Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,081 / Brendan

Posted by Gaufrid on August 5th, 2010


A themed puzzle from Brendan today with a good mix of enjoyable, though not too demanding, clues.

The theme was indicated by the middle row (15 & 17ac) and all the other across entries are titles of films. I didn’t notice this until after I had completed the puzzle so the thematic material didn’t aid the solving process, not that any help was needed because the cluing was clear and fair, with the possible exception of 12ac which I cannot see as being anything other than a simple definition.

I would add that the surface reading of all the clues made sense (at least to me) which is more than can be said for some puzzles.

7 EL DORADO  E (English) *(LORD) A DO (party)
9 AVATAR  AVA (girl) TAR (sailor)
10 HELP  [wit]H [on]E [fel]L [swoo]P
11 CASABLANCA  CASA BLANCA – ‘White House’ (president’s home) in Spanish.
12 BATMAN  a straight definition unless I’ve missed something
14 FANTASIA  FAN (enthusiast) *(IT AS A)
15 SILVER  dd – a reference to Long John Silver, the cook in Treasure Island.
17 SCREEN  dd
20 PETER PAN  PE (exercises) *(PARENT)
22 MATRIX  *(ART) in MIX (blend)
24 MASH  MA’s (old lady’s) H (husband)
25 ICE AGE  E (energy) in I CAGE (I shut up)
26 PREDATOR  D (duke) in *(A REPORT)

1 BLUE JAYS  BLUE (not happy) JAYS (jumbo jets initially)
2 COUP  CO (company) UP (mounted)
3 CANCAN  homophone of ‘Cannes Cannes’ (French town heard repeatedly)
5 BANANA BELT  BANANA[s] (bats mostly) BELT (strike) – not a term I was familiar with but Collins gives “(Canadian)  (informal) a region with a warm climate, esp one in Canada”.
6 TAI CHI  hidden in ‘sonaTA I CHIefly’
8 OSSIFY  hidden in ‘bOSS IF You’ – I wasn’t expecting two consecutive ‘hiddens’ so nearly missed this one on my first pass through the clues.
13 MELTED AWAY  *(WE ATE MADLY) – good misdirection as initially it would seem that ‘madly’ could be the anagram indicator with ‘out to lunch’ being the definition.
16 EXPLODES  PLOD (tramp) in EXES (former partners)
18 NAINSOOK  N (new) A (area) IN (fashionable) SO (therefore) OK (acceptable)
19 IN STEP  dd
21 EROICA  ERO[t]ICA (exciting stuff that’s timeless)
22 MASTER  S (son) in MATER (mother)
24 MEAT – can be anagrammatised two ways to give ‘team’ and ‘mate’

36 Responses to “Guardian 25,081 / Brendan”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks Gaufrid. I found this very easy, getting about three-quarters of the answers on my first pass through the clues. Like you I didn’t notice the theme till I’d finished the puzzle (in fact I was wondering if there even was a theme for a while…).

  2. rrc says:

    Completely missed the theme even after completion – again it would be nice to be told there was a theme!

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Gaufrid

    I hadn’t spotted the theme!

    Very enjoyable apart from the obscurities in 5d & 18d.

  4. Jack says:

    Hi rrc #2

    For future reference, there is no need to be told there is a theme with a Brendan puzzle; he himself has said on this board that there is always a theme with his crosswords.

  5. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid.

    In view of recent comments, I’ll say I thought this was easy ‘for Brendan’. In fact, I was beginning to think it didn’t ‘feel’ like Brendan, that is until I saw the theme – very clever!

    There were, however, the characteristically smooth surfaces: I particularly liked 23ac and 21dn.

  6. tupu says:

    Hi Gaufrid
    I should have remembered about themes, but I simply solved the puzzle fairly quickly and thought no more about it while vaguely noticing that Batman, Avatar and Fantasia were films along the way. I suppose the theme would have been more noticeable if one had at all needed it.

    Some good cluing here as you say. Too many to mention all but 10, 12, 23 (nicely misleading), 26, 4 and 13 all pleased when spotted. I particularly liked 1d.

    re 12 I thought that there might be a reference to a ball game (e.g. tennis) as well as the double meaning of ‘in service to an officer’ and ‘not retired’.

  7. Richard says:

    Many thanks Gaufrid

    I hadn’t spotted a theme either. An enjoyable Brendan.
    Thanks for the explanation of 10 & 15, which I was unable to work out.
    I do feel compelled to voice my frustration that in 18dn Brendan has used the device of picking any two words at random (in this case NEW and AREA) and leaving the solver to guess that they are to be abbreviated to their initial letters. I do find this device unacceptable and believe that compilers really should stick to commonly accepted abbreviations else indicate in the clue that only the first letter is to be used.

  8. Myrvin says:

    Not that tricky. And I missed the theme too. If I had not, 10a would have been easier, because I didn’t notice the ‘finally’ hint in it.
    12a looks rather sad. You get them on aircraft carriers too.
    For NAINSOOK – of which I had not heard – Chambers has: “a kind of muslin like jaconet”. Oh yes?

  9. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid.

    There is always a theme or something similar with Brendan and I suspected it after two across clues (AVATAR and FANTASIA), and then confirmed by CASABLANCA, early on. I found it therefore quite easy, though my last across 24 –SH took a little while: I got fixated on NOSH, with NAAN for 24d. However, the appearance of my wife at breakfast, “a film four letters ending in SH” got the instant answer, without needing the clue – doh!

  10. linxit says:

    First Guardian puzzle I’ve solved for quite a while, and I’m another one who didn’t spot the (glaringly obvious in hindsight) theme until coming here. Pretty easy puzzle even without spotting the theme though, about 10 minutes to solve. Last couple in were COUP and HELP. NAINSOOK has come up a couple of times recently in other puzzles, so I got it straight away from the wordplay.

  11. anax says:

    I tend to solve more Graun puzzles now than I did a few months ago but this was – I think – my first Brendan; perhaps for that reason I struggled (and didn’t spot the theme, of course). It was very satisfying to finish but I felt I’d been put through the mill a bit; need more practice!

    Note to Richard @ 7: The use of abbreviations is standard cryptic fare and A(rea) and N(ew) two of the more common devices. Newer solvers will find them difficult to get used to but, after a while, they become familiar – often over-used – friends. Most newspapers have a fairly tight list of what’s acceptable; funnily enough the Telegraph (ostensibly at the easier end of the solving spectrum) gives its setters far more scope – especially in the Toughie – and they can use almost anything that’s sanctioned by Collins/Chambers/OED.

  12. NeilW says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.

    I spotted the theme immediately – as others have already noted, there’s always one with Brendan but then spent about five minutes racking my brains for a film titled “SILVER”! Finally clicked when I looked next at 17ac… Another five minutes at the end were spent trying to find a theme within the theme, looking for them all being Oscar winners etc. but no joy. Any suggestions, anyone?

  13. Myrvin says:

    5d not in Chambers I think. OED has BANANALAND as an Australian name for Queensland. And in my paper Chambers I see.

  14. liz says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid. I was fully expecting a theme, as this was Brendan, then decided about halfway through that it was going to be a pangram, for some reason. Which meant I missed the glaring obvious and failed to get 5dn!

  15. walruss says:

    Yes, it is a pity about BANANA BELT because Brendan, or whatever he is called in the Indy, usually manages to work in his themes without recourse to obscure words or phrases. As to these themes, I don’t think it is necessary to say in advance what they are, especially if it makes no difference to the solving. Didn’t this compiler or his editor say this sort of thing is called a ‘ghost theme’ where you don’t need to know it to solve the puzzle?

  16. John Appleton says:

    I don’t think you need to know the theme, in fact, puzzles such as this make me smile when I realise that there is a theme. It could be said that knowing of a theme might make it easier, but this puzzle was straightforward enough without needing any further clues.

  17. tupu says:

    ‘Banana belt’ was vaguely familiar and seems rather wider than a Canadian usage, though it does seem mainly an ‘americanism’. There is an article in Wikipedia which has some surprising examples of its use.

  18. bertandjoyce says:

    We agree with John Appleton @ 16. We’d rather discover the theme ourselves rather than be told there is one. Enjoyed this somewhat easy puzzle today. Thanks Brendan and Gaufrid!

  19. muck says:

    Thanks Gaufrid and Brendan

    I didn’t spot the theme either, until I had all the ac answers (except BATMAN)
    BANANA BELT was obvious tho’ not in Chambers

  20. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    Thanks to Neil W @ 12.

    I spotted the theme but not the inclusion of 15/17 in the theme. So I pondered the obvious but not properly resolved 15 for ten minutes longer than necessary. Of course I should have looked the character up as I’d forgotten he was a COOK as well as a miscreant tar.

  21. otter says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid, and Brendan.

    Enjoyed this puzzle, and found it surprisingly straightforward. I don’t think of Brendan’s puzzles as being that simple, but I got through this pretty quickly. With the exception of 10a, which I finally gave up on.

    I think 12a, BATMAN, is a Rufus-style cryptic definition (or, rather, a misleadingly worded simple definition), in that soldiers on a tour of duty are said to be serving, whereas here it refers to a soldier whose duty /is/ to serve [an officer].

    I didn’t know that Brendan always incorporated a theme into his puzzles, and I completely missed that there was a theme to this puzzle, even though on a couple of occasions when I got an answer I thought ‘Oh, that’s the name of a film’. Thanks for pointing out the theme.

  22. tupu says:

    Hi Otter (and Gaufrid)
    Help please.
    Re 12. That was my feeling @6 but I’m not sure if the two different senses of serving leave it as a double (since a batman can be both) or a cryptic/misleading single definition as you suggest.
    BTW I am aware that my comment re ball-games is probably a bit far out without at least one ?.

  23. tupu says:

    ps. Of course there is also the silent part of the definition ‘name of a film and ….’

  24. Gaufrid says:

    Hi tupu
    To further muddy the waters regarding 6ac, when I was living in an officers’ mess during the late ’60s all the batmen were civilians, though there was one ex-soldier amongst them. Neither Collins nor Chambers refers to a soldier in the definition of batman, only a servant or attendant. I still cannot see this as anything other than a (possibly slightly cryptic) single definition.

    Going back to your earlier comment, I did consider the possibility of a sporting connection but I couldn’t think of a game in which one would serve with a bat, though some people do incorrectly refer to a tennis/badminton/squash racket/raquet as a bat but I can’t see that as the intention here (after all, this is Brendon not Araucaria!).

  25. tupu says:

    HI Gaufrid
    Many thanks for your characteristically patient and interesting response. On that basis (if batman is not a soldier), the definition has to be simply ‘(someone) serving (a) soldier’ i.e. a slightly cryptic single def.

    I lack your military experience, but
    as you say the waters do seem to get muddier – and probably more than the clue deserves.
    OED defines ‘batman’ as ‘a military servant of a cavalry officer. Now generally, an officer’s servant’

    and gives ‘an orderly assigned to serve a British military officer’.

    OED defines ‘orderly’ (2) as ‘A private soldier or non-commissioned officer attending upon a superior officer to carry orders or messages. Hence, more generally: a soldier who carries out orders and performs minor tasks for a superior officer’.

    I am reminded somewhat inconsequentially of an African saying I once read ‘Your cloth is dirty. You wash it. Now the cloth is clean and the water is dirty. With what do you wash the water?’

  26. Gaufrid says:

    Hi tupu
    I think in days of yore all batmen would have been serving soldiers, particularly when the regiment was deployed in the field (and may still be under these circumstances, I’ve no direct experience to confirm or confute this) so the clue would be valid as it stands. However, for a civilian batman the definition would have to be “one serving soldier”.

  27. Bryan says:

    When I did my National Service with the 10th Royal Hussars in Germany (1951-1953), all the Batmen were serving soldiers.

  28. Myrvin says:

    So we can now have Paul arraigned because of SIDE, and Brendan because of BATMAN.
    Will there be anyone left?

  29. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.
    Nice puzzle from Brendan – I even spotted the theme,though only when I’d all but filled the grid.
    BATMAN I thought was weak and I wasn’t keen on BANANA BELT.Although quite gettable from the wordplay,I do like to be able to check in a dictionary.I don’t have Collins so was unable to find it in any of my reference books – perhaps I’ll have to invest in a Collins!
    I’m not usually keen on puzzles with a theme but this one wasn’t too narrow – there are a vast amount of films to choose from.

  30. tupu says:

    Hi Gaufrid
    Thanks again.

    Hi Myrvin
    In Brendan’s case there might be a problem trying to decide whether a civil court or a court martial is appropriate.

  31. Martin H says:

    Oh good, I thought, a Brendan without a theme, until I looked at the blog just now. Quite enjoyable, but for the feeble batman, and easy enough apart from what I had as ‘Banana Beat’, which seemed a bit odd but might have referred to such an area as a sentry’s patrol, with the vaguely derogatory slant ‘banana’ is sometimes given, and having no dictionary or computer with me I decided to leave at that.

    I liked ‘blue jays’.

  32. easy peasy not says:

    I had “yeoman” instead of “batman” so messed up 1d. Chambers gives yeoman as “gentleman serving in royal or noble household, between a sergeant and a groom (hist)”; and “small farmers…often serving as foot soldiers (hist)”. So I was up the garden path but it was at least a plausible double definition. Smashing puzzle though, albeit unfinished.

  33. Carrots says:

    A bit late to confess that I put in BARMAN for serving soldier, having just been brought a delicious pinta (Harvest Pale)by one at lunchtime. Otherwise (!) things slotted in fairly easily, although the theme only emerged in my pre-occupied brain after the puzzle was complete. I warm to Brendan though: he strikes a nice balance.

  34. scarecrow says:

    If you go back further than recent history, a batman would have been a serving soldier and a soldier who serves, eg Bunter to Lord Peter Wimsey in the Great War in Dorothy L sayers detective novels.

  35. scarecrow says:

    That should be Sayers with a capital S, what a shame we can’t edit our own comments. :-)

  36. Gordon Roy says:

    Hi Gaufrid.

    This comment is a bit late I’m afraid but I do the crosswords from the Guardian Weekly here in the USA. They are always a bit behind and I do them a couple of weeks later than that usually too. Thanks for the very succinct blog.

    The theme of films escaped me as I did not even know it was a Brendan. The Guardian Weekly for some reason excluded the compiler’s name for a couple of weeks in August; obviously a mistake as they have re-started it. They also often exclude additional instructions such as those that Auracaria gives. That makes it doubly difficult to do sometimes until I check at the Guardian website. I’ve asked my wife to cover over the compilers names in future crosswords to see whether I can work out who they are from the cluing.

    Another bit of [useless] information about 12A. As a kid I used to planespot around Ringway [Manchester] airport. The term ‘Batman’ was given to the people [usually men of course] who held the large “table tennis like” bats at the gate. They use these by waving them as direction indicators to help the pilot position the aircaraft at the gate after landing. They are still often used today if you ever watch a plane come to a gate. This term was widely used and so I assume is a correct definition of ‘Batman’ although I have never seen it in any dictionary. Aviation has some other great words too, such as Okta, which means one eighth of the sky. This is used for cloud cover, such as 5 Oktas at 3,000 feet, 2 Oktas at 5,000 feet etc. One of the compilers could make a lovely clue from that.

    Anyway thanks again


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