Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Genius / 89

Posted by mhl on December 5th, 2010


A very nicely constructed crossword, with a “word chain” (missing alternate links) running through the 6 letter answers. The complete chain (with the missing links emphasized) is: 1d BOTHER / HERBAL / 3d BALTIC / TICKER / 19d KERNEL / NELLIE / 2d LIELOW / LOWOOD / 5a OODLES / LESSER / 22a SERVAL / VALENT / 26a ENTREE / REEFER / 20d FERRET / RETIRE / 24a IRENIC / NICKEL / 21d KELPIE / PIEMAN / 12a MANNER / NERVES / 10a VESTAL / TALBOT / 1d BOTHER … I think this was fairly easy for a Genius but great fun to solve.

1. BULLBARS BULL = “One who buys” + BARS = “pubs”
5. OODLES LESSER LESSER = “Not so great”; OODLES = “lots”
9. TREELESS REEL = “dance” in TESS [of the d’Urbervilles] = “heroine”; the homophonic definition is = “Said to be like steps”; “steppes” are treeless plains
10. VESTAL TALBOT VESTAL = “Virgin” (in the adjectival sense); TALBOT = “hound of Shrewsbury”, referring to (as the wikipedia page says) Talbot being the family name of the Earls of Shrewsbury and the dog featuring in their heraldry
14. ADJUDICATE AD (Anno Domini) = “these days” + JUDI CATE = sounds like “Judy” and “Kate”, although given the famous examples of Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, perhaps it didn’t need the homophone indicator
18. HIT-AND-MISS HAND = “assistance” around IT + MISS = “girl”
22. SERVAL VALENT SERVAL = “Cat”; VALENT[ine] = “most of billet-doux”
23. MISERERE MISER = “Scrooge” + ERE = “before”
24. RETIRE IRENIC RETIRE =”Depart”; IRENIC = “in peace”
26. ENTREE REEFER REEFER = “Joint” + ENTREE = “access”
27. RECLOTHE RE = “in case of” + CLOT = “embolism” + HE = “man”
1. BOTHER HERBAL BOTHER = “Trouble” and a reference to Culpeper’s Complete Herbal
2. LIE LOW LOWOOD Jane [Eyre]‘s school” was Lowood; “to copy Brer Fox” refers to the Uncle Remus story of The Wonderful Tar Baby, which repeatedly uses the phrase “Brer Fox, he lay low”
3. BALTIC TICKER BALTI = “Hot food” + C = “cold”; TICKER = “heart”
4. RISING DAMP A reverse clue: “rising DAMP” might give PM = “afternoon” + AD = “advertisement”
7. LATIN TAG LA = “US city” + TINTAG[el] = “somewhere in Cornwall”; (EL is a line as in an elevated railway) – I wasn’t familiar with this expression, but it makes sense that “tempus fugit” is a LATIN TAG, I suppose
8. SALARIES SAL = “Girl” + ARIES = “sign” (of the zodiac)
13. GUESTIMATE “Just one friend to stay with me” = GUEST: 1 MATE, and adding “, I should think” makes the entire clue an example of a GUESTIMATE
15. CHESHIRE I guess that “Homes here for cat and cheese” just means that the Cheshire Cat and Cheshire Cheese are from CHESHIRE
16. STERNEST ERNEST = “Worthing christened” – this refers to the wonderful Oscar Wilde play, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, where it is revealed at the end that Jack Worthing actually was christened “Ernest”. “canonised?” indicates adding “ST” (Saint) at the front
17. INVASIVE (VIVIEN)* around AS = “when”
19. KERNEL NELLIE KERNEL (sounds like Colonel) = “Officer heard”; “girl that’s not on” = NELLIE, as in the expression “Not on your Nellie”
20. FERRET RETIRE RETIRE = “Give up work” + FERRET = “search”
21. NICKEL KELPIE KELPIE = “Water spirit”; not sure about NICKEL = “charged a penny” – is there some old sense of nickel that means a penny rather than 5 cents?

18 Responses to “Guardian Genius / 89”

  1. malc says:

    Thanks mhl, most informative and entertaining.
    re. 21d – I have occasionally come across the use of “pennies” with reference to small coins in US literature. Also of course, “Pennies from Heaven”, the Bing Crosby film and song.

  2. jvh says:

    Thanks mhl.

    I think 21d refers to Simple Simon:

    “Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
    Show me first your penny.”

    This means that 21d clues KELPIE and PIEMAN. Then all the words in the cycle are clued in some way, except that RETIRE is clued twice and NICKEL not at all. Strange.

  3. Mr Beaver says:

    I agree with mhl that 21d refers to NICKEL – didn’t this used to be referred to as a ‘penny’ by Americans ? – but as jvh says ‘charged a penny’ could mean PIEMAN, so maybe that phrase is doing double duty.
    I hadn’t noticed that RETIRE is clued twice – that is peculiar ! Maybe A had a change of plan halfway through that he didn’t fully carry through ?

    Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed this piece of ingenuity – even if it was “fairly easy for a Genius” – ie we didn’t have to give it up half-done in frustration after 2 weeks’ effort!
    If my mental faculties are anywhere near as sharp as Araucaria’s when I get to his age, I will be well pleased!

  4. Gaufrid says:

    According to Chambers, a ‘penny’ is “a cent (N American informal)” whereas, of course, a nickel is 5 cents, so I favour the ‘that charged a penny’ giving ‘pieman’.

  5. Eileen says:

    So it seems that, either way, we have one word that isn’t clued [either NICKEL or PIEMAN] and one [RETIRED] with two clues, which I didn’t notice when I solved the puzzle. I think the ‘charged’ clinches it for PIEMAN – that’s certainly the way I read it.

    If Homer did nod slightly, who could blame him? I agree with Mr Beaver’s last paragraph!

  6. Gaufrid says:

    I don’t think that there is an error here. There was nothing in the special instructions to indicate that every concealed link had an associated clue or that one concealed link couldn’t be clued twice.

    On the contrary, the special instructions clearly stated that ‘Their clues refer partly to their own solution and partly to either neighbouring (concealed) link’. If every concealed link was to have a clue then the ‘neighbouring (concealed) link’ would all have to be in the same direction, either next or previous, and ‘either’ could not have appeared in the special instructions.

  7. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. I had BALTIS rather sloppily at 3dn, which meant TICKER was a missing link. Also failed to see VALENT as one of the chain. Good fun, though!

  8. jvh says:

    I agree with Gaufrid — the solution is consistent with the instructions. When I started the puzzle I expected some of the special clues to link forward and some back (so there would be a number of unclued words).

    What surprised me was that all but one of the links were forward, so only one word was unclued. Having gone so far towards clueing every word, I wondered why the master did not go for a clean sweep.

  9. tom says:

    Brilliant explanations, thanks.

    15D: a threeway clue Cheshire Homes/Cat/cheese

  10. Eileen says:

    Thanks, tom, for the nudge.

    I also meant to mention Cheshire Homes, and of course, thank mhl for an excellent blog – not an easy one to set out!

    [I still think that the ‘either’ suggests that each hidden word is clued.]

  11. bridgesong says:

    I enjoyed this puzzle, although it took me far too long to work out what was clearly stated in the preamble, namely that the solutions were ALTERNATE solutions in the chain. My only quibble is that VALENT isn’t actually a word, according to Chambers, although I’m fairly sure it cropped up in a Guardian puzzle recently.

  12. Eileen says:

    Bridgesong – quite right! I’d forgotten that, in the intervening month. [If I’m going to continue with Genius – this is only my third completed one – I must learn to keep more detailed notes.]

    As a classicist. as opposed to a scientist, knowing vaguely of ‘valency’, I was surprised to find that the associated -valent was listed only as a suffix in Chambers and not at all in my other dictionaries

  13. Jan says:

    Thank you and well done, mhl. As you say, it was not difficult but it twinkled.

    I was thrown, momentarily, when I had ireNIC KERnel and found …

    nicker, n. A supernatural being supposed to live in the sea or other waters; a water-demon, a kelpie. (OED)

    … which fit the clue for 21 rather than their own clues.

  14. Robbie Merrick says:

    Re 15d:

    I took it as a reference to the Leonard Cheshire Homes (retirement homes for ex-service personnel?)

  15. Jan says:

    The annotated solutions give ‘valentine’ for the hidden part of 22, not the dubious ‘valent’. I suspect a cover-up. 😉

    I forgot to mention that my edition of Chambers has double S in guesstimate: the OED gives one S.

  16. Dave H says:

    Thanks to MHL for the blog

    I read 21d and 24a as follows.

    21d Water spirit = kelpie, and charged a penny to relate to pieman.

    24a Peace = irenic, with depart in to mean to reverse in to gine ni or Ni = nickel.(it is Araucaria after all). I heve seen depart used as a reversal indicator before. This will clue all the parts and link through to 11a as blogged.

  17. jvh says:

    Thanks Dave H. This seems much more satisfactory, although I have some reservations about the clue.

  18. Huw Powell says:

    I agree with jvh at 8 – surely 24 could have built in a definition for NICKEL, especially given that he had two routes to go by (the coin and the metal).

    The lack of a definition for NICKEL really slowed me down when I was about 3/4 finished. All the Master had to type was “Peace in a handful of pennies” or some such. Oh well… as said above, if I have A’s faculties _tomorrow_ I’d be thrilled!

    No one will ever read this, of course, I’ve been slowly printing out old Genius puzzles to try my hand at them, and this one was a real delight (meaning: I finished it somehow). Not thrilled with LATIN TAG, but I guess it is a common label on clocks.

    Thanks for the wonderful little trip, Reverend, and mhl for the blog!

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