Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,142 / Brendan

Posted by mhl on October 15th, 2010


Another tour de force from Brendan – a very enjoyable solve, I thought, with too many top quality clues for me to pick out any in particular. (As should be immediately obviously, all the across clues begin with “Two [somethings]”.)

1. TENACE By far the toughest clue for me: the word means “the combination in one hand of the cards next above and next below a high card held by the other hand” (Chambers), coming from the Spanish “tenaza” meaning “pincers”. The subsidiary here is “Two honours”, the TEN and the ACE being “honours” in bridge
4. SHORTCUT A SHORT (circuit) and a (power) CUT would be “Two problems with electricity”
9. RINGO RING and O are “Two circular things”
10. STAND BACK A STAND is a support, and “to back” is “to support”
11. SET AT EASE (EAST)* + (EAST)* = “Two sorts of East” + E = “European”
12. PIETÀ PI and ETA are “Two Greek characters”
13. FRENCH POLISH FRENCH and POLISH are “Two languages”
17. SWISS COTTAGE SWISS cheese and COTTAGE cheese
20. ALAMO ALA = “Alabama” and MO = “Missouri” are “Two Tennessee neighbours”
21. KNOCK DOWN KNOCK and County DOWN are “Two places in Ireland”
24. POEMS The PO and the EMS (either in Germany or the UK) are “Two European rivers”
25. AMBUSHES BUSHES = “Two presidents” behind AM = “American”
26. PATRON PAT and RON might be “Two men”
1. TURNS OFF Double definition
2. NINETIES (EINSTEIN)*; Albert Einstein (born 14 March 1879) would indeed have been an adolescent in the 1890s :)
3. CLOUT LOUT = “ruffian” with C = “clubs”
6. REDEPOSIT RED = “sort of wine” + I in E = “English” + POST = “station”
7. CRAVEN C = “Caught” + RAVEN = “wild bird”
8. TOKLAS (TALKS)* around O = “nothing”; Alice B. Toklas was the partner of Gertrude STEIN
14. COW HOUSES CO = “Military leader” + WHO = “that” + USES = “exploits”
15. SABOTEUR (RUSE)* around (BOAT)*
16. TENNYSON NOSY = “Curious” + N = “new” + NET = “computer facility” all reversed
19. HABOOB saHAra = “middle of Sahara” + BOOB = “blunder”
22. KAPPA Hidden in “booK, APPArently”; in the Greek alphabet, KAPPA is between PI and ETA

31 Responses to “Guardian 25,142 / Brendan”

  1. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks mhl.

    Seemed to be a higher proportion of anagrams than usual – thank goodness, would have made little progress without them. 1a was very tough and I particularly liked 6d. But 13 and 17 across deserve an honourable retirement by now surely.

  2. Eileen says:

    Thanks for a great blog, mhl. I really enjoyed this.

    I was eagerly waiting for the blog, to see what you had made of 1dn. I had the answer but stared at it for ages, trying to see some wordplay, and as soon as I saw your ‘double definition’, the penny dropped. Sometimes I think we try to be too clever!

    I particularly liked 11ac and 14dn. I remembered TENACE from a crossword not so long ago – but not immediately!

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks mhl. This was great way to round off an excellent week of puzzles.

    Fans of Brendan (aka Brian Greer, aka Virgilius) might like to see a long interview with him at He talks a lot about crosswords at the start, and moves on to educational and political matters later. Well worth watching.

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks mhl.

    I did most of this at rightback speed and then slowed to a crawl for the top left corner which seemed to be on a completely different level of difficulty. Very enjoyable as always from Brendan, though.

  5. Bryan says:

    Many thanks mhl this was very enjoyable.

    It took me far too long to recall who Gertie’s companion was but I did manage to recall her name eventually.

  6. Eileen says:

    Hi Andrew

    Very many thanks for the link! :-)

  7. Ian W. says:

    Interesting — knowing bridge, I thought 1a was practically a straight definition and only qualified as cryptic for the nice word play of ten + ace. It seems if you don’t know bridge it’s quite a poser.

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, mhl. Don’t think we’ve seen Virgilius in the Indy for a bit, so it was nice to have a crack at Brendan today. I did manage it, but needed your explanations for several. Some unusual words like FROWSTIER, TENACE and HABOOB, but all gettable. A very good and entertaining puzzle indeed, and one where you could admire the setter’s art in producing a clever theme which didn’t result in an impenetrable crossword.

    I tried all the down clues first in case the ‘two’ business wasn’t apparent, but in fact it was evident from the first across I got, so I needn’t have bothered.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Brendan

    An enjoyable puzzle with clues varying from the simple to the really puzzling. Some words like haboob and frowstier (and Ems)were correctly guessed and checked. I had vague memories of them and of Toklas.

    As Eileen says, 1d was a puzzler. I kept wondering what sort of vehicle ended in ‘off’. But the penny dropped in due course. I too remembered ‘tenace’.

    I enjoyed 14d (another clue making use of changed pronunciation of components), 5d (nice mixture of dd and anagram), 11 (nicely misleading) and 25 (exploiting the two generations of US undergrowth).

    The ‘two’ theme is clearly limiting for the setter, and accounts, I suspect, for the great mixture of levels in the clues. But this also gives a chance to more and less experienced solvers alike.

  10. mhl says:

    Andrew: thanks for that interview – what a great find!

    Kathryn’s Dad: Eimi explains in this comment why we’ve been so short of Virgilius puzzles in the Independent recently – a great shame, I think.

    Eileen: I drew a similar blank on REDEPOSIT for a while, just because of seeing DEPOT in there, which seemed to fit “station”… :)

  11. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, mhl, I hadn’t clocked that. I’ll have to stick with the Guardian for my fix of Brendan, then. Thanks also Andrew for the link – very interesting.

  12. Chaz says:

    Loved it! Surfaces in 25 and 8 are excellent and 1a is a great clue.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl, and thanks to Andrew for the link. I really enjoyed this — it was very playful and fun. Hard to pick a favourite, but 14dn produced a real ‘aha’ moment and 25ac also made me smile!

    At 8dn I mistakenly had TOLKAS for a while, then corrected it. 1ac held up that corner, until I remembered the word from a previous crossword. And I’m still not entirely sure that I fully understand 1dn.

    Great fun, though. Thanks, Brendan!

  14. Andrew says:

    Liz – I think the idea in 1dn is that to “turn off” a road is to leave it. (e.g. “Turn off the M1 at junction 12″.)

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Although, Andrew @ 14, you clearly wouldn’t want to do that in real life, otherwise you’d spend the rest of your life in Toddington. Keep going another 200 or so miles north and you’ll be in god’s own country …

  16. Eileen says:

    I’ve just finished listening to the interview – I didn’t appreciate what Andrew meant by ‘long': don’t start listening unless you have just over an hour to spare! [He comes back to crosswords at the end, with lots of interesting stuff in between.]

    I was lucky enough to blog the ‘political’ crossword he talks about, which caused some difference of opinion. It’s here:

    and here’s the blog:

    Brendan didn’t drop in to comment on that one, as he sometimes does, but there’s plenty of comment otherwise!

    Thanks for another great puzzle today, anyway, Brendan.

  17. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I get it now.

  18. FumbleFingers says:

    Thanks for blog mhl,

    I started off feeling smug because I knew a tenace in bridge. But I couldn’t bring myself to write it in because I thought honour cards were ONLY court cards (picture cards to the uninitiated), so the clue wouldn’t parse properly. Apparently a ten sometimes counts as an honour card, so I’m now older and wiser.

    Also thanks Andrew @3 for for the interview link which I look forward to following shortly.

  19. Daniel Miller says:

    A most enjoyable crossword.

    I am pleased to report I am alive and well after having emergency surgery last week. I had a heart attack. I have to say that the brain just refused to work properly for the past 10 days or so – managing somewhere between 0-8 answers in any day but finally got to grips with yesterday’s Araucaria (slowly) and today’s relatively straightforward fare. But, happily, all working well.

    As a Bridge player TENACE was there to be found – albeit not too obvious to those who aren’t. Any combination of non-touching cards AQ/AJ/KJ/QT for example..

  20. Derek Lazenby says:

    Yeah, know what you all mean, ripped through a lot of it (after a slow start) then took a while over the last few.

    Being a bridge player I knew TENACE, but didn’t immediately see that that was what he was getting at. Oh well, got their eventually. Briefly, honours are any card ace down to 10 in the trump suit, or the 4 aces if there are no trumps for a given hand. Tenace is any pair of cards ace down to ten in any suit one with one card between them missing, thus K and J is missing the Q, trumps or not. So strictly speaking, the cards don’t have to be honours, but they could be.

  21. Derek Lazenby says:

    der, “one suit” not “suit one”, sorry. Why can’t I edit my own posts?

  22. Gaufrid says:

    “Why can’t I edit my own posts?”

    You can if you use the ‘Preview’ button, that’s why I introduced it.

  23. muck says:

    Great puzzle from Brendan. Fun theme and nothing overly difficult.

  24. Carrots says:

    Well….no work done today! Brendan kept me in the pub most of the afternoon and what a delightful diversion he provided! Didn`t get the three predictable solutions aforementioned, but didn`t mind too much. Then home to the Brendan interview (Thanks, Andrew!).

    (For Eileen from yesterday: B is a cultural desert WNW of London whose natives are credited with the first adoption of the Chelsea Pram. They also play GORLF rather a lot and their women seem to go in for all-day hairdressing. I should know: I went there once and was lucky enough to get out alive.)

  25. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Carrots, for the enlightenment re Disraeli’s seat!

    Congratulations on your escape – I’m privileged to live in the other so-called cultural desert north of Watford. :-)

    Hi Daniel @ 19

    So sorry to hear of your troubles but really glad that you seem to be on the mend. There’s nothing like crosswords to aid recovery! :-)

  26. Roger says:

    Thank you mhl and Brendan. This was a lot of fun.
    However I still can’t quite fathom out 22d. Kappa comes between Iota and Lambda in the Greek alphabet and not Pi and Eta.
    So what’s going on … am I missing something … er… obvious ?

  27. Paul (not Paul) says:

    Great puzzle with loads of good chucklesome clues.

    Tenace was unfair as it was ungettable to the non bridge player. If there’s a very domain specific word like this then the wordplay should come from outside that domain. But a minor grumble.

  28. RobWatts says:

    Well, Kappa is between Eta and Pi, just not immediately.

  29. Gerry says:

    Beaten by ‘tenace’. I thought ‘ace’might finish it, but I wasn’t ‘ace’ enough to finish it.

  30. Roger says:

    Came to the same conclusion as you, RobWatts, while mulling 22d over again in the early hours of this morning. I think that must be it. Kappa is somewhere between Pi and Eta ~ in a reverse alphabetical direction ! Hum …

  31. ernie says:

    Excellent! Thank you mhl and Brendan.

    Picked this up early this (Sunday) morning: finished in a couple of hours except for HABOOB (which I’ve never heard of) though I was thinking of the HA in Sahara: and AMBUSHES (thought of AM but also ABE and ADAMS). Bridge player so TENACE was relatively easy.

    Enjoyed the seventy-minute pdxjustice interview. Make maths (or crosswords) not war!

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