Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,104 / Brendan

Posted by mhl on September 1st, 2010


A fine puzzle from Brendan – as usual, a pleasure to write a post about. Another crossword that I wish I’d had more time to savour…

All of the down clues have a bird hidden in the answer, apart from 8 down, which points out the theme :) I’ve listed the birds after the answers below.

5. STEP ON Double definition
6. BRUTUS “Honourable man?” refers to Mark Antony’s withering repetition of “Brutus is an honourable man” in the “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech in Julius Caesar, and “Brute when addressed” refers to Caesar’s famous line “Et tu, Brute?” when realizing Brutus was one of the conspirators
9. PETROL PET = “Favourite” + ROL[e] = “part, finally getting 25% off”
10. INFLEXED (FINED)* around LEX = “law” in Latin
11. ONCE Hidden in “Concert”
12. REDRESSING RE = “about” + DRESSING = “treatment for wound”
13. TRACHEOTOMY A nice cryptic definition: “theatre” as in an operating theatre, and “inspiration” as in breathing
21. LIES If something LIES it might be “on the level?”, and LIES (untruths) are not “on the level”, colloquially
22. SOUTHERN Unusually, a charade with a hidden part: [call]S OUT + HER + N = “name” No idea where that came from – of course it’s quite straightforwardly hidden in: [call]SOUT HER N[ame]
23. MARINA RAM = “Old warship” reversed + IN A; one of the definitions of “ram” in the OED is “Naut. (a) A battleship fitted with a solid projection for piercing the sides of other ships; (b) the projection itself. Now hist.”
24. NETTLE Sounds like NET = “trap” + ‘LL = “will”; the definition is “Bug”
25. ORDEAL D & E = “low grades” in ORAL = “exam”
1. HEAR HEAR (RHEA) Very nice: HEAR = “Try”, as in “to hear a case (in court)”
2. HOWLER (OWL) Double definition, the first referring to the Howler Monkey
3. GRUFFEST (RUFF) RUFFE = “Pope” (apparently “pope” is a common name for the freshwater fish) in G = “good” + ST = “saint”
4. ATHENS (HEN) THEN = “Subsequently” in AS
5. SKEANS (KEA) KEAN = “old actor” in SS = “vessel”; SKEAN is one of the alternative spellings of “skene”, which the OED describes as: “1. A form of knife or dagger, in former times one of the chief weapons of the Irish kerns, and also in use among the Scottish Highlanders. The word was also loosely applied by writers of the 16th and 17th centuries to a dagger or small sword of any kind.”; a skene-dhu is still a part of highland dress
7. STERNA (TERN) Hidden in “Western Australia”
8. BIRD-NESTING The “Hobby” is searching for birds’ nests; “seen in writing each answer down (apart from this one)” refers to the name of bird hidden in every other down clue
15. MALARKEY (LARK) A LARK = “A fun activity” + E = “European” in MY; the definition is “bunk”, as in “nonsense”
16. BEMOAN (MOA) BEAN = “head” around MO = “little time”
17. KERNEL (ERNE) RN = “Navy” in KEEL = “part of ship”
19. ENTITY (TIT) Hidden in “parent, it yells”; the definition is “Being”
20. DEMURE (EMU) (RUDE)* around E = “English” + M = “maiden” (as in cricket scoring)

37 Responses to “Guardian 25,104 / Brendan”

  1. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Brendan

    An excellent blog. Brendan always has a theme I told myself, but I was almost giving up on that idea when the penny dropped. I had got all but 2 down clues including the key one by that time.

    NB Hobby is also a bird and I suspect this is relevant. Bird nesting in itself is a dubious ‘hobby’ because it involves egg-taking.

    A very good puzzle. My favourite clue was tracheotomy! Howler and bemoan also amused.

    I had to check some words after guessing them e.g. skeans.

  2. tupu says:

    Re hobby = bird: I remember this from the table football game subuteo which the inventors wished to call ‘hobby’ but were prevented by copyright. Subuteo is the hobby’s latin name.

  3. tupu says:

    ps Sorry sc. subbuteo

  4. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, mhl.

    This was great fun, though it took a while to see what was going on, as 8dn was not one of the first I got, but I knew there must be a theme, as this was Brendan.

    I loved 6ac, especially after our brief asides yesterday about nominative and vocative endings!

    5dn was a little difficult, as the bird, the actor [not Tree!] and the weapon were all rather less than well-known, but everything else was ‘on the level’.

    Great stuff – thanks, Brendan!

  5. Richard says:

    Many thanks, MHL.

    Another good Brendan. I particularly liked 22ac, and 6. Very clever. I must admit though that BEAN = ‘head’ and RAM = ‘old warship’ defeated me.

  6. molonglo says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. I failed on 5d, only, and think it’s a pretty rugged clue. I didn’t much like RAM for warship (it’s only part of one, isn’t it?) or 8d, but that’s probably because I missed the theme. 15d was good, though.

  7. mhl says:

    molonglo: just since I rarely get the chance to use the word, the OED definition suggests that this sense of RAM is a nice example of synecdoche :)

  8. tupu says:

    Hi molongolo

    I checked ram and Chambers lists it as a ramming ‘beak’ on a warship and as a warship that carries such a beak.

  9. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen, mhl et al

    Sorry to be on a HOBBY-horse, but I see one of those silences coming on where what seemed to me an interesting point is passed over without comment – no doubt largely out of kindness.

    I find it hard to believe that hobby as a quite well-known bird – falco subbuteo – is an ‘accidental’ in this context. In fact it was realising its double meaning that led me to the theme. But I suppose it might be.

    I may add that the hobby has peculiar ‘nesting’ habits in that it occupies abandoned crows’ and other birds’ nests rather than bulding its own. To build a nest is one standard meaning of the verb.

    As I said I am also slightly puzzled by ‘hobby’ simply as a pastime in this context – since it seems a light-hearted term for what is sometimes even a criminal activity.

    However I am not wanting to claim that the simple reading of the clue (you won’t find a bird nesting in this answer but you will in the other down ones) is wrong. Simply that it has other resonances.

  10. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    Sorry you’re feeling neglected 😉 but

    a. I’ve been out and
    b. My first post crossed with your subbuteo one, otherwise I would have responded to it.

    I did notice the ‘hobby’ connection in 8dn and presumed it was quite deliberate, since, as you say, bird-nesting is frowned on as a pastime these days. And I remember hearing about the naming of Subbuteo – a great favourite with my boys.

    [There was also an egret in the clue for 16dn!]

  11. Bryan says:

    Many thanks mhl.

    I never even thought of looking for a theme.

    Maybe I’ll do better next time?

  12. sandra says:

    i enjoyed this one but it took me a while to make much headway. telling myself i was just out of practice does not cut any ice! however, i stumbled upon bird watching for 8d – wrong, but it helped me to progress with the down clues and i eventually got it.

    i do get the double meaning of “hobby” but was less than impressed with bird nesting being described as such.

    however, i enjoyed this one from brendan.

  13. sandra says:

    meant to say – thank you very much mhl.

    eileen #10 totally missed that. thank you

  14. walruss says:

    Yes, a theme as usual that did not spoil a pleasant solve with Brendan, who is also a writer on The Indy’s team. But I have not seen his work in that paper for a while. Any reason?

  15. Martin H says:

    A well-made and enjoyable crossword from Brendan, the theme in no way detracting from the pleasure as I didn’t notice it (and so was puzzled by the hobby). Ruffe, skean (not in my Chambers) and ram (definitely ‘Now hist’ I think, mhl) were unfamiliar, but I’ll know them next time. TRACHEOTOMY was neatly done, if easily seen, and had a nice contrast between surface and solution. BRUTUS, LIES and HOWLER very good. Thanks mhl for the commentary, and Brendan for the pleasant exercise.

  16. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Wow, this was hard, for me at least. You know there’s a theme there somewhere but could I find it? But I did get there, after spending more time than I should have scratching my head. Being a bit of a twitcher in my younger days, the bird references were pleasing, as was the puzzle.

    You’re right, walruss, we haven’t seen Virgilius over at the Indy for a while. Perhaps he and Brendan have had a bit of a falling out.

  17. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. I was really pleased to see that it was a Brendan today and wasn’t disappointed! Also managed to remember that there is always a theme with this setter, which I eventually spotted when I got the first part of 8dn. The toughest one for me — and a guess — was SKEANS. As Eileen says, both the solution and the nested bird are not that well-known. Thanks to tupu for pointing out the resonance of HOBBY. I didn’t see it at the time, but agree it must be deliberate. Thanks Brendan!

  18. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    Many thanks. I too didn’t notice the egret!

  19. Eileen says:

    I think perhaps I only did because there’s also one in today’s FT Cinephile!

  20. Uncle Yap says:

    I had to come here to see the theme. Thanks mhl and Brendan for another enjoyable solve.

  21. beermagnet says:

    Martin H: I wouldn’t call TRACHEOTOMY “easily seen”. I had VENTILATION pencilled in at first, after VENTILATOR was one too short and getting a T confirmed by Gruffest.
    The theme really helped me get the last few, culminating with Bemoan after seeing MOA – the only extinct example. Let’s keep it that way folks.
    I wrote in Skeans from the wordplay alone as KEA was the only birdie I had not heard of. I thought the spelling looked wrong but figured Robbie Burns would probably spell it any way he chose.

  22. Mr. Jim says:

    We got all but the themed clue – racked our brains over it for 10 minutes. We realised it had to do with all the other down clues, but all we could see was that they all had 6 or 8 letters, and they weren’t on the centre of the crossword. Probably the fact that we misspelled SKEANS didn’t help.

    BRUTUS seemed an odd clue (even understanding the references). I liked it, though.

  23. Stella says:

    I must remember Brendan always has a theme for next time. This is the 2nd Brendan in a row where I’ve missed it, and I think I made the resolution last time to make a mental note. Ho-hum!

    So, not having seen the theme, and not knowing that hobby is a bird – thanks tupu – I was a little surprised at the description of 8d., but assumed that the aficionados would wait till the nests were empty before collecting them – although from what you say about the nesting habits of the falco subbuteo, this would also be harmful.

    I was pleased to get Brutus as my first answer, and the ‘et tu’ reference ( :) Eileen), but other clues, notably 6d and 16d, were quite obscure. Also, I was surprised to see 3 hidden answers.

    I didn’t have time this morning to enjoy the subtleties of this puzzle, so thanks, mhl, for pointing them out.

  24. tupu says:

    Hi Stella

    I sympathise about the time factor. Of course I am perfectly capable of missing things even after a slowish solve, but it is very easy if one just moves asap from clue to clue without being able to savour the puzzle as a whole. In this case without whole word hints to the theme, one has to read quite carefully. I’ve said enough about 8 down – for what it’s worth, I suspect that a ? might help it along.

  25. Maure says:

    First one in: ATHENS & hate myself for not noticing the hidden clue for GEORGIA.

    Highlight of the day– checking through this blog & reading all the comments.

    Thanks mhl & Brendan & all contributors

  26. William says:

    Thank you mhl for a typically thorough blog.

    Managed to fill up the grid without spotting the theme at all! I’ll watch for this in the next Brendan, and bet you he leaves it out!

    Can someone tell me the bird in 5d (SKEANS) please?

    Many thanks.

  27. Bryan says:

    William @ 26

    Here you are:

  28. William says:

    Thanks, Bryan.

  29. FumbleFingers says:

    thanks mhl
    I never bother with the Guardian’s “cheat” button, so I’d optimistically filled in 5d as SPEARS in the vain hope that Tom/Dick/Harry Pear was a once-famous actor. I never heard of a KEA anyway.

    re tupu @9
    I think what Brendan’s getting at is that in all the other down clues, the bird is in the answer, whereas in 8d it’s in the clue. I did enjoy the puzzle, though personally I think bird-nesting should be silently confined to our shameful past along with bear-baiting, freak-shows, etc.

  30. Paul B says:

    Genus Nestor … Nestor? Kea? Hang on a bit … this bird’s not so rare!

  31. tupu says:

    Hi Fumblefingers

    Many thanks. That’s a very good point. It makes a lot of sense of the clue as it stands without the need for any question mark!

  32. muck says:

    Thanks for the puzzle Brendan, brilliant as always
    8 BIRD-NESTING is a good clue, but no longer acceptable as others have said
    I was warned off it, in the sense of collecting eggs, 50 yrs ago in Berwickshire
    If you Google bird-nesting now, that sense doesn’t appear

  33. Carrots says:

    Excellent fare, albeit one nearly spoilt by my own blindness: I suspected what the theme was about halfway through, but was balked by BIRD LETTERS which I had entered for BIRD NESTING. The correct answer, believe it or not, did occur to me, but I over-hastily dismissed it as a criminal activity, not likely to be clued as a hobby. Incidentally, we have a Hobby, a magnificent bird, nesting by the stream which runs behind our village. Tupu mentions that they occupy abandoned nests and this one is no exception. It seems to have turfed out several crows, but we don`t think he`s managed to impress a mate.

    The only slight whisper of “foul” comes from LIES. The lie (of a ball etc.) need not be on the level.

    Some words (INFLEXED, TELECASTED & STERNA) all seemed a bit “forced” although I`m not quite suree what I mean by this.

  34. TokyoColin says:

    I am a day late but hope someone can still put me out of my misery. In 7dn (STERNA) why is the SA clued as Western Australia? South Australia or South Africa I could understand.

  35. mhl says:

    TokyoColin: that’s not how it works – the whole word is hidden in weSTERNAustralia

  36. PS says:

    Tokyo Colin 34
    The answer STERNA is hidden in weSTERNA Australia. The clue is of the type “ha” using Uncle Yap’s notation

  37. Dave Ellison says:

    Though I got the answer STERNA, I couldn’t see the reason why, and only just now noticed the hidden explanation given above. I had googled STERNA WESTERN AUSTRALIA and this gave STERNA as “The Little Tern (western Pacific) is one of three subspecies of Sterna albifrons (Little Tern)”, so that would add nicely to the clue; I wonder if Brendan meant that. Unfortuntely the article goes on to say this tern is found in the East of Australia!

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