Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25080 / Paul

Posted by mhl on August 4th, 2010


A fun puzzle with Paul’s trademark dodginess evident in a few clues. Annoyingly, I can’t quite see 24a….

8. VUVUZELA (V V [tiresom]E A ZULU)*; I like “the blasted thing?” as the definition here :)
9,22down. GRAVE DIGGER Cryptic definition Update: given the rather surprising discussion below, perhaps it’s worth expanding on this – my interpretation was just that a stiff (corpse) might be in one’s (a grave-digger’s) hole (that he’d dug). I don’t think there’s anything more to the cryptic reading…
11. ABLE SEAMAN (AS A MALE BE N)*, the N coming from “name”
12,14. GROUNDBREAKING Cryptic definition
15. ANODYNE [misog]YN[istic] in ANODE = “something positive”; the crossword editor discussed the anode / cathode positive / negative question in his most recent newsletter
17. ALMONDS AL[l] + MON = “day” + D[og]S
20. SPILLWAY PILL = “Tablet” in SWAY = “power” (as in “to have sway over”); not a word I was familiar with, but fortunately with quite an easy clue
22. DEEJAY JAY = “bird” beside DEE = “river”
23. SMATTERING MATTER = “stuff” in SING = “pipe”; I wasn’t quite sure about the SING = “pipe”, but Chambers supports it
24. TOLL Double definition? TOLL = “Ring” certainly, but I don’t see “taxi, endlessly?” Thanks to jim for pointing out that a tax (“taxi endlessly”) is a toll, with the definition being “Ring”
25,10. CLOTH EARS CLOT = “Charlie” (as in “a proper Charlie”) + HEARS = “picks things up”
26. GLEANING G = “good” + LEANING = “bias”
1. SUMATRAN SUM = “problem” + A + TRA[i]N = “coach, one having departed”
2. NUTS Double definition
3. REWARD DRAWER = “artist” reversed
4. WALLABY BALL = “Hop” (as in a dance, apparently) reversed in WAY = “road”
5. EGGSHELL EGG + “This on shamed faces” + SHELL = “oil company”; the definition is “bird trapped in it?”
6. DAMASK ROSE DAM = “Stop” + ASK = “request” + ROSE = “pink”
7. REMAIN RE = “on” + MAIN = “chief”
13. UNDULATION (ADULT)* in UNION = “marriage”
16. NEW DELHI Reversed clue: NEW DELHI might produce “I held” (“Might this suggest I held”)
18,24. DIALLING TONE (ENDING IT ALL O)*, O from “ring”
19. SYRINGA Hidden answer; a considerate clue given that it’s an unusual word
21. PUMICE MI[ni] = “Mini half off” in PUCE = “pink”

60 Responses to “Guardian 25080 / Paul”

  1. jim says:

    In 24ac isn’t taxi endlessly = tax, and a toll is a tax?
    Otherwise I can’t make sense of it.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl. Good fun from Paul as always. It wasn’t hard, beginning with the vuvuzela which just jumped out. That’s some of the problem with Paul, notably 9,22 which seems obvious until you try and see exactly how the clue works. On 24a I agree with Jim: quite clever, really.

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks mhl – a very nice puzzle. I agree with jim about 24ac – tax[i] = toll.

  4. mhl says:

    jim: D’oh! How could I have missed that? Thanks, I’ve updated the post.

  5. monica says:

    an enjoyable puzzle, but i can’t quite see 9,22 (even though i guessed it from the letters). can anyone help explain please?

  6. daniel angel says:

    Hi Monica

    A stiff is a body and the hole it is in is a grave. hence the person who digs the hole for a stiff is a grave digger

  7. monica says:

    ahh… thanks daniel. i knew that a stiff was a body, but the penny has only just dropped about how the phrase is constructed.

  8. Myrvin says:

    Yes. Not a nasty nasty Paul at all.
    Last one in was 22a after getting 22d. Had GRAVE for ages before.
    I had EARS long before CLOTH. Then with all the crossings I found that. Is this a Prince thing?
    Couldn’t spell 1a, so I had to grind it out slowly.
    I don’t really like 9/22, even with the explanations.

  9. Bryan says:

    Many thanks mhl

    This was a superb puzzle although, like you, I didn’t see how TOLL worked until now that it’s been explained.

  10. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, mhl. Good stuff from Paul, as usual. But I still don’t understand 9,22 (despite daniel angel’s explanation. Where’s the definition?

  11. mhl says:

    cholecyst: well, it’s a cryptic definition, so in a sense it’s the whole thing, or you could think of the definition as “one”

  12. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I’m feeling slightly chuffed this morning, since as far as I can remember, this is the first Paul I’ve ever finished. Made it with a little judicious use of the cheat button, but got there eventually, with TOLL the last in. Normally I can’t quite get on Paul’s wavelength, but today I think he must have been a bit more overt in his clueing. I liked DIALLING TONE in particular, also CLOTH EARS; but like some others I wasn’t so keen on GRAVE DIGGER.

    Thank you for the blog, mhl, and Paul for an enjoyable midweek puzzle.

  13. Kathryn's Dad says:

    … or check button, even …

  14. Molenaar says:

    Like many above I wasn’t too keen on 9,22down but I suppose that having accepted “one’s hole” as GRAVE one of the bodies (stiffs) which can be found in it is the DIGGER …
    I wasn’t happy at first with with “train” being equated to “coach” in 1d (a train is lots of coaches!) then I thought verbs :-).

  15. Bryan says:

    Molenaar @14

    As verbs, TRAIN does = COACH if you consider the ‘A’ separately, as shown by mhl above.

  16. rrc says:

    I think Paul to beginning to take over the title of the master because this was entertaining and fun to do, with plenty of smiles and ah ah moments. I still chuckling over 8a Excellent

  17. pendrov says:

    first paul that i have ever completed without resorting to aids, so must have been easy by his standards. shared others’ reservations on “gravedigger”. last in cloth-ears and my cod.

  18. Ian W. says:

    Disappointingly easy for Paul (or any other setter). I accessed it at midnight, thinking I’d have it waiting on my screen for the morning, but as has been noted, vuvuzela just leapt out. I was drawn in and finished within 10 minutes, so I had nothing to enjoy with my coffee in the morning. It was still an enjoyable easy solve (unlike a Rufus), but I would have liked a bit more challenge.

  19. Myrvin says:

    STIFF. Chambers has “unlucky (especially Australian)”. So one is unlucky (stiff) to be in this person’s hole – as a stiff.

  20. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Paul

    9, 22 is still a bit of a puzzle. None of the propossed glosses so far seem to make much sense, unless Molenaar at 14 is talking about ‘the stiff’ accepting his/her grave which I suspect he/she isn’t.
    I can only suggest two possibilities.
    1. That digger is one who enjoys the grave.
    or 2. Some pretty crude sexual ideas that emerge from a web hunt. The clue wording has obvious sexual innuendos, but I would guess/hope they are there to mislead rather than direct.

    More generally a fairly testing solve with some enjoyable clues – most amusing to me at the time were 13. 25 and 18d.

  21. duncan says:

    re 9,22; I read it as “stiff [labourer, as previously noted] in one’s [another stiff, i.e. the DB, as they say in cop shows] hole [the hole in the ground the first stiff has dug for the second]“.

    make sense now?


  22. tupu says:

    Duncan @22
    Thanks. Yes that makes more sense. He’s stiff because of the hard work of digging. So stiff = corpse is a nice misdirection, as is the innuendo (as I guessed).

  23. tupu says:

    Duncan ps
    Sorry, I don’t see where stiff as of a labourer rather than a corpse is previously mentioned.

  24. tupu says:

    pps I suppose it’s there by implication in mhl’s reply to cholecyst.

  25. Richard says:

    9, 22 doesn’t work for me….

  26. Myrvin says:

    We seem to be in a vicious circle.

  27. Orange says:

    The way I read it is ” The stiff is in a hole dug by one”, ie Grave Digger, where stiff is a dead body – simples!

  28. Richard says:

    …nor does sing = pipe.

  29. tupu says:

    Hi Richard
    Following Duncan ‘grave digger’ can be the answer to the question ‘Who might be stiff in one’s grave?’.

  30. Myrvin says:

    PIPE: Chambers: “to play a musical pipe; to whistle (as the wind or a boatswain does); to speak or sing, especially in a high voice; to peep or sing, as a bird does”

  31. tupu says:

    Abject apologies. Positively my last on this!! Yes Orange may also be right – also fits Mhl ealier.

  32. Derek Lazenby says:

    Despite the obviousness of 8, I was begining to think this was going to be another hard one, but somehow one thing slowly led to another without grinding to a halt. That has to be seriously good, unless you are a serious expert.

    Regarding the latter, Ian W, just curious, but do you ever regret being good at these things? It just seems to me that us strugglers are getting a damn sight more fun out of them!

  33. Derek Lazenby says:

    Re the anode/cathode debate. Our beloved editor commented on it, see link in blog, but didn’t actually finish it, he ended on a question asking for a definitive answer.

    If people were less obsessed with the ridiculous idea that a dictionary is some sort of inviolate bible, they might take to looking in more appropriate places for technical information. They might then find more accurate and less confusing answers.

    For once dear old Wikipedia gives the most concise answer to the problem with the phrase “in a device which consumes power the anode is positive, and in a device which provides power the anode is negative”. That is why either is correct in a crossword.

    The full article is at

  34. Myrvin says:

    Anode. Actually that bible the OED does have interesting things to say on the topic:
    “a. strictly, as applied by Faraday: The path by which an electric current leaves the positive pole, and enters the electrolyte, on its way to the negative pole. b. loosely used for: The positive pole. In both senses opposed to cathode, which is applied to the path of exit from the electrolyte, and to the negative pole.
    “b. 1841 W. GROVE Contrib. Sc. 241 The anode of a voltaic combination. 1870 R. FERGUSON Electr. 161 The poles..are called electrodes, the + pole being called the anode.”

    I rememeber a Wiki person being rude about dictionaries on the basis that dictionaries have dragons in them.

  35. Tokyo Colin says:

    I found this to be unlike a typical Paul puzzle in which I usually make very little progress initially but once I get a few letters and get on Paul’s “wavelength” (as K’s D mentions) it starts to come together and usually finishes in a rush. This time I picked up over half the answers on first pass but then slowed down and struggled to finish. Last 3 were GRAVEDIGGER, TOLL and CLOTH EARS. The first two have been analysed in depth but I still don’t get the last. I understand “Clot Hears” but why CLOTH EARS as the answer, rather than WOOD EARS or PUTTY EARS etc. I am used to realising what the answer must be and then working out why, but this is the reverse.

    And to Derek @33 re obsession with dictionaries – Hear Hear!

  36. muck says:

    Thanks mhl & other commenters

    GROUND BREAKING was my first and it took me a while to convince myself about GRAVEDIGGER, despite its wonderfully dirty surface. Thanks for explaining TOLL.

  37. Bryan says:

    Tokyo Colin @35

    CLOTH EARS is a fairly well known riposte to someone who apparently didn’t take in what they were told.

    Some people then consider it appropriate to snarl at them:

    ‘Have you got Cloth Ears?’

  38. djm says:

    I found “stiff” as “laborer” (sic) at and With this definition for stiff, the clue works – but surely only in this case. The problem is that this is an Americanism, and I can’t find any trace of “stiff” = labourer in UK English. Would Paul have employed this usage of the word?

  39. djm says:

    Tokyo Colin:

    Cloth ears = deaf, or hard of hearing.

  40. Aloysius Donald says:

    9.22 Isn’t it all in the question mark!

    Someone or something whose hole is filled with a stiff. I don’t think the labourer comes into it.

  41. Aloysius Donald says:

    The labourer being stiff, I mean.

  42. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    My father called me Cloth Ears for 23 years, only occasionally relieved by isolated instances of Buggerlugs.

  43. tupu says:

    Though not necessary for the clue I wonder if Paul is making a misleading ref to Prince Charles’ well known ears here too?

  44. Carrots says:

    Not one of Paul`s more diabolical efforts, but a pleasant enough two-pinta solve at lunchtime. I knew GRAVEDIGGER would set the cat among the pin-nickers, but it seems perfectly fair to me.

    Brigadier @42: As a child I was often called BUGGERLUGS by my aunts and, perhaps mistakenly, have always regarded it as a term of endearment (after all, they did spoil me rotten). More recently, I`ve used it to call my wayward Weimaraner to heel when he`s sniffing out mischief to get up to. He knows that he`s not really in trouble, but knows better than to pretend not to hear.

    So….Bonxie`s a Great Skua is he? Not quite the homophone I was thinking of, but near enough!

  45. don says:

    Aloysius Donald # 40

    Surely a ‘stiff’ is normal British slang for a ‘bloke’/a ‘person’/’someone’, and the ‘stiff’ in this case is the labourer who digs the hole.

    If you saw ‘Someone in a grave’ [Stiff in one's hole], you’d probably assume it was a ‘gravedigger’.

  46. Dave Ellison says:

    Got stuck on BL corner, having put NEW MONEY for 16d, which kind of fits (I once had old money).

    Still not convinced by any of the GRAVE DIGGER explanations. I thought it was this from early on, but wasn’t convinced, so it hindered my progress.

    A very reasonable Xword otherwise

  47. Sil van den Hoek says:

    This was a very easy Paul, we thought, but with some nice clues like TOLL, DIALLING TONE and UNDULATION.
    And the easy starter VUVUZELA [oh, how I miss its glorious sound :( ].

    On the other hand, we have seen REWARD (3d) so many many times before clued in a similar way, that it should be banned for a while.
    We weren’t happy with BALL for ‘hop’, and found ALMONDS (17ac) too similar to the word ‘Almost’ in the clue. Could have been avoided.

    Well, and 9,22d – whatever’s been said already – is just an awful clue [with a potential sexual 'misdirection' that's even worse]. For us, full stop.

    All in all, a enjoyable crossword, though.

    We hope there isn’t an autobiographical theme going on.
    Reading the clues for 13d – 15ac – 18,24 – 24ac [or even 4d, and let alone 9,22d] one after another, may give the impression that there’s something wrong in somebody’s life.

  48. Myrvin says:

    I think Paul should be brought to the fifteensquared assizes and made to explain himself. On pain of verbicrucifiction.
    When is a stiff not a stiff?
    Actually, most bodies, by the time they are put in the ground, may well have got over their stiff phase.
    But never mind, eh?

  49. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    Right or wrong very nice. One usually spends so much time trying to solve them that one rarely strings them togther.

  50. DorothyS says:

    The clue for EGGSHELL at 5d has a beautifully engineered surface, in light of what’s been going on in the Gulf of Mexico over the past three months. My favorite of the day.

  51. john goldthorpe says:

    Not a great crossword, I thought, but all the clues seemed fair enough, at least accepting Paul’s libertarian standards. And Sil, when I was a student – admittedly a long time ago – (informal) balls were always known as ‘hops’. The ‘freshers’ hop’, in particular, was not to be missed.

  52. Gerry says:

    I almost failed to finish over 17ac.

    I’m just happy when the paper actually reaches me in Orkney…I don’t like doing it on the computer or printing it out.

  53. Davy says:

    An OK crossword from Paul but I’m surprised that no-one has commented on ANODYNE.
    The dictionary definition relates to pain relief which does not equate to ‘harmless’.
    Can anyone elucidate ?.
    Over to you tupu.

  54. tupu says:

    Hi Davy
    I’ve been suffering today from fast fingers and a slow brain! However, Chambers gives ‘harmless, bland, innocent among the meanings.

  55. Jack says:

    Davy #53

    According to the COED anodyne is defined as follows:

    anodyne ~ adjective & noun (Medicine) able to assuage pain; (anything) mentally soothing and harmless.

  56. tupu says:

    Hi Davy (ps)
    As far as I can understand it, the word ‘bland’ is a useful clue to the sense. The word often has an air of mild criticism about it – something anodyne won’t do any harm (but it won’t do much good either). Vapid is one of the senses the OED gives. I suspect that it gets mentally (and I think probably incorrectly) confused with words like ‘dynamic’ e.g ‘lacking dynamism’ but dynamism etc. comes from a Greek word for power and anodyne from one for pain. I hope this is a help.

  57. Scarpia says:

    Thanks mhl.
    Not one of Paul’s very best I thought,but still an enjoyable solve.
    I’ve nothing constructive to add to the great 9,22 debate,but personally thought it a pretty weak clue,despite everyone’s best attempts at explaining it.Perhaps a link to 12,14 would have helped.
    Still there were some very good clues,favourites being SMATTERING,EGGSHELL(super definition),NEW DELHI and CLOTH EARS – a favourite phrase of one of my old school teachers – “Have you got cloth ears laddie”.
    Gerry@52 – I know what you mean,we have similar problems here at the other end of the U.K.,in the Channel Islands;a bit of mist,no planes,no papers!

  58. Speckled Jim says:

    I enjoyed managing to complete this (apart from Damask Rose, of which I’ve never heard, buy by now I’ve come to expect at least one obscure botanical reference per crossword (this time there were two, but at least Syringa was look-up-able given the strange juxtaposition of words in the clue)) – as some others have said, often it is very hard to get on Paul’s “wavelength”.

    I’m surprised no-one has commented on the use of “at sea” as anagrind in a clue about sailors that has the answer “able SEAman” – bit weak, or humourous in-joke?

    Finally, on the subject of ANODE, I was sure that it was the electrode in an electrolytic cell to which the negative ions (or “anions”) were attracted, hence it is positively charged. Then the same terminology is applied to a Galvanic cell, in which the anode is the positively charged terminal.

  59. Martin H says:

    Sil – ‘Ball’ and ‘Hop’ are synonyms, both being words for ‘Dance’ (in the sense of the event). Cinderella could, at least in the fifties, have been going to the hop.

  60. Carrots says:

    Cinderella going to a hop in glass slippers? Even in the fifties, this would be unlikely.

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