Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian (24,913), Paul

Posted by diagacht on January 21st, 2010


Very enjoyable puzzle with a cleverly clued theme. Very Paul, very good.

9 ANODES: O (nothing) in ANDES (range)
11 LINSEED OIL: anagram of DEONISE in LL (two litres)
12 BOLTON: as in BOLT ON
14 SKELETON: SKEET (shooting clay discs) including L (left) + ON
15 ASEXUAL: A SEAL (a circus performer) containing XU (kiss on you)
17 ARMLOCK: ARM (harm written ‘arm, as hurt written ‘urt) + LOCK (position in rugby union)
20 OBEDIENT: anagram of NOT containing (BE (live) + DIE (otherwise than live))
22 CASINO: a place to bet; a De Niro film (1995)
23 RAGING BULL: R (right) + AGING (old), BULL (nonsense); a De Niro film (1980)
24,10 STARDUST: odd letters of DrUgS in START (birth); a De Niro film (2007)
25 GIVE IN: GI (soldier) + VEIN (blood flowing here)
26 CORLEONE: anagram of ROLE ONCE; refers to the part played by De Niro in the second of the Godfather trilogy. Very clever.
1 BIBULOUS: (I BU(m) (single short tramp)) in BLOUS(e) (women’s clothing with bottom letter out)
2 HEAT: hidden in tHE ATtic, a De Niro film (1995)
3 MARLIN: L (lake) in MARIN(e) (tailless sea)
4 GARNISH: GARISH (gaudy) containing (walls) N (back of kitcheN)
5 CAPE FEAR: FEA (incomplete FEA(t)) in CAPER (escapade); a De Niro film (1991)
6 GOODFELLAS: GOOF (mistake) capturing D (daughter) + ELLA’S (jazz singer); a De Niro film (1990)
7 DE NIRO: hidden and reversed in chlORINE Dioxide
13 TAXI DRIVER: TAX (test) + ID (papers) + RIVER (water under the bridge); a De Niro film (1976)
16 AVENGING: anagram of GIVEN AN + G (conclusion to fightinG)
18 CONTAINS: anagram of SANCTION
19 STAUNCH: double definition
21 BRAZIL: double definition, a country and a De Niro film (1985)
22 CELERY: CRY (shed tears) containing (p)ELE (footballer missing header)
24 SHED: double definition

54 Responses to “Guardian (24,913), Paul”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Diagacht.

    I gave up on this after I had been unable to get DE NIRO but, even if I had figured that, I was unaware of several of his movies.

    So, for me, this was a DIRE NO.

  2. Monica M says:

    Thanks Diagacht,

    I had a red hot go at his one. Lucked onto the De Nero clue, and lots fell into place.

    22dn and 14ac eluded me and 1dn BIBULOUS was a new word which I also didn’t get.

    But I think that this is the farthest I’ve ever gotten with Paul.

  3. Chunter says:

    I’m with Bryan on this one. De Niro is no more a distant name to me, and I’d never heard of any of the films occurring in this puzzle.

  4. molonglo says:

    Yes, this was a good one. I laboured for half an hour to get the theme but then it was straightforward, with the necessary help of Wikipedia for the filmology. Some non de Niro clues were pleasantly tricky (like 1d) but others were unduly so eg 15a (poor to have “planting” for the insertion) and 22d (unsatisfactory placement of “between” – located there obviously for the surface reading).

  5. liz says:

    Thanks, diagacht. I really enjoyed this, but it took me a while to unravel. I got De Niro after I got 13dn, but never managed to spot it was a hidden. Then managed to get about half the films before having to Google.

    There was lots of clever cluing, I thought and I really liked 26ac. The last one I got was SKELETON.

    molonglo — re 22dn I read the clue as ‘cry’ with ‘(P)ele’ in between, so I don’t think ‘between’ is just for the surface…’Planting’ didn’t bother me either.

  6. Doktorb says:

    Another total disaster for me, heh. Don’t know why I bother with cryptic crosswords….

  7. rrc says:

    I liked this. Completed 9a and 11a This then gave me 7d at which point I needed wikepedia for films. Enjoyed working out the reasons for the films and then filled in the others some of which I really enjoyed 12a 8a 25a

  8. Ian says:

    Quintessentially Paul. Many thanks Diagacht.

    Fortunately, the several easy ones (8ac, 11ac, 12ac, 17ac and 20ac helped a little. The key clue 7dn fiendish rev hidden eluded me till half way through the solution. Once realized the rest fell into place relatively smoothly.

  9. sandra says:

    didn’t do well at all with this, having no knwledge, and caring even less, of de niro’s films. so wikipedia was essential to me for these. this is bound to happen sometimes with themed puzzles, so i don’t object to that, but i was personally disappointed.

  10. Brian Harris says:

    Fab stuff today. Great theme, and some very inventive clues.

    The reverse included of DE NIRO in Chlorine Dioxide was inspired, albeit not that well signposted.

    Luckily, between us, my colleague and I knew (and remembered) enough De Niro films for this to be fairly easy.

    I quite like these crosswords where you know you’re looking for a list of particular things, say films by an actor, to slot in the grid – because you then have the slightly backward task of figuring out why a particular clue reveals a particular film. Makes a change from the usual.

  11. flex says:

    doctorb – I feel the same way as you a lot of the time. New to this game. Sometimes I can do 3/4 of the crossword, sometimes only one or two clues. I would suggest you tackle an easier one than the Guardian though – I do the FT which isn’t as tough. When I’ve been doing them regularly for about, say, ten years I might tackle the Guardian or Times.

  12. Chris says:

    Typically great stuff from Paul, I thought – one of my favourites for a while. I’m a bit surprised at so many people saying they didn’t know the films – over half of those referenced are acknowledged bona fide classics, and the rest are hardly obscure.

  13. Andrew says:

    I agree with Bryan and Chunter. Didn’t get De Niro, and since another eight or so clues were linked to this answer I was never going to get very far. When I got off the train to go into work I didn’t bother taking the paper with me.
    Please, less Paul (Doktorb, you have my sympathy and indeed empathy).
    Isn’t it time to ban themed crosswords? If you’re not familiar with the theme, what chance do you have? I might do all right if the theme is songs of the Sex Pistols, but it would be a bit unfair on anyone who doesn’t happen to like the Seventies punksters.

  14. Bill Taylor says:

    A terrific workout. Worthy of Araucaria. Of the linked clues, I got TAXI DRIVER first, which led me to DE NIRO. Some very clever stuff here.

    Doctorb, another good place to start with cryptics might be the Observer’s “Everyman.” It’s usually not as tricky as the daily ones but will get you into the thought patterns of the setters.

  15. Ed H says:

    I got 4 clues in this and gave up after about 45 minutes.

    Even with diagacht’s explanations I am not really any the wiser on how ‘De Niro’ is parsed from 7dn. I obviously see that it’s hidden reversed, but can’t see how “(24ac / Stardust) enveloped” is relevant to getting to the answer, other than that Stardust is a De Niro film, or that “not taken down” indicates hidden reversed. I would read ‘enveloped’ as directing the answer to 24ac inserted in other letters. Can someone explain for the dunces among us?

    More broadly, my instinct is that it’s unfair in a crossword where so much is reliant on a single clue (7dn), for that clue to cross-reference another clue (24ac) that itself cross-references the first clue. Am I alone in that?

  16. Jerb says:

    EdH @ 23.
    24a is STAR – which is what De Niro is.
    “enveloped by chlorine dioxide” means it’s hidden in chlorine dioxide.
    “not taken down” means, well, it’s taken up.

  17. Orange says:

    Ed- the main indicator in 7d is “24ac”, which is STAR (ie (Robert) De Niro). Take a breath, then read the rest of the clue. Enveloped means hidden within, and because it is a down clue, ” not taken down” means reading backwards.
    I was just so glad to remember his films – I liked this one!

  18. Jerb says:

    I meant @15, sorry Ed!

  19. Jerb says:

    I failed miserably with SKELETON, so had to resort to Word Wizard. Then I spent the next 5 minutes punching myself in the face out of guilt.

  20. Conrad Cork says:


    Re 7 down. De Niro is a 24 across, a star, not a 24 across 10 across, so that takes care of that.

    As for enveloped, it is standard misdirection. Once you know what kind of a clue you are looking at, you are always nearly there. So the compiler will often give an indicator that makes you think (at least at first) that it is another kind of indicator. ‘Enveloped’ can indeed be read the way you read it (probably usually is) but is also equally valid as an indicator that the answer is inside the next few words. And ‘ot taken down’ means taken up, which means it’s a reverse hidden.

    I admit it took me a while, but my respect for Paul rose even further when I got it.

  21. Ed H says:

    Thanks Orange, Jerb – makes sense, although I would probably argue that “enveloped in” rather than
    “enveloped by” would have been fairer. It doesn’t help that I was expecting 24ac (or a synonym of it) to be enveloped by ClO or ClOO (for chlorine dioxide), to mean “not taken down”. Still, as I didn’t get 24ac not being able to use it in 7dn was academic.

  22. Ed H says:

    Also, thanks Conrad Cork – messages crossed.

  23. Conrad Cork says:

    Geez Orange and Jerb, you folks type a lot faster than me. :-(

  24. Ian says:

    I think it’s fair to say that themed crosswords are favoured by setters purely as a way of varying their work, and, hopefully they and their solvers get something both out of the ordinary and enjoyable.

    As a theme, I would imagine this puzzle today would appeal primarily to cinema buffs. However, in general, I would have thought that the vast majority of folk are aware of De Niro, most of his oeuvre and this should therefore be relatively straightforward. Problems arise when a theme is based on a specialized, obsure subject. This I admit can be a real turn-off.

  25. Jerb says:

    Ian, I agree with you on the use of themes.
    When I recognise the theme and am familiar with it, I get the pleasure of feeling like a smarty-pants.
    When I don’t know the theme, I look it up (if I can be bothered) and maybe learn something.

    I would have hoped most cultured people – not just cinema buffs – would have heard of Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Brazil, Goodfellas and the Godfather (if not Heat, Stardust, Casino and Cape Fear).

  26. Brian Harris says:

    @ Ed H – if it’s any consolation, I went down the CL-OO route for about 15 mins for that clue, without success. I suspect it was deliberate misdirection on the part of Paul.

    Mutual cross-references are very unusual, and I can see how they could be considered unfair. I also thought that the series of clues that started “7’s…” were a little unfair too if you hadn’t got 7, there was no reference to “films” or “movies” anywhere in the grid. “De Niro’s…” doesn’t quite seem enough.

    We got 13dn (TAXI DRIVER) and 22ac (CASINO) without solving 7, so that was our way in. I guess this was a crossword you had to tackle from both ends.

    Once the pieces fell into place, I loved this puzzle, but I guess the problem with themed crosswords is that sometimes they are a bit divisive – you either love em or hate em, depending on how well you know the theme. I can’t abide jazz, so I shudder at any references to that, although by now I know enough names to probably tackle a crossword on that theme…

  27. Simon G says:

    Thanks for the post Diagacht,

    I’m not so keen on themed crosswords – fail to get the theme and you’re lost, succeed and a number of clues should drop into place… especially with help from Wikipedia…

    By the by, is using Wiki to get a list of De Niro films cheating? I’m sure I know the purists’ response but I’d be interested to hear what people think…

  28. paulmcl says:

    Managed to finish this without resorting to Wikipedia or anything, despite having seen only a couple of the older movies. It took me far too long to get DE NIRO despite being suspicious of Chlorine Dioxide since, if you know any chemistry, it obviously can’t exist so can’t be a synonym for something like salt or talc. SKELETON was the last one in and took longer than it should since I’d careless written CAPE FARR instead of FEAR, giving a very unpromising set of checkers.

    Another good work out from my namesake. About 45 mins.

  29. cholecyst says:

    Simon G. I always try to solve crosswords unaided – apart from using a pencil. If I am unsuccessful (as I was today), then as far as I am concerned, anything goes: not just paper dictionaries but the full resources of the Internet. But the more external help I get, the less happy I am.

  30. judy bentley says:

    Still struggling over today’s, but can anyone tell me why there is no blog for No 24,903, also set by Paul?

  31. Tom_I says:

    I nearly gave up when I saw the apparent circular reference, 7 referencing 24ac, which itself refers back to 7, but I persevered, got there in the end, and quite enjoyed it along the way.

    Paulmcl @28, I’m a bit confused as to why chlorine dioxide can’t exist, as it’s widely used as a bleaching agent, and as a disinfectant in water treatment.

  32. Stella says:

    I enjoyed this one, as I’m one of those solvers who get fun out of looking up themes, and an ego-shot if I actually don’t have to, ha ha.

    On this occasion, I had a lucky guess with de Niro, though I didn’t even see the indicators, and the rest unfolded, with the help of wikipedia. I like him, but am not familiar with all his films.

    I liked the tongue-in-cheek 26ac. (once in the trilogy

  33. Stella says:

    Cholecyst, I’m with you there

  34. Martin says:

    To Judy @30: there is a blog; see

  35. Neil Walker says:

    I’m a huge fan of Paul’s work. My only gripe with this puzzle is I don’t think “De niro’s” is a solid enough definition for “A De niro film” or “A work featuring De niro”. Am I alone in this and am I being harsh?

  36. JimboNWUK says:

    I did exactly the same as Andrew #13 except it was the printout that I left on the train screwed into a ball.

    Paul please let us know next time you are setting a puzzle for Barry Norman so the rest of us can get the Times or the Telegraph one for our day’s entertainment.


  37. John says:

    I can’t believe that so many people think De Niro and his oeuvre are obscure. I can only conclude that movies in general carry no interest for some. If you’ve heard of cinema you’ve surely heard of one of its foremost contemporary artists and, as someone has already said, most of his films are classics.

  38. sandra says:

    cholecyst #29 i do, and feel, exactly the same, though i allow myself the dictionary if i fathom an unfamiliar word from the clue. i like learning stuff so themes are often welcome. this wasn’t, as i have never really been much of a filmgoer and i wasn’t interested. hence wiki. not complaining though. it’s bound to happen some of the time.

  39. NealH says:

    The success of these sorts of puzzles does depend on how much the theme resonates with you and fortunately I’m fairly strong on film, so I loved this one. Originally I thought 7 might be something like “US film” but once I’d got Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, I realized it must be De Niro films. Even after I’d got all the films, I still found a couple of the clues tough, especially skeleton since I’d never even remotely heard of skeet.

    Having said that, if the theme had been Coldplay songs or something like that, I’d probably have hated it.

  40. judy bentley says:

    Thank you Martin @ 34.

  41. Edward Hesp says:

    This was good, unlike his acting.

  42. stiofain says:

    I had no problem at all with the theme being De Niro films or with the 7’s as a lead-in. Hardly obscure by anyones standards.
    At first I thought it was going to be extremely obscure but eminently suitable to me as the first themed clue I got was Cape Fear, based on the novel “The Executioners” by one of my favourites John D Macdonald as macdonalds fitted the crossing letters at that time at 6 down but alas it wasnt to be.
    I think a special mention needs to go to BIBULOUS what a great clue and surface for an obscure word typical Paul smutty fun.
    Best puzzle in ages I thought.
    Coldplay songs NealH? God protect us they would have all been 5 letter words with the clue
    “Song is awful in G”

  43. Headteacher says:

    What a great puzzle. I struggled to make a start and, like for others, Taxi Driver was my way in. Great entertainment

  44. Derek Lazenby says:

    As one might expect I agree the more negative comments. In particular the use of circular references is poor at the best of times, but when it defines the theme that is very bad. As several have said, if the theme is not your area, you are dead.

    And what is it about film buffs that they expect everyone to have heard of their pet heroes? I mentioned horse racing recently, a popular spectator sport to which you must add all the denizens of bookies shops. Probably as many people interested as are into films when you add them all up. So go on film buffs, consider how few horse names you know, then you might finally understand that what you understand as fame is nowhere near global.

    Without using a web search, and only if you are film buff not into horses, tell me about Quixall Crossett. See what I mean? Any racing buff knows that, but none of us would be so presumptive as you are as to say “surely everybody knows that”.

  45. diagacht says:

    Some really good discussion here. From my point of view themes are always a bit more of a challenge. It doesn’t matter much if it is films, football teams, country houses or books by a particular author, you will either be familiar with the theme of not. The crux comes then with the clues. In this particular instance I thought the themed clues fair and well constructed. In fact, I had not known all the films straightaway but the code made the answer pretty clear, especially when some or all of the crossing letters had been completed.
    Still, I fancy that themed crosswords will for some always remain something of a Quixall Crossett (never be a winner).

  46. Julia says:

    Jerb, thank you.

    That comment made us laugh out loud.

    Good night everyone.

  47. Sil van den Hoek says:

    In the Eighties a Dutch pop critic stated that Richard Thompson (folkrock guitarist,
    of Fairport Convention fame) was not able to play badly.
    I had to think of these words when solving this crossword.
    Paul is one of the few (?) setters who are not able to set a bad crossword, I think.

    Even though I am in a ‘hunting for imprecise cluing mood’ – as readers (alas, not many) of yesterday’s Auster may have noticed -, I could hardly find anything that bothered me today.
    I liked the ‘live or die’ association of 20ac, but was not sure whether the ‘or’ preceeding ‘otherwise’ should be there or not.
    I am not very keen on what happens in 4d: [kitche]N and then ‘garish’ walls (it?).
    It is defendable, and I did recently a thing like that myself on the Cryptica site, but if I could avoid it next time, I would.
    Didn’t like the extensive anagrind of 18d. No alternatives?
    I have a love/hate relationship with 22d (CELERY). Paul recently used ‘between the sticks’ in an brilliant football clue as Mudd (a diver backwards in goal, leading to GORE VIDAL), so I thought it had to be something similar. This this it was [p]ELE inside CRY to give ‘celery’, but I find the definition too minimal – the sticks = celery? – (= hate) even though I admire the surface reading of it as a whole (= love).

    Apart from that, vintage Paul.
    Not very special, just very Paul.

    Like many of you, we found DE NIRO (re #35, Neil, I think I don’t mind to see 7’s as one of his achievements) after spotting TAXI DRIVER (as a result of the X in ASEXUAL).
    And just like john (#37) “I can’t believe that so many people think De Niro and his oeuvre are obscure”. Even Bananarama had a hit (1984) referring to this actor (‘Robert de Niro’s waiting (talking Italian)’).
    Anyway, splendid cluing of CORLEONE (26ac) and 24,10 (STARDUST).
    And 25ac (GIVE IN) was good too (fine surface).
    Very neat anagram in the CINERAMA of 1ac.
    I think, 1d was a bit contrived, as if Paul absolutely had to include a bum/bottom clue to keep up his image.
    And the definition of BRAZIL in 21d is, in my opinion, too simple (as the title of the movie refers to ‘Aquarelo de Brasil’, so the country).

    But, all in all, good crossword.
    [And Stiofain, a Coldplay theme wouldn’t have been a problem either. They are boring nowadays, I agree, unlike at the start of the century. In Holland they call them “Radiohead light”. But then, rightly so, that band is even more boring … :) ]

  48. Dave Ellison says:

    doctorb, flex and Ed H: I have put a commentary on how I tackled today’s Paul in the Chatroom General Crossword Discussion, as it is too long to include here, but I hope you may find it useful. It is intended to encourage you to perservere with the Grauniad.

    (There also was a similar commentary by the winner of the Times Crossword Competition, which I found very intereting reading, but I unfortunately have lost the link to this – was it a link from Peter Biddlecombe?)

  49. G&D says:

    Wholly agree with Andrew, although we could go far with The Clash as the theme.

    Seriously, the linking of clues is getting excessive. Like many commentators tonight, knowledge of De Niro’s films was scarce and remains unmissed.

  50. Davy says:

    Thanks Diagacht,

    Managed to finish this after a couple of hours and it’s certainly typical Paul (Auri’s apprentice). The first seven-related clue I got was RAGING BULL which led me to De Niro although I was trying to fit in La Motta but for ANODES. Ah well, all’s well that ends well.

    To Sil, I’m a big Focus fan but Golden Earring must have been performing the longest and Radar Love is still a great track.

  51. liz says:

    Sil — I agree that this was a great puzzle. But like you I thought ‘the sticks’ was the weak point as a def for celery.

    Anyone who thinks the theme was obscure or unwarranted — get a copy of Goodfellas or Taxi Driver! Not just for film buffs…

  52. stiofain says:

    Sticks is an english thing – celery is always known as celery sticks there.
    Very much a staple of 1970s dinner parties they dipped them in fondues before scoffing the prawn cocktails personally I only ever use in soups

  53. Val says:

    May I add my voice to those complaining of circular references? To my mind it should never be allowed – it breaks the cardinal rule that a setter must say what he
    means and just isn’t solvable from the clues alone without that flash of insight that gives the first in. It’s one of the reasons I hate Auracauria puzzles so much.

    I gave up today, despite knowing 7’s work well, because with the 7/24 deadlock so many clues were completely useless to me.

  54. robc says:

    thank you very much diagacht ; this was far too difficult for me to complete despite being well acquainted with mr. de niro’s work.

    however it has been very entertaining to read the blog – i would also recommend a trip to the dvd shop for those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with such a fine set of films.

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