Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,988 – Rover

Posted by Andrew on April 19th, 2010


A very mixed bag from Rover, though mostly very easy. There were a few clues that I liked, but a lot of rather weak or dubious cryptic definitions, and various other niggles. There’s also a definite mistake in the solution at 21ac.

1. PLAIN-SPOKEN Double definition
10. SADISTS Not-very-cryptic definition, referring to the Marquis de Sade. But why “so-called”? Wikipedia has some discussion of the exact nature of the title, so maybe that’s what it’s about.
11. EXISTENCE (SIXTEEN C[ut]E)*, with definition “being”. I liked this one.
12. LARGE Hidden in popuLAR GEneral, but “accommodation” surely can’t be used like this to indicate a hidden answer.
13. LOTS Double definition – referring to film lots, I suppose
14. NEWSAGENTS Cryptic defintion – newspapers are sometimes called “rags” (some more than others).
16. BOARDROOMS Cryptic definition (again, not very..)
21. CESNA CANES*, but this is a mistake because the plane is the Cessna
24. PROVISO VIS (force) in POOR*
25. BRACKEN RACK in BEN. Not sure about RACK=”cut”
26. TUMMY BUTTON Cryptic definition – familiar name for the navel, which is (supposedly) sometimes contemplated in meditation.
1. PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC (general) TRANSPORT (delight) – the surface reading gives a nicely inaccurate definition
2. ALLOT ALL + TO “rising”, I.e. reversed.
4. POSTERS Double definition
5. KIDOLOGY Vaguely cryptic definition
6. NO SPRING CHICKEN NO SPRING (“A quarter of the year gone”)+ CHICKEN (yellow, in the sense of cowardly)
7. APPEAL I think this is a double definition – to appeal to someone is to please them, and please! (with exclamation mark) is an appeal.
8. ASPENS AS PENS (pen=female swans), and aspen leaves are known for their trembling.
16. BICEPS Cryptic definition
17. ORATORY Double definition – public speaking and a private chapel.
18. MARABOU MARABOU[T] – according to my online sources, it’s a type of heron, but not one with showy feathers, apart from ‘sometimes, a large white mass of “hair”‘. A marabout is “an Islamic religious leader and teacher”, but no mention of being a hermit. Perhaps others can justify these definitions, but in any case it seems rather unfair in a daily puzzle to use an obscure word in wordplay for an obscure (to me) solution.
20. RISING Cryptic definition, I suppose – “get up” can define RISING anyway, and rebels are involved in risings.
23. SMART Triple (or possibly double) definition – Clever/type of card/Alec

39 Responses to “Guardian 24,988 – Rover”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, but this was truly awful, particularly the spelling mistake in 21a.

    In the circumstances, I am resigning as Chairman of the Rover Fan Club.

  2. MartinH says:

    A humdrum piece from Rover, and I share most of your misgivings about it. I googled CESNA, thinking like you that it was wrong, but came up with a plane called…CESNA. I also have no problem with ‘accommodation’ to signal a hidden answer. MY Chambers gives Marabout as a Muslim hermit, but I’m with you on its unnecessary obscurity; if it had been the answer and had been available from wordplay, fair enough, but as the sole secondary element, no.

  3. Dawn says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the blog. I thought 5d should start with kid but couldn’t think of anything.

    In 25a I thought maybe rack of lamb = a cut of meat?

    I expect I’m in a minority but I missed Rufus for a Monday since it is often the only one I fully complete.

  4. Ian says:

    Thanks Andrew

    A very simple crossword to solve for a Monday morning from Rover. Absolutely peppered
    with anagrams it is shurely shome mistake to classify Rover as ‘hard’.

    Nonetheless, I still managed to appreciate the wordplay of 1dn, 5dn and 6dn. 14ac even raised a smile.

  5. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Andrew.

    How often have we said ‘mixed bag’ for Rover! [And how often have I queried his classification as ‘hard’?]

    I had just the same reservations as you but I, too, googled CESNA and found it.

    RE SADISTS: could the ‘so-called’ refer to the fact that it’s an eponym?

    MartinH, I agree that ‘accommodation’ is a perfectly good hidden answer indicator but here it’s the wrong way round.

    I can’t make sense of the surface of 16ac and as for 7dn …!

    [Those missing Rufus could try Dante in the FT – and have a smile at 24dn. :-)]

  6. sidey says:

    I hate to admit knowing this, but the feathery bits on ladies’ unmentionables are often Marabou down. Is down actually feathers? Anyway, not a well edited puzzle.

  7. Andrew says:

    MartinH and Eileen – googling “cesna” does indeed give a lot of plane-related hits, but most or all of them seem to be misspellings of CESSNA. (To be honest, I was only alerted to the error by a comment on the Guardian website – I initially put in CESNA without any qualms.)

  8. MartinH says:

    Yes, Eileen and Andrew, you’re right about ‘accommodation’. The answer was obvious, so the construction error went unnoticed. At least that’s my excuse.

    Chambers gives ‘childish’, not ‘familiar’ for ‘tummy’. Not a huge difference, maybe, but ‘tummy-button’ is such a horribly twee expression, let’s not assume everyone uses it.

  9. sidey says:

    Andrew is perfectly correct re cesna, after all, google returns typos as well as correct information 😉

  10. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. A strange mix of clues, some glaringly obvious including most anagrams, but a few oddball ones, too. 26a was droll and 7d and 16d were clever. 5d was new to me but guessable. 21a however is assuredly wrong.

  11. rrc says:

    A crossword with few smiles and definitely no aha moments. I fully endorse your comments Andrew

  12. Tokyo Colin says:

    Let me join the chorus. A combination of very easy clues, a few very obscure ones and a couple that are just plain wrong. I was expecting a tough but fair challenge. Filled the grid very quickly with very little satisfaction (viz. 11ac, 14ac, 6dn, 16dn.) But we all have off days so will give Rover another chance.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I’ve no objection to an easy puzzle, but this was easy for the wrong reasons! With the exception of 18dn which stuck out like a sore thumb.

    I didn’t check the spelling of 21ac but thought there was something wrong with it. 11ac was the best of the bunch, I thought. 16ac was awful!

    Let’s hope the week improves.

  14. walruss says:

    How many chances should someone get, even in The Guardian!! A dreadful piece, really bad.

  15. Bill Taylor says:

    It was my comment on the Guardian site, Andrew — my first ever there so I actually had to register first. But I was appalled. I don’t suppose Rover would like being called Rovver one bit! This is the worst Guardian cryptic in a long time.

  16. Ian W. says:

    There were certainly some flaws – cesna, and kidology stumped me, and cryptic definitions rarely satisfy, but still, nothing starts my week off better than NO RUFUS (the king of the weak cryptic definition)! So all in all, can’t complain.

  17. sidey says:

    They’ve noticed your comment Bill!

  18. norm says:

    Why does VIS = force in 24a?

  19. Eileen says:

    It’s Latin, norm, but in both Collins and Chambers.

  20. norm says:

    Thanks Eileen. Turns out I knew the plural (vires) but had never heard of the singular.

    That’s two Latin words I’ve learned today (pabulum being the other).

  21. Mr. Jim says:

    Thanks Andrew for the blog.

    To be charitable to Rover, perhaps he realised that his puzzles tend to be on the hard side and tried to make an easier one. I think he should stick to his natural territory though. We entered about 3/4 of the answers, and had almost all of the rest but didn’t have the confidence to put them in (mainly because of the apparent train-wreck of M_R_B_U (__R_B_U looked just about believable, e.g. CARIBOU [obviously not fitting the clue though]).) The KIDOLOGY/NEWSAGENTS combo was the only other thing that stumped us.

    PABULUM is an interesting word. Perhaps it’s best utilised by Paul, since it’s an anagram of PAUL and BUM. I feel sure that setter could come up with a fitting clue (not that Rover’s was a particularly bad one).

  22. Mr Beaver says:

    I think you’re all being a bit hard on Rover – at first I thought, ah, it’s good to see Rufus back to his earlier form, before realising it wasn’t him at all!
    It was nice to rattle through a Monday crossword for a change.

  23. Bill Taylor says:

    “Rattle” being the operative word, given the very insecure underpinnings of this puzzle.

  24. liz says:

    Mr Jim — Pabulum is an interesting word. I only know it because of Pablum, a brand of baby cereal that was very popular in North America in the 1960s. Devised by Canadian doctors apparently.

    Eileen — Thanks for the tip re the Dante puzzle in the FT! I don’t usually do two in a day, but today’s an exception!

  25. Eileen says:

    Liz – I just thouht you might be amused by the coincidence of the clues!

  26. liz says:

    Thanks, Eileen, I was :-) I preferred Dante’s!

  27. Dave Ellison says:

    16a I don’t see it fully, but I took BOARD to be something to do with going aboard a ship or train (ie get on)?

  28. Bryan says:

    Dave Ellison @27

    BOARD (of Directors) + ROOMS (take rooms) = the places they meet.

  29. Derek Lazenby says:

    Us late comers were given a freebie. The error re CESSNA now appears as a special instruction in the online version So guess which one I put in first :)

  30. tupu says:

    Re 13a. Thanks Andrew – I got the answer from the letters rather than the clue and missed the filming reference. I once saw a small and very valuable pocket-case of numbered ivory sticks on a collectors programme on TV. They were said to be used in drawing numbered lots for positions for the shoot in grouse shooting. This is quite alien territory to me, but having realised that ‘lots’ was the answer, I remembered the thing and wondered if this might be why. I must confess that if so, the clue is rather more obscure than cryptic. But it’s not a great one anyway.

  31. Steve and Claire says:

    We found this puzzle quite easy, but think some folks are being a bit hard on Rover. Marabou feathers have traditionally been used in Showgirl/burlesque costumes (making fans for fan dances, headdresses etc) so that’s what I thought was meant by “showy” and Cesna seemed fine. There were rather a lot of anagrams though.

  32. Daniel Miller says:

    Cesna! – hmm

    Easy stuff tho – nice gentle start to the week even if I didn’t recognise Pabulum (but what else can go with P?B?L?M ?

  33. cholecyst says:

    Steve and Claire : Well done! You’ve found a bug in the site software. Such egregious grammatical errors would not be tolerated in a Rover puzzle.

  34. jmac says:

    Re CESNA, isn’t it the job of a crossword editor to spot this sort of thing before it gets into print?

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Don’t worry, boys and girls, I am not going to join the party to offer you all a different viewpoint which perhaps might lead to a “see, this was a good crossword”.
    Nor would I like to be too ‘hard on Rover’ (despite the obvious weaknesses) – I still believe that setters do it all to enjoy us – well, um, that’s not what we álways think.
    Nor do I understand some posts that persistently go on calling Rover a ‘hard’ setter [well, some clues are so suspiciously easy that they cán be hard].

    Like Mr.Jim (#21)- :) – I thought the answer to 9ac could be PAUL-BUM, but then it wasn’t hyphenated …. What a missed opportunity.

    There’s only one clue that we had other thoughts about: 13ac (LOTS).
    We weren’t thinking of shooting films or the enemy.
    Could “places to shoot” refer to pieces of land in, say, an allotment (‘lots’) where things grow (‘to shoot’ in the sense of ‘to germinate’)?

  36. Dave Ellison says:

    Brian @28. Thanks for the explanation, but I had already understood that. I was really replying to Eileen @5, because I didn’t really understand the surface either. If it is just BOARD + ROOMS it is rather weak, and the ON is superfluous, so I thought perhaps there was a little more to it, hence my suggestion. Why the question mark, too?

    On the whole I quite liked the crossword, especially 16d.

  37. Ian F says:

    I think some of the above is somewhat harsh. Save for the spelling error, I found the puzzle to be both sound and enjoyable (although I must admit 9a and 18d were new to me!).

    I would also like to come to the defence of Rufus who, in my view, is a true master.

  38. Sil van den Hoek says:

    There’s one thing I want to say to Bryan (#1).
    I do respect your decision – not being Chairman of the Rover Fan Club anymore.
    To be honest, you should have made this decision after 9/11 (minus 8/10, that is).
    I have seriously considered taking your Place [with a capital P].
    But as I am 101% sure that there will be NO other candidate, I will not go for it.
    Not challenging enough, which is, in fact, just like Rover’s crosswords.

  39. FumbleFingers says:

    I’ve never been much of a Rover fan – plus I didn’t get this one off the net until afternoon, so I saw and was disheartened by the CESNA cock-up before I started. So maybe I approached it with a somewhat jaundiced attitude.

    Actually I only came here because I couldn’t complete on 7d. Turned out I’d carelessly put POTS for 13a. Pots of money is plenty, shoots propagate in pots, der!

    Somewhat chastened, I’ve just tried to review the whole puzzle in a more charitable light. But I still think it stinks.

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