Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,052 – Crucible

Posted by manehi on July 2nd, 2010


A topical tennis theme from Crucible, who also covered the Snooker World championships in two out of six previous Guardian puzzles. Plenty of clever cluing, especially 29,12.

9 OPERA-GOER =”Met fan”, referring to the Metropolitan Opera. O[ld] + P.E.=gym + (a[mateur] Roger)*
10 SQUAD =”group of players”. I think this is QUADS=”two doubles” with the back, S, put into the lead.
11 MINSK Capital of Belarus. M[aria] + IN + SK=Slovakia (internet domain?)
13 GO SPARE G[ood] + O[ld] + SPAR + E[dberg]
17 MIXED DOUBLES …would indicate “Used lob” as an anagram of DOUBLES.
20 ANVIL (Ivan [Lend]l)*
21 SCANDAL (NADAL)* around C[ocaine]
22 AVERAGE =”mean”. Hidden in [L]AVER A GE[ntleman]
24 ONSLAUGHT (No laughs)* + [Ever]T
26 IDYLL Hidden in “ylmID YLLar”=rev(Rally dimly)
28 SMASH (Smith has)* minus HIT
29,12 YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS [McEnro](e noisy abuse on court)*
1 ZOOM rev(MO[ment] + OZ)
3 BACKHANDED B[all] + (hacked and)*
4 WOMBLE Resident of Wimbledon Common. M[illons] in rev(ELBOW)=”joint set-up”
5 CRUSADER (caused R[oge]r)*
6 TSAR Taken from, i.e. “confiscated”, rackeTS ARe
7 JUGOSLAV JUG=jail + OS=oversize=huge (can refer to tennis rackets) + LAV=loo
8 ODDS O[f] + DD’S
13 GAMES G[ritty] A[ndy] M[urry] E[xpects] S[uccess]
16 SALVE anagram of LAVER minus R=”Rosewall initially” and S[unburnt]
19 FALL GUYS ? I think the wordplay is FALL=drop + guise=”pretence” sounds like=”on air” GUYS, but I’m not sure of the definition.
22,25 ARTHUR ASHE won Wimbledon in 1975. (has heart)* around [co]UR[ts]
24 OUST JOUST minus J[udge]
27 LETS =”Replayed points”. [fina]L + (set)*

58 Responses to “Guardian 25,052 – Crucible”

  1. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks Manehi and Crucible. Have done Guardian puzzles with sporadic success for 40 years. Learned about this website last fall. Have been reticent to comment because of the erudition displayed by other bloggers – I felt overmatched. Had no idea about womble but it was gettable from the clue. Love watching Wimbledon tennis; it comes on at 4AM here in Bellevue, WA. Cheers!

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Manehi, this was truly delightful as I recognised all the Tennis players – unlike the previous occasion when Crucible used Snooker players.

    When I got Womble I wondered whether it would be known to overseas puzzlers and now. including the welcome arrival of Grandpuzzler, The Grauniad clearly has a large collection.

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, manehi, and a huge thank you to Crucible for a really great start to the day.

    This was sheer delight – one of those puzzles you don’t really want to finish, just one great clue after another. Far too many to mention, really but, as manehi says, the glorious &lit at 29,12 is outstanding.

    Although this puzzle was perfectly doable for non-tennis fans, there was lots of icing [and cherries] on the cake for those of us who are, especially with the references to stars of the past [especially Rosewall, one of my all-time favourites]. And I just loved WOMBLE, the Common resident. :-)

    [For one heart-stopping moment, when I only had ??M?S for 13 dn, SEMIS leapt into my mind!]

  4. Molonglo says:

    Thanks manehi. Don’t want to be too curmudgeonly but I found this pretty contrived, beginning with 1a – I got it, but your parsing struggles a bit, as it must. 10a ditto. Lots of quibbles, like 7d – should be Yugo not Jugo and no H on Ivanisevic. 22a, the yes and the streak don’t work for me. Etc.

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, manehi. I did enjoy this one too: though I’m less of a tennis fan than I used to be I was familiar with all the references (but I too, am unsure what Jimbo’s doing in 19dn). A mixture of easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and tough, I thought. The McEnroe clue was one where you stick it in straight away and then take a long moment to admire it.

    Didn’t help by trying for a long time to enter 22/25 the wrong way round, and having spent three quarters of an hour entering all the other, tennis-related, answers, WOMBLE took me another five minutes. Dur.

    Super puzzle. There’s another good one over at the Indy today, with a bizarre co-incidence if you’ve already completed this one (can’t say more for fear of spoiling it!)

  6. NeilW says:

    Thanks manehi.
    19dn – there are two “homophones” in this. The first is that Connors’ sounds like conners as in con artists, and their victims are the definition.

  7. NeilW says:

    Oh no, grammar again! “Their victims” is the definition.

  8. IanN14 says:

    Yes, K’s D.
    Not a particularly common word.
    I think Jugoslavia as a spelling is forgivable, especially as without it he wouldn’t have achieved a pangram…
    And wasn’t Min

  9. IanN14 says:

    Sorry, forget last three words.
    I thought Minsk was a Womble.
    Turns out it was Tomsk..

  10. Eileen says:


    You’re so good at spotting these things! I never think to look for ninas or pangrams in the Guardian!

  11. IanN14 says:

    Thats as maybe, Eileen, but I still made a fool of myself over womble identification…

  12. Twiddlepin says:

    I enjoyed doing this crossword, particularly the tennis theme.
    Some of the wordplay was a bit irritating though – particularly the number of times the initial letter of a word was needed without any pointer to the fact (eg 9a and 21a). And where is the wordplay for “MIXED”?

    I thought at first glance that the anagram for 24a was SLUGATHON which would have added to the tennis theme but may not be OED approved yet!

  13. Eileen says:

    That’s perhaps because you’re not IanSW19. :-)

  14. Twiddlepin says:

    … too quick to submit that comment, sorry.
    I see now that MIXED is the anagram pointer, but in the answer not the clue. Nice twist.

  15. Ian says:

    Thanks manehi for the blog in what for me was an enjoyable puzzle primarily for the quality of the clues. Outstanding were ‘Smash’, the amazing &lit for ‘You Cannot Be Serious’ and the definition of ‘Womble’ as a common resident.


  16. tupu says:

    Thanks Manehi and Crucible.

    Much easier fare than yesterday and more enjoyable. Lots of fun inc. womble (sadly it took a senbior moment to remember that it was Wimbledon common).
    Crucible is clearly a pretty thoughtful setter who likes his sporting jousts.

    14a seems OK to me. Laver was well-known as a gentleman on court and I suppose ‘streak’ is the run (bared?) of letters.

    22, 25 was probably a little deeper since Ashe had a serious heart problem if I remember rightly.

    Many thanks for parsing 19d. Very nice.

  17. otter says:

    Thanks to Crucible for this. I’m not very familiar with this setter, but this crossword, although very simple, was hugely enjoyable to do and had some extremely clever and well written clues. I finished this in record time (for me), about 15 minutes without help. A nice antidote to the tortuous clueing from Boatman yesterday.

    I love the anagram solution ‘SLUGATHON’ in message 12!

  18. walruss says:

    You’re missing a S at 21 manehi, but I join you in clebration of the Mac &lit. Great! As an aside, I wonder if OPERAGOER, hyphenated or not, has ever appeared on the same day before?!

  19. otter says:

    Oh, thanks to Manehi for the blog too. A couple of thoughts:

    10a I can confirm that SQUAD is QUADS (‘two doubles’) ‘back to lead’ (ie last letter to the beginning). Although I would have thought that two doubles is a quad, not quads…

    19d I think the definition to this is provided by the ‘say’ after ‘Connors’ victims’ – ie, it’s a sound-alike: ‘Conners’ [ie conmen’s] victims’ = FALL GUYS. I’m not sure about the legitimacy of using a sound-alike for the definition word, but that seems to be what’s going on here.

  20. Stella Heath says:

    Great fun! I loved the mixed doubles clue, and the reminder of one of my favourite childhood TV programmes.

    Is it just me, or is there a second mini-theme in the references to old fight(er)s?

    I’m afraid I don’t understand Ian14’s comment @8, even after taking another look at the puzzle, as I don’t know what a pangram is :-(

  21. tupu says:

    Hi Otter @ 19

    Re 10a. In the context of multiple births we talk of twins, triplets, quads etc. So quads are 2 X twins (doubles)?

  22. Jack says:

    Stella #20

    A pangram is a sentence, paragraph etc (in this case a crossword) in which every letter of the alphabet is used at least once.

  23. Median says:

    Excellent stuff. For me, Crucible today was almost the antithesis of Boatman yesterday: solvable and entertaining, for a start. I’ve now printed an extra copy for my wife, a tennis addict. She may not finish it before ‘Wimbers’ is over, but I’m sure she’ll enjoy it.

  24. mhl says:

    Great stuff – excellent clues and a nice theme. I didn’t think this was too difficult, although I found (as all too often happens) that I got stuck because of misreading my own handwriting. I’m trying to develop special crossword handwriting where alternate letters are clear [checked letters] and illegible [unches]…

  25. liz says:

    Many thanks manehi. Really enjoyable puzzle and absolutely no quibbles from me. 29, 12 was my favourite, closely followed by 17, 14.

    And thanks to IanN14 for pointing out that this was a pangram — the next time there’s an X, Y and Z in the puzzle I must remember to check!

    Thanks Crucible!

  26. otter says:

    tupu, message 21: You might be right in thinking of babies. I had another thought: The S in ‘Two 14s’ is an extra letter for the solution rather than a plural marker, so the clue could be read as ‘Two “DOUBLES” +S’, making QUAD + S, which is transformed to SQUAD.

    Thanks to several of you for the pangram explanation: I knew what the term means but not how it applied in this context. It’s something I’ve not been aware of in crosswords before. Eileen in message 10 also mentioned ‘ninas'; could some kind soul please explain this to me?

  27. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Neil14-

    Otter, I had the same query a few days ago regarding an Indy xword by Dac, where the initial letters around the grid spelt for synonyms for “cad”, all written backwards. This, I learned, is a Nina, apparently after one setter’s famed hidden references to his daughter.

  28. Stella Heath says:

    Sorry – FOUR synonyms

  29. tupu says:

    Otter @ 26
    Thanks for coming back – its nice to get some feedback. I see your point, but I like the babies idea since (identical) twins are ‘doubles’ in two senses.

  30. otter says:

    Thanks, both of you.

  31. Martin H says:

    Like Molonglo I found this contrived – inevitably so I suppose with such determined theming. The McEnroe &lit was neat but wrote itself when the first word turned out to end in U. Overall nothing much to engage with. ‘Average’ was good though.

  32. mhl says:

    Stella Heath: a small correction – the term Nina doesn’t come from a crossword setter but rather the artist Al Hirschfeld, who used to hide his daughter’s name in his drawings somewhere:

    This should really be in the Fifteensquared FAQ, I think :)

  33. nmsindy says:

    Stella is right to one degree in that it was a crossword setter who had the idea of using the word Nina to describe that feature of crosswords. A distinguished setter who sets in many places including in the Indy as Nestor. Also Crucible and Phi are not the same, tho Crucible also sets in the Indy (pseudonym: Radian)

  34. crosser says:

    Thank you,manehi, for the blog. I got 18d (x-ray star) but could somebody please explain it to me?

  35. Rob says:

    crosser #34

    I assume to ‘X ray’ something can mean to ‘look into’ it.
    Top player = star.

    An X-ray star is a celestial object, especially a star, that emits a major portion of its radiation in x-rays and is therefore a huge pulsating body..

  36. crosser says:

    Thanks very much, Rob. I didn’t know the last part of your explanation.

  37. Davy says:

    Thanks Manehi,

    I enjoyed this puzzle and found it deceptively simple in that there were plenty of easy clues to get one going but there were also plenty of clues which were quite tricky. The perception of difficulty obviously depends on the solver and most clues are fairly straightforward once the answer is known. To describe this puzzle as “very simple” (#17) I would say is inaccurate and would not conform to the experience of the average solver.
    The answers to 10a, 11a and 3d were all very well disguised. We all think in different ways amd some you see and some you don’t.

  38. Eileen says:

    Martin H @31

    Of course 29,12 ‘wrote itself’, simply by the enumeration, but, as Kathryn’s Dad says, you then, surely, have to take a long moment to admire it. And the use of ‘fractious’ [‘ready to quarrel’ from Latin ‘frangere’, to break] as an anagram indicator was just brilliant, I think.

    I think this is a classic &lit, worthy to be set alongside Araucaria’s ‘The Old Vicarage Grantchester’ and ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night':

    And it didn’t, as these things sometimes do, take over the whole crossword.

  39. Martin H says:

    Yes Eileen, it was very cleverly done and one can admire the thinking that went into it, but as you agree, it wrote itself. While there is pleasure in passively and retrospectively acknowledging a setter’s wit, if it doesn’t dawn on you in the process of untangling the wordplay, most of the point is lost. Isn’t it? And surely that means you can’t set it alongside those Aracaurias.

  40. Eileen says:

    Martin H

    I think it’s perhaps past my bedtime but I don’t quite understand ‘…if it doesn’t dawn on you in the process of untangling the wordplay, most of the point is lost. Isn’t it?’ To me it was perfectly clear, I think ! :-)

  41. muck says:

    Thanks manehi & Crucible
    I enjoyed this

  42. Scarpia says:

    Thanks manehi.
    Thought this was o.k. but,like others,found it a bit contrived.Too much use of “at the start”,”initially”,”in the end”,”finally” devices.Did like 29/12 though and the anagram at 15 down.I even spotted that it was a pangram – very unusual for me!

  43. ernie says:

    Thank you, Manehi and Crucible (cruciverbalist/snooker?).

    Agree with #42 Scarpia – but I really liked 17,14 – and ‘anyone for tennis’ was very good also. 29,12 of course was the one that got me started – also very nice.

    Was he trying to fit ‘ball boys’ into 19dn?

  44. ernie says:

    I’m really annoyed (not!) that Scarpia collared #42 – it’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything, after all!

  45. roger says:

    Am a bit reluctant to leave a late post like this as I feel I may be talking to myself (not an unusual occurrence, as it happens :) ) ~ but thanks anyway, manehi, for helping out with 17,14′ s “yes, I know it’s that, but why” moment. Like others, really enjoyed this Crucible.

    In 11a, SK is also the International Car Code for Slovakia, as seen on those little oval plates.

    Wrt 10a ~ tupu, I’m with you and your babies, if you know what I mean.
    [Btw, where (otter @26) does your extra S come from ? ~ it’s not in my clue].

  46. tupu says:

    Hi Roger
    Many thanks for your welcome support from me ‘and the babies’. It will feed them for a week.

    I know what you mean about talking to oneself, late or early – I’m sure we all do it at times here and elsewhere! e.g. I was quite pleased @16 with remembering Arthur Ashe’s heart trouble (in real life and the anagram) and Laver as a gentleman etc, but :) weep, weep :) no-one seemed to care. Perhaps it was too obvious to mention. All considered though, there is quite a lot of helpful feedback.

  47. Martin H says:

    Hi Eileen, if you come back to this post.

    What I was trying to say was that if the answer is obvious, yes you can appreciate the setter’s wit in retrospect, but you don’t get the pleasure of the wordplay revealing its excellence in the course of solving the clue. It seems to me that in that case half the point is lost.

    Thanks for the Araucaria link, by the way.

  48. Eileen says:

    Hi Martin H

    Yes, my own response wasn’t very clear. I do see what you mean – and agree with you – but I’m still not sure what you mean by
    “And surely that means you can’t set it alongside those Aracaurias”, where the same thing applies, I would have thought. At least, as I said already, the Crucible one didn’t take up too much of the puzzle, as I said before. [I still think it was a great puzzle! :-) ]

    And if you’re still there, tupu –

    I certainly appreciated your observations re Ashe and Laver, to the extent of looking up Arthur Ashe:

    I’d completely forgotten that he died from an AIDS-related infection, following a blood transfusion during heart surgery – but I do remember the gentlemanly Laver. [Nice to see Stan Smith at Wimbledon yesterday, too.]

  49. tupu says:


    Thanks for that! :)I can put my hankie away now! :) I suspect I’ve forgotten more than I know about tennis having been ‘mad keen’ as a youngster …. Have moved briefly to general chat.

  50. Crucible says:

    Thanks for all your comments, pro and con. Arthur Ashe’s heart trouble was quite coincidental: I didn’t kow that. In the case of Laver, if I remember correctly, not only was he a gentle man on and off court, but his skin colouring led quickly to sunburn, hence 16D.

    Sil, my nemesis, must be on holiday or perhaps following his superb team in SA, otherwise he’d have reminded me about our ‘chat’ about using single letters (see Scarpia #42) as building blocks. I agreed then I used quite a lot and have to admit there’s probably a surfeit here too. My only defence is that having chosen to give every clue a tennis flavour I too frequently fell back on this device.

    Re comment #12: if I’d known about SLUGATHON I’d gladly have used it to avoid the LAUGH repetition.

  51. tupu says:

    Thanks Crucible. It’s very kind of you to appear.
    The heart thing is quite an odd coincidence and then of course I missed the Laver sunburn idea! It’s clearly very hard to judge where and when to try to look more deeply, and perhaps there’s none so blind as those who wish to see. Some contemporary literary critics such as the dreaded Derrida (there must be the making of a clue of sorts there)claim the author’s intentions are more or less irrelevant – a nice cop out for all concerned! It was an excellent puzzle. Thank you.

  52. Eileen says:

    Yes, very many thanks, Crucible. It’s always so good when setters drop by.

    I was absolutely thrilled to find this site, because it fills that gap between getting the answer and understanding why [but I’m a whole lot better at that now, largely through finding this site]. However, I’ve often thought how frustrating it must be for setters to see so many minds working on a clue and still missing the nuances. I’m sure there are a number of puzzles that, bewteen us, we’ve failed to appreciate fully. [For instance, Indy solvers sometimes miss ninas, which, as I said yesterday, we’re not so used to over here.] I certainly hadn’t cottoned on to the significance of Laver’s sunburnt head [though I can still picture his freckly face] – but there’s more to it than that: I was thrilled to see the reference to Rosewall, since he’s one of my heroes – but that wasn’t a random choice: Rosewall was dark haired, so, presumably, didn’t have the same problem.

    So – hats off once more to Crucible – with apologies for any other gems that we may have missed!

  53. Eileen says:


    Sil is a teacher, so I don’t think he’s on holiday yet! :-)

  54. El Stano says:

    *newbie question alert*

    Hello to everyone.
    Please, what’s “&lit”?



  55. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Stan
    &lit is an abbreviation for ‘and literally’. It refers to the situation where the whole clue is both the wordplay and a definition of the solution. See the following page for an example:

  56. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I know, the party’s over.
    But the after-party was great fun, too!

    We did this crossword only today [after non-completing the ‘easy’ Rufus] to find out that this wasn’t hard at all.
    [only today, because Boatman, another favourite, had to be tackled first – after a delay in solving due to a 3-day Maths conference]

    But, by George [or Jove :)], good it was though.
    A charmer of a crossword.

    As Crucible’s nemesis [at least that’s what he says (I have only been critical once: when he had his first Saturday crossword published)] I enjoyed every minute of it, as did my PinC.

    Of course, we got 29,12 rightaway.
    And then it’s not a brilliant clue anymore?
    Just like Eileen, we thought this has to be ranked as a classic.
    But it wasn’t the only splendid surface in this puzzle.
    In fact, too many to mention.
    A real tour de force.

    Some people found it contrived.
    Yes, Crucible introduced several tennis terms/names for his “building stones” [M(aria), E(dberg), (Lend)L, (Ever)T, (McEnro)E, R(oge)R, R(osewall), (fina)L], and there was the usual bunch as well [G(ood), O(ld), M(illions) etc].
    And I do understand Scarpia (#42) when he criticises that.
    But, on the other hand, they are the invaluable tools that enables the setter to write such marvellous clues.
    [unlike a while ago, I now tend to agree with the setter]

    This was perhaps Crucible’s easiest Guardian crossword so far.
    But plenty of aces, no unforced errors, magical play.
    One may well analyse every single stroke (read: clue) [as we often do on this site], but sometimes – I think – we should experience a match (read: crossword) as a whole.
    Then (for us) this one had the right feel.

    Another winner!

  57. Crucible says:

    Nice to hear the thwack of your racket, Sil. This is turning into a marathon exchange along the lines of … I’ve forgotten their names already.
    Nemesis is a bit strong I admit. It reflected my nervousness at what you might be about to hit me with; absence makes the nerves jangle? But your words are thankfully gentle, even in extremis. How you could be bothered to do the puzzle after 3 days of numerology beats me.

    Final thought. I was quite surprised people found it so easy. But then a theme, especially one as telegraphed as this, does make things simpler I suppose. The other worry is that I’ve been sussed: all cards on the table; no mysteries left.

    I enjoyed yours by the way – some really neat twists and turns. I may use one or two myself, as long as you don’t charge finder’s fees.

    Meanwhile, let’s roll up the nets, put away the mowers and look forward to the 150th Open.

  58. Sil van den Hoek says:

    … but first there’s something else to look forward to.
    [even though I find the Boys in Orange very very mediocre so far]

    And please, don’t let my opinion (or the absence of it) make you feel nervous – that’s too much ‘honour’ for me. I am surely not the Simon Cowell of Crypticland – there are people that have far more knowledge of the genre than I have (a relative newcomber :)), and certainly so in relation to the English language, culture and history.
    That said, I do know what I like [smooth surfaces, good spread of devices, and above all setters that put a lot of thought into their clueing and try to avoid the routine thing].

    Thanks again for your kind words and the sparkling puzzle.
    [oh, and feel free to use ‘one or two yourself’ – I am only an amateur, no money involved (but, of course, I would like to be informed)]

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