Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,939 (Sat 20 Feb)/Enigmatist – Criminal record

Posted by rightback on February 26th, 2010


Solving time: 14 mins

I don’t think I’ve ever finished a crossword having understood so few of the solutions! It took me at least as long again to fathom them all out. As well as the long quotation starting at 22dn there are several inter-clue references, especially to 17 (CRIMINAL), which always make it harder to get started but I got very lucky by spotting the quotation from the unique enumeration (2,2,2,3,2,2,…).

Enigmatist is ‘libertarian’ when it comes to cryptic grammar, one manifestation of which is that his wordplays often consist of multiple elements each of which may be indicated by a mini-sentence without the whole clue making grammatical sense cryptically. Whether you like this or not is just a matter or taste but knowing to be on the look-out for it certainly helps with solving his puzzles. See 4dn and 6dn for examples.

I thought 14ac/18dn, 22ac and 7dn in this puzzle were all outstanding.

Music of the day: Smooth 17dn by Michael Jackson.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

9 IGUANODON; ANTIGUAN (= ‘West Indian’) – ANT (= ‘soldier’), + OD (= overdrawn = ‘in the red’) + ON (= ‘in business’) – this took me several minutes to parse after solving. Last time this word came up I misspelt it ‘igaunadon’, so some learning has occurred!
10 WRONG; hidden backwards (i.e. in the ‘wrong’ direction) in ‘touring Norway’ – another that was difficult to see, with ‘direction’ = W or N and Norway = N providing red herrings.
11 HAS-BEEN – ‘did exist’ = ‘has been’.
12 BIPOLAR; BIP + [s]OLAR – I spotted this from the definition and -L?R but didn’t write it in until I had the initial ‘B’ as confirmation. The mime character, whom I remembered as I wrote the answer in, is Bip the clown, created by Marcel Marceau and seen here as a bird keeper.
13 [s]EXIST – 22dn is ‘to be’ and Germaine Greer is a notorious sexist feminist. [Edited.]
14,18 THE ANSWER IS A LEMON; (WHEN ONE’S MATERIALS)* – another I wrote in from the enumeration (and the ‘W’) without understanding, having seen this phrase used by Araucaria. Only after solving did I see the brilliant anagram.
16 MANIC DEPRESSION; (IN PERSONA MEDIC’S)* – another excellent anagram, although I’m not sure about the indicator here (‘classified’).
21 CLA(I)M – made harder for me by my initial mistake at 15dn.
22 THIN ICE; (ETHIC IN)* – superb.
24 BOHEA; HE in BOA [constrictor] – a type of black tea, hence ‘leaves’.
1 PITH HELMET; (HELP THEM + IT)* – very well-worded anagram.
4 [r]ODIN – this is an example of what I meant in the intro. ‘Top’ here is a verb, meaning ‘Take the top off’ (the sculptor Rodin), giving the answer Odin (a Norse god) – each element is fine individually, but the clue as a whole reads as ‘Take the top off RODIN is ODIN’. Using a link word such as ‘for’ instead of the possessive would avoid this.
5 KNOBKERRIE; (KRONE + BIKER)* – luckily I knew this word, which must have been a nightmare to clue. The duplicate anagram indicators (‘Change’ and ‘Hellish’) suggest that the two words are anagrammed individually and then concantenated, but in fact it’s just one big anagram – not sure this is accurate.
6 TWO PINTS; rev. of P.O.W. in TINTS – another example of liberties being taken with grammar: the indication of the reversed ‘POW’ is ‘in combat one’s taken up’ which is a full sentence in itself (in fact it could be read as “in-combat-one [POW] is taken up” or “in combat one’s taken [POW], up”, but in terms of the wordplay WOP is just read as a string of characters. The actual cryptic reading is ‘Wearing colours, one taken in combat up’ (where ‘one taken in combat’ = POW).
7 MOB LAW; MO + (LBW) around A[fridi] – brilliant clue referring to the Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi who still holds the record for the fastest century in a one-day international (37 balls) which he achieved on debut aged (allegedly) 16.
8 [h]AGAR; rev. of RAGA – double wordplay referring to Hagar the Horrible and to the Hindu musical form.
14 THEATRE BOX; (TEAR)* in THE BOX (= ‘penalty area’) – interesting use of ‘across’ to mean ‘splitting the two parts of’.
15 RINGMASTER; RINGER (= ‘double’) around (‘winging’) MAST (= ‘nuts’) – the top man in a (big) top. I carelessly entered ‘ringleader’ here to start with. The wordplay is evil: I think I’ve only ever seen ‘mast’ = ‘nuts’ (as in acorns etc) before in advanced (barred) cryptic puzzles.
17,3 CRIMINAL INTENT – I wonder if this clue should have read ’10-doer’ (i.e. ‘wrong-doer’) instead of ’17-doer’. There are puns here on ‘canvassed’ (= ‘in tent’) and ‘Bad’ (= ‘criminal’).
20 A RIGHT – because two wrongs don’t make a right. I think the definition is ‘correct’, which is also (sort of) part of the wordplay. Particularly nice that 2 x 10 = 20 which is the clue number (this misled me briefly).
21 COUNTS (2 defs)
22,25, 19,2 TO BE OR NOT TO BE? THAT IS THE QUESTION – fortunately I saw this straight away from the enumeration, otherwise this puzzle would have been much, much harder. The clue is a little strange but I think is essentially saying ‘This poser (question) in play (i.e. Hamlet) got a non-committal response’.
23 FINE (2 defs)

38 Responses to “Guardian 24,939 (Sat 20 Feb)/Enigmatist – Criminal record”

  1. Bryan says:

    Wow, Rightback, you are a day early! Many thanks.

    It made me struggle but I consider this a superb puzzle.

    20d (which I thought was great) and 24a were the last two that I got.

  2. Ian says:

    You are so right rightback!

    The finished puzzle inckuded 4 solutions I didn’t fully understand. Your explanations confirm my conclusions.

    A grid replete with some incredible anagrams and TWO PINTS being tough and ingenious.

    7 dn was a real corker of a clue!

    75′ solve time.

  3. Jobs says:

    20d is genius. Thank you rightback for clearing that up, I was nowhere near it.
    I’d never come across the expression “the answer is a lemon” and went for melon instead. Am very impressed with all who completed this.

  4. jmac says:

    I rarely have time during the week to tackle puzzles by Enigmatist/Nimrod so I was delighted to have this one fall on a Saturday. I found it very clever and very amusing. Thanks to Righback for explaining some of the solutions such as RINGMASTER. The only point on which I would take issue with Righback is over his comment at 13ac in which he calls Germaine Greer “odious” which seems rather a strong word to use, even if you completely disagree with her opinions.

  5. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, rightback – a tour de force from both you and Enigmatist!

    Like you, I got the two long answers immediately, purely from the enumeration – which, as you say, was fortunate! Favourite clues: 22 and 24ac and 20dn, I think, among so many good ones.

  6. Grumpy Andrew says:

    Solving time: never. Gave up after making very little progress and realising that this was no fun at all.
    The answer was a lemon? The crossword was a lemon.

  7. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, rightback. I failed to see the wordplay in a number of cases and can now appreciate what a good clue 20dn is! I spelt IGUANODON wrong.

    After an easy run of Prize crosswords, this was much more difficult, I thought, but good fun.

  8. Chunter says:

    7dn. As it happened Afridi played for Pakistan against England last Saturday in a Twenty20 match. He was caught on the boundary (where else?) for only 8, without being involved in an LBW decision, dodgy or otherwise.

  9. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Rightback. When I did this, I was out of reach of internets or dictionaries, so although I completed it, I was unsure if I’d got it right. Thanks for the explanations.

  10. Martin H says:

    Thanks for your very thorough blog, rb, which sums up most of what I thought on doing the puzzle (except for the gratuitous dig at Germaine Greer). I took a lot longer than you, but at least understood the solutions as I did them. Too many excellent clues to mention, although I’m with you that the stitching was falling out of 6d.

    I finished the SW corner last, having not yet got the excellent ARIGHT, and was looking for some leaves B- – -A. Nothing came to mind so I put it to the word wizard. Missed the right one but spotted BUNYA. I thought for a second it might be a contraction of BUNYAN (Pilgrim=’the man’ somehow?), so looked it up. It is a tree, but it’s the seeds that are used. The nice thing was that it is a member of the Araucaria family. Ha! a passing salute from one great stylist to another, I thought, so it was a shame it was wrong – except that the true solution (once I’d got ‘aright’) gave perhaps the best clue of the lot. ‘Apparently’ is lovely.

  11. Davy says:

    It’s funny isn’t it rightback, how just one comment can change one’s opinion of a person. You should stick to the blog and not describe Germaine Greer as odious which she is not. To then say you would like to see her in a room with the manager of Luton is just plain crass and juvenile. Why would she want to talk to a man who has such a down on women. Interlectually, she would make mincemeat of him. Are you a misogynist too ?.

  12. Paul (not Paul) says:

    A good blog from the odious rightback.

    But why is two pints (6 ac) a quantity of blood? Is there some quotation that I’m unaware of.

  13. molonglo says:

    I needed your blog, Rightback, to fathom the why of some obviously correct answers like IGUANODON and RINGMASTER. As with you and others, the Hamlet quote came easily; and so too the magnificent 14a anagram. This wasn’t too testing, apart from of one’s patience. Didn’t like our Germaine being called sexist and wondered (after 21a and 15d) whether the setter was.

  14. rightback says:

    Sorry, I meant to schedule this blog yesterday rather than actually post it. As penance I have removed my unnecessary slight at Germaine Greer, for which I apologise.

    Paul (not Paul), I don’t think there is any more to TWO PINTS = ‘some blood?’ than meets the eye.

  15. Jake says:

    my first look at this puzzle I thought I damn! this looks hard – however, after the two ‘depressing’ anagrams I figured I was well away. 22,25,19,2 opened the grid up for me and it all fell into place.

    good stuff here.

    cheers Rightback !

  16. Michael says:

    I’m still not sure why ‘two pints’ is a definition for blood. If the answer was ‘one pint’ it would be fair enough (Hancock in The Blood Donor: “A pint! That’s very nearly an armful”). But two pints could refer to any liquid on the planet.

  17. sidey says:

    I meant to schedule this blog yesterday rather than actually post it. As penance I have removed my unnecessary slight

    So, rightback, you have only withdrawn your ‘remark’ because you posted on the wrong day? Not because you were wrong to have posted it in the first place. Please keep your soccer hooliganism elsewhere.

  18. Davy says:

    Well said sidey. I note that the childish reference to Mike Newell is still there so only half an apology really.

  19. sidey says:

    Thank you Davy, I rarely bother to respond to anyone’s opinions online, but I would really like to know what the blogger would like to happen to Ms Greer in a room with Mr Newell. Violence is certainly implied. No apology this time Gaufrid, sack this nasty misogynist.

  20. NeilW says:

    If we could get back on topic…

    I was so looking forward to understanding the only one I couldn’t finish – TWO PINTS. It was the only answer to fit but I was convinced it had something to do with WAR PAINT and got completely blocked so thank you, Rightback, for the parsing but I still would love someone to explain the definition. As Michael says above, I too had thought of the Hancock quotation but is there really nothing more??

  21. jmac says:

    Re 20, I took “blood” as contributing to the surface reading, hence the question mark. Milk, or beer, or any other “pint” words wouldn’t have worked in the context. It was one of the last ones I filled in, and I could be completely wrong.

  22. sandra says:

    thanks rightback for the blog. i found your comments about enigmatist’s puzzles enlightening, but could have done without the slurs on germaine greer in all honesty.
    i find enigmatist pretty heavy going at the best of times, not because they are too difficult, but because there is little to raise a smile. 7d, 22a and 24a were the only ones that did this, mildly, for me. i didn’t like the “two pints” solution. in fact i googled hancock’s blood donor, to check that my memory wasn’t playing tricks. great comedian.
    i liked 1d and 20d, and like others, i got the hamlet quote mainly by the enumeration.
    although i i finished it i needed the explanation for “theatre box” – i overlooked “the”, a common failing of mine, and by the end i felt i was wading through wet cement.

  23. Elspeth says:

    I would like to see Germaine Greer in a room with rightback.

  24. crikey says:

    Whilst rightback’s comments were perhaps ill-advised and a little close to the knuckle, I’m sure there was no malicious intent. I can see why some people might not like Germaine Greer regardless of her opinions.

    Frankly I find sidey’s “soccer hooliganism” comment at 17 far more offensive. Sorry to be off topic, but I thought rb could use a bit of support!

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    While we are all shooting at rightback (yes, he shouldn’t have done that, but maybe, it’s his kind of humour), we seem to forget who it was that associated Germaine Greer with sexism.
    Indeed, Enigmatist himself.
    Or did I miss something?

    Extremely clever crossword, though not completely perfect (but then, who or what is), and also not my cup of tea.
    I find Enigmatist’s crosswords ususally too chilly – and his view on Germaine Greer certainly was.

  26. Huw Powell says:

    This one surprised me, since I usually struggle hard with the prize xwords. I got as far as I did within 2 or three sessions of most of an hour each, probably. Never got BOHEA, probably with Chambers I could have finished (BOHEA and BEHOA are both written on my piece of paper, but neither were in my Webster’s – I wonder why I didn’t try google?). I enjoyed the puzzle a lot, since my solving pace was rewardingly “steady” – an answer every five or ten minutes, rather than a bunch at once then getting stuck. As I recall, it also presented another aspect I enjoy, which is each new answer helping me finally get one it checks, and then that word finally getting me one more, etc. etc. Good times…

  27. sidey says:

    Whilst rightback’s comments were perhaps ill-advised and a little close to the knuckle, I’m sure there was no malicious intent.

    Oh good, wanting to see Ms Greer in a room with, well anyone really is not malicious? ******* odd world you live in.

    Edit: expletive deleted by Admin

  28. rightback says:

    Sidey, Davy et al:

    These blogs take a long time to write, time I often don’t really have. I try to write them quickly early in the week, then later sanitise before posting to remove anything written in haste which would be better removed. Obviously this ill-advised comment fell through the net for which (again) I apologise and I regret any offence caused (the fact that I posted this blog instead of scheduling it perhaps shows how many cylinders I was firing on at the time), but to suggest that ‘violence [was] implied’ is clearly ridiculous, as others have said.

    Thank you to all commenters and I will undertake to be more prudent in future.

  29. crikey says:

    Well said Rightback. Hopefully that’s an end to it now.

    And Sidey, I’m sorry you feel that way towards me (comment 27), but is there really any need to get personal? So it’s a “******* odd world” that I live in, is it? I would suggest that pretty much everyone who posts regularly on this site lives in an odd world to some degree. And all the better for it! I don’t know about anyone else, but there are a great deal of my friends who find my crossword obsession bizarre…

    Anyway, Vive La Difference, or something…

  30. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Fully accepted your apologies, rightback.
    [haven’t seen sidey and Davy since :( )

    In the meantime (#25), I am still puzzled why no-one was critical about the setter – it was Enigmatist who turned Greer into a ‘sexist’.

    But then, as the French say, ‘soit’.

  31. Davy says:


    I don’t know whether you will read this as there is no alerting procedure but you seem to have missed the point completely. It wasn’t Enigmatist describing Germaine Greer as a sexist, that was the problem. It was righback describing her as odious and then saying quote “I would like to see her in a room with Mike Newell”
    (this has been edited now). The last two words were a hyperlink to a news article where the Luton Manager (Mr Newell) slags off women referees and women in general. I’m sure you would agree that this is a strange remark although sidey put a more sinister slant on this. There was a schoolboy relish with which rightback made this remark.


  32. Sil van den Hoek says:


    I do not miss the point completely.
    I know perfectly well what your, sidey’s and other’s complaints were about.
    And on this matter I fully agree with you all – no mistake about that.

    But – and that’s a different thing – there is reason to raise objections against the clue itself.
    When you say “It wasn’t Enigmatist describing Germaine Greer as a sexist”, well, how should one explain the answer to 13ac then, from a cryptic point of view?
    See what I mean? But maybe, it’s just me.

  33. Davy says:


    This is getting sil(ly). I didn’t find the clue in itself offensive. In fact it could be argued that sexist and feminist are synonyms although sexist is obviously pejorative. Correct me if I’m wrong but there doesn’t seem to be a similar word to feminist for men. I would call it masculist but the dictionary does not contain such a word. There is of course MCP but I won’t go there.

    Have a good day.

    PS I do think it would be a good idea to treat each blog as a thread and to email all interested parties when a new comment is added. What do you think ?.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:


    Re your last point: I don’t think I want my email address hanging around all over the place.
    And I regularly look at older blogs anyway.
    Glad you see my point (Enigmatist giving Greer as an example for sexist in his clue – a word, which to me is rather negative).

    So, why are there no male alternatives?
    Maybe because men think they never needed a thing like feminism?
    It’s a man’s man’s world – unfortunately, still, I guess.

    Anyway, let’s close the discussion now.

  35. Chunter says:

    Davy and Sil,

    Each blog post has its own RSS feed – today’s is Subscribe to it and you will be told when a new comment is added.

  36. Alan says:

    My copy of the paper (Monday 1 March) gives ALIGHT (not ARIGHT) as the answer to 20d. This becomes even more cunning as it explains the “Not correct!” part of the clue, I think. “This” is A LIGHT (i.e. a crossword entry), which is not 2 wrongs!

  37. Gaufrid says:

    From the annotated solution on the Guardian website:

    20 aright cryptic def [two wrongs don’t make a right]

  38. Alan says:


    Yes, I noticed that but it remains the case that the answer in the paper – at least the version printed here in France – is different. Wonder which one they took for the prizewinners?

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