Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,088 / Crucible

Posted by Eileen on August 13th, 2010


Well, aren’t I lucky, on a day when I might have expected not to be, to land one of my top favourite setters? This is a typically first-class puzzle from Crucible, with nothing to frighten triskaidekaphobes, unless I’m missing something. I’m not in the least superstitious but, when blogging, we have to be on constant look-out and Crucible is known for his themes!


9   ITINERARY: I + TIN [can] + R[oyal] in anagram of YEAR
10 VIOLA: double definition but there must be a reference to that thing we used to do in primary school [in the days when we picked wild flowers!] – put a buttercup under someone’s chin to see if they liked  butter.  Edit: plus a third definition, of course: ‘in play’ also indicates the character in ‘Twelfth Night – thanks to Richard R
11  TEA SHOP: E[cstasy] + ASH [remains] in TOP [first-class]
12  WORLDLY: L[obe] in WORD [promise] + L{ad – these days}Y
13 CHILL: C[old] HILL [mountain]: something my children are constantly telling me to do and, since this is clue 13, perhaps a reassurance  from Crucible?
14  ATTAINDER: clever anagram of IRA ATTEND: I know this word from A Level History: Parliament passed an Act of Attainder to get Charles I’s supporter, Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, executed – in fact, judicial murder.
16  FOUR-LETTER WORDS: another great anagram of RUDE RETORTS FLOW – and it would be & lit, except that the examples here are not rude!
19  SAGACIOUS: SAGA [story] C[irca] [about] 10 US
21  MEANS: A in MENS – or, to forestall repeated discussion, MEN’S!]
22  PAPILLA: ILL [hostile, as in ‘ill will’] in PAPA [pope]
23  AMNESIA: I in anagram of SEAMAN  [what about ‘foreign’ as an anagram indicator?]
24  ADULT: A[nswer] DU [from the – French] LT [lieutenant]: as in so-called adult humour – with a nod to John Fowles’ novel, ‘The French Lieutenant’s woman’
25  LETHARGIC: anagram of GLACIER and TH[e] – great surface!


1   FISTICUFFS: CU [copper] in FI’S [Fiona’s] TIFFS [disputes]; another great surface but I’m not sure about ‘investigates’ as an insertion indicator.
2   TIRAMISU: reversal of MARI [French husband] in anagram of SUIT – amusing surface!
3   LETHAL: hidden [more cunningly in the online version than in the paper] in hamLET HALf
4   CARP: CA [first letters of ‘complain’ and ‘about’] + odd letters of ‘rope’
OVERVIEW: I[taly] in VERVE [spirit] in O[ld] W[omen] – this really made me laugh!
SORDID: anagram of SIDEBOARDS minus BASE
8   VARY: [o]VARY [egg distributor]
14  ACTIONABLE: anagram of BOTANIC in ALE
15  RESISTANCE: anagram of SITES in [f]RANCE – &lit, I think
17 LOCALITY: reversal of COL[onel] [officer] + ALI + TY[son]
18  ROAD SIGN: R [king] + anagram of  DOING AS: definition “perhaps ‘Stop’ ” – rather nice, I think.
20  GYPSUM: anagram of UPS in GYM [PE]: source of plaster of Paris: yet another fine surface
21  MENIAL: NI in MEAL: it’s unfortunate that we’ve had Ulster = Northern Ireland twice in a week but may I make a plea that we take objections as read? [Please see comments on Tuesday’s puzzle.]
22  PEAK: homophone of pique
23  ARTY: hidden in regulAR TYpeface; I rather like ‘is more than’ as the indicator.

57 Responses to “Guardian 25,088 / Crucible”

  1. Richard says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen.
    I thought this most enjoyable. I particularly liked the construction of 7, 12, 15, & 18.

  2. Henry says:

    Morning Eileen/all,

    LOCALITY: reversal of COL[onel] [officer] + ALI + TY[son].

    The clue refers to two boxers, but there is only ALI in the answer. What am i missing?! And why does TY denote son?



  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks Eileen. This was a superb crossword with some clever variations on many standard devices. On the first run through, like you, I thought there was going to be a theme around 16ac, especially given its central position on the grid.

    Earlier this week, I made a comment about the art of the hidden answer being “hiding in plain sight”. Hoist on my own petard today: I completely missed 23dn and spent ages trying various geometric ways of taking regular letters out of the phrase to arrive at ARTY! Thanks for putting me out of my misery.

  4. NeilW says:

    Henry, the second boxer is (Mike) TY(son): the clue tells you to remove son from his name.

  5. Eileen says:

    Hi Henry

    Sorry if I didn’t make 17dn clear: it’s Ali, as you say and [Mike] Tyson, without the ‘son’!

  6. Henry says:

    Aha, gotcha!

    Cheers folks.

  7. Myrvin says:

    Thanks Eileen. I needed a lot of explanations today.
    Not heard of 14.
    ADULT films would be a better ref, given the F L Woman.
    Is FI really OK for Fiona? Are we going to have first letters of names and the first two letters too?

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi Myrvin

    I think Fi is a legitinate diminutive of Fiona. The presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live is Fi Glover and I’ve just checked with Wikipedia that her full name is Fiona.

  9. Eileen says:

    or even legitimate!

  10. otter says:

    I feel a bit stupid: was wracking my brains for a boxer called Alison, as I thought ‘son’ had to be removed from both boxers; completely failed to see that Ali was there in plain sight.

    Gave up on the last two down clues, PEAK and ARTY; knew the former was a homophone and went through everything I could think of which would fit in (even thought of peak but failed to connect); and failed to see that the latter was a hidden answer.

    I can see how ‘investigates’ (= ‘looks into’) can work as an insertion word, although it’s not immediately obvious. Took me a while to get that one.

    Completely stumped myself on LETHARGIC because I had anagram of GLACIER, T and D (last of ‘shed’); didn’t think of THE with the last letter shed. Dur.

    A few too many anagrams for my taste, although in general I finds anagrams one of the easier forms of clue to solve, and some of them were clever (the aforementioned LETHARGIC and FOUR-LETTER WORDS).

    Eileen, you mentioned a theme. Was there one for this puzzle? I never notice themes unless we’re told by the setter that there is one.

    Myrvin, Fi (also Fee) is a common enough abbreviation for Fiona. I’ve known several Fionas who were known as Fi.

  11. Eileen says:

    otter, that’s priceless – made me laugh out loud! [There did use to be a wrestler called Shirley, of course.]

    Regarding the theme: as I said in the preamble, I can’t see one but that doesn’t mean to say there isn’t one. IanN14 is very good at spotting them but I think he must be on holiday.

  12. Stella Heath says:

    I think if my name was Fiona, I’d object to being called Fi, just as I do to ‘Stel’ – it sounds awful! Still, I have heard it as the short form, so have no problem with it as word-play here.

    My heart sank when I saw Ulster – I think we should take your advice Eileen.

    Like others, I was fooled at first by 16a :) This was fun, and reasonably straightforward, with a few smiles and aha’s – and I had heard of 14a, though I’d no idea in what context or what it is, so thanks for the explanation, Eileen.

    No Googling or Wiki-ing today!

  13. Myrvin says:

    Just me on the Fi then?

  14. mhl says:

    Thanks for the excellent post, Eileen.

    I enjoyed this a lot – a few I didn’t get, but they were all excellent clues. ATTAINDER was new to me, and I’ll have to add VIOLA to my mental list of “flowers very likely to come up on crosswords”, along with Nigella, etc.

    Seeing “Temporal lobe” worked into the surface reading particularly made me smile, and I loved the “wobbly sideboards” :)

  15. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen (for wise suggestions and excellent blog) and Cricuble

    Generally high standard of cluing. inc. 1a, 11a, 12a, 16a !!, 24a, 1d (assumed Fi = short Fiona), 2d, 17d, 18d, 20d, 22d. Phew!.

    For some reason I was puzzled about parsing of 4d and lazily accepted that it reduduntantly offered ‘c’ (from complain) as how it starts and ca = about – but Eileen obviously correct.

    I had to guess attainder.

    I pondered re ‘foreign’ and ‘investigates’ and have decided they are just about OK since readily accessible. Investigates especially gives nice surface, as you say, and also (falsely) hints at ‘clothes in’. Foreign might have been replaced by ‘drunken’ (+ sailor?) without loss, and as such unhappier of the two.

    I was double-tasking much of the time while solving and appreciate the puzzle more having solved it than while doing it. A shame!

  16. Myrvin says:

    29d. Is ‘press’ and anagrind?

  17. Myrvin says:


  18. cyniccure says:

    Use of ‘investigates’ as an insertion indicator reminds me of the old Radio 4 programme ‘Frank Muir Goes Into…’. Since this undoubtedly has the same meaning as ‘Frank Muir Investigates…’ would have (albeit it was never a very serious ‘investigation’), I think the usage is perfectly acceptable.

  19. Eileen says:

    Thanks, cyniccure: that works for me.


    I meant to comment on ‘press’. I thought of ‘hard-pressed’, then found that both Collins and Chambers give ‘harass’ as a definition, which is fine, I think.

  20. tupu says:

    Hi cyniccure
    Very nice!

  21. Finbar says:

    For the second time this week Northern Ireland has been used as an alternative to Ulster. Does that mean that setters can use England as an alternative to UK?

  22. John says:

    “Indecent” as a definition would never take one straight to ADULT as the solution. Only with hindsight can the link be seen, and then only with a considerable stretch. Didn’t like it at all.
    We’re all adults but does that make us indecent?
    “W” is bad enough for WOMAN, but even worse for WOMEN?

  23. Myrvin says:

    Chambers only gives W for ‘women’ or ‘women’s'; and not for ‘woman’. Many abbreviations use it.
    No problem either with ADULT for ‘indecent’. There are many uses of the adjective where it means just that. So much so, that one needs to be careful in its use. As a noun, John has a point, but not as an adjective.

  24. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen.
    I read 20d as: Press (the letters of) ‘ups’ in(to) PE (ie gym) ~ as one would press putty into a mould. So press could act as both a sort of anagrind and an insertion indicator at the same time. Maybe.
    Wrt 4d, I went along the same road as tupu in that ‘ca’ = about and assumed there was some double definition going on with carp (fish) also being to complain. But perhaps your way is best.

  25. Richard R says:

    Could ‘play’ in 10 ac also refer to Viola as a character in Twelfth Night as well as playing the instrument

  26. John says:

    Myrvin: I understand “Women’s” as in W.I., but not “Women”. Can you indicate a few of the “many abbreviations”?
    And I cannot agree with “indecent” as a synonym for “adult”. Even “adult literature” doesn’t imply “indecent”. I know some solvers are happy that if a definition can be found, however obscure, that makes it ok. Not me however. I think setters can do better. As a solver, I prefer to reach the solution from what is front of me plus my own knowledge, rather than finding it as an arcane entry in an exhaustive list of all possibllities, a la Chambers.

  27. Martin H says:

    Fisticuffs is singular – a fight, not ‘fights’.
    I’m with you on ‘Fi’, Myrvin; ‘press’ and ‘foreign’ just about work – forgiveable in an otherwise generally excellent crossword.

  28. norm says:

    Great stuff; I really enjoyed this one.

    The surfaces were so beautiful – especially the buttercup in 10, and the destructive climate change in 25. They nearly all painted wonderful pictures, whether cleverly relevant, or cunningly distracting.

  29. Myrvin says:

    Ah – only ‘women’ eh? Yes, I was thinking of ‘women’s’ too, and was pointing out that it doesn’t seem to be in Chambers as ‘woman’. However – on further research – what is/was a WPC? ACW? LACW? PW (policewoman)?
    MOW is women (Movement for the Ordination of Women).
    So not many ‘women’ but a few ‘woman’.

    (I ignore Prisoner of Women and the Isle of Women)

    I can’t see you point about ADULT I’m afraid. Your example only supports my argument that you have to be careful. In a newsagents, Adult Fiction does not necessarily mean what it does in the library.

  30. Myrvin says:

    … and I really didn’t have to go to a dictionary to equate ADULT with indecent.

  31. tupu says:

    Hi John
    In a quite short entry for adult, Chambers gives ‘adj. grownup; mature; of or for adults; suitable for the mature person only, esp. of pornographic material’.

  32. Myrvin says:

    .. but tupu did it for me!

  33. Eileen says:

    But if you had, Myrvin, you’d have found [Collins]’suitable only for adults because of being pornographic’ or [Chambers] ‘suitable for the mature person only, esp. of pornographic material’ – neither of them an arcane entry but the second definition in each case.

    Richard R @ 25

    Of course it could / does – I don’t know how on earth I missed including it1 This really is a very nice clue!

  34. Eileen says:

    Oh dear, spent far too long typing and not looking – sorry, chaps!

  35. tupu says:

    Hi Martin

    The issue of fisticuffs is intriguing. I had not bothered about ti before you mentioned it.

    I see that as a noun it means ‘a fight’. In theory that could have a plural which would still have to be ‘fisticuffs’ because we cant have ‘fisticuffses’! But not altogether convincing.

    BUT there is another way. OED gives fisticuff also as a verb ‘a. trans. To strike or cuff with the fists. Also fig. b. intr. To fight or spar with the fists.

    On that basis ‘fights’ can legitimately be the 3rd person singular present of the verb.

  36. John says:

    None of these comments changes my opinion that “indecent” is not an alternative word for “adult” – no dictionaries required here either.

  37. Tom Hutton says:

    It’s no good John, Guardian crosswords are full of definitions that only work one way as it were like indecent and adult and you just have to lump it. It annoys me sometimes. I mean, could you use ‘rapists’ as a definition of ‘men’ since by common use all rapists are men? Solvers might object to that.

  38. walruss says:

    SAuch things are often more luck than judgement in The Guardian, but this was a good puzzle really. ‘The boy can play a bit’, as they say in horrid football parlance.

  39. Little Dutch Girl says:

    Well it was nice to have a compiler we don’t see so often (I think?) – we had to find a different gear.

    Thank you for the blog Eileen and the history lesson linked to 14ac.

    I loved 10a, 12a, 25a 7d and 22d. I do not like “adult” for “indecent” and the French Lieutenant’s woman is not an indecent novel!

    To contribute to the NI for Ulster debate. I’m not surprised that the Guardian allows this to pass – it used to (and still may in the hard copy) include news from the Republic of Ireland on the Home News page! Someone in the editorial team must have missed the events of 1922, 1937 and 1949!

  40. Martin H says:

    hi tupu – my earlier fisticuffs comment was, on reflection, inaccurate. It’s not singular, rather one of those words which only exist in a plural form and are uncountable, like measles or tenterhooks. They can usually be quantified by attaching them to something you can count, so you have a bout of fisticuffs (and indeed of measles). So perhaps a plural synonym is as acceptable as a singular one, and you can say, for instance, “The fights they had on Saturday nights at the Market Tavern were examples of fisticuffs at its finest.” Does this make ‘fights’ here OK then? I suppose it does, just, and avoids the need for the verbal usage you found, and which I verified with a Google search. I can’t imagine it in use, but, as you say, it seems to be available.

  41. JohnR says:

    What a super puzzle – more from Crucible, please.

    And thanks also for the blog, Eileen. As usual, I’ve enjoyed your conversations with the solvers!

  42. Crucible says:

    Thanks all for your comments. They are never what I expect.

    As an Ulsterman living in Northern Ireland I, like you, have to accept there are times when ignoring geographical niceties is the only way through the argument. As one of the graffiti here used to say: “6 into 26 won’t go”. The wit of that slogan suppressed in me any dislike of the political implications.

    I’m surprised ‘adult’ has raised such hackles. I nearly put ‘pornographic’ instead of ‘indecent’ but balked at the strength of it. Like the Ulster/NI debate, I suppose we all (setters and solvers alike) just have to grin or gripe and bear it.

    Sorry, no theme this time; maybe next?

  43. Paul B says:

    A theme of ‘good clues’ is just as welcome, m’dear chap. Splendid work.

  44. Roger says:

    Hi Eileen @ 33 ~
    Have to say I’m not convinced that any reference to Twelfth Night was intended in 10a.
    A viola is held under the chin when it (the viola !) is in play. Simple as that.
    No need for Shakespeare (or buttercups).

  45. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H

    Thanks. We seem to be in broad agreement. I was also struck by the idea of the need for a word like ’bout’ – it is nicely odd that it goes with measles too.

    Before we take it all too seriously, it’s probably worth remembering it is often a facetious term, acc. to Chambers.

    In support of your comment, the OED gives no post C19 example of the verbal usage. I suspect, given Crucuble’s silence on this, that the surface reading + the ‘just about’ quality of the noun use is the main explanation. I suppose there could be a sentence that went something like ‘in that pub there were fisticuffs at every closing time’ which implies plurality not only of the blows but also of the collection of blows making a fight. NB Chambers supports my gut feeling that measles usually takes a singular verb despite its plural form.

    The search for total logical rigour in a natural language is bound to lead to disappointment (or relief?). I remember that even Latin’s logic broke down occasionally.

  46. liz says:

    Rather late to the party, but just wanted to thank Eileen for a great blog (and on-going comments) and Crucible for a really enjoyable puzzle!

  47. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    Nice end to the week.

  48. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Eileen.
    As generally agreed a super puzzle from Crucible.Personally had no problems with any of the points debated here – ADULT/indecent:FI/Fiona:investigates as insertion indicator:foreign as anagrind; allfine by me.
    Ulster/NI has become standard usage in “crosswordland” so I guess we should be used to it by now and just have to put up with it.
    PaulB @43 – totally agree a puzzle crammed with good clues far outstrips “many too clever for their own good” themed efforts.

  49. DippyD says:

    Sorry to come late to this but could someone explain 5dn please – the answer given is ‘eyewitness’ which I got but I don’t know why!

  50. Eileen says:

    Hi DippyD

    Apologies for the omission – and no one else noticed!

    It’s I [one] + reversal of SENT in E[nglish] YEWS [woods]

  51. El Stano says:

    Hi DippD
    It’s E(nglish) + YEWS (woods) with [I (one) + TNES (sent backwards)] inserted between the W and the S (of YEWS).

    BTW what is the use of “Yes” in 7d anybody?

  52. Myrvin says:

    Fancy us all missing 5d.

    El Stano. It looks to me as if it’s just there to allow the second use of ‘base’ in the clue. Not very satisfactory if that’s so.

  53. DippyD says:

    Thanks Eileen – I just didn’t get the YEWS as woods! By the way, I really liked LETHARGIC too!

  54. Eileen says:

    Hi DippyD

    I thought there might have been more objection to this clue but I think but you need to think YEW = [type of] wood and then add the S!

  55. Paul B says:

    Glad to hear you have no personal problems, Scarpia. Don’t know what you mean by ‘many too clever for their own good': examples?

  56. Huw Powell says:

    I agree with most that this was a very agreeable puzzle, with some wonderful clues indeed.

    Sadly I missed PEAK (shouldn’t have, I was on the right track) and PAPILLA, which I doubt I would ever have managed, although I was working with ILL, pope = PAPA would never really have popped for me, and of course the surface was keeping me from interpreting “minor eminence” in the appropriate manner.

    The only clue I put a question mark next to was VIOLA, but that’s because I didn’t bother to check if it was a river or plant.

    Thanks Crucible and Eileen!

  57. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Couldn’t do any crosswords last weekend-plus.
    Therefore we thought it was a good idea to do this Crucible today instead of Quantum [which we are reluctant to do nowadays, just like Rover].

    What a delight!

    Apart from the Ulster thing, we only asked ourselves: Is a hill really a mountain? [or vice versa]

    This was probably the best Crucible so far.
    Lovely surfaces, original devices, no throwaway clues.
    Not even that hard, too. Dictionaries & Internet weren’t needed.
    And what’s very important: no superfluous words, everything’s just right (like e.g. in 9ac). And dare I say: a bit un-Guardianesque.

    Agree with Paul B when he says “A theme of ‘good clues’ is just as welcome” [as a ‘normal’ theme].

    In a recent Alberich blog I stated: “Some crosswords are better than others, and this was not one of the others”.
    I would like to repeat it here.

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