Fifteensquared

Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,957 (Sat 13 Mar)/Crucible – Made to measure

Posted by rightback on March 20th, 2010

rightback.

Solving time: About 20 mins plus another day for 4dn

An impressive 15 thematic answers were crammed into this, not to mention the pleasingly symmetric answer at 13,19,22ac which hints at their link (they are all measures of one sort or another, mostly units but also including e.g. a dance). I thought the clueing was generally excellent, with most of the ‘risks’ taken by the compiler being justified. 4dn caused me the most trouble but several clues were tricky.

Music of the day (23dn) – Beethoven’s Ninth (or at least the most famous part of it)

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

Across
9 ASTROLABE; A STROL[l] + ABE (= Abraham Lincoln) – an old instrument for measuring stars’ positions and calculating heights.
10 CHAIN; CHA[pl]IN – liked this one. For overseas solvers, ‘M&S’ is Marks and Spencer, but this is a bonus definition because it’s a thematic answer.
11 TON UP – a poorly-worded definition (‘may possibly go fast’).
12 ILL HEALTH – observing that this is something of an oxymoron.
13,19,22 MEASURE FOR MEASURE – giving the theme.
14 WEST HAM; (W[in] + THAMES), &lit – this is almost an excellent clue; the wordplay is extremely good. The problem is that West Ham’s ground is close to the Thames but not really ‘on’ it, at least, not like, say, Craven Cottage (Fulham’s ground, which saw this extraordinary game on Thursday night). That said, West Ham were founded as ‘Thames Ironworks FC’ so I’m happy to give this clue the benefit of the doubt.
17 LITRE; LIE around TR (vehicle identifier for Turkey)
20 A + FOOT – this very nearly qualifies as yet another themed answer. I had a careless ‘about’ for this answer initially, so it’s probably a good thing I got stuck on 4dn or I would have finished with a mistake here!
21 SEMINAR; (REMAINS)*
24 HALF-CROWN – very cunning, apparently referring to clues 2 and 6 but in fact meaning ‘two shillings and sixpence’, which I understand were precursors to pounds and pence.
26 THERM; THE [Irish] R.M. – I didn’t know the TV programme The Irish R.M. or the authors Somerville and Ross on whose books it was based, so needed the checking letters for this.
28 PINTS; P[o]INTS
29 GREAT DEAL (one definition, one interpretative definition)
Down
1 WATT (hidden) – very nice.
2 STANZA; [con]STANZA – Queen Constanza was wife of John of Gaunt.
3 SOUP TUREEN; SO + UPTURN around EE – very smooth.
4 MAXIXE; XIX in MAE [West] – very difficult! The answer to 19 was FURLONGS and I spent plenty of time trying to make sense of that, even including the clue number to give ’4 furlongs’ = half a mile, and also trying to do something with ‘in East’ = IN E (along the lines that ‘None left…’ might indicate ‘all right’). I had to leave this for a day before getting the answer, which I didn’t know – it’s a Brazilian dance.
5 MELLOWER; WE in MELLOR[s] – Oliver Mellors was Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
6 ACRE; R in ACE
7 BALLYHOO; B + ALL + Y[a]HOO – difficult, because the first half of the wordplay is easy but suggests a two-syllable word of which the first is BALL, and the definition (‘Sensational spin’) is not easy.
8 INCH; IN + C.H. – another vehicle identifier, this time for Switzerland (from the Latin Confederatio Helvetica)…
13 MILES; M + (LIES)* – …and a third (Malta). The definition here (‘Roman soldier’) is very hard as I’m not sure the word is used in English, although we have derivatives such as ‘military’, but that’s not unfair because there’s wordplay plus an implied thematic definition.
15 STALACTITE; (IT LACTATES)*, &lit – this is an outrageous clue! It might be a little loose but it certainly made me smile.
16 METRE; M + ETRE (= ‘to be’ in French)
18 TIMELINE; (I MET NEIL)*
19 FURLONGS – because there are 8 furlongs in a mile, so 16 in two of them.
22 MONKEY; K in MONEY – a monkey is £500.
23 UNEVEN; N in (VENUE)*
24 HIP[po]S
25 CASK; (SACK)* – this may in fact be one of the ten thematic answers (it’s a variable measure of capacity in the sense of ‘a sackful’). Perhaps ‘monkey’, which is a quantity of money but not strictly a measure, was not in the intended dectet.
27 MOLE; M + OLE (which as the Spanish cheering word should have an acute accent, hence ‘accentless’)

20 Responses to “Guardian 24,957 (Sat 13 Mar)/Crucible – Made to measure”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback and Crucible

    This was very enjoyable!

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback. This was an obstacle course. I stumbled over 15d early as a possible undefined clue to the theme but decided it was an aberration. More than the requisite number of across and down clues roughly qualified for the measure theme, as booby traps: 13a itself, 20 and 24a, 18 and 27d? I was irritated to have to do 26a via the Net. 4d, last of all, made no sense, undefined.

  3. Biggles A says:

    I had the same problem with 4d long after the others were all solved. I had constructed ‘maxixe’ quite early on but dismissed it as an absurdity and went through much the same processes as Rightback. It was only when I resorted to the internet that the light dawned.

    The answer to 19 is also FOR of course and that led me down a path to nowhere too.

  4. Biggles A says:

    And SACK and CASK have been transposed of course so I think it probably should have been one of the dectet. Thanks Rightback for extending my vocabulary on that one!

  5. rrc says:

    ingenious cluing, a crossword that I thought was brilliant too many excellent clues to mention one.

  6. Martin H says:

    Ballyhoo and stalactite two excellent clues among many. (Although Abe’s getting a bit hoary). Thanks Crucible and rb.

    11 ac TON-UP I still don’t get (apart from the speed reference of course). I couldn’t see many possibilities, but put RUN-UP (which made a problem for 1d), on the basis that to run something up might be to fashion it, together with a possible tenuous link to going fast. Your explanation rb doesn’t really unravel it.

  7. Gaufrid says:

    Martin H

    TON = ‘fashion’ (originally from the French) and ‘getting pricier’ = UP

  8. Alex says:

    Thanks for the blog. This was an excellent puzzle with a sustained theme and some great clues. Like Biggles A @3 we got to Maxixe quite early but dismissed it. Always good to come across new words! 24a was a great misdirection.

  9. Sil van den Hoek says:

    First of all, thanks Rightback – obvious choice for your Music of the Day.

    It is Saturday March 13th and I see that the weekend crossword is set by Crucible.
    Wow! – that was something that I was longing for, since I hugely enjoyed, no, even admired, his previous weekday puzzles.
    Then we started solving it, that afternoon in a Cambridge café.
    What a disappointment.
    We found it so unexpectedly elaborate.
    Very well crafted, but so unsmiling.
    Yes, we unravelled the theme (quickly) – yes, there were a lot of clever clues –
    but: :) :) :)? Not really.
    Oh, and we finished it, but not on the spot (because of 4d,11ac,20ac,22d).
    Maybe it was that which frustrated us.

    Now it is a week later, and yesterday I looked at the crossword again to write some comments.
    And then it happened.
    Many of the clues are just very good.
    9ac, 10ac, 14ac (almost as good as West Ham United in the tribute to Albie Fiore), 36ac, 28ac, 7d and so on.

    Curious, isn’t it?

    The one thing I don’t like – then and now – is the use of MAXIXE as one of the measures. Sure the odd one out. I rather like to believe that CASK is No 10.
    As to the across measures I didn’t think of CHAIN as one, but saw TON-UP as No 5 (being “a speed of more than 100mph”).

    And another funny thing.
    The preamble says: ….. may not be further defined.
    But 24ac and 19d were, in our opinion, not very cryptic, but ….. just plain definitions.

    We didn’t fully understand 20ac (foot=rule?) and 22d (in which we had MINUET as measure with M+IN+yespluswhat?), but we do now.

    I (unlike my PinC) liked 15d (STALACTITE) very much – I like that kind of cluing.
    And 25d was one of the last we entered – never thought of just a simple anagram of ‘sack’, quite brilliant.

    Conclusion:
    When solving this crossword it didn’t bring us much joy, but looking back at it,
    it is a good one.
    Dilemma:
    What’s more important?

  10. Martin H says:

    Thanks Gaufrid. up = pricier was clear, but that use of ‘ton’ is a new one to me. Quite an educational morning, with that, maxixe, Queen Constanza and Somerville and Ross.

  11. Grumpy Andrew says:

    What on earth was all this about? Hated every bit of it, didn’t get the theme, gave up, did some gardening instead.

  12. liz says:

    Thanks, rightback. My reaction to this crossword was very similar to Sil’s. It didn’t give me many smiling moments solving it but I can see that it is clever. I hesitated to enter MAXIXE, though I thought it might be the answer. A dance as a measure occurred to me but seemed a bit of a stretch.

    Like molonglo, I got STALACTITES very early and thought it might be the key to the theme for a while.

  13. Duggie says:

    Sil et al: ta for all your comments. Picking up one or two warning comments from last weekend’s blogs, I’d expected a right drubbing today. But you’ve been reasonably kind and believe me, that comes as a relief. I can’t explain what makes one crossword joyful and the next dull. Setting the tone seems to be much harder than just setting! I did hope 5D would raise a smile and just maybe 14A, for the footballers at least (though my London topography isn’t up to much). Bear with me; I’ll try harder.

  14. sandra says:

    thanks crucible and rightback

    i was with others here in feeling frustrated at the time of completing, but a week on i can see the brilliance of a lot of the clues. too many to mention.

    although i didn’t have a problem answering the clue for west ham, i do not follow football and i don’t think i understand this, unless west ham is coming out of a fallow period?

  15. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Crucible (that is, if Duggie = Crucible, but I guess so), for your crossword but also for your very open approach towards us, the ones-that-know-it-all-so-much-better.
    Thank you, too, for giving me the dubious honour of being the Leader of the Army of Criticasters ( :)).

    I admit that my posts are sometimes critical and perhaps un-English direct (although I’ve become a bit milder in the 2,5 years I live in the UK now), but I never want to damage people or setters in particular.
    These posts are usually quite long, but mainly because I like to share the process I went through while solving the crossword.
    The main difference between me and some other regulars is maybe, that I not just look at crosswords as a solver (not even that experienced), but that – ever since I tried to do some cluing myself – I also look at crosswords from the setter’s point of view.
    And indeed, then I have to say, 90% (or so) of this crossword was superb cluing – IMHO.
    So, hats off.
    But as a solver, I just wanted that extra bit of naughtiness (as I always call it).
    Or some kind of lightness.
    Today’s Araucaria stumped us for about 30 minutes, but when the penny dropped,
    we enjoyed it immensely.
    At the same time the cluing was less ingenious than in yours.
    It’s all about balance, I guess, and indeed very hard to predict.

    Crucible, of course, we will bear with you.
    The decision of the editor to put you on the Saturday was well deserved.
    As many of us said on earlier occasions: more please!
    [what about a themed puzzle with sporting geese? :)]

  16. Neil says:

    rightback (thank you), I think you transposed ‘sack’ and ‘cask’, in your blog, eh? (If that’s a blog. Is it? I’m a bit behind the times).
    I started this on Monday. Finished it on Friday, spendng the odd few minutes, or maybe an hour sometimes, on most days. I’ve been a bit distracted by some (note to Inland Revenue: UNPAID) graphic design work. I thought this puzzle was very clever and, therefore, lots of fun. ‘Maxixe’ (I know now) is a dance, and a dance is a ‘measure’. Wow! I admit to often having to use reference sources to check answers once I think I’ve got them. It HAD to be ‘maxixe’, and was, but I couldn’t dredge it up as something I remembered ever having heard of, so was obliged to enquire of Ms Chambers.
    Just one thing defeats me still (although it couldn’t be anything else): please, at 11ac, why is ‘fashion’, an indication of ‘ton’? I’ll feel so thick when somebody tells me!

  17. molonglo says:

    Neil – only via the French, see eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Gazette_du_Bon_Ton

  18. crosser says:

    @sandra
    You don’t need to know anything about football to get 14ac (I don’t know much about it). It was: beginning to win = W and an anagram of Thames (anagram = ground, as in coffee).

  19. Neil says:

    Thanks molongo @17. No, not so thick then. Just cheated.

  20. rightback says:

    Thanks for all comments, and to the setter for dropping in. Sorry for the CASK/SACK transposition – now corrected.

    Neil – ‘ton’ meaning fashion is in Chambers, so not a complete cheat!

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