Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,051 / Boatman

Posted by Gaufrid on July 1st, 2010


We don’t see Boatman very often which is a pity since he usually provides an enjoyable challenge and this was no exception, despite my having a couple of quibbles (though this could just be me not parsing the clues correctly). Overall, this was definitely not a puzzle for beginners!

The two clues I have reservations about are 13ac and 27ac where I am unable to fully explain the wordplay. I may have missed something and would welcome any clarification or explanation. Elsewhere there were many good clues, too numerous to list in this preamble, and frequent references to newspapers, either generically or specific publications, or to parts of them.

Edit: Quibbles now resolved due to further thought and the helpful comment #2 posted by Max.

7 COUP D’ÉTAT  *(PACT DUE TO) – ‘unholy’ as an anagram indicator? Presumably in the sense of ‘outrageous’.
9 ADENOIDAL  [agend]A *(ON AID LED) – a reference to the writer and broadcaster Lord Melvyn Bragg.
10 AMISH  hidden in ‘abrahAM IS Holy’
12 APPEAR  *(A PAPER) &lit
13 EXAMINER – ‘retired in the Valleys’ could be EX-MINER but I don’t see where the ‘A’ comes from because you wouldn’t say ‘ex- a miner’. Spliting it into EX (retired) A MINER (in the Valleys) doesn’t work for me. needs to be read as ‘formerly a miner’ and then the ‘formerly’ changed to ‘ex’ to give EX A MINER.
14 ABYSMAL  *(BAY) SMAL[l] (endless minute)
17 REDACTS  RED (bloody) ACTS (deeds)
22 PLUCKY  P (power) LUCKY (to be successful, probably)
24 THEFT  THE FT (newspaper) – I liked the definition!
26 RAGAS  RAG (newspaper) AS (articles)
27 MALEMUTES  MUTE (don’t bark) in MALES (not bitches) – there isn’t an insertion indicator in the clue so this should be parsed MALE (not bitches) MUTES (don’t bark) but the second part doesn’t equate.  MALE MUTES with ‘mute’ as a noun.  Edited thanks to Max, comment #2

1 HOLD-UP  H (hour) OLD (on the way out) UP (to Oxford)
2 OPENNESS  O[bserver] PEN (writer) NESS (point)
3 DENIER  REINED (restrained) reversed – the ‘?’ needs to be removed from the clue to get the definition.
4 FALAFEL  LAF (homophone of ‘laugh’, a bit of fun) in LEAF (page) reversed – a deep-fried ball of ground dried chickpeas or broad beans, with onions, garlic, etc and spices.
5 SCAMPI  SCAM (money-making scheme) PI (letter from Athens)
6 FLYSHEET  FLY (perhaps horse) SHEET (page) – defn. ‘tent cover’. This one took a while to parse with the indirect reference to a horsefly and ‘front’ being used as a direction to put ‘fly’ before a word meaning page.
11 MALE  homophone of ‘Mail’ (newspaper)
15 BONEHEAD  Spoonerism of hone (polish) bed (divan)
16 APEX  APE (predecessor of man) X (times)
18 AQUANAUT  AU (gold) in A QUANT (a pole) – quant: a punting or jumping pole, with a flat end.
19 DAYSTAR  homophone of ‘daze’ (shock) TAR (boatman) – good misdirection since using the setter’s pseudonym in a clue usually leads to ‘I’ or ‘me’ etc.
21 AFFRAY  A FF (very loud) RAY (shaft)
22 PORTER  *(REPORT) – an interesting reversal of the parsing of ‘shock report’ cf 19dn.
23 KEEPER  PEEK (look) reversed ER (royalty) – ‘retrospective’ needs to be interpreted as ‘look back’.

34 Responses to “Guardian 25,051 / Boatman”

  1. Ian says:

    Thanks to Gaufrid and to Boatman for a difficult, press related workout this morning.

    Only the NE corner appeared to be trouble free. Everything else has to be worked on quite hard.

    I had to verify ‘Malemutes’ arrived at from the detailed clue. The wordplay on the Bragg clue I enjoyed very much. Very clever. As was ‘The FT’ at 24 ac.

    Not so the Spooner at 15dn. Yet another unsatisfactory attempt, I think.

    A couple of very smart anagrams at 7 ac (missing the ‘unholy’ indicator at first glance) and 20 ac.

    All in all well up to Boatman’s high standard.


  2. Max says:

    To make the surface right, I think you should read the solution to 27a as MUTES who are MALE, rather than MALES who are MUTE.

  3. rrc says:

    This was a toughie with some very nicely constructed clues 10a 12a 13a 17a 24a 25a 26a 5d 11d I liked particularly, although it was a rather mechanical solve because nothing easily fell into place. It also took me considerable more time because of the lack of linked clues.

  4. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Max
    You are right. I had the adjectival sense of ‘mute’ fixed in my head and didn’t consider it as a noun.

  5. NeilW says:

    Thanks Gaufrid. I agree with you: not for beginners! This could have been swapped with last Saturday’s prize which was much more suitable for a Thursday while this was definitely prize level I would say.
    I particularly liked 22dn for the reason you mention in the blog.

  6. john h says:

    Should 14a be ABYSSAL ? This would seem to be more appropiate to “deep”. I have no idea where the SSAL comes from though.

  7. Gaufrid says:

    Hi john h
    No, it is ABYSMAL. From Chambers:

    “abysm: noun (archaic and poetic) an abyss”
    “abysmal (adjective) very bad; bottomless; unfathomable, very deep; abyssal”

    Abyssal would fit both the definition and the grid but unfortunately not the wordplay.

  8. john h says:

    Agreed. As an earth scientist abyssal sprang to mind first. I’ll get my coat.

  9. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid, and not for more advanceders either, in my view. This was my least enjoyable Xword for years. I only managed 13 solutions, and struggled to understand some of the ones you explained, also. I still don’t know what MIRROR is in 3d. The shape of the grid did not help, essentially four disconnected regions.

    I won’t bother a blow-by-blow account of what I thought wrong with various clues – far too many of them

  10. egroeg says:

    It is impossible to disagree with Gaufrid that this was “definitely not a puzzle for beginners”. I’ve never had to use the Check button online (I use the newspaper version) as often as today. 19d.DAYSTAR and 27a.MALEMUTES were especially obscure, and to use Melvyn Bragg’s adenoids in such an offensive way semms simply impertinent. Overall, a a truthful summary of Boatman’s effort can be found in the answer to 14 across.

  11. Gaufrid says:

    Dave E.
    In 3dn, ‘mirror’ is the reversal indicator.

  12. NeilW says:

    Dave Ellison, “mirror” as a verb rather than noun is just the indicator to reverse the word reined (restrained) to get the solution DENIER – in the sense of “one who says it never happened”. Quite a good clue, I thought…

  13. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid, you’re much more succinct than me, so quicker off the mark!

  14. NeilW says:

    Sorry, that should have been “than I”.

  15. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Gaufrid. I thought this was really tough and had to use the check button far too many times. I liked 24ac very much and 9ac also made me smile but overall the hard slog took some of the pleasure away.

  16. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Gaufrid.

    I agree with Liz and others that this was too much like hard work [or, at least, a Saturday puzzle] – and not too many ‘ahas’ when I did get the answer.

    I don’t much like Spoonerisms, except when, as someone said here recently, they include recognisable phrases, but ‘polish a divan / hone bed’? I nearly didn’t get this, because hone = polish never occurred to me and I was surprised to find it in Collins [but not Chambers or SOED]. I guess it’s through usage of the expression ‘honing one’s skills’ but, to me, sharpening and polishing are not quite the same thing.

    Favourite clue: DENIER – nice to see it clued without reference to hosiery!

  17. tupu says:

    Many thanks Gaufrid and (a bit reluctantly) Boatman
    I have to agree with Eileen and Liz. I eventually solved it all, and seem eventually to have understood it all, but it was very hard work indeed. Like Paul’s the other day, it took me too long. But unlike Paul’s, it also seemed too often to lack the joys of solving, and it began to be a bit of slog – especially when I began to feel it was going to be the first I’d failed to solve for a long time.
    As it was, I had to do a bit of hunting – in 18d, after a lot of thought, I first chased words with ‘aqua’ and then had to check ‘quant’ even though punts have long been a common feature of my environment. Malemutes was my penultimate clue and by that time I also began to check ‘male’ words, when a bit more thought would have got me there – I knew the word from Service’s poem The Shooting of Dangerous Dan Magrew!

    In fairness, several clues were quite good fun inc. 8a, 17a (had me going in the direction of carnage at first), and my favourites were probably 24a, 16d, 22d (for its cheek), and 23d for its wit.

    19d was slightly odd. I got to it via star – the idea of a sailor following one – but the parsing does not need this.

    Having got all that off my chest, I feel better in the way one does after stopping arduous exercise or a long cold shower.

    I think both are OK aren’t they?. More succinct than I (am)(adverbial) or more succinct (as in bigger, more pedantic) than me (adjectival). But as I get older, I get less sure of this sort of thing.

  18. tupu says:

    Neil again @14
    The more I think about my use of ‘adverbial’ and ‘adjectival’ above, the less I like it. I still think both are right, as I parsed them, and I suppose I was trying to get at the link to a verb in the first and to a pronoun in the second.

  19. tupu says:

    Apologies and ps to 17. It seems to be ‘The Shooting of Dan Mcgrew’ (Google sources mostly prefer this to Magrew), and Malamute is spelled there with 2 a’s. ‘Dangerous’ comes in the text rather than the title. It’s quite a poem!

  20. NeilW says:

    (Dangerously off topic, but here in Indonesia, at least, everyone’s off to bed.) Thanks Tupu for your reassurances about my Use of English – too many Americans here who insist it’s “I” but now you’ve got me re-reading the wonderful poems of Mr Service…

  21. Stella Heath says:

    Neil and Tupu: if “than” is used as a preposition, it’s followed by the object form of the pronoun, “me”, whereas when it’s used as a conjunction, the pronoun is the subject of the following verb – therefore it’s “than me” or “than I am”. You’re right, Neil, Americans do abuse the use of “I”, as in “between you and *I”

    Apparently Alaskan malamutes are better known here in Spain than in the English-speaking world, much to their chagrin, given their thick coats!

    I found this a struggle, too, but it did have a couple of redeeming touches, as people have mentioned.

  22. tupu says:

    Hi NeilW

    Maybe Gaufrid will forgive us one more go or mnove this over gently? It’s hard to change blogs in midstream. Yes Service is excellent. There is a fine poem too in the same broad genre (narrative of a bar-room killing) by Kipling that you may know – The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House I think it’s called – where Hans the blue-eyed Dane (a much nicer character than Dangerous Dan) gets knifed.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi Stella H
    Thanks for that. Your grammatical labels sound much better than mine, though languages are not all that easily confined to such terms. ‘Than I’ is OK I think, because the ‘am’ can be assumed while silent. It is rather different from ‘between you and I’ which for me is just plain wrong and cannot be justified by any grammatical argument unless it is in a sentence like ‘ ‘And’ comes between ‘you’ and ‘I’ in the ungrammtical phrase ‘between you and I’ ‘.

  24. muck says:

    Too tough for me. Thanks for the blog & comments.

  25. Median says:

    I know from his monthly newsletter that Hugh Stephenson, the Guardian’s crossword editor, is happy for solvers to use any tools they like or to do things in what he calls “the hard way” – “without looking anything up or talking to another soul”. I guess most of us will try to do as much as we can the hard way. I just wonder what percentage of those starting today’s trip with Boatman made it all the way unaided. I soon got stuck on a mudbank in the Suwannee and my usually highly effective books, software, etc. didn’t get me much further. Yes, there were some clever clues, a few of which I cracked, but it wasn’t much fun.

    Note to Hugh Stephenson: Please threaten Boatman with the Bermuda Triangle unless he gets better at entertaining the punters.

  26. Carrots says:

    At least 20% of this puzzle defeated me…and my thanks to Gaufrid and others for explaining why. I managed to find something to moan about in almost every clue: Boatman ran the whole gamut of stretched definitions, superflous elements, obscurites, redundancies, misleading word breaks, answer ambiguities and dodgy syntax….and all without even a wry smile in sight. Pity, because I enjoyed a previous puzzle by this setter and hope that he lightens up a bit next time.

  27. molonglo says:

    Median – I flunked 3, in the Northwest. Tupu and Neil W – thanks for the relief from Boatman as both pleasure and pain. I know the McGrew poem by heart, but only remember verse one of The Harpy: There was a woman, and she was wise; woefully wise was she;
    She was old, so old, yet her years all told were but a score and three;
    And she knew by heart, from finish to start, the Book of Iniquity.
    I too wrestled with Neil’s than problem, recalling Fowler’s “You treat her worse than I/worse than me” instances, both valid, but with different senses. On balance I’d say “me” for you in Gaufrid’s case.

  28. Scarpia says:

    Thanbks Gaufrid.
    Like everyone else,I found this very tough and had to resort to word finding software as well as the usual reference books to finish.
    Thanks for your explanation of 6 down,I couldn’t get past flyleaf/flysheet and wondered what the horse was doing in the clue!
    I first encountered Boatman in Araucaria’s 1 Across magazine, so knew he could be a tricky customer.
    I remember one puzzle in particular which featured “boatman” in (nearly?) every clue and was amazed by the diversity of meanings the setter was able to utilise.
    I thought it was a very good puzzle,but probably would have better suited the Saturday prize slot.

  29. Gerry says:

    I had ‘ragaa’ for 26ac, after checking it as alternative spelling for ‘raga’. Doesn’t that make more sense? Two ‘a’s’ for ‘articles’ rather than ‘as’. ‘Ragas’ doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t recall ‘as’ as an abbreviation for articles.

  30. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Gerry
    I cannot find that alternative spelling in any of the usual references and, having just checked, the solution gives RAGAS. The AS is not an abbreviation for ‘articles’ it is merely an indication of more than one ‘a’, the indefinite article (to create a plural add an s).

  31. tupu says:

    Hi Gerry
    :)Pretty ingenious! But I wonder if it is necessary? The fact that you write “two ‘a’s'” seems to give the game away. ‘As’ doesn’t have to be an abbreviation of ‘articles’. It can just be the plural of ‘A’ as ‘ragas’ is the plural of ‘raga’.
    I couldn’t find ‘ragaa’ in Chambers or COD or Oxford Dictionary I’m afraid, and today’s printed solution gives ‘ragas’.
    I think the main thing though is having understood the clue i.e. ‘rag’ plus plural ‘a’. I write with fellow feeling because I’ve had similar ideas in other contexts.

  32. tupu says:

    Sorry Gaufrid. I should have left it to you! Yours went in while I was writing mine with various interruptions.

  33. Gerry says:

    You’re both right, thanks.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Due to other commitments I am a bit [well, just a bit] late to the party, but as Boatman made me blush in the blog of his previous crossword by saying that “we’re on the same wavelength” [which was indeed true], I’d like to say something.

    I think, Boatman’s crosswords are more Setter’s crosswords than Solver’s crosswords.
    I do understand everyone who thought this was too hard or didn’t find any aha moments.
    But the key clues of this puzzle [mentioned by Gaufrid in his blog] are 19d and 22d.
    The use of “shock report” in two different ways [anagrind/homophone] is not just very fine, but a thing that Boatman as a setter was looking for [I think], and that’s exactly why I like his style.
    Many clues were newspaper related, but none of the answers were [well, maybe 17ac].
    The thought put into that is amazing.
    And all these papers were used in various ways: ‘Sun’ and ‘Guardian’ as definitions, Times as ‘X’, Mirror as reversal device, Observer for just the O, the Mail as homophone.
    I would have liked to set a puzzle like this.
    On top of that, I like the storytelling nature of some clues [like 9ac, 4d, 5d, 21d] – I know, it can lead to clues with superfluous words, but it reads so well].
    And that’s what I mean with ‘more a Setter’s crossword than a Solver’s crossword’.
    If I’m right, Boatman is one of those setters who want to entertain us, but at the same time likes to enjoy it himself [or herself, you never know].

    I thought, this was fantastic.
    [Indeed, I am on Boatman’s wavelength again, but … oops … I also have to say that I didn’t like ‘MALE’ being used twice in this crossword (27ac,11d)]

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