Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,039 / Paul

Posted by manehi on June 17th, 2010


I’m possibly a little jaded against loose setting having just come out of exams, but this wasn’t my favourite Paul. Maybe 3 and 5 will look better in the morning.

9 NARCISSI rev(IRAN) around CISS[y us]=”weed”
11 WHISKY GALORE WHIG around SKY=”something up” + A LORE
14 STOPCOCK would be a Spoonerism of “cop stock”
17 FIERCEST (if secret)*
18 GHEE = clarified butter. GEE around H[ydrogen]
20 PORNOGRAPHER POR[-k? -cus?]=”Half-cut pig” + rev(PAR[a]GON) + HER
23 DOODAH = “Whatever it is”. DO=”accomplish” + O=”nothing” + rev(HAD)=”held”
24 INERT GAS (angriest)*
25 HYDROGEN is number 1 on the Periodic Table.
26 DREARY DRY=”cutting” (e.g. a dry remark) around EAR
2 NEAT Can mean cattle, or “straight” as in unmixed alcohol.
4 SISKIN A type of finch. SKI=”runner” (i.e. something to slide on) inside SIN
7 PIXEL A unit associated with (television) screens. Sounds like “pick cell”.
12 MUSICOLOGY is concerned with bars and notes.
15,13 CIGARETTE BUTT rev(BETTER A GI) inside CUT + T[ime]
16 HEDGEHOG HEDGE=”duck”=avoid + HOG=”corner”=keep to oneself
19 THREAD double def
22 FAIR double def

35 Responses to “Guardian 25,039 / Paul”

  1. Mike says:

    I think POR[-ker]=”Half-cut pig” in 20a
    I didn’t think it was one of Paul’s best either.

  2. sidey says:

    I’d say about a ‘C’. I’m sure I’ve seen Jam? and ‘backwater’ before. A bit of a contrast with 15, 14 and 11 word clues for 15/13, 20 and 11.

  3. rrc says:

    I think I agree with manehi, I think 3 and 5 actually saved from a cross word without smiles and aha moments. Shame really because I look forward to Paul’s crosswords these days.
    ButI suppose we all have our off days.

  4. Richard says:

    Thanks, manehi

    I’m afraid Paul did not provide me with an inspiring start to the day this time. After yesterday’s blog Paul gives us a backwater today.

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Just about managed this, which I don’t usually with a Paul, but I can’t say I disagree with any of the comments so far.

    Thanks for the blog, manehi. I think at 9ac it’s more likely to be CISSY as the definition of ‘weed’ although yours is an interesting interpretation!

  6. Andrew says:

    Thanks manehi. I’m sorry to have to agree with the general negative feelings about this one. One particular niggle – 8dn (not explained in the blog) seems to have no true definition: just the jokey (and Paulish) “ball-breaker” and a homophonic reference to the Nutcracker Suite.

    I guess WATERFALL for 3dn at first.

  7. TokyoColin says:

    Thanks Manehi. We all seem to agree, well below Paul’s usual standard and not really Pauline in style. I wonder if he subcontracted it out?

    And I agree with K’s D that CISSY is probably what was intended at 9ac.

  8. Martin H says:

    Hard work, this one, and though not one of Paul’s best, I don’t think quite so bad as the posts so far indicate. 5a, 11, 16, 23, 25 are all very well clued, and of the rest only 5d is truly awful. 20 and 15/13 took a lot of working, but turned out to be merely mechanical, with overly contrived surfaces.
    A number of clues contain tenuous definitions: 1 ‘nub’ = ‘basic idea’ – not really close enough to ‘gist'; 2d ‘neat’ = ‘bull’ – the word denotes any bovine animal, so there should be at least a ? after bull; 26 ‘something to bend’ = ‘ear’ – ‘something bent’ might have been better. Also, musicology is not concerned so much with bars and notes, rather with scientific or historical aspects of music.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks manehi.
    With some trepidation in the face of more experienced solvers and bloggers, I have to say that I found this fairly hard and on the whole enjoyable.

    I am at a loss to understand why 5d is such a bad clue unless it is felt to be too obvious, which must vary for different solvers.

    8d also amused when the penny dropped – I’d first been thinking about gobstopper and even gobsmacker. Isn’t it sufficient that nut(s) and ball(s) both mean the same in some contexts and likewise cracker = breaker, while the two compound terms have very different meanings?

    re neat – yes but OED does give bull as a specific reference and the misleading hint re archery gives it more point than ‘straight to the cow’ (??!).

    re nub in 1a. Gist is not the only or I think the main meaning. OED specifies ‘heart of matter, crux, central point’ which is how I’ve always understood it.

    I get the impression that the puzzle depressed some solvers. I was a bit of a misery this morning to start with and it helped to buck me up, but perhaps I’m too easily flattered by solving it all.

  10. Mr. Jim says:

    Agree with all the comments so far (and I usually like Paul). This was scraping the barrel, and, er, not exactly singing to the solver. I wish setters would stop with this NEAT thing, too (though Paul is not the only one to level this accusation at.

    Thanks to manehi for explanations. In fairness, there are some good clues too (laxity had a good surface, also pixel and a few others)

  11. George Foot says:

    I don’t often comment here but since I really quite enjoyed this crossword I felt I owed it to Paul to say so after so much criticism.

  12. walruss says:

    No, not a great Paul. Mind you, he has provided many an entertaining puzzle over the years, so not wishing to be TOO hard! Over to The Independent now, which remains to be cpmpleted after a busy solving lunchtime.

  13. tupu says:

    Hi manehi

    I wasn’t sure when I read your blog whether you were sitting or marking exams. Its a very long time since I did the first and a pretty long time since I did the second – and I sympathise with anyone having to do either. My experience of myself and others is that younger examiners tend to soften as they age, and perhaps that’s also true of bloggers. Anyway very best of luck and, if you are sitting, :) may your examiners be older ones!

  14. Martin H says:

    hi tupu – ‘bull’ is one of several animals defined by ‘neat’. Sure, it had to be ‘bull’ to set the archery context, but shouldn’t there have been a ? or some version of a ‘maybe’ in view of the other possibilities?

    nub – ‘heart of matter, crux, central point’ – exactly, not ‘basic idea’.

  15. tupu says:

    Hi Martin
    Thanks. It’s good to get some feedback.

    I remain happy about ‘bull’, perhaps not altogether rationally, because the clue led me very quickly to the answer and I felt no need for further directions.

    Re nub, I wonder if we are not partly at cross-purposes. Your original comment at 8 seemed to worry that basic idea was not close enough to gist. I have tended to take ‘gist’ to be simply a summary statement of things, but I see my COD defines it more sharply. But for me ‘basic idea’ is still OK here because it means not only an elementary idea (I wonder if you are focussing on that connotation) but more literally the ‘fundamental’ idea (the basis) at the heart of some suggestion or argued position etc. So if one asks ‘what is the ‘basic idea’ here?’ one is asking for the central key idea, not the most elementary one. I hope I am not missing your point.

  16. crikey says:

    Martin at 8, you were right to say that musicology is concerned with the science of music. By which token, it IS concerned with bars and notes and the theory of music. Hence, in cases of suspected musical plagiarism, a musicologist is brought in to establish whether there has been anything untoward. I actually think this is a very clever clue and worthy of mention.

  17. manehi says:

    I do now feel more positively about the puzzle than I did last night, though I’m still not a fan of 3 or 5dn.

    Kathryn’s Dad #5: CISSY, of course

    tupu #13: I’ll still (touch wood) be sitting exams until the end of next year. Hopefully now that one-word essay questions are out of fashion I won’t have to face the likes of “Jam?”, but you never know..

  18. tupu says:

    Hi manehi

    They had their purpose, but were extremely hard to mark in any objective way. I once faced a longer title myself – Opera, the ugly duckling of the arts – and it was only near ‘closing time’ that I remembered the wretched bird was not a duckling but a swan. I had not thought till you mentioned it how like better or worse crossword clues those essay titles were!

  19. carneddi says:

    Re 16d – I struggled for some time to equate ‘duck’ with ‘hedge’ as, speaking as an ex-trader, hedging is about spreading risk rather than ducking it! Chambers seems to bear this out too, I think.
    All in all a bit imprecise for me.

  20. tupu says:

    Hi carneddi

    I wondered a bit too. The COD gives hedge ‘intr. avoid committing oneself’ and the Oxford Dictionary gives under hedge v. 9 ‘intr. To go aside from the straight way; to shift, shuffle, dodge; to trim; to avoid committing oneself irrevocably; to leave open a way of retreat or escape’. So the idea of ducking (issues) and dodging seems to be there.

  21. Martin H says:

    tupu – no, I don’t think we’re at cross purposes. I suppose, as so often, it’s a question of one’s feeling about a word. For me ‘basic’ doesn’t have enough focus to lead to ‘nub’.

    hi crikey – certainly musicology can be concerned with theory in the way you suggest, but it also has many other aspects where considerations of notation are not relevant. Re-reading Paul’s clue I still get the sense that he is defining it as the study of notes and bars, but he did give us a question mark, so fair enough, he’s off the hook – if he was ever on it.

  22. Davy says:

    Thanks Manehi,

    This puzzle wasn’t as bad as some people say although not one of Paul’s best. 3d was just poor and 5d was
    worthy of Rover but the rest of the puzzle was fairly good and kept me entertained for a good couple of hours. I haven’t got it down to 8 minutes yet.

    Just to be pedantic, shouldn’t 25a have said ‘One in the table’ as opposed to ‘One on the table’.
    You wouldn’t say for example Page 1 on the book, as any page is in the book.

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Not so very long ago, on this site, I made clear that I got a bit tired of Paul’s ‘bum’ and ‘bottom’ clues.
    So, from that point of view I must be rather happy with this crossword, but …
    You can hardly fault Mr H on imprecision or unfairness, but …
    This puzzle was relatively bland [just like last Saturday’s Prize Crossword – more about that later].
    Recently the sparkle is missing.
    But as walruss (#12) emphasised, we shouldn’t forget what he’s offered us so far.

    For me the main thing about this crossword is, that Paul shouldn’t try too many cryptic definitions.
    It’s just not his strength.
    I think, 12d (MUSICOLOGY) is poor, as is 5d.
    3d looks like fun, but in fact there’s no definition at all.

    Talking about definitions, I didn’t like 8d (NUTCRACKER).
    It’s a homophoned definition (sweet~suite), but is it a definition?
    The Nutcracker is ballet of which perhaps the suite [just an excerpt] is just the most well-known, but …

    For me 15,13 is the Paul I want to see, clever constructions.

    BTW, agree with Davy (#22) on the in/on matter.
    And with him, on the fact that it wasn’t bad.
    However, today he was just not living up to his usual [high] standard.

    And I learnt something today:
    I always pronounced PIXEL as ‘piksul’ [just like everyone else that I know], but apparently it should be ‘piksel’.

    Finally [and off topic, I know], I would like to take the opportunity to tell everyone here that my first ever [English, 15^2] crossword has gone online on the website of one the best FT setters, Alberich:
    under the name of Dalibor.
    Be welcome to give it a try!

  24. tupu says:

    I am genuinely a bit confused – I’m talking here about things I know I don’t know (a la Rumsfeld since there may be ones I don’t know I don’t know as well.) So please help in a gentle way!

    1. If Paul is classed as a libertarian setter, is it reasonable to complain about the lack of rigid (ximenean?) precision in his clueing as long as the clues get one safely to the answer?

    2. In 8d ball-breaker seems to me to be comically(?) pointing to the charade-like construction of nut-cracker supported by the homophone suite/sweet as I tried to suggest briefly @9. I can’t see why that is so awful?.

  25. Carrots says:

    Tupu: Paul classed as a “libertarain” setter…says who? What does this mean anyway?

    OK, so I`m still smarting at not finishing this (still had two to go when I threw in the beer mat). Seems HEDEGHOG & DOODAH were the ones I failed, but given the daftness of the clue-ing, I`m not ashamed to admit it.

    I generally look forward to a puzzle from Paul, but this one didn`t seem to have his fingerprints on it.

  26. Martin H says:

    Evening Sil – I’ve no problem with 3d -for once a cryptic definition which actually works: H2O is water – O2H is backwater.
    Similarly 8d: there is a suite called Nutcracker; as tupu says it’s indicated by the homophone, and identified by the conventional subsidiary element.

    It’s not pick-sell, you have been saying it correctly; English short vowels are predominantly -i- or -u- (or rather the -e- in ‘the’, the neutral vowel called schwa in phonetics). Paul took a homophonic liberty here, or maybe just broke the word down into two across the X and clued the apparent spelled sound from each half.

    tupu – these are all libertarian clues, none of which I would call sloppy. The nub of the matter is getting there, as you say, “safely”, for which you sometimes need careful definitions.

  27. FumbleFingers says:

    Hmmm. Yet again I’m a lone voice in the wilderness re vulgarity – carping about the CRAP in 5a this time. Could be worse, I suppose. Probably will be soon enough, given that boundaries are being continually pushed out.

    I agree with some others that NEAT is a tad overused. But then again I personally think the word ‘tad’ is too – what’re you gonna do?

    Apart from that I thought it was a pretty good puzzle, wherein I specially liked 23a. Partly because it was a nicely-constructed clue, but mainly because I haven’t come across DOODAH in decades. It was like meeting an old friend again!

  28. FumbleFingers says:

    (ps – I think all this whinging about the precise definition of ‘nub’ is nit-picking, and should be beneath the august company herein assembled)

  29. tupu says:

    Hi Carrots
    Paul is so classed in the setters list above and in the wikipedia article I consulted. It seems to mean someone who feels free not have to follow Ximenean rules whose appropriateness I wondered about in his case. It is not an authoritative classification and it is not restrictive on him – rather the opposite.
    I personally found the puzzle hard but solvable – but maybe I just got luckier than I realise.

  30. stiofain says:

    I agree this lacked Pauls usual sparkle ( though he is my favourite setter ) JAM wasnt good and O2H either but it was a draughtsmans workaday puzzle with nothing unfair though few smiles never mind Pauls usual laughs.
    Congrats Sil on the published Xword I had a quick look and printed off will do tomoro at some point between my morning tea and evening sup.

  31. Martin H says:

    FF@28 – “whinge”? ‘to cry in a fretful way….to complain’ (Collins) tupu and I were nitpicking, sure, but you seem to be the one who’s complaining.

  32. Carrots says:

    Hello tupu….and many thanks for taking the trouble to explain “libertarian” in this context. Not too far from “libertinage” (debauchery) or “taking liberties” ( treat….indecently or to falsify). Paul is certainly “over familiar” (another definition) because of the amount of time I`ve spent with him trying to solve his darn puzzles!

  33. Paul (not Paul) says:

    Can’t decide if this was really hard or just garbage.

  34. FumbleFingers says:

    Martin H @31 – ok I’ll rephrase. All this nit-picking about the precise definition of ‘nub’ is counting angels dancing on pinheads.

    Which I admit in a few days may overtake watching the footie as England’s premier spectator sport. But it doesn’t quite float my boat, as they say, and you observe.

  35. Sylvia says:

    Hi Sil,

    Only just (1st July)got around to printing off your Dalibor crossword, which I enjoyed tremendously. Completed all but 15D, 18A and 23A (I had entered Billboard for 15D, which prevented final solutions!). Well done!

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