Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,011 (Sat 15 May)/Brummie – Comic relief

Posted by rightback on May 22nd, 2010


Solving time: 10 mins

This was a very cleverly worked theme which took some thought to see, even with only one thematic answer (20ac) unsolved. The nine relevant answers are all surnames of comedians but are also common English words which made spotting the connection quite a challenge. George Burns and Max Wall were new to me but the rest (Ruby Wax, Jo Brand, Eddie Large, Victoria Wood, Dawn French, Benny or Harry Hill and Bob Hope) I had heard of, and weirdly I think it was the last that caused me to twig.

A few inaccuracies apart this was a good set of clues, although some of the surface readings were rather convoluted. 24ac and 19dn were my favourites.

Music of the day: Ernie, The Fastest Milkman in the West by Benny Hill.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

10 PAR(K)A – ‘smoking jacket’ was nicely worked into this clue. A para is someone in The Parachute Regiment (at least, that’s close enough for crossword purposes), hence ‘Regimental man’.
11 DECK + O – from Hindi dekho.
12 BILINGUAL; (IGUAN[a])* in BILL (= ‘beak’)
13 CROMBIE; (BE + MICRO)* – ‘a woollen cloth manufactured in Aberdeen’, something like this.
14 ACREAGE; RE in (A + CAGE) – the composer is John Cage who “wrote” such stuff as 4’33”, which consists of that amount of silence.
17 BURNS; R.N. in rev. of SUB
19 WAX; W + AX (the American spelling of ‘axe’)
20 BRAND; BRA (= ‘Underwear’) + N (= ‘and skimpy’) + D (= ‘dress (just the top)’) – this clue caused me the most trouble, with ‘and skimpy’ = N (in the sense of “rock ‘n’ roll”) taking a while to see. Perhaps ‘skimpy and’ or ‘and skimpily’ would be more accurate, but that really is splitting hairs.
21 ADVISER; (IVES)* in A D[octo]R
22 TRIFFID; RIFF (= ‘repetitive tune’) in T,I,D (initial letters) – from The Day of the Triffids.
24 HOLD FORTH (as in the River Forth) – I liked this one.
29 BUTTERCUP; BUTTER (= ‘goat’) + C[heese] + UP (= ‘on a high?’)
2 STUCCO; rev. of CUTS + CO (= ‘carbon monoxode’)
4 EDIBLE; (LIE[a]BED)* – a slightly incorrect definition (‘should go down ok’ is equivalent to ‘is edible’, not ‘edible’) but the intention was clear enough.
5 TABLEAUX; TAX around (A in (BLUE)*)
6,16 OPEN-ENDED; OPEN (= ‘Sporting event’) + ENDED (= ‘stopped’)
7 BROUHAHA; B[ishop] + (OUR)* + HA-HA – I wasn’t happy with ‘makeshift’ as an anagram indicator. Perhaps we were supposed to read it as ‘make shift’? A ha-ha is a wall concealed in an open space (explained here), hence ‘unobtrusive barrier’.
13 COBRA; COB + R.A.
18 REVILERS; (SILVER)* after R[ac]E – I thought ‘gutless contest’ for R[ac]E was too much of a stretch.
19 WARDROBE; (W[ith] A BORDER)* – excellent.
23 FRENCH; FR + ENCH[ants]
24 HILL; H + ILL
25 FLEX; EX (= ‘once’) + FL
27 HOPE; P in HOE

20 Responses to “Guardian 25,011 (Sat 15 May)/Brummie – Comic relief”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback, I really enjoyed this.

    17a BURNS was the first thematic solution I entered but I won’t reveal where Rabbie led me.

    19a WAX was the last in the Puzzle after I had become convinced that the last letter was an ‘S’. Of course, after getting TABLEAUX, my interest in ‘S’ waned rapidly.

    Well done, Brummie, you are the tops – although I bet younger and non-UK puzzlers are still puzzled by some comedians of yesteryear.

  2. Biggles A says:

    I completed the grid, listed the nine undefined solutions and stared at them for a long time without making the connection – other than some of them might have been from the world of entertainment; Wax, French, Hill etc. Thanks again Rightback.

  3. Mr Beaver says:

    We found this fairly tough, but fun. The penny dropped about the theme about half way through, though it wasn’t a great deal of help as there are plenty of comedians out there.
    Is it me, or has BROUHAHA featured surprisingly often recently ?

  4. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback and thanks Brummie for a very interesting and entertaining puzzle. I must also commend Biggles for completing the crossword without latching on to the theme. I’m usually pretty slow but I saw the theme almost immediately from HOPE which was soon confirmed by BURNS.

    I await the first complaint about WALL, BURNS and possibly even TRIFFID.

  5. rrc says:

    Some very nice clues but basically a hard unenjoyable slog that ruined the weekend

  6. Sil van den Hoek says:

    This must be one of the few times that we solved a crossword completely [including the themed words] without spotting the theme.

    The first ones to go in were WOOD and HILL, followed by WALL.
    Therefore we thought: maybe, we have ‘features of landscape’ this time. How wrong.

    Then we stared at the grid again, only to see LARGE BUTTERCUP (row 14), OPEN RIBTICKLER (column 11) and WALL ENDED HOPE (column 15, :) ).
    Eventually, row 8 opened up the door for us.
    Strange, solving a crossword and not taking any advantage of the theme.

    Nice crossword, btw.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks once again rightback. A generally enjoyable ‘solve’.

    I managed to misspell octahedra plumping for ‘oh’ instead of ‘ah’ with ‘octohedra’! Not suprisingly, a somewhat limp rescue from OED (two quotations from C16 and C19 respectively) still leaves me feeling pretty dissatisfied with myself!

    Re Burns, I assume this was the American George Burns – until relatively recently ‘the world’s oldest comedian’ – though Google informs me that there are several modern young comics with this name as well. US solvers would tend to do better with him than UK ones I’d have thought.

    I remember a poignant crack of his about male aging (he must have been in his nineties at the time) – ‘First you forget to pull it up, and later you forget to pull it down!’

    I found 5, 6, 8, 13 and 15 dn amusing because the answers did not leap out of the page, at least for me. I was at first surprised by ‘fl’ for floor in 25 but it seems to be standard, and in retrospect I think I’ve seen it before e.g. in hse. ads.

  8. Bill Taylor says:

    Another excellent Saturday cryptic and a nice mix of old and new comics for the theme. Not easy but very satisfying.

    Ten minutes? Pass the salt…..

  9. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Rightback. I’m another one who didn’t spot the theme until I’d almost finished. Like Sil, I was thinking ‘features of the landscape’ for a while. Had to check ‘keech’ in Chambers. V enjoyable puzzle and a clever theme.

  10. Tokyo Colin says:

    I didn’t match rightback’s 10 mins (I can’t hit the letters on the iPhone that fast), but I had this complete in about 20 minutes and then stared at the nine undefined solutions for another 20 trying every conceivable approach to link them. And now that I know, courtesy of this blog, I realise I could have continued trying for a month and still not got there. Of the nine comedians I know of but three – Burns, Hope and Hill. I was hoping for an aha/duh moment today but I have to say this leaves me feeling disappointed and even cheated.

    If I miss a reference because I don’t know my Dickens or Shakespeare then I blame only myself. Their works are relevant (and accessible) to anyone who speaks this language. But if Guardian crosswords are intended only for people who watch English television then I am made to feel like an intruder, like someone gate-crashing a private party. I wouldn’t mind if this was balanced by an occasional international expedition, a theme based on South American currencies say, or eastern religions. But I have been holding my breath a long time.

    I don’t feel strongly enough to storm off in a huff (I enjoyed Friday’s Paul too much for that) but I may boycott Brummie for a while.

  11. Bill Taylor says:

    You do the crossword on an iPhone, Colin? Wow! I really do have to trade in my BlackBerry.

    I know what you mean about feeling disappointed and cheated, though I myself really enjoyed this puzzle. It took me a while to figure out the theme (it took me almost two days to do the crossword) and Jo Brand was the only one I didn’t know. But, yeah, sometimes the themes are a little too esoteric for anyone not steeped in contemporary English pop-culture to comfortably figure out. There’s nothing more frustrating that reaching a solution but not quite knowing WHY it’s correct.

    All in all, though, this has been a decent week, starting with Brummie last Saturday and winding up with Araucaria today. A fun but pretty easy Araucaria. I imagine it took rightback about 30 seconds…..

  12. Wirricow says:

    Re. Bill Taylor #11. It could refer to Russell Brand rather than Jo Brand, even more contemporary!

  13. mike04 says:

    I live in the UK, but not in England. I’d agree with many of the comments in posts 10 and 11.
    However, I watch British television and occasionally I enjoy some contemporary British pop-culture.

  14. Bill Taylor says:

    Too many Brand names for my liking, Wirricow!

  15. Martin H says:

    A straightforward solve, with the theme becoming evident after Wood, French and Hill made their appearance, in fact easier than might be expected for a Saturday.

    As Sil found, all the solutions were available without getting the theme, but I sympathise with Colin. At least the theme used only the names of the comedians. It’s when the setter demands more detail that it becomes really unfair.

    Shame you didn’t pick some Cage for your music of the day, rb. Not all of his work is concerned with silence, or ‘sounds not intended’ as he defined the word. Try ‘Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano’, written in the 1950’s as music for dance – highly original, inventive and engaging ‘stuff’.

  16. scarpia says:

    I am another who solved this without getting the theme.Totally agree with Tokyo Colin at 10(see my rant on post for Independent 7,361).What next, a bl***y Simpsons themed puzzle?
    Did mostly enjoy the puzzle though.
    Once you get over Brummie’s verbosity there are some gems lurking amongst the clues.

  17. Huw Powell says:

    Blah, I gave up today after getting the last two of the half of the clues I solved. Oh well. And seeing the theme (I only had one theme clue, and it is only penciled, and amusingly it actually reminded me of Jo Brand because I’ve been watching a lot of QI on the utubes lately!) I would *never* have been able to finish this.

    Amusingly, I finished 25,017 yesterday in a couple of hours, taking random breaks to make coffee and such. See you all next week to discuss that!

    Thanks Rightback, and *ten minutes*? Phew. I got bored with conventional xwords (Boston Globe/NYT Sundays) when I could solve them as fast as I could fill in letters!

  18. FumbleFingers says:

    @Tokyo Colin et al
    Whilst I sympathise with your irritation at having to deal with what you consider “parochial particulars”, I think you should remember that The Guardian is, after all, a BRITISH newspaper.

    I don’t know what editor Hugh Stephenson would think, or whether it’s appropriate for these type of crosswords to promote any specific culture. But if t’were to be done at all, t’were best done in the British style, not the historic anglophonic!

    I’m not actually a big fan of “dead” culture such as Shakespeare, and don’t care a jot for the looseness of the pseudo-quotation above. I’m certainly happy to assume Russell rather than Jo Brand – I like them both, but he’s definitely more current.

  19. Barry says:

    I had “Brass” for 20a – BRA + skimpy dreSS, and meaning ‘just the top’ ( as in “top brass”). So I didn’t think it was part of the theme! And it messed up 6,16.. *sigh*

  20. claire says:

    I totally agree with you. I am ashamed that I didn’t get the theme even though I solved all the clues (took about an hour) but now that I see it it’s obvious. I really enjoy the cross-generational and cross-cultural stuff and if you don’t know some of the theme answers, then you learn something. I enjoyed that snookery one the other day.

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