Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,176 / Crucible

Posted by mhl on November 24th, 2010


Crucible’s puzzles are a real treat, but sadly a relatively rare one. As you’d expect if you’ve done this setter’s puzzles before, this was pretty tough, and particularly one for those who like really cryptic definition parts :) The surface readings here are exceptionally good, with only a couple that seem a little stilted…

Thanks to everyone who pointed out two remarkable features of this crossword, nusquam getting there first: the puzzle is not only a pangram, but also contains UN, DEUX, TROIS, QUATRE, CINQ, SIX, SEPT, HUIT and NEUF hidden in the grid – excellent stuff :)

5. SYMBOL Sounds like “cymbal”
6. UNJUST JU[ly] in UNST = “Shetland isle”
9. GOURDE DRUG = “narcotic” reversed + E = “ecstasy” with O = “duck” inserted; I didn’t know that the gourde is a unit of currency in Haiti – it’s a “settler” in the sense of something that can settle debts, I suppose
10. UXORIOUS (ROUX’S)* around IOU = “debt”
11. SEPT SET = “group” around P = “penny” (i.e. SET is “penny-pinching”); the OED defines this sense of SEPT as “A division of a nation or tribe; a clan: orig. in reference to Ireland. [Occasionally] used by anthropologists (after Sir H. Maine, Early Hist. Institutions, 1875) for a clan consisting of those who are, or at least are believed to be, descendants of a common ancestor.”
12. ROISTERING T = “time” in ROI’S = “French king’s” + (REIGN)*
13. CINQUE PORTS (CROQUET PINS)*; Sandwich is one of the CINQUE PORTS
18. QUATRE BRAS QUANT = “fashionista Mary” without N = “name” + RE = “on” + BRAS = “her underwear”
21. NOIR RENOIR = “Artist” without RE = “concerned with”
22. STURGEON ST = “stumped” (I guess this is cricket scoring notation) + URGE ON = “egg”
23. LOOK-IN LOIN = “Joint” around OK = “approved”
24. EQUINE I = “writer” in (QUEEN)*
25. UFFIZI [bo]FFI[ns] in UZI = “weapon for shooting”
1. AMORETTI AT + I = “international” around MOET = “bubbly” around R = “redhead”; the definition is “Fat boys” – I didn’t know this, but apparently an amoretto is a putto or cherub. (Not to be confused with “amAretto” :))
2. POSEUR Hidden reversed in “misconstRUES OPportunity”; the (tough) definition is “Striker”, as in one who strikes a pose
3. ONE OR TWO The definition is “Not many”, and the subsidiary is “options between Down and here” – if you read from “Down” in the clue list down to 3 down, you only have the choice of 1 down or 2 down. (At least, I think that’s how it should be interpreted.)
4. BUSIER BIER (the German for beer) = “Stein’s content” around US
5. SHOVEL SH = “Heads in shock horror” (i.e. the first letters) + (LOVE)* – I like “orgy” as an anagram indicator there
7. TRUANT [b]AN[k] = “central bank” substituted for S = “society” in TRUST; the definition is “disregarding form?”, as in not going to a form (class) in school
14. QUEUEING Sounds like “cueing”, alluding to the Crucible (Theatre) being the venue for the World Snooker Championships
15. TEN TO SIX TE = “Note” (of the Solfège) + (IS NOT)* + X = “by” (as in “times”); the definition is 1750, as in the time in 24 hour clock
16. HUITRE A French hidden answer clue! (Hidden in “Aujourd’HUI, TREnte”) – HUITRE is the French for oyster, and oysters are supposedly an aphrodisiac
17. BIKINI B = “British” followed by KIN = “family” in II = “11”
19. TURN UP Double definition: “turn-ups” is an American expression for “cuffs”
20. SPLIFF A nice &lit: SPLI = “at the start, some people like inhaling” (first letters) + FF = “very strongly” (fortissimo in music)

55 Responses to “Guardian 25,176 / Crucible”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, mhl, you have now explained stuff that was previously inexplicable.

    This puzzle was not ideal for someone (like me) who prefers to work offline over breakfast.

  2. Carrots says:

    First time I`ve encountered a whole clue and solution in French! In spite of some dodgy “stretchings” (e.g. INSULT & SEPT) I enjoyed the superslick surfaces and pitfalls. Not a setter I`m too familiar with but looking forward to their next outing in the Grauniad.

  3. nusquam says:

    Yes, many thanks for the post.

    There is a theme – the French numbers one to nine are in the answers if you look for them, sometimes bridging clues. I missed this myself, but it was pointed out by a cleverer solver in the Guardian comments.

    Unlike the first commenter I was extremely happy with this puzzle, because it absorbed me during a long and tedious journey.

    I feel aggrieved about 14 down. Am I right to be so? The spelling seems OK for the mathematical study of lining up, but is it acceptable for the raw activity which the clue refers to?

  4. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for a great blog, mhl [particularly 25ac, which I couldn’t fully explain].

    Have you spotted the theme? And a pangram, too!

    Very many thanks, Crucible – super puzzle!

  5. Eileen says:

    Pipped by nusquam!

    And I’m not going to get embroiled all over again in discussion about the spelling of QUEUING etc! :-)

  6. Eileen says:

    Sorry – I really did mean to write QUEUEING!

  7. nusquam says:

    I didn’t realise that queueing / queuing was a sore point.

    OK, another quibble. In 25ac the boffins are stripped of their plurality, and the singular residue makes ‘crack’ ungrammatical as an insert indicator. Very fussy, I know, but it was indeed a tedious journey.

  8. Peter says:

    This is such a brilliant crossword I just had to post for the first time here. Un-neuf! Brilliant.

  9. Eileen says:

    Welcome, Peter – come back again!

    I agree – this was indeed brilliant and I loved it.

    I knew to look for a possible theme from Crucible and initially thought it might be 13 ac, because of its central position, but couldn’t see any of the others, then noticed there seemed to be rather a lot of French [including 21ac] and then the penny dropped. [I had also been a little bit diverted by ‘croque = sandwich’!]

    In 25ac, I only got as far as [b]UFF[s] and then, of course, couldn’t do anything with IZI, so thanks again, mhl.

    As often, too many great clues to pick out favourites – I did smile at the cheekiness of ROI’S!

  10. Roger says:

    Many thanks mhl for your detailed analysis.
    A most enjoyable challenge this and, if my maths is correct, only 7 short of a double pangram. Lots of clever construction with smiles along the way, as in 3d for example (where I agree with your interpretation incidentally). Ref. 19d, I have a feeling ‘cuff’ is the American word for ‘turn-up’, not the other way around.
    Thanks Crucible. Good puzzle.

  11. rrc says:

    Sorry to spoil the acclaim but I gave up with about eight to go this was a hard unrewarding slog When the newspaper arrived Im afraid some of the clues made as much sense as on line Very unsatisfying solve!

  12. Mick H says:

    La france, neuf points – fantastique!

  13. NeilW says:

    Thanks mhl

    As I remarked last time, Crucible seems to be making these pangrams a style point – this is the third in a row! The other two were also quite brilliant but I suspect that many would prefer this level of brilliance promoted to a Saturday!

  14. NeilW says:

    nusquam, surely the “letters” FFI crack the UZI?

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I too had to give up with a few to go, in the NW corner. I could see that there was something French going on – I speak it, so the French clue was one of my first to go in – but didn’t spot the theme. For me, a puzzle where afterwards you think ‘that’s clever’, rather than one which entertains you royally while you’re solving it. But others have clearly enjoyed it, so fair play.

    Eileen, I was going to mention the correct spelling of QUEUEING, but on reflection I’ve decided not to.

  16. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl for an excellent blog and also crucible for a wickedly taxing puzzle.

    I completed this correctly but found it harder than I like at this time of the week. I was too busy solving to look for the clever theme and for the pangram – well spotted those of you who are more attuned to looking for these things!

    I am interested that so far there are few complaints – while accessible to yours truly, I felt the puzzle demanded too much polyglot knowledge for a wide range of solvers.

    Thanks mhl for clarifying some clues. I saw that ‘ten to six’ demanded ‘te’ but then was left puzzled by the ‘x’ – which I regret.
    The witty parsing of 3d also escaped me.

    I accidentally cheated on 5d while checking meanings of ‘scoop’ in Chambers which was a shame.

    Like mhl I got ‘gourde’ but did not realise it was a coin and only found the ‘settler’ idea when checking again in Chambers. I had to check ‘uzi’ in Chambers.

    ‘noir’ is not in my (older) chambers but it was fun to see why it had to be the answer.

    My most enjoyable clues were 10a, 13a, 22a,and 14d.

  17. Michael says:

    I agree with Peter @ 8, Brilliant!
    Having noticed cinque, sept and quatre were there, I found that looking for the other numbers helped to complete the puzzle.

  18. Matt says:

    Hi All. I really enjoyed this. Managed to spot the theme and that it was a pangram and managed to complete at my desk in about 5 hours (ahem). Poseur was the last to go in, but would have been faster had I not been trying to shoehorn a w into it (I hadn’t noticed the w in 3d).

    Loads of answers I’d never heard of and I fear that I needed to use electronic help for a lot of them, but mainly to check the answers I’d derived from the cryptic bits.

    Many thanks for the blog, I really could not see why Sturgeon was right and it turns out to be one of the more obvious ones.

    I’m surprised there isn’t more comment on 16a. I think it’s OK as it ties in with the theme (trente being another French number). My 3 years of French 25 years ago was just about sufficient so I don’t think it was too much of a liberty.

  19. Matt says:

    16d that should have been. Whoops.

  20. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. I loved this, I have to say! V tricky in parts but it gave me smiles along the way. I knew there was probably going to be a theme and despite the obvious SEPT, CINQUE, QUATRE, I didn’t manage to see it, or the pangram :-(

    The wordplay at 25ac stumped me (and I didn’t know ST for ‘stumped’, either). I also couldn’t unpick 1dn, and needed the check button to finally get it. I really liked 3dn, 10ac and 12ac and the audacity of HUITRE!

    Thanks for a great puzzle, Crucible!

  21. Trundle says:

    Thanks mhl for a wonderful blog.

    I’ve never posted on this site before despite enjoying reading it every day to see how dense I’ve been! But this was such a superb challenge today that, in the words of John Wesley, I felt my heart strangely warmed and I had to make my feelings known. Surely this quality of crossword should be promoted to a Saturday so I can take my time and enjoy the time spent without perpetually feeling slightly guilty at not doing anything productive at my desk?

    There were too many brilliant clues to pick out a definitive favourite but 16dn and 25ac are right up there with clues of the decade for me. Despite having been born in Haiti and being well aware of the unit of currency I still struggled to get 9a!

    Come back soon Crucible!

  22. jmac says:

    Well up to Crucible’s usual sparkling standard. Loved SPLIFF, ONE OR TWO, SHOVEL, CINQUE PORTS, and TEN TO SIX. Ran out of time before solving GOURDE and AMORETTI, possibly because I wasted too much time on SEPT which I had always thought of in a Scottish context. Thanks MHL for explaining QUEUEING, and also for confirming the parsing of UFFIZZI, which I had doubts about. Looked for a theme but other than seeing the pangram failed to spot anything so thanks to Nusquam for pointing out the slightly less than obvious.

  23. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks mhl for explanations to several. I also failed on 4 clues in top left, despite having seen the theme half way through (though I thought it was a mixture of French and English numbers, as in 3d and 15d). My undoing was CASTRATI for 1d – did any one else have this? – being a mixture of ASTI and R and other stuff I couldn’t quite see, and googling suggested CASTRATI tended to be fat.

    Early on I thought the theme must have something to do with Us, as all my answers contained at least one, and then a surfeit of Is crept in, in the bottom right.

    I thought it was reasonably enjoyable and tough but some of the clues seemed somewhat strained eg 7d TRUANT

  24. FumbleFingers says:

    Thanks mhl

    Truly a tour de force from Crucible! Pretty tough, so I don’t think I’d have solved it on my own – but I had a couple of co-solvers, and between us we knew just about enough obscure facts. To be honest, in some cases we only knew enough to come up with possibilities to Google, but between the three of us and Google we got there in the end.

    My sympathies for those who found this one a bit too tough, but I really enjoyed it, and I tip my cap to Crucible for what I assume must have been quite a painstaking compilation.

  25. Uncle Yap says:

    Excellent blog for an excellent puzzle which defeated me at 16D with what is supposed to be the simplest device, the hidden answer. Well, I live and learn.
    15Down 1750 got a loud guffaw, my COD

    If I had not come here, I would have missed the mini-theme of French numbers.
    Thank you mhl and Crucible

  26. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Dave E at no 23, yes, I couldn’t get beyond CASTRATI either with its ASTI implication, but it clearly didn’t work. And indeed, this must have taken some putting together.

  27. Derek Lazenby says:

    Well, I’m glad this is deemed tough as I gave up with 3 to go, wouldn’t have got them having seen the answers. But seeing the other comments made me pleased I managed that much given there were several answers I’d never heard of.

    Haven’t got the energy to stick up for all the silent triers who find Rufus hard, sorry guys. They tell me it takes 3 months to get over the treatment so it’ll be a while before I start looking for a fun punch up. But at least I’m home now.

    Nice to see the rest of you are still here and the odd new face too.

    Oh well, sinks back into fuzziness…..

  28. Stella says:

    Congratulations,mhl, for managing to parse such a tricky puzzle, and to other bloggers for specifying the theme – I didn’t get beyond “hmm, there’s a lot of French in this…”

    I didn’t know ‘gourde'(sounds like a pumpkin to me :)), ‘sept’ in this sense, or ‘poseur’, which made the NW corner particularly tough, with much checking and ‘Wikiing’.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t be around yesterday for the comments on ’tilde’, with which I am naturally quite familiar, but have nothing to add now after cholecyst’s (I think) Wiki link.

    Welcome to the newcomers. It’s interesting how an excellent puzzle invites more to join our little group :)

  29. FumbleFingers says:

    wb Derek Lazenby – your ascerbic wit has been sorely missed here by at least some of us!

  30. Robi says:

    Thanks mhl for the blog. I got some without really understanding the whole clue e.g. 15d. Got stuck on the NW corner as I didn’t know SEPT, GOURDE or AMORETTI. I think I’ll just have to resort to a Disaronno instead, although maybe red wine will help just as well!

  31. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl. This was a hard and rewarding uphill slog, good to gaze back from the summit. GOURDE was my last, having been sent off track by the ‘settler’ element, which I still think is a bit rough. SEPT was penult, also pretty esoteric. Like Uncle Yap I loved the 1750 clue – and also failed to spot the theme. Many fine clues so I join the chorus of praise to Crucible.

  32. Leroy says:

    I am a 57 year old American and I have never heard cuffs referred to as turn ups. Is this perhaps an archaic use?

  33. Robi says:

    In case this is of any help, although I don’t know what is the derivation:

    Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary: What are possible solutions for the crossword clue ‘Settler’?
    Top Home > Library > Literature & Language > Crossword Solutions
    may indicate a coin

  34. stiofain says:

    Leroy cuffs= USA turn-ups=english usage.
    This was manifique definitely solvable even with just schoolboy french, though perhaps it was more ssaturday prize material than mid week I think Crucible has entered the Paul/Araucaria/Brendan league with this I loved the subtlety of the self reference and of course 1750.

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    There are a lot of setters whose crosswords are a joy to solve, but so far only three of them in particular, have a style that I really feel some kind of affinity with – Boatman, Alberich and Crucible, who showed me/us today once more why that is.

    It is the thought put into those clues, leading to nice surfaces and a whole scala of different (and sometimes original) devices.
    Not even that many one-letter building stones today.

    Can’t remember having seen a clue like 16d before.
    And 15d (TEN TO SIX) was a corker, too – like many others.
    In fact, the only clue I wasn’t very keen on was 10ac (UXORIOUS), not just because I didn’t know the word, but more because of the use of the “apostrophe s” and having “IOU” which could have been “IOUS” [but then “secured” is of course out of place].

    Last word to nót go in was GOURDE, where I/we were looking for a one-letter abbreviation for “narcotics” + E to go into eg LOVE (duck) – but it was the other way around.

    As always I missed the theme.
    Just as I overlooked the pangram, which Crucible himself once qualified as “a bit of self-indulgence”. :)
    I should have known better.

    Great puzzle.
    And good to see that we weren’t the only ones today who thought it was.

  36. Eileen says:


    I’m surprised that you demurred at the ‘s in 10ac, – a lovely clue I thought [but I did know the word and so laughed at the surface – surely, punctuation is ignored in cryptic crosswordese?] – and not the rather more audacious ROI’S, in 12ac, which, as I said @9, I loved!

  37. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Please, don’t make a point of it, Eileen.
    The “apostrophe s” in 12ac is fine by me.
    But I think it is a combination of things in 10ac: “the apostrophe s” + the fact that “iou” could have provided an “s”, and I also disliked (a bit) the “cook” + “secured” combination.
    It’s just how it felt for me.
    Please, no big discussions on this.
    This crossword was just fantastic – completely on my wavelength.

  38. tupu says:

    Hi Sil and Eileen

    The double work of ‘cook’ in 10a was, I thought, rather witty and, initially, slightly misleading because my first thought was ‘Which of the several Roux chefs is involved here?’.

  39. taxiphil says:

    Very clever I’m sure, but if I wanted to do a French crossword I’d buy a copy of “Le Monde”. I finished it in under an hour (as opposed to yesterday’s four and a half minutes) but it afforded me very little pleasure.

  40. Paul B says:

    Harder to regard that FFI as a string I think, NeilW. BOFFINS only appears to be a plural: in reality it’s just a lump of SI that the setter seems to have chosen to regard as singular, per nusquam’s observation about the clash of tenses. My money’s on his parsing, but it’s an interesting point for discussion. ‘To crack’ would have sorted it for me, though I don’t really go much on the surface for that one.

    Such vagaries stood out as unusual in another very good puzzle from this able compiler, IMO.

  41. Derek Lazenby says:

    Now I’m baffled, I always thought cuffs are on shirts and turn-ups are on trousers, ergo not at all the same thing.

  42. Daniel Miller says:

    A brilliant crossword from Crucible – not a wasted word and some lovely wordplay.

  43. gm4hqf says:

    Having no French, three or four stumped. More a prize crossword puzzle in my opinion.

  44. gm4hqf says:

    Not much English either! Should have said “three or four stumped me”.

  45. grandpuzzler says:

    Leroy @32: I am a 70 year old American and I have never heard cuffs referred to as turn ups.
    Must get out more.

  46. Gerry says:

    Beaten by several. Oddly enough, thought 16d might be ‘oyster’ but made the mistake of thinking in English. Then again, I did get some of the other French terms.

  47. Crucible says:

    Many thanks for all your comments. Glad most of you seem to have enjoyed it. On the sartorial question: under ‘cuff’ my COD says “N.Amer: s trouser turn-up” and Collins agrees. I wonder what cufflinks are in the US – and where are they worn?

  48. Roger says:

    Thanks Crucible … good that we agree on cuff (see my comment @10) and, dare I say it, lovely of you to ‘turn-up’ :)

  49. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks, Crucible, for sourcing ‘turn-up’. It must be Canadian, eh?


  50. Thomas99 says:

    No-one blogging today’s puzzle?

  51. Gaufrid says:

    A blog will be published in the not too distant future. Please be patient for a little while longer.

  52. Richard says:

    Very, very late in the (next) day but as I live in Strasbourg I have to add my congratulations. Despite my location, I also missed the one to nine in French – “les arbres nous cachent la forêt? – but I adored 16d. I was on the point of giving up when I finally worked out – and had to check – 1d.

  53. BrigC says:

    I would have liked to see this particular puzzle being given a name as some of your bloggers do. “The Count of Montecristo”

  54. PeterO says:

    Very late in the (next) day, but I am puzzled by the quibbles over 25A. Does the objection lie in the surface? I read it as Boffins (noun, plural) stripped (verb, past tense, plural) crack (adjective) weapon (noun) .. etc. Or in the SI parsing? I read it as Boffins stripped – the letters (plural) FFI – crack (verb, present tense, plural) ..etc. Unless I am missing something, I see no problem ( and even if I am, I don’t).

  55. maarvarq says:


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