Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,936 / Brummie

Posted by mhl on February 17th, 2010


We get roughly a puzzle a month from Brummie in the Guardian, so I think I end up doing more of his Private Eye puzzles (as Cyclops) overall and it’s good fortune to get to do a blog post on one. I found this crossword tricky, with a few difficult definitions. It’s a bit annoying that I spent a long time staring at 9 across before discovering from the comments on the Guardian’s site that the clue had been replaced.

Thanks to IanN14 and Ian for pointing out all the coastal place names here: SKYE, LIMERICK, WICK, HULL, DOUGLAS, DEAL, CORK, BURY, BARROW, FLINT and CARDIGAN – there are two more that aren’t by the sea, unless I’ve got the wrong ones: READING and SLOUGH. Thanks to cholecyst for also suggesting “IDLE (Bradford), FLASH (Staffs) and (Hinton) ST GEORGE (Somerset)” [my capitalization] as other place names that can be found in the grid.

7. HOLDALL OLD = “Senior” in HALL = “auditorium”
9. SKYE Some versions of this clue were “Show key on large tree that produces keys (4)” (which doesn’t work), but this has been changed to “Lost keys for Charlie’s temporary refuge (4)”, so just (KEYS)*
10. UNMERITED (MUTINEER)* + [aboar]D
12. FLASH F = “key” + L = “large” + ASH = “tree that produces keys”; the drooping bunches of leaves on ash trees are known as “ash-keys”
13. LIMERICK LIME = “fruit” + RICK = “twist”; tricky to see the definition, but it refers to limiricks often starting “There was …”
15. WICK Double definition; someone annoying might “get on your wick”
16. CHILD C = “Cold” + HID = “sheltered” around L = “live”
17. HULL HULLO = “How do you do” removing O = “round”
18. ST GEORGE S = “Small” + T = “time” + GORGE = “stuff” around E = “energy”: a nice definition, referring to the story of St. George and the Dragon: ‘”Dragon’s Den” resident put-down exponent’, referring to the dire television programme “Dragons’ Den” Oops, although the apostrophe is placed differently in the latter, of course – just corrected that.
20. BISON BILL IS ON = “Bill is performing” removing ILL = “bad”
21. BON-VIVEUR NOB = “Head” reversed + VIV[ienne Westwood] + (RUE)*
22. SUDS SUD[an]‘S
24. FRACTAL (CART)* in FAL = “river”; nice to see the “often” in the definition – fractal-like structures exist in nature and can be generated with pencil-and-paper games
25. DOUGLAS DO = “function” + (A SLUG)*
1. CORK COR = “well” + K = “king”
2. IDLE TALK [eric] IDLE = “Python member” + TALK = “speech”
3. SLOUGH Double definition
4. BEGRIMED B followed by M[ovi]E in (RIDGE)*
5. EDITOR I suspect a mistake here – I think the definition is “sub?” as in “sub-editor”, and the subsidiary is (TO DIE [fo]R)* but then “finish of nuclear” gives you an extra “R” at the end
6. ENID END = “object” around I = “independence”
11. MILLIPEDE MILLIE = “Thoroughly modern girl” around PE = “exercise” + D = “day”
12. FLINT FLIT = “Bob” around N = “new”; the definition refers to Captain Flint from Treasure Island
14. COLON A tough double definition – I couldn’t remember the “Central American currency”
16. CARDIGAN Refers to The Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade
17. HASH SIGN HASH = “Food” + SIGN = “mark”, or the octothorpe
19. EUNUCH I wondered if this was U or EU = “Union”, but I think it’s just a cryptic definition, suggesting that “union” would be unlikely for a eunuch, and referring to eunuchs sometimes being the guardians of harems
20. BARROW BAR = “Saloon” + ROW = “brawl”
21. BURY BUY = “Procure” around [cochlea]R
23. DEAL Double definition

37 Responses to “Guardian 24,936 / Brummie”

  1. Simon G says:

    Thanks for the blog mhl.

    I did get 9ac but had no idea how it was the right answer – a quick foray into the comments would have resolved that. As you say, 5d appears to be incorrect – clearly too many Rs

  2. IanN14 says:

    Lots of British or Irish (mostly coastal) placenames here…
    A coincidence? I don’t think so.
    I noticed at least 13.

  3. Ian says:

    As ever, Brummie offers a mind-scrambling puzzle. There are 14 UK and Irish place names in the theme. To be honest, I didn’t realize this till I’d completed ¾’s of the grid.

    ‘Editor’ does indeed appear to be a mistake.

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks, mhl, for the blog and enlightening me about 9ac! The problem with being out in Indonesia is we get the first version only and no comments to guide us! So, after the spelling mistakes of yesterday’s Paul, today we have editorial gremlins: it seems they aren’t happy with just “improving” the format! I notice we are also back to the old problem that to load the new day’s puzzle you have to clear your cookies first (at least in Safari.)

    Ian’s right of course about the coastal theme.

  5. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, MHL. I counted 16 place names – if we include Idle (Bradford), Flash (Staffs) and (Hinton) St George (Somerset).

  6. NeilW says:

    Should have said “both Ians are”!

  7. Uncle Yap says:

    I took more time today than I would a Private Eye. Didn’t know there was a theme of place-names until I came here.
    Thank you, mhl, for an informative blog

  8. mhl says:

    Thanks to everyone for the comments and pointing out the impressive theme – as usual, looking back I can’t quite see how I missed it as I was going along… I’ve added a paragraph about that to the post – please let me know of any others I’ve missed.

    Uncle Yap – I’d agree, tougher than a typical Cyclops.

  9. John Appleton says:

    There’s me thinking that 9ac and 12ac were both cunning clueing. Grrr.

  10. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog mhl. I found this quite tough and didn’t get DOUGLAS or the second word in 17dn — both of which I should have done! Also missed the theme…Enjoyable all the same.

  11. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, mhl.

    I don’t envy you this one – I gave up without finishing!

  12. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Eileen at no 11 – that makes me feel slightly better, thank you. My excuse for not finishing is that when I was younger I was thrashed to within an inch of my life for spelling MILLEPEDE with an I in the middle, so having put this one in early on, the rest of the puzzle became unsolvable (that’s my excuse anyway …)

    Distressed therefore on checking Collins to find that MILLIPEDE is an alternative spelling; I can feel therapy coming on.

    20ac was good though, with a great surface.

  13. Brian Harris says:

    Very tough today. Struggled to about all but 4.

    Didn’t spot the theme. It’s pretty extensive when you consider all the place names.

    Not helped by the wrong clue being printed for 9ac (although given the crossing letters, worked out the answer was probably SKYE)

    I thought 18ac was pretty poor, really, a bit contrived. Is “Dragon’s Den” resident put-down exponent really fair, when Dragon’s den resident actually just equals “dragon”. Or maybe I’m just annoyed I didn’t get it. It was one of those clues that had FAR TOO MANY BITS IN!

  14. TC says:

    First experience of Brummie that I can recall. Surprised myself, latching onto a theme of place names, once I managed/guessed a little at ‘Limerick’. However, messed up on 12dn, ‘Flint’, putting in ‘Float’ (Bob) in desperation at being unable to remember Treasure Island characters. Also, 9ac ‘Holdall’ eluded me. (And I had been throwing ‘hall’ around my mind all day.)

    But very satisfied, as I almost completed it, and the consensus of opinion is that it was a challenging puzzle. Thanks for the clarity of the solving.

  15. John says:

    Can’t let this pass without the usual gripe about the indiscriminate use of initial letters as abbreviations – “independence” = I, “live” = L. Someone will no doubt put up a defence, but I call it unimaginative cluing.

  16. molonglo says:

    Got 9a without knowing why, and failed on 1d. The last quarter was a hard struggle, not so enjoyable.

  17. cholecyst says:

    MHL – preamble: have just noticed BURY’s inclusion as a coastal place name. Bury is famous for many things – especially the incomparable black puddings – but not, I think, donkeys, candy floss and sandcastles.

  18. noel says:

    John (15) – I think L for live is acceptable (live, neutral, and earth wires) but I agree about independence.

  19. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Noel and John – Rhodesia, for those of us old enough to remember, had UDI, which became an acronym for Universal Declaration of Independence. But there must be another more well known route to I for Independence, I’m sure.

  20. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Or maybe that was unilateral … it’s a long time ago.

  21. sandra says:

    didn’t have too much difficulty with this, apart from not getting “hash sign”, but i had quite a few niggles. the worst bit, i think, was when i spotted “editor”, which held me up for a while – couldn’t believe that paul had that wrong, but it seems no-one has any other explanation. this one looked like it had been compiled in a hurry!
    would never had got “fractal” had i not bought a new(to me) veg last year, which was described as such. can’t remember the name of it. i feel a google coming on.
    i did like “bon viveur” at 21a – nicely clued – but that was the only one to raise a smile. not one of paul’s best.

  22. Dave Ellison says:

    This was tought today – only managed 13 or so after 45 minutes. Ruined my recent 100% success for Brummie.

    So thanks for the blog today, really needed, mhl. How is Bob = Flit in 12d? Is it bob around like a flitting butterfly?

  23. Dave Ellison says:

    tough, I meant.

    Sandra – it wasn’t one of Brummie’s best either, or do you know something I don’t? :)

  24. Koran says:

    I didn’t cotton on to the theme at all and that was clever, but so many of the clues left me disappointed. ‘Flit’ surely doesn’t mean to ‘bob’? I standing for ‘independence’? ‘Cor means ‘well’? I don’t think a row is a brawl either – one is verbal, the other physical. Very unsatisfactory. I think that with a cryptic crossword you should know, nearly always, if you have the answer right.

  25. mhl says:

    cholecyst #17: I meant Bury in West Sussex:,_West_Sussex

    … which looked coastal from the map on that page.

  26. Shirley says:

    17D Can anyone help us with the US reference in this clue? This was the only one we couldn’t get

  27. mhl says:

    Dave Ellison / Koran: I thought one might flit or bob about as the host of a party, maybe, but I didn’t check it in the dictionaries at the time. The best I can do is that Collins has one sense of “bob” as “to move or cause to move with a short abrupt movement, as of the head” and one of “flit” as “to move along rapidly and lightly” – not great, but with a bit of hand-waving… (I got a bit hung up on this clue because I was convinced that “bob” would be S for shilling..)

  28. mhl says:

    Shirley: I think it’s just that the usage of “#” to mean “number” is more common in the U.S.A. than the U.K. – actually, I think I hear that usage quite a bit, but Wikipedia seems to think I shouldn’t :)

  29. mhl says:

    I = “independence” is in Chambers but not Collins. As far as I know this is only from its use in longer acronyms, so maybe it’s not an ideal indicator, but I’m a bit wary of saying that since it often turns out there’s some domain-specific usage I’ve never heard of.

  30. cholecyst says:

    MHL: Bury in West Sussex looks to be 10 km from the briny. But thanks, I’d never heard of it. Lack of variety in English place names?

  31. sandra says:

    oops. dave ellison @23: head not working this week! have no idea how i did that!

  32. sandra says:

    regarding I for independence: udi declared by rhodesia in the sixties, came to mind – eventually. so i assumed that was ok – the clue i mean.

  33. Koran says:

    lmao is common enough but does that mean that l can be used for laughing? I don’t think so!!!

  34. GMJH says:

    A nice puzzle (other than I for independence which seems to be largely made up by the setter) I’m confused as to how a crossword puzzle can still have glaring mistakes in it hours or even days after it’s put online though. How long would it take to fix it. Seconds. Doesn’t the crossword editor actually ever try solving puzzles once they’re put online or get someone else to do it? You’d think it would be part of his job.

  35. Barkface says:

    Good puzzle – shame about 9 across!
    In my copy of the Grauniad the setter was given as Boatman.

  36. Ian says:

    A piece of trivia re 12ac

    Flash was the last village in England to be hooked up to the National Grid. Sometime in the 1980′s I seem to remember.

    The undermentioned link gives more background to what sounds like a rather bizarre, even medieval sort of place.,_Staffordshire

  37. Meic says:

    If Brummie is Cyclops, how come the puzzles in Private Eye usually take me between 5 and 7 minutes to solve on average, and never more than 10, but I often have trouble finishing those in the Guardian. I failed on this one, for instance.

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