Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,978 / Paul

Posted by Eileen on April 7th, 2010


If there had been no name on this puzzle, I think it would not have taken regular solvers long to supply one. All the Pauline hallmarks are here: cheeky surfaces and / or wordplay;  some audacious cluing;  great wit, with real laugh-out-loud moments. There are just a couple of clues I’m not entirely happy with.


1   ROAD SIGN:  this took a few minutes to work out, after solving.  I like this kind of clue but I know not everyone does.  ‘Horseboxes’ needs to be separated and ‘boxes’ and ‘hogs’ are both container indicators: it’s [lane]S in DIG [like] all inside ROAN [horse].
5   SCORCH:  SCOR[e] [nearly 20] + CH[urch]
9   CRAB MEAT:  B[ass] in CRAM [stuff] + EAT [consume]
12 BRAINWASHED:  IN + WAS HE [could he have been?] in BRAD [Pitt – Angelina’s man]
15  TITHE:  TIT [fool? – surely Paul’s thinking of ‘twit’?  Collins has,  for ‘tit’, ‘a despicable or unpleasant person and Chambers  ‘a contemptible person’] + HE
17 NERVELESS: [winte]R in reversal of ELEVEN [figure] + S[mall] S[mall] – hilarious!
18  OBSTETRIC:  anagram of  BIT +  CORSET – another laugh-out-loud one
19 SKIER: E[nglish] in SKIR [mini = short skirt]
20  PROCREATION:  anagram of EROTIC PORN A,  ‘bum’ being the indicator – priceless!
24 CRAVAT:  CR[edit] + A VAT [a load of wine]:  I’m not so keen on ‘necked’ as the definition: surely it’s rather the neck that’s cravated?
25  TUPPENCE:  PEN [pound] in TUE [short day],  leaving P [one copper] to be inserted, which is just a little awkward:  it’s really ‘one copper [is] among…’  but it’s a bit of a struggle to make it work. [Edit: it’s PEN [pound] in PC [one copper] – thanks Gaufrid]
26  BYE BYE:  homophone of buy, buy, in the sense of believe [swallow]
27  STEEPEST:  [dentis]T in SEE [identify] + PEST [pain]


ROCK BOTTOM:  I didn’t know ‘booty’ for bottom. Chambers [but not Collins] says it’s an Americanism.
2   ANABAPTIST:  anagram of STAIN BA[by] + TAP: another chuckle-raising surface: Anapabaptists do not believe in infant baptism so they’re not baby-wetters!
3,10 SIMON COWELL:  ‘I’M ON COW’ [observation of mating bull!] in SELL [market]
4   GRAHAM NORTON:  HAM [amateur actor] in GRAN [relative] + ORTON [Joe, playwright]
CLOUDLESS:  C [middle note] + LOUDLESS [forte = loud]. I think only Paul or Araucaria would do this – again, my kind of clue.
7   RHEA:  hidden in cylindeR HEAd.  A rhea, being a flightless bird, can’t take off – lovely!
11 SHORT CIRCUIT:  cryptic definition: REVOLUTIO[n]: again, not everyone’s cup of tea but I like it!
13 RESILIENCE:  anagram of EELS IN RICE: I loved the misdirection of give = resilience but was less happy with ‘jellied’ as an anagram indicator. Then I found it in Chambers as meaning ‘under the influence of Temazepam’, so I think it works.
14  ASTRINGENT:  A STRING [cord] + anagram of NET
16 EXEMPLARY:  EXE [river] + P[eople] L[owering] in MARY [bloody woman]: various references: Mary Tudor, Queen of England [1553-58], who burned numerous Protestants at the stake; the betel nut-chewin’ character in ‘South Pacific’ and  the vodka / tomato juice cocktail, to name but three.
21  APPLE:  P [pea, say] in [m]APLE
22 SCAB:  double definition – but a scab is surely one who declines to strike, not to earn?
23,8 CAKEHOLE:  CAKE [bar – as in soap] + HOLE [opening] : cakehole and trap both slang for mouth – nice succinct surface.

42 Responses to “Guardian 24,978 / Paul”

  1. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog and the unravelling of 1a. I raced through most of this and then crashed, eventually getting (having never heard of) 3 and 4d. I got bogged in the bottom corner, thinking 22d was SNUB with a pastry play on buns, declining. That stymied me on 24a. Some great clues, and I especially liked 6d.

  2. Octofem says:

    Thanks Eileen. I got all the answers but one or two without really knowing why. 1A really stumped me.
    ‘Shake that booty’ is often used by dancers on TV. Dare I say :In a ‘hip’ way!!!

  3. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Eileen
    15ac COED gives ‘tit’ as “a foolish or ineffectual person” so I think Paul is OK with this one.
    25ac is PEN (pound) in PC (one copper) in TUE (short day)

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid: I’d missed that C!

  5. johnb says:

    Thanks Eileen

    I think Paul is saying one who declines (to strike. in order) to earn – in 22d?

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks, johnb.

    I did think about that possibility, though it’s rather elliptical, and I think now you’re probably right. ‘To earn a crust’ certainly makes a good surface.

  7. johnb says:


    Only if you let the air get at it…

  8. Ian says:

    Well done Eileen, excellent blog!

    Yes, typically Paul. Laugh aloud solving for me included ‘scab’, ‘cakehole’ and ‘nerveless’.

    For whatever reason, I finished all but one in 25′ and then another 10′ to spot the hidden in 7dn. Another fine clue. Easy but great fun.

  9. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. I needed your explanation of 1ac! As you say, lots of laughs in this one and 20ac, amongst others, could only be Paul!

    I don’t like to complain about a puzzle as good as this but I did think that 26ac was stretching it a bit, and failed to see the wordplay when I solved it.

    But it was great fun to have Brangelina, Graham Norton and Simon Cowell in one crossword!

    The last one I got was the hidden at 7dn and it didn’t disappoint — made me laugh when I saw it.

  10. Bill Taylor says:

    Perhaps I was having a bad night last night (the crossword is on-line in Toronto around 7pm) but this one left me cold. Some very clumsy clueing and laboured wit. Groans rather than laughs. I think Paul was trying a little too hard to be Paul. Not much fun at all.

  11. Tokyo Colin says:

    I always look forward to my weekly contest with Paul and enjoyed this as well. I got through it in reasonable time but needed Eileen’s blog to fully understand a couple. I have never heard of Graham Norton (he’s not big in Japan). And I didn’t think of buy=swallow and thought it must have been a reference to Bye bye, birdie or some such. I loved the mating bull observation in 3D and the two shorts in 11A and 19A.

  12. Martin H says:

    Quite a hard one, and I have to say I found the ‘humour’ a bit weak.
    I agree with you eileen about CRAVAT and SCAB – johnb’s explanation is a bit of a stretch, I think. ‘Jellied’ seems OK to me as an anagram indicator, but I don’t see how you came round to it via Temazepam.
    Cake hole, or cake-hole, yes, but cakehole? Otherwise a nice clue, as were Cloudless and Skier in particular. Didn’t like bye-bye though.

  13. Paul (not Paul) says:

    Mostly easy with a few hard clues. I thought NERVELESS and ANABAPTIST hard.

    Also I had TRICK for 15ac T – TAx, Rick – Man, Trick – Fool.

    Also, I wasn’t sure of the definition of astringent as tough. I thought it had to do with blood!

  14. Mr. Jim says:

    Good fun from Paul (and thanks to Eileen for explaining BYE-BYE, and others).

    I agree with the comments about SCAB, but CRAVAT seems ok – “necked” in the sense of “put on the neck”.

    It took me a while to work out how PROCREATION works, but I enjoyed it once I had.

  15. Eileen says:

    Mt Jim

    I’m willing to be convinced, if you can think of an example. I just can’t see how ‘neck’ can mean ‘to put on the neck’ – and I can’t think of any analogies. As I said, it seems the wrong way round: for instance, we talk of a gloved hand but not a handed glove.

  16. beermagnet says:

    > It took me a while to work out how PROCREATION works, but I enjoyed it once I had.

    Happens to us all Jim.

  17. Derek Lazenby says:

    Didn’t think I was going to get anywhere at all with this when the first scan of the acrosses drew a blank. 11 may well not be everyones cup of tea, but it got me started. Got there eventually though. Needed the blog for some of them so ta for that.

  18. Eileen says:

    Nice one, beermagnet! :-)

  19. Daniel Miller says:

    I must say a most enjoyable effort from Paul but I cracked it by other, nefarious, means: To wit..

    1. ROAN I got that.. the rest was a little beyond me! – Made sense of it eventually. Thanks for the explanation!
    15. TIT looks fairly straightforward as in “you are a tit!”
    17 NERVELESS: Yes but I got SEVEN backwards giving NEVES adding in the last 2 of wintER and smalLS ..
    backwards LSRE.. NErVElesS .. or something like that….
    19 SKIER: [mini = short skirt] – what can I say?
    20 PROCREATION: A wonderful piece of wordplay = a tremendous clue
    24 CRAVAT: lovely wordplay on necking a drink

    3,10 SIMON COWELL: Excellent – what can I say!
    4 GRAHAM NORTON: Going in with Simon Cowell.. an excellent combination!
    6 CLOUDLESS: equally entertaining wordplay
    7 RHEA: more amusement
    11 SHORT CIRCUIT: again a smart piece of wordplay
    13 RESILIENCE: Jellied Eels.. sublime!
    23,8 CAKEHOLE: Clever indeed..

    Paul has excelled himself here. 10 out of 10.

    OK so, being topical when can we look forward to Lionel Messi being the answer to a clue?

  20. Mr. Jim says:

    Re: Beermagnet, Eileen

    I see where you’re coming from – I had thought of “necked” purely as a verb rather than an adjective. Certainly to talk of a “necked cravat” would be strange. I was whinking more “he necked his cravat and went to work”, but now I look at it that seems strange too.

    btw the double entendre was completely deliberate. I stopped short of including GRAHAM NORTON!

  21. Eileen says:

    Mr Jim

    Yes, I thought it might have been – sorry to have robbed you!

    Re ‘necked: having seen Daniel’s suggestion, I’m practically convinced.

  22. Gaufrid says:

    Re 24ac, a cravat is usually worn around the neck but I took ‘necked’ in its adjectival sense of ‘having a neck’. Every cravat I have seen (and have worn many years ago) was less wide in the middle than it was at each end (so that it could lie flat at the back of the neck) and could therefore be described as something ‘which is necked’, thus allowing the play on words with necking a bottle.

  23. flashling says:

    I’d have thought Lionel Messi would be an audible clue to an anagram…

  24. muck says:

    Thanks for blog, Eileen. Excellent as always.
    I didn’t finish what I thought a pretty tough puzzle.
    But enjoyed seeing explanations/discussions of the answers I didn’t get.

  25. Mick Hodgkin says:

    He scores in games, simply (5). (A disgruntled gooner writes).
    But add me to the fans here, POaul was a bundle of laughs today.

  26. Martin H says:

    Gaufrid @22 – surely your cravat is waisted rather than necked, the narrow bit being in the middle?

    Cold = nerveless? (17ac) Humourless or without emotion, yes, but nerveless, in the sense of not being nervous, is cool rather than cold; not the same thing. If it was put in as misdirection for ‘c’ at the beginning, it was a bit sneaky.

  27. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Martin H
    No, it is necked. From Chambers for neck: “Any narrow connecting part, eg an isthmus”.

  28. Martin H says:

    Hi Gaufrid – I still prefer waisted. Chambers: waist….the narrow middle part, as of a musical instrument. A cravat isn’t in three parts, the middle one ‘connecting’ the other two. It’s in one piece which narrows in the middle.

  29. rrc says:

    thoroughly enjoyable – managed to complete with crossing letters but struggled on the word play of about eleven of the answers. Some cracking anagrams and a range of clues that raised a small.

    I did wonder whether 25 was TU P PENCE

  30. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Didn’t find this too hard today, but failed – like some others – on the scab/cravat combination. Plus one mistake (RHEA).
    As you say, Eileen [and, of course, a Thank You for your detailed blog, which helped me to understand 1ac and 25ac], this was a typical Paul puzzle.
    Who else writes clues like 3,10 (SIMON COWELL) or 20ac (PROCREATION)?
    Btw, I am not really happy with ‘bum’ as the anagrind, but, apart from that, great!
    Before the start of this crossword I didn’t know that ‘resilience’ can be ‘give’ or the other way around – so learned something today.
    But then, what a splendid clue – my Clue of the Day.

    Although I saw SHORT CIRCUIT immediately and although I liked the -n trick, I am not 100% sure if ‘circuit’ = ‘revolution’. I know, they have both to do with ‘going round’, but when comparing them in my Mrs Chambers some doubt crept in.

    Finally, to define GRAHAM NORTON (4d) as ‘no straight man’ is, purely from a cryptic point of view, a bit dubious to me [even if Mr Norton himself probably will be quite happy with it :)]. Some will call it wit, others maybe stigmatisation.

  31. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    I, too, had reservations about revolution = circuit and waited for someone else to comment!

    And I admit to having funked enlarging on the definition of GRAHAM NORTON. ‘Straight man’ can also mean ‘a subsidiary actor who acts as stooge to a comedian’, which he is not.

    I had no problem with ‘bum’, though: Chambers gives ‘wrong, false’.

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi Eileen,
    ‘My’ Chambers doesn’t, although the Book is quite thick [which of course, cán mean: stupid :)].
    It only says a thing like ‘worthless’, but, of course, I believe that what you’re saying is true.
    Do I have to think of something like ‘a bum shoulder’ (meaning: malfunctioning)?

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    Mine’s the 11th edition and has ‘bum [2]: adj worthless; despicable; dud; wrong, false’.

    I think it’s late enough in the day for this: your last remark reminded me of this, from Simon Hoggart in the Guardian, at the time of the death of Michael Foot:

    “By a sad coincidence, last week I said that the headline “Foot heads arms body” was probably apocryphal. Not at all. I have since heard from Martyn Cornell, who was a subeditor on the Times around 1986.

    He had to handle a story about Michael Foot being put in charge of a committee to look at nuclear disarmament in Europe, or something similar. The headline was to be in largish type, but across a single column – always a problem for subs.

    “I certainly wasn’t going to get ‘nuclear’ or ‘disarmament’ or ‘committee’ to fit, so after a struggle I decided on ‘Foot chairs arms body’, then thought ‘Foot heads arms body’ would at least give a laugh to the revise sub. To my astonishment, the headline was printed, and a legend was born …” “

  34. Another Andrew says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for a few weeks, waiting to actually finish a Guardian crossword before posting for the first time. Finally managed it with today’s puzzle, although I needed Eileen’s explanations for 4d, 17a and 26a.

    Please accept my back-dated thanks for all your help over the last few weeks.

  35. Gaufrid says:

    Revolution and circuit are given as synonyms in both Chambers’ and Collins’ thesauri.

    The two would be interchangeable in “the earth makes one revolution/circuit around the sun each day”.

  36. Eileen says:

    Welcome, Another Andrew, to add to our regular blogger and the Grumpy one!

    As you’ll have seen, you don’t need to have finished a puzzle in order to contribute – but I still remember my own trepidation, a couple of years ago, at hitting the ‘submit comment’ for the first time. Hope to hear more from you!

    Thanks for that, Gaufrid. Like Sil, I’d perused Chambers and Collins dictionaries but don’t have the relevant thesauri. I didn’t pursue it because I wanted the clue to work!

  37. Daniel Miller says:

    Mick – excellent Messi clue:

    He scores in games, simply (5). (A disgruntled gooner writes).

    Is the Gooner bit part of the clue? :)

  38. Bullfrog says:

    Given that Lionel Messi pretty much beat Arsenal single-handed, could he be anagrammatised as a ‘LONE MISSILE’?

  39. stiofain says:

    I thought this was great Paul seems to be doing 1 smutty then 1 clean these days I prefer smutty. Great blo Eileen thanks,I couldnt parse ROAD SIGN before reading.
    Great clue for MESSI Mick. I though the GRAHAM NORTON and SIMON COWELL clues were brilliant as Sil says what other setter would try this?
    Ive never worn a CRAVAT but on occasion have necked a load of wine on credit great surface!!

  40. sidey says:

    The two would be interchangeable in “the earth makes one revolution/circuit around the sun each day”.

    Only if your knowledge of astronomy was very, very wrong.

  41. Richard says:

    I did enjoy this. Nicely challenging for the most part. Lovely to see some topical references for a change – other compilers please take note! Shame he had to spoil it with 1ac, 17ac, 26ac.

  42. Sylvia says:

    I had collar for 24a instead of cravat so struggled with 23d

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