Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,000 – Enigmatist

Posted by Andrew on May 3rd, 2010


With no disrespect to Enigmatist, I was surprised to see him as the setter of this momentously-numbered puzzle: like others I was expecting an Araucaria special, or perhaps a Rufus in honour of his regular Monday slots. I usually find Enigmatist quite hard, but got through this one fairly quickly for me (less than 25 minutes). The sentence indicated in the “special instructions” was easy to spot after getting a couple of the answers, which then helped to fill up more of the grid. This was a very enjoyable puzzle with a lot of ingenious and sometimes complex clueing, but I was expecting rather more for this “anniversary”, so in a way it was a bit of a disappointment, especially as it happened to coincide with a Bank Holiday: a Bank Holiday that didn’t even exist when Puzzle number One was published! Does anyone know the date of that, by the way? It may be in Hugh Stephenson’s “Secrets of the Setters”, which I don’t have a copy of. By my rough calculations it would have been some time in April 1930.

1. SQUARE Three definitions – “old-fashioned”, “sort of deal” and “feature of chessboard or crossword”
4. BLACKS Double definition – some squares in the grid are black (or grey if you use the online “print version”), and the black ball is put back on its spot after being potted in snooker.
9. FIVE F[ollowing] + I’VE (crossword setter has). “Extent” seems a weak definition – have I missed something?
11. WHITES (WE + THIS)* plus two definitions – some of the grid squares are white, and White’s is a gentlemen’s club in London.
13. BRUSH AWAY R[ugby] U[nion] + [George Bernard] SHAW in BAY
15,16. DONE DEAL ONE D in DEAL (type of wood). The double use of DEAL seems a bit of a weakness,
21. GUARDIAN Hidden reversed in “aN A1 DRAUGht”
22. SETTER Double definition – very obvious, but a nice tribute to Araucaria.
25. DATE Double definition (or possibly three, if “step out with” and “girl” are separate – a bit too close for comfort though, I think)
26. TWENTY 20 is a score, and double-cross = double X = double 10 = 20
27. ARGYLE Double definition – football team and “diamonds in a diagonal checkerboard arrangement”.
1. SLITHER LITHE in SR (abbreviation of “sister”)
2. URENT TENURE* less the final E – it means stinging or burning. A bit obscure, but nothing else would fit here.
3. RICKSHA RICKS (given by 3 examples) + HA[ve]. An alternative spelling of “rickshaw”.
5. LESSON If you have LESS ON then you would be cooler.
6. CROSSWORD “Darn” might be a word you say when cross.
7. STRANGE Chief Superintendent Strange is the boss of Chief Inspector Morse in the books by Crossword aficionado Colin Dexter.
8. CENTRAL LONDON “on” and “do” form the centre of LONDON, and there’s lots on and lots to do in Central London, making it an &lit.
14. SEA BREEZE Spoonerism of “Brie seize”
16. DRUM OUT Cryptic definition
18. MISUSER IS U/S (unserviceable) in MER (French for “sea”). The “poor applicant” is one who wrongly applies or uses something.
19. WRESTLE Hidden in “somehoW RESTLEss”, with “having” as the indicator, and I think “dispute” as a verb as the definition.
20. BIG CAT GI< + C in BAT
23. TODAY DA (District Attorney) in TOY

48 Responses to “Guardian 25,000 – Enigmatist”

  1. Vin says:

    I was so keen to try this 25,000th Guardian cryptic that I used the online version for the first time. Like Andrew, I found it disappointingly ordinary and normal-sized. Took about ninety minutes to complete, which is a good time for me as I generally take most of the day, on and off. First to go in was SETTER, which led to TODAY, which made the “theme” sentence pretty easy to guess. The only answer I couldn’t get was URENT, for which Googling yielded nothing. Still, it was fun staying up late to do. Thanks, Andrew for the helpful blog.

  2. Jack says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    In his book Hugh Stephenson says:

    “On Saturday, 5th January 1929, the Manchester Guardian published its Crossword Puzzle No. 1. The Guardian crossword puzzle remained a weekly Saturday feature for 4 months, when a Wednesday puzzle was added. It did not go daily until the beginning of 1930.”

    The first puzzle is reproduced in the book.

  3. Ian in TX says:

    Thanks Andrew for the early posting. I too was disappointed. The ‘theme’ words were easy to get without clues, the rest sort of fell in without much cerebral effort, except for 2d which had to be checked. I too was anticipating something special for 25k, especially as it fell on a bank holiday Monday. At least we have a new Genius today from Auracaria.

  4. uncle yap says:

    I came with no expectation and was richly rewarded by Enigmatist’s creative clueing style, which gave cause for some degree of mirth at places.

    Only ricksha gave some pause as we are so used to the spelling ending with w.

    Can someone please explain why “obs-er-v-ed” in 12A?

    My favourite today must be 26A … double cross indeed :-)

  5. Bryan says:

    Very many thanks, Andrew, I enjoyed this.

    Never heard of 2d URENT but so what?

    Uncle Yap @4

    THOU = you + observed = seen + SAND (on beach) which is, of course, a large number.

  6. Bryan says:

    Uncle Yap

    Perhaps @4 you saw a misprint?

    Possibly a browser problem?

    Certainly, ‘observed’ looked OK on my screen.

  7. rrc says:

    definitely no aha moments, not even a smile, but a large number of groans. I too printed the crossword off just past midnight but left it to the morning as the first read didnt inspire. I think my first impressions were right. I cannot really believe that the celebration today is simply to have 25000 in the crossword. Very very disappointing.

  8. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. Can’t explain “extent” in 9a, sorry. URENT in 2d is not in the Shorter, but the OED has it: “rare – burning, causing burning sensation.” Uncle Yap – ‘observed’ in 12a I agree is superfluous, but needed for the grammar after thou/you, I suppose.

  9. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    On a day with an article about the anniversary, an accessible (and normal-sized) puzzle to cater for occasional solvers might just be a wise idea, or the brief given to Enigmatist. By my reckoning there are 14 words in the grid involved in the celebration message and other bits about games with black and white squares – 17 Climb DOWN and 24 Come ACROSS can’t be there by accident.

  10. Ian says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    Like Bryan I enjoyed this puzzle.

    My only reservation is that it would have benefitted from the exclusion of the ‘special instructions’, thus rendering it more of a challenge.

    Several of the unthemed solutions were well contrived and needed some real application to crack open. The Spoonerism was clever if somewhat obvious. For me, the highlights were 26 ac and 18 dn.

  11. Pasquale says:

    Enjoyed this little celebration. Thought for one awful moment that Somehow restless was meant to read Some how restless, but I shouldn’t have had such a suspicious mind!

  12. Dave Ellison says:

    I got many of the preamble answers without looking at the clues: 23d first (from its number of letters), then 21a, 12a, 9a; 25a and the others later from the clues. This certainly made it easier than the usual Enigmatist, for me.

    9a Five: I took this to mean this is the number of people doing this crossword, a rather poor &lit, and which would explain the ? at the end.

    2d the last for me, too.

  13. Jan says:

    Thank you for the blog, Andrew. I was hoping that you would be able to explain, ‘extent’. Chambers has ‘urent’.

    Like Vin, I was so excited, I printed the puzzle just after midnight. Once I got over my disappointment I quite enjoyed it. An Araucaria Genius crossword has raised my spirits.

    Thank you, Peter Biddlecombe, for the link to the article. I’ve printed it and am just off to have a read and some wheatibangs.

  14. Dave Ellison says:

    21a I hadn’t seen this was hidden backwards. I took “knocking back” as the anagrind, of not all of AN AI DRAUGHT. In either case, what is the WELL for?

  15. Andrew says:

    Pasquale – I had the same thought as you about “Some how restless” when I solved the puzzle, but changed my mind to a more charitable explanation when I wrote up the blog, though I don’t much care for “having” as an indicator either.

    Jack – thanks for the information about the date. It hadn’t occurred to me that the puzzle wasn’t always published daily.

  16. Another Andrew says:

    Thanks Andrew, I needed your explanations for a few today, even though I did complete it. And I still don’t really get the definition of 9a.

    And how does everyone feel about ‘Strange’ for a cultural reference? I know Morse was a crossword buff but I think this is a lot more obscure than Dad’s Army’s Pike that caused a few raised eyebrows recently.

    You can add me to the ‘slightly disappointed’ list, although I did enjoy all the cross-references.

  17. Bill Taylor says:

    A terrible let-down — I started at 7:05 pm last night (Toronto is 5 hours behind the UK) and was finished by 7:30. I’d been hoping for something that would keep my busy all day. Some clumsy clueing, topped off with a stupid so-called Spoonerism at14d. The whole point of a Spoonerism is that it should make a certain amount of sense both ways (as in the classic “cattleships and bruisers” or “fighting a liar”). “Brie sieze” makes no sense at all.

  18. rrc says:


    The clue I detested for its SE bais was 8d which I overlooked earlier Apologies for the PS

  19. John says:

    I was disappointed to see that it was Enigmatist, and the disappointment continued.
    Along with all the other points made, I have to mention again my bete noire – initial letters as supposed abbreviations. When has ‘F’ ever stood for “following”? ‘Extent’ for FIVE might be a hand’s width, but the whole clue was ‘abysmal’.
    And I wonder how many solvers would have been able to name Morse’s boss? Anyway he was Detective Chief Inspector – different rank altogether. I think DCI is plain clothes whereas CI is uniformed, although I could be wrong.

  20. Eileen says:

    I wonder what was the thinking behind the decision to give this long-awaited puzzle to Enigmatist? In all my speculation about which setter we would get – Araucaria or Rufus, for the reasons Andrew mentions, perhaps – Enigmatist didn’t enter the reckoning, apart from a thought that it might be a joint effort – a Biggles [Araucaria, Shed, Paul and Enigmatist], for instance, or some other combination, as when Enigmatist and Paul collaborated on the tribute to Taupi. I even wondered if there could possibly be a collaboration of all the setters!

    I’m with those who stayed up specially to print it off as soon as it was available but my reaction was exactly the same as rrc’s at Comment 7.

    But at least we got an article by Sandy Balfour [oh, for the days of the X-Philes!], with a plug for 15², and there’s a typically enjoyable Virgilius [Brendan] over in the Indy. :-)

  21. Bill Taylor says:

    I read 9a (abysmal sums it up, John) as being Enigmatist’s humorously modest totalling of his fans. I fear that, today at least, he was being optimistic!

  22. jmac says:

    I’m with Peter Biddlecombe on this one. It is not often we get an 1100-word article about crossword puzzles, and to have made the puzzle any more testing would probably have been self-defeating in terms of getting a new audience. There were lots of fun clues, the spoonerism and FIVE I thought nicely libertarian; and STRANGE was easy to deduce even if, like me, you had never come across this particular fictional policeman. All in I think Enigmatist got this one spot on, and I think the choice of Enigmatist, a setter in the libertarian camp so favoured by the Guardian, was quite apprpriate for an anniversary puzzle.

  23. scarpia says:

    I enjoyed this a lot.Checked the website just after midnight and ended up doing the puzzle online – for the first time!I usually wait for the paper to be delivered.
    John@19 – Chambers gives F as an abbreviation for following.

  24. Mr Beaver says:

    For those without time or inclination to read the article linked @9, I can’t resist quoting this bit “The current debate about Guardian crosswords,” Allan McRobert wrote in 1999, “indicates the intellectual infancy of your readers. I have just completed one of my son’s jigsaw puzzles in only a couple of hours, when it clearly stated on the box ‘two to four years’.

    I’ll get my coat….

  25. Bill Taylor says:

    I wonder if Mr. McRobert is also the person who complained to his wife: “This tiger jigsaw puzzle is impossibly difficult.” And his wife replied, “Yes, dear. So why don’t you just put the Frosted Flakes back in the box. . .”

    Get my coat, too, would you, Mr. Beaver?

  26. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew. I found some parts of this enjoyably hard. It took me quite a time to see the 1, 4, 10, 11, 16 across connections, and I took a time to see 27 across (I wondered first if it might be groyne!) 9a was hard to fathom though it is of course clear what it must be. I think Andrew’s reading is correct (f. + I’ve. Like the I’m in 17a). Like many others I had to guess and then confirm urent (in Chambers). Again, like others I had hoped for
    a bit more, but not to worry.

  27. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew. A lot of people seem to have found this puzzle disappointing but I enjoyed it, and found enough difficulty at the top to keep me guessing for awhile. Like Peter @9 I suspect the Guardian might have been trying for a middle way here, especially with the Balfour article encouraging people to have a go at cryptics.

    We’ve all been anticipating no 25,000 for days, but I’m sure solvers who don’t use this site and may not have noticed the significance of the number would have found it challenging and entertaining.

  28. morpheus says:

    quite enjoyed this celebratory puzzle. remember it’s only a bank holiday and some people like to get a bit of gardening in as well!

  29. mike04 says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew.
    I enjoyed today’s crossword, but I’d like to make a couple of points:

    In 2dn, URENT requires TENURE – E, then do some anagrammatizing. The way I read the clue, we are asked to anagrammatize TENURE then remove the last letter. Which letter?

    If a city deserved a mention today, surely it was MANCHESTER!

  30. Gerry says:

    I was only beaten by ‘urent’ also, and also haven’t found it via Google, nor in my old Blackie’s dictionary. Still enjoyed it, though I understand the comments.

  31. Martin H says:

    Well, what a disappointment. Awkward, annoying and not very entertaining.
    Black and white squares don’t ‘decorate’ a chessboard. They’re what it is. ‘Wrap’ is no definition for ‘done deal’, nor is ‘poor applicant’ for ‘abuser’, nor ‘extent’ for ‘five'; awful Spoonerism, as Bill says @17; London as the centre of the action (including Whites club no doubt); Inspector Morse; that dog again. With all that the few really good clues – ‘twenty’ stands out – lose their shine.

  32. jetdoc says:

    I think the phrases “It’s a wrap” and “It’s a done deal” can have the same meaning.

    The answer at 18d is MISUSER, not ABUSER; someone who applies something poorly could be said to be misusing it.

    The point about ‘central London’ is that it is ‘on do’; not that London is the centre of the action.

  33. tupu says:

    Re ‘done deal’ Although getting the answer, I had not come across the expression ‘it’s a wrap’ and simply assumed a general link to phrases like ‘all wrapped up’. Two dictionary sources thrown up by Google support jetdoc’s more specific comment on the connection(32).

  34. Martin H says:

    jetdoc – “It’s a wrap” is new to me, so I’ll look out for it and meanwhile take your word for it.
    Yes, I should have said ‘misuser’. I still think the definition is too tenuous: ‘could be said to be’…..hmmm.
    I understand the structure of the Central London clue, but thank you anyway. I meant to refer to the sense clearly given in the clue that that is the place to see and do things, in other words ‘the centre of the action’.
    More sloppiness from Enigmatist: 4ac; In ‘the frame’, ‘blacks’ are not respotted – rather, the black is respotted: there’s only one of them. If ‘black’ is plural then ‘frame’ has to be plural too.

  35. Ian Stark says:

    I’m looking forward to 2089 and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an Araucaria . . .

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I can imagine the expression of disappointment on some people’s faces when they saw the name of today’s setter. One can’t blame Enigmatist for the Editor’s decision and – to be fair – this wasn’t as poorish a crossword as some of the above posts suggest, even though he is surely not my favourite compiler of all time [which, in my case, is about two years :)].
    Of course, we were hoping that there was a special Araucaria [but he already took last week’s Friday spot] or – even more appropriate – a festive Rufus.
    Having said that, it might well be that this is more a problem for fifteensquared regulars than for the vast majority of ordinary solvers around the world for whom this day was a day like all others.
    [but nice to see fifteensquared being mentioned in today’s Guardian article – #9]

    Anyway, solving started off suspiciously easy with SETTER (22ac) [my PinC: “Why does he write a clue like that?”] and went on with a mixture of easy clues, dubious surfaces and great ones.
    A lot of people seem to like TWENTY (26ac), but we thought this one was much too easy. Maybe a nice clue in combination with the surface of 25ac (which was just a simple dd), but as such hardly remarkable.
    I remember a while ago a discussion on the phenomenon ‘ellipsis’. For us, apart from the surface reading, there was no connection whatsoever between 25 and 26. And should there be? What is a good ellipsis? [this is just a genuine question from us, no critical remark]
    The clue following this duo was also quite easy (ARGYLE), and we thought the only cryptic definition [yes, it’s cd time again!] was rather poor: DRUM OUT (16d).
    As was – in our opinion – 9ac (FIVE).
    And although we didn’t have any problem to find THOUSAND (with THOU being ‘you’, and SAND not S&M – remember? :)) we were not completely sure about the construction. Is SAND = ‘the beach’? Or something ‘observed on the beach’? In the meantime, the clue reads as an &lit, which it isn’t. Confusing.

    All this was, for us, more than enough compensated by some splendid clues.
    We thought the ’Nazi pig’ (HESS BOAR) of 10ac was a real find.
    The hidden reversal in 21ac (GUARDIAN) was particularly fine.
    And we liked the concise (and smiling) 5d (LESSON) very much.
    Even though some people think that there shouldn’t be Spoonerisms for a while, this one was rather nice.
    And perhaps, the Clue of the Day: CENTRAL LONDON. We thought this was simply brilliant.

    We have to conclude that Enigmatist deserves to get more credit for his crossword than he has got so far. But, yes, indeed, we could have done without the “preamble” – we hardly looked at it [luckily], and it was quite plain, so not really a sign of ‘Let’s Celebrate”.

    Thank you, áll you Guardian setters, for enriching my life in the last 25 (without the three zeros) months !!!

    at one point we had in 1d: S-I-H-R.
    Could have been SWISHER …..
    Thát would have been fun, if Enigmatist had done that !! [see Paul, 24,993]
    :) :)

  37. Daniel Miller says:

    I’m not sure what to make of this one!

    Firstly the preamble was ever so obvious to seal the answer to 7 clues.
    Secondly I, like many others, was disappointed with the lack of a more significant (or even a Jumbo on a Bank Holiday) to mark the occasion.
    Thirdly I found some of the clues a tad contrived: I didn’t get URENT (although I suspect I really should have with “abysmal TENURE (terminate early…) – didn’t look familiar to me! Otherwise I solved (or resolved to accept) all the other clues but wasn’t exactly thrilled with 9a (Five).

    So, over in a matter of minutes – albeit a slightly slower effort than The 1,000th Roger Squires Monday DT, which I bought especially for the occasion and rattled off in less than 10 minutes – does this make the DT too straightforward?

    FTR: Thousand was an answer in both today’s Guardian and the DT.

  38. mhl says:

    Thanks for the post, Andrew, and staying up late to do it!

    Very enjoyable, I thought, and a nice one for 25,000 – on seeing that it was Enigmatist I was slightly worried that this would be fiendishly difficult, so it was nice to romp through it with lots of smiles on the way.

    Here’s to the next 25,000 :)

  39. Tony says:

    There was a feature on Roger Squires in today’s Shropshire Star which you can read by searching their website.

  40. FumbleFingers says:

    Well it certainly wasn’t a bad puzzle – apart from URENT, which I think was totally inappropriate at this level.

    But to be honest I thought Saturday’s prize puzzle Crucible #24999 had more sparkle and sense of occasion. Plus I enjoyed it more because at the time I thought “if this is just the warm-up, how good is real biggie #25000 going to be in a couple of days?”

    Luckily I really like the snooker, so I’ve had a good bank holiday weekend even though this particular bit didn’t exactly live up to expectations.

  41. Mick H says:

    Great to see so many people expressing their opinions. I thought this was a good and fitting tribute for the occasion.
    And I hope that, on a day when this blog got a mention in the paper, newcomers aren’t put off by the negative tone that sometimes creeps in – like Guardian readers, Guardian solvers like nothing better than to moan about their beloved product.
    As Sil says, the majority of solvers will have approached this puzzle like any other puzzle, and therefore may have enjoyed a penny-drop moment when they got the theme. Whereas others, like some above, opened the paper/webpage expecting a special puzzle themed around the 25,000th puzzle, then were disappointed when the theme revealed itself to them relatively obviously.
    Oh well, you plant keys everyone!

  42. Handel says:

    Rather a late comment, but just wanted to say that we enjoyed this one very much, and weren’t disappointed by the lack of a jumbo grid, which can be a bit much unless it’s Christmas. Lovely inventive stuff, with the black/white themed entries the last to fall into place. Good work by the setter!

  43. Daniel Miller says:

    The article on the 25,000th – where this site gets a mention is here:

    ….Paul sounds a note of caution. Like all setters, he is acutely aware that a crossword puzzle without solvers is pointless. There are several websites (see, for example, where solvers comment on puzzles and clues, and Paul admits he sometimes reads them to find out what solvers think of his puzzles.

  44. Colin Blackburn says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle. URENT caught me out but was guessable (either that or UNERT which seemed less likely). I’m not disappointed by the lack of a Jumbo, in fact I’m more disappointed by the appearance of a Jumbo since it reminds me of the often superb double-grid puzzles we used to get on Bank Holidays.

  45. Huw Powell says:

    I think I was more amused by the huge double theme than concerned about it making things too easy (I missed four clues).

    I had a few scattered words and couldn’t get anywhere, when I suddenly realized I had TODAY and DATE. First time I’ve ever solved five clues without looking at them and with no crossers! SQUARE came very slowly for me, but once I had it the associated theme words were a lot easier.

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I also hope that someday we find a better explanation of “extent” for FIVE than the dubious self-deprecation.

  46. Alan O'Brien says:

    There was quite a lot of thematic material.

    Apart from
    There was aslo
    Pretty good really

  47. R. Saunders says:

    I expected to have to WRESTLE with this but it was something of a BREEZE.

  48. Anne Anderson says:

    Hi from Australia. Glad to have found this site – nothing worse that not knowing why an answer is right, and I really appreciate the explanation for those occasional mysteries. The theme sentence of this crossword proved a bit difficult until I remembered that the Guardian puzzles are numbered differently in my local paper (The Brisbane “Courier Mail”). Puzzle 25,000 is actually shown as puzzle 21,643 – once I remembered that, the theme sentence made perfect sense.

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