Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,023 (Sat 29 May)/Paul – Teamwork

Posted by rightback on June 5th, 2010


Solving time: 9 mins

This was a puzzle not of four quarters but two halves: I solved very few answers (only six or so) in the first five minutes before spotting the theme (from 23/8ac) which was American football teams. That’s by no means my sporting forte but I managed to write in the other three teams straight away from the checking letters and then the rest of the grid fell out very quickly.

I’m a big fan of Paul but this puzzle left me just a little disappointed, with the spotting of WASHINGTON at 23ac the only real ‘ah!’ moment; the wordplays to the other teams didn’t contribute to the solving process and the same was true of most of the remaining answers for which the definitions and checking letters sufficed. Strangely, if I hadn’t been able to write in the teams’ names but had needed to deduce them from the wordplays I’d probably have enjoyed this more. I was also in doubt over the thematic clues for which the teams were defined only by ’10 24′ or ’10 24’s’ (FOOTBALL or FOOTBALL’S) which doesn’t seem sufficient (even if you accept that ‘football’ is the sport in question, with which I have difficulty in this English crossword).

Music of the day: A UK #4 from 1982 for Chicago, Hard To Say I’m Sorry.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

9 ODOUR; rev. of DO[g] – ‘setter’ as in ‘red setter’, although this really needs a ‘perhaps’ or similar. Alternatively, ‘setter’ could refer to the crossword compiler Doc in which case the clue is fine as it stands, although I suspect the former reading was intended.
10,24 FOOTBALL; rev. of LAB in FOOT,L – lovely clue, referring to the much-maligned Michael Foot and the phrase ‘political football’.
11,26 PITTSBURGH STEELERS; PEELERS (= ‘Policemen once’) around (RIGHTS BUT)* + ST (= street = ‘way’)
12 GANDER (2 defs) – my last entry.
14 PROMPTER (2 defs)
17,25 CHICAGO BEARS; CHIC (= ‘hip’) + A GOB + EARS – excellent wordplay. I carelessly put in ‘Chicago Bulls’ (the basketball team) before correcting it.
20 INVEIGLE; E[cstasy] after G[uards] in (IN VEIL)
22 DESPOT; DOT around E.S.P. (= extra-sensory perception)
23,8 WASHINGTON REDSKINS; (ANSWERS KIND)* around (SHINTO around G[od]) – the breakthrough clue. I saw the likely anagram and ‘Godhead’ = G so just needed a 6-letter religion, and SHINTO quickly came to mind.
24 BUST (2 defs)
1 DEBONAIR; rev. of ED, + O in (BRAIN)* – I thought ‘used up’ was a bit stretched.
2 PSST; SS in P.T. (= phyiscal training) – ‘over here’ (in the sense of ‘come over here!’) being the definition.
3 KIPPER (1 def, 1 whimsical part-def) – the question mark is needed because ‘in bed?’ alone doesn’t suffice as a second definition.
5 FORSOOTH; FORTH around SO O[ld] – spent a while trying to force ‘veracity’ in here.
6 HOCUS-POCUS; (CUSP in O,O) in rev. of SUCH – nice breakdown but the surface reading suffers.
7 BROGUE (1 def, 1 whimsical part-def) – similar to 3dn in that the second part of the clue is only an allusion rather than a genuine definition.
18 GLOSSARY; GARY [Glitter] around LOSS (= ‘death’)
19 L(EFT)IST – fortunately I knew ‘newt’ = EFT so this went straight in. Had I not, this puzzle might have taken me a lot longer (this answer crossed WASHINGTON at 23ac which I spotted next and which gave me the theme).
21 NEARBY; rev. of (YEN around BRA) – ‘X to hold up Y’ would more normally indicate a reversal of Y only (inside X); I’m not sure the word ‘up’ can fairly apply to both bits and so indicate reversal of (X around Y), as here.
22,15 DENVER BRONCOS; VERB (= ‘something to do, say’) in ENRON (= ‘corrupt business’) + CO[mpany], all in in D[ire] S[traits]

27 Responses to “Guardian 25,023 (Sat 29 May)/Paul – Teamwork”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks rightback.

    Like you, I’m a fan of Paul and so was also disappointed by the lack of his usual humour. I found this a bit of a plod. CHICAGO BEARS was my way in – spotted GOB quite quickly as one of the few Pauline contributions to the clues.

  2. Biggles A says:

    My ignorance of American football teams is equalled only by my ignorance of British comedians but when Pittsburg appeared the rest followed reasonably soon. 10, 24 took a bit longer;I was trying to make ‘baseball’ fit.

    21 seemed straightforward to me but maybe I’m missing something.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback, for unravelling this bizarre puzzle which I quickly consigned to the waste bin.

    Paul has excelled himself in his search for obscurities.

    A complete waste of paper.

  4. Handel says:

    Managed about a third of this before giving up. We’d entered Chicago Bulls and didn’t manage to work out the correct parsing. I really don’t think the definition (football or football’s) is adequate for the thematic entries – surely it needs to be ‘football teams’ or ideally ‘American football teams’. Generally a big fan of Paul, but not this time. C-

  5. morpheus says:

    yes, a big raspberry from us but genius must occasionally outstrip itself

  6. Davy says:

    Very disappointing for Paul. I gave up after getting PITTSBURGH STEELERS. I just couldn’t summon up any motivation to finish it.

    Incidentally, has Paul abandoned Crytica ?. It hasn’t been updated for about 4 months.

  7. Eileen says:

    I’m not complaining that I had no interest in the theme, which I got, like Biggles, when nothing but PITTSBURGH would fit 11 and that thereafter, the puzzle became more like a treasure hunt than a crossword – spot an American city and guess or look up its ‘football’ team.

    I agree with rightback and Handel that foot ball is an inadequate definition for the thematic entries [but I agree with rightback that the wordplay is lovely].

    However, my real complaint is that this clue is flawed, because foot ball is not a ‘political item’ unless preceded by the word ‘political’! ‘Potentially’ would, I think, have got round this.

    I agree with others that this was disappointing stuff from Paul – especially for a Saturday.

    [21dn works for me, too.]

  8. nmsindy says:

    I found this extremely hard, I think the setter made the clues for the teams exceptionally difficult so the theme would not give itself away perhaps, tho it did not delay rightback too much… I was not very familiar with them so they took me quite a while to work out. I esp liked KIPPER and BROGUE. I thought the question marks hinted at the cryptic nature of the second part in the clues for those and there was a definition in each.

  9. Tokyo Colin says:

    Predictably, I enjoyed this. A relief to have sports references that I know but the answers were all eminently achievable from the clues. I figured out FOOTBALL early and expected to have to do it the hard way, and was amazed to see ‘Washington Redskins’ emerge from piecing together 23,8 (of course I had an advantage with Shinto.) The other three followed very quickly.

    I am surprised to see that 3 of 5 solvers above gave up. I cannot see why stepping outside the local comfort zone should be such a turnoff. I struggled through the London underground stations recently (and Tranmere Rovers, who?) but didn’t consider giving up.

    Not one of Paul’s top puzzles and lacking his typical naughty streak but certainly very well clued and very enjoyable, at least for me.

  10. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback for another excellent analysis.

    I know little about American football so it took time to work out the team names. I kept trying to put ‘redsocks’ into 8a and had to check that ‘steelers’ was right.

    ‘Football’ as you say was clever – though I agree the clue was a bit scantily clad – and getting it was a ‘feelgood’ moment. 3d also amused, but the whole was quite restrained for Paul.

  11. Neil says:

    I used to follow American football on TV but once I’d got the hang of much of the technicality realised I didn’t care who won so gave up. Made this an easy, if unengaging solve though.

  12. Barbara says:

    Being from the US side of the pond, I was completely at home with the American football teams .. so I found the puzzle quite enjoyable.
    It’s when I have to deal with cricket or rugby players, past or present, that I’m at a loss.

  13. sidey says:

    Another puzzle that relies on something you are either familiar with or require the internet. I doubt many people have any reference work that includes American football teams in their houses. As I knew them it was a completely trivial solve, most from the definitions alone. Complete waste of time.

  14. Bill Taylor says:

    In light of all this criticism, I hope Paul is enjoying robust health!

    This wasn’t as good as the previous three Prize crosswords, a lovely run of puzzles, but it was satisfying enough. I liked 10/24 very much and found the definition quite adequate. From there it was a fairly quick realization that Paul was talking about American football and, once I’d corrected a false start over Pittsburgh (realizing belatedly that Pirates are the city’s major-league baseball team), then the game, so to speak, was afoot. I suppose, living in Canada, I had a bit of an advantage in knowing all the teams, though the Canadian version of American football differs in some respects.

    A nine-minute solve, though? With only half a dozen answers in the first five minutes? That (if my admittedly shaky math is correct) adds up to 17 answers in four minutes. Call me a cynic but my music of the day is It Ain’t Necessarily So — choose from any one of numerous excellent versions.

  15. liz says:

    Thanks, Rightback. My first thought when I got the theme clue was that it was going to be British or European teams, then I was worried it might be players! Finally twigged with CHICAGO and then resorted to google.

    A little lacking in sparkle for a Paul effort, I thought, and I wasn’t convinced by ‘get map out’ as the def for ORGANISE.

  16. Spacedman says:

    When I first got ‘Football’ I thought, “Oh no, World Cup Fever comes to the Guardian Crossword!”. How wrong I was! Well done Paul for wrongfooting me and avoiding this thing going on in South Africa.

  17. Stella Heath says:

    I gave up after three visits had only produced five answers, and even after you explained the theme, RB, was incapable of getting the teams, being totally ignorant on the subject. Plus, I’m feeling a little obtuse today, and would have preferred to finish it before the check button was activated – Ah, well, “aliquando dormitat Homerus”, as my Dad once said :-)

  18. Bryan says:

    Stella @17

    I believe that your Dad had meant to say:

    “Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus”

    Which means “Sometimes good ol’ Homer is lazy”

    It is said in forgiveness of a work or a part of a work that isn’t as good as it might be.


  19. Bill Taylor says:

    More commonly expressed as “Homer nods.”

  20. stiofain says:

    or “D’oh”
    I agree this lacked Pauls usual sparkle and wit.

  21. Dave Ellison says:

    A disaster for me. Despite, pleasingly, having FOOTBALL quite quickly, I couldn’t get the theme, thinking footballer’s names, managers, trainers, clubs and the like. Only managed 10 answers after 40′ and then had to resort to cheat books. The theme clicked only when all I had left were the four teams, and I too put BULLS in initially for BEARS. Eventually finished but no idea how long it took.

    Today’s much easier: 47′.

    Davy at #6: In the General Chatroom at #253, 254 March 23 is some comment about Paul’s Cryptica

  22. Bill Taylor says:

    Forty seven minutes for today’s, Dave? Slowpoke! I betcha rightback did it while he was brushing his teeth.

  23. Another Andrew says:

    Didn’t get ‘football’ nor any of the themed clues. Only got about 5 in all. And I thought I’d finally ‘got’ Paul and he’d become my favorite setter. No criticism of the clues but I was way off on this one. Very frustrating.

  24. Ian says:

    Not really as bad as has been painted by everyone else. Thanks rightback for the comprehensive blog which I appreciate.

    Like NeilW @ #1, my entry was Chicago Bears. Suberb though obvious wordplay.

    Handel & Eileen are completely right about the key clue. I had the very same reservations. I spend nearly 5′ time thinking about it. That was 50% of the time that rightback took to complete the whole grid!!

    My other niggle already flagged up by Liz at #15 re ‘Organise’

  25. Macca says:

    Happy with this puzzle ! NFL teams are good fodder for me – I know ’em all.
    It’s better than doing a puzzle about poets or composers of debatable notability.

  26. sheffieldhatter says:


    The definition for ORGANISE was “map out”, not “get map out”.

  27. Scarpia says:

    I know I’m very late on this but I have been on holiday for 2 weeks without internet access.
    I’m with the ‘antis’ on this one.A totally pointless theme for me.I know nothing and care even less about American football – the British version is bad enough!
    Only managed to complete with the help of Chambers Book of Lists and only bothered because I am a stubborn old b****r who doesn’t like to be beat!

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