Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24916 / Brendan

Posted by mhl on January 25th, 2010


A very quick post today, so please accept my apologies for any errors or omissions. It probably goes without saying, given the setter, but this is great stuff – lovely surface readings, fair clues IMO and there’s a nice theme. Quite a few hidden answers compared to normal, but I’m not sure if there’s any pattern there.

1. GRAVES niGht = “midnight” + RAVES; the definition refers to Robert Graves, but pronounced in a French accent it would be a claret, to fit in with the theme
4. ROMANO “Hard cheese” is the definition, and I assume that the dynasty is Romanorum (or something similar?) cut short. No doubt someone with a classical education can help out :) Thanks to jvh for pointing out that this is the Romanov Dynasty cut short
9. SUNG Double definition; the Sung dynasty is also known as the Song Dynasty, depending on the transliteration
10. INITATIVE I = “One” + IT in I = “current” + NATIVE = “local”
12. EPISODES IS = “one’s” in E.P. ODES, I think – i.e. poetic lyrics on an Extended Player Although undoubtedly wrong, I still quite like my version 😉 – thanks to Judy who pointed out in the comments that this is just several EPODES
13. PERMANENT Double definition; “Standing” as in committee and “wave” as in perm
15. HALO Hidden answer Oops, trying to do this too fast – thanks, Liz: A L[amp] in HO = “house”; I love the definition here
16. ALSO Hidden answer; the definition is “What’s more”
21. SINECURE INSECURE = “Lacking confidence” with S = “son” moved forward
22. FIASCO IF = “Provided” revesed + AS = “when” + CO = “company”
24. HALF-NELSON Apparently a Nelson in cricket is 111
25. PATH Hidden answer
26. TILSIT (LIST IT)*; more about the Treaties of Tilsit here – also to fit the theme, there’s also Tilsit cheese
27. MALAGA MA = “old woman” + A GAL “a young [woman]” reversed; as part of the theme, you can get Malaga wine
1. GRUYERE GUY = “man” around R = “right” + ERE = “before”; more cheese
2. ANGLE Two rays extending from a point will have an angle between them
5. ORIGIN Double definition; “axes” as in the axes of a graph
6. ASTRONAUT A fun clue: A + (TO SATURN)*
7. ORVIETO OR = “Otherwise” + VIE = “struggle” + TO = “in the direction of”; also a wine from that area
8. WINE AND CHEESE Double definition; “marginally represented here” meaning that the clues around the margins are all wine or cheese
14. MASTERFUL (SMART)* around FU[e]L
16. ALICANT Hidden answer; another wine region, more commonly spelled Alicante, I think
18. INFANTA Hidden answer; a member of the Spanish royal family
19. RICOTTA More cheese: (ACTOR IT)*
20. HUMERI Hidden answer
23. ALPHA Nice clue: either an ALPHA male or the first letter of Athens (originally in both senses :))

39 Responses to “Guardian 24916 / Brendan”

  1. jvh says:

    Thanks, mhl. I think the dynasty is Romanov.

  2. Judy says:

    Yes – a really enjoyable puzzle, particularly the way the theme gave extra definitions.
    I thought ROMANO might be Romanoff shortened, and EPODES are a type of verse

  3. Gazza says:

    14d. I think that the E from fuel needs to be moved to inside (securing) the anagram.

  4. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, MHL.

    Enjoyable theme. Wish I had the wines and cheeses as a reward for completing the puzzle!

    BTW Graves can also be a white wine – not very fashionable now alas but capable of developing great complexity. And FIASCO (22ac) is one of the Italian words for wine bottle, particularly for the flask that Chianti used to come in before it went up-market.

  5. Martin says:

    Thanks mhl!

    4ac. Could the dynasty referred to be the Romanovs? Both the word and they were ‘brought to a premature end’?

  6. rrc says:

    Not on my wavelength, gave up with about six to go

  7. mhl says:

    Thanks for the corrections and comments, everyone – I’ve fixed those above with credit for the first spotters…

    cholecyst: my favourite thing about fiasco is that it seems that no one really knows why the word came used to mean “a total failure” – I once had an Italian teacher who suggested that the audience holding fiaschi would be a polite explanation for a lack of applause after an abysmal performance. Or that someone who does something very badly is obliged to buy a bottle of wine, etc. etc.

  8. sandra says:

    thanks mhl.
    lovely crossword to start the week. finished it quite quickly. i took romano as being romanov, cut short. i was somewhat puzzled by alicant, although it was easy, being a hidden answer, but when i got wine and cheese i didn’t realise the theme ran all the way round the edge – just had 1 and 4a in that category at the time. i am not very bright in the mornings! i did wonder if it was the grape, ref press, but didn’t think of it as the spelling of alicante. still don’t altogether understand the current in initiative, but that is almost certainly due to my ignorance. there are some very large gaps in my knowledge!
    i did like permanent and halo very much, and thought sinecure was a gem of a clue. thank you for explaining the half-nelson. i didn’t look nelson up as it is difficult for me to use dictionaries at present – impossible in the morning! i am awaiting an op on my arm. so double thanks.

  9. sandra says:

    sorry – crossed with all of the above

  10. Eileen says:

    Thanks, mhl, especially for explaining HALF-NELSON. Most enjoyable and ingenious, as ever from Brendan.

    Did anyone else enter INSECURE first for 21ac? :-(

  11. mhl says:

    sandra: “I” is often used to represent electrical current in equations in physics, e.g. Ohm’s law is often written as V = IR (voltage = current * resistance)

    Sorry to hear about your arm – best wishes for a speedy recovery…

  12. mhl says:

    Eileen: bad luck – I didn’t spot that it worked both ways (and debatably more neatly with your version since you don’t need the link word…)

  13. walruss says:

    Very good puzzle. There is such contrast among the Guardian’s compilers though, you don’t always know what you’re going to get. A good one today, no doubts.

  14. Andrew says:

    Thanks mhl, especially for the explanation of HALF-NELSON. Good fun again from Brendan.

    Eileen, I was unsure about INSECURE/SINECURE, but as it seemed it could go either way I pencilled in both possibilities!

  15. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl. Lovely start to the week!

    Despite finishing, I failed to see the ‘marginal’ theme…Also didn’t know the cricket meaning of nelson, so thanks for that.

    I missed quite a few hiddens last week, so it was nice of Brendan to give me so much practice today!

    re15ac I read the wordplay as HO for house with the letters A, L inside, which isn’t a hidden, unless I am missing something? I agree the def is lovely.

  16. Richard says:

    Thanks, mhl.

    I do like Brendan’s crosswords.

    Like Liz, I didn’t know the cricket meaning of Nelson and didn’t see the ‘marginal’ theme.

  17. sandra says:

    thanks for the eplanation of “i” for the current. that makes 2 things i have learnt from you today, and saves me from having to use the dictionary later. thank you also for your good wishes. much appreciated all round.

  18. sandra says:

    meant to say (thanks) mhl

  19. Ian says:

    Thanks for the blog mhl – it was much appreciated.

    Loved the theme. I particularly enjoyed the wordplay for ALICANT and GRAVES.

    The late David Shepherd reminded me about the signifcance of a cricketing ‘nelson’.

  20. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Like rrc, I wasn’t on Brendan’s wavelength today and didn’t get very far. Ashamed to say that despite my enthusiasm for cricket, I didn’t get HALF-NELSON. But David Shepherd, the umpire who passed away last autumn, made it famous as a cricketer’s unlucky number by his reaction whenever 111 or a multiple of it was on the scoreboard, raising one leg off the ground. His polite explanation for the term was that ‘Nelson had one eye, one arm, and one lump of sugar in his tea …’ The ‘official’ version has an alternative for the third element, roughly equivalent in size, but not shape, to a lump of sugar.

    Not supported by historical evidence, apparently.

  21. cholecyst says:

    Mhl, of course you’re right about fiasco. Follow this link for an attempted explanation:

    I can heartily recommend Worldwidewords to anyone with an interest in the nooks and crannies of the English language.

  22. Tom_I says:

    I’m with Liz @15 re 15ac. It’s A + L (lamp primarily) in HO (house), not a hidden answer.

  23. mhl says:

    liz, Tom_I: sorry about that error in 15 across – I parsed it correctly when solving but was trying to write the post too fast!

  24. mhl says:

    cholecyst: thanks for the excellent “fiasco” stories!

  25. Derek Lazenby says:

    Not what I would call enjoyable, more like seriously hard work, partly due to not being familiar with that part of Italy and not being a cheese person. I nearly gave up as others above, but having nothing better to do I kept at it and finished eventually thanks to the on-line gadgets. I try hard to minimise my use of them, but this one rather forced me down that path.

    Given that when I mention cricket in social settings a goodly proportion of my audience say they can’t stand it I’m surprised no one has complained about 24. Maybe we have lots of wrestling fans who used the checking letters!

  26. Dave Ellison says:

    What a refreshing change from the usual Monday’s offering – not a Cryptic Clue in sight.

    It took me a while to spot the theme: I was looking for parties (political? knees ups?) in the words I had fitted in the periphery – RAVE in 1a, GALA in 27a, until the penny dropped.

    I wouldn’t have predicted a Brendan today – an alphabetic Araucaria this Saturday, perhaps?

  27. cholecyst says:

    Dave Ellison : I was looking forward to a Burns Night offering.

  28. Mick H says:

    When I saw it was Brendan in place of Rufus today I thought it must be a pegged theme, and was surprised when it turned out to be cheese and wine rather than haggis and whisky – what with Burns night and all. So very nice, but why today?

  29. mike m says:

    Yes, an alphabetic (jigsaw) Araucaria! That would get my vote too…

    This Brendan was good fun though. I figured out HALF-NELSON, and patted myself on the back for that, but then failed on some which (in retrospect) should have been easier. Eh well.

    Sandra – quick recovery on the limb. Chin up old girl.

  30. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Unlike some others (the minority) we were completely on Brendan’s wavelength.
    A crossword full of splendid clues (and above, wonderful surfaces) – too many to mention.

    The only one we didn’t understand was HALF-NELSON (hyphenated?), but then we are both not into cricket at all – although we saw that there was no other way to look at it than Nelson being 111.

    Just like Eileen (#10) and Andrew (#14) we had the choice between INSECURE and SINECURE. We even think that INSECURE fits the clue better, but because we knew that 16d had to be ALICANT, a decision was quickly made.

    Yes, ALICANT. I am not sure whether this is right or not. Googling leads only to Vino Alicante. Of course, the region is also known as Alicant, but the wine?
    The funny thing is that ALICANTE is also hidden in the clue, so maybe it is even a little mistake by Brendan. Maybe he took the wrong word out of his database.
    BTW, the surface of the clue is, we thought, superb.

    So, very good crossword, for me personally, somewhat spoilt by an overdose of hidden answers in the bottom half of the grid. Especially the combination 16d & 18d was a bit of a shame, good though the clues are.
    On the other hand, 20d (HUMERI) was not so very good, because too obvious.

    But these are all minor quibbles.
    Fine crossword, not even very difficult (so rather apt for a Monday).

  31. cholecyst says:

    Sil, as you might have guessed, Alicant is in Chambers.

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thank you, cholecyst, to be honest I was rather convinced that the wine should be Alicante, so with an e. But as it is in Chambers, it must be right. Is it the same as, or the English word for what is known to me as Vino Alicante? Even the Spanish Wikipedia mentions the wine as Alicante(vino). But I don’t want to argue.
    Still funny that both are hidden answers in the same clue.

  33. cholecyst says:

    Sil, I must confess I’d never heard of Alicant wine, but I suspect in English this is now quite an old-fashioned word, see the following from:
    Title Drinks Of The World
    Author James Mew
    Publisher Scribner & Welford
    Year 1892

    “Into this wine, as into some others, the Spaniards are wont to put roasted pears, under the conceit that thereby it is much improved in taste and rendered more wholesome. Hence arose the proverb El vino de las peras dalo a quien bien quiéras. Malaga Xeres is often known in England as the pale, gold, dry sherry,l as the wines of Alicant, Benicarlos, and Valencia are sold as a rich and fruity Port.”

    What happy pre-EU days!

  34. IanN14 says:

    As I’ve said here many times, I’m a big fan of Brendan/Virgilius’s work, and this was no exception for the tidiness of the clues and the surfaces (apart, perhaps from 21ac., but I’d already got 16d, so didn’t even notice).
    My only *slight* personal comment (not a complaint, just to appease those who frown on that sort of thing) is that I would have preferred it to be a bit more tricky.
    I imagine that’s why it was placed on a Monday? (Nice change from Rufus, though, as has been said here).
    It was just that all the themed answers (apart from Graves) were defined as wine, cheese or the place of their origin, so the theme wasn’t difficult to get straight away, compared to, say, his fairly recent Presidents one.
    Tomorrow’s Indy ought to be a Virgilius, so I hope it’s slightly more challenging.
    (As I say, just a personal opinion. To paraphrase Sil, don’t burn the commenter)…

  35. Mr Beaver says:

    Derek (@26) – “not being a cheese person” – more of a whine person perhaps ? :)
    Sorry, couldn’t resist..

  36. sandra says:

    mike m #29 thanks for your good wishes

  37. IanN14 says:

    Oh, I was so right about today’s Independent…

  38. Dave Ellison says:

    I imagine everyone did notice, but perhaps it is worth noting the periphery alternated wine and cheese

  39. Brendan says:

    Having just told someone at the Farmers market on Saturday that if she wanted a move up from the Irish Times cryptic then she should look out for Rufus on Monday in the Guardian, what do we get only Brendan. Misdirection apart, I was quite pleased as it was my birthday yesterday and I always get a simple childish pleasure in bringing in Brendan to the wife at breakfast. I spent a while on the phone last night to my friend Paul, and what do I have this morning only …

    We finished it all, romano apart, despite being reasonably cheese savvy and the wife having a pinny with Italian cheeses depicted thereon.

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