Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,122 / Enigmatist

Posted by Eileen on September 22nd, 2010


A challenging but rewarding workout from Enigmatist, as is to be expected, with one or two really straightforward clues to give a bit of a foothold. I’ve  learned another new word  today at 14ac but I don’t foresee an early opportunity to use it in conversation.  :-)


1   LEG-PULL: EG [perhaps] + P [soft] in LULL [calm]
5   EPIGRAM: [th]E + PIG + RAM: ‘saw’ meaning a saying or proverb
9   DELHI: H[ard] in DELI [shop]
10  CHEAPJACK: E [the well-known crossword drug] in CHAP [bloke] + JACK [knave]
11  FIRST LIGHT: double / cryptic definition: reference to 1 ac,  ‘light’ being ‘crosswordese for the horizontal or vertical series of white spaces in the grid’, as I said in my August Bank Holiday blog, when Rufus clued ONE ACROSS with ‘first light’. I like this kind of clue!
12,21 TOP SIDES: anagram of DEPOSITS: some may have chosen different teams as examples! [I liked the way the answer divided into two different words in the grid.] Edit: I omitted to point out the double definition: topsides are cuts of meat. Thanks, Tokyo Colin.
14  EIGENVECTOR: EI [I.E. reversed] + anagram of COVENT GARDEN minus ‘and’, with the anagram indicator BARKING: a very cleverly constructed clue for ‘a vector that when transformed by a matrix retains its direction but not necessarily its length’.
: PRO [for] + DIG [mine] + ALSO [too] + N[ote]
22 LETTER BOMB: cryptic definition
25 THINK TANK: THIN [uncovered?] + TAN [result of lying in the sun] in KK [2000]: a very clever surface and I can’t remember if it refers to a specific incident back then and I haven’t time to do the research. No doubt someone else will know.
26  YAHOO: reversal of HAY [Will Hay [1888 – 1949) an English comedian, actor, film director and amateur astronomer] + OO [introduction for spies cf James Bond 007]:  a name given by Jonathan Swift in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ to a class of animals which are human in form but which have the understanding and passion of brutes.
27  DAB HAND: cryptic definition, ‘dabs’ being fingerprints.
28 ROLL-OUT: O [nothing] in RL [between sides] + LOUT [yahoo]


1   LADIFY: F[ollowing] ID [instincts] reversed in LAY [song]
GALORE: G[eorge] + A [first] + LORE [learning]: [I’m not sure about  G = George without the R]
UP IN THE AIR: double definition
4   LICHI: L[eft] + ICH [GERMAN ‘I’] + I [one]
5,15 ELEPHANTS’ GRAVEYARDS: anagram of LEAVES GARDEN PARTY + H[enry]: I remember making a similar query re Henry without the R, only to learn that H[enry] is an SI unit.
6   IMPI: hidden in slIM PIckings
7   READ-OUTS: homophone of redoubts
8   MAKE SURE: K[ing] in MEASURE [dance] with the A ‘promoted’, ‘firm’ being a verb here.
13  PENNYROYAL: anagram of ANNOY and REPLY: ‘a species of mint, once valued in medicine’
16  SPLINTED: SPRINTED [ran in relay perhaps] with L substituted for R
17  FORELIMB: MILER [one running] reversed in FOB [watch chain]
19 BOOHOO: OOH [‘I’m surprised’] in BOO [as in ‘can’t say boo to a goose’]
20  ABBOTT: AB [naval rating] + B[ook] + OTT [pushing boundaries]: Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, currently a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party.
24  SKUA: reversal of AUKS: a welcome return for some of Crosswordland’s favourite birds

34 Responses to “Guardian 25,122 / Enigmatist”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks for a great blog of a great puzzle Eileen. A lot of tricky stuff here, but all fair and “gettable”. With my mathematical background I knew the word EIGENVECTOR but it’s a bit (well, a lot) obscure for a daily puzzle. I wonder if some will take offence at 22ac – it’s certainly verging on the tasteless.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen – I wondered about ‘first light’ and now I know, almost: what’s the hoax? Never heard of 14a; luckily Google reaches out to the almost-there. Some contortions in this puzzle, but that’s Enigmatist’s style: I grudgingly accepted them for the last two in, 28a and 20d. Good stuff. But I disagree entirely with 7d: that’s no homophone.

  3. JohnR says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen – I certainly needed it!

    Why didn’t I enjoy this puzzle? I appreciate the ingenuity of the cluing, but I found it all rather heavy going.

    A contrast with yesterday’s brilliant Boatman. I certainly struggled then, but with a smile on my face! As with a good Rufus, I felt that I’d enjoyed a conversation with a witty and amusing friend.

    A matter of taste?

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks Eileen

    molongo, the “hoax” is the answer to 1ac.

  5. Monica M says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I didn’t have a hope with this one. Started well with the NE and SW corners but the rest was a bit hit and miss.

    Fortunately for me I was doing it in my lunch break (as usual), and the office “wit” who always make the comment “Haven’t you finished that yet?” stopped … asked the clues to 1ac and 2dn to which I had the answers and the explanation after which he wandered off thinking I was clever … little did he know 😉

  6. Eileen says:

    Hi Monica – it’s nice to hear from you again!

    At least the difficulties this time were not due to ‘parochialism’, except, perhaps, for 20dn.

    I don’t comment on ‘homophones’ any more, molonglo. 😉

  7. Mick H says:

    Great stuff from Teasing Tim – I loved the definition at 5ac, and the construction of 18 was great. Some eyebrow-raisers – 22ac sails close to the wind, but can’t be faulted for accuracy – but no clues in which I was in any doubt as to the solution once I’d got it.

  8. Martin H says:

    Solving Enigmatist is always a bit like finding your way through a thick forest, and is usually demanding but fun, but the thorns and the undergrowth today frankly made the trip uncomfortable and eventually annoying:

    Clumsy surfaces (16 and 25 for instance), long-shot definitions (‘literary class’ for ‘yahoo'; ‘thin’ for ‘uncovered'; ‘firm’ for ‘make sure'; ‘call the mistress’ for ‘ladify’)

    Boohoo as, presumably here, a verb is a new one on me, and is usually two words simply imitating the sound of crying.

    There is often criticism, usually unjustified I think, of homophones because of regional differences in vowel sounds; but one thing you have to get right is the stress pattern, and ‘read-out’ does not match ‘redoubt’.

    What are ‘little’ doing in 6 and ‘question’ in 13? Both serve to embellish the surface, but do nothing for the clue – undergrowth.

    A ‘dab hand’ is an expert, but a ‘fingerprintee’ is a person not any sort of hand – nice idea, but it didn’t work, so cut it out and start again – more undergrowth.

    And so it went on, but enough of that – there were a few blackberries to eat on the way, well EPIGRAM and SKUA anyway; a frugal meal then, but I must admit I missed the ‘hoax/first light’ connection, so thanks for that Eileen, and indeed for a very thorough commentary.

  9. John H says:

    Teasing Tim?!!!!! That’s a new one!

    For those of you who are able to purchase a copy of today’s Torygraph (and hold your head up high), today’s Toughie is a corker.

  10. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Eileen. I’m afraid I didn’t find this quite as enjoyable as I have found other puzzles from this setter. Got there in the end, with a fairly use of the check button, but it wasn’t the difficulty that bothered me — just not many smiles.

  11. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Eileen. It’s months since I have been on such a different wavelength from the setter, so your blog was very welcome.

    I’m relieved to see the comments of JohnR and Martin H as I thought I may just have got out of bed the wrong side this morning. I finished this puzzle but only because I was too stubborn to admit defeat. I found little to enjoy and much to irritate, but I’m glad the solving experience was more rewarding for some.

    On reflection, this might have seemed less tortuous had it not followed immediately after Boatman’s cheering tour de force yesterday.

  12. Mitz says:

    I agree with several of the previous posters that this puzzle was both heavy-going and at times tenuous (and previously I have been an Enigmatist fan). Particularly didn’t care for 3d – “up in the air” for “excited”? I don’t think so. For me, this expression means uncertain, dodgy, without resolution. Sadly, a metaphor for the puzzle, IMHO.

    To be fair, loved 18, 27 and 5,15.

  13. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eleen, for explanations. I ground to a halt bottom right.

    I checked for words that fit e.g.n.e.t.r, and only one came up. What a word to have to clue! I am not convinced by E’s definition, but I doubt I could do better. A synonym for “eigenvector” is “characteristic vector”, so perhaps something could have been made of that.

    A gentle explanation of eigenvectors is at PhysLink

  14. Derek Lazenby says:

    Nearly finished, but not quite. Far too much like hard work than fun. I can’t even be bothered to say something contraversial to get an argument going!

  15. JamesG says:

    Thanks for the blog. I needed it today. Re 16d, couldn’t the answer equally well be sprinted? I think one could read the clue this way.

  16. Tokyo Colin says:

    Many (much :-)) thanks Eileen. Your blog helped me to understand and appreciate 11ac and particularly 18ac. I was bamboozled but now can see it as a very clever clue.

    Tomorrow is a holiday in Japan so for once I have lots of time, which helps because there is a lot to say about this puzzle. So, in no particular order:

    I think the explanation for 12,21 is missing a D(efinition). TOPSIDE is also a cut of meat.
    I understand the wordplay for ROLL-OUT, but what is the connection to “This aircraft’s unveiling”. I have googled to no avail.

    I had no problem with EIGENVECTOR but agree it hardly belongs in a daily puzzle. And I cannot make any sense of the supposed explanation at Physlink generously provided by Dave@13 even though I could explain it to my daughter doing mathematics at university.

    I can think of 2 other meanings for Yahoo that would have been easier on most of us. I suppose I must have known the “literary” Swift reference at some point in my life but we are entitled to forget a few things along the way. And I had no way to know or guess who Will the actor was so this was particularly galling for me because the answer is an everyday term.

    I understand the wordplay for LADIFY but how does it relate to “Call the mistress”?

    Eileen, I understand your reluctance to comment on homophones. But in the same way that it only takes one meaning of a word to match to justify its inclusion in the clue then surely the fact that the homophone applies for many should be good enough. There are many people (including myself on Tuesdays and Thursdays), who pronounce both READOUT and REDOUBT as ree-dowt with even the accentuation the same.

    I could go on but I am sure that is quite enough.

  17. muck says:

    Got stuck in the SE corner and gave up

    JamesG: I thought of ‘sprinter’ as well for 16dn, but the clue works better with SPLINTER

  18. Tokyo Colin says:

    JamesG@15, I agree. I often struggle with which is the before and after of the clued adjustment. In this case I was just pleased to see that Enigmatist didn’t take a cheap shot at Japanese (mis)pronunciation.

  19. walruss says:

    I too found this rather too tough, but that’s what the cheat button is for. Boatman yesterday I wasn’t so keen on either, as I found the cluing ‘bitty’. I wish the Guardian could be a littler more consistent!

  20. Eileen says:

    Hi Tokyo Colin

    Thanks for the comment on 12,21. I did have the ‘cuts’ in my notes but it somehow got omitted. I’ll amend the blog now.

    Re 28ac: Chambers: ‘roll-out: the first public display of a prototype of an aircraft’

    1dn: Chambers: ‘ladify: to make a lady of; to call My Lady or Your Ladyship’.

    Happy holiday! :-)

  21. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Eileen. Still no comments on homophones I notice. Very wise.

    It is now bedtime even on a holiday eve.

  22. Eileen says:

    Hi Tokyo Colin

    I was not ignoring you. The story of me and homophones goes back a long way, as ‘older’ readers know, and I have pledged not to query them any more.

    [Just between you and me, it began with my mentioning my late Scots husband’s good-natured exasperation at ‘homophones’ like ‘fort / fought’ in crosswords and led ultimately to this: ]

  23. Abby says:

    Are you sure it’s not OHO in BOO? I think I like that better.

    We wanted to put in OLD HAND at 27A since DAB HAND isn’t anything we say in the US, but it makes more sense the other way and we got there eventually.

  24. Eileen says:

    Hi Abby

    I did toss up a bit about where to put the ‘O’s’ but decided as I did because I thought it sounded more likely. I think it may be a case of ‘two nations divided by a common language’ again.

    I’m not sure we say ‘Oho’ for ‘I see’, over here. We do say ‘Aha’ and we talk on this site of ‘aha moments’ when solving.

    What do others think?

  25. molonglo says:

    Eileen, I always value your blogs, and comments. I too had OHO: it may not be a common gasp but it is unquestionably one of surprise whereas OOH can conjure up other stuff. On homophones I got needlessly cranky a while back on “as your=azure” so I only chip in when the reading is way out as in the stresses of 7d/redoubt: but then there’s Tokyo Colin #16, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Like him I saw the cut of meat immediately in 12,21. And agree with muck #17 on SPLINTER since the clue demands a change of hands.

  26. Sil van den Hoek says:

    This was, after being in (Boatman’s) heaven for a while, a rather uncomfortable return to Earth.
    We spend more than an hour on this crossword [on real paper, far away from dictionaries & internet – which is very different from doing it online and cheating every now and then], only to find out that we didn’t like it at all.
    I think we solved about 30% of the clues – are we just beginners (again) or is it Enigmatist?

    Agree with Martin H’s first lines in #8.
    Looking back at this crossword (for which we needed you, Eileen, more than ever) one cannot say that there was that much wrong (even though I criticise a lot of the clues below).
    But there was no lightness to add to the cleverness.

    ‘Call the mistress’ for LADIFY?
    ‘George’ = G? [Not for Mrs Chambers]
    ‘the First’ = A? [a capital F?]
    (and the combination of the two doesn’t feel right – however, this was one of the clues we did find the answer to, so hurrah!)
    Didn’t like the anagrind in 5,15 either. ‘Following’?
    Just like Martin H we weren’t happy with ‘Question’ in 13d.
    And what is ‘arm’ doing in 17d other than more or less making a contrast with the ‘leg’ in 1ac? Very unelegant.
    ‘Rating’ is enough to define AB?
    19ac: BOO (‘Cry’) with OOH (“I’m surprised!”) to be taken in – and then ‘by surprise’ for BOOHOO? ‘By’?
    Nobody seems to have any trouble with OO for ‘intro for spies’.
    I can’t believe that this is the start of 007. ‘Spies’ is plural and 007 isn’t. Moreover, ‘intro’ suggests only the first character to be an O.

    Ah well, Enigmatist is beyond any doubt a clever setter, who offered me a vintage wine that should be great according to what I read in the books, but it didn’t taste well today.
    [I am sure, though, that he has some other bottles in store]

  27. Colin Blackburn says:

    To answer some of Sil’s queries:

    G = George might not be in Chambers but it is standard when abbreviating kings and queens in Britain in the form GR. I’d treat Edward, Elizabeth and Henry in a similar light, though Henry does of course have a Chambers’ entry for other reasons.
    OO for intro to spies: 007 was but one spy, hence the 7. Someone with more knowledge than me will be able to say who 001 and 002 are, So here a plral or singular would do if you accept that 00 = OO.
    BOOHOO is Cry. “I’m surprised”is OOH, surprise is BOO.
    I think Rating is enough to clue AB. Able Seaman (AB) is one rank within Naval Rating.


  28. jetdoc says:

    Sil —

    Chambers defines LADIFY as ‘to call My Lady or Your Ladyship’.

    G is George in GR (George Rex), the king: maybe a bit UK-centric, but OK.

    The anagrind in 5,15 is ‘following disturbance’.

    ‘arm?’ is the definition for FORELIMB; a leg, in a biped, would be a hindlimb.

    Chambers defines rating as ‘the class of any member of a crew; a sailor of such a class’; and AB as ‘able-bodied seaman’. This is pretty standard stuff.

    OOH = “I’m surprised!” is taken in by “Surprise!” = BOO (two things that might be cried out when surprising someone).

    007, presumably, is one in a series of spies starting with 001.

  29. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I thought I’d sleep on this one before commenting. My perception has not changed and I found this a mixture of the obscure, the trite and some very poor surfaces. It was as if someone had borrowed Enigmatist’s name and submitted their own crossword. I finished about half of this before throwing in the towel and the last one I got was 5,15 which was not a bad clue but BOOHOO (I’d be embarrassed to include this), ROLL-OUT (a vague answer to a poor surface), YAHOO (trying to be too clever I think) and EIGENVECTOR ( an obscure word that most people wouldn’t even want to add to their vocabulary). Also, I still don’t understand where the hoax comes into FIRST LIGHT. If light refers to a white square, then this is where the answer is written. A clue is not a hoax.

    I normally respect Enigmatist as a difficult and fair setter but on this occasion something seems to have gone wrong. The idea of a crossword is to be entertaining and not impenetrable. I will reserve judgement until next time.

  30. jetdoc says:

    FIRST LIGHT is 1 across in its entirety — light is defined in Chambers as ‘in a crossword, the word (or sometimes an individual letter in the word) on the diagram that is the answer to a clue’. This is standard crossword terminology.

  31. jetdoc says:

    … and I should have added that the first light, LEG-PULL, is a hoax.

  32. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the confirmations, jetdoc – and to ‘spouse’ for the puzzle. :-)

  33. Davy says:

    I have finally seen the LIGHT (maybe for the FIRST time). Very clever but my reservations about the puzzle remain. Thanks jetdoc.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Oops … what have I done.
    All my objections carefully dismantled.

    jetdoc, I surrender! :)

    [there’s indeed not much wrong with the crossword, very clever in many places, but I fear E’s style (as shown here, that is) is not completely my cup of tea – it’s just that touch of lightness I’m missing, it was like entering a dark forest all on my own with no-one around]

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