Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,173 (Sat 20 Nov)/Bonxie – Cobblers

Posted by rightback on November 27th, 2010


Solving time: 14 mins

This may have been Bonxie’s first prize puzzle in the Guardian, in which case my congratulations to the setter. There were some nice ideas here but on close analysis some of the clues didn’t make a lot of sense. On reflection, several of the Guardianisms I winced at when solving are just about tolerable, e.g. ‘editor first’ = E and lots of surface-reading punctuation that needed to be ignored, but others, such as ‘headline’ = L (18ac), the meaningless constructions at 2dn and 23dn and the truly awful 19dn, were taking things much too far for me. Mind you, my performance was also dreadful, with particular slowness on 12dn (WHOLE), 20dn (PIRATE) and 21ac (CONTAINER).

Music of the day: I Spy (6dn), the second track this month from Pulp’s album Different Class, which really is. Very much hoping to see them when they reform for some gigs next year.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

7 INGENUE; IN (= ‘Home’) + GEN (= ‘news’) + rev. of E.U. (= ‘Europe’, tenuously)
9,20 TEST PILOT; TEST (= ‘International’), + I in PLOT (= ‘story’)
10 DESULTORY; rev. of (US (= ‘Guardian’) + ED[itor]), + L[eft] + TORY (= ‘say, Cameron’) – meaning ‘rambling’ or ‘jumpy’, from the same Latin root (salire, meaning ‘to leap’) as the ‘sault’ of ‘somersault’ (and also ‘salmon’).
12 WEARS; E[ditor] in WARS
16 MORES; MORE (= ‘Something extra’) + S[ociety]
17 PROP; rev. of OR in P,P
18 SEALYHAM; SEA (= ‘Main’) + L[ine] + Y (= ‘unknown’) + HAM (= ‘actor’)
22 ACME; A[rticle] + C (= circa = ‘about’) + M.E.
24 PRELATE; P[age] + RELATE (= ‘report’)
25 STYLITE; IT in STYLE – my last entry, partly because of idiocy on my behalf at 17dn (qv). A stylite was a Greek who lived on top of a pillar, hence ‘Ancient columnist’.
1 ONCE (hidden)
2 MEATBALL; Spoonerism of “BEAT MALL” – it was clear what was needed here, but ‘Spooner hit shops’ doesn’t mean ‘Make a Spoonerism of “hit shops”‘.
3 GUIDES; GUS around IDE
6 I-SPY; [w]ISPY
11 STEERSMAN; STEERS (= ‘cattle’) + MAN (= ‘island’)
12 W + HOLE
14 CLOUT – supposed to be a double definition but really this is just one, repeated.
16 MAHRATTA; rev. of (ATTAR + HAM) – a nice wordplay, and luckily I knew the word ‘attar’ because the answer word (a variant of ‘maratha’) as new to me. My first entry was ‘maharaja’ which I expected to have to change when I saw the position of the ‘J’ in the intersecting across answer.
17 PALPABLE; PAL (= ‘mate’) + P + ABLE (= ‘fit’) – needing a 4-letter word for ‘fit’ starting with ‘A’, I wrote in ‘ague’ to make ‘palpague’ which looked very plausible. This held me up considerably on 25ac.
19 LINGLE; L + INGLE – a cobbler’s thread. How ‘Cobblers! Thread’ (sic) is considered an acceptable definition is beyond me.
20 PIRATE; PIE around RAT
21 CARR[y] – a word I think I’ve only previously encountered in advanced cryptics.
23 MATE (2 defs) – almost as bad as 19dn: the second (chess-related) “definition” is ‘winning? Check!’.

25 Responses to “Guardian 25,173 (Sat 20 Nov)/Bonxie – Cobblers”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks once again rightback. Maybe a little harsh but I probably don’t have the same grasp of the crossword technicalities. I didn’t find it too difficult and quite enjoyed it. I learned two new words – 19d and 21.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback. This puzzle – actually no. 25173 – was pretty straightforward. Re 16d – Mahratta according to my research has little to do with princes (there are princes from Maharashtra, where the Mahratta live, but the term applies to people of all castes, high and low). LINGLE was a novelty, but easily guessed. I did like 9,20 though, just about the last one resolved – partly because the good Spoonerism seemed to require an S (for shops plural) somewhere and so worked well, misleading.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback.

    I had the same reservations as Molongo regarding MAHRATTA.

    CARR, LINGLE and STYLITE were all new to me but each was readily resolved with the aid of Googly.

    Otherwise relatively easy and very enjoyable.

    DESULTORY was my favourite after I had searched in vain for an anagram.

    Well done Bonxie!

  4. William says:

    Thank you, Rightback. I rather like puzzles with previously unmet words which are nonrtheless derivable from the clue. (CARR, LINGLE, STYLITE etc)

    The other interesting thing about this crossword was the grid. It is one of the more sparse ones with only a little over 60% white. Today’s prize crozzie for example has a little over 70%. Being a lonely old engineer who is wedded to data, I have been keeping a record of my success and failure over the last few weeks and have found more correlation with grid type than I have with setter. The worst historically, for me, seem to be the high white percentage grids with very few 1st letter intersections.

    Thanks again for a nice blog.

  5. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback and Bonxie

    As Biggles A says ‘ Perhaps a bit harsh’. I rather enjoyed the surfaces in this relatively mild puzzle for a Saturday. I also enjoyed some of the surprising but sound definitions e.g. sports/wears.

    I thought too that clout was OK. Influence is a verb in the surface whereas (as clout) it is a noun in the answer (and vice versa re strike). And the surface pithily links together two seemingly different ideas.

    As Eileen recently said, there is no punctuation in crossword-land so I was less worried generally by the surface readings.

    I liked 1a, 2a, 18a, and 6d (after I managed to escape from a non-eistent and useless ‘I say’.

    I wasn’t altogether taken by the spoonerism, but as molongolo says the use of collective noun was clever. Again the clue was clear enough for my low standards.

  6. Duggie says:

    All the across clues seem to have a newspaper theme, which may account for the occasional redundant word e.g. head in headline in 18A, leading in 22A and front in 24A. Not sure why drops appears in 11D either. Maybe I’m missing something?

  7. tupu says:

    Hi Duggie
    I assumed it just played on the idea of a descending answer.

    Well spotted re newpaper references! I missed the fact that this clue theme was so pervasive.

  8. Max says:

    CARR is fairly common in place-names in West Yorkshire, the best known example probably being Harlow Carr Gardens.

  9. Mr Beaver says:

    Max, I was just about to make the same remark. Living about a mile from Harlow Carr, the word was very familiar. I must point out that that Harrogate wouldn’t be seen dead in West Yorkshire 😉 (though it used to be in the West Riding).

    Returning to the topic, we didn’t find this too bad, though Bonxie’s not our favourite setter. I didn’t find the concept of having themed clues as attractive as themed answers, which some (the better?) setters offer.

  10. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Like probably many others we were surprised the see the name Bonxie for a Saturday puzzle.
    A first glance at the (structure of the) clues, gave the impression that this could have been a Tuesday puzzle.
    Unusual concise clueing for a Saturday.

    However, we didn’t find this easy at all – we thóught it would be easy.
    We immediately spotted and liked the idea of having newspaper related surfaces in all the across clues.
    Even though some were a bit forced, indeed leading to, strictly speaking, redundant words (see Duggie #7) and to an-on-the-edge construction like ‘headline’.
    We weren’t bothered by Bonxie ignoring any kind of punctuation in 19d and 23d, but understand why others may dislike it.
    But this is the World of the Guardian, where so-called ‘rules’ are sometimes put aside to give novel ideas a chance.
    As always my PinC objected against the capitalisation of ‘Observer’ in 8ac, but as always I disagreed.

    Eventually, we failed on some words in the SW [SEALYHAM (suspected it to be the answer from the construction, never heard of it though), therefore LINGLE and MAHRATTA (only having parts of it)].

    Not sure what to think of this puzzle.
    Easy by the look of it, harder than expected to complete.
    Some liberties, wanted and unwanted.
    Maybe we weren’t familiar enough with Bonxie’s style, but our brain cells had to work harder than for the average Saturday offering from an Araucaria or Paul.
    Funny, isn’t it?

  11. Vin says:

    I initially had SPATS for 12ac, instead of WEARS, parsing it: “Sports editor” to mean you edit out the “or” from “sports”, and “first to enter” meaning insert an “A”. This gave me an “S” at the start of 12d, so I had “SOUSE” (pickle)which was “Spouse” without the “p” (perfect). So near yet so far! All of which made SOUL ungettable. Anyone else interpret these clues this way?

  12. Dynamic says:

    My PinC and I found this enjoyable and quite challenging. I hadn’t noticed the newspaper theme extended to the whole set of across clues at all, so thanks for pointing it out. I actually very much enjoyed 23d when the Cockney penny dropped, but perhaps this is because I’m a sauntering solver who enjoys being misled and is fairly libertarian and punctuation-agnostic, not a Ximenian speed solver.

    Thanks Bonxie, Rightback and all the comments above.

  13. Coffee says:

    Agree with Bryan @3 about the new words (thanks Beaver – am from Yorkshire too, but missed the CARR connection!) ; @ Vin, 11- yes, I had SOUSE for a while but once I got SOUL, I had to go with that.
    I have no problem with 14D as a DD; nor with MEATBALL- didn’t solve it, but BEAT = HIT and MALL is where shops are to be found, though more in the USA.
    Overall it was a bit of a headache & this week’s looks more “normal” – if there is such a thing!

  14. rrc says:

    Not my favourite setter partly because there appears to be a difference in wavelength, and although that remained I was impressed with what I considered the preciseness of many of the clues.

  15. Paul B says:

    ‘Perhaps a bit harsh’? Not for me. I suppose the longer you hang around Crossworld the more you get to know about WHY people become irritated when the clueing grammar ain’t that great, and also that such complaints – seen as ‘nitpicky’ by some – are actually quite valid. So I agree with rightback here: we have here a badly-written puzzle, which might easily have been rescued by some snappy editing.

  16. cryptomaniac says:

    Hi all, and thanks rightback for the elucidation.

    I didn’t mind the construction of the puzzle on the whole, but ‘maharatta’incensed me because it has nothing to do with ‘princely’, though it’s definitely Indian. If the intention was to mislead, it was certainly well met.

  17. tupu says:

    Hi molongolo and cryptomaniac

    Just to point out that the OED gives the following for mahratta
    A. adj. Of or relating to the princely and military classes of the former Hindu kingdom of Maharashtra in central India (now the modern Indian state of Maharashtra). Also: of or relating to the language of these classes.

    If this is wrong I think the setter is in good company.

  18. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Paul B (#17), yes, I think it’s harsh to dismiss this crossword as “we have here a badly-written puzzle, which might easily have been rescued by some snappy editing”, as rightback criticises only 6 (out of 30) clues: 7, 12, 18ac & 2, 19, 23d.
    Duggie adds a couple more, but – for me – not enough to put Bonxie on the funeral pyre, moreover given the fact that some of rightback’s ‘complaints’ were about what I would call the Guardian Policy on Crosswords rather than Bonxie as such.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do see what you (and others) are talking about.
    I do understand why “Cobblers! Thread” and “headline” are dubious.
    We’ll have to wait another week, but in today’s Araucaria there were also rather dubious things and I’m not sure whether he would face a similar hostility.
    As I said before “this is the World of the Guardian, where so-called ‘rules’ are sometimes put aside”.
    Right or wrong? I don’t know.
    Either you love it or you hate it.

    Yes, Paul, I am a great admirer your puzzles (yes, I am) and even though some people think you’re a Libertarian, they are far more precise than the average Guardian crossword.
    At the same time, though, you should realise that it is not always very elegant to criticise a fellow setter to such an extent [it happened quite a few times before].
    Paul, in a way I like your directness (as I am quite like that too, in real life) but I would personally be a bit more modest when ‘colleagues’ are concerned.

  19. cryptomaniac says:


    I didn’t come across this definition in my google searches for “mahratta”, so my objection stands withdrawn, though my understanding of the word is different. Thanks!

  20. tupu says:

    Hi cryptomaniac

    Thanks. I don’t know but I would not be surprised from the OED reference to ‘former…kingdom’ if there is quite a lot of history and even locally contested usage tied up in such a word.

  21. Carrots says:

    FOURTEEN MINUTES!?! The Supersonic Solver has done it again! It takes me 14 minutes to read through the puzzle without putting any answers in. I don`t know which football team Rightback plays for, but if I did, I`d have a fiver on them at every match. I note he posted at 05.00a.m., which makes me suspect that he plugs himself into the mains overnight.

    My much-be-doodled copy of this puzzle is buried deep in a sea chest, but I can remember crying “foul” at MEATBALLS and scurrying to the QE library for MAHARATTA and LINGLE. Otherwise an impressive prize debut for Bonxie.

    I do hope that it is Rufus who welcomes me back to the log fire in the pub tomorrow lunchtime. Then everything will be in its place in the firmament of Crossword Land and dreams of ocean voyages a fading memory.

  22. Paul B says:


    1) Bonxie shouldn’t be cooked on a funeral pyre: fair enough, although I don’t think anyone has actually suggested this. That WOULD be a bit harsh.

    2) You see what I and others mean: good to have your agreement. Clearly you see that there were some loose clues in this puzzle.

    3) I shouldn’t say anything about ‘colleagues': you’ve said this to me before, but as previously explained my options in addition are (a) to say nothing, and (b) to be complimentary at all times regardless of what I really think. So I’ll take my chances (while endeavouring at all times not to write any less-than-precise clues. Even though I’m possibly a ‘Libertarian’).

  23. REGALIZE says:

    This was my first Bonxie. I enjoyed the puzzle but was dismayed at the 20ac part of 9,20 (pilot)and the appearance of the same word in the clue for 11dn (pilot). I’ve come across this in other puzzles but not very often. Proof-reading error?

  24. Bryan says:

    Regalize @ 23

    It’s unlikely to be a proof-reading error.

    Please remember that this is The Grauniad and errors are regularly introduced as a matter of policy by the editorial staff to preserve its well-deserved reputation.

    I believe that the technical term is ‘Product Branding’.

  25. CGK says:

    I think it was Bamber Gascoigne who described St Simeon Stylites, the prototype stylite who spent 30 uncomfortable years on his pillar, as the first agony columnist.

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