Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,920 / Enigmatist

Posted by Eileen on January 29th, 2010


Well, for me, the week’s ending, as it began, on a high note, with a welcome appearance by Enigmatist. There were some lovely clues, as we would expect, but one or two that I can’t quite make to work and there is one that has me completely foxed. No doubt there’s someone waiting to enlighten me!

8   CONFRONT: CON [servative] + FRONT; a reference to the fact that most party conferences are held at the seaside.
9   ASHLEY: anagram of HE LAYS: both a male and a female name. Edit: the additional information from Conrad Cork, comment 5, makes this a very good clue.
10 LENTIL: anagram of NITE in LL [fifties]
11 BONA FIDE: anagram of IN A BED OF: ‘feathers’ as an anagram indicator?: it can mean ‘to turn an oar’ but then the grammar seems wrong.
12  THAI: anagram of HIT A : ‘crook’ as in the Australian ‘ill / wrong’.
13  OPEN-MINDED: double definition
15  FROGMAN: M. le FROG is a derogatory and slightly less than PC way of referring to a Frenchman.
16  ENGLISH: anagram of EARTHLINGS minus ART, with ‘nouveau’ as a neat anagram indicator – lovely clue!
18  SWORD DANCE: anagram of COWARDS END  and cryptic definition, with a nod to E. M. Forster’s novel, ‘Howard’s End’.
19 HA-HA: reversal of AH … AH: this cropped up in a blog of mine fairly recently and Uncle Yap took me to task for not explaining it. It’s ‘a wall or other boundary-marker that is set in a ditch so as not to interrupt the landscape’ [Collins].
20  DRIBBLER: double definition
23  SWATHE: anagram of WHAT’S E[lectronic]
24  WHEELMEN: ‘directors at sea': an allusion to Jonathan Ross’s difficulty in pronouncing the letter R and to the best-selling book ‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ [1982] by Bruce Feirstein.

1   COME THE RAW PRAWN: anagram of CHARWOMAN and PEWTER: I was deep into ‘Hump the bluey’ [Auster 24,544] territory here! This expression was entirely unknown to me – but easily solvable from crossing letters and the anagram. Both Collins and Chambers give it simply as Aus. inf. for ‘attempt to deceive’. Some googling reveals that it’s more usually used in the expression, ‘Don’t come the raw prawn [with me]’, to someone pretending innocence or naivety.
A FITTING TRIBUTE: cryptic definition
3   NOEL COWARD: NOEL [Christmas] COWARD [chicken ]: I’m not sure of the significance of ‘7 of’ – and I can only find ‘chicken’ meaning ‘cowardLY’. [Edit: because I wasn’t looking properly! - thanks, Gaufrid and IanN14]
4   STABLER: double definition: archaic word for an innkeeper
5   PAIN: double definition
7   HEADLESS CHICKEN: [c]RAVEN = coward{ly}]: I really want this clue to work but, again, chicken is being used to mean ‘coward’. CRAVEN can be a noun or adjective but apparently ‘chicken’, in this sense, can’t.  [Edit: see above!] And ‘headless chicken’ doesn’t mean ‘GOING spare’.
14  MONTEVIDEO: I was hoping the explanation of this was going to come to me while typing but it hasn’t – yet! ‘Capital’ is obviously the definition but I can’t make anything of the rest, I’m afraid. [Many thanks to all for the explanation – I knew I could rely on some speedy assistance!]
17  INDRAWN: at first, I thought ‘wearing’ was a containment indicator for DR but that doesn’t really work, so I think it’s a charade: IN [wearing] DR [GP] AWN [beard – of barley]
21  LEEK: L[eague] + EEK – an expression used in children’s comics for ‘I’m scared!’

59 Responses to “Guardian 24,920 / Enigmatist”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Eileen
    14dn is M (Radio’s Mike) ON T[h]E VIDEO (recorded after hospital discharge)

    Regarding your comments re 3dn and 7dn, COED defines ‘chicken’ as “a coward”, Collins has “a cowardly person” and Chambers “a faint-hearted person”.

    In 3dn the ‘7 of 7′ refers to the seven letter word in 7dn.

  2. IanN14 says:

    Hello Eileen,
    I think it’s OK to describe someone who’s cowardly as “a chicken”?
    But I do agree about the “going”.
    And I think (re:3d.) the 7 refers to the 7 in (8,7) in 7(d.)…

    …if that makes sense

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks Eileen – you had your work cut out with this one! I agree 16ac was great. 7dn is outrageous – I can’t decide if I love it or hate it!

    In 3dn I presume the “7 of” means “the 7-letter word”, i.e. CHICKEN.

    No ideas about 14dn – still thinking!

  4. Andrew says:

    Ah, Gaufrid has explained all :)

  5. Conrad Cork says:


    Terrific blog. Many thanks.

    9 across may also be a reference to April Ashley one of the first famous trans-sexuals.

    Re 14. Radio’s Mike is ‘M’ (phonetic alphabet) ‘recorded’ is ‘on the video’ from which you discharge the h for hospital.

  6. Conrad Cork says:

    Must learn to type quicker. But I’ll never be faster than Gaufrid. :-(

  7. Andrew says:

    I thought “[don’t] come the raw prawn” might have originated in the Barry McKenzie strip in Private Eye, but it seems to be older than that.

  8. Eileen says:

    Thanks, all, for the corrections and explanations – amended now!

  9. Eileen says:

    Hi Conrad

    I’m sure you’re right about 9ac – many thanks for that. I don’t think I’d heard of April Ashley. Or Barry McKenzie, Andrew – I’m not doing very well today :-( Thanks for that, too.

  10. Tom Hutton says:

    There is a serious problem in defining a dribbler as a skilful footballer. There are plenty of dribblers who are rotten footballers. History is littered with tanner ball players who couldn’t cross for love or money and were therefore functionally useless as footballers.

    However, this was the most enjoyable crossword for a long time.

  11. Ian says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen.

    Enigmatist very simple today and I was very surprised by the ease (and number) of the anagrams.

    Andrew #7 I too was able to insert the solution to 1dn quickly as I have fond memories of the Nicholas Garland/Barry Humphries cartoon strip ‘Barry McKenzie’ from the time I read “Private Eye” magazine in the 1960’s. Words and phrases included ‘don’t come the raw prawn with me’, ‘pointing Percy at the porcelain’, ‘training Thomas on the terracotta’ and ‘parking a tiger on the carpet’. The classic stereotype of the ‘ocker’ which is constantly recycled even now (probably best known through Monty Python’s ‘Bruces’ sketch and, to a lesser degree, Hoges’s TV shows) made its debut in the frames of Humphries’ and Garland’s first strips. This makes them (at first) rather painful reading for any full-blooded Oz, and throws some light on the Poms’ hatred for our species. Barry McKenzie is a caricature of what the Poms in the mid-60s thought Australians were like.

  12. mike says:

    A great crossword, although being German, and so not having a sense of humour, I’m not sure I approve of the term frog for Frenchman -15a.

  13. Chunter says:

    The OED has an example of ‘come the raw prawn’ from 1942.

  14. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Eileen. I enjoyed every minute of this — and it took quite a while! I also needed the check button a few times.

    Didn’t see the wordplay for 14dn either and I missed the reference to April Ashley at 9ac, though I have heard of her/him.

    I remembered 1dn as ‘don’t play the raw prawn’ rather than ‘don’t come the raw prawn’ — it was a favourite saying of someone I worked for many years ago!

    24ac was funny and I liked 16ac too.

  15. Pete says:

    7 down – craven means cowardly hence raven is headless chicken

  16. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Pete. I thought that’s what I’d indicated! :-)

  17. tarby says:

    Really threw myself out here by putting in “shotton” ( a famous old coal mine in the north east ) for 4dn – anagram of host not

  18. Eileen says:

    That’s brilliant, Tarby – better than the ‘right’ answer!

  19. sidey says:

    “Barry McKenzie is a caricature of what the Poms in the mid-60s thought Australians were like”

    Ha ha! Shame it was written by an Ocker.

  20. Shirley says:

    Thanks Eileen – this one really made our brains hurt! This has been a really tough week with no Rufus to lighten things up. Are we alone in thinking that the some weekday puzzles are now much harder than Saturdays all of which we have finished very quickly lately?

  21. sandra says:

    thanks for the blog eileen. i found it tough today and hit the check button 3 or 4 times to see if my answer was correct. quite a few i didn’t like so i am not going to list them, except to say that “come the raw prawn” was too obscure for me, and i took exception to the clue for “frogman”. mike #12: i am english and evidently i have even less of a sense of humour!! although i have never thought this about germans. there is tension enough between the french and english, as our mores are different, and this does not help. it is not the first time the guardian has been guilty of this – and it’s not just xwds either.
    please excuse the rant. i will go away.

  22. sandra says:

    shirley #20 i agree that the last 2 saturdays have been far too easy for a w/e prize puzzle.

  23. Brian Harris says:

    Very enjoyable stuff today. Some lovely clues – pretty much all of them in fact. Been a good week all round!

  24. Stella says:

    Either the crossword was too obscure for me, or I’m particularly obtuse today! Never heard of 1d,or Jonathan Ross, and ome of the clues I did get I had no idea why. Thanks for the explanations, Eileen etc. Hope to do better next time:)

  25. Dave Ellison says:

    Well, the morning and afternoon shifts have had their say, so it is time for the evening ones, now. I am surprised (or am I?) after yesterday’s negative comments to find peeps found this so enjoyable – I rank it lower than yesterday’s.

    11a – already commented – feathers I can’t see as an anagram indicator
    13a – of doubful virtue, on a par with RETIREMENT yesterday
    15a – probably the “best” clue, but spoiled because it is terribly non PC. Does the editor read these clues? Does the Guardian style editor read these things?
    18a – I liked this
    19a – awful, contrived, laboured. I for an inanimate object?
    23a – where is the anagram indicator? Is it WRAPPING UP, so this is half an &lit?
    24a – awful, contrived. There is an h in there (WHEELMEN) which is pronounced; JR would say WEELMAN. I am still boycotting JR, so is this clue PC? (As an aside, I understand words such as WHERE once written HWERE, which is the way it is still pronounced. I can’t remember why it changed)
    6d – does this surface make any sense? The word AFTER seems to be missing some where.
    7d – no comment

    You might guess I wasn’t too keen on this one.

  26. Eileen says:

    Hi Dave E.

    I actually agree with most of what you have said – and I’m surprised that some of the points haven’t been raised earlier in the day.

    When blogging, mindful of the [debatable and hotly debated] comment that was made a while ago about contributors tending to follow the leader, I usually try to make my comments more non-committal [that sounds odd – but so does ‘less-committal!] than on other days.

    I’ll admit now to great relief at seeing I’d drawn Enigmatist today [I had reckoned we were about due for a Rover – and I did the last one!] as he is among my top favourites but I was rather disappointed with today’s offering. The cluing was not nearly so tight as I’d expect from this setter [even allowing for the mistakes I made]. I hope you agree with me that ‘headless chicken’ does not equate to ‘going spare’? [However, I can’t agree that this was worse than yesterday’s. Along with Rover, Gordius is among my least favourite setters.]

    I expected some comment about INSECT – I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that since I’ve been doing crosswords.

    And I didn’t like NITE in 10ac.

    I think I implied [I meant to] my surprise and unease at the inclusion of 15ac – though, as you say, it was ‘clever’.

    Re the homophone: for quite a while now, I have not been commenting on these, for fear of boring people, beyond using inverted commas for ‘homophone’. It was the rhotic variety that I used to go on about most but my Scottish husband – and my English choirmaster – would be equally hot on the ‘wh’ sound. I did ponder commenting on this this morning but it would have been to the effect that JR, [I don’t need to boycott him, because I never watched him] like most other English people, would also pronounce ‘wheelman’ as ‘weelman’ – so that made the clue OK!

    Yes, I did guess! :-)

  27. Radchenko says:

    I’m with Dave Ellison. I know I’m in for a tough time when I’m online with less than half the grid filled…

    My impression is there has been quite a bit of minor grumbling all week, then when we get a bit of a bee-atch, it’s brilliant…

    Worst offender: the “real men” is obvious enough, but to go through all the TV hosts I know to get one with a speech impediment that gives the homophone?…

    But thanks for the blog and for extra explanations — I got 3 and 7 but only with Gaufrid’s explanation did the scales fall…

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Firstly, Eileen, this was a great blog (because full of personal notes – just like Uncle Yap’s and Rightback’s, in particular).
    Secondly, I am glad that you had (?) to do this one instead of yesterday’s Gordius.
    And thirdly, I am not sure whether this crossword is really much better than that Gordius.

    Enigmatist’s last crossword was very elegant, but we thought this one wasn’t at all.
    There is that feeling of edginess (just like in the renderings of his alter ego IO) that doesn’t do the trick for us.

    WHEELMEN of 24ac is a great clue, as is 16ac (ENGLISH) plus 18ac (SWORD DANCE) plus (especially) 14d (MONTEVIDEO).
    Some of the (several) anagrams are nice, like 18ac and 6d.
    The anagrind in 11ac was, in our opinion, rather clever.
    “in a bed of” feathers (just like it is going to “feather”), and irresistable looking at the surface. But the definition is disputable: “the real McCoy” is a noun and “bona fide” is an adjective. Apart from that, “bona fide” means “reliable” and not “the best thing around”.

    We thought 8ac was a horrible clue.
    The solution has CON in it (CONservative) and CONF(of CONFerence).
    We got the “7 of 7″ (in 3d) rightaway, but there is something wrong with this clue.
    The definition is not really there. Only the reference to the wit of NOEL COWARD.
    And a shame that his name was given away in 18d.

    Then 19ac.
    Funny to see that Enigmatist adopted Araucaria’s habit of putting himself as the subject of the definition.
    Even more because there was no real reason to do that: “I” could have been “it”.

    We thought 23ac was not an elegant clue either, “wrapping up” doing double duty, with the word “up” being rather disruptive. But it’s Cryptic land, I know.
    And FROGMAN (15ac) was just clumsily clued.
    In 13ac we appreciated the fun of ‘empty-headed’ being ‘open-minded’, but then “waiting for confirmation”?

    So, indeed more excitement than yesterday, but was it really that much better?
    Sorry Eileen, we didn’t think so.
    Brendan was brilliant this week, Paul even better.
    But then, as I said yesterday, so what?

  29. Gaufrid says:

    Dave E. & Sil
    23ac – ‘wrapping’ is the definition (noun), ‘up’ is the anagram indicator.

  30. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Gaufrid, I don’t think you mean this?
    “up” as an anagrind?
    And looking at this clue even more closely?
    “Wrapping” (with or without ‘up’) as the definition of a verb?
    I think, Enigmatist is very imprecise here.

  31. Eileen says:

    As always, it’s good to hear from you, Sil.

    “this crossword is really much better than that Gordius.” and “but was it really that much better?” To be fair, I didn’t say either of those – only that I couldn’t, on principle, concede that it was worse!

    As you say, Brendan was brilliant, Paul even better – then a bit of a dip in the middle, as far as I’m concerned. But then, as you say, so what? It makes it very difficult to respond to Shirley #20 and sandra #22 because, as I say so often, one person’s easy is another’s difficult, which is often hard to understand or explain. Chifonie and Rover are both classed as ‘hard’ on this site, which I’ve never understood. I don’t usually find them particularly difficult – but I seldom enjoy their puzzles. What does that say about me? [No answers on a postcard, please! :-)

    Hi Gaufrid – I’ve just caught your comment. ‘Up’ a an anana grind??

  32. Eileen says:

    Crossed in the post, Sil. I think my garbled post indicates my shock at the thought of up as an anagrind [sic!]

  33. anax says:

    Can’t say I’ve ever particularly liked this anagrind, but the phrase “What’s up?” equates to “What’s wrong?” so in that sense it works. My only (and I stress “only”) objection is that “up” can also suggest a reversal in a down answer, so it has potentially misleading ambiguity – I used to also feel it was too much of a pass-you-by word that could easily disappear into the surface, but in reality that just makes it as useful a tool for the setter as any other very short wordplay indicator.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #29 & 31:
    I admit, I am wrong that ‘wrapping’ can’t be a noun in that clue,
    so forgive me (I’m a Foreigner :) ).
    But the clue is still not right as “up” isn’t an anagrind – full stop.

  35. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that, anax, and apologies to Gaufrid for the hasty outburst: that does make sense – and this wasn’t a down answer.

    Thanks, everyone, for the contributions. As Zebedee said …

  36. IanN14 says:

    Dave @ 25,
    Blimey, you’ve changed your tune…
    I thought we were being discouraged from this sort of thing in case we come across like theatre critics; “what’s in it for us?”.
    Anyway, for what it’s worth, I agree with 3 or 4 of your points (but I’ve never used words like “awful”), finding this not one of this setter’s best. (I did mention a problem in comment 2).
    I wonder if he’d got away with some of the more contentious clues as Nimrod in the Indy?
    I don’t know, I just think Enigmatist will come up with some better efforts (he does good “theme”), I’m not sure Gordius will. Sorry.

  37. Eileen says:


    “I wonder if he’d got away with some of the more contentious clues as Nimrod in the Indy?”

    On the way upstairs – in view of earlier discussion in ‘another place’ – I’m not going to get drawn into this. :-) Buona notte!

  38. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #33:
    Dear Anax, when you say “the phrase “What’s up?” equates to “What’s wrong?” so in that sense it works”, then we’re talking about Mathematics, and not about Crossword Land: so “up” = “wrong”?.
    And then subsequently saying: “my only (and I stress “only”) objection is that “up” can also suggest a reversal in a down answer, so it has potentially misleading ambiguity” is rather strange, as “up” is more a reversal indicator than an anagrind (if ever it was).

  39. sandra says:

    right. feeling better now! eileen, i saw “going spare” as a headless chicken. i suspect i may be missing something here, apart from the grammatical error verb and noun – but going spare is a phrase often used in scotland, about someone who is very angry. it doesn’t appear in my scots concise but chambers has one definition as ” to become furious or frenzied”. as i say, i may be misunderstanding something. but it does rather prove your point. maybe i don’t see everything because i do not have a detailed knowledge of grammar. may be something to do with different people finding setters easy and hard. eg whilst i got that one, maybe my knowledge doesn’t stretch to some other clues. just a thought.

  40. anax says:

    Hi Sil

    Your point about “up” is the reason I’m not very comfortable with it, although I wouldn’t go so far as saying the comparison is a mathematical one. For me it’s just a matter of whether or not the substitution is one which solvers could fairly be expected to latch onto; I think it’s fair to say opinion is divided. However, just to expand on the example I gave, take this little excerpt from a yet-to-be-had conversation:

    “Sorry mate – I won’t be driving down to see you this weekend”
    “Oh no. What’s up with the car this time?”

    So in this sense “up” is used to mean “wrong”. And you’re absolutely right as regards “up” appearing in a down answer – the vast majority of solvers would be expecting a reversal, so IMHO the use of “up” would be blatantly unfair as an anagrind.

  41. anax says:

    Last paragraph: “And you’re absolutely right as regards “up” appearing in a down CLUE”.
    Sorry, my bad.

  42. Dave Ellison says:

    I don’t think I changed my tune, IanN14. My comment about theatre critics was intended as a positive one :). And I think, though I haven’t checked back, I said “how was it for you?”.

    I concur with your last comment: Enigmatist does do better crosswords on the whole. I have only ever finished one of his; for me he is the hardest setter.

  43. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #40 (&41);
    Dear Anax, let’s face it: UP is not really an anagrind.
    Deep in my heart I think you’ll agree.

    And how I’d hoped someone would have said something about the other things
    I mentioned in #28, but alas.

  44. IanN14 says:

    Sorry Dave, but I’m sure you used to say that when you’d got the answer to what is , perhaps, not the perfect clue, you’d forget it and move on?…

  45. Mr DNA says:

    I’m pleased I’m not the only one who got SHOTTON for 4d and then got stuck; it seemed to fit so perfectly I couldn’t believe it was wrong.

    One of the rare occasions when coming from the north east is a disadvantage…

  46. Alberich says:

    My interpretation of “up” as an anagram indicator has always been in the sense of “in revolt”, though Anax’s explanation is just as valid. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used in Listener clues, where anything dodgy is strictly disallowed. I think it’s just on the right side of fair, but any device requiring lengthy justification is unlikely to find much much favour among solvers – and for that reason I don’t use it, though I’ve been tempted several times.

  47. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that, Alberich – another setter I wish could compile for the Guardian!

    It looks as if ‘up’ must be filed away for future reference but, as anax says, it’s “a pass-you-by word that could easily disappear into the surface” and I suspect I may well have forgotten this discussion by the time it appears again.

  48. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dear Eileen, Anax and Alberich, sometimes it takes a while before I see certain things of the English language, because it is only my second. But I am with you now re UP.
    Still, if I were a setter, I would probably have the same attitude as Alberich (avoiding it), and if I really couldn’t resist using it, it would IMO be nicer to put it behind the anagrammed word. In Enigmatist’s case “what’s up” (which then looks very natural too) instead of “up what’s”, although the clue wouldn’t have made sense then (it is only an example).
    Anyway, I am fully convinced (and learned something today!).
    Thanks for that.

  49. anax says:


    Don’t worry about your level of ability in the English language. Given your performances on Cryptica I’d say you’re way ahead of about 80% of the UK populace.

  50. mhl says:

    Eileen: thanks for the helpful post – I found this difficult, and it’s good to know that I wasn’t alone. Some really excellent clues, though: I loved HA-HA, MONTEVIDEO, THE FINAL WHISTLE, ENGLISH and LEEK in particular.

    “up” strikes me as a rather good anagrind now, after the explanations from Anax and Alberich. (I’m now trying to think of clue using this whose surface references the wonderful Pixar film.)

    (I think the “less-committal” policy about what one thinks of the crossword is best as well, although it’s tough to remain neutral!)

  51. mhl says:

    Sil van den Hoek: to add to what anax said, you should know you have fans who are looking forward to a complete crossword from you, based on the amazing quality of those clues!

  52. Eileen says:

    Hear, hear!!

  53. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Very kind of you all!

    Highly valued Czech painter very softly made a statement about the origin of art (4,11)

  54. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    You know that I’ve said it several times already!

    Thanks for the clue – but I’nm going to have to sleep on it, I think. :-)

  55. beermagnet says:

    Blimey Sil – you had me looking up Wella, Mosta and even Verya before I finally hit on

    MUCHA (Czech painter) PP (very softly) CITED (made a statement) about A (the origin of art)

  56. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re (…!!!…) #55:

    Nice to see that there’s still someone out there (apart from Eileen, of course).

    I think it is not always easy to find a solution to a clue when there are no crossing letters available.
    The clue competition at Cryptica would look very different when Paul wouldn’t give away the answers – which at one point I suggested to him (the answers being revealed somewhere else at the site, or later).

    Anyway, as I “said” MUCH APPRECIATED!

    BTW, for me Alphonse Mucha is a well-known artist, firstly because I have been many many times to Prague (mainly schooltrips) and secondly because posters of his work were immensely popular during my university years (and maybe they still are). There is a beautiful little museum in Prague dedicated to his work – even if you don’t like the style, it is very attractively done.

  57. Eileen says:

    Sleeping on it didn’t do any good – so many thanks for that, beermagnet! I don’t think I would ever have got there, never having heard of the artist. [I think you meant RECITED, though.]

    [Well done, Sil, too.]

  58. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thank you for that, Eileen.
    And even if you have never heard of the name Alphonse Mucha, I can hardly imagine that you never have seen one of his works.
    His style is so recognisable.
    After he left his home country for Paris, he became instantly famous because of his work with the (then) famous actress Sarah Bernhardt.

  59. Neil says:

    Late, as usual!
    Thanks all for giving this the right hammering it deserved. Not so much ‘Aha!’ moments as ‘Keough’ moments (snort of disgust that’s supposed to represent). Finished it, all but ‘frogman’, which I am proudly smug to have failed on. I do crossword puzzles for enjoyment. This gave me none.

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