is a daily but the cricket score bit eludes me
16  STAKE: double definition: a stake is a piece of paling and to have a stake in something is to have an interest in it.
17  HARRY: double definition
19 ALLOTMENT: double [?] definition: they’re pretty similar, I think – and is an allotment really a measurement?
23  BIGAMIST: cryptic definition
24 ENDING: I suppose I have to call this a double definition – but it isn’t! I thought this was really weak, especially after Paul’s superb clue to this word yesterday. I can only think I’m missing something?
26  BOOKSTANDS: cryptic definition
27  GAIN: anagram of A GIN
28  READING: home of the Reading Royals ice hockey team [Thank you, Google!]
29  MALTESE: anagram of ME LEAST


2   NEPTUNE: double definition – not such a good start to the down clues
3   GENES: but I liked this homophone of jeans! Levi was one of the sons of Jacob and the ancestor of the tribe of Levi.
ARBITER: anagram of TRIBE in AR [Arabia]
PASSIM: PASS [‘I’ve no answer’] + I’M: I liked this one because it reminded me of a schoolgirl Latin mnemonic [which depends on a particular pronunciation]: ‘Vicissim in turn and passim in all directions’.
7 ARBORETUM: cryptic definition
DENMARK: DEN [study] MARK [second gospel]
9   METROPOLITANS: METROPOLITAN [London Underground line] + S[outhern]
15  EARMARKED: I expected to find that scab was a disease of horses but I can only find it with reference to sheep, so I can’t explain this fully.
18  ADIPOSE: anagram of PIE and SODA
20  OVERSEA: hidden in cOVERS EAch but I can’t see the indicator, apart from ‘covers’ which is part of the wordplay.
21  NANNIES:[ not very] cryptic definition
22  MITTEN: TT [teetotal, ie ‘dry’] in MIEN [appearance]
25  DIGIT: DIG IT:  ‘dig’ = ‘understand’

55 Responses to “Guardian 24,896 / Rover”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Eileen
    Re 14ac. The flip-over numbers on a traditional cricket scoreboard are called telegraph numbers.

  2. Octofem says:

    Hi Eileen. Happy 2010. I should make the same resolution but without much hope. 15d – I took the cob to be a corn cob – therefore ear of corn.

  3. NeilW says:

    Hi Eileen. HNY!

    Isn’t 24ac END IN G – close the word for finish?

    Aren’t the Royals also Reading Football Club, which is a bit less obscure?

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid and Octofem.

    Re TELEGRAPH; it’s a relief to know that that’s something I would never have got – even Chambers doesn’t seem to know it!

    Re ‘cob’ – that’s an idea but, again, I found ‘scab’ as ‘a fungal disease of various kinds in potatoes, apples, etc.’ but not of corn, specifically.

    Hi Neil – yes, you’re quite right re the Royals: I was being lazy – the ice hockey team was [strangely] the first Google entry. I don’t understand your explanation of 24ac!

  5. NeilW says:

    Sorry if I’m not being clear – the word ENDING should be read as “end in the letter G,” thus “close a word for finish”. It makes sense to me…

  6. jmac says:

    I found plenty to enjoy in this puzzle, but 28 across, Reading, Royals, really! Whether referring to the football or the ice hockey team this is desperately obscure stuff. Included in Rover’s entry in Jonathan Crowther’s A-Z of Crosswords is “if the knowledge required is not general enough … the setter has failed”. Moreover, according to the same source he doesn’t even have the excuse of indulging himself with the team he supports (Blackburn Rovers).

  7. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Eileen & Rover, I thought this was great!

    However 28a was decidedly tricky and had I not got E as the second letter I may have been tempted to opt for WINDSOR. This demonstrates the importance of the solution order.

    Moreover, not being a soccer fan, I doubt if I would have known that READING FC were known as The Royals had I not lived in Southern England where I get the TV Sports News that refers to them so.

    Also, I don’t understand 15d.

    I sympathise with all those who didn’t know this decidely obscure reference.

  8. Max says:

    20d: Indicator ia ‘territory’, definition ‘abroad’.

  9. Andrew says:

    Happy New Year Eileen, but you certainly pulled the short straw in what has otherwise been an excellent week. 2dn is dreadful (it could equally have been Jupiter or Mercury), as is 24ac (I agree with you that it’s just a weak dd). 26ac is another poor cd – I guessed BOOKSTORES at first. It’s a good job you didn’t make that resolution – it would have been doomed from the start.

  10. Shirley says:

    Eileen – I think the definition of 20D is abroad.
    Also 14Ac – in village cricket matches the players call out “telegraph” when a run has been scored to alert the scorer.
    He then moves the score along on the board of flip over numbers as Gaufrid has explained.

  11. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that extra bit of information, Shirley. I haven’t been to many village cricket matches and I hadn’t heard that.

    Re 20dn: I, too, took the definition as ‘abroad’ but I can’t see any indicator of a hidden clue, except ‘covers’. [I’m afraid ‘territory’ doesn’t work for me, Max.] Perhaps it doesn’t matter that ‘covers’ is part of the wordplay?

  12. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Eileen and others. I finished this without too much difficulty, but agree with the comments about some of the clues highlighted previously.

    14ac: I have been playing cricket for the best part of four decades and have never, ever, heard of the scoreboard numbers being referred to by this term.

    I got 28ac without difficulty, but agree it’s a bit obscure if you’re not into footie.

  13. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Nor, Shirley, of players shouting out ‘telegraph’! Are you sure they weren’t just ordering the Sunday paper for relaxation at the end of the match?

  14. Chunter says:

    KD: I’ve been obsessively playing and (mainly) watching cricket for even longer than you, but have never come across this meaning of ‘telegraph’. However, anyone looking for ‘telegraph number plates’ could try

  15. Max says:

    Eileen@11 – 20d: I didn’t say it was a particularly good parsing – I didn’t even twig it was hidden! Also, the singular form ‘oversea’ is not common.

  16. greyfox says:

    14ac Chambers gives ‘telegraph’ = ‘telegraph board’ a scoreboard or information board that can be read at a distance, used at matches, athletic meetings, races, etc.

  17. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for that, greyfox. Scrub my Comment 4! I only looked at ‘telegraph’ in Chambers and didn’t read far enough to find ‘telegraph board’. I think it’s interesting, though, that such long-standing afficianados as Kathryn’s Dad and Chunter were unfamiliar with it.

  18. Paul B says:

    HNY all.

    Apart from 1ac, which (although cluing this word in this fashion is not exactly new) is a good one, this is awful. Like my hangover.

  19. Mr Beaver says:

    Eileen is (as ever) polite….
    We didn’t care for this one at all – far too many ambiguous clues that you had to lightly pencil in, thinking ‘this is probably right…’
    Apart from those others have mentioned, 21a could easily have been BANKRUPT, 5a was nice, but again left you unsure that there wasn’t another answer.
    And 11a was just rubbish. Humph!

  20. Eileen says:

    Thanks to Octofem, Andrew, Kathryn’s Dad, Paul B and Mr Beaver for demonstrating that it’s not just me!

    Mr B, I did try to be charitable [we’re still in the season of goodwill] in view of a recent comment [with which I don’t agree] that commenters tend to ‘follow the leader’ and I really did think it got off to a good start with 1ac, which struck me as rather festive [echoes of seven swans a-swimming] but that was only in my head and there was no other nod towards the season, nor any hint of humour, [apart from the egregious 11ac] which always means a thumbs-down from me. In fact, if you’ll excuse the pun, after 1ac it was all rather downhill, as far as I was concerned.

    All the same, Andrew, I’m still glad I didn’t get your yesterday’s Paul! :-)

  21. rrc says:

    I totally agree with Mr Beavers comments that many of the clues were ambiguous. I did however like 3d

  22. rob lewis says:

    15d is simply (but poorly) a ear (of corn) that is marked as in ‘pock-marked’ – hence scabby – I didn’t think much of the clueing. 2dn was far too ambguous, and in fact you could see 10ac as SNIP (as a certain male-only operation). Overall it didn’t sem a very elegant puzzle – especially compared with yesterday’s.

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi Eileen, HNY (and to all the others, of course).

    At the risk of duplicating some of the above comments, I have to say:
    a very very poor crossword.

    The so-called cryptic definitions in 5ac (UPLANDS), 23ac (BIGAMIST) and 21d (NANNIES) are awful.
    Not to speak of 11ac, 19ac and 15d.

    In 20d I took ‘territory’ as the hidden indicator, something like ‘take some ‘territory’ of’, with ‘abroad’ as the definition.

    Didn’t like the METROPOLITANS either.
    The METROPOLITAN part of the line = METROPOLITAN as a city dweller.

    Rover had a preference for using the word “a” today.
    In 13ac, 17ac, 19ac and 8dn the (four) “a”s are all superfluous, in my opinion.

    Agree with others that 2d could also have been Jupiter or so.

    So, apart from the very nice 1ac (ANAGRAM) and the well-constructed 6d (PASSIM), not much to be really excited about – which is, I fear, an understatement.
    Sorry, dear Rover (but HNY to you as well)!

  24. Paul B says:

    Many thanks Eileen. Were I to blog (gasps of relief all round that I don’t) I would be far less charitable in general, and very likely murderous in particular.

  25. Neil says:

    No more than three clues were ‘fit for purpose’. Having ‘whispered in’ some three-quarters of the grid with possibilities, I lost the will and binned it. Send him back to the Parish Magazine, if they’d have him. Dreadful stuff!

  26. Bill Taylor says:

    Yes, 1a was terrific and I liked 6d. Otherwise, a horrible start to the year. It can surely improve from here, which is a comfort.

  27. liz says:

    Thanks, Eileen. And Happy New Year to everyone! I’m afraid I have to agree that this was a pretty weak offering, especially the cds. Least favourite clue: 11ac.

    NeilW — I wish I thought there was more to 24ac than there appears to be but in a puzzle that also includes clues like 21dn and 5ac I think it’s unlikely!

    1ac and 6dn were good, though!

  28. Ian says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog.

    1ac, 23ac & 26ac were excellent.

    The rest merely OK. I too have never come across Telegraph as the description for flip over numbers before. I continue to live and learn.

  29. Superdad says:

    Re Telegraph

    As a player of four decades plus I can confirm that the cry, “Telegraph” can still be heard in the remoter parts of the West Midlands. It usually comes from a senior member of a team, the type who smokes a pipe afterward and who wears cardigans with those wooden buttons with a cross on. In my youth it was a frequent cry from the players to the little boy in the score box.

    Happy new year to all your readers

  30. Kathryn's Dad says:

    To Superdad from Kathryn’s Dad: thank you and okay, I’m convinced now. Like Ian, I live and learn, and I’ll listen out for it next season.

  31. Rishi says:

    NeilW Says: Isn’t 24ac END IN G – close the word for finish?

    I don’t think so. I think “Close finish” is intended by the setter to be only a DD. Whatever opinion we may have of the clue as such.

    In any case, I am reminded of a DT clue:

    H? (9,5)

    Yes, that’s all!

    And we are supposed to get the answer FINISHING TOUCH !

    I would be interested to know what others think of this clue – whether it is attainable even when you have some crossings.

  32. Sylvia says:

    26a: I was on the wrong track and put in ‘countesses’ leaving me with ‘metropolit-s-‘ and an unfinished SW corner :-(

  33. Richard says:

    I think Reading FC being known as the royals is general knowledge enough. Most football followers will know this, and there are plenty of them/us!

  34. Eileen says:

    Hi Rishi

    I’m afraid I still didn’t understand NeilW’s comment, even after his explanation! Other people seemed to think, as I did, that it was simply an attempt at a double definition – and that would be in keeping with the rest of the puzzle!

    I think I’ve seen a clue similar to the one you gave on Paul’s Cryptica sight. I think you either love them or hate them. I did quite like ‘GEGS’ [scrambled eggs] and I remember [I think it was Paul, some years ago] ‘ONU: [10,14]’. I’ll let you think about that one! ;-)

  35. Rishi says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    To put things straight:

    The H clue I cited was from a Herald crossword, not DT.

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re # 34:
    Eileen, I will think about that one, although I don’t like things like that at all.
    At Cryptica there was once, I think even a gold, for “Y?” (happy ending).
    As a one-off gag I can eventually accept it, but people are always complaining when there’s no trace of a definition, and then in this case they don’t??
    H? and Y? can mean anything, so very unacceptable.
    Just like GEGS for ‘scrambled eggs': it looks fun, but GEGS doesn’t mean anything (to me), and it is just something that may be used as part of a cryptic construction.

    [BTW, when Y? appeared at Cryptica, I sent in some more as a protest: S? (Last Christmas – which NeilW would hate!), P? (starting point) and G? (right wing – with or without hyphen)]

    And like you, I think there’s nothing more to ‘Close finish’ than just a (more or less) double definition – but I don’t want to think about this crossword anymore …

  37. Eileen says:


    I think you’re absolutely right about the one-off gag. Once it’s been done, it shouldn’t be tried again,

    The reason I remember ‘GEGS’ is that it was in an episode of ‘Drop the dead donkey’, a programme I loved.

    And I don’t want to think about this crossword any more, either, but we’re getting rather dangerously off-topic …

  38. sandra says:

    well, here i am – far too late and almost certainly not going to be read! i only found this crossword today, having thought there wouldn’t be one yesterday. i abandoned it for a time – i find rover’s crosswords so infuriating. did today’s and went back to finish it.
    eileen and others: i didn’t like 20d at all but took the definition as being linked to “overseas territory”, which may be quite erroneous.but the french say “outre mer” so i am used to that in weather forecasts eg corsica). interestingly, this is in the singular but larousse translates it as “overseas territories”. this may have nothing to do with it, and it doesn’t mean i liked the clue!!

    i think everything else has been said.

  39. Bryan says:


    You are SO WRONG …

    Of course, your posting will be read …

    Nil desperandum (whatever that means).

  40. Eileen says:

    Hi sandra

    Bryan’s right – however late a comment, it’s always seen by the blogger, at least. I’m not so sure about ‘nil desperandum’, though – I despaired of this one on Friday!

    I’m sure you’re right about the intention of the surface reading of the clue but it was the apparent lack of a containment indicator [since it was a hidden word] that was bothering me. I thought ‘covers’ might be doing double duty, while others thought ‘territory’ might indicate a hidden word. I’m afraid I still can’t fathom it completely.

    Many thanks for your comment – keep them coming. I’m sorry you were a little late to the ‘party': I couldn’t remember myself whether there was a Guardian on New Year’s Day – it was the only one [apart from the FT] not to publish on Boxing Day.

  41. sandra says:

    thanks brian and eileen. i sort of thought territory might be the indicator, but forgot to say that. doh! but really! do let us all know, eileen, if you learn to like rover’s crosswords. it would appear there are quite a few of us that would like to know how!

  42. Eileen says:

    I think you need to ask Bryan, sandra – Rover’s his favourite! :-)

  43. sandra says:

    bryam#39 wish you would share the secret bryan – i always feel somewhat dim after a rover crossword.

  44. Bryan says:


    I’m no expert but my reading was that OVERSEA was simply ‘Territory Abroad’.

    That’s how I justified it to myself!

  45. Eileen says:

    Bryan / sandra

    I think I misunderstood. I thought sandra at Comment 41 was asking how to learn to like Rover puzzles – which is not the same as learning how to do them! :-)

  46. Bryan says:

    Oops, thanks Eileen.

    I guess it depends on whether or not you can get on the same wavelength as the Setter.

    After a bit of practice, a Setter’s style becomes more comprehensible and therefore less unfathomable and consequently more enjoyable.

    I don’t always manage to complete every crossword but when I fail I always get useful pointers from this site which takes me forward to the next one.

    Happily, I do like all the Grauniad Setters although I do prefer them without the printing errors which occur from time to time.

  47. sandra says:

    bryan#39 wish you would share the secret bryan – i always feel somewhat dim after a rover crossword.

  48. sandra says:

    oops, sorry about the duplicate entry. thanks bryan. i always do rover’s crosswords, usually, but not always without resorting to the cheat button! more because i am addicted to the guardian crossword than any other reason. maybe i will come to like him. i’m afraid i don’t keep track – except for araucaria whom i think is superb – but can anyone tell me how long rover has been on the “team”?

  49. Bryan says:

    Sorry, Sandra, I don’t know how long Rover has been on the team.

    However, if you check out the Grauniad Setters (on the top menu) you will see that Rover, Paul and Chifonie are the only 3 who are considered unreservedly ‘Hard’.

  50. sandra says:

    this was kind of you bryan. i looked at the setters (very interesting too) and i see it was last edited in september last year, so i guess he has been with us long enough for me to get on his wavelength. maybe i should hijack eileen’s new year resolution. will see how it goes. thank you again.

  51. Craig Jones says:

    Eileen… as all late postings are seen by the blogger, hopefully you will be seeing this! Can you put me out of my misery and reveal the answer to the ‘ONU: [10,14]’ you left us to ponder? [#34]. Thanks!

  52. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Craig
    I’m not Eileen but I can put you out of your misery (and save her some typing).

    ONU[s] – diminished responsibility

  53. Paul B says:

    That’s an old Enigmatist clue, I think.

  54. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that, Paul B – and to Gaufrid for stepping in so promptly! :-)

    I knew it was a [very] old clue – as I said, I thought it might have been Paul but I’m sure you’re right.

  55. Craig Jones says:


    Thanks all :-)

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=""> <strike> <strong>

− 4 = five