Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,015 – Brendan

Posted by Andrew on May 20th, 2010


Another cleverly-themed puzzle from Brendan, with a lot of very nice clues. I particularly liked the misleading definitions in 7 and 8 dn. I can’t fully explain 12ac – suggestion welcome.

9. THORN Double definition. Thorn (þ) is a letter previously used in English to denote the unvoiced “th” sound, corrupted into a Y in those signs for Ye Olde Tea Shoppe. It’s still used in modern Icelandic, along with its voiced partner eth (ð). I’ve often wondered if the characters Eth and Ron in The Glums got their names from these two letters.
12. NOVEL I don’t get this, apart from the definition “that’s unusual”. NOEL could be a “refrain from seasonal performance” (i.e. a Christmas carol), and if V could mean “half” then it would be “half hearted”, but I can’t justify that last step..
13. GASKELL SKE[w] in GALL. Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865), author of 17,18,20 among others.
15. ESTONIA (IE NATO’S)*. Almost &lit too, as Estonia joined NATO in 2004.
17,18,20. NORTH AND SOUTH Defined four ways by reference to other answers: “Novel by Gaskell”, “Bridge Pair” (partners in the game), “Polar opposites”; and anagrams of THORN and SHOUT
25. TEST BED TEST (international, as in cricket etc) + BED. I caused myself some trouble by initially putting TEST PAD here.
26. POLAR LOP< + A R
27. OPPOSITES PO (river) in OP SITES. “Come” and “go” are examples of opposites.
31. SHOUT SH + OUT. A true &lit clue, as the whole of it is both wordplay and definition.
1. STYE Initial letters
2. COMPOSER Reference to Edward German and Irving Berlin
3. KNOW Homophone of “no”
8. DEAL Double definition – deal is “prepared fir or pine”, and to deal is to divide a deck of cards.
13. GENUS E in GNUS. Genus is the category above Species in the Linnaean taxonomy of living things.
16. APHID I in A PH.D.
19. DATE PALM DATE (go out with) + PAL + M[eeting]
23. MILLER Novelist Henry Miller (author of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn) and playwright Arthur.
24. SCOTCH COT (place for a child’s rest) in SCH.
26. PAIR I in PAR – par scores for a hole in golf are 3, 4 or 5.
28. SASH Hidden in acrosS A SHoulder.
29. SETT SET + T

38 Responses to “Guardian 25,015 – Brendan”

  1. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Andrew.

    I, too, initially had TEST PAD – and have the same problems as you with 12ac, I’m afraid.

    That aside, I thought this was an ideal introduction to Brendan’s puzzles for comparative newcomers. The expected ingenuity of theme is there but the clues, while clever, are scrupulously fair and solvable. Very enjoyable.

  2. Richard Heald says:

    12 Ac comes from NOWEL, with the W “halved”.

  3. Ian says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    I took me a while to decide how to tackle this after looking at 17,18 & 20 ac.

    Fortunately, a sprinkling of no-brainers (‘Date Palm’, Aphid’, ‘Genus’ and ‘Composer’) unlocked the answer.

    As a fan of Brendan this appealed to me but I didn’t quite get the pleasure I normally do
    after completing today’s puzzle. It seemed to me to lack his usual gloss and sparkle.

    ‘Sash’ was a cleverly concealed word. Excellent textbook hidden.


  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that, Richard. I’ve only ever seen it as ‘nowell’, I think, and it still looks odd with only one L, but I see from the dictionaries it’s right. [And I don’t think I would have thought of ‘double U’ as being ‘double V’!]

  5. Dave H says:

    Really enjoyed another offering from Brendan. Got stuck in the right corner as I had Natty, Nativity with half the middle removed IVI which left NATTY so failed on 7d and 8d and needed the blog to see error, although I think not a bad answer even if wrong

  6. Richard says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew.

    There were indeed some beautiful clues in this. I usually enjoy Brendan’s crosswords very much but this one was spoilt for me by a sprinkling of obscure references – A composer called German, the title of a Henry Miller book, Thorn as a character, Bridget as a specifically Irish name, and deal being made from fir or pine.

  7. Uncle Yap says:

    Thanks, Andrew for explaining the central theme which eluded me until I came here to read. As usual for a Brendan, very enjoyable and entertaining.

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Had to guess MILLER but that was my last one to complete the puzzle, which I don’t always do with a Brendan/Virgilius. The theme was cleverly put together as always – as already mentioned, some easier clues which might have left the experienced solvers a bit short of a challenge, but would have encouraged the less able to have the pleasure of finishing it off.

    To my shame, I never knew Gaskell was a woman.

  9. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, I really enjoyed this and nary an obscure word/name/place in sight.

    All puzzles should be this good!

  10. Eileen says:

    That’s interesting, K’s D. For years, I only ever ‘knew’ her as ‘Mrs Gaskell’ – then Elizabeth Gaskell, as author of ‘Cranford’ and ‘Mary Barton’ – never as simply ‘Gaskell’. [I’m not sure I’d heard of ‘North and South’ until the excellent TV adaptation in 2004.]

  11. Stella Heath says:

    Miller’s two novels you mentioned are also “North and South” references.

    I didn’t get novel either, and still can’t quite see it. I cheated on that one to be able to complete the NE corner!

  12. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and also Richard Heald re 12ac.

    Having got the answer to that one, I too found it hard to see why. I decided that the refrain was Noel, Noel and that a single Noel was therefore half, which was then ‘hearted’ by the v! The usual mental inertia then set in alongside a vague sense of dissatisfaction.
    W is of course described as double v in a number of European languages.

    The theme was nicely varied and masked.

    I found the anagram in 6d hard to see, even after getting the answer. Liked many other clues e.g. 10, 11 across, 19, 21 down.

    Overall a pretty enjoyable puzzle – hard but possible.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew, particularly for your explanation of ‘thorn’. V enjoyable puzzle from Brendan, and a little easier than usual I thought, thanks to a number of clues that opened it up. 7dn made me smile and I liked the theme in all its variations. I didn’t have any problem solving 12ac because I was onto the theme by then, but the suggested wordplay (which I didn’t see) — half of W — is pretty convoluted!

  14. walruss says:

    I al;so emjoyed the blog very much, and the puzzle. Yes, it was perhaps not quite as sparkly as other Brendan puzzles, even though Virgilius could expect to be given more rope in The Guardian! (I hope I have that right, e.g. Virgilius equals Brendan!)

  15. Bill Taylor says:

    I had tupu’s “vague sense of dissatisfaction” throughout this puzzle. I found it a quick solve and entirely lacking in “ah-hah” moments. Disappointing. Andrew makes up for it a bit with his speculation that “thorn” may have formed the basis for Eth and Ron in The Glums! That has the makings of one helluva clue….

  16. matt says:

    Very enjoyable, to my mind.
    Perhaps not one of his best, but more inventive and thoughtful than puzzles by the vast majority of other setters.

  17. Eileen says:

    Bill Taylor and tupu – I do know what you mean but so many times it has been said both here and over on the Indy thread [yes, walruss, Brendan is Virgilius] ‘How does he keep on doing it?’

    This puzzle, with its theme, centrally positioned, with four variations, 9 and 31 ac symmetrically placed, in the appropriate hemispheres – and IanN14 could probably find some more subtleties – would be considered a real tour de force for several of our setters. I think we’re in danger of being spoilt!

    Yes, it was a quicker solve than usual for Brendan, but, as I said before, it’s a good introduction to Brendan’s themed puzzles. As for ‘sparkle’, like liz, I smiled at 7dn, with its reference to papal bulls and I liked the NON-U in 21dn. And now that 12c has been explained, I reckon that’s an aha, too!

  18. sidey says:

    Thorn is ideal as part of a slightly rude smiley :-þ

  19. Bill Taylor says:

    You’re absolutely right, Eileen. As I believe I wrote here a few weeks ago, producing a cryptic of any description is an achievement. To do it on a regular basis almost beggars description. So, on reflection, I’m being too hard on Brendan who, apart from anything else, did indeed bring a certain elegance to his puzzle. That said, I still think NOVEL is more of a “good grief” than an “aha!”

  20. brendan says:

    Just finished it over lunch in the garden, and have come in to find explanations for a few niggling doubts. We got thorn, early on and for the last answer we went for shout as it indeed makes sense in terms of the clue an zich as they say in Germany. What I still cannot fathom, alas, even after reading the blog is the connection between thorn and shout as it is the final element in the ‘North and South’ theme.

  21. brendan says:

    Sorry I cannot seem to edit my previous post, so there is a bit too much italic.

  22. walruss says:

    Why would Brendan post this about his own puzzle? Or am I being stoopid?

  23. Bill Taylor says:

    It’s not Brendan, it’s brendan. Subtle difference. And to answer (I think) his question, “thorn” and “shout” are anagrams of “north” and “south.”

  24. liz says:

    Brendan — ‘thorn’ and ‘shout’ are anagrams of ‘north’ and ‘south’.

  25. liz says:


  26. brendan says:

    I note there is a Paul(notPaul) member on the site does that mean that I have to become Brendan(notBrendan)? In mitigation I think I have been a member longer than the other Brendan has been a contributor to the Guardian. Also if you can believe anything you read on the internet my name really is Brendan and compiler Brendan is Brian I believe.

    All this to cover my stoopidity and doh moment when I realised that thorn and shout were anagrams, especially as pattern spotting and anagrams are my speciality in the solving game and the logic is the strength of the wife.

    I did actually meet a woman at a wedding in England a few years back and we got talking about crosswords and our love of the Guardian crosswords. No amount of convincing could deflect her from the notion that I was the Brendan.

  27. brendan says:

    . . . also worked out how to do italics now. Is there a way to edit after one has submitted? Some forums I am on allow it and it is useful betimes.

  28. Gaufrid says:

    Hi brendan
    “Is there a way to edit after one has submitted?”

    The simple answer to this is no. There is a plug-in available that would enable this facility but my experience of other forums has indicated that the ability to edit comments retrospectively has led to some very disjointed threads where a comment that has been responded to later has subsequently been removed or changed out of all recognition.

    Instead I preferred to implement the ‘Preview’ option so that people can review what will appear prior to submitting a comment.

  29. Andrew says:

    Brendan, you can’t edit comments yourself, but as the blogger I can do so, and I’ve edited your comment #20 (just to remove the excess of italics).

  30. crosser says:

    Thank you Brendan and Andrew. I enjoyed this puzzle – it was thanks to GASKELL (I always thought of her as Mrs Gaskell then as Elizabeth Gaskell, too, Eileen) that I solved several others. I got NOVEL from the letters and from “unusual” but, like a lot of other solvers apparently, I didn’t understand the rest of the clue. I should be ashamed of myself because I live in France where W is “double v”. Sackcloth and ashes.

  31. Daniel Miller says:

    Heavens. Where do I start. Yes, enjoyable, Yes tricky in parts – so I suppose one ought to congratulate Brendan for a testing time (in parts). Needed some clarification (here) to fully appreciate the definition for Pair (easily captured by “Bridge Pair” and also of course “Two” within the clue but, despite this just hadn’t seen the Golf parlance – well disguised. As for Novel – yes, indeed, something new but I totally missed the V element being half W, caught me on the hop. Thorn meanwhile – ok it’s part of a Rose.. but again, the UoE threw me right off, coming here to clarify why the answers to 3-4 of the clues were exactly as they were. Many thanks for the clarification – a tough ride today… with the origins for UNBUTTON almost eluding me until I realised the Non-U element.

  32. Stewart Holden says:

    Regarding the V in NOVEL, if you slice the top half off a heart then it leaves a V.

  33. tupu says:

    Eileen @17. Hi. I’ve only just got back on line and seen your comment. My remark was misleading I’m afraid, as I hope my final sentence indicated. The dissatisfaction was specific to 12a based upon the logic of my almost certain misreading. I didn’t altogether like that reading but, as I said, ‘inertia’ took hold, and I felt that if it’s right the clue is not the best. The trouble with the reading is of course that it is, I think, just about a possible if somewhat inelegant one that gives no significance to ‘v’ beyond its position at the ‘heart’ of the word Noel which seems a fully acceptable spelling.

  34. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    No problem: I think we’re all agreed, really! A few weeks ago, I commented that that day’s Rufus was rather lacking in his usual sparkle and then had to excuse myself to him by saying that that was, actually, a kind of back-handed compliment!

  35. scarpia says:

    I’ve sometimes been less than enthusiastic over Brendan/Virgilius puzzles but this one I really enjoyed,with the theme sort of falling nicely into place as I went along.One of those puzzles where you fill in the answer and then work out how the wordplay leads to it.e.g 26 down.
    Please send me an application form for the Brendan fan club!

  36. brendan says:

    Andrew @29

    Thank you.

  37. Macca says:

    Another excellent Brendan – The (true) Master.
    I expect we’ll see that other guy before the week is out.

  38. TRIALNERROR says:

    Um, has Brendan (Virgilius) read this perchance?

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nine + = 12