Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,089 (Sat 14 Aug)/Paul – Inspect a rebus

Posted by rightback on August 21st, 2010


Solving time: 6 mins

A very entertaining offering from Paul, with a twist: several of the answers were rebuses or ‘dingbats’, where a phrase is represented in a kind of pictorial cryptic fashion, such as ‘Mandogger’ (= ‘dog in a manger’) or ‘Erif’ (= ‘Backfire’). These were fun to solve, although I think it would have taken me a long time to solve any of them ‘cold’ (i.e. without crossing letters) without some pointer that they weren’t normal cryptic clues; perhaps a very brief warning at the top of the puzzle might have been merited, although the rest of the puzzle was accessible enough that it was solvable without, especially given that the thematic answers were all multi-word phrases. There were also some very good normal clues in this.

Music of the day (22ac/1dn) – Hand in Glove by The Smiths.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 GETTING ON (2 defs)
6 LAM + P – I dithered over these because I initially thought ‘Hit’ was one definition and ‘power for light’ was the other, the latter confusing me.
8 FOURSOME; (FOR US)* + [ring]O + ME (= ‘Paul’)
10 LEEWAY; rev. of (A + WEE + L), + Y[ard] – good football surface.
12 PHONIC; PHI around ON, + C (= ‘a ton’) – excellent wording in which ‘of’ forms part of the definition.
19 S + OF TEN – liked ‘decimal’ = ‘of ten’.
21 BIG-TIMER; BIG TIM + E.R. – Tiny Tim was a Dickens character from A Christmas Carol.
27 ROYAL + BLUE – ‘dirty’ = BLUE meaning ‘pornographic’.
2/15 THROW IN THE TOWEL; CAST in DRIER – the first thematic clue I solved, having spotted the answer from the checking letters.
3 IVORY; pun on ‘Ivor’ – slow on this (the ‘like’ suggested an -LY ending which misled me) but I liked the clue.
4 GREY TIT; (GRITTY)* around E
6 LIMPOPO; POP in LIMO – which I think I first came across in The Elephant’s Child.
7 MONOTREME; N[uggets] in MOO (= ‘low’), + M[cDonald’s] in TREE (= ‘plant’) – a word I didn’t know, but I put this in as my last entry having deciphered the wordplay. Wikipedia tells me that all Platypuses (or Platypus, or even Platypodes, but not Platypi) are duck-billed, since there is only one species of platypus; I am educated.
17 INTONER (hidden) – nice.
18 LARCENY; (NEARLY C[aught])* – excellent wordplay.
22 HOTEL; O.T. in HEL[l] (= ‘the infernal place’) – ‘not quite’ indicating the removal of the last letter.

38 Responses to “Guardian 25,089 (Sat 14 Aug)/Paul – Inspect a rebus”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback.

    I completed it but I didn’t enjoy it. It was like going to the dentist only worse.

  2. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Rightback and Paul of course. I enjoyed this one mainly because I struggled with it more than usual. I had pencilled all the answers in but had to stare at 16, 22a, 24 and 26 for some time later before I could explain them to myself. It is not a construction I had encountered before and I thought it was very clever.

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightbck. Finished soon enough, still baffled by the six humdrum phrases. Instead of mulling over the only other thing they had in common, namely IN, I tried ‘Crackle’ on Google hoping for a clue to the theme, and at once found…/Question927146.html where all was revealed, pity really.

  4. MikeS says:

    I enjoyed this one a lot – brought back fond memories of Paul’s famous ‘YOGDAWS’ clue. Nice one Paul.

  5. jmac says:

    A good, fun puzzle. Thanks Rightback for providing a name for this type of pictorial clue. I think that the rebus device provides a welcome addition to the usual repertory. The whole crossword was very fair with lots of straightforward clues to provide crossing letters to get you started. Particularly liked BIG-TIMER, ALL IN ALL, and THROW IN THE TOWEL.

  6. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback,

    I greatly enjoyed this offering from Paul and didn’t find it too difficult once I’d cracked the code. The first clue I decoded was Sing “Crackle” and the others followed pretty quickly.

    There were also lots of good standard clues of which my favourites were the amusing NOISELESS and ESTRANGE which had an excellent surface. I also thought that 1a was far too obvious, so I didn’t write it in until I had checking letters.

    I get bored with standard crosswords which are just a set of unrelated clues and contrary to a recent comment, I much prefer puzzles with a theme or something that distinguishes them from the ordinary. That’s why my favourite compilers are Araucaria, Paul and Brendan – in that order.

    So, thanks Paul for a different crossword and let’s have more of them.

  7. Biggles A says:

    I was a bit slow on the uptake and looked at the subtitle Inspect a Rebus trying to find one word inside another until I remembered Ian Rankin. Is REBUS the right word though for this construction?

  8. sidey says:

    I always associate rebuses with the Beano which is where I first encountered them. They should stay there.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks Rightback and Paul

    I got Dr Castier fairly early on and am surprised it took so long to twig what was going on in similar clues, even when one could have a good guess at the answers. Perhaps because of the single letter starts + -s (I kept wondering if M and B stood for something).

    I had to guess and check 7d otherwise no problem with vocabulary except a persistent slight worry about 21 which I rather liked. I was convinced it was right but had to check in several places before I found it loud and clear as a hyphenated word.

    I also liked 10, 12, 19, 27, 3, 5, 6, 18, 20 and 23. (wow so many!)

    I worried at first about ‘criminal’ as an anagrind, but vaguely remembered an earlier discussion where criminal = bent.

    A hard puzzle to complete, because of the tricks. Interestingly different in style from yesterday’s impressive heavyweight. Very satisfying to solve and understand in the end – some nice downhill stretches to help one cope with the hills? ( :) Please forgive mixed metaphors).

  10. tellmee says:

    Too many undefined clues for my taste. I always look forward to a Paul, but once in a while he resorts to dodgy setting practice. Clues should have a definition – or there should be a caveat in the special instructions. Still enjoyed the puzzle in spite of that – although I must admit it took me considerably longer than 30 minutes!!

  11. Richard says:

    I found this great fun and agree with the comments made above about how refreshing it is to have something different once in a while. It’s a great pity about spoilers on The Answer Bank – I wish they would exercise a ban in relation to prize crosswords before the submission deadline.

  12. rrc says:

    here’s a thought – why not compile a complete crossword with “dingbat” type clues.

  13. Stella says:

    I finished this last Saturday with no idea what connected those wierd clues. I gave up trying to find the explanation in a connection between ‘m’ and ‘b’, or the ‘in’ word. Now that all is clear I’ve been having a quiet little chortle to myself as I went over the answers.

    The rest of the puzzle being quite straightforward, with some delightful surfaces, I found this fun at the time, and even more so one week later 😀

  14. Sil van den Hoek says:

    On his long defunct website Paul writes: “Thankfully, I’d chanced upon the most wondrous and magical job in the world, and now I have so much fun that sometimes little bits of fun burst out through my ears!”
    Compiling this crossword must have been one of these moments.

    Once the famous penny dropped, it wasn’t that hard to complete.
    But to be honest, I am not too keen on these ‘rebuses’ – though ‘refreshing’ they are.
    One or two in a crossword, fine, but six as a mini-theme?
    I think, a setter like Brendan would have given a reference to them somewhere/somehow in his puzzle – and rightly so.
    Moreover, the ones with a single capital in it still look a bit contrived to me, especially HAND IN GLOVE [and it’s not always just a (similar) visual wordplay, dashes quotation marks and space between words are ignored, too].

    While all this is still fun, there is something else.
    At this site we are regularly discussing the wrong- or rightness of definitions, but these six clues don’t have a definition at all.
    So, that’s all at once acceptable?
    Because it’s Paul?
    I thought, a good cryptic clue should have a proper definition.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do see the fun, but the ease with which most posts above in fact change the boundaries of Crosswordland, does surprise me.

    My Clues of the Day were two conventional ones: 8ac (FOURSOME) and 18d (LARCENY)

  15. Carrots says:

    I wouldn`t have known a Dingbat or a Rebus from a Jersey Cow when I started this puzzle….and had almost finished it before I cottoned on to the fact that a new (to me) kind of device was in play. A big “Ahh!” moment when the penny finally dropped! I`ve got so used to the googlies that Paul can deliver that I just thought they were par for the course.

    I enjoyed this puzzzle very much and congratulations to Paul for daring to set it. We`ll be ready for him next time!

  16. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    The number of them worried me slightly too. We had one of Paul’s with Spoonerisms a month ago and there were rather a lot of them also. But of course the clues in question here reinforce each other once one recognises what they are. Great fun.

  17. KennyTheBee says:

    It took me days to do, but then saw the light. I thought the theme and the clueing were absolutely terrific. Not something you would want to see every day but certainly different enough to be seen now and again – a bit like Auracaria alphabet jigsaw puzzles.

    I was desperate to finish it and once I did I no longer walked around with my “Fish pate monger” (4,2,3 6)

    Apologies to Guardian bloggers who will have seen this already1

  18. Carrots says:

    Rightback: SIX minutes !?!? Can you confirm…or am I missing something?

  19. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, rb. I too enjoyed this, but certainly for longer than 6′.

    I, like sidey @8, first encountered a rebus in the Beano and used to enjoy them as a child. They were words or phrases defined pictorially, as Chambers more or less still defines them. However, googling does show the “definition” has been extended to the type of thing Paul has here. Why is this? Is it because some people misunderstood the original meaning?

    Sil – I don’t mind clues not having definitions, if once the answer is there it is so clearly the one intended, as with all of the “rebuses” here.

  20. sidey says:

    Dave Ellison, I don’t think the meaning’s been extended, the OED says “A cryptic representation of a word or phrase by pictures, symbols, arrangement of letters, etc.”, seems to cover all possibilities. Heraldry uses them too, often in hilariously punning fashion.

  21. muck says:

    Thanks rightback: I agree that “a very brief warning at the top of the puzzle might have been merited” – perhaps “seven clues are defined by insertion”

  22. Davy says:

    Re #21, I don’t think any warning was necessary. The fun was figuring out what these clues meant and they weren’t that difficult anyway so what’s the problem ?.

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    The ‘problem’, Davy, is that the fact that everyone (including me) had great fun with solving these clues, doesn’t mean that anything goes, or that at least some basic cryptic rules don’t apply anymore.

    In #16 tupu made a comparison with a Paul crossword not so long ago full of Spoonerisms. But the clues in that puzzle did have definitions, unlike here.

    You might say that the lack of definitions [in fact, the lack of any link between the clue and the solution, apart from the construction] is more or less compensated by the similarity of these 6 clues – they are obviously one of a kind.
    [I think Dave says a thing like that in #19]
    That’s not how I look at it – just like muck and rb, it would have been fair and more according to crossword rules if Paul would have added a thing like “they are of a kind”.

    Paul’s clues are a sort of reverse clues, like we have reverse anagrams, for example.
    Let’s say “Went I re hole” does really mean something, then the answer (ALL IN ALL) would have been the CLUE in a normal crossword . Think about that.
    For me, there is no difference between Paul’s reverse device here and Araucaria’s use of reverse anagrams in a Saturday crossword, a while ago.
    Araucaria did give definitions, though – I wonder whether we would have accepted no definitions in thát puzzle.

    I think people’s minds are a bit blurred by the cheekiness of Mr Halpern, who crosses the borders of Crosswordland – not because of using this amusing novelty as such, but by not referring to it somewhere or somehow in (or outside) his crossword [which could have compensated the lack of proper definitions].

    Now it’s like Paul dropped his little plaything on paper, and then built a normal crossword around it.
    What’s next: hope not dot-to-dot …… :)

    Boys and girls, IMO, there is a conflict here between what is fun for the solver & basic crossword rules.
    Apparently, some of us don’t bother about these rules anymore when it gives such pleasure.
    Sorry, but I do.

  24. muck says:

    Thanks Sil @23: It wasn’t a big problem, as Davy @22 says, but a wee hint would have been nice

  25. Davy says:


    I really don’t know where you are coming from but nobody is argueing for the abandonment of cryptic rules. In this puzzle there were 6 clues out of 27 which did not conform to the standard clue structure. All I said was that I enjoy crosswords with something that distinguishes them from the ordinary. It seemed to me that these clues stood out from the others and no further explanation was necessary. They formed a subset which were all of the same type.

    No-one is saying that anything goes because it doesn’t but a little deviation from the norm is acceptable.

  26. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    I take your point, and you may be jsutified in asking for a pointer, but feel you worry more than necessary.

    We know we are in a crossword and that the answers have to fit in the spaces and with the other words. The fact that cliche’d expressions are used means that the answers are relatively easily spotted. So the answer, in a sense, is more obvious than and sets the question, as I think you more or less say – very inteerstingly.

    I hope I don’t go into too specialised a zone here, but it has been said that this is the difference between myths and riddles as folk genres. A riddle is a question that presumes an answer, whereas a myth is the opposite – an answer, in the form of a story, to a hidden question.

    Your main question is of course whether this is allowed. I’m not too worried. The insertion of such clues is a creative move and the rules need not be totally O – fixed – liver. :)

    I commented recently on riddles (in General Crossword Chat) but had no response. :) No wonder you might well say! But they are as old as humanity and are the original cryptic definition – the Ur form of our hobby. Myths too are ancient and perhaps Paul might be seen as introducing a kind of mythic element here?

    :) Like the dormouse, I think I’d best get back to sleep at this stage.

  27. DorothyS says:

    Loved it, just as it was. Any hint in a preamble, or any definitions in the clues, would have spoiled the pleasure of figuring out what was going on for oneself, and, I think, would have been condescending. Personally, I like knowing that I can crack clues like these without any hand-holding being necessary.

  28. Biggles A says:

    I’m with Davy @ 25.

  29. Scarpia says:

    Thanks rb.
    Took me a while to twig what was going on here.Got HAND IN GLOVE from check letters and enumeration and thought the M might be some cryptic reference to Morrissey!
    When the proverbial penny did finally drop I had to admire Paul’s cheek.I think you could fairly say that is pushing libertarianism to it’s limits.I don’t think it’s a device that could be used this way too often,as once you know what’s going on the clues were pretty easy to solve.
    Favourite clue for me,7 down.

  30. Martin H says:

    So you find a clue apparently without a definition, solve it – probably from crossing letters. Bit of a mystery. Then there’s another, and another – what do you do? Get in a huff or play the game? I think some solvers lay too much store by definitions. If the setter gives you enough to put the right words in the grid, without ambiguity, that should be enough. I completed the grid still scratching my head until someone else pointed out what was going on. My fault, not Paul’s.

  31. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H @30, Davy @25, and Biggles @28 and Scarpia @29

    Sorry if my own entry @26 was unclear and too theoretical for this site, but my sympathies are with your balanced statements.

    Of course it is ultimately a matter of opinion. Sil showed a deep understanding of what is going on and simply didn’t like it.

    ps :) I felt quite pleased with my attempt at clueing ‘set in stone’ but never mind!

  32. Martin H says:

    Ah, ‘set in stone’ – neatly done tupu, but I’m afraid it doesn’t get my seal of approval because it clues a second name with a first name – one of my pet hates. But that discussion is for another day!

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    I don’t feel so strongly as Martin H about first names for second names but none of Paul’s clues actually uses the word ‘in’, which is what makes them so devillish. How about ‘a fixed gate’? :-)

  34. Eileen says:

    PS, tupu

    Apologies – your clue didn’t have ‘in’ either!

  35. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    Thanks. I like the surface!

  36. tupu says:

    Hi Martin

    Thanks. Forgive me if I get all theoretical about that too. According to Jakobsen, there are two main types of ‘association’ which he calls metaphor and metonymy (borrowing from but slightly altering the typical meanings of two figures of speech).

    ‘Metaphor’ for him is an association through similarity or opposition (opposite meanings imply each other). ‘Metonymy’ is a more arbitrary association through custom and contingency.
    Association and substitution of mind for brain is thus metaphoric in this sense.

    A typical metonymic assocition for him would be that between throne or crown and monarchy where one is again substitutable for the other. The association of Oliver and Stone and other well know names seems to me to be of this type. I await ‘another day’ to hear why you don’t approve – perhaps because it is not as generaly known as other examples?

    The two forms lie at the heart of every level of language from phonology to discourse and also of symbolism and ‘magic’. A sorcerer who sticks pins in a doll is using a metaphoric connection and Medea burning Jason’s clothing is using a metonymic one.

  37. Sil van den Hoek says:

    “Sil showed a deep understanding of what is going on and simply didn’t like it” (#31)

    Well, more or less – yes.
    [(1) I smiled when I saw what’s going on (2) I instantly found all of them (3) it didn’t stand in the way of solving the puzzle, although I think that according to the rules there should have been a ‘warning’ in whatever form without giving it all away]

    But I can’t take this ‘device’ too seriously, and see it just as a one-off gag.
    What if this Wednesday for example Gordius would have this clue:
    There! A dry way to get information not immediately clear (4,7,3,5)

  38. Martin H says:

    tupu – I’ve posted a reply on the General Crossword Discussion at 358

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