Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24902 / Bonxie

Posted by mhl on January 8th, 2010


A mixed puzzle, which unfortunately exemplifies why recently I’ve only been doing puzzles from my favourite setters when they come up in the Guardian – there are some excellent clues, but enough dodgy devices along the way that as a solver I found myself discouraged.

1. RADIANT AID = “support” reversed in RANT = “shout”; “when” in the cryptic reading is a bit unnatural, I think
5. CASH COW Cryptic definition
9. BANAL BANA[na] + [bow]L; an Araucarian “mostly” here – I’m not sure other setters are allowed to do the same ;)
10. BEER BELLY A nice cryptic definition, “supper” being “one who sups”
11. FREE WHEEL FREE = “empty” + WHEEL = “revolver”
12. RIOJA Nice clue: (JAI[l]OR)*
13. SKIMP SKIM = “Thumb through” + [cha]P[ter]; “Chapter 4″ to mean “the fourth letter of chapter” might raise some eyebrows, though the clue is pretty easy overall
15. AMORTISED (MEDIATORS)*; a word that I only know from the sense in computer science, but luckily the anagram is easy
18. CONCLUDES Double definition
21. VERDI Hidden answer; “of” is the indicator
23. ELEPHANTS PELE = “footballer” reversed + HANTS = “county”
25. ALPHA MALE ALP + HAM + ALE, a nice clue but I’m not sure about “of” as a joiner between parts of the subsidiary
26. SERUM (MUSER)*; as far as I can see, this is an awful indirect anagram – can’t believe this got into the crossword if so
27. ENDLESS LESS = “Fewer” (colloquially :)) after END = “outcome”
28. TRAILER A good cryptic definition
1. REBUFFS RES = “Research” (as in MRes) around BUFF = “beige”
2,19. DANDELION CLOCK DANDELION = “plant” + CLOCK = “timer”, cryptically refers to the game of blowing the seeds off the top of the plant. Not sure there’s really a definition here, but it’s quite fun
3. ALLOW [m]ALLOW = one of this family of plants; the definition is “Agree to”
4. TABLELAND Cryptic definition
5. CREEL C[ase] = “Case first” + REEL = “waver”
6. SYBARITIC (CITY BAR IS)*; easy after SYBARITE in Dac’s puzzle in the Independent the other day :)
7. CELLO CELL = “Group” + O = “ring”
8. WAYWARD Nice clue: DRAW = “design” + YAW = “zig-zag” reversed
14. PALPITATE IT in PALPATE = “press”
16. OBSCENEST (SECON[d] BEST)*; the definition is “Most blue” and the (rather suspect) anagram indicator is “deposit”
17. SCOUNDREL C[onstable] in SOUND = “In good nick” + REL = “relative”; “chief” to indicate the first letter seems dodgy to me
18. CAVIARE VIA = “through” in CARE = “Feel anxious”
20. KASHMIR Sounds like “cashmere” (unsurprisingly, since the root is the same)
22. RAPID R[amadan] + (PAID)*
23. EXAMS AXE = “cut” reversed + MS = “manuscript”
24. HOSTA HOST = “Present” + A; I wondered whether there might be a plant called “herea”, never having heard of either :)

29 Responses to “Guardian 24902 / Bonxie”

  1. molonglo says:

    Like mhl, I did this with gritted teeth: e.g the abbreviation in 1d (calling to mind yesterday’s blogs) and the awkward 26a (serum from muser via ‘about.’). Happy with 23a, but really because it was that answer that triggered my interest in cryptics long ago, when the clue was ‘trumpeters scorn mnemonics.’ No teeth gritting there.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks mhl, I agree that this was a bit of a curate’s egg. When I solved 26ac I assumed it was a reversal of MUSER: obviously it isn’t, but maybe Bonxie suffered the same confusion as me. I thought 2/19dn was a bit weak myself.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks mhl but I didn’t enjoy this at all.

    Consequently, I didn’t complete as I was unsure about some of the solutions that – as it turned out – I had entered correctly.

    Very disappointing!

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks, mhl.

    It’s a while since we saw Bonxie and I seem to remember ‘mixed’ comments before.

    I put ticks against 10 and 12ac and 22dn, as I solved it but I agree with the reservations already mentioned.

    It was only when I read the blog that I realised that SERUM is not a reversal of MUSER!

  5. Ian says:

    Thanks for blogging today mhl.

    Unlike others, I really liked this one from Bonxie.

    Really inventive clueing and all undeniably fairly presented with the notable exception of 17dn which looks awkward.

    12ac, 28ac, 8dn and 14dn especially worthy of praise.

  6. Radchenko says:

    Thanks for the blog, especially for explanations of clues that I couldn’t see even when I guessed the answer
    (same as Bryan). Would have been there all day trying to get top-right corner.

    Reassuring to know that others struggled through. SERUM got me too. Indirect anagram or just grauniad?

  7. IanN14 says:

    I know it doesn’t bother most people, but I thought I’d do it anyway…
    9ac. Bottom of bowl = L? No, unless it’s a down clue.
    13ac. Chapter 4 = P? No.
    5d. Case first = C? Almost (better than “first case”, I suppose)…. but no…
    17d. Chief Constable = C? Very much no. (And why “of” in the clue?)
    22d. Beginning of Ramadan? Yes!
    Shame really, because I thought there were some really good clues here (not 26ac. obviously), including the cds (10 & 28ac especially).

  8. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl. I had a similar experience with this one. Had to use the check button a number of times to confirm answers that weren’t entirely clear from the wordplay. 10ac was good, 26ac was not good! I didn’t care for 20dn either and I thought 18ac was a little loose. 12ac and 22dn were both neat and witty, though.

    Hostas seem to crop up quite often in crosswords. I’ve given up on them in my garden — the snails and slugs like them too much!

  9. benington says:

    I enjoyed this puzzle – some clever clues and 10a made me smile.

    Truly one man’s meat…

  10. rrc says:

    1a and 1d 25a and 16d were the last four to go in. 25a was clued well but not familiar with the term. 16d was not in my chambers dictionary and the 1s I still do not like. The other answers were well clued I thought Overal enjoyment factor marred by those last 4 clues though.

  11. Bill Taylor says:

    Bonxie is a name new to me and if this is typical of his/her standard, once is enough. Some terrible clues (though, in fairness, I did like “dandelion clock”). “Care” for “feel anxious” in 18d is a real stretch, I think.

  12. Dave Ellison says:

    I am on the side of the enjoyers today.


    9ac. Bottom of bowl = L? No, unless it’s a down clue. Agreed
    13ac. Chapter 4 = P? Yes, I thought this was quite original – unless you are a computer person and then it probably should be 3
    5d. Case first = C? No problem for me.
    17d. Chief Constable = C? Yesish, I thought this was quite original.
    22d. Beginning of Ramadan? Yes! Agreed

    liz #8: Our hostas are never bothered by slugs, but we do have a couple of toads

    I too think 26a was a Grauniad

  13. sandra says:

    thank you mhl.

    i did like some of these clues – dandelion clock, beer belly, cash cow et al. but there were more of the ones i didn’t and, like others, i hit the check button once or twice to make sure i had it right. couldn’t see the wordplay in scoundrel until i looked at the blog. chief constable floored me, i’m afraid. thought it might be cc or co (commanding officer) but failed miserably. only got the answer from the definition and checking letters.

    i am still trying to work out what a “charade” is exactly. is “scoundrel” an example. could anyone please tell me? many thanks – it is one thing to read the description and think you have undersood but….. thanks.

  14. mark says:

    A setter to watch out for….. Never again please! Do the crossword editors read these comments? If so, come on, there must be better setters out there.

  15. IanN14 says:

    Dave @ 12,
    OK, I did say that most people seem to not mind these inaccuracies, but even you seem to agree with me on a couple of my points….
    And what did you make of the “of” in 17d.?

  16. stiofain says:

    Unlike others I enjoyed this thoroughly.
    I have thought recently that Araucaria was trying to introduce a new standard cluing device into the accepted canon with his overly frequent use of the “partly” or “mostly” device to indicate an undefined number of letters from the parent word over the last few months.
    9ac is the first time I can recall another setter using this device so perhaps he has been successful.

  17. Dave Ellison says:

    IanN14 @ 15

    I did at first think the “of” should indicate an adjective, for example, as in “of sheep” = “bovine”; however, it didn’t really bother me, as once I got the answer I moved on with no more thought for it. Couldn’t “rel” = “relative of”?

  18. Eileen says:

    Dave E

    I didn’t think too much about the ‘of’ either, this morning, but I take the point.

    [I think you've got a superfluous 'b' in your "of sheep" = "bovine", unless you meant "of cattle". :-)]

  19. Dave Ellison says:

    Oops, thank’s Eileen

  20. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I can’t remember ever to have solved a crossword by Bonxie (though I knew the name).
    But this crossword really had … um, everything!

    A clue that we all dislike (indeed, 26ac).
    Two very fine cryptic definitions (10ac and 28ac).
    Two rather silly cryptic definitions (5ac and 4d).
    Nice almost-anagrams (12ac and 22d, in which the combination Fast/Ramadan deserves a special mentioning).
    Wrong (?) uses of ‘first’, ‘chief’, ’4′ and ‘bottom of’.
    [Although I must admit that it is very tempting for a setter to go beyond certain limits for a good surface reading. When I sent in the (rejected) clue "Poet written up his initials before taking final glance at John's part (6,4)" for Cryptica, I knew that the use of 'final' was dubious, but it fits so well in the clue]
    A much too easy and unpleasant hidden clue (21ac).
    Two very very laboured clues (16d and 17d).
    Three clues with words that are out of place or superfluous (25ac (‘of’), 2,19 (‘then’) – although a nice clue, looking at the wrong-footing surface) and – I agree, IanN14 –
    17d (‘of’)).
    A clue that did remind me of a recent one (Araucaria?):
    24d “Present a flower” – with a different answer.
    A clue with Araucarian elements, 9ac (‘mostly fruit’) – no problem to me.
    A clue in which I found the order of words dubious (or misleading), 14ac – it reads clearly like put ‘it’ into a word for ‘quiver’ and you’ll get a word for ‘press’.
    But, not here.
    An in every sense really splendid clue (the ELEPHANTS of 23ac).

    Is that all?
    Well, there’s also 11ac FREEWHEEL. Both that word (as a verb) and ‘to coast’ (the definition) mean ‘travel downhill’, so what is ‘found by’ doing there?

    So, boys and girls, what more do we want, as I said, everything’s there.
    For mark (#14) it is clearly not enough.
    In Holland there is an expression that says that “the best sailors are the ones on land”.
    Let’s face it: this was not a good crossword, but there were enough good clues
    to make this fairly OK.

    Not everyone’s a A, P (twice), E, S, O or B (not this one) (oh, and C).
    [Sorry, "Times article about Rover's ultimate expert (5)" :) ]

  21. liz says:

    Nice one, Sil!

  22. Derek Lazenby says:

    Sandra, it’s just like the game, you get clues to bits of the word and stick them together. Of course the bits may be in the form of any of the other standard devices.

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Oh, and R, of course (sorry R!)

  24. susan thackeray says:

    14d palpate does not mean ‘press’ did Bonxie get mixed up with pulpate?

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Funny, Susan, re #24, we were thinking of that as well, while solving the puzzle.
    But Chambers Online gives us:
    PALPATE : to examine (the body or a part of it) by touching or pressing, especially in order to diagnose medical disorders or diseases.
    And it doesn’t give PULPATE.

  26. Sylvia says:

    And is there such a word as ‘obscenest’? Most obscene, I think.

  27. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Sylvia, #26, another one of the thoughts we had (after pulpate/palpate),
    but, again, Chambers Online gives us:
    “obscene [adj] (obscener, obscenest)”

  28. Paul B says:

    Horrendous. It’s okay when licence is taken and it leads to an aspect of clueing, in a good way, that would otherwise not say hi, but when it’s just for the sake of it, or to force some awkward surface to work, well, I mean. I mean, really. And then there’s SERUM. Ach.

  29. Dave H says:

    Vey late blog as I have only just completed today. I seem to be in the minority as a really enjoyed this crossword and found this both challenging and ingenous in places. I regard crosswords as a recreational pastime, something to be enjoyed best at my local pub over a couple of Morse thinking beers and I take my hat off to anyone who can set a crossword. I have my favourite setters of course, Paul being at the top, however I find the enjoyment of doing the crossword outweighs any critisim of non conformance with the conventions and conversely I relish the challenge of trying to work out what is happening. (Loved Saturday with double Paul Guardian and FT prize crosswords however took more than 2 pints to finish)

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