Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,165 / Brendan

Posted by Eileen on November 11th, 2010


After three days of relatively undemanding puzzles,  I wasn’t sure what to expect today but was very pleased to see Brendan’s name on this one.  As usual, I had the momentary dread of failing to see the theme but this one was clearly signalled and involved stuff that featured in the 11-plus exam [yes, really] though with some more exotic examples than the ones I learned. An enjoyable and fair puzzle – thank you, Brendan.

The theme* is collective nouns and their components.  Two clues, 16 and 27dn,  do double duty.


9   SEPULCHRE: a great anagram of HERCULE P’S
10  ÉTUDE: anagram of DUET, either preceded or followed by E[nglish]
11   *ROOKS: double definition and the first of the themed answers. I knew ‘parliament’ [and ‘clamour’!] of rooks, so first thought that this was an oblique reference to the Houses of Parliament [the BUILDING of 7dn] but was surprised to find that ‘building’ is another collective term for rooks.
12 LATERALLY: LATE RALLY: I really liked this one.
13  *FINCHES: F[emale] + INCHES [performs slow movement]
14  THE BILL: double definition, referring to a restaurant bill, with a lovely misleading surface
17 * CHARM: double definition and another themed answer
19  *POD: and another
20  ANGER: I’m not entirely sure of this:  German is not one of my languages but googling has revealed that ‘AN’ is German for ‘by': that plus GER[man] would give ‘by German repeatedly’ but surely then it should be ‘revealed’, not ‘concealed’? Edit: it was, of course, ‘concealed’ all the time ! – many thanks, Gaufrid and Andrew
21  TABARET: BARE [plain] in TAT [tasteless stuff]: a new word for me: an upholsterer’s silk fabric, with alternate stripes of watered and satin surface
22  MATCHES: double definition which reminds me of a remark in a retirement speech I once heard: ‘We thought he’s a matchless sort of man, so we’ve bought him a lighter.’
24  POSTERIOR: anagram of TRIES in POOR [inadequate]
26  TOUCH: triple definition? The last two seem rather close.
28 *CROWS: R [king] in COWS
29  OPEN ORDER: anagram of PONDER O’ER: spaced-out formation for drill


1   TSAR: reversal of first two letters of STAR
2   UPTOWN: anagram of PUT + own [grant]
3   BLASPHEMER: anagram of LAMB SHEEP and R[am] – a nice picture!
4   *WHALES: H[ard] in WALES [part of UK]: I didn’t know that ‘whale’ meant ‘to beat or thrash soundly’ but the cluing is flawless.
5   RESTATED: RED [visibly embarrassed] around STATE [condition]
* DEER: reversal of REED
7   *BUILDING: anagram of DUBLIN I + G[ood]
8   *BEVY: double definition: abbreviation of beverage [drink] and [Chambers] ‘a company or flock of larks, quails, swans, roes, ladies’ [more usually ‘beauties’, surely?]
13  FACET: E[uropean] in FACT [piece of information]
15  *EXALTATION: AT in anagram of TEXAN OIL – another great surface
16  *LARKS: double definition
18  ASBESTOS: BEST [top] in A SOS [a request for help]
19  PETTIFOG:  anagram of GET PROFIT minus R[ight] – yet another great surface. I always assumed this was some character from one of the [to me] less familiar Dickens novels but it isn’t. It’s a back-formation from the noun ‘pettifogger’ [Chambers]: ‘a lawyer who deals, often deceptively and quibblingly with trivial cases; from ‘petty’ and Middle Low German voger, a person who does things'[!] . Collins suggests a possible connection with the Fugger family of 15th-16th German financiers.
22 * MURDER: double definition
23  *HOUNDS: and another
24 *PACK: triple definition, with the reference to the previous clue
25  EAST: hidden in bridgE AS This, with a reference to the first line of Kipling’s ‘The Ballad of East and West': ‘Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,’.
27  *HERD: hidden in anotHER Direction

47 Responses to “Guardian 25,165 / Brendan”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Eileen
    20ac is hidden in ‘germAN GERman’.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Eileen. You kick yourself for 20ac: hidden in germAN GERman

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid and Andrew – you enjoyed that, didn’t you? Ankles well and truly bruised! :-(

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks Eileen.

    Good fun as always from Brendan. Thanks for spotting the hidden aspect of 25dn; I had read it just as a cryptic definition, rather too simplistically. On the other hand, I did get 20ac easily enough :)

  5. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Eileen. As you hint, who uses these collectives any more (if anyone ever did)? I suppose rooks might be collectivised as a parliament when they are gathered together on the ground, as a clamour when they are swooping around in the air and as a building when they are nesting.

  6. Shirley says:

    Thanks Eileen for an excellent blog. I’m afraid we didn’t see ANGER either!
    26A I think the final definition of “meet” is for example when two edges of an inanimate object like wallpaper or cloth meet to form a seam whereas contact is used more for when two people meet.

  7. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen, and for explaining the theme, which I’d again forgotten to look for, grr!

    In answer to cholecyst@5, people doing Cambridge EFL (English as a foreign language) exams, and those of us who base their English teaching on these exams :)

  8. mhl says:

    Thanks for a great post, Eileen. This was a very enjoyable puzzle, I thought – my biggest problem here self-inflicted, drawing a division in the grid in the wrong place in 14a, and being left with T_/E_I_L. sigh…

  9. walruss says:

    A good puzzle in the Inday as ever today, but something rather nice here as well. Good clever clues with a nicely-handled theme.

  10. Eileen says:

    Hi All

    Apologies – I’ve just realised that, with all my musings about PETTIFOG, I didn’t explain the wordplay – added now.

  11. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen. In bell-ringing circles (sorry …) a touch is a collection of changes so could arguably be included in the theme, albeit as an inanimate representative.

  12. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. I was pleased to see that it was Brendan today and found this really enjoyable. Many lovely surfaces — I particularly liked 9ac and 14ac! Failed to see how 20ac worked and 21ac was new to me, but easy to get from the wordplay.

  13. Pete says:

    Really enjoyed this and the blog. I ‘m normally too late to post a comment, but was surpised Eileen that you didn’t know whale. Perhaps you went to the wrong school!

  14. Eileen says:

    Hi Roger #11

    Thanks for that snippet – but I don’t really think so. All the themed answers have their ‘other halves’ which are clearly cross-referenced [not always the case with Brendan] – nice idea, though.

    [I’ve been gratified to see others own up to having fallen down on 20ac – seems to be a gender thing, though!]

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Eileen. I said the other day that I was missing Virgilius in the Indy, so it was a pleasure when Brendan came up today. For me, this was one of those ‘I know something’s going on but I’m not quite sure what’ days. I did twig the theme before the end and it helped me with the last few.

    ‘Whale’ for beat? I’ll join the I-never-knew-that club. But POSTERIOR I liked very much, as well as many other clues.

    Cholecyst at no 5, I suppose the answer is nobody much, but our wonderful language would be diminished by their absence. I looked a few more up in Schott’s Original Miscellany (a wonderfully random book for lovers of trivia), and offer you and others the following:

    A business of ferrets (don’t think I’ve ever heard Eddie Grundy use the term, though, Eileen)
    A malapertness of pedlars
    A cete of badgers

    Good teasing puzzle as always from Brendan.

  16. Roger says:

    Quite so, Eileen @14, hence ‘inanimate’ ~ no sign of life :)

  17. Eileen says:

    A touch too subtle, I’m afraid, Roger! 😉

    Thanks for those additions, K’s D. ‘Malapertness’ is a wonderful word – I bet Eddie Grundy doesn’t know that, either!

  18. FumbleFingers says:

    Thanks Eileen – excellent blog, puzzle, & theme!

    I had one of those (increasingly common, I’m afraid) blindspots re 26a. Because contact and meet seem to me pretty much identical in this context, I just couldn’t get out of that semantic space to see the third (second?) definition trace (small amount) = TOUCH. Eventual enlightenment was more a “doh” than an “aha” moment.

    I think PACK, HERD, and POD are pretty much standard usage, but I’d be interested to know if anyone here has ever come across any of the bird collectives “in the field”, so to speak (i.e. – outside crosswordland, the educational context, and deliberately quirky / show-off utterances).

  19. Tokyocolin says:

    Thanks Eileen. This was an enjoyable puzzle in which the theme gradually became apparent without being an obstacle beforehand and a giveaway afterwards which is sometimes the case. I have always enjoyed the more colourful collective nouns so those were fun to see.

    I am familiar with the (sound of) the expression “to whale on” someone. Probably from my time in the US. But I have never seen it written, and since whale, wail and wale are homophones in California, I am not convinced that “whale” is the definitive spelling. I suspect that “wale” with its connection to welt as evidenced in its use as a descriptor of corduroy, is a more likely candidate for the “correct” spelling. But since the expression almost certainly originated on the streets and so has purely oral origins I am happy with any spelling and WHALES worked well with the surface.

  20. Dave Ellison says:

    No, it’s not a gender thing, I didn’t spot the explanation for 20a either. Thanks for the blog, Eileen. Just one small point – 25d EAST would be a player in a bridge game, so the clue is half an &lit, too?

    Enjoyed completing this on the way in; guessed the theme after getting EXALTATION on the first run through. Why do I always want to spell this EXULTATION?

  21. Tokyocolin says:

    Fumblefingers @18, I suppose this might be considered “quirky”, but I have been running in Yoyogi park in Tokyo for 10 years and have lost count of the number of times the resident “karasu”, crows/ravens, have been referred to by various running mates as an unkindness as they scatter picnic leftovers and terrorise small dogs and their favourite target, young girls.

  22. Eileen says:

    Hi Dave

    Thanks for the confession!

    re East: we’re so familiar seeing these bridge partner clues that I didn’t think to point it out. As you say, only half an &lit, since those partners do meet.

    I think PETTIFOG goes a long way to being an & lit as well.

    Re EXALTATION: this is a sore point. Quite a while ago, this cropped up here. I’d always thought the collective term was an ‘exultation of larks’ [there are several Google instances] and said so in a comment. This sparked a very lively debate, the general feeling being that ‘exaltation’ was the correct version. Either makes sense [insofar as any of these collectives do!] but I still think ‘exultation’ paints a rather nicer picture. I did look briefly in the archive this morning but – mercifully, I think – couldn’t find it, which suggests that exultation / exaltation was not the solution to a clue but simply came up in discussion. I’m not suggesting we open it up again – thank Goodness the A was a checked letter!

  23. Eileen says:

    Hi Tokyocolin and FumbleFingers

    “An Unkindness of Ravens” is the title of Ruth Rendell’s first Inspector Wexford novels,

  24. Eileen says:

    I meant ‘novel’, of course, with a full stop.

  25. grandpuzzler says:

    Thank you Brendan for the puzzle and Eileen for the blog. Count me as one who did not see the explanation for 20A. I also thought that 26A may have been a triple definition. Whale meaning to lash or thrash is relatively common in US. My Webster’s 9th New Collegiate says origin unknown (ca 1790.


  26. Gaufrid says:

    Eileen @22
    The only previous debate, such as it was, regarding exult/exaltation was between yourself and Paul B on 23/7/2009 in the post relating to Paul’s Guardian 24,759 where one of the answers was ‘bevy’.

  27. Eileen says:

    Thank you very much, Gaufrid – I do wish I hadn’t mentioned it!

    I misremembered – it was obviously only a sore point to me. Apologies.

  28. anax says:

    Some of the ‘new’ collective nouns (spotted on t’interweb) are interesting – the most popular at the moment seems to be the collective noun for bankers; I hope it’s not long before ‘wunch’ appears in our dictionaries.

  29. Eileen says:

    Thanks, anax, for dropping by and raising the tone – it’s always good to hear from you! :-)

  30. Andrew says:

    There’s also (linking slightly to a discussion on today’s FT puzzle) the various names for a group of prostitutes: a jam of tarts, an essay of trollops and an anthology of pros.

  31. Carrots says:

    Eileen (at the risk of lowering the tone) I was grateful for your blog (and Brendan, of course for an excellent puzzle.) I ended up guessing 3: ROOKS; WHALES; & TABARET and was amazed when you confirmed them all. As I don`t use google or reference works unless I`m in deep do-do, I feel like a real smarty-pants (and, indeed, resemble one: trussed up in DJ for The Captain`s Cocktail Party…it was either that or not getting fed tonight!)

  32. otter says:

    Thanks Eileen. An enjoyable and not too difficult puzzles. Enjoyed the theme, when it started to unfold in front me, and which helped me to a degree, although I failed to spot POD linking to WHALES as I solved them so far apart. (I thought the word for ‘to hit’ was ‘to wail [on]’, so it took me a while to solve that one.)

    Didn’t know TABARET, although managed to solve it anyway. That’s what I call good clueing: if the definition word is obscure, it’s still possible to get to it without knowing the word – none of this ‘a boy’s name’ stuff from Pasquale the other day.

    Is there a collective noun for FINCHES in the puzzle? Can they be a bevy? It’s the only one of the animals which seems not to be linked to a collective noun.

    What’s the collective noun for otters? I really should know that, shouldn’t I? Gotta be something like ‘a brilliance of otters’. Yes, I’ll go with that.

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi otter

    It’s a CHARM of FINCHES: 17ac: ‘attraction of 13ac’. [And I’ve just discovered it’s an 8dn of otters – sorry!]

    And Hi Carrots – Im surprised you have timme for crosswords, with all this high living. You must be having a whale of a time. 😉

  34. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Apparently you can also have a romp of otters, which sounds much more exciting. Although at the risk of lowering the tone even further, you’d probably want to have a bevy before you had a romp. If you were an otter, that is, obviously.

    Where’s walrus(s) when we need him to give us his collective noun? At least with Carrots we know it’s a bunch.

    Sorry, my medication kicks in about this time of day.

  35. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Brendan

    I’ve come to this relatively late today after ‘getting a life’ for a change.:)
    Very enjoyable! I particularly liked ‘late rally’, ‘posterior’, ‘blasphemer’ but lots of others pleased.

    Some checking of hunches was necessary but the clueing was always ‘flawless’ as Eileen says.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if whale and welt are related words but I may well be wrong.

  36. muz says:

    I thought 25d was a bridge reference – east never finds a partner???

  37. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    This was a lot of fun and one I enjoyed immensely. As has been said before, the clueing was scrupulously fair
    and the puzzle was so well put together. Brendan’s puzzles are always a joy and never impenetrable unlike one setter particularly. I watched the interview with Brendan that someone (sorry) provided a link for and he was asked “What makes a bad crossword ?.” and he replied “One that you can’t finish”. This never applies to Brendan as his clues are so well constructed.

    Just out of interest, ANGER was one of the first answers that I got and I understood immediately where it came from. This shows that sometimes even the bright sparks (of which I am not one) fail to see a simple answer.

  38. Eileen says:

    Hi muz

    I don’t remember seeing your name before so welcome if you’re a new contributor [and / or ‘lurker’] and apologies if you’re not.

    If you add a comment later in the day, it’s often helpful to look at preceding comments – which often means a bit of a trawl! – as well as the blog.

    Today, you’ll see there have been comments on the bridge element in comments 20 and 22.

    Hope to hear from you again. :-)

    Hi Davy

    Yes, that was a lovely interview, link provided by Andrew, I’m 99.99% sure – I hope he’ll confirm and repeat.

    You didn’t need to rub in ANGER – I think I’ll be ‘looking back at’ it for a long time to come! 😉

  39. sheffieldhatter says:

    Re 22: Exaltation of Larks, I have a book of that title written by James Lipton in 1968. He traces the origin of the phrase to The Book of St Albans (1486), one of the earliest books in print. As Chambers derives exaltation from exaltare (from altus – height) and exultation from ex(s)ultare (from salire – to leap), the “a” spelling seems more appropiate than the “u”. Apologies if this covers the same ground as the last time it came up.

  40. tupu says:

    For what it’s worth, OED only gives exaltation in this context and its earliest quotation of the phrase is from Lydgate c.1430.

  41. FumbleFingers says:

    Sticking firmly off-topic, I’ll just say the collective noun for members of my family is a toomany – which neologism some unkind souls have suggested is grammatically akin to sheep, in that the same word can apply to a multitude or just one!

  42. Davy says:


    Here’s the link to the Brendan interview :-

  43. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Davy.

    I’ve bookmarked it now – I thought I had before.

  44. William says:

    Thank you Eileen. I enjoyed this and your blog.

    Just to finish off the collective nouns theme, it’s hard to say who decides on this kind of thing. The original set were probably laid down by drunken Oxbridge Dons but more recently the field seems to be wide open. My favouirite compiler is Ojo; not because he is in any way authoritative or comprehensive, but because he sets out to entertain. Others may enjoy it too…my personal favourite is “an ambush of widows”!

  45. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for that, William – very entertaining, as you say.

    [If you’re still around, Kathryn’s Dad, I somehow missed your latest comment yesterday but one source I found this morning gave, for a company of walruses, ‘herd, huddle, pod – and ugly’!]

  46. Roger says:

    Was away yesterday so have only just chanced on your link, William. It’s a lot of fun. And the things you learn … for example I now know that Snow White did and didn’t have a shortage of dwarfs !

  47. Arthur Hay says:

    Thanks to the Guardian Weekly international, the Australians are a week behind again, and no one may therefore read this, but in this continent “tabaret” means a place of gambling and entertainment, usually within a hotel or club, from the initials of Totalisator Agency Board: TAB + (cab)aret.

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