Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,069 / Shed

Posted by Eileen on July 22nd, 2010


My first blog for four weeks and so, first of all, many thanks to mhl and Gaufrid for standing in for me while I was, firstly, marking exam scripts and then away on holiday.

Andrew was – hurrah! – correct in his prediction that it would be Shed today – and that I would be pleased, especially since I was lucky enough to have blogged the last Shed. This was not one of his more difficult ones, I think, but none the less enjoyable for that. Two new words / phrases for me but flawless cluing made them gettable. Thank you, Shed, for an entertaining solve.


9   EXPERTISE: T[rainee’s] in PERIS [fairies] all in [River] EXE
10  HYENA: YEN [longing] in HA [ha]
11  LARCENY: anagram of  NEARLY + C [100]
12  ITCHING: T[ime] in I CHING. I’d never heard of this ‘ancient Chinese system of divination, consisting of a set of symbols, 8 trigrams and 64 hectagrams, and the text, the I Ching, used to interpret them’.
13  SEDGE: S[outh] EDGE [bank]: I have no idea what sedge looks like and only know it from Keats’ ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci':
‘The sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing’.
14  SHIP’S MATE: anagram of MAPS in SHITE [expletive] : tut –  what would Audreus say?
16  OCCASIONAL TABLE: anagram of O [ring] CALIBAN LOCATES, or, if you prefer, O [ring] + anagram of CALIBAN LOCATES, a very nice clue with ‘in “Tempest”‘ as the anagram indicator. [I remember being intrigued, as a child, as to what such a piece of furniture was for the rest of the time.]
19  IMMODESTY: I’M [Shed’s] + MODE [fashion] in STY [pen]
21  WASTE: homophone of waist [middle]
22  JAI ALAI: I in JAIL [prison] + A1 [excellent]. ‘A game resembling handball but played with a long curved basket strapped to the wrist, a type of pelota’ [Chambers].  This was totally unknown to me but the cluing made it plain.  Edit: I meant, of course, A in JAILthanks, otter!
23  DINGBAT: DIN [racket] + G[olf] + BAT [club]
24  SHEEN: HE [the man] in SEN [the money]
25  EXCALIBUR: EX [former] + CALIBUR [homophone of calibre {quality}] I promised never to discuss homophones again – and I haven’t  – but I just must say here that, as  a Tony Hancock devotee, whenever I see this word,  I hear him saying, ‘a man of my calibre!’ – rhyming with ‘fibre’! :-)


1   BERLUSCONI: US [American] + CON [right wing]  in BERLI[n] [capital largely]
2   SPORADIC: anagram of PICADORS
3   GREECE: homophone of Grease [musical]
4 WIRY: WRY [sardonic] around I
5   LEGITIMACY: LEGACY [bequest] around [h]IT [h]IM! I don’t want to start another furore about regional pronunciation but I’d venture to say that “‘It ‘im” might be rather more widespread than the East End of London. It would certainly be heard here in the Midlands!
6 THICKSET: THICK SET: I know it’s simple but this made me smile.
7   MEDINA: N[ew] in MEDIA [press – although that’s not the only medium]: the second holiest city in Islam, burial place of Mohammed
8   TANG: double definition [Chinese dynasty 618-907 AD]
14  SHOPSOILED: SHOPS [goes on [shopping] spree] + OILED [drunk – although I think I’ve only come across it as ‘well-oiled’]
17  SIDELINE: DELI [food shop] in SINE [function]
18  BUSHBABY: H[ard] B[lack] AB [sailor] in BUSY [hard at work]
20  MAIDEN: AID [help] in MEN [chaps]
21  WANGLE: W[et] + ANGLE [fish]
22  JOSH: double definition: I wasn’t sure how widespread this word was. I came across it when living in Northern Ireland but I’m not sure I’ve met it since. However, Chambers has it simply as slang, not dialect.
23  DOCK: double definition.

47 Responses to “Guardian 25,069 / Shed”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Eileen, welcome back.

    I found this harder than you, and was pleased to finish it eventually. As you say, the clueing got you there eventually, even for the unfamiliar words. Solving 14ac provoked the question from my son getting ready for school: ‘Dad, how can you laugh out loud at a crossword, for God’s sake?’ Wasn’t desperate about SHOP-SOILED as a definition of ‘over-exposed’, but I guess it just about works.

    Can someone explain DINGBAT, please? For me, it’s a silly person, so I can’t see where ‘symbol’ comes in.

  2. Eileen says:

    Hi K’s D

    See here:

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen, and welcome back. I enjoyed this, getting off quickly with 16a. Only one quibble, with the redundancy of ‘source of’ in 21d. Last to go in was 22a – needing a check as I’d never heard of it either, and ‘one’ could be A or I – not that it mattered, except for accuracy.

  4. Myrvin says:

    I found it tough too. Felt silly when 1d spotted – thanks for the blog. Never heard of 22a before. I liked 12a: The I Ching – pronounced Yi Jing rather than Eye Ching – was all the rage when I were a lad. I have several copies of the text. It pops up as one of the many things Lennon doesn’t believe in, in “God” on the Plstic Ono album. DINGBAT is odd. Chambers has: “dingbat, (US slang) noun something whose name one has forgotten”. Is this a symbol? US as well – whoda thought it?

  5. Eileen says:

    Hi molonglo

    Re 21dn: I think ‘source of’ is needed to indicate ‘first letter of': W isn’t a recognised abbreviation of wet, is it?

    Re Dingbats again: I’ve been to several quizzes where they’ve had this kind of round:

  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you Eileen at no 2. Never heard that usage, and my edition of Collins doesn’t give it either.

    Meant to say earlier that I really liked LEGITIMACY and OCCASIONAL TABLE – very clever. And also that I wouldn’t necessarily describe the debate we had on regional accents while you were away as a furore, more a spirited but genteel exchange of views across the north/south divide …

  7. Martin H says:

    Thanks Eileen for……having the same opinion as me? I suppose so. Everything gettable from clear and ingenious clueing – there’s a family resemblance there I think. Another well-crafted and entertaining crossword.

    ‘Medina’ is also Arabic simply for ‘town’ and is used to indicate the old original quarters of North African and Middle Eastern cities.

    Nice use of dd for DOCK, a small celebration of one of those English words which can have two opposite meanings.

    Is sine/function being overused at the moment?

    Like K’sD I am puzzled about DINGBAT. Chambers gives ‘(U.S.slang) something whose name one has forgotten, or does not want to use’ – a very useful word then, but a bit of a stretch from there to ‘symbol’.

  8. Martin H says:

    Dingbats overlapped I see.

  9. Ian W. says:

    Don’t care for the obscenity in 14a in a “broadsheet” crossword, which I might well have been doing with my young daughter. Clever or not, save it for Private Eye where it’s at least expected.

  10. Bill K says:

    Eileen’s mention of La Belle Dame Sans Merci in her explanation of 13a reminded me of Flanders and Swann’s translation of the phrase as “the beautiful lady who never says thank you”.

  11. William says:

    Thank you, Eileen, perfect blog as usual – missed you.

    This took me ages to finish as I was hurrying and fired in HELLESPONT at 1d – lured by what I thought was low-hanging fruit. (Largely welcoming I read as HELL[O] and didn’t go any further.) Serves me right.

    Like Kathryn’s Dad I laughed out loud at ‘IT ‘IM in LEGITIMACY, but is anyone else queezy about PRESS = MEDIA? Is the press not a medium?

    Lots to enjoy in this crossword, though, thank you.

  12. Myrvin says:

    Press: The OED has “With ‘the’. Newspapers, journals, and periodical literature collectively.”. I think that makes it a sort of plural; therefore = media.

  13. Eileen says:

    Ingenious, Myrvin, but I’m with William in his reservation, as I indicated in the blog. The press is [are?] still only one medium, others being radio and television.

    [I’ve just noticed that 7 and 20dn are anagrams of each other.]

    Bill K @10

    [Totally off-topic 😉 Thanks for that: I was a fan of theirs but don’t remember that one.

  14. Myrvin says:

    Bill K: I’m a fan too. The reciprocal of pi to your lady wife.
    Eileen: The OED goes on to say: “With sing. or pl. concord. Journalists, newspaper reporters collectively.” The examples cited mostly say ‘is’ but at least one says ‘are’.

  15. Stella Heath says:

    Re ‘media’, I’ve long been annoyed at the common use, even in the
    Guardian, of the expression ‘the media is..’

    Bill K, I’ve never heard of them, but you made me 😆

    Living just south of the Basque country, I knew of jai-alai, as it’s their national sport; and Medina is another Spanish reference, this time of Arab origin, as many of you point out. It forms part of a number of place names.

    At first I thought this was going to be tough going, but it turned out to be really enjoyable, with quite a few smiles and ‘ahas’

  16. John McDonald says:

    Re. 23A – Dingbat

    Most computers today have a typographical font called “Dingbats” where the letters of the alphabet correspond to symbols (such as the scissors which are used as the symbol for “cut here”, etc.

  17. NeilW says:

    Welcome back Eileen. i’m sure it was a pleasure to blog a puzzle which is at once clever but at the same time without controversy, expletives apart.

    Martin H – my iPhone Chambers gives meaning number two of DINGBAT: a text embellishing symbol.

  18. Shirley says:

    Thanks Eileen – we wondered where you’d been! Any ideas as to why 15D is Elementary?
    Also Sedgemoor is a place in Somerset where a battle took place.

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi Shirley

    15dn: definition: ‘of [concerning] ingredients [elements]’?

    I know about Sedgemoor from A Level history – Monmouth’s Rebellion and All That.

  20. Myrvin says:

    Eileen: Re sedges. The stem of a sedge plant is, in cross-section, triangular. As someone said to me “Sedges have edges”. Papyrus is a sedge.

  21. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Myrvin. We always say it’s a poor day when we don’t learn something new. :-)

  22. Derek Lazenby says:

    Not to mention the sedge warbler.

    I was more phased by peris. Never heard of them, my head is full of other info which would be equally baffling to the rest of you.

    Ditto, the ball game. Wierdly I can recall seeing pictures of it, but with no accompanying memory of the name.

    Thank heaven for word list gadgets, and blind guesses.

    Welcome back btw.

  23. Eileen says:

    hi Derek

    I’ve seen PERI = fairy quite a few times in crosswords. Scottish friends of mine had a sheltie, which they said is also known as ‘the fairy dog’ and so they called it Peerie. I didn’t know at the time that was how it was spelt, but I thought it must be a Scottish word, so when I first came across PERI, I thought that was it but apparently PERI is a Persian fairy and Peerie is a Shetland word meaning small. [I bet you’re even more confused now!]

  24. Myrvin says:

    Peri: Avid and ancient Dr Who watchers would have heard the word as the short form for Perpugilliam Brown, Colin Baker’s companion. The Doctor taunted her by saying he bet she didn’t even know what a ‘peri’ is. And then he says it is a fairy.

  25. Stella Heath says:

    The subtitle of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Iolanthe’ is ‘the Peer and the Peri’. This being a long-time favourite of mine, I had no trouble parsing 9a

  26. Ferret says:

    John at 16, are they not Wingdings rather than Dingbats?

    I had 23D as DICE, thinking that a dice with death was getting close to it and thereby joining it…,prefer your answer Eileen

  27. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Eileen, and welcome back! Hope you had a good break. You were very much missed.

    I enjoyed this too, but didn’t find it particularly easy overall.

    DINGBAT I know from typography. Anyone using Microsoft Word can scroll down the fonts menu to find Zapf Dingbats lurking near the bottom. (Hermann Zapf was the designer of Palatino, amongst other faces.) I’d come across JAI ALAI before in a crossword, but needed the check button to nudge my memory.

    Thought the surface of 20ac was funny, even though this was one of the easier clues. Also liked the misdirection of ‘nearly’ in 11ac and 15ac.

    (Tried to post this earlier but something wasn’t letting me…)

  28. muck says:

    Welcome back, Eileen, to the “media is” story.
    This time it’s even “on message”.

  29. Gaufrid says:

    Just to avoid any further confusion, the Zapf Dingbats referred to by liz in #27, and in the Wikipedia article linked to by Eileen in #2, are called Webdings or Wingdings in MS word processor font lists (Word, Works and WordPad).

  30. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Shed

    I have been slowed down today by visitors etc. (the real world!) and by carelessly misspelling legitimacy which kept me off ships mate to the very end. I also found 14 down hard – kept wanting to put moon-shines (I know it won’t work!).

    I liked the literal meaning of 15d and I thought 18d nicely misleading since it looked at first as if bishop might somehow fit in.
    5d itself was simple fun, as was 10a and 6d. Like others I got jai alai from the clue (perhaps that’s how it should be!?).

    I got 12a quickly, but over-hastily and ungenerously assumed it must be from ‘twitching’ in water divination even though that didn’t really work.

    The Max Miller humour of 2 down is also something Mum might be thought to worry about.

    There is also an important Medina in Malta if I remember rightly.

    Eileen, like others I have missed your gentle guiding hand!

  31. Gaufrid says:

    Hi tupu
    Sorry to have to correct you but the former capital of Malta is Mdina.

  32. otter says:

    Strangely enough I found this crossword quite straightforward and easy to do, after having an immense struggle with yesterday’s. I often find Shed quite difficult to get into, but here I found several clues I got straight away, and didn’t find it too hard to then crack on with the others. Still, although not difficult, I found it an enjoyable crossword to do.

    I’m sure someone has already pointed it out, but 21a is actually A in JAIL [prison] + A1 [excellent]. Jai Alai is I think an alternative name for pelota basca (ie Basque ball), a game I’ve always wanted to play since reading about it in the Guinness book of records as a child. (Certainly they gave the two names as synonymous, and I think jai alai is the name used in America.) I’ve seen it played in País Basco, but never had chance to play it myself.

    It is Mdina in Malta (a spelling variant of medina, which simply means ‘city’ in Arabic), and hauntingly beautiful the city is, too.

    I believe (or rather, assume) that ‘Wingdings’ is the Micro$oft name for their set of Dingbats, hinting at ‘Windows Dingbats'; ‘Webdings’ obviously being those suitable for online use.

    Thanks everyone for the blog and comments.

  33. otter says:

    I must admit I was sent to the fainting couch by the expletive used in 14a – I don’t expect this when it’s not a Paul day!

  34. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Eileen.
    A cracking puzzle I thought.Not too difficult,but lots of fun.Like most others,I’d never heard of JAI ALAI but found it quite gettable from the clueing.
    I liked 1 down,with “right wing” doing double duty(in wordplay and definition).
    16 across was a nicely clued anagram and I also liked the homophone at 25 across.
    23 down:Like Martin H @7 ,I love these examples of contrasting meanings in the English language – “cleave” being a personal favourite.
    I’m sure Shed used to feature more regularly in the Guardian a few years back.I hope we will see more of him in the future!

  35. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen for your excellent blog. Also, thanks to Shed’s excellent clueing, there was not a single answer that I didn’t understand. This is indeed a rarity. My favourite answer was definitely LEGITIMACY with ITIM producing an audible laugh. A final comment on MEDINA which was incidentally the last one to go in. The word PRESS in this context is both singular and plural like SHEEP, so I have no issue with the clue.

    Regarding the perceived obscenity in 14a, I’m amazed that anyone can still be offended by an arrangement of letters from the alphabet. Better not have a clue then where the answer is Scunthorpe eh !.

  36. Eileen says:

    Hi otter @32

    Well, no one else seems to have noticed my 22ac. typo [for that’s what it was, after my saying that the cluing made it plain!] so thanks for pointing it out. [I’ve been out since 6.00, so no chance to put it right – done now.]

  37. tupu says:

    Thanks Gaufrid and Otter
    I should have checked my memory and I stand corrected. At least it is historically the same word differently rendered, and the city was apparently known as Medina to the Arabs.

  38. Dave Ellison says:

    This started out easy for me (11ac the first, followed by 16a), but the last six answers took 20′ – based on my total time a medium difficult one. Enjoyable though, especially when I got 14a! I have no problems with any expletive. However, I did think that, perhaps, MARINER was doing double duty, as the definition, and SHITE as a MARINER’s EXPLETIVE. Similarly in 7d, I took PRESS COVERAGE to be the MEDIA, so COVERAGE does double duty.

    Shirley @ 18. I read ELEMENTARY as OF INGREDIENTS. I had in mind a chemical mixture being made up of elements. Not certain about it, though

  39. Dave Ellison says:

    Peri for fairy has been around for yonks. I remember encountering this when I first started doing crosswords in the 60s.

  40. Eileen says:

    Hi Dave E and Shirley

    In my reply @19, I should have said that Chambers gives ‘element = ingredient’.

  41. otter says:

    Funnily enough, in 5d I got ‘it ‘im straight away for the cockney bit, but tripped myself up for a while by thinking of ‘testacy’ for the bequest. A bit of head scratching and I set myself right.

    A propos of nothing, if I remember Mdina in Malta is pronounced ‘Imdeena’.

  42. easy peasy not says:

    Yes a really enjoyable puzzle. Smugness for “finishing” it wiped off my face when I saw that 23d was dock not dice. Got 16a but missed why – initially got tangled up in the idea that “gale” for tempest was there somewhere. I agree that “it im” would be have wider usage than Cockney – my home town Manchester for example. Peri was new to me too – such learning is the pleasure of this useless activity. That novel will have to wait.

  43. FumbleFingers says:

    Better late than never (a matter of opinion, some might say)

    Thanks for the blog Eileen, although I must say my eyebrows went up on learning you’d never heard of the I Ching. But, Hey! – I learnt (not for the first time) not to think I have you pigeonholed lol.

    otter @33 – would you like to be vice-president of my soon-to-be-formalised society for the dissuasion of profanity in Guardian xwords? Like you, I’m prepared to allow special dispensation for Paul (after 9pm, of course!), but in general I think it’s not to be encouraged.

    btw – I’m still hoping Eileen will join my new club too – at least she acknowledges that Shed’s mum might have wished for a little more decorum in the clueing of 14a, even if she wouldn’t directly criticise it herself!

  44. tupu says:

    Hi FumbleFingers @ 43

    :) Re discussion.
    a) Is it just swear words you are chasing or other risque content?
    b) It is not easy to discuss (as opposed to simply pointing out) cases while avoiding slippage into further unpleasantness. I am sure I am not the only one (given solvers’ heightened awareness of such things) to have noticed what I accurately called the Max Miller humour of 2 down, but no one has (understandably) wanted to go further down that particular road – I assume partly because the minimally veiled language was actually much ruder.
    c) It is also difficult sometimes to know when innuendo is deliberate. Thus I wondered on Tuesday about the ‘sighting’ of an unnecessary (for the answer) ‘gay’ reference by UY.

    So perhaps less (but > nothing) said the better?

  45. duncandisorderly says:

    personally, I was overjoyed to realise that “shite” (& specifically that, & not “shit”) was doing duty in a GCC. it’s one of my favourite words. I thought the complaints, if any, would be about that extra “e” & not any perceived lowering of the tone. “what-ever”, as the younglings say.



  46. Shed says:

    I’m dreadfully late to the party but in case anyone is still looking I can report that Audreus laughed out loud at 14ac. She may be knocking on a bit but she isn’t a prude.

    And I never suggested that it’s only Cockneys who don’t aspirate their Hs.

    Thanks to Eileen and everyone who commented.

  47. Eileen says:

    However late, setters are always welcome to the party! Many thanks, Shed, for dropping in.

    “She may be knocking on a bit but she isn’t a prude.”

    I’d like to think the same could be said of me! :-)

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