Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,119 (Sat 18 Sep)/Brummie – Spice girls

Posted by rightback on September 25th, 2010


Solving time: 8½ mins

This puzzle was themed on the nursery rhyme about little boys being made of frogs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails and little girls of sugar and spice and all that’s nice. There was a Listener crossword on this subject within the last year or so but I was still slow to spot ‘frogs’ (I think the version I originally knew had ‘slugs’).

Despite a couple of pedantic quibbles (e.g. the partial definition at 11ac, the positioning of ‘about’ and ‘out’ in 14ac and 13dn respectively, a questionable geographical reference at 19dn), I thought these clues were mostly very good with accurate cryptic wordings and sound surface readings. Curiously this took me precisely the same time as the previous week’s prize puzzle by Paul, although I think this was probably the easier unless you happened not to know the rhyme.

Music of the Day: Girls and Boys by Blur, clearly.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

9 OUTFOXING; OUTING (= ‘trip’) around F[lying] O[fficer] + X (= ‘times’) – the abbreviation FO for ‘Flying Officer’ (as an RAF rank) is actually obsolete (it’s now ‘Fg Off’ only), but remains in Chambers so is fair game for crosswords.
10 RHYME; “RIME” – nice surface reading.
11 SUGAR (initial letters)
12 TIMIDNESS; (INSISTED)* around M[edium]
13 FAR GONE; (RANGE OF)* – very well-disguised anagram.
14 NURSERY; (RERUNS)* + [tell]Y
17 ORBIT; O (= ‘ring’) + R[everse] + BIT – I don’t think I’ve seen ‘reverse’ indicating ‘R’ before, and it’s not in my dictionaries, but it seems reasonable given that it appears on the gearstick of the car that most of us probably own.
19,8 SEA LEGS; E.G. (= ‘say’) in SEALS (= ‘waterproofs’)
20 LISLE; ISLE (= ‘Man, possibly’, as in the Isle of Man) after L[arge]
21 SCLERAL; (CLEARS)* + L[ine] – ‘selcral’ was a viable alternative but ‘sclerosis’ provided a helping hand.
22 SEED + BED – I was surprised to learn that this was unhyphenated. It seems to be crossword convention that all (sporting) seeds are tennis players.
24 DIARRHOEA; (HEAR RADIO)* – an excellent anagram.
28 SPICE, from EPICS
29 BALALAIKA; B (= ‘second-rate’) + A LA (= ‘in the manner of’ in French) + LAIKA – Laika was the first dog in space.
3 FOUR-POSTER; (OF TROUPERS)* – clearly an anagram but the cunning definition stopped me seeing it until I had about three checking letters.
5 EGOMANIA; (AMIN)* in E + GOA – despite thinking of Goa straight away I overlooked ‘East’ which was very careless as I know Goa is in the south-west. The ‘Amin’ in the definition presumably refers to Idi Amin.
6 CRUD[e]
7 PYRENESS; PYRE (= ‘Cremation material’) + rev. of SEEN – nice clue.
13 FROGS; (FOR)* + GS – ‘G’ stands for ‘Grand’, as in £1000, but would you talk of ‘Gs’? Perhaps a city slicker can confirm.
15 ROLLED GOLD; ROLLED (= ‘turned’) + G[ood] + OLD (= ‘mature’) – not quite sure why ‘noble’ indicates gold; arguably they could have the same figurative meaning but rolled gold is the real thing (rolled into a very thin coating for a metal).
16 YIELD; rev. of LEI in Y[ar]D
18 BALSAMIC; BALSA (= ‘wood’) + MIC (= microphone = ‘Mike’)
19 SALCOMBE; COMB in SALE – tough for the geographically-challenged, unless you are a rugby fan in which case you’ll at least have heard of Sale (which in fact is no longer in Cheshire but Greater Manchester).
23 BARRIO; BAR (= ‘Rail’) + RIO
25 STARDUST; rev. of RATS + DUST – I didn’t understand the Carmichael reference, but Google tells me that Hoagy Carmichael wrote a song called Stardust in 1927.
27,24 REEF; R + rev. of FEE

15 Responses to “Guardian 25,119 (Sat 18 Sep)/Brummie – Spice girls”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Rightback. I enjoyed this one too. Google tells me the most recorded jazz standard was W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” for over 20 years from the 1930s onward, after which Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” replaced it.

    F.O. or F/O has been frowned upon as an abbreviation by the RAF for ages now but stubbornly hangs on there.

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback and Brummie this was a truly excellent puzzle.

    To my shame, I couldn’t spell DIARRHOEA correctly so I had to resort to a dictionary. Also, even though Hoagy Carmichael is an old favourite of mine, I didn’t make the connection until after STARDUST had leapt out.

    For Music of Many a Xword Day, I would choose Hoagy’s ‘How Little We Know’ from ‘To Have and Have Not':

    Why he even accompanies Lauren Bacall on the piano!

  3. Bryan says:

    Re 15d – Gold is, of course, a Noble Metal.

  4. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Rightback.

    Reasonably enjoyed the puzzle, particularly when the theme became apparent. Like you I know a different version of the nursery rhyme so struggled on frogs. You may wish to consider clarifying that frogs are webbings holding bayonets – well according to the internet, never heard of that myself until last weekend. Incidentally my version of the clue said $2,000 not £2,000. I’m not sure if that implies that grand is more of an Americanism, though I have always assumed it was British in origin.

  5. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback. The instructions were daunting but 10a gave the theme at once, and 22d soon revealed the details. I had fears answering 13d about cross-channel relations, but these disappeared with later checking. The unknown last to go in was SCLERAL but it had to be that.

  6. Mr Beaver says:

    We struggled with ‘frogs’ vs ‘slugs’ too – has Brummie invented this version of the nursery rhyme ? :)
    Idi Amin seems to make regular appearances in crosswords, either in clues or answers. As a despot, how considerate of him to have such a short, useful name.
    So much more so than Ceau?escu, say…

  7. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Rightback,

    Am I the only person familiar with the ‘frogs’ version, then?

    I didn’t get into this until today, but once I did it was fairly straightforward and quite enjoyable.

  8. sidey says:

    The frogs version gets more google hits, but I learnt the snails version from Listen With Mother. Fair traumatised me as I took everything literally as a four year old.

  9. Coffee says:

    Snips and snails, anyone??

  10. PeterO says:

    Thanks to Brummie for an entertaining puzzle, and to rightback for the blog.
    In 15D, the operative word is ‘superficial'; rolled gold is only noble on the surface.
    The version of the nursery rhyme that I knew runs ‘snaps and snails’. After failing to find a home for ‘snaps’, I realised that ‘frogs’, which I already had, might fit the bill. A quick google confirmed this, but I managed to find a site that leant towards snaps, perhaps demoting the other versions as attempts to come up with something more obviously meaningful.

  11. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback,

    I enjoyed this but it was rather on the easy side for a prize puzzle. There were lots of good clues though and I’ve ticked about eight as being worthy of a mention. 11a (SUGAR) was an excellent surface; 12a (TIMIDNESS) was very well disguised; 24a (DIARRHOEA) was clever; and I must mention 19d (SALCOMBE) as I was actually born in Sale.
    The rhyme I knew as a child was always “slugs and snails”. Thanks to Brummie whose contributions should appear more regularly. Also, what’s happened to Bonxie ?.

  12. muck says:

    Although I’m not generally too keen on ‘special instructions’, once I had 11ac and 22dn it was fairly obvious. 21ac was a word I knew; 12ac I didn’t quite understand – thanks for the explanation

  13. Colin Greenland says:

    Thanks for explaining 13d, Rightback and Dad’sLad. I knew what it had to be, but the depth of my bewilderment was such that it took two of you to unpick it for me!

  14. Daniel Miller says:

    Yep, it was a nice one and relatively straightforward. Thanks for the blog too.

  15. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Relatively easy for a Saturday crossword? Well, maybe.
    But we thought this one wasn’t significantly easier than recent puzzles by Paul, Araucaria and Shed [not even that much easier than this week’s Araubetical].

    The only thing that matters is: was it a good crossword?
    And our verdict would be: yes, it surely was.

    In a week with huge controversy on the theme of Cleverness versus Accessibility, we thought this one had all the elements of a sparkling crossword.
    Inventive clueing, lightness, a theme … well, we didn’t bother that much about the theme [unlike some posts above] – we didn’t know the nursery rhyme anyway, but it was perfectly gettable (which is another good thing about this puzzle).

    So thanks Brummie, ánd Rightback for another detailed blog.
    “Boys and Girls” by Blur obvious – yes, in a way it is.
    But a version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” would surely be even more obvious.
    In 1975 the Stones released a sampler called “Rolled Gold”, so you could taken something from that [though “Some Girls” wasn’t on that one, but Brown SUGAR (11ac) wás]. Or what about a balalaika tune?

    Ah well, as Bryan (#2) said, “this was a truly excellent puzzle”.

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