Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,999 (Sat 1 May)/Crucible – Potty

Posted by rightback on May 8th, 2010


Solving time: 9 mins

This puzzle was snooker-themed, and published to coincide with the conclusion to the snooker World Championship at the Crucible in which Neil Robertson of Australia became only the second overseas winner, after Canada’s Cliff Thorburn in 1980. The theme word (1ac) was POTTER which in different contexts also indicated several other answers.

There are some very good clues in this puzzle, but I can’t fully explain 6dn (ARRIVISTE) or 14dn (AT A STROKE). The one that caused me the most trouble was 25dn which was a phrase I didn’t know.

Music of the day: One of Neil Robertson’s walk-on tunes, Down Under by Men At Work, a UK number one from 1983, the year of the first ever maximum break at the Crucible (by Thorburn who finished as runner-up to Steve Davis).

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 POTTER (2 defs + 2 names) – Stephen Potter was an author and Dennis Potter a dramatist.
9 TOUCHLINE; (HOLE CUT IN)* – excellent clue with a rugby-themed surface reading.
10 HARRY; R.R. (= Rolls Royce) in HAY – ‘Rolls’ is cleverly placed here to disguise the initial capital.
11 EPSOM; (SOME)* around P
12 O’SULLIVAN; (VILLA[i]NOUS)* – ‘Crucible’ here doesn’t refer to the setter but the venue for the World Championship where three-times champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is very popular. His record-breaking 147 in just 5 minutes and 20 seconds from 1997 is essential watching.
13 BEATRIX; BEAT (= ‘thumped’) + RIX – I think the farceur is Brian Rix; the 1ac is Beatrix Potter.
15 RADISH; (IS HARD)* – clever anagram fodder but the indicator doesn’t work (‘to chew’ cannot be an intransitive verb).
19 HALBERD; HERD around (A LB) – an old axe-like weapon.
22 OUT OF TURN; (O[ld] F[ellow]) in OUT-TURN – I’m not clear whether ‘out-turn’ can mean ‘result’ or whether the definition ‘in the wrong order’ is doing double duty, indicating a switch of ‘turn out’.
24 TYPOS; (POTS)* around Y
26 SPODE; SP[ecial] + ODE – a pottery manufacturer from Stoke, who are hopefully going to deny Manchester United the Premiership title tomorrow, preferably thanks to a dodgy refereeing decision to turn Fergie just a little more purple.
28,19 STEPHEN HENDRY; (HEN HEN) (= ‘females’) after STEP (= ‘stage’) + DRY (= ‘forget their words’) – Stephen Hendry, world champion a record seven times.
29,17 DENNIS TAYLOR; rev. of ((ROYALT[y])* + SINNED)* – slightly strange, with the anagram technically being part of the reversal. Dennis Taylor was world champion in 1985 after this classic final, possibly the most famous of all time and certainly the most famous final frame.
1 POTHERB; (OTHER) in PB (= ‘lead’ in scientific notation) – the word ‘the’ in this clue is perhaps a little unfairly misleading but the breakdown of the answer word is very nice.
2 TRUSS (2 defs) – referring to Lynne Truss who wrote Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
3 EPHEMERAL; (HELP ME)* around ERA – ‘divers’ (an archaic variant of ‘diverse’) is a cunning anagram indicator but I’m not convinced by the grammar of the cryptic reading here: the verb ‘breathe’ requires a plural subject which I’m not sure ‘divers help me’, i.e. ‘anagram of HELP ME’, can be.
5 SAHEL (hidden) – part of the Sahara desert, which I didn’t know. Nice clue.
6 ARRIVISTE; ST in (RIVIERA)* ? – I don’t get this: ‘exceptional site’ appears to indicate ST but I can’t see a valid reason why.
7 DRYING; [hen]DRY + IN (= ‘at home’) + G[olf] (in radio telephony)
8 BIJOUX; compound anagram of (A JUNCTION BOX)* minus (CANNOT)* – unusual to see something as complex as this in an ordinary blocked crossword; they’re common in barred puzzles but I think ‘These trinkets…’ might be the expected wording.
14 AT A STROKE; A TASTE around (R[are] + OK (= ‘approval’)) – why does ‘rare’ give the letter ‘R’?
16 DELFTWARE; F[ee]T for A[ccepted] in DELAWARE
18 ROUGHEN; ([rea]R + ENOUGH)* – ‘scratch’ is the definition and ‘to need surgery’ the anagram indicator.
21 ROASTS; ROT (= ‘go off’) around AS (= ‘when’) + S[abbath] – nicely worded.
23 FRESH (2 defs) – good clue with both words meaning something different in the surface reading to the cryptic reading.
25 POT ON – apparently this is a verbal phrase meaning ‘to transfer to a larger pot’. This meant nothing to me and I spent a good couple of minutes looking for an alternative, but eventually stuck it in. The wordplay is snooker-related (if a ‘pot is on’ it means it’s a feasible shot) but I’m not sure why the clue says 12 (O’SULLIVAN) and not 1ac (POTTER); really it should say ’12, for example’ or something like that.

30 Responses to “Guardian 24,999 (Sat 1 May)/Crucible – Potty”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback. but – knowing nothing at all about snooker except that it’s surely the most boring spectator sport in the world – this went way over my head. Otherwise, quite enjoyable.

    I do wish that Setters and/or The Editor would check with me before publication so that I could remove such obscurities.

    Incidentally, today’s Prize Puzzle (by Araucaria) is accessible by doing an Archive Search on the Crossword Page in the box provided.

    Or have I have created a Spoiler for all those who really enjoy seeing if they can find it for themselves?

  2. Biggles A says:

    Not having misspent my youth – not all of it anyway – and being unacquainted with the key snooker players, not to mention Lynne Truss or Brian Rix, I struggled with this one and had to resort to Google to get there. I couldn’t find a satisfactory explanation for 6 either and wondered about r for rare too.

    I didn’t understand ‘Crucible’s favourite?’ in 12 and wasted some time trying to fit ‘mypet’ or ‘mepet’ in there somehow.

  3. Biggles A says:

    6. Maybe “exceptional’ is ‘odd’ and s and t are the odd letters in ‘site’. I don’t like it much though.

  4. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thank you Rightback, especially for the info on snooker context and the Crucible. I enjoyed the puzzle but would have done so even more if I had been ‘in the know’.

    I struggled a bit with the snooker players but had faint memories of all of them in the end.

    I didn’t enter a solution to 25dn not being sure if it was PUT IN, POT IN or POT ON, all equally appropriate or otherwise to me.

    I agree with Biggles @3 on 6dn. Fine with me.
    Re 24dn, I have become used to R=rare recently. Don’t know why, but then I don’t know why H=hospital either and it doesn’t stop me from recognizing it.

    This is the second farceur to pop up recently. (The other was TRAVERS as I recall.) I hadn’t heard of RIX either, but it wasn’t difficult to deduce from B-A-R-X Potter.

    Favourite clue was 3dn. I can’t see the problem you refer to. I breathe air – no plural necessary.

  5. bamberger says:

    I start with 1a -ah I need 28 & 29. So I go to 28 & 29 but I find they need 1a . I think this is known as going round in circles.
    So I try other clues 10,12,13,16 all need 1a. I get one or two others out but not enough to make a breakthrough.
    Gave up and decided that crosswords like this aren’t my cup of tea.

  6. Gaufrid says:

    Hi rightback
    22ac Collins confirms that out-turn means outcome or result.

    14dn R as an abbreviation for ‘rare’ does not appear in any of the usual references but it has been discussed previously on this site. Various suggestions were put forward as to its possible usage including a shorthand way of indicating how a steak is to be cooked when taking a food order.

    I interpreted 6dn in the same way as Biggles A, ie alternate letters of ‘site’, with ‘except[ional]’ being used in the sense of ‘leaving out’.

  7. Eileen says:

    Hi rightback

    I had the same reading for 6dn and I’ve just checked the annotated solution [I invariably forget that there is one!], which confirms it.

  8. Daniel Miller says:

    Thanks for this blog Rightback. I think I fell a couple short and left it. Seems they were eminently achieveable — nice theme I thought.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback. Your solving times are distressingly fast. I much enjoyed this puzzle with its mixture of ‘potting’ themes. I too assumed 6d used ‘exceptional’ to indicate ‘taking out’.
    Re 3d. I assume ‘breathe’ is an imperative rather than a plural.
    Re 22a. Thanks Gaufrid. I had taken it that out-turn was ‘turn out’ (= ‘result’ v.) ‘in the wrong order’, thus giving a double resonance to the clue, but perhaps that’s too much.

  10. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I clearly remember the words Crucible addressed to “Sil et al” after I was slightly disappointed by his first Saturday puzzle (13 Mar): “Bear with me; I’ll try harder”.
    Well, this one was a completely different kettle of fish.

    Having S-E-H– in 28ac, I guessed STEPHEN and then saw the remainder, which led to the assumption that 1ac had to be POTTER – which was right.
    Then all thoughts came up: Harry? Dennis?
    In a way they were both there, indeed.
    HARRY was the answer to 10ac, but we initially thought it had to be HAINY (‘Rolls’ being the anagrind for ‘in hay’) – could be a snooker player, but alas.
    And Dennis Potter (remember The Singing Detective?) was only there in 29 + 1ac.

    A crossword with lots of splendid, very clever clues.
    We liked 12ac (O’ SULLIVAN) with the Crucible reference [probably a free header – but he scored].
    And Down clues like SAHEL [one of the best hiddens we’ve seen recently], the ingenious construction of 8d (BIJOUX) and the smooth surface of 20d (DESERTS).

    Having said all this, in our opinion, one thing was rather unusual.
    The ample use of abbreviations [normally not a plus for a crossword when there are too many], some of which were unknown to us.
    There’s QU for ‘Queen’, RR for ‘Rolls Royce’, SP for ‘special’, R for ‘rare’ and S for ‘sabbath’ – all in my version of Chambers, but we don’t see them very often in the Guardian.
    But there was also D for ‘director’ and A for ‘accepted’, which we hadn’t seen before.
    [couldn’t find them either in the books that we have / on the net]
    Initially we thought ST was another one, but apparently it is as explained in the previous posts – quite a stretch [to my taste].
    If 7 weren’t even enough, we also had the ‘normal bunch': P (parking), L (pound), O (old), F (fellow), G (golf) and S (small).
    So, 13 in total – bit of an overdose.

    Even so, very fine crossword that we enjoyed immensely.

    Therefore, Crucible, we’ll bear with you!

  11. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Sil
    I don’t know which version of Chambers you are using but the 11th Edition has both D=director and A=accepted (though it does not have R=rare!).

  12. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Gaufrid, it looks like everything may be abbreviated nowadays – very handy for the crossword setter who’s looking for that one letter he still needs for his clue.

    We understood the A [even though it’s not in the stripped down (because it was cheap) version of Chambers that I have], but that D? What kind of ‘director’ does it stand for?

    Apart from this, my main point was that Crucible used more one- or two-letter abbreviations than one normally finds in a crossword – and even though it didn’t affect the overall quality of this fine puzzle, I think there were just too many.

    But it’s only a minor point [which surely can be abbreviated as MP? :) ]

  13. Crucible says:

    Sil et al: Thanks as usual for your studied comments.
    Collins has ‘rare’ as its first r abbreviation. The other 12 (it does seem quite a lot) are all ones picked up from other puzzles over the decades. Believe me, they are so useful as building blocks and hard to resist.
    Gaufrid’s right about ‘chew’, but in 29,17 ‘grievously’ is meant to be the anagrind. ‘Pot on’ was too good an option to miss, with the ‘plant’ reference. (For those anti-snooker solvers, a ‘plant’ is a type of shot in snooker, sometimes called a ‘cross’. ‘Putin’ or ‘paten’ wouldn’t have offered the same thematic opportunities.) ‘Exceptional’ is my way of avoiding the clichéd ‘odd’ or ‘oddly’ – and it helped the surface.
    I spotted the circularity in 1 across and should probably have changed it. It’s meant to be a reference to two other well-known Potters, Dennis the playwright (well spotted, Sil) and Stephen the writer (of One-Upmanship and other ‘-manships’) – a bit obscure I admit, but it’s not strictly ‘circular’ when read like this. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

  14. Bill Taylor says:

    This was a toughie! I would take issue with Bryan @1 about snooker being the most boring spectator sport in the world — I think it’s #3 behind darts and poker (which we get on TV here sometimes). But my parents were passionate about TV snooker so I knew a couple of the names from their letters. It took me a couple of days but I finally got through it. Of course, when I saw “farceur,” I immediately tried to make “Travers” fit. Very enjoyable and a great, cleverly thought out, theme. Good one, Crucible!

    Has there been a problem accessing Araucaria today (also Bryan @1)? I had no trouble at all and it’s another lovely theme — the puzzle I’ve been waiting for all week.

  15. stiofain says:

    I thought this was great and I loved the theme I think this is the only time we have seen a current event rather than an anniversary as a theme. Nice to see you popping in Crucible I score you 147 for this.
    By the way Rightback world champions Ken Doherty, Dennis Taylor and Alex Higgins are also from overseas.

  16. Eileen says:

    Hi stiofain

    We had the same ‘current event’ for Crucible’s first Guardian puzzle [24,379] this time last year! :-)

  17. tupu says:

    :) I am still pretty new on this site, and I don’t suppose it matters much, but I am curious to know if I am wrong on a couple of points made in 9 – (a) about ‘breathe’ as imperative (rather than 3 pers. plur. present) – a response to rightback’s original query on this and (b) (perhaps from Crucible or gaufrid or any other kind soul) re the possibility also raised by rightback that there is a double ref. to wrong order in 22a. Please forgive if this request appears to offer a third possibility of being out of order! :-) I should add that generally I enjoy the blog and find it very useful.

  18. Gaufrid says:

    Hi tupu
    As I mentioned in comment #6, one of the definitions for ‘outturn’ in Collins is ‘result’ so the wordplay is simply O (old) F (fellow) in OUTTURN (result) with the definition being ‘wrong order’.

    Regarding 3dn, I don’t think an imperative is intended. I take rightback’s point that the anagram of ‘help me’ is a singular inanimate object so it should strictly be ‘[it] breathes in’. However, the surface reading is such that one is meant to believe that divers are people (rather than the anagram indicator), in which case ‘breathe in’ is correct. I have no problem with this clue as it has a pleasing misdirection in the surface which mitigates any possible lack of grammatical accuracy.

  19. Another Andrew says:

    Really enjoyed this: good theme, fun links, and I was able to finish it.

    In marked contrast to the days following this puzzle (OK, not Bank Holiday Monday) where I failed to do more than half of any of them. Maybe Hugh was making up for the easy week before.

  20. tupu says:

    Hi gaufrid. Many thanks for that. The problem is partly one of getting the answer first and then trying to justify it. Once one arrives at a possible solution, inertia all too readily steps in.

  21. Crucible says:

    Gaufrid’s forensic analysis of ‘outturn’ and ‘breathe’ is spot on. That use of ‘breathe’ is, if I may coin a word, a slight ‘deliberty’. There will no doubt be more, but I trust all in the cause of permissible misdirection (permisdirection?).

    Eileen: well remembered! My first puzzle was indeed about the snooker final in Sheffield, hence the pseudonym. Since I was given to understand it would be a one-off, I didn’t have much time to think up anything more inventive and it’s stuck. It was actually in 2008, and I note that the rightback reviewed it then too, taking 6 seconds longer than this one!

    Stiofain: good point about the ‘overseas’ winners. As an Ulsterman, I lay claim to Taylor and Higgins. You, by the look of your name, must have a little sympathy for the fading talents of Hendry, Maguire and Davis. But you can be proud of Ken – now a very accomplished and entertaining commentator.

  22. Eileen says:

    Gosh, doesn’t time fly! Sorry, Crucible. I looked in the archive to get the number of the puzzle, in case people wanted to try it, but didn’t notice the dates.

    I knew Crucible puzzles were a rare treat but didn’t realise there have been only six in TWO years! [and we’ve had two – prize ones, at that, in the last couple of months. An encouraging sign, I hope! :-)

  23. tupu says:

    Many thanks also to Crucible for taking the trouble to confirm Gaufrid’s analysis.

  24. Will Mc says:

    rightback, I suspect the only person interested in how fast you finish the Saturday crossword is you.

  25. rrc says:

    I enjoyed most of this crossword but had great difficulty with 4a. Having got the answer I could see why it was so clued and logic tells me the clueing was fine. The problem I have I would never have got that answer from that clue. Im not convinced that a fellow actor is necessarily a co star and I dislike the use of single letters. My own feeling is that if compilers end up with a single letter then perhaps they should rework the clue. For me this clue ruined this crossword!

  26. crosser says:

    Thank you to everyone who gave such helpful explanations. There’s just one thing I don’t understand, and I don’t think it has been explained above – forgive me if it has. In 8d, how were we to know that we had to take the letters of “cannot” out of “a junction box” before working out the anagram?

  27. Gaufrid says:

    Hi crosser
    It isn’t particularly clear, is it? As rightback said in his blog, this type of clue is more common in barred-grid puzzles and even there it would be normal for the clue to say “These trinkets cannot possibly produce a junction box”.

    This is an indirect way of saying that the answer (defined by trinkets) plus ‘cannot’ is an anagram (‘possibly produce’) of ‘a junction box’. Therefore you need to remove the letters of ‘cannot’ from ‘a junction box’ to leave the anagram fodder.

    Those who solve Azed regularly should have had no problems with this clue as it is a device that he often uses but it would have been rather tricky if one had not seen this type of clue before.

  28. crosser says:

    Hi Gaufrid
    Thanks very much, it’s perfectly clear now. I don’t think I’ll attempt Azed yet!

  29. Huw Powell says:

    Hi all.

    Had a rough ride with this one, only got about half-finished and haven’t added a word in days.

    It doesn’t help that I had no idea about the snooker theme (I have POTTER, figured out SPODE easily enough and DELFTWARE then got HARRY and thought “how fun, I bet BEATRIX is in here somewhere” so I checked all the seven letter words), I thought we were chasing ceramics and people named potter.

    I suppose if I’d known enough about snooker to make the connection to potting I might have also known who some of these obscure people are, too. Oh well. The parts I solved, I liked. That seems to be a recurring theme for me.

  30. Ian says:

    This was a smashing puzzle from Crucible.

    The varied use of the ‘Potter’ theme though easy to unscramble was, nevertheless, a delight.

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